FAQs on How We Use Five in a Row

How We Use Five in a Row


I frequently receive emails and messages asking about how we use “Five in a Row” (FIAR). Though I stray from it from time to time to follow my children’s interests, I still come back to it and do my best to find a book that I can connect to our lives. That is actually the beauty of FIAR – it really encourages families to explore and experience learning in their own way instead of tying them down to it.

For those of you who are just starting to use it, here are my answers to some of the questions that you may have. If there’s something else in your mind, feel free to leave your questions in the comments.


1. Is FIAR only for homeschooling families?

“Five in a Row” (and “Before Five in a Row”) for me is basically an inspirational educational material. While it is intended for the use of homeschooling families, those who want to cultivate a love of learning in their family can easily use it to supplement their child’s education.


2. Do you follow the order of the manuals and the books?

When we first started with FIAR, I wanted to read the books in the order that they are written in the manuals. I also wanted to go through the manuals from volume one to volume three. 

However, I quickly realized that the best way to make the most out of FIAR is to choose a book according to what we can easily connect to our lives. For example, when I read a newspaper article about an upcoming flamenco concert, I knew that we just had to read “The Story of Ferdinand.” The book is set in Spain and is about a little bull that doesn’t want to be in bullfights.


3. Do you really read one book five days in a row? What if your child didn’t want to read the same book on the second or third day?

We try to read a book five days in a row, even if my daughter seems reluctant to do so. This is because we can really learn and talk about something new with each reading just like the manuals say.

There are times that my daughter absolutely refuses to read “that book again!” However, I’ve learned to make our story reading exciting – we would sing some books, listen to audio book versions, or even watch videos of some of the stories. More often than not, I would just say, “Oh, we’re going to talk about something exciting today that we didn’t see yesterday!”


4. Do you let your child read the FIAR books outside the context of your lessons?

Our FIAR books are on a high shelf. I want my kids to read each one for the first time with me, so they will be very eager and curious about it when we do read them together. However, I did not realize before that “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” is one of the FIAR books. I just put it with the rest of our books and my daughter got to read it again and again. By the time we were supposed to read it as part of our lessons, my daughter said that she was already tired of it. We ended up watching a YouTube video of the story and just talking about it. We didn’t have a full FIAR lesson for that, but that’s okay!


5. How do you incorporate Filipino?

Though the books are really wonderful, I find some of them to be too U.S.-centric. So, I always try to find a Philippine angle to each of the stories and then dedicate a separate week or two for each.

For example, we dedicated time to learn about World War II in the Philippines when we read the FIAR war-related books “A New Coat for Hanna”, “Grandfather’s Journey”, and “All The Secrets of the World.” When we read “Henry the Castaway,” which is about exploring and explorers, we took the time to learn about the “discovery” of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan. I made sure to read local books together with the FIAR books.


6. Does FIAR cover all subjects?

The FIAR manual says that math, reading, and writing need to be supplemented with other materials. So, for math, we use “Life of Fred” and Singapore Math, and for handwriting we use “Handwriting Without Tears.”

Language arts and social studies are more than adequately covered. But what I really love FIAR is that it helps children to love the pursuit of knowledge without the redundant worksheets. “Five in a Row” has taught me to make our own lessons, to make connections, and to really take note of what my kids are interested in. We learn so many things with the inspiration of FIAR, but we allow ourselves to go beyond FIAR.


7. Do you make lap books? Do you have to?

A lot of families make those beautiful lap books to preserve their work and memories.  I tried making folders before but found it too tedious. We now just use a three-ring binder for any output that we may have. We don’t have output for each of our lessons, unless I print the photos of the activities that we have done and stick them there.


8. My child is about to turn 4 in a few months. Should we still go through BFIAR or can we go straight to FIAR?

From reading the comments in the FIAR Facebook group, I gathered that it is best to start with BFIAR, even if your child is already four years old and especially if you haven’t been reading regularly to your child. It can also serve as practice for you in thinking of activities related to books. It seems to me, too, that a child will get the most out of FIAR when she is a bit more mature. Our FIAR lessons are now much deeper compared to when we rowed our first book.


How do you use FIAR? If you have any more questions, feel free to write in the comments and I’ll update this post as soon as I can.


Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

An Interview with Steve Lambert of “Five in a Row”

Steve Lambert of Five in a Row

We started using Before Five in a Row four years ago, and Five in a Row two years ago. We love our experience so far and can’t recommend it enough to those who want a relaxed approach to learning.

I previously got to talk online to Steve Lambert, the publisher of the Five in a Row books and husband of BFIAR and FIAR author Jane Lambert. Since the homeschool conference that we are organizing with Manila Workshops is already happening this Saturday, I thought it would be great to interview Steve about their curriculum and their family’s homeschooling experience.

So, without further ado, here are Steve’s answers to my five short questions. Enjoy!


1. How did your wife Jane choose the books included in the manuals?

Jane chose the books based on 4 criteria: great art, diverse content, great story and finally an intangible she called “heart”. What she meant was a book that changed you after reading it- a book that left you seeing the world a little differently than before.

She would often go through a stack of 100 books in a library and not find 1 single book that met her high standards. They are very, very special books indeed.


2. As a dad, how did you take part in your children’s lessons? Were you in charge of a particular subject?

I read aloud to our children. That was my contribution. Jane was the teacher but I spent hundreds of hours reading to our children. I believe it’s that reading aloud that develops children into becoming readers themselves eventually. And that is one of the two most important lessons we can teach our children from an academic point of view.


3. Using FIAR has really helped us a lot to stay out of the “school at home” type of home education. What tips can you give those who are just starting their homeschooling journey on the importance of cultivating love of learning in their children?

I mentioned reading as one of the two most important academic skills. The other (and most important) is to nurture a love of learning in your child. In fact, in many respects those are the ONLY two truly important lessons to teach. They’re vital.

If you can help a child develop a love of learning and teach them the joy of reading then they become self-feeders who can and will educate themselves for a lifetime whether you’re there or not.

Someone once said, “I don’t care whether your child learns to read at five but I am passionately interested in whether or not your child is a reader at 35!” Those who learn to love learning and learn to love reading will become lifetime learners. There’s simply nothing even remotely as important to teach your children.


4. What are you most thankful for after having “graduated” your kids the FIAR way?

Homeschooling is first and foremost about developing relationships. I’m grateful that my children did well academically. I’m grateful that they became great teachers themselves. But I’m MOST grateful that my wife and I had the privilege of getting to really “know” our children through the miracle of homeschooling.

When you wrestle through difficult questions and challenging truths each day for 18 years, you get to know your children in a way that feeding them breakfast and tucking them into bed at night will never give you. Homeschooling is the key that unlocks the door of relationships and I’ll be eternally grateful for that experience.


5. Do you get to join your grandkids’ FIAR lessons now? :)

Our daughters are both great homeschool teachers and teach our grandchildren. My only involvement with them is the role of cheerleader!


So there you have it! I told Steve that while I was reading his answers, my mouth was literally open in awe and anticipation. I hope you too are affirmed and encouraged by his words of wisdom.

Let me know how Five in a Row is working for your family or if you have questions about it. I’m working on a list of FAQs on how we use it!


Photo credit: Posted with permission from Steve Lambert, photography by Christa Taylor Photography.

Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

The Hands-On Working Mom Hack: 30 Minutes of Play a Day

 The Hands On Working Mom Hack (2)

It feels time is precious more so to a working mom.  Secretly I’m always weighing things in my mental time scale – let’s see, this much time for this… is it worth it or not?  Will my household be fine and can I make it up to them?

One time-management rule I’ve read about and kept sacred is to spend at least 30 minutes of “floor time” with your kids.  Floor time is just that – you stop being so tall and distant, and hunker down and play their way.

There are no rules to floor-time play except to play with your child.  Letting them play while you watch doesn’t count.  Providing them play activities doesn’t count either, unless you play together.  Get on the floor!

Why do I love this rule?  Because 30 minutes feels so doable.  And I’ve found that, once started, it easily turns into an hour.  And then it feels like a working-mom accomplishment to have surpassed the goal.  In corporate language, it’s called sandbagging creating a target you can win.

The challenge is getting the energy.  One of the memorable moments of the “Hands-on Working Mom” talk was when a fellow-mom shared that sometimes she was too tired to play when she gets home.  Everyone was nodding our heads vigorously in understanding.

But let me rephrase: the biggest challenge is getting over the inertiaSometimes it’s not about finding the time or energy, it’s about finding the things you like to do together.

Here are four simple ways to squeeze in floor time during the workweek:


1. Read. 

Most of the time my daughter is ready for bed by the time I get home.  So reading became precious floor time.  I threw my energies at it, making voices and all (and literally this keeps me alert). I can attest that because of this simple daily ritual, she started reading on her own at 3 years old.


2. Bathe Together. 

The ultimate time saver: a chore done with some fun and a good time to check on overall health.  Nothing winds you down better than a nice bath and children’s giggles.


3. Have Games On-Hand. 

I like making up games, but I’m brain-dead by the time I get home. I buy games for this purpose.  A round or two and that’s all you need to reconnect!


4. Play in Bed. 

A last-resort since you risk getting them too keyed-up to sleep (inevitably you’ll still need some time for a bedtime story to quiet down).  But hey, that’s the price I’m willing to pay.


I think we would all agree that the energy is worth it, but the good news is that the longer you do this, the less inertia it takes everyday.  Like exercise but way, way more rewarding.  As our time has gotten scarcer, our lives have gotten richer.

Getting home from work may not mean lazy leisure time anymore but it can be the best part of our day.   After all, it’s when we come home to our most important job.


What hands-on working mom hack can you share with us? What do you do with your child at the end of your work day and at the beginning of family time?


trina pic
Trina,  leads a busy life working for a multinational corporation. Her most important job, however, begins when she gets home to her husband and daughter. Her energy and drive clearly go beyond corporate walls and spills over to her home. Read about the amazing activities she still manages to do with and for her daughter on her blog, DIY Corporate Mom.