Five In A Row

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  • Reviewed on Monday, December 14, 2015
  • Grades Used: 1-3
  • Dates used: 2014 to current
We started our homeschooling adventure with FIAR and it was a wonderful, non threatening introduction. We no longer use it as our main curriculum though. Some of the units were a huge hit; others were less successful. My first grader loved almost everything we did but my nine-year-old was often bored or thought the books were babyish. Now we use a more structured program with a scope and sequence during the school year. We use FIAR during the summer. This has been a better fit for our family. I'd recommend FIAR to anyone starting out in homeschooling. Just be willing to change if you outgrow it in the future.


  • Reviewed on Monday, December 24, 2012
  • Grades Used: pre-K, 1st, and 3rd
  • Dates used: 2012
We are using Volume 1 and so far have rowed 2 books, Cranberry Thanksgiving and The Story About Ping. Before beginning each book I gathered everything I could possibly find. I decided to make a lapbook with the kids for each book we row. I found printables and ideas on FIAR blogs. I bought the cookbook, all the books in the Draw.Write.Now series, The Giant Science Resource Book, & Beginning Geography. We have used Story of the World for a year now and love it, so I am sticking with that as our core history curriculum. We also have a good math program and a strong phonics/LA program.
I wanted to use FIAR as a fun, pick me up curriculum for my 3rd grader and an educational core for my younger 2.
I like the unit study. It is a lot of work to prepare for but that's because I choose to do all the extras. I work on it(home-made games and such) at night while me and hubby watch tv. I like the strong art lessons FIAR provides. The geography is also strong. We learn about where countries are and what the flags look like. We learn about each country's culture and make foods that coincide. When we rowed Cranberry Thanksgiving we learned about tradition. We have had great conversations after reading the books.
One day while doing a bouyancy lesson I found in a Critical Thinking Science book, the kids began to take the experimentation even further and a 20 minute lesson turned into 2 hours of experiements and questions like "what would happen if we put 2 marbles on the foil?" It was awesome.
We are taking a break because it is a lot of work. But it doesn't have to be, that's just my personality. I like to do all the activities that I can find. I figure we'll row 2 books and then take a month off because it does take quite a bit of work on my part and a lot of printer ink. It is great and the kids love it so we'll keep doing it and probably the next several volumes too!
I am pleased with FIAR, but for our family, it would not be enough as a stand alone curriculum for my younger ones. The kids learn a lot, but I have to add a lot to it to make it complete.
When all is said and done, it's a lot of fun and what the boys do learn, they really learn. It's mom intensive and resources are needed to make it a rich curriculum. Hope this helps!


  • Reviewed on Thursday, March 22, 2012
  • Grades Used: pre-K
  • Dates used: 2010
Yes, but...

FIAR is great as far as turning us onto good children's literature and getting the juices flowing.

FIAR curric. falls short on the "interesting" front -- but, if you have the time and willingness to put your own efforts into it, it can be a great tool in homeschooling. STanding on its own, I think it's lack lustre and far too superficial to be that intriguing or valuable. We really liked what we did with it. However, not everyone can or will put more time into a curriculum. For people looking for an "open and go" curriculum, I would steer clear of FIAR -- it's too superficial and not all that interesting.

However, if you like the idea of a really excellent children's book being the springboard for lots of other interesting activities and information, it might be worthwhile. After doing several of the books, throwing out much of what the author suggested and replacing it with totally different things, I figured out that the books she suggested were great and we'd use those and toss out the FIAR manual.

For specific example:
Mirette on teh High Wire is a FIAR book. In short, it's about a girl who learns tightwire walking from a true historic figure named the Great Blondin. I can't recall the things that the FIAR author suggested -- I remember there was a "count the black and white tiles on the kitchen floor illustration" for the "Math" section. We ended up having a Great Time with it by comign up with our own expansion activities. I don't think that we're particularly or specially gifted in creative thinking -- rather, I think that the author is particularly shallow in her expansion activities.

For instance, in my opinion it's obvious that something about tightwire walking would incorporate "balance" and "inner ear"? Right? Telling us to count tiles in a picture and leaving out the obvious, leave FIAR flat in our book.

Here are some of the Mirette on the High Wire things we did;

tight rope/ high wire walking:
watched "Man on a Wire" about Phillipe Petit and his walk between the twin towers
tried our hand at wire walking on an old board. experimenting with different arm positions and objects. discussion of center of gravity and length of poles and why longer and flexible is better.
tried our hand at walking on a 1/2" ribbon--same width as avg. tight rope
measured up 66' and climbed up there to see how far down it is from a tight rope

kid oriented site about the body. read about the ear parts and performances
looked at an ear diagram
spun water around in a jar and watched it continue to spin after we had stopped spinning it. discussion of inner ear. spun ourselves around and stopped.

width odering and fractoins to discuss different widths of ribbon.

recalling previously discussed bees and "bee line" -- a straight line of ribbon between 2 points v. a crazy curly loopy line of ribbon. measured and compared lenghts

history of The Great Blondin
watching a niagra documentary from entflix
touched on hydroelectiricty
found an awesome Bible lesson based on the great blondin on line.

i recall that FIAR had some "dramatic" play stuff where we read from the book while someone acted out what was being read. that was really fun. we would have never thought of that.

one of the GREATEST things we did was discuss Astley's Hippodrome from Mirette. astley's hippodrome was a real place. it has since been torn down, but the London Hippodrome of the same era still stands. we looked at the history of that and made a book about it. we talked all about performing artists. then we put on a hippodrome show. we invited friends and famiy adn everyone did some kind of performance art that woudl have been done at a hippodrome. it was so fun!


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
  • Grades Used: Pre-K - 3
  • Dates used: 2009-present
I highly recommend Five in a Row! Their book list alone is wonderful. In response to some of the more negative reviews here, I believe that it is all about what you make of it, and how deeply you choose to explore the material/topics. One could just skim through and not invest much effort, but with a little planing and forethought, this is a very rich program. The only thing I found lacking was that the art component focuses mostly on the illustrations of the book, rather than hands on activities. One could easily compensate for that with a little creativity.

We love the cozy, conversational style that this literature-based program offers. My oldest has such wonderful memories of all of the stories we've done... He still reads the books on his own all the time. I look forward to sharing this with my younger children as well.

We tried Beyond Five in a Row this year with my 9 year old. The book selections are excellent, and he enjoyed reading them together, but I personally wasn't thrilled with this program. It is very light on actual art appreciation and activities, and the rest of the suggested lessons are very uninspiring. Most of the contents refers to subjects and information that my son is already familiar with. I'm going to continue reading the novels with him, but the manual portion is just to redundant; we won't be using it anymore.