My husband and I took the plunge to homeschooling our preschooler when I stumbled upon “Before Five in a Row” (BFIAR) three years ago. I was feverishly looking into different curricula. BFIAR seemed to perfectly fit our idea of what early learning should be as it is not a curriculum at all. I have since written a lot about our experiences with it as well as “Five in a Row” (FIAR), which we started to use when my daughter turned four years old early last year.
“Five in a Row,” to those who are unfamiliar with it, uses wonderful children’s books as jumping points to all kinds of learning. From just one book, you can talk about several subjects with your child. The manuals provide a wealth of suggestions on what you can talk about, and do not prescribe how and when you should do what is suggested.
After three years of homeschooling with FIAR, I reflect on what I’ve learned about learning in a homeschool setup.
Learning is a natural part of our daily life
My husband and I marvel at how our daughter seems to want to learn at any time of day, may it be reading something on her own, making up her own stories, or freezing water to watch it melt again. Looking back, our own memories of learning in our early years are all tied to our time spent in school. It seemed that there was some sort of signal that learning stops and fun begins when one reaches home… until one starts tackling homework, of course!
It is such an inspiration, then, to see our daughter wanting to learn about whatever strikes her fancy at any time of day… and it includes asking me for a number that she can add to another number to make ten to put herself to sleep!
Learning is not restricted to grade-levels
“Five in a Row” lessons are arranged per book. It doesn’t say when you should “row” (study five days in a row) the book. Activity ideas only state “for your older child,” or “for your young student.” We tackle different topics according to my daughter’s level of interest and understanding, and never because it’s for kindergarten, grade one, etc. One time, we studied about the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, etc.) because we were reading a book about a storm. Later in the week, she was talking about it with her cousin who is in fourth grade and discovered that they were both studying it!
Learning is for learning’s sake
We don’t grade our child. Our main concern is if she understood and enjoyed what we studied. If she didn’t, we try a different strategy or a different set of learning materials that can pique her interest. Or we let it rest. We love how Little T wants to learn about people, things, concepts that we’ve encountered. Curiosity is the name of the game, and the word “grade” is not part of our vocabulary at all.
Learning should be relevant to life
Since FIAR is flexible and just inspiring, I’ve learned to use it as a model and tackle topics that are relevant to our life but outside its recommended book list. We’ve studied about St. Michael the Archangel (for our parish’s fiesta), Swan Lake (because we wanted to watch a local ballet production), St. Francis (because our daughter is into saints and we make it a point to at least read about a saint on his/her feast day), and airplanes (for a vacation), to name a few. Valuable connections are made from these kinds of “studies” and make for good family memories.
We’re loving learning, and we hope to continue down this path until our kids are grown. Definitely, we will continue using FIAR for a few more years.