Monday, September 19, 2011

TOS Review: Before Five in a Row

I know for many of you school has just started for the year.  Some of you homeschool children of all ages and have had to focus your attention on preparing lessons for your older kids.  Now that school is up and running, you all of a sudden realize that you need or want something for your little ones!   
Enter:  Before Five in a Row.  

You have probably heard of the Five in a Row products before, though you-like me-may not really know what the product is all about.  I kinda thought it was a book list of good books for young learners.  And, it is, and a whole lot more!!!

The initial concept of Five in a Row is to read a book-the same book-everyday for your week's lessons, and then do activities based on the book. Before Five in a Row follows the same idea, but is geared for the younger child ages 2-4.  

Before Five in a Row uses a book list that has 24 different books, and one bonus (because it's out of print). Many of the books you likely already have on your shelf-we had 8 of them.  If not, you could check them out at the local library.  Each of the books are EXCELLENT titles that would be a great addition for your home library, so you may want to purchase them as you are able.  You will not be disappointed in the texts chosen for your child's lessons that's for sure.

The Before Five n a Row manual has four pages worth of plans or ideas for each book.  This, especially, is where I fell in love with BFIAR.  I have too many idea books on my shelves.  Some of them seem to pretty much repeat what I read suggested by someone else, or could have easily come up with on my own.  Not so with BFIAR.  The ideas that Jane Claire Lambert came up with are AWESOME.  They are so creative and unexpected.  I was really excited to begin using the program with my littles!

Of the 8 books on our shelves, we decided to row Play with Me, by Marie Hall Ets.  I found it at a yard sale this summer and was very excited to use it in our lessons.  I also decided to follow the Before Five in a Row curriculum directly.  What I mean by this is, there are no worksheets, flash cards, craft projects, manipulatives, etc.  With the exception of classification cards, the entire lesson was the book.  Following the  BFIAR lesson, you would read the book, explore the book, and make the book come to life.  Very much out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to give the curriculum a solid try.  So, I fought back my need to make cute little printables and trays, and followed the curriculum.

Play with Me is about a sweet little girl who is looking for a playmate.  She asks all the little animals in the meadow if they would like to play with her:  turtle, frog, grasshopper and more.  But, in true animal fashion, they each run (or hop) off in fear of their eager-human-playmate wannabe.  In the end, she finds the opportunity to 'play' with the little animals is to sit quietly and wait.

As suggested by the BFIAR guide, off we went to our meadow, pond and creek in search of the various animals we had read about in the book.  We really didnt have much luck, but we did find a few fun animals.

We didnt find a lot of different animals in our pond, but we found a TON of frogs.  I mean about 100.  I'd never, ever, seen so many in my life.  I wish that this pond wasnt in the cow lot (which ment a few cow patties at the edge of the creek) or we would have tried to catch them.  When we moved from one side of the pond to the other, all 100 of the frogs would jump and make a lot of noise.

Then we headed over to our creek.  We didnt find any of the animals in our book, but we did find a butterfly and a bumblebee.

The BFIAR manual suggests that we try and sit quietly by the pond.  I now know why.  We!!!

I thought maybe it was the location, so that night we took advantage of a friend's lake.  It's a bit of paradise and we are blessed to have a chance to stop by!

The only animal from Play with Me that we found were the swimming water bugs.

And, with the help of a wonderful guy in our Bible study group, both Mustang and Charger caught a fish! It was Charger's first!

On the second day of reading Play with Me, I could tell that all three of my children were VERY interested to read it again.  Since they had been outside and 'experienced' the book, they were ready to read it again.  Mini Cooper, especially, loved the repetition. 

We went through our classification cards that I downloaded from Homeschool Share , which saved me the step of having to make them myself.  Mini Cooper LOVED looking at the different animals and saying their names.  Charger and Mustang helped me classify them, using some of the suggestions in our BFIAR manual.

On the third day of reading Play with Me, Mini Cooper was SO EXCITED to read 'her book.'  Mustang, on the other hand, was so NOT excited.  I guess that's why this is aimed at ages 2-4?  She perked up quickly when I decided to have her read the book to us instead of me.  She did an amazing job, too!  

We went down to another creek here on the farm, hoping to find animals, but it seems that the cold snap had   chased them all away.  

They did seem to be a *little* better at sitting quietly.  

I think it was just the unbelievably breathtaking scenery.  I am so thankful to get to teach my children hands on with views like this one!

The second half of the Before Five in a Row curriculum manual gives all kinds of  great ideas for intentional play to teach different educational and life skills.  One idea is to put on a puppet show, which we love to do but just dont often enough. 

 I made up little stick puppets to represent the animals in Play with Me, and we used them retell the story

  Charger and Mustang loved this, Mini Cooper, not so much.

I can certainly say that we enjoyed rowing Play with Me, and I intend to row more of the Before Five in a Row books when I am on 'maternity leave' since the prep work is minimal.  You can also choose to do as much or as little of the curriculum as you want and will still benefit from the content of the books themselves.

Since you have had a chance to see BFIAR in action, I will leave you my opinion.

Before Five in a Row is for you if:

1) You love living books
2)  You prefer learning experiences over worksheets and crafts
3)  You are using the Charlotte Mason style in your learning
4)  You appreciate minimal prep work
5)  You are looking for ways to spend quality learning time together with your young child
6)  You are looking for an affordable starter curriculum that you can use with many different children for years to come.

Before Five in a Row is NOT for you if:

1)  You like printables and flashcards and crafts
2)  You want your lesson plans laid out exactly for you to follow
3)  You-or your child-does not appreciate repetition (reading the same book daily)

Dont get me wrong, you can make (and download) printables to go with the BFIAR.  You can make cute crafts with your children, and you can read the stories just once if you want.  But, if you are to follow BFIAR as is, that isnt something included in your cost.

I give Before Five in a Row a 5 out of 5 for content, creativity, and overall focus on the child.  It *isnt* my style, but it has made leaving my comfort zone very enjoyable!

Before Five in a Row retails for $35.00.  
It and other Five in a Row products are available from Rainbow Resource.  

I hope I have given you enough information to help decided if BFIAR is a good fit for your family, but if you would like to read additional reviews of Before Five in a Row (and see other books in action), check out The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew's blog.

This has been a TOS Crew review.  Thank you to Jane Claire Lambert for providing my family with a complementary copy of Before Five in a Row.  All opinions expressed are my own.

God Bless!!


Debbie said...

I love your review. I know I will be taking a closer look at Before Five In A Row. Thank you for taking the time to share this with all of us.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

This sounds great! I think I was doing FIAR by doing Read.Explore.Learn and didn't realize it.