Well, this is one review that I am extremely pleased to be able to write, as this has been my core curriculum of choice for the past 7 years. Yes... that's right, ever since my oldest was in Kindergarten, we have been "Rowing" with Jane Claire Lambert and Five In A Row.
It has boggled my mind over and over when I have heard people say things like "oh yes, I used that for Kindergarten", or maybe even "Kindergarten and 1st grade....But we've moved on."
Let me tell you a little bit about the concept, and then I'll tell you what we love, and why we've used it for more or less 1st -4th grade, moving into Beyond FIAR for 5-7th grade.
FIAR is, once again, a combination of things I love, good stories, beautiful artwork, and unit studies. Jane Claire Lambert, a homeschooling veteran of 17 years, searched out gems in the picture book world of literature, and pulled together unit studies utilizing those books as the core of her curriculum. Her style of teaching/learning is called "Conversational learning/teaching", a very gentle method of educating that really does "stick".
The basic concept of Five In a Row is that the story is read five days in a row. Each day you can pull something different from the story~ Geography, Social Studies/History, Science, Language Arts, Fine Arts, and even a little bit of Applied Math(But not enough for a complete math program... that subject must be supplemented, as well as phonics). Then, when you read the story each day, whether you comment on the previous day's "lesson" or not, your child is most likely "reviewing" in their head!
So Day 1 you read a story(We'll use Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders as our example), being sure to include the author and illustrator in your reading. Then you talk about the location of the story, in this case, the main character's family moves from Connecticut to Ohio. So you pull out a map and find Connecticut, then trace the way to Ohio.
You can use the "Story Discs" (found in the back of the manual) which have representative drawings for each book to make a literature map... coloring the disc, putting the name of the story on the back (laminating for durability, if you like), and placing the disc on the map(Or you can draw your own disc!). With Warm As Wool, the disc could "travel" from Connecticut to Ohio. I usually include some of the history and social studies discussion from the manual on this first day as well.
Warm as Wool has 5 lessons for Social Studies, and since I have an older student, I like to try to hit them all, so I'll do one for each of the 5 days. When my kids were younger (K-2) I would only do one or two of the lessons, keeping in mind that we could always "Re-row" the book in a couple of years, if we wanted to. Just to give you an idea, the topics for Social Studies are:
*Covered Wagons(This could play into Art as well),
*Geography and History~ as mentioned above~ You can include the Great Lakes in this lesson as well.
*Character~ Prudence, Vision, and Perseverance
*Log Cabin Life
Day 2, pull out the story disc, and see if your student can place it correctly. Then read the story again. This is the day I usually go over the science lesson, as it adds quickly to the interest level, especially if there is an experiment. Warm as Wool doesn't have an experiment exactly, but I did plan ahead. You see there are these great FIAR message boards, where FIAR moms and dads get together and discuss what they are doing with each book. There are also archives of some of the great ideas, projects, and resources that people have used over the years. (Some time ago it was mentioned on the FIAR Boards that the Pendleton Wool Company has an educational kit for educators, so I sent away for it, and still have it to use with my second student!)
Day 3, if you have a child that balks at reading the same book "Five days In A Row" (I don't... my kids love the repetition), you could have the child read the story this time, then go for Language Arts or Art, again, starting the story by placing the disc on the map. There are 4 Language Arts "Discussions" that you can choose from in the Warm As Wool lesson. Some are very short and sweet, just casually mentioning Book Jackets, Prologues, and Authors notes. There are others that might take 5-20 minutes, depending on the age of your student, and how far you want to go. Simile, Descriptive Language, and "Remembering What You've Read" (Otherwise known as "Narration" ;) ).
Day 4 is Art, with options to discuss Musical Instruments, and the Illustrations with a focus on facial expressions and imagination.
Day 5 can be an Applied Math day, and a fill in for any of the lessons that you didn't get to. You could also use this day to review, utilizing one of the new Fold-N-Learns available for many of the books at the FIAR Digital Store. A fun way to read the book this last day is to leave out words or phrases, or change them up, and see if your kids can "catch you".
Now here is one of the things that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about FIAR. It is so incredibly simple to use "As is".... Choose your story, grab your manual, and go snuggle up on the couch to read. The lessons are all IN the manual, so there is very little else that you have to gather(Although it is helpful to have a map handy...;) )!
If you WANT to you can add in go-along books, activities, create your own lapbooks, notebook, etc, but none of that is essential for a well-balanced and complete lesson. As a matter of fact, many of the FIAR "Veterans" have discovered that KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) is the way to go much of the time.
There is a wealth of information on the FIAR Website, both in the message boards, and in articles by the Lamberts. Oh, and about that website, and the forums... They are like an extension of the Lambert's living room. They have invited us all in to gather and chat about our journeys with FIAR, things that work, and so much more.
The Lamberts have poured their hearts into the homeschool community, and that that is a huge portion of what FIAR is all about to me. The building of RELATIONSHIP through EDUCATION. My relationship with my children. Their relationships with me, each other, and the world. Our relationships individually, and as a family, with God. And as a special blessing, through the FIAR "Family", relationships with other homeschoolers throughout this country and the world.
OK, so I have one more quick "Story" to share, and then I'll give you all the pertinent details on FIAR.
When we started our homeschool journey 7 years ago, my husband was willing to give it a go, but wasn't quite as certain that it would work. So... first day of Kindergarten we started in Volume 1 with the first book, The Story of Ping. We read the story, found the Yangtze River on the map, and then jumped right in to the Science lesson, because I figured that would be a good thing to show Daddy when he came home. The science experiment I chose to do was discovering the property of bouyancy. I had my 5 year old and my 2 year old collect about 7 or 8 small things from around the yard and the house. We made a chart for each group, with a place to mark a guess as to whether each item would sink or float, and then a place to mark what actually happened.
The timing was such that Daddy arrived home as we were filling out our "Data sheet", and boy was he impressed! "Wow! This is REAL science! Hypothesis, Experiment, Observation, and Summary" Of course it was all done on a 2-5 year old level, but things stuck! My son has known since he was 2, because of that experiment, what the word Bouyant meant, and how to use it correctly! (And it wasn't even HIS lesson!)
Alright, I suppose I have enthused enough, and I'm sure that you can tell by now, that I am a huge fan of FIAR. I hope that you will check it out, and see how delightful educating your grammar aged children at home can be!
SO... the details:
FIAR is available in a number of levels.
Before FIAR is a volume for the pre-K crowd, and is less structured.
Cost: $24.95 for 23 units PLUS an entire section on learning readiness activities for children aged 2-4
FIAR Volumes 1-3 for 4-8 year olds (We used it through 3rd grade), and Volume 4 for 7-8/9 year olds(We used it through 4th grade)
Cost:$24.95(Vol 3 Standard Binding) and $35 (Vol 1-3 Deluxe lay flat Spiral Binding) with 19 lessons in Vol 1, 21 lessons in Vol 2, and 15 lessons in Vol 3
$75 for Volume 4, which includes the Christian Character and Bible Study Supplement and Recipes for each of the 15 units.
Book List for Volumes 1-4
Order FIAR here
Beyond FIAR Volumes 1-3 is a series for 8-12 year olds (We're using it for 5-7th grade) with 4 chapter books in each volume~ 2 historic, and 2 fiction
There are many options in the Digital Store as well.
I will mention that there are some books in the manuals that have gone OOP(Out Of Print).
This page has some useful information. Many of the books can be found via InterLibraryLoan(ILL), and even if you can't find them, there are more than enough other units in the manuals to make them well worth the price. This is one of the most well-rounded and inexpensive curriculums out there, especially if you are interested in using the Library. Even if you find that your children (and you) fall in love with the books, and want to start your own FIAR library in your home, it is possible to do so slowly and fairly inexpensively. (I'm currently trying to collect 3 sets of all of the FIAR books, because my 11 year old and 8 year old have told me that they each want their own set to use with any children that they might have, and I'm expecting that my littlest will follow in their footsteps. :) )
Let me know if you have any questions! I'd be happy to answer them as well as I can!