Saturday, February 28, 2009
Beyond Five In A Row -- Loving Learning
A long time ago, when we first began to consider homeschooling, I asked the only two homeschoolers I knew what curriculum I should use. My children were just 2 years old, and 6 months old at the time. Both ladies (one online and one in my church) recommended Five In A Row. So, I went to the Five In A Row website and fell in love with their philosophy of education. As a book-lover, I was excited to find a curriculum that used beautiful picture books to teach children. I knew that was what I wanted for my homeschool. I kept thinking, "I wish I'd been taught like that!"
I started reading at the discussion forums. The ladies there patiently answered my questions, encouraged me, guided me, and helped me get started with homeschooling. We began with Before Five In A Row (ages 2-5), moved on to all four volumes of Five In A Row (ages 4-8), and eventually Beyond Five In A Row, volume 1 (ages 8-12). We loved "rowing" the books as a family. I can't imagine a more enjoyable start to our homeschooling journey. As a perfectionist easily-stressed and "prone to freak out" new homeschooling mom ... I needed something as gentle on the kids and as simple for Moms to use as Five In A Row.
I love all the Five In A Row products. It is always the curriculum I recommend to others with young children, or to new homeschoolers. I love how well it fits with Charlotte Mason's teaching style: reading living books to learn about social studies, geography, history, language arts, science, art, and applied math. Five In A Row creates the "gentle art of learning" in your homeschool.
As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, we were sent Beyond Five In A Row: volume 3 to review. It is hard for me to separate one part of the Five In A Row curricula from the others, so although I will be reviewing Beyond Five In A Row, I will also be mentioning the other curricula, as well.
Beyond Five In A Row is a literature-based unit study using chapter books, as opposed to the picture books used in Before Five In A Row and Five In A Row. It is designed for children, ages 8-12. Like all the Five In A Row products, Beyond Five In A Row includes lessons on the following subjects: social studies, geography, history, language arts (including grammar and writing), art, applied math, and science. Students will still need additional math, handwriting, and grammar to complete their education (and phonics for the younger students).
Beyond Five In A Row is extremely versatile. It can be used with minimal preparation, teaching directly from the manual without any previous preparation -- or it can be used as a launching point, with additional books, projects, and lapbooks to expand your study. The teacher's manual provides enough information that you can teach directly from it, or you can find additional resources to read with your children. You can assign your older children to research the topics introduced in Beyond Five In A Row, as well.
Each Beyond Five In A Row volume covers 4 chapter books; two fiction and two biographies. Unlike Five In A Row where you read the same picture book for five days in a row, with Beyond Five In A Row, you read the chapter and then spend as many days as you need exploring the lessons in that chapter before moving on to the next chapter. Beyond Five In A Row can move as quickly as you like, or take as long as you like. If you desire to use it as a launching point for deeper study, then the study can be stretched out over a longer period of time.
The broad age-range of the study, and its unit style approach, not only covers many subjects in one curriculum, but also allows you to use it with children of varying ages. You can simplify the lessons for younger students, and assign additional research, writing, and other projects for the older children. The conversational style of teaching builds wonderful relationships with your children, and amongst your children.
For this review period, my 8 and 9 year olds studied The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden with me. We enjoyed seeing New York City through the eyes of Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse, and Harry Cat. Because these children are at the younger end of the age range for Beyond Five In A Row, I taught them directly from the manual, without any supplementation. We used a conversational approach, although we did use the writing assignments. When I used Beyond Five In A Row with my older girls, we created a notebook as part of our lessons. (That's just another example of how versatile the curriculum is.) I loved snuggling into the love seat with them and we all enjoyed our study. Don't tell, but I know the older girls were also listening in. That tends to happen with Five In A Row. The younger children often migrate over and climb onto laps, as well.
Beyond Five In A Row is affordable, with each teacher's manual costing only $24.95. You can save 10% by ordering all three manuals at once, for $67.50. The additional Beyond Five In A Row Christian Character Bible Study Supplement is available for $17.95, or it can be bought with all 3 volumes for a total of $85.00. The chapter book package of the twelve books used in all three volumes of Beyond Five In A Row is sold at the Five In A Row website for an additional $89.95. They also have a line of digital products, including nature study guides.
Beyond Five In A Row was written by Becky Jane Lambert, the daughter of Steve and Jane Claire Lambert who created Five In A Row. She was homeschooled using this style of education, and is now teaching her own children using it as well. The Lambert family truly has a heart to encourage homeschool families, and help them teach their children in a loving, gentle, and educationally rich environment. I've heard the Lamberts speak, and have attended one of the Five In A Row conferences in the past. They are blessings to the homeschool community.
The Lambert family has created a helpful website with discussion forums where homeschooling parents can share ideas, seek advice, and receive encouragement from other Five In A Row users. The Lamberts even respond to some of the posts on the forums with suggestions and encouragement. You can find inspiring articles at the website, as well.
I can not say enough wonderful things about Beyond Five In A Row and the entire line of Five In A Row products. Although we are no longer using Five In A Row regularly, I still own all of my manuals and I'm still collecting the books that go along with them. We switch back to it whenever we miss it too much. We only switched to something else because my oldest daughter was approaching high school and ready to move on from the Five In A Row products, and I found it overwhelming at the time to think of teaching several different levels of Five In A Row, and an additional curriculum. But it makes me sad that my younger children are missing out on the rich Five In A Row experience, so we do switch back and forth with them.
I highly recommend Five In A Row and Beyond Five In A Row. I can only think of two "cons" to tell you about Five In A Row and Beyond Five In A Row. The first "con" is that it doesn't have a high school level. I have always wished that it did. The highest product they have is Above And Beyond Five In A Row for students age 12 and up. The second "con" isn't really a "con" either -- these are parent led unit studies (except Above and Beyond) so they are more teacher-intensive than other forms of curricula. But, that is what makes Five In A Row special, the relationships and memories they build in families.
We give Beyond Five In A Row and Five In A Row 18 thumbs up ... that's two thumbs up from every member of our family!
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Trusting in Him,