Saturday, September 17, 2011

Before Five in a Row Review

Right up front I will say that I have been a Five in a Row fan for many years.  We have "rowed" many Five in a Row books over the years.  ("Rowing" is the term Five in a Row users use to refer to the current book they are doing a unit study of.)  I have owned a copy of Before Five in a Row for a number of years along with quite a few of the picture books that go along with it. (Unfortunately, some of my books are missing. :(  I hate when that happens!)  Anyway, I never really took the time to read Before Five in a Row and actually use it.  I was so happy to have this opportunity to review it because I knew it would force me to sit down and really read it and use it.


Before Five in a Row is a treasury of creative ideas to inspire learning readiness for ages 2-4 written by Jane Lambert.  In the first part of the book you will find 23 mini-units written by the author of Five in a Row. It is written in a similar style to Five in a Row but without the 5 day schedule. It is written for times when you "want a special story with 'ready to use' activities and ideas that inspire creative interaction." (p.4)

Each mini-unit uses wonderful books written for young children.   Each book is listed with a variety of activities to go along with it.  Many are simple activities requiring nothing more than a few minutes spent with your child looking for something in the book, or singing a song, while others can be more involved like art projects or acting out a part of a story.  There is a short Bible verse to tie in with each book if you'd like to, often with an easy way to tie a Bible story in with what you've read.  

When I originally started to write this review, I thought of Before Five in a Row as a wonderful curriculum for preschoolers.  But, as I've spent some time reading it, I don't really think it is curriculum.  I think calling it curriculum misses the point.

I have a few quotes from the introduction that I would like to share to further explain what I mean:

"Before Five in a Row suggests a wide variety of interesting topics and activities to present, now and then, after a story is read.  These discussions and activities provide added interest for both the reader and the child." (p.3)  
"The point is not so much to instruct or teach as it is to have a happy introduction to books, provide an interesting, light introduction to many different topics, and to build intimacy between the reader and the child." (p.3)  
"Before Five in a Row is not attempting to teach academics, but rather to provide a strong foundation of academic 'readiness'." (p.4)

In addition, this is the Before Five in a Row Vision Statement:

"Dedicated to protecting and nurturing the early years of childhood, Before Five in a Row opens up the world of learning through great books and creative play, and builds a solid foundation for more formal education to come."

I loved this quote from the website:

"Before Five in a Row is passionate about teaching, but the teaching comes through the subtle forms of play that are intrinsic to early childhood."
 Before Five in a Row is not a curriculum that tells you what to do each day or week or even month. It is a  treasury of ideas (like it says on the cover) to be used through the pre-school years.  Don't less this scare you off if you are looking for curriculum though.  I really believe you don't need anything more in these early years.  However, if you want to use Before Five in a Row that way there are loads of resources on the internet to help you to do that.  I however plan to keep it simple and use it as is. (Not that I won't ever find things online to do, it's just that I know I don't need to!)

Unfortunately, there are no sample pages available online for Before Five in a Row.  I will do my best to try to share with you how it works without the benefit of samples.

One of the stories we have been reading is Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.  For each mini unit the book information is at the top of the page including title, author, illustrator, copyright year and any awards it has received followed by a summary of the story.  Next there are activities listed by topic. In this book the topics include Bible: Health and Safety, Math, History, Classification, Zoology and several others.

What I did was spend a few weeks just reading the story here and there several times a week so that it became familiar to them.  I also made up some animal classification bookmarks that I found online (from a suggestion on the FIAR message boards) and laminated them to use as we go through the stories as suggested in the book.  You could make your own using magazines or the internet but if I can find them already made up and all I have to do is print them, I'm going for it! :)  We have been using these just to look at and identify animals but as time goes on we can use these to practice sorting and matching them up with the stories we are reading.  Sadie (2 next week) and Ellie (3 yrs. 10 months) love to look at all of the animals.  Sadie will repeat each one as I tell her what they cute.

Animal Classification bookmarks from Homeschool Creations

For another activity,  I made a "tin pail" using a soup can and some craft wire and Ellie put blueberries (store bought) into her "pail" so she could hear the kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk as they do in the story...and practice counting some too.  :)

In the meantime, we are reading other stories, sometimes finding an activity to do and sometimes not.  We read a variety of books including Before Five in a Row books.  I like it because I can easily fit this in to my busy day.  I keep the manual handy so that when we have some reading time I can easily pick it up for an idea to enrich our story time and learn something new.

One other thing I have done is to create a small book basket just for the younger ones.  It is easily accessible for any of us.  Ellie and Sadie can look at the books or ask one of the "readers" in the family to read to them.  I love to see the older children reading to their younger brothers and sisters.  It really warms my heart.

So far I have only mentioned part one of Before Five in a Row but it is a two part book. The second part of the book is entitled, Parent's Treasury of Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness.  It truly is a treasury.  There are book ideas, music suggestions and activities, ideas for increasing large and small motor skills, things to do at bath time or in the kitchen or at the store, toy suggestions and more!

Though the book is recommended for 2 to 4 year olds, the stories are timeless and most can be read with children much older.  Many of the activities could be used with older children as well.  I plan to continue using this all year with Sadie, Ellie and even Jenna (she'll be 6 next week) and Connor (who is older but has a developmental disability).

In addition to Before Five in a Row, there are 4 volumes of Five in a Row (for 4-8 year olds) and  3 volumes of Beyond Five in a Row (for 8-12 year olds) and Above and Beyond Five in a Row based on Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. They also have a digital store with planners, units, Fold N Learns, audios and much more.  They also have the most fabulous homeschooling message boards for FIAR users.  When you use any Five in a Row product you will want to tap into the resources and wisdom of the moms on the boards.


Before Five in a Row is available exclusively through Rainbow Resource Center for $35.00.  They also offer a literature package and individual books. (note: a few of the titles are out of print but I have found them all to be available through my local library's interlibrary loan program)

You can read what others on TOS crew are saying about Before Five in a Row on the TOS crew blog.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Before Five in a Row in exchange for my honest review.


Amanda in RI said...

Really nice review, Karen! I love how you outlined how the program works--I do love FIAR!

Totally sharing this link....

Karen said...

Thanks Amanda! :)

Lori said...

Hey, Thanks for following me. I am following back now. It will be great to get to know another homeschooling family that has a child with DS! Great review, it's nice to hear from someone experienced with FIAR.


Debra said...

I think you did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of Before Five in a Row...

Makes me want to use it again. :)

Caca said...

thanks for the sharing in details. I will get a set and do it together with my kids.

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