Homeschool Curriculum Review: Five in a Row

Quick Take: If you are looking for a literature based unit study homeschool curriculum or for some fun and gentle summer learning Five in a Row may be for you.

Five in a row (FIAR) was one of the first curriculum options I learned about when I began exploring homeschooling options. It is a very gentle literature based program.

Each weekly unit study focuses on a classic picture book you read with your child – you guessed it, five days in a row. Each day you add math, science, language arts, geography, or history project corresponding with the book’s theme 

We used some Five in a Row for summer learning, but you could definitely use this as your core curriculum, with addition of a math and reading program.

Five in a Row provide opportunities for exposure to lots of different topics without focus on mastery, an approach that feels right for Kindergarten age. The curriculum manual provides a good mix of guidance and lots of room for child-let interest.

The Five in a Row curriculum is well established and seems to be a popular choice among homeschoolers. While it is not an open-and-go curriculum, there are lots of lesson ideas on Pinterest and blogs. This lead me to sometimes spend more time than I should have searching for ideas!

There are also great resources to help you plan FIAR lessons from veteran homeschoolers:

I enjoy the homeschool planning process, but if you don’t there is more than enough information in the curriculum manuals to simplify planning by just picking one subject to cover each day. It is also flexible and easy to add activities based on your child’s interest. For us that meant adding SciShow Kids videos, Lego builds, and outdoor outings that tie in with each book.

The Glorious Flight book from Five in a Row Curriculum with two Lego airplanes
Building Lego airplanes after reading The Glorious Flight with FIAR

Flexibility also means you don’t have to read all the books or read them in the order listed in the manual. Choose the unit studies for books that are appropriate for the season or those that will be of the highest interest to your child. 

Antique steam shovel similar to the one in Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel book in the Five in a Row Curriculum
Visiting an antique Marion steam shovel like the one in Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel with FIAR

Initially I wasn’t quite sure about reading the same picture book five days in a row, worrying the same story might not capture my son’s attention for the entire week. However after using the program I believe the multiple reads focusing on different elements of the story each day helps establish a foundation for critical analysis, a skill with both academic benefit and real world application. 

Child reading Night of the Moonjellies from Five in a Row curriculum
Learning about New England after reading Night of the Moonjellies with FIAR

The classic children’s picture books in the Five in a Row Curriculum have great stories and beautiful illustrations, however my only concern with the program is that the books are very Eurocentric. We overcame that by adding more diverse books each week to complement the main book choice or corresponding themes.

We used the first edition manuals, which were secular. I don’t believe all a levels of the newer editions are secular (read more about this in Cathy Duffy’s review), but I think they would be easy to adapt.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World was a great starting point for beginning geography and map work

Five in a Row Books we enjoyed as summer learning unit studies

  • The Story of Ping (Get a FREE sample unit here)
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
  • Night of the Moonjellies
  • Lentil
  • The Glorious Flight
  • Madeline
  • The Storm in the Night
  • Papa Piccolo
  • How to make an Apple Pie and See the World

We thoroughly enjoyed the FIAR books we “rowed”, and would recommend the program for anyone looking for a easy start into homeschooling. If nothing else the book list is great for finding classic children’s books to read with your child.

Have you used Five in a Row? What was your favorite book?