We did it. We finally caved and invested in Five in a Row for the kids. Five in a Row is a mom-intensive reading/arts-and-crafts/ basically as-fun-as-it-gets book list and manual full of ways to get the most out of the books. It is used as a full curriculum, a supplement to a curriculum (how we are using it), and also by a lot of moms of kids who are “in” school, but just want to do it because it’s so great.
I have read about it for a few years, but we never had the extra money to shell out for the guide and the book pack. Well, this year I realized we have aquired many of the books needed for FIAR Volume 1 and Beyond FIAR Volume 1 so I bought the guides, which are only about $35 a piece. Five in a Row for the younger boys and the Beyond FIAR for Big Bird. I was on Pinterest all weekend looking at the wonderful lapbooks put together by other families while using this program. I bought a box of file folders and am ready to go!
Basically, we pick a book to begin with. Let’s use Madeline as an example because most people know the book well. Each day the book is read and a new aspect of the book is revealed and explored, this is called “rowing” a book. Kids love repetition and it reinforces what they learn in the previous lesson (after the first day). As we read the book we make crepes, learn French words and copy them onto fun little lapbook templates, color the French flag, create a little lapbook fold on symmetry (remember the “12 little girls in 2 straight lines”), learn the parts of a flower and paste a labeled picture in the lapbook, and finally let the kids narrate the story back to me while they look through it and I type it out while leaving room for them to draw a picture (this would be my cover).
Don’t get me wrong. It takes time. I had to scour blogs and websites, and use tons of ink for lapbook templates, and have an entire notebook devoted to each FIAR manual just for notes, ideas, books needed from the library, and recipes. It was fun, but it does take some time away from the family in order to spend some time doing this with the family. So if I didn’t have the time to do both I would skip this program and just spend time with my kids reading.
I hope when we begin to carry it out next week it is as much fun as I hear it is. We are currently doing a year long unit study, but have already supplemented so much that I would say we are doing an eclectic school year with no “one” primary curriculum. Five in a Row will add to our literature(Big Bird) and reading(little birds) and make the books come alive.
I also discovered another little gem that I want to share. I was looking for a language arts that was Charlotte Mason and not teacher extensive. It had to be thorough. I found Language Lessons for Little Ones… all the way up to middle school. So we start in preschool with Language Lessons for Little Ones Volume one, then move on to Volume 2, Volume 3, then graduate to Language Lessons for the Very Young Volume 1, etc. It is a very gentle compliment to our homeschool day and it’s enriching. Only the younger two will use it up to second grade.I am very happy with what my oldest does, which is Rod and Staff Spelling, A Reason for Handwriting, Primary Language Lessons, and Daily 6 Trait Writing 3; but for the two youngest I was struggling to find a program as cultured as Veritas Press’ preschool/kindergarten, but not quite as expensive. I use LL for Little Ones with Handwriting Without Tears, The Reading Lesson (I only need one because it’s non-consumable), Explode the Code phonics books and the writing they do in Draw Write Now. It’s awesome and they are learning.
The reason I am sharing this with you is because I finally found something that works. Curriculum is like a puzzle for us. I have tried so many different things. We have spent a small fortune trying to get the right fit. What I’ve found is that it’s not the most expensive or the program with the most parts that provides the best education, but the programs which are gentle and help me bond with the kids rather than teach them are the ones I look for. I hate teacher manuals and I want to sit on the couch and share with them, not teach them. They retain the information better and they tend to associate learning with a more natural, relaxed lifestyle instead of something to do. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days when I need to get on them in order to finish an educational project, lesson, or activity with heels dragging the whole way, but it shouldn’t be like that all the time.
Something I did with my oldest that I will do with the littles is this, when they get to second grade, we will do a year of McRuffy Language Arts. It’s pricey, it’s complete, it’s very schoolish, but the lessons are short and it eased Big Bird from phonics into big boy language arts. It was enjoyable and all the work is done for me, I just need to stand at the white board and teach, then have them do the workbooks. Like I said, the lessons were short and it really helped us in transitioning from phonics into grammar. It was our piece of the puzzle and it worked wonderfully. McRuffy also writes a math and a science curriculum and I am sure they are just as wonderful.
I am going to re-write my page “What a day in the Duke’s boys homeschool looks like” because I am sure it’s drastically different now that we are half way into Weaver. Maybe I’ll call it something else too, “what a day in the life of a harried, exhausted, disheveled, yet completely joyful homeschool mom looks like.” Ah, thank the Lord He is my life!
I hope you have a wonderful day and have enjoyed reading about my new homeschool plans because I am so excited about them and have enjoyed writing about them!