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?

2021 Favorite Homeschool Blogs

woman with laptop researching best homeschool blogs

There are tons of homeschoolers sharing their experiences, ideas, and resources online. As I was researching and preparing to begin our homeschool journey, these are some of the blogs that I followed consistently and still look to for inspiration today:

Up Above the Rowan Tree – It’s pretty rare to find a strictly secular homeschool blog, and if that’s what you’re looking for make this your first stop. You’ll find a complete list of secular curriculum options and excellent reviews.

Research Parent is full of free resources covering every subject. Seriously, it’s a treasure trove of free printables you should check out. We have used the minimalist math curriculum as a review material, and the wiggle bot was one of my son’s favorite projects ever.

The Intuitive Homeschooler, Camille is a voice of encouragement for all homeschool parents. She has list of simple steps to get started that can really help break through the overwhelm you may be feeling.

Homeschool Math Help blog by homeschool math curriculum author Kate snow shares everything math from how to pick a curriculum to how to teach it. I especially enjoyed her list of math picture books.

Mint and Bloom is a relatively new blog, with an interesting series on their “Seeds of Change” US History curriculum. If you’re interested in promoting anti-racism and social justice in your homeschool as we are, this is definitely worth checking out.

Good Enough Homeschool is one of my more recent finds, and I’m hooked on both their blog and podcast covering secular classical education. ADD SOMETHING Else

Happiness is Here is focused on unschooling, and there are lots of great reads . I found my self nodding along with the post about play based learning, what it is, and how it has been hijacked, then kept reading on for lots of great ideas about true play for children.

My Little Poppies has popularized the idea of “gameschooling”, and this is my go to site for board game inspiration and reviews. Her post on games to play virtually has some great ideas for helping kids connect with friends online.

Woman with laptop and notebook researching best homeschool blogs

Do you have a favorite homeschool blog? Let me know in the comments below.

We’re Homeschoolers

Like much of the world, we’ve been learning at home since mid-March due to COVID-19. Now, with the last day of online nursery school behind us we are officially homeschoolers!  We view homeschooling as a lifestyle, one we made the decision to pursue well before we’d heard of the coronavirus. In January of this year I left my career in infectious disease research to prepare for homeschooling, just weeks before we learned of the pandemic that would have much of the world learning at home. I’m viewing this strangest coincidence as a sign our family is on the right path.  

I have been interested in homeschooling since meeting the family of my favorite college professor; his homeschooled children were a delight to be around and from spending just a couple dinners with them I could tell they had a love of learning that often seems extinguished in children in traditional school, and their family dynamic was one I hoped I could someday re-create.  After college I went on to earn a PhD and began a career in clinical research. I remember chatting with a colleague about our futures, sharing my hope to someday be able to stay home with my children and homeschool, to which she responded along the lines “then why did you get a PhD? That would be a waste.” I’ve mentally struggled with this question for the last 5 years, while I continued to work with my son in full time care, and finally came to accept the choice to home school, stepping away from my career, was the right one for me, right now.  I don’t regret having my son in childcare during his early years. He had excellent teachers in a variety of settings, from Montessori, to traditional daycare, to progressive private school, with opportunities for social interactions that I wouldn’t have as easily been able to provide for an only child. 

Now my son is beginning his kindergarten year and we are excited to begin our homeschooling journey – learning and growing together!