And why am I excited about them?
Those two questions will be forever interwoven. I was a very poor student. If there was one comment I could count on seeing on every single report card it was this: “Steve doesn’t work up to his ability.” Why? Because school wasn’t interesting. It was boring, structured, mindless and frankly- pointless. I was bored senseless beginning in about first grade. The ONLY thing I remember finding interesting was learning to read. Beyond that school was mindless repetition.
There were only a handful of truly great learning moments- days when the light bulb of learning clicked on. Invariably those were days when I was turned loose with some basic tools and an open-ended learning objective. Suddenly the juices began to flow and I became lost in a world of creative learning, self-directed learning, spontaneous learning. I can still remember each of those days and the projects, discovery and knowledge that emerged from the fog of classroom boredom. Today I am an AVID learner, but that didn’t begin until after college. Only as an adult when I could take a subject and explore at my own pace, putting the pieces together as the story unfolded did I finally discover the joy of learning and the value of education.
Five in a Row was created to give children a less rigid approach to learning the content areas of education. (Note- Educators refer to two areas of learning; the skill areas and the content areas. Skill areas are basically the 3 R’s– reading, writing mechanics and math. Content areas are all of the other subjects such as history, science, literature, creative writing, fine arts, geography and more.) There is no substitute for drill and practice in a systematic, sequential regimen for the skill areas of learning. However, for the content areas it’s an entirely different story. Each content subject is a treasure to be opened and explored; savored by those who have a heart of discovery whether they’re 4-years-old or 84-years-old. There’s always more to learn about history, about geography, about science, etc.
Five in a Row provides a wonderful framework in which to do that important early-childhood exploration in these content areas of learning. Jane has developed a curriculum that provides you with all of the framework and structure you need to stay on target academically, while at the same time giving you and your children enough latitude to savor the true joy of spontaneous and inspired learning.
So what about FOLD&LEARN™s?
I told you that there were only a few memorable moments in my entire education where I was allowed to learn for the pure joy of learning–to explore and discover how amazing the world around me could be. I think those moments have been captured in a Five in a Row FOLD&LEARN™.
Each FOLD&LEARN™ provides your students with a treasure box filled with knowledge that a child can take out, explore and put together in 1000 different ways. The truly great toys–the ones children never outgrow are the ones that can be assembled in unlimited ways: Legos, Lincoln Logs, Constructix, Play-Doh, etc. These toys can become whatever the child wants them to become.
While every FOLD&LEARN™ is different, there are certain common denominators in every download. You’ll find relevant resources that help explore this week’s story or subject more deeply. There are games to play, artwork to look at, puppets to tell stories and much, much more. There are pages and pages of resources which your child can cut, fold, glue, paste, sort, stack, read, handle, talk about and share. HOW they put these resources together is up to them. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. There isn’t a template.
Some people have said, “How do I do a FOLD&LEARN™?”
That’s like asking, “How do I do a painting of a barn?” or “How do I make a model of an airplane?” or “How do I write a story about two girls on a train ride to Chicago?” There are as many answers as there are painters or builders or writers. The problem is that we ourselves have grown up in such a stilted, rigid learning environment that unless somebody tells us what to do we’re lost. “Read chapter three and when you’ve finished, close your book and put your head down on your desk until everyone else is finished. Then we’ll take the quiz.”
Huh? What’s THAT got to do with learning?
A friend told me a *WONDERFUL* story the other day about their young son. It seems the boys had found an L-shaped stick that fit perfectly in the hand the way a cowboy six-shooter ought to fit. They had made ‘bang bang’ sounds with the stick for months during the summer and fall and then the winter came. After five months of snow on the ground spring finally melted off the last of the winter covering and there, on the ground, was the stick. The five-year-old picked it up, turned it over slowly and wondrously in his hands and then aimed it: “Bang! Bang!” Looking up at his father joyously the boy said, “Yippee… it still works!”
I love that story. True learning takes place most effectively when you combine simple resources and tools with the creative mind of a child. That’s an unbeatable combination. But the truth is that most of us simply don’t have the time to gather the resources and tools that a child needs and so we settle for something far less inspiring: “Read chapter three and when you’ve finished, close your book and put your head down on your desk until everyone else is finished. Then we’ll take the quiz.”
A Five in a Row FOLD&LEARN provides the tools and resources that you and your child need to take many of the Five in a Row lessons from your manual and combine them with creativity to find new and unexpected learning treasures.
I WISH I had been taught the Five in a Row way. I would have had such a head start in my education. Instead, I had to wait until after college to truly begin to learn. And I would have given my eye teeth if someone had handed me a related FOLD&LEARN™ that went along with this week’s story. Some of the activities require parental interaction, guidance and supervision. Others are simply relevant resources that a child can sort, glue and talk about. And in that moment… in the sorting… in the gluing… in the talking… learning takes place. And perhaps more importantly a LOVE of learning is instilled in a young heart.
Jane would spend hours and hours gathering related resources for our children when she homeschooled. She would find every imaginable resource: artwork, articles, games, puppet shows, craft projects and so much more. But most of us simply aren’t Jane. So she’s gathered the learning ideas and concepts for you in Five in a Row and we’ve gathered the follow-up resources for you in each related FOLD&LEARN™. Together it’s a combination that can transform a child’s education.
Because you can print out each FOL&LEARN™ again and again, you can use it with each child and you can also let one child use it in several different ways. They can make a lapbook out of one set. You can help guide some directed learning activities with one set. And don’t be afraid to print out one or more sets and just hand them to your child (or children) on a project table along with glue, crayons, scissors, popsicle sticks, manila folders, typing paper, cardboard, etc. Let them figure out what they want to do with the resources. You’ll be AMAZED!!
And then… after they’ve gone to bed, print out one more set for YOU to play with and explore.
That’s the beauty of Five in a Row FOLD&LEARNs™. Unlike a book, you can use them over and over and over in 1000 different ways. You can pull them out with each of the next 4 children. You can combine them with one another in new and unexpected ways. You can use them in a structured way or you can let the children discover the joy of finding a stick that’s been buried under the snow for five months and learning that the stick still works!
Don’t expect to hand a child a FIAR FOLD&LEARN™ for the first time and necessarily see the magic take place. Children need several opportunities and they need permission from you to explore. The first time or two they’re waiting for the catch: What is it she expects me to do with this thing?!? Only after several encounters will they discover that you don’t necessarily expect anything of them. They really are free to learn on their own!
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