Planning our Five in a Row Units

How We Plan FIAR

As I have stated so many times before, we LOVE Five in a Row curriculum written by Jane Clair Lambert.   We have used Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) and Five in a Row (FIAR) and truly appreciate the broad range of topics that we have covered all while enjoying quality literature and quality snuggles.

Five in a Row Book Set

This will be our third year using their curricula, and I just finished planning Elizabeth’s K year (she will be using FIAR) and Ian’s preschool year (BFIAR).

Let me start by saying this: I am a planner.  It is just in my nature.  I was the 10 year old with a Franklin Covey planner.  There is no right way to ‘row’ with FIAR.  I know many families who pick a book Monday morning and just go with the flow – and they love it!  But for us, I like a plan and a checklist.  I like to be prepared.  The idea of a boxed curriculum where they send everything I need for an entire year, ready to go, along with a beautiful schedule appeals to me greatly.   Except that it just doesn’t work for us.  Ask me how I know 😉

So – by pre-planning our FIAR units, I am able to get a boxed curricula feel while still having the freedom to pick and choose according to our interests or take breaks to follow the kids interests.  For us, even though mom-intensive in the beginning, it has been the best of both worlds.

When I was only planning BFIAR, I simply sat down with the manual and made a checklist of activities I’d like to do for that particular unit.  I sometimes would also look at other blogs or Pinterest for ideas, but the bulk of the information came straight from the manual – I just put it in a list form.  There was no timetable; when we had a moment, we would read the book and do an activity.

Last year for K4 we did several FIAR units, and also several units from (which is also wonderful!).  For these I again made a checklist of activities, and also pre-printed any worksheets I wanted to include, so they were ready to go.  I put all the papers into a file folder.  This worked well, except it was bulky to store and I often had little fingers playing in the system switching out files.

This year, my planning is similar.  We live in a state where as homeschoolers we do have academic oversight, so I need to keep records of what Elizabeth is doing for her ‘formal school’.  Here’s the plan this year:

Step 1: Pick the Books

I go through the manual and our bookshelves and choose which books I plan to row this year.  This year, I have chosen about 25 books, leaving room to add more if needed, or time to follow any interest-led units.


Step 2: Writing the Plan

I created a template in OneNote that included the content that I wanted to cover, including Bible, poetry, health, music, art appreciation and our FIAR subjects (social studies, language arts, science, art).  I went straight through the manual and transferred activities to the template.  I then searched Netflix, BrainPOP and YouTube for any relevant information.  I also went through my Usborne Science Activity books for experiments, as my kids really love science.  I also include a BFIAR selection that may correlate to the FIAR book for Ian with a simple activity or discussion point.

While they are labeled ‘Week xx’, there is no order – we pick our books as field trip opportunities, seasons, or holidays come along in the year.  I just simply switch the week number before I print the final copy of the schedule.

 Here’s a screenshot:

FIAR Plan OneNote

Why do I love OneNote?

  • I am able to open it on my phone through the app, and check off the days tasks there, and it will sync up with my computer.


  • I can add links and even pictures right into the schedule
  • During the day if we only get through two activities, and the kids have no interest in the rest, no big deal – I can simply delete the other activities right from my phone.  This takes care of my obsessive need to check off everything.  I DO check of everything in the column, because if we don’t do it, I delete it 😉
  • At the end of the week, I can hop back on my computer and print off my completed schedule to file away for my umbrella school.

Step 3: Gather unit materials and file them together for easy access.

I include for a FIAR book unit:

  • Unit Study Resource List (books, videos, websites, field trips)
  • Sticky list with books and supplies we own
  • Notebooking pages printed from the Five in a Row Notebook Builder (experiment sheet, vocabulary pages, maps and field trip record pages) and from Evan Moor Giant Science Resource Book.
  • Story Disks to be placed on our wall map as we learn about different locations
  • Animal pictures to be added to our animal classification chart




I also include for each week a grid for our ‘daily subjects’.  We use All About Reading, Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, and Singapore Math – all of which require no planning from me, except to go to the next lesson.  I just jot down which lesson we did or a brief description.

Example: AAR lesson 12, Silent E


These pages are put into a pocket folder to use for the week.


Step 4: Print and File Plans 

Once our week is complete, I can print the completed schedule and file it into my homeschool notebook along with our other records to show our umbrella school.


Other items found in my homeschool notebook include:

  • Calendar
  • Read-Aloud Chapter Book Lists
  • Complete FIAR book list (I highlight as we row books through the years)
  • Full list of Curricula used for the current year

Most of the pages come from this awesome blog.


So that’s how I plan our Five in a Row units.  Again – we generally DO NOT do all that is planned, we pick and choose based on our mood.  But by having everything planned out, it’s much more likely to get done, and be a less stressful experience for me as the teacher 🙂

Are you a planner?

One thought on “Planning our Five in a Row Units

  1. I love to see how everyone plans FIAR! After a break from FIAR, we are so excited to start rowing this coming school year. Thank you for sharing ideas to encourage and inspire — I did my planning a few years back, but have been revisiting my plans and gleaning from others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s