What is Before Five in a Row?
Dedicated to protecting and nurturing the early years of childhood, Before Five in a Row opens up the world of learning through great books and creative play, and builds a solid foundation for more formal education to come.
This important product has two sections: the first presenting 23 Five in a Row-style mini-units (plus an extra mini-unit) based on outstanding children’s books for ages 2-4+. The second presents an entire treasury of learning readiness activities intended to be used in your every day life: things to do in the kitchen, at the store, at bedtime, bath time and more.
My thoughts on what BFIAR is & isn’t:
BFIAR is not a curriculum or workbook aimed at teaching preschoolers concrete concepts like math or reading, Instead, it is more of a method designed to help parents expose children to classic books and deeply explore the themes within them.
The main idea is this: Read the same book every day for a week. Fall in love with the book and the act of reading. Use the book as a basis for learning new things.
In the first part of the BFIAR manual, the author outlines different activities or discussion topics for each of the 23 books. Sections may include science, art, problem solving, character, history and language and vary depending on the book. The second half of the manual is filled with simple, fun activities to do with your child anytime, but would be especially useful on a rainy day or a day with too much screen time.
A quick Google search of BFIAR will bring up lots of great resources and about a million Pinterest ideas for activities to go along with the BFIAR units. These additional resources are great, but they are not the heart of BFIAR. The essence of BFIAR is in the conversations and discoveries made while “rowing” each book. BFIAR can be used without ever purchasing additional supplies, printing anything off of your computer or pre-planning anything because the most important lessons will be prompted in the manual and require no more than talking with your child or typical household items.
How we “row”
Before I purchased the BFIAR manual, I did lots of searching for reviews and inspiration for activities to go with each book. I read this review, which inspired me to buy the manual and start prepping my units. I am typically a very organized person and loved the way she had each book’s activities planned, printed and filed. This is totally not how BFIAR has worked out for us. Instead, I have decided to mostly focus on the manual’s guidelines which require basically no preparation or materials that have to be printed or purchased ahead of time.
I try to do a few fun activities related to the theme of each book, but these are usually spur-of-the-moment activities that pop up from a conversation. I have a file box and file folders with each book title so that I can collect ideas I come across for future books and save materials for future use either with Gabriella again or Preston when he’s 2.
We typically take about 10 days to “row” each book, but we have gone as long as three weeks with the same book. We stick with one book as long as we’re both having fun and usually there is an obvious shift when we are ready to make a change and introduce a new book.
Why BFIAR works for us
I have loved reading my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading to my brother, sister and me every night before bed. Even as a preschooler, she was reading us not just picture books, but classics like Charlotte’s Web, Little House on the Prairie and Stuart Little. During the summer in elementary school, I would quite often check out the maximum 50 books allowed at the library and read them all within a week.
While I don’t have nearly enough time for pleasure reading now, I do still love escaping into a good book where hours can pass when it feels like just minutes have gone by. Reading has inspired my imagination, my creativity, my career and my passions. If I only pass on one gift to my children, it would be a love of reading because it is through books that anything is possible.
Some people might be turned off that BFIAR doesn’t actually teach anything. For me, that is its biggest asset. I love the opportunities BFIAR gives us for real learning to happen. Not learning by memorization or because a teacher decided it was time to learn something. Our learning happens at the perfect pace with just the right balance between capitalizing on the child’s strengths and offering opportunities for growth. This individualized learning is the basis of why many choose to homeschool and I can definitely see why.
BFIAR isn’t all or nothing
We started BFIAR just before Gabriella turned 3 and had already decided to put her in a church preschool program two days a week while I adjusted to life at home with two kids. We fit in BFIAR adventures during times when the baby is sleeping regardless of whether she went to school that day or not, because our learning is not forced or boring, it’s fun and she begs to do “projects.”
I can see the benefits of BFIAR with a child who stays home full time, goes to preschool part time or even for those families with two working parents with a child in full-time daycare who are looking for opportunities for making connections at home. It is an excellent stand-alone method for younger preschoolers and would also make a great component for older preschoolers who many be ready for additional math, reading and writing curriculum.
Getting started with BFIAR
BFIAR offers a FREE sample lesson on Goodnight Moon so you can try out what it’s all about and see if it’s a good fit for your family. I love that they offer a free sample lesson, but I am glad I didn’t make a decision based solely on this sample. Gabriella was turning 3 as we started BFIAR and Goodnight Moon is a pretty simple book that seemed almost too young for her. Looking at the rest of the book list, you’ll see that Goodnight Moon is the simplest book of the collection and some of the books are actually much longer than I think many two year olds would sit through, but just perfect for 3-4 year olds.
The first step in getting started is to order the Before Five in a Row manual. It is available new from Rainbow Resources, but can be found used on many curriculum swap pages. Then you’ll want to start finding the books. Some people choose to follow the order of books in the manual, others choose to plan out a calendar matching books to seasons/holidays or others like me just row whatever book we have on hand.
We owned a couple of the books already, but most of the books I get from our local library. Just about every book turns out to be a beloved favorite though, so I have been buying the books when I can. I prefer to buy used either from online curriculum swap sites or from our library’s annual book sale. I buy new books at great prices from Scholastic. These are all paperback special editions, but at $1 a book, the price can’t be beat.
Once you’ve got the manual and some of the books, jump right in!
What’s your experience with Before Five in a Row? Tell me about what you’re using for your homeschool preschool lessons. I’d love to hear from you!