Why is it called Five in a Row?
Because you will read the story aloud to your child for five consecutive days before doing the lesson(s). (This applies to the picture books found from More Before through Volume 5; it doesn’t apply to Before Five in a Row or the chapter books in the later volumes.) Be sure to read “Reading the Stories Five Days in a Row” in the “How to Use Five in a Row” section of each manual, Volumes 1-5. This explains more fully why Jane Claire Lambert created FIAR based on the philosophy of reading aloud, and repetitively, to your student.
How do I know which level of Five in a Row to start with?
Whether you have one child or several, click here to get an overview of the various levels of the FIAR curriculum. Downloading the sample units that are available for Before, More Before, and Five in a Row and reading through the lessons will give you a good idea of which manual is best suited to your student(s). To view and compare the volumes, click here for preschool and kindergarten manuals, and click here for Volumes 1-8. To download the booklists and sample units from each, click here.
Do FIAR Volumes 1-8 correspond to grades 1-8?
They can, but they don’t have to. You could begin your child with Volume 1 in first grade and theoretically use one volume per year, but it’s not necessary to use FIAR in this way. Many families do use one volume per year even though there aren’t 30+ books in each volume. This is because you’ll likely spend certain weeks on holiday studies, your children (or you!) will have illnesses, there will be vacations or other breaks from school, etc. There are also Mini Units you can use to fill in during the school year. In addition to all of this flexibility, Volumes 1-3 are interchangeable (regarding their level of difficulty), and you may wish to combine or alternate volumes if you have a wide range of ages. Five in a Row is an extremely flexible curriculum and all of these options work very well.
What else do I need to supplement in order to have a full curriculum?
For preschool (Before FIAR and More Before FIAR), you’ll need no other formal curriculum. You may want to do counting practice or pre-math skills at that age, just as a part of your day-to-day life with your child.
For your FIAR-aged child (Volume 1 and up) who is not reading yet, you’ll need a good phonics program and a simple math curriculum at the appropriate age level. For children who are already reading successfully, many families choose to no longer teach phonics but to simply let the child read books that interest him (and you, of course, will continue to read aloud to him!). You’ll continue to do a math curriculum daily, and at some point (this varies for individual children), you’ll want to add spelling, handwriting, and grammar as individual subjects in language arts. You won’t need to add a separate history or science curriculum while using Five in a Row. If your child is especially interested in science or history, we strongly encourage you to help them find library books and other resources in these areas, and you might consider read-alouds on these topics just for fun!
Do the picture books or chapter books that we’ll read come with the manuals?
No, you’ll need to obtain the books separately, whether from the library or by purchasing them.
Do I have to purchase the books that go along with the manuals?
You can, but you don’t have to. Many people choose to use the library for all books, or purchase only certain titles. That said, other FIAR families DO eventually purchase many (if not all!) of the books because they’re such wonderful, heartwarming, unforgettable stories. They want to treasure them and someday pass them on to the next generation.
Do I need to order one FIAR manual for each child?
No. The FIAR books are teacher’s guides and you’ll only need one manual to use with your family.
What does “rowing a book” mean?
Many families who use Five in a Row refer to “rowing” a book, which simply means doing the FIAR unit study using the lessons and the selected book.
Do I have to do the books in order? And how does FIAR progress in difficulty through the 8
You don’t have to do the books in any particular order. Feel free to mix and match the units depending on the needs of your student. Volumes 1-3 are based on books that are about the same level. Volume 4 increases in difficulty and length of study for each book (two weeks for each unit instead of one). Volume 5 is a transition volume, containing both picture books and chapter books. Volumes 6 and 7 (chapter books) are similar in level, and Volume 8 contains two more chapter books plus the longest FIAR unit, a semester-long study of a more advanced chapter book. To view and compare the volumes, click here. To download the booklists and sample units from each, click here.
What are the differences between Before Five in a Row and More Before Five in a Row? Do I need to do Before Five in a Row first?
Before Five in a Row is designed for ages 2-4 while More Before Five in a Row is designed for ages 3-5. Before Five in a Row is not a traditional curriculum, but instead a collection of discussion- and play-based lessons based on classic books for young children, to do for 10-20 minutes, two or three days a week. More Before provides a more structured, 5 days a week, preschool or kindergarten experience.
Depending on the age of your child, you can do Before Five in a Row first or jump in with More Before. Many families have had great success in combining Before and More Before for their young children, alternating between the volumes. To view and compare the volumes, click here.To download the booklists and sample units from each, click here.
What are Story Disks and Storybook Maps? How do I use them?
Story Disks are circles that have an image that corresponds to a picture book used in Before, More Before, or Five in a Row Volumes 1-5 (picture book units). They are available in black and white at the back of each manual for you to photocopy and color in or have your child color in. Full-color, laminated story disks come free with your manual purchase from fiveinarow.com (you do not have to add the story disks to your cart if you purchase the manual here). If you need to purchase story disks without ordering a manual, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Five in a Row Volumes 1-5, the disks are used as a geography aid for the picture book units. You cut out the laminated disk and using removeable teacher’s putty, you’ll attach the disk to a world map or U.S. map on the location where the story takes place. (Most families purchase both maps for use with Five in a Row; you can purchase the maps of your choice.) For instance, while studying the Madeline unit of Five in a Row you will discuss the geography lesson from the manual that talks about how Madeline lived in Paris, which is in a country named France. Then you’ll go to the world map with your child and find France, then Paris, and place the (Eiffel Tower) Madeline disk on that location. You can review this each day (taking the disk off after your lesson so that your child can find it again tomorrow on the map).
For Before and More Before, you will use the Storybook Map (purchase the maps here and here) to place the disk for the location of where each story takes place—much like the Volume 1-5 disks above, but with a “make-believe” map rather than a real-world map. (The locations to place the disks are noted in the teacher’s manual at the end of each unit.) For instance, while doing the unit on Owl Babies (More Before), your child will find the hollowed-out tree on the map to place the Owl Babies story disk on. This activity helps your child learn map skills in a gentle, fun manner, laying a foundation for future geography lessons they’ll do in Five in a Row. You might choose to ask some basic questions like, “Is the hollow owl tree above or below the lake?”
What if my child is already reading, or has already read some of the books found in the manuals?
The Five in a Row curriculum, from Before FIAR to Volume 8, is not based on the student’s reading ability, and it works well with fluent readers, struggling readers, and non-readers. With the FIAR picture books, you will read the stories aloud to your children regardless of age or ability because of the warm, relational tone it sets for each teaching day. (For the chapter books, you may read aloud or your child may read; this is covered in the front matter of Volumes 5-8.) Be sure to read “Reading the Stories Five Days in a Row” in the “How to Use Five in a Row” section of each manual, Volumes 1-5. This explains more fully why Jane Claire Lambert created FIAR based on the philosophy of reading aloud, and repetitively, to your student.
Will my child get bored if we read the same book more than once?
Most likely not. The first time you read a story, children simply want to discover what happens. But each day we peel back the story, learning to write using some of the techniques the author has used, or learning to draw or paint using some of the techniques, materials or palettes the illustrator has used. We learn more about the culture or setting where the story took place, we pull out interesting science topics to discuss and explore, etc. So with each new reading, the child can look at the illustrations, think about the cuisine or the architecture; appreciate the writing style, etc. Each day builds on the previous day’s learning experience. And each reading builds a bond with the book for your child so that they develop a deep and abiding love for each wonderful story. Then each time they read the story they’ll recall and strengthen their grasp on the many lessons learned from that beloved book.
What if my child balks at reading the story more than once?
There are lots of easy tricks you can use to make the re-reading fun! For instance, you might tell the student you are going to leave OUT certain words and you want to see if they can catch you when you make a mistake. Or you might ask him to call out each time you read a certain character’s name and see how many times the author has included that name or word. You can ask your child to be looking for pictures that have a particular color scheme or technique from the art lesson while you’re reading the story, etc. Be sure to read “Suggestions for a Resistant
Student” in the “How to Use Five in a Row” section of each manual.
I’ve heard that several of the books are out of print. What if I can’t obtain a specific book?
“In print” inventories from publishers change from month to month. Most FIAR titles are in print and are readily available to order or to request from the library. At the back of each manual, Volumes 1-5, you’ll find a section called “Finding the Books” which has helpful information on locating out of print titles. Other options include inter-library loan, various used book websites, library sales, or (not ideal but can be used in a pinch) watching a video of a read-through of the book online. Some families choose to simply skip a title that they have difficulty finding. Because lessons don’t specifically build on one another from book to book, and because many lessons will be revisited in different ways in other units, you can skip books if needed.
Can my 2 or 3-year-old join in with the older children?
Of course! But you’ll find that Before FIAR is aimed directly at their learning readiness needs and provides a very special 10-20 minutes a few times a week that is “their time” just like big brother or big sister.
How long does it take to do Five in a Row each day?
For Before Five in a Row you’ll want to spend 5-10 minutes reading the story to your toddler and then doing one fun activity. You may choose to do this more than once each day but don’t make it “work”—keep it fun. With More Before, you’ll spend around 15-30 minutes reading the story to your preschooler or kindergartener and then choosing one or more lessons from the manual. More time will be spent on days that your child becomes invested in an art project or wants to play what they’ve been learning (play-based learning is encouraged and ideas/lessons are provided for you).
For Five in a Row picture books (found in Volumes 1-5), plan to spend anywhere from 15 to 60+ minutes per day in addition to whatever time you set aside for math, phonics, spelling, etc. The reason for the wide variance in times is because the lessons you choose vary greatly in length. You may spend only 15 minutes discussing a topic in social studies or language arts, or you may spend an hour and half on a science experiment or an art project—and everything in between! The longer you “row” (use the FIAR curriculum), the more you’ll have a good grasp on how long each activity is likely to take.
For Five in a Row chapter books (found in Volumes 5-8), plan to spend anywhere from 30 minutes on up. The time varies greatly for the same reasons mentioned in the paragraph above. You also won’t read a chapter from the book every day, which will affect how long your school time will last.
Do I have to do every activity in the teacher’s manual?
No—in fact, you’ll want to select only one or two activities each day. There are more lessons in the manual than you will be able to (or likely, want to) use.
Some of the stories seem to be seasonal. Should I do specific stories or volumes at certain times?
There are several stories mixed throughout the volumes that are indeed seasonal. And it would be lovely to do those stories at the appropriate time of the year. But the majority of the stories can be done anytime.
How long does each chapter book unit (Volumes 5-8) take to complete?
It depends entirely on you and your student. Most people find they spend 6-8 weeks on each unit, but some spend longer. In the back of Volumes 5-8, you’ll find sample lesson planning pages that walk you through two weeks of a chapter book study that is found in that particular manual. Those sample lessons are just one way you could approach two weeks of study. In addition to planned study, many families also find themselves on “rabbit trails” at any FIAR level. For example, a passing mention of the solar system or the Revolutionary War may lead to a two-week rabbit trail on that subject as you visit planetariums or battlefields, go to the library, do self-directed research and more. The goal is to get your child excited about learning!
What are the Five in a Row Mini Units? When and how can I incorporate them into our studies?
Mini Units are picture book units that are released periodically and are available in digital format. They are called Mini Units because there is one lesson for each subject for ages 5-9 (Social Studies, Language Arts, Art, Applied Math, and Science). There are also two additional lessons for older students (age 9-12) that expand on the younger lessons, as well as suggestions, ideas, go-along books, and teaching tips for ages 2-4. Mini Units cover every age level!
The lessons in the Mini Unit are deep and rich … and the work of finding extra materials (go-along books, videos, websites, etc., for all age levels) has been done for you already. You’ll also find activity sheets for hands-on learning/documentation and a recipe that pairs with the story to make together and share. The Mini Units are really anything but mini!
If you use all the age group lessons in each Mini Unit (or will use them at a later time with your children as they get older) then you are really purchasing three separate week-long units of learning based on the same picture book. You can row it with a 2, 3 or 4-year-old and then come back around to it in 2-3 years with a 5-8-year-old, and again a few years later with a 9-12-year-old. Each time they will learn new things and revisit a favorite picture book.
Many of the Mini Units have a holiday theme, but the lessons are written to be used at any time during the year. Click here to see all Mini Unit options. You can also get a FREE Mini Unit by clicking here and using coupon code mini0920 at checkout.
What is your #1 tip for new users to FIAR?
Our # 1 tip would be to read the front matter (and back matter) in your Five in a Row manual. You’ll find Jane Claire Lambert’s tips for beginning Five in a Row, how to find out of print books, getting the most out of Five in a Row, sample lesson planning pages, how to do a Five in a Row review week … and much more!
Spending 5-10 minutes reading through the front and back of each FIAR manual (even at the beginning of each school year!) will benefit you and your student for the length of their education with Five in a Row.
What does “Second Edition” mean regarding the FIAR manuals?
Several years ago, we were looking forward to the next 25 years of Five in a Row. We wanted to continue to provide the amazing content that our rowers know and love while improving each volume with activity pages, teachers notes, a beautiful layout, and a new design, including wide margins for notes, updated illustrations, and more. These changes provide over 100+ new pages of content to each volume. Most of all, we wanted to provide a clearer sense of continuity to the curriculum as a whole. We are now well into the Second Edition changes for FIAR Volumes 1-8 and the feedback from those who’ve used the new volumes has been overwhelmingly positive! For more details on updates and changes to each volume, click here and select the FIAR level that you are interested in by clicking on the cover of any volume.
Here’s to an amazing 25+ years of Five in a Row and to the next 25 years!
Can I still order the first edition Beyond Five in a Row manuals?
If you have already finished a volume of Beyond Five in a Row, first edition, at this time you will be able to purchase these first edition volumes to finish out your Beyond Five in a Row journey with your student. Please contact email@example.com to purchase a Beyond Five in a Row manual.
Where can I purchase the curriculum if I do not live in the U.S.?
Five in a Row does not sell internationally through our website but does sell internationally through Rainbow Resource Center and Amazon.
Is FIAR a Christian curriculum?
We are Christians, but FIAR manuals are used successfully by both Christian and non-Christian families. Before Five in a Row and More Before include Bible devotionals for parent and child that can be used or skipped over. For Volumes 1-8, Bible lessons are not included in the manuals because some homeschoolers are not able to purchase religious curricula in order to stay in compliance with their state’s homeschool laws. So for Volumes 1-8, FIAR offers a separate Bible Supplement (in two volumes) that pairs up with each individual story unit. Hundreds of lessons in character development with accompanying Bible references are provided, as well as Teacher‘s Notes pages to record Bible memory verses or copywork, related worship songs or hymns, your student’s drawing of the Bible story you’ve discussed, and more. Find more information on the FIAR Bible Supplements here, and click here for all FIAR sample units, which includes a Bible Supplement sample.
What denomination are the lessons in the Bible Supplement? Which translation of the Bible do you use?
We don’t teach “doctrinal” lessons. Rather we connect familiar Bible stories with the stories children are reading. Further, we teach broad Biblical values: honesty, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, etc. You won’t find lessons on which type of baptism is “best” or women’s role in the church or speaking in tongues or church government. We’ll leave that for you to teach. In the rare cases where the Bible is directly quoted in the Bible Supplement (in almost all cases, chapter and verse numbers are given rather than direct quotes), we have used the ESV translation of the Bible. But overall, the Bible Supplement is designed for you to read directly from your Bible and share with your children. Find more information on the FIAR Bible Supplements here, and click
here for all FIAR sample units, which includes a Bible Supplement sample.
Is there a cookbook for FIAR, and how can I purchase it?
The second edition of the FIAR cookbook will be available soon! It will actually be a cooking curriculum that will help you teach your child lessons in the kitchen through recipes that pair with each Five in a Row book. See this page for more information, as well as details on how to purchase the digital cookbook that was previously available.
What are “rabbit trails” and should we take them?
Rabbit trails, or going down a rabbit hole, happens when your student’s curiosity spurs a question that isn’t part of the lesson, or when they become deeply interested in a topic/subject and want to dive into learning more than what’s provided in a lesson. When rabbit trails are driven by your student’s curiosity, they provide interest-based learning opportunities that are powerful and have a high information retention rate. Five in a Row is based on a learning concept called “low floor/high ceiling.” Rabbit trails and natural curiosity mean that there is no end to what your student can learn if they follow the trail. (To learn more about the low floor/high ceiling concept and how rabbit trails are part of the high ceiling, click here.)
Should you follow rabbit trails? We encourage you to do this if your student initiates it! Of course, not all students will ask questions that lead to rabbit trails, and that’s also perfectly fine—the FIAR manuals are providing everything they need! It’s a bit like healthy eating … the lessons in each manual provide a healthy “meal” (or the appropriate educational material for each student), while rabbit trails are the equivalent of a second serving of your favorite food or a dessert. It’s not necessary but, for some, it’s enjoyable!
Does Five in a Row cover history chronologically?
No, Five in a Row covers history topically, depending on the book that is being studied. This method creates interest-based, historical lessons—as they are tied to a character or story that your students is interested in, versus simply learning about an event or period in history because it comes next in a textbook. As your student progresses through the FIAR curriculum, they’ll learn about many topics/time periods/places more than once, at a somewhat higher level each time. This method allows your student to recall and build on previous knowledge, which is highly effective for learning at younger ages. In late middle school and high school, your child will likely study history in a more structured and/or chronological manner.
Five in a Row encourages the use of a timeline if you want to foster a chronological understanding while embracing the topically-driven study of history provided through FIAR. The Homeschool History Book of Centuries: A Portable Timeline for the Young Historian by Anna Travis is one option.
What about possible “gaps” in my student’s learning?
The idea of “learning gaps” is deceiving. We all have learning gaps, no matter where we went to school or what curriculum we might have used—and today’s students are no exception. No one can cover everything or learn everything, nor should they.
From Before FIAR to Volume 8, Five in a Row teaches children to love learning, how to learn, and how to find information. FIAR equips your children to fill in the inevitable gaps whenever they run into them—whether in high school, college, or later in life. With Five in a Row, your child won’t be learning information for a test and then forgetting it a week later. They’ll be digging into topics that spark their interest, learning about things that are new to them in every subject area, and then moving on to high school, where they’ll cover subjects in (mostly) a more systematic and structured way. This method of learning has proven successful for thousands of FIAR families over the past 25+ years.
In today’s world especially, information is at our fingertips in seconds. Five in a Row teaches so much more than mere information. It develops skills and habits of learning that will serve your child well no matter what they decide to pursue after their FIAR studies are complete. They’ll learn how to become critical thinkers, how to enjoy literature and other creative arts, how to research and express their ideas, how to make connections between the things they learn, how to direct their own learning when needed, and much more—all in the relaxed atmosphere of “inspired learning through great books” that FIAR provides.
Gaps are a natural part of the learning process. No need to be afraid or worry about them!
What makes Five in a Row different from other curricula?
First, it was developed by a successful homeschool teacher, so it’s geared for success in the home environment. Second, it’s relational at its very core. While a great deal of information is imparted to young learners, it’s done in a home/family/relational setting. By gathering your family together each morning and snuggling as you read a wonderful story aloud to your children, the tone of each teaching day is relational and fun rather than rigorous and sterile. If earning is consistently fun and enjoyable, they’ll be lifetime learners whether you (the teacher/parent) are there to push them or not. The core philosophy of Five in a Row is to teach children to love learning!
Do you offer an affiliate program?
No, we don’t.
Will there be a Five in a Row booth at my homeschool convention?
How do I get the free FOLD&LEARNs™?
When you subscribe to the blog, you’ll be taken to the page that has all of the free FOLD&LEARNs™ upon completing all of the confirmation steps. If you didn’t bookmark that page, the link to the FOLD&LEARNs™ is at the top right center of any email. You can subscribe to the blog on the fiveinarow.com homepage; just scroll down to “sign up now” after clicking here.
What additional curricula do you recommend for the subjects that Five in a Row doesn’t cover?
Five in a Row covers Social Studies (including History, Geography, and Career Paths), Language Arts (including Writing and Discussion Questions and Vocabulary), Art, Applied Math, Science, and Life Skills for ages 5-12+.
Finding the right fit for you (the teacher) and your student is the most important criterion when choosing any curriculum. So it’s entirely possible that you will need different curricula for different children in your family. That said, programs that we have personally used and would recommend include those below. Most of these resources can be found through the Five in a Row Amazon shop.
You will need to add a math program to Five in a Row. Many people do this around first grade.
Math-U-See (includes video option)
Math Lessons for a Living Education (foundational math textbooks with a literature/story-driven theme in each lesson)
Teaching Textbooks (online program with video lessons)
CTC Math (online program with video lessons)
Five in a Row doesn’t teach how to read. Keep in mind that children may begin reading at 4, or they may begin at 8—both are completely within the usual range of beginning to read.
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (phonics)
Dash Into Reading (phonics)
All About Reading (phonics)
Bob books (phonics based; each simple, short storybook addresses a stage in a child’s reading development)
Explode the Code (basic phonics and handwriting practice)
Handwriting Without Tears (multi-sensory approach to handwriting)
Some children will do well beginning spelling in earlier grades (especially if they need more practice), while some can wait until later elementary.
Spelling Power (one book for K-12, includes placement tests, works well for natural spellers)
All About Spelling (open-and-go program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach; hands-on, multi-sensory, good for dyslexia or struggling spellers)
If you have a child who loves language arts and is ready for more formal grammar study, you might want to begin in mid-elementary years, around 3rd grade. But many children have greater success with grammar by waiting until later elementary grades to begin.
Easy Grammar and Daily Grams (quick and easy to use, focuses on correct usage)
Rod & Staff English (a more rigorous, traditional approach, includes diagramming and writing exercises in mid-elementary grades; from a Christian perspective)
Five in a Row draws many lessons about music, famous composers, and musicians from the selected picture books. We highly recommend the following study to dive more deeply into a composer study or to incorporate a consistent music study into your week.
Conversations with Composers, which can be found at myhomegrownsymphony.com
Have a question we didn’t answer? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!