Thursday, September 17, 2009

Planning Five in a Row

Folks often ask how I manage the planning and implementation of Five in a Row (FIAR). I recently put together some thoughts on the FIAR forum and I thought I would share them with my blog readers.
  • First of all relax! Whatever you choose from the manual will be wonderful and will make an effective week of school.
  • 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. It's all good!
  • I sit down sometime before the week begins and I 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. I gather the materials for them ahead of time. One thing that can end a good school session is not being prepared!! I learn this lesson OFTEN. One might wonder why I need to learn it over and over but I do. If you have to stop the momentum to get what it is you had planned, well kids scatter and the moment is GONE. Trust me. Ahem.
  • I choose activities for a day based on what my 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 that are more conversational.
  • 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.
  • Reading 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 soooooo 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. Hang in there and add in some other times for reading aloud. Nothing soothes the grumpies in our house like a read aloud. Nothing.
  • You might be tempted to add in gobs of lapbooking and extras. My advice is to stick with Jane's lessons. I don't often use the items at Homeschool Share because sometimes I find them not suitable for my kids. I know lots of ladies LOVE it over there and I can understand why. So many items that match FIAR lessons that can be used for free. I find that they do not fit the needs of my kids in terms of fine motor skill- too many small lapbooking elements without room for my younger children's handwriting. So, I make my own stuff. I use StartWrite software to make things for my kids to write on in a lesson. For example, when we did Owl Moon last year, I had my 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. Not a pretty little lapbooking element, but a great assignment for this notebook.

  • Find a way to record your lesson plans and to store the things you prepare ahead of time. Again, I refer back to an earlier point that being unprepared for the teachable moment stinks! I have a file system I like to use and some fabulous planning forms. And let's not forget the workboxes! I use the files to hold items I print off ahead of time or to store other ideas I come across related to a book. This way I don't have to revisit a website. I can just print it off and store it in the book title's pocket file. The workboxes help me to set out the day's work ahead of time without losing it. I use a combination of planning forms including some home made forms (by me or friends) and the FIAR planner.
  • 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. 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 say I think we need an art supplement. What do you guys use? Same for science or history. 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.
  • 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.
  • Have FUN! FIAR is designed to be a relaxed, relationship building program for you and your kids. Panic is not part of the package the Lamberts intend to sell. Enjoy it!


Anonymous said...

Great post Heather! This is our 2nd year doing FIAR and I have to admit that I went overboard a few times and the fun went down the drain. I love your advice on the planning.
WriteStart looks awesome too.


Sue S (RI)

Anonymous said...

Oh I know! You got the word "Panic" from me, didn't you?
LOL!! :)

ann e (from FIAR)

ElizabethL (in NC) said...

This is a great post! Thanks for writing it out, definitely will keep this mind to share with other moms who are panicked. Because it happens to us all, I think! :)

Amy said...

I love it--"panic is not part of the package"! My girls are little--5 and 3.75 ;-) --so I tend to just do the conversational stuff. I haven't loved lapbooking either, for them yet anyway. Too much STUFF that's not age appropriate, developmentally appropriate, etc. I'm going to look into that Start Write software, though. Looks good!

Mom2*2gr8kids said...

I love your blog. I am learning so much from you everyday! Thank you for sharing.

Tracey said...

I think that a lot of people will benefit from this.

mary said...

Thank you for this post! We are beginning Five in a Row this fall with my five year old and I'm quite excited about it.... may even do a few Beyond FIAR titles with my nine year old as well. I enjoy following your blog.

Mary -

Emily said...

I've been reading your blog for some time now, but I find myself often revisiting this post. We are starting our school year in just a few days and using FIAR for the first time. When I read this post, I feel like I've got someone holding my hand. :)

Anonymous said...

This was just what I needed to read right now. I have used HSS and honestly the lapbook thing just doesn't seem to work as well as I had hoped. So I will be reading some more of your ideas. And yes, it is all in the manual! JeninAustralia

Kacey said...

We are just about to start FIAR with our 4.5 year old twin girls and this post made me relax about it. Thank you for putting in that part of about reaching for all the subjects and that we would regret it if we skipped over our weaker areas. Ah, that would be me with the art thing for sure. Now I have no excuses! hehehe

Thanks for the encouraging post.

Jessica said...

So encouraging... I tend to check the blogs that have elaborate artsy stuff, lapbooks, etc. that I just can't fit in or is not my son's thing. This post puts it back into perspective. Thank you.

Tina Santiago-Rodriguez said...

Thank you for this post, Heather! :) We use (or at least TRY TO! LOL!) FIAR with CHC and Sing, Spell, Read, Write for our son, who is turning 6 this Oct. I am also not so much into the lapbooking-crafty-artsy type of homeschooling and often feel insecure when a lot of the FIAR moms I see online (and offline!) are such! :)

Your post is very encouraging! Thanks again for writing it and God bless you and your family in all you do! :)