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Five in a Row (FIAR) Review by Heidi Strawser, Helen Holmes, Carol Pelster, and 2 others

By Jane Claire Lambert
Five in a Row Publishing
PO Box 707
Grandview, MO 64030-0707

I had heard of Five in a Row many times but had never seen it for myself. I knew others who were using it in their homeschool but had no idea what all the excitement was about. Then I received the Five in a Row curriculum to review, and I knew! This is just the sweetest curriculum that I have seen, and I can't wait until my youngest child is old enough for us to start using this in our homeschool. I just wish I had known about it when my girls were younger.

Five in a Row is a step-by-step, instructional guide for teaching Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math, and Science to your children, ages 4 to 8. This curriculum uses outstanding children's literature as the basis for each weekly unit study. The lessons include discussion questions, teacher answers, hands-on activities, and suggestions for further study.

Five in a Row has received rave reviews from some expert homeschoolers. Why? Well, first of all, it's simple to use; everything you need is right in the book (with the exception of the reading books). It holds children's attention because it is based on books that they will enjoy hearing and/or reading. It is flexible; you don't have to work through it in order but can pick and choose which reading book you'd like to work with each week. Also, you don't have to do every activity suggested in the book; just do the ones that appeal to you or meet your needs at the time. It will instill a love of reading in your child, as you introduce them to great books. It is a relaxing approach to learning and will be fun for both you and your child(ren).

How does Five in a Row work? It focuses on one children's book each week. Reading the same book each day for five days will help children remember more of what they have heard/read and will encourage them to think more about the book. Five subjects are taught, one for each day of the school week. Planning worksheets are included in the appendix (both a sample and a blank), making this curriculum very easy to plan and prepare for. You can choose to follow the plan in the book or change things around to suit your schedule.

I received Volumes 1 through 3, along with the Christian Character and Bible Study Supplement. Titles featured in Volume 1 include Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Priceman (along with 17 others). Volume 2 includes The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (along with 19 others). Volume 3 features 15 books, including Paul Revere's Wild Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Christian Character and Bible Study Supplement is designed to be used alongside all three volumes; it contains Bible verses and mini-devotionals for you to read yourself and share with your child(ren). Each of these books is spiral-bound, which allows it to lay flat on a table for ease of use. Each volume costs $35, and the Bible supplement is $25. I feel these prices are very reasonable.

If you are looking at a gentle approach to learning for your little one(s), I would encourage you to check out Five in a Row. I don't want to rush my 2-year-old to grow up, but I am anxious to use this curriculum with him. I may have to check out Before Five in a Row!

-- Product review by Heidi Strawser, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2008

Before Five in a Row

I have always felt that homeschooling is an extension of one's parenting. That is to say we really begin homeschooling when our children are first born. Slowly and steadily we open their eyes to new experiences, we teach them, and we marvel in the joys that they encounter as they learn and develop. Likewise, one of the most important ways to turn children on to learning in the greatest number of subjects is through enjoying good books together. Through books, we can take the children sitting on our laps to places and experience safe adventures which are beyond our resources otherwise. Together we discover the means by that the author has brought the joys of the world onto the printed page. We also find "jumping off places" to learn about many things that are subtlety included in the words and pictures. The Five in a Row series has to be the very best and easiest curriculum to help make this happen. Jane Claire Lambert presents a wealth of ideas to take a parent and child on a journey into fine literature and the wonderful experiences found therein.

Each of the three volumes of Five in a Row features lessons for at least 19 wonderful books, each of which is to be read daily for five days to your four to eight-year-old, hence the title Five in a Row (FIAR). Now a unit study is created from the various aspects of the story. In each reading, one or more different subjects or characteristics of the story are to be brought out by the parent/teacher. For instance, one of my favorite stories for children is Make Way for Ducklings. This is the lovely tale of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in search of the perfect place to raise their young. In the lesson plan for Make Way for Ducklings, found in FIAR Volume 2, there are suggested activities in social studies, language arts, art, math, and science. The setting for this particular story is Boston, Massachusetts. Thus, Mrs. Lambert tells a bit about Boston and its geography. There are some wonderful aerial views (mallard's eye view) of Boston in the book's illustrations to give a different perspective on the layout of the city. As it is fun to observe the interrelationships between the two ducks and also between the ducks and the humans in the story, other suggested themes for social studies following the reading of the story on a particular day are relationships in family or man to nature. Finding clues to the past could be emphasized on one day. The story is set in the early part of the 20th century, so there will be many differences for the children to observe: cars, bikes, kitchens, clothing, strollers, etc. The manual tells how to present map-making and the child can attempt his or her own map. For language arts, the parent can choose to emphasize vocabulary and then bring the idea of rhyme to the child's attention as they try to create some of their own. Art lessons could include how the artist created the impression of speed with lines, and how he put in the impression of water in his illustrations. Then the child may try to create the same effect in a painting or drawing. Recommended activities for math include counting practice, converting days to weeks, and multiplication or grouping. And then a few suggested science activities are development of a duck egg and conservation. All this is done in the context of the words that come so often from a young child, "Read it again, please Mommy." As the child hears the story over and over, he begins to observe all the elements presented in earlier lessons.

FIAR starts with an introduction, a section called About the Books Themselves, and another entitled How to Use Five in a Row. Even in these sections, the idea of enjoying good books with your child is reiterated over and over again. The author tells the reader/parent how to develop a notebook, make lists to gain classification skills, what general supplies are needed for the art lessons, along with many more suggestions to make teaching much more valuable. The appendix contains Story Disks for every story in the volume, which are a small pictures that can be placed on a map to show where the story is taking place. It also includes a sample semester planning calendar, a sample and a blank lesson planning sheet, a year-end review, other resources that can be copied for use with some of the units, and how to integrate FIAR with additional curriculum.

Before Five in a Row is a younger version of the enjoyable Five in a Row. In it Jane Claire Lambert does it again to bring the younger child (two to four years old) and books together with a joy for learning. Using a different set of books, it lightens the activities so that they can be done in short periods of time or on the go. No written work is expected. In these lessons there is lots of observing, rhyme, discussion starters, art, science, etc. These are very low-key, allowing the parent to bring up facets of the book in various settings. She even includes at least one Bible verse for each book that relates to one aspect or theme of the story. There is a Five in a Row Bible Supplement for Volumes 1, 2, and 3 if you want to gain ideas for adding Bible teaching to your study of those books. There are also volumes for older children called Beyond Five in a Row and Above and Beyond Five in a Row.

If I were starting out again, I would definitely use Five in a Row with my children. It is a slow paced program without being dry and dull. It challenges children to rethink a story in many varied ways and to gain experiences that would certainly not be easily created otherwise. Get FIAR Volume 1, 2, or 3 for yourself, choose a good book from it, choose some of the terrific activities in it, and you will have a glorious time learning with your child. You will be so glad you did. It will be a sweet memory and a rich time for you both.

-- Product Review by: Helen Holmes, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Five in a Row - Volume 1

This is an awesome unit study guide! It is easy to use and my children love it! Five in a Row is especially great for first time homeschoolers! Through the use of good literature, Five in a Row creates a wonderful learning environment with minimal preparation. Just snuggle up with your child and read one of the books from the list each day for a week. You will find your child excited about learning as you expand on different topics and exercises associated with the book. This program is extremely flexible! It allows you to choose how much you want to expand on the topic of the book.

The teaching can range from discussing some of the grammar used in the book to painting with watercolors like the illustrator. You can also find yourself looking on the map for a certain country and discussing it, or building a complete city out of blocks while studying the importance of electrical and phone companies, water plants, fire stations, etc.

Five in a Row makes learning easy and fun! With repetition of a good book, hands on learning and great discussions, your children will learn things they will be able to apply and associate to their everyday life. This curriculum enabled my daughter, when she was five, to correctly use and identify a simile in an everyday conversation. HOORAY for Five in a Row!

-- Product Review by: Carol Pelster, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Five in a Row - Volume 3
By Claire Lambert

For years now I've been on the outside of a group of people who were having fun, learning about new cultures, and enjoying their children. What did all these people have in common? All of these people were using the Five in a Row curriculum! I have finally had an opportunity to try out this unique way of learning and I am finding it just as wonderful as everyone said it was. The studies are centered on a selection of classic children's storybooks. This time tested approach of reading the same book five days in a row and doing activities related to the book is engaging and delightful. It makes teaching so effortless to have the children's language arts, basic math, social studies, and science connected to a book they are enjoying.

Written for children from ages five to seven, I found my younger and older students joining in also. A wonderful curriculum for parents with many young ones; this is a real relationship builder. For your older students you may want to supplement some math or writing activities, but there are great starters for these subjects as well as more in-depth forays into science, social studies, and art. This was one school experience in which my children were eager to partake.

While reading The Bee Tree from Five in a Row - Vol. 3, we made maps, explored family traditions, illustrated themes, and leaped into a study of bees. There is even a wonderful cookbook that corresponds with the entire Five in A Row series! The Five in a Row Cookbook is divided into volumes in the same way as the study guides, which makes it very easy for us to have an end of the week "Bee Tree" party complete with orange honey butter. Many well-known homeschool authors sing the praises of this series. Diana Waring even includes it in her short list of beginning basics. I am certainly enjoying being a part of the circle and having fun learning with my children, instead of being merely a taskmaster - this new way is a breath of fresh air!

Beyond Five in a Row
By Becky Jane Lambert

For those parents who have enjoyed using the fantastic Five in A Row study guides and others who want to pursue a more literature based or unit study style of learning, the Beyond Five in a Row study guides are the way to go. From the same family that brought us the original series, this curriculum is packed with activities to sharpen your children's thinking skills, expand their creative writing abilities, and acquaint them with the world around them. In this series for your older elementary students, there are three volumes, each with four time-tested children's fiction or biography books. Each book study is divided by chapters with activities that build on ideas or concepts from each chapter. Unlike the original Five in a Row, you aren't expected to read each book for five days. With around 100 pages per book, that would not be practical. These study guides are based on reading one chapter and then taking the time to do as many activities as grab your interest before moving on to the next chapter. The authors intend for you to go through about one book each quarter, finishing all three study guides in around three years. This approach really grabs the student's interest, linking science concepts, history/culture, and language to the characters in the books, cementing the facts in your child's memory. While reading The Cricket in Times Square, my five, seven, and nine year old children were involved in studying New York City, mice, mass transit, Dutch settlers, and a silly game of composing lyrics for "Hickory Dickory Dock" (an offshoot of our mice study). This is all in the first chapter of the book! The authors recommend that you supplement math and grammar, but the possibilities for interest led study are endless. I am excited about the opportunities to involve all of us in a thorough and balanced education.

Note: An important addition to the Beyond Five in a Row series is the Christian Character and Bible Study Supplement. This corresponds with each chapter of every book in all three volumes. Each chapter's devotion includes Bible verses and a discussion of a positive character quality that one of the people in the book exhibited. I found it a valuable addition to our studies.

-- Product Review by: Jennifer Pepito, Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Here's another Five in a Row review!

Five in a Row is the best. My boys (four and six) love it. Five in a Row has been the biggest blessing. Five in a Row was the greatest resource for children's literature for me, as I was not at all familiar at first with children's literature and was a busy, new homeschool mom with small children. The list of books is such a great resource for someone like me who goes to the library and sighs as I try to sift through the plethora of garbage to try to find books for my kids that are wholesome, fun, educational, and also cultural. Mrs. Lambert has great taste in literature for children and any new homeschooling mom can benefit from her experience.

Five in a Row also has a goldmine of ideas for fun and very educational activities and projects to include every subject: geography, history, language arts, art, and even math. My boys have come to love books because of Five in a Row. The books are so great that we are choosing to purchase almost all of them for our library - I will save them for my grandkids.

Even if you are into traditional textbooks, Five in a Row can enrich your children's schooling experience and I have not seen a child yet that did not love the majority of the books. 100 stars for Five in a Row!

-- Product Review by: Stacey Salmonson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Publisher's Note: Everywhere I go, I hear, "Five in a Row, Five in a Row." Homeschool moms can't get enough. The books are beautiful and, as you can see, we had a number of happy reviewers grab these right away. My only comment would be that I certainly hope to see (and review) more of what the Lamberts offer - they are truly an asset to the homeschooling community and our staff hopes to see them on the homeschool scene for generations to come.

-- Product Review by: Gena Suarez, Publisher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine