There are two important things that I want students to learn when I teach them. First, I want them to learn to love reading and learning. Second, I want them to learn how to learn, so they will continue it for their entire lives. From those two things, everything else from the alphabet and numbers to concepts of gravity and democracy will fall into place. Curriculums should be written from that stand point. The Five in a Row curriculum series by Jane Claire Lambert does that.
Using good books to weave a plan of learning and fun is the design of the Five in a Row series. The books are carefully chosen to present, as the Lamberts explain, “close family relationships, personal triumphs, and persevering in times of trial”. Activities and discussions are laid out to present how to read and critique books which blends into learning about many subjects through the adventures of the characters.
The method is the most important factor of this curriculum. It is imperative that a parent read each book to the students each day of the week. I love this time of closeness. The students do, too. The modeling I do while reading is important for the children. They get to hear how to glean meaning from the words by the inflection in my voice and the pauses for commas and the stops for periods. They hear my enthusiasm in my voice. They feel the love for the words and the life within those words. Also, hearing the story each day and then doing activities and discussing different aspects of the story or how it relates to another subject like math or science reviews those aspects as many as four times.
The layout is simplified to allow even beginning homeschoolers the ability to succeed in the unit study format of Five in a Row. There are five main subjects used in the units to allow activities to be used in a five-day format. Teachers can choose from many different activities in each subject or even do them all and choose when during the week to do the lessons. Sample lesson plans are provided to help the teacher organize, but it isn’t necessary. Many teachers just check off in the book the activities they wish to do with their students. All of the books used in the series can be found free at the public library making this an easily affordable curriculum to use at any age level. I need braille to read to my students, but I have plenty of time to get the National Library to send me via download the braille text for each book. I often purchase the book and print the braille on overlay plastic to glue with clear glue to the page. I can read the story in braille as my students read the print and look at pictures. This keeps me actively involved with my students’ learning.
There are many levels to the Five in a Row curriculum covering ages 4-8. Each level can still be used for a family of multiple students in that age level easily. The authors even suggest hints for using activities with younger and/or older children. The appendix has the copy sheets for the activities in the book as well as that sample lesson plan. Story disks which are round circles with story pictures on them which can be cut out, colored, and laminated are used in many activities such as geography where they place the story disk on areas of the map such as the water areas found around the island of Nantucket where a story you read takes place. That is a wonderful way to remember about lakes and oceans and other geographical features. You can purchase a set of these on their website if you prefer things pre-done, too.
A teacher will find the series quite complete for ages 4-5 or 6. When you feel your students are ready to introduce phonics or formal math lessons, the authors help you integrate the subjects easily into your day while still seeing the benefits of the unit study series.
The authors have other series for ages 2 thru high school. I have personally used most of them and found them to be very fulfilling and intriguing. There are also additional unit studies for all levels that can be purchased inexpensively on their web site. Check them out at http://www.fiveinarow.com. Unit studies are a great way to teach a lifelong love for learning. Five in a Row and all the other age levels from this author are an easy and wonderful way to accomplish this important goal.

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