Praise for Five in a Row

This is the time of year to evaluate our little homeschools. The best thing I’ve done this year: use Five in a Row for my six-year-old daughter. I decided to use Volume 2 since Volume 1 included many picture books we were already familiar with, and Volume 2 only included three or four that we were familiar with. For twenty weeks my daughter and I have delved deep into twenty lovely picture books. I liked them all, she liked them all, and we are both happy to say that we are doing it again next fall! With Volume 3, probably.

Did we learn anything? Sure! Five in a Row acquaints us with history, geography, relationship issues, science topics, art (lots of different things about art, such as cross-hatching and perspective), even math. Plus, we learn a bit about authors and illustrators, how books are made, ideas behind stories, truth and fantasy, research, and writing techniques. That sounds like a lot for a six-year-old, but because it is all done through the medium of a picture book, and because I got to pick and choose the subjects that we discuss each day, and because I get to make it as laid-back and cozy as we like it, then the learning comes naturally. We have loved the little Friday habit we have of standing on a kitchen chair and sticking the story-disk of the week on our world map. Interesting how the stories stack up on the US east coast and the European west coast. I plan on doing a little ceremony next week of taking the story-disks off the map and pasting them on a chart I made of the books (I copied and pasted the book cover images off Amazon).

Is this a costly curriculum? Not at all! I bought the teacher’s manual used. As for the picture books, I already owned three of them, and the rest we checked out of the library. If it wasn’t in the library’s system, I requested an Interlibrary Loan, which the librarians were happy to assist me with. In one case, the librarian even bought the book for the library so I could check it out! She says I have good taste in children’s literature.

I’ve enjoyed having a special curriculum for my youngest daughter, and my other daughter has enjoyed listening to it as well:) Sometimes my nine-year-old son would listen, and definitely he read the library books by himself, but his learning type is very different from my girls, so it goes to show that different people need different curriculum approaches. I am so glad I decided to try out Five in a Row.

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The Universe

I heard a little child beneath the stars
Talk as he ran along
To some sweet riddle in his mind that seemed
A-tiptoe into song.

In his dark eyes lay a wild universe,–
Wild forests, peaks, and crests;
Angels and fairies, giants, wolves and he
Were that world’s only guests.

Elsewhere was home and mother, his warm bed:–
Now, only God alone
Could, armed with all His power and wisdom, make
Earths richer than his own.

O Man! — thy dreams, thy passions, hopes, desires!–
He in his pity keep
A homely bed where love may lull a child’s
Fond Universe asleep!

— from Collected Poems, 1901-1918 (1920) by Walter De La Mare

Poetry has been going over well in our little homeschool this year. We just finished a unit on Walter De La Mare. The above poem shines in stark contrast to some books I recently picked up from the library. I chose books about the rain forest because we studied Brazil in my homeschool co-op class today. Now these were fiction, but at least half of them had the theme of the disappearing rain forest, using ugly imagery for men, construction machinery, and (strangely) soybean fields. It puzzled me that so many authors would focus on this very negative topic for a child’s picture book. Do kids actually like this? All us adult authors are really only guessing or pretending to remember what it was like to think like a kid. But if I had to make a choice, I would say Walter De La Mare has touched a closer link to the child mind than the rain forest book authors. “In his dark eyes lay a wild universe…” Wild, not disappearing. Magical, not ugly. Only God can make richer earths. That must be about right.