Titles: Before Five In A Row, Five in a Row Volume 1, Five in a Row Volume 2, Five in a Row Volume 3
Author: Jane Claire Lambert
Publisher: Five in a Row Publishing
ISBN: 9781888659047, 9781888659009, 9781888659016, 9781888659023
Mummy Angie’s Review
Before Five In A Row is a learning readiness programme for ages 2 to 4. It was released after the success of the original Five in a Row series which is a Unit Studies curriculum for ages 4 to 8. Then the author’s daughter created the Beyond Five In A Row series for ages 8 to 12.
Of the manuals, we have the one for Before Five in a Row (strangely enough, I have two copies of this), and Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of the Five in a Row series. Of the books, we own every one of the books in the series (from Before FIAR to Volume 4) which is in print and a few which are out of print.
How it Works
Here’s how the programme works. There is a manual which lists activities that go along with a book list. Each manual covers about 20 books, give or take a few. The books you need to either buy or borrow. You pick a book from the list and linger over it for five days. Hence the title. Each day you pick from the activities described in the manual. The activities and lessons fall under the following categories:
- Social Studies - includes geography, history, societal issues, people relationships, character development
- Language - includes vocabulary, literary devices, drama, composition, list-making
- Art - appreciating art, understanding different mediums, imitating illustrations and techniques
- Math – practical math lessons, counting, time, measuring, money
- Science - a great variety of lessons in this section.
There is also an accompanying cookbook, a holiday guide and other resources to supplement the curriculum.
The BEFORE Five in a Row programme doesn’t work the same way. It is a “learning readiness” programme and honestly who are we trying to kid … it’s for ages TWO to FOUR! This is not a hot-housing programme. The activities that are listed cover Bible, art, science, animal classification, physical development, and provide tips and information about things in the book which may have escaped your notice. In addition, there is a section at the back of the book which lists various developmentally appropriate ideas for this age group – coordination, what to do in the store, ideas for bathtime activities, various art and craft suggestions, etc.
I have used this curriculum VERY loosely. (I use most things this way. :)) We love and treasure many of the titles in the series, I have acquired some of the out of print titles at ridiculous prices, and have rejoiced when Purple House Press started bringing some of those impossible-to-get titles back into print.
I have found many of the ideas from the BEFORE Five in a Row manual to be great “extension” activities to do after reading the book. Like looking for various animals in Goodnight Moon, or acting out We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, going for a nature walk after reading Play With Me. Of course by exercising a little brain power, I could have quite easily figured out these things myself. Not rocket science. But I’m not much of an activity person and I appreciated having these suggested to me in the manual.
The Five in a Row books were something I looked forward to reading with our children. But I never did a full FIVE IN A ROW study, complete with reading the book five days in a row then doing different activities each day. I would read the manual occasionally and recall the lessons as we read the book. But nothing formal. ONCE we tried our hand at doing a lapbook (which is a favourite among Five in a Row users), but it completely wiped me out (I’m so not an activity person) that I vowed never to do it again. If you are so inclined, though, I highly recommend you check out www.homeschoolshare.com. There you will find many extension activities as well as prepared templates for lapbooks for the various Five in a Row titles.
Together with some other moms, we used the Five in a Row studies in a homeschool co-op we ran for a number of years from our home. Every week a mom would prepare a couple of activities to do with the children, and if the story was set in a particular country, we would make food from that country for lunch that day! Yes, it was elaborate, but we had such a good time doing it. But the children’s exposure to the book would be just on that one day. Still, the manual gave us an easy way to come up with various activities to do.
Overall, I highly recommend reading the books in the book list. They are lovely books, some really high quality children’s literature and reading them will help you in your selection of other wonderful books to read to your children. I have managed to get a good number from the public libraries in Singapore, though sometimes that involved placing a reservation or asking for a transfer to a nearby library.
As for the activities in the manual, there were some wonderful activities the author points out which I would have otherwise missed, or things in the science section that are researched for you already so you don’t have to do the background work. There were also lists of vocabulary words I could refer to if I needed a definition pronto and didn’t want to look it up. Also if you read through all (or even most) of the books, your child would have encountered stories from various countries around the world. Till today my kids still remember the countries the various stories were set in and recall them with fondness. I didn’t use the math activities because I thought most of them were just silly. Honest review. And really stretching it just to find an activity to fit under the heading MATH. And though we talked about some of the art pointers from the book, we never did any of the activities. My personality gets in the way.
However, there are now many other similar programmes out there, and many homeschool sites which offer suggested activities to go with various children’s picture book titles. So if you are just starting out and are not ready to splurge on the manuals, you may want to check out sites like www.homeschoolshare.com or do a google search with words like “unit study” and “picture book” and “five in a row” and check out what comes up. But if you are loath to go online every time you need an idea, then by all means buy yourself a copy of Five in a Row Volume 1 to check out. Or borrow one.
[Note to Canadian homeschoolers: there is a very similar programme in Canada titled Come Sit By Me which uses Canadian books.]