How to Plan Five in a Row

Blog, She Wrote How to Plan Five in a Row

If you’ve been a long time reader, then you know we are a Five in a Row family. In fact, we use Five in a Row at different levels through middle school. In the early years, we used it exclusively and our oldest used it all the way through middle school. The other three kids have used Five in a Row for many years in addition to other unit studies through middle school. Our youngest has done Five in a Row on his own and  as a “tag along”. Although our children are older now and we are pursuing our own independent & authentic brand of homeschooling, Five in a Row has been the curriculum foundation of our homeschool.

I used to get asked a lot how I managed the planning and implementation of Five in a Row (FIAR). After seeing more recent comments and concerns about planning from FIAR users, I decided it was time to give this old post new life. How to Plan Five in a Row is all about how to keep things simple in order to use FIAR to its fullest potential with your family.

Five in a Row Planning Tips

First of all relax! Whatever you choose from the manual will be wonderful and will make an effective week of school. Forget the “extras”. Jane Lambert did not write a curriculum which would require more than her lessons for the areas outside reading and math instruction. The beauty of FIAR is the way it captures for children a broad base of knowledge which they can draw on in the future. They’ll have more prior knowledge to access later on.

Blog, She Wrote How to Plan Five in a Row

Read the Front Matter in Your Manuals- There is a wealth of information there on how to organize information your children learn, what materials you need, what sorts of notebooks to try, and other helpful hints from the author.

Sit down sometime before the week begins and look through the manual. I choose two to three lessons for each topic for our week. Generally, I go for one longer lesson and one shorter one for each subject. I gather the materials for them ahead of time. One thing that can end a good school session is not being prepared! This is especially true when you have young children who will wander off if you don’t keep them engaged.

Choose activities for a day based on what your week is like. I don’t plan heavy things for days when we are not going to have much time. Seems obvious, but if you think a lesson might not happen on a particular day, it probably won’t! So don’t set yourself up for failure from the start. Choose shorter lessons or those which are more conversational.

Have a Conversation. If this is hard for you, then go for the more concrete lessons until you have more of a rhythm reading to the kids. Once you are more at ease with the reading part, the conversations will come. They don’t have to follow the book either. You can read the book and be sitting down to lunch later in the day and say, “Hey remember when?” and bring it up at that time. It’s always good practice to get your kids thinking about a book and to talk about it all the time. Think about what would be easy for you to try out and go for it. This works for teens too! One of the best ways to communicate with your teen is through the books they are reading. Start early!

Find a way to record your lesson plans- I use a plain spiral notebook for planning. It’s easy and doesn’t have a lot of overhead. There are no blank spaces to try and fill. With two high schoolers, a middle schooler, and one elementary student, I still use a plain spiral! I don’t have one spiral for four kids anymore, but it is still the best planner I’ve ever used.

Prepare Your Own Papers Based on Lessons- Rather than looking for a printable, I would grab a sheet of paper and write, “Metaphors” at the top if the lesson asked the student to write her own metaphor. Printables are fun, but they take time to find, sometimes cost money, and they must be stored or kept track of prior to using them. Grabbing a sheet of paper and writing the assignment with ruler lines for writing on takes only a few moments.

Store the things you prepare ahead of time. Again, I refer back to an earlier point that being unprepared for the teachable moment stinks! Sometimes you want the printable, then you have to have it on hand when you need it. I’ve used various systems over the years. However, I try not to print anything more than a day or so ahead. If you know that won’t work for you, then have a binder where you keep the printed material until they are needed. It will save you headaches later.

Try at least one lesson for every subject. You’ll be tempted to skip ones that don’t appeal to you and/or you are intimidated by. Be sure to choose lessons from every subject area or you will begin to feel like something is missing. For example, if you skip over the art lessons all the time you’ll find yourself down the road going…FIAR doesn’t seem to have art or you’ll begin to think you need an art supplement. Trust me…I hear it over and over from FIAR users. My feeling is that it’s all there IF you choose to implement the lessons.

Resist the Urge to Plan Large Themes- Lots of people want to incorporate themes to their FIAR studies. It’s not necessary and it’s somewhat undesirable to do all of one kind of book at once. Grouping winter books or books on one country, etc might seem fun and the best way to organize your studies, but I don’t find it to be the ideal scenario. Part of the magic in using FIAR is revisiting topics along the way and adding more knowledge to what they learned the first time around. One of the things I love best about FIAR is the variety! Sure study Snowflake Bentley in the winter as opposed to summer, but don’t feel like you have to do Katy & the Big Snow, Snowflake Bentley, The Very Last First Time, and The Snow Day all in the same month. You and your children will have more than one winter during their FIAR years. Take them as they come!

General Homeschool Planning Tips

This advice goes for any curriculum you are using. Sometimes we like to keep things too complicated when there is beauty in simplicity.

Blog, She Wrote Planning Five in a Row

Read Aloud- is one of my favorite things to do! Have you ever read, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease? EXCELLENT read and it will boost your confidence that your efforts are well worth it. We have had (and still do) many enjoyable hours reading aloud to our children. The more you do it, the more you get used to it and the better at it you become. Reading extra books about the people, places, and concepts related to your FIAR book is easy to do. You don’t have to find or read every book out there. A few is perfect.  To this day, nothing soothes the students in our house like a read aloud. Nothing.

Keep it simple- You might be tempted to add in gobs of lapbooking and extras. My advice is to stick with Jane’s lessons. I made my own copywork sheets using my student’s thoughts and ideas. I used StartWrite software to make things for my kids to write on in a lesson. For example, when we did Owl Moon that year, I had my then 6yo give me owl facts using some owl words I had given him on paper strips. As he dictated his sentences to me, I typed them into StartWrite and then he used his own sentences as copy work. It’s not sophisticated, but it’s a great copywork assignment.

You will likely not get done everything you planned. What’s important about that is…that it’s ok. Maybe you will find another trail to explore or one of the activities will strike your kids’ fancy and you’ll play that out a lot and not so much others.

Be consistent. Get up and do school every day or most days. You will catch a groove. There is no perfect way to do the job. There are no perfect times. Just get started and do it each day. Things will become easier. You’ll start to see a rhythm. When you do, you’ll be able to see how things can be tweaked to suit your needs. You’ll know when something needs changing.

Other Planning Links & Book Links from Blog, She Wrote

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

You might like some other planning related posts and posts that compliment the Five in a Row experience. FIAR involves multiple ages and a lot of families wonder how to manage various volumes. Early on I decided it was best to move where my kids needed to be and not worry about “staying together”. It is more work, but we also come together during the day. Since reading and books is a big part of FIAR, I’ve included a post on building a reading culture in your home.

Families worry that FIAR can’t possibly be enough or they lament the time it takes to plan. On the contrary, I have always found it to be fairly straightforward and I followed my kids’ lead. Resist the temptation to believe it has to more than what it already is! For the record, our kids grew up on FIAR and they are thriving in high school. Be encouraged!

Last but not least, Have FUN! FIAR is designed to be a relaxed, relationship building program for you and your kids which will give your children a love learning that will last a lifetime. Panic is not part of the package the Lamberts intend to sell. Enjoy it!

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Finding Encouragement at a Homeschool Convention

Blog, She Wrote: Finding Encouragement at at Homeschool Convention

I’ve partnered with GHC this year to bring you convention news and announcements throughout the year.

Great Homeschool Conventions is gearing up for three conventions in California, South Carolina, and Ohio. The speaker line up and vendor hall is sure to equip you for a new season of homeshcooling. How do you find encouragement at a homeschool convention?

Seeking Encouragement at a Homeschool Convention

Find Speaker Sessions That Will Speak to Your Homeschooling Heart- My homeschool heroes will be at GHC and it would be my great pleasure to meet them both and enjoy their sessions. Being a loyal Five in a Row user for our core homeschool curriculum for the last 8 years, I would love to meet Steve and Jane Lambert. Whether or not you can actually have a conversation with your homeschool hero, doesn’t diminish the opportunity to hear them in person and to be fed by the words they bring that day. Take the time to be a part of talks that will fill you up.

Engage in Sessions that Challenge You- Make sure you look over the schedule to see which speakers and topics are what you need for this season in your homeschool. I love to sit in on sessions which I know will stretch me or help me to think of a topic in a new way. I take notes and think about how I will apply what I’ve heard to our homeschool. I’m a pragmatic thinker, so you’ll find me in sessions which are very practical in their application. Which ones are your favorite?

Visit the Shops- Homeschool conventions are a fantastic venue for browsing and picking out items you haven’t seen before and getting a closer look at something you’ve thought about for a long time. Sometimes you want recommendations from others and to see something in person. GHC has many exhibitors planned for each location. Be sure to check them out for your location.

Seek out Vendors- Make a list of the exhibitors you want to be sure to connect with. You can see beforehand who will be attending each convention location. More than just browsing and shopping, specific companies can help you discern whether their product is for you. I reached my final conclusion about purchasing Math on the Level after attending a convention and talking with the authors myself- asking questions and looking closely at their materials.

Go with A Friend and/or Find Time to Relax- Whichever sounds more rejuvenating to you! It’s great to make the convention a time to get away and enjoy friendships. It can also be a time to enjoy on your own as you think and plan for the following school year. I like a bit of both- time to hang out with a friend and bounce ideas off of each other on what we’ve heard and some time to myself to reflect on things I’ve seen and heard during the weekend.

Blog, She Wrote: Finding Encouragment at a Homeschool ConventionJoin other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network to find out how they will spend their time at convention this year. It’s going to be an amazing experience all in one spot!

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Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention for Professional Development

Blog, She Wrote: Attending Homeschool Conventions for Professional Development

I have partnered with Great Homeschool Conventions to bring you news and announcements from throughout the year.

We are rounding the corner into the homeschool convention season and some of you may be wondering whether or not a convention fits into your homeschooling goals and plans. Having attended and spoken at many conventions, I’d like to share with you tips for using a homeschool convention as a place for professional development.

Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention for Professional Development

One of the many reasons to participate in a homeschool convention is to use it as a time for professional development. After all, you are a full time teacher who needs some inservice time. Use it wisely! You can attend a homeschool convention to:

  • Find Curriculum- Not only can you lay your hands on items you’ve been dying to see, but you can come across vendors with product you haven’t seen that will fill a need in your homeschool. Of course you have to be cautious about random purchases, but sometimes the perfect thing will be there when you need it.
  • Be Encouraged- I love to attend just to hear some of my homeschooling mentors and heroes speak into my homeschooling life.
  • Get Answers to Questions- About curriculum or a problem you are trying to address generally in your homeschool. Take a look at the speakers and sessions to see who and what topics will fill that need.
  • Transition to a New Level- If you are going to be teaching middle or high school in the immediate or near future, conventions can help to unlock those secret planning doors and help you to see what’s ahead. There are always sessions on planning for the high school years. Take advantage of them.
  • Get Help for Your Student’s Specific Needs- Many times speakers who address particular types of students or situations will give you a new perspective on your child’s issue. You might even get the chance to speak with someone directly who specializes in your situation.
  • Refocus- Sometimes we need to redirect our energies or get a new perspective on our homeschooling in general. Certainly being among like-minded families and surrounded by the best of what homeschooling speakers and vendors have to offer will help you to readjust goals and reorient yourself to your homeschooling mission.

Do you have plans to attend a homeschool convention this season? I hope you will consider it the perfect time to engage in professional development.

Great Homeschool Conventions registration is open and they have three locations in South Carolina, California, and Ohio. With a cast of amazing speakers including Ben Carson, Steve Lambert, Matt Walsh, Heidi St. John, and Todd Wilson to name a few, there is sure to be the chance for encouragement and refocus. What an exciting place to be!

Still not sure? Join other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network for Tips & Reasons to attend a Homeschool Convention.

Reasons to Attend a Homeschool Convention

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