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An Overview of the Five in a Row Home Education Program

written by: Jen Densing • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 4/22/2014

Five in a Row is an interesting, multidisciplinary approach that uses high quality classic children's books as anchor texts. Through quality books and interplay that sparks creativity, your child will build the foundation he needs for his future studies.

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    Five in a Row is a time-tested, unit study, homeschool curriculum that is beloved by many. The curriculum is designed to be easy to use, Five in a Row Education 

    even for novice homeschoolers, and it's built around high quality children's literature.

    Classic children's picture books are used as anchor texts to inspire the exploration of other subjects in multidisciplinary units. During a unit, the same book is read for five days in a row, with each day's lesson focusing on a different curriculum area in a way that is tied to the book. The subjects typically covered are Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math, and Science.

    There are often several lesson suggestions to choose from, and some unit plans and books can easily be used for longer than five days, if desired. The only subjects that need to be added for a complete curriculum are Math, and Language mechanics like phonics, spelling, and grammar.

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    The Program

    There are four volumes of unit plans in the Five in a Row program, designed for a general age range of four to eight years old. However it is possible to include slightly younger or older children as well by adjusting the complexity of the lessons. The units are not designed to be completed in a specific order, so it is possible read the books in any order desired, and to mix and match between volumes. Some parents may choose units based on the student's current interests, or if certain books seem right for the season, and some select units based on availability of the books.

    The only necessary materials to use Five in a Row are the unit plan books, and the reading book selection. Although many homeschoolers elect to purchase the reading books, it's not required. Most of the books are readily available through public libraries. Many of the supplies for different lessons are basic items that most homeschooling parents can find in their homes already--for example, notebooks, art paper, paint, or a map.

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    The Lesson Plans

    The units are designed so that on each day the book is read, a different subject is the focus of the accompanying lesson. The first day might focus on Social Studies, perhaps discussing the culture of the book's setting and locating it on a map, or learning more about the time in history that the characters lived in. The next day might be Art, with a project based on the illustrator's style, or materials. Another day Language might be studied by examining the author's use of literary conventions, or exploring new vocabulary. The day devoted to Science might typically involve a hands-on activity based on something that occurred in the book, or further investigation of a topic like weather or biology. Applied Math will be the focus on another day, with a math concept found in the story like counting, patterns, or measurement being explored.

    These subjects can be done in any order, and if all lesson suggestions are used it is possible to spend multiple days on each area.

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    The Books

    The books used in the Five in a Row program are beloved children's classics. The authors were very selective when making the book How to Make an Apple Pie by Marjorie Priceman choices and the books included are recognized as some of the finest children's literature has to offer, in fact many of them have won awards like the Caldecott. They have engaging stories that draw children in so they enjoy reading the book multiple times.

    A few examples of the books that are included are How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as many other well-known classics. Seventy books are included over the course of the four volumes of unit plans.

    One drawback to the book selection is that several of the books are out of print and can be difficult to locate for purchase or to borrow from the library.

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    Many homeschoolers find that they spend more time on some units than others. Often a particular concept catches their interest and they devote some time to exploring it before they move on. There are many web sites and forums on the Internet with ideas for extending the topics in the Five in a Row program, as well as supplemental lessons if more is desired.