Tag Archives: Before Five in a Row

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

We’ve been using Before Five in a Row for more than two years, but somehow we’ve only just now gotten to We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  I know from the Five in a Row Forum that this is a favorite in many families, and now we can count ourselves among them.  The boys both had a lot of fun with this book, and they especially enjoyed a YouTube video of author Michael Rosen telling the story.  The production is as simple as it could be (just Rosen in front of a white background), but he is such an expressive storyteller, the boys were immediately drawn in and found the whole thing hilarious.  They watched it several times throughout the week.

We found a book at the library called We’re Going on a Book Hunt by Pat Miller, which the boys insisted on reading every time we read Bear Hunt.  It’s a cute story about a class going to the library and picking out books, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the boys.  Still, it was fun to see how the author copied the style of the original book.  There’s also a fun Dora the Explorer episode called “Berry Hunt” (Season 1, Episode 10 available streaming on Amazon Instant Video-free for Prime members) that follows a lot of the language from the story.

In addition to things in the Before Five in a Row manual (though we never got around to making a mud puddle, which I really wanted to do), we did a lot of extras from the Homeschool Creations printables, which I printed and laminated (along with a couple activities from other sources):

  • sort bears smallest to largest
  • memory match game


  • put caves in number order (Then I had him remove every other one and we talked about odd/even numbers.)


  • Bear hunt “board game” (having too much fun to take a picture)
  • pages in Ian’s workbook (which Elijah decided he was ready to try out)
  • sequencing cards from the lapbook at Homeschool Share


  • Graphing gummi bears using this free activity pack I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. Both boys did the first two pages (sorting and graphing), and then I also talked through the final page with Ian to have him read his graph and answer questions.


This was a great easy row for the week before we took off on vacation!

Caps for Sale

Last week we were going to take a break, but Before Five in a Row beckoned us.  We had read through Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina during the previous week as part of our lesson on self-control, but the boys were enjoying the story so much I decided it need a good, honest “row.”  This is one of Ian’s favorites, and we did almost everything in the B4FIAR manual, as well as a few extras.

Ian got silly with one of Arianna’s toys and tried to balance them like the peddler’s caps.  (Pardon the not-so-charming scratch under his nose!)

I printed out a bunch of pages from Homeschool Creations.  Many just went into Ian’s “workbook” (a collection of worksheets or activities that I slide into plastic sheet protectors and have him do with dry-erase markers so I can reuse them), but there were also a couple activities I left out on the table all week.  One was a word sort with “-ap” and “-at” words.  I planned to use it just with Ian, but Elijah asked me first and ended up doing really well sorting the words into the right columns.

Their favorite activity, however, was rolling the cube that had pictures of the different kinds of coins on it.  In the story, the peddler calls out, “Fifty cents a cap!”  It was a great tie-in for learning about money.  My objective this week was for Ian to be able to identify a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, 50-cent piece, and dollar coin.  This game definitely helped us accomlish that.  We took turns rolling the cube, and then I had Ian fill in the graph to mark the results.  He loved learning how to make an X using the corners, and when the game was over (when one of the coins had been rolled 10 times), we practiced reading the graph.  We played this several times throughout the week because he enjoyed it so much.


(Yes, we do school in pajamas, diapers, and dalmation costumes.  Don’t you?)

Along with that game, I collected a bunch of coins and just let the boys have fun playing with them.  We talked about “heads” and “tails” and sorted them in different ways.  Ian liked clinking them together and commented on how the different types of coins made different sounds, which I thought was a great observation.  The money was a big hit, and I still haven’t managed to get it all put away because they keep getting it out!

Finally, in addition to a fun reading of the story on YouTube, we watched the Reading Rainbow episode “Three Hat Day,” featuring Caps for Sale as one of the books recommended at the end of the program.  Ian really loves this show, so I let him watch any I can find that relate to what we’re learning about.

The Little Rabbit

Last week we very lightly “rowed” The Little Rabbit by Judy Dunn (from Before Five in a Row).  I chose it to go along with our “Fruit of the Spirit” study, in which we were talking about love.  Since we were focusing on the kind of love that entails doing what’s best for someone else even when they can’t give anything back, a book about caring for a pet seemed appropriate.100_7213

This really is such a sweet story about a girl and her rabbit.  We didn’t do a whole lot of “extras” beyond some of the discussions from the Before Five in a Row manual.  One thing Ian specifically requested was to make bunny masks like we did back when we rowed The Runaway Bunny.  (For some reason, he really wanted his bunny to look angry.)

I also found a Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episode “Pets: Children Take Care of Their Pets” which goes along well with this book.   It even has a little segment comparing a drawing with a photograph, which was great since this story uses photos instead of drawings or paintings for illustrations.

And that was pretty much it for this book!

Blueberries for Sal

This week we “rowed” Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.  In my opinion, if you can only do one book from from Before Five in a Row, this is the one to pick.  There are so many wonderful discussions and activities that can flow out of this story!  I’ve been holding off on it until the right time of year, and it seemed like a good complement to our Bible lesson introducing the Fruit of the Spirit, which just happened to coincide with the beginning of berry-picking season around here.  This was one book that had really made an impression on Ian when we first went through all the Before Five in a Row stories back when he was two.  He’s requested it several times since, so when he saw me bringing out our little tin pails, he was really excited about this week.

After reading through the story on Monday, I broke out several types of blueberries for our afternoon snack: fresh, frozen, dried (chewy, like raisins), and freeze-dried (crunchy, like cereal).  They loved making them go “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” in their pails before they ate them.  I had them try all four kinds, but Ian’s favorites were the frozen ones and the dried, while Elijah preferred the dried and freeze-dried.  Only Mama kept going back to the fresh ones.  We enjoyed snacking on blueberries every day this week!


Blueberry pancakes are a regular occurence in our family, so to do something special we made blueberry muffins from a boxed mix, which included canned blueberries.  I saved the juice when we drained them and the boys made blueberry paintings before drinking the rest of the “paint.”  (They really enjoyed this activity, and it was less messy than I had anticipated.  Still, I think next time I might try thickening up the paint with some corn starch, though then it wouldn’t be so tasty to clean up.)

For Ian’s “workbook,” I printed out several of the pages from Homeschool Creations‘ printable pack.  I also printed and laminated the math activity. (I was impressed with how well Ian did equations in his head.  I think it’s because of the Inchimals we’ve been using to explore the concept of addition.) I even found some worksheets for older kids that I printed to save in my file since I know we’ll be doing this book again in years to come.

As I said before, this book lends itself to lots of fun conversations.  We talked about canning (I’m going to have to learn more about it for the next time we row), bears storing up food for hibernation, and the dangers of meeting a bear (especially a mama and baby) and wandering off alone in the wilderness.  We also read One Morning in Maine, another favorite by Robert McCloskey.  It features Sal when she’s a little older and loses her first tooth.  Right away Ian asked, “Hey! Is that ‘Little Sal’ in this book?”  Ian’s not quite to the tooth-losing stage, so he was quite intrigued by the story.  I read it several times with him, though it was a bit long for Elijah.  By the time we row Blueberries for Sal with Arianna, Ian should have lost a tooth or two and I’m sure Elijah will love this book too.

To finish off our week, we went out in our backyard and picked berries in our tin pails.  No blueberries, but we are blessed to have an abundance of blackberries at hand!  We’ll go picking once or twice a week for the next month or so and then make jelly to give as gifts and hopefully last us through the year!


The Red Carpet

Our Before Five in a Row book this past week was The Red Carpet by Rex Parkin.  It seemed appropriate for the week when we were studying Palm Sunday, since they rolled out the red carpet for Jesus as He made His “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem.  Oh, wait.  That was cloaks and palm leaves.  Close enough.   It was still a fun read (one of our favorites from B4FIAR, I think).

The boys had fun driving their cars along a red ribbon (though I wish I’d checked the spool more carefully before I bought it–it wasn’t as long as I would have liked).


We spent a wonderful afternoon making pretzels together (in honor of Tony Tortoni’s pretzel cart that got upset when the carpet went whizzing past)!  There’s also a fun episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood that Ian adored (Vol.2 Episode 2 “How people make pretzels”, available streaming free for Amazon Prime members)


And as a special treat, the boys got “Red Carpet Candy.”  (Okay, it was “Fruit by the Foot.”  But it qualifies as candy in my book.)

Academically, I introduced Ian to the concept of counting by twos as we looked at pictures of the policemen riding their motorcycles in pairs.  He was a little confused by the way I was counting, so I explained.  I still don’t think he got it, but that’s okay.  He’s got plenty of time to figure it out.  I just wanted to put the idea in his head.

I also printed out a bunch of pages for Ian’s workbook from Homeschool Creations and the HomeSchool Share lapbook components.  They are just little extras he always enjoys when he gets a chance.  We didn’t get to everything this week, but I’ll just keep it in my Red Carpet file.  I’m sure we’ll row it again in a couple years!

If Jesus Came to My House


I had never heard of the book If Jesus Came to My House by Joan G. Thomas until we started Before Five in a Row, but it’s become a favorite of mine.  It seemed like a fitting choice to go along with our Bible story this week, since Jesus really did go to Zacchaeus’ house.  We didn’t do a lot of activities, but the book did trigger a lot of good conversations.

We talked about shadows and enjoyed listening to a poem, “My Shadow,” from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. We also discussed how the dark can be scary sometimes, which led to talking about Ian’s favorite Scripture song: “When I am Afraid” from Hide ’em in Your Heart Vol. 1 by Steve Green. The Before Five in a Row manual had another song suggestion, but I also used this discussion as an opportunity to introduce Ian to Rodgers and Hammerstein with “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I.  I put all three of these on our iPod playlist, along with other things related to our Bible story.  (The full playlist is in my post on our week with Zacchaeus.)

I love the part of the story where the little boy lets Jesus play with his nicest toys, and even lets him pick the best to take with him when he leaves.  I asked Ian which of his toys he thought was the nicest.  He decided it was his monster truck.  “If Jesus came to visit, would you let him play with your monster truck?”  I’m not sure he was quite ready to answer that question.  He definitely seemed torn!

I put some pages from Homeschool Creations in Ian’s workbook, which he always enjoys.  I also created and laminated some cards with rhyming pairs from the story.  Ian has gotten much better with rhymes than he was when we first started talking about them (about a year ago), but sometimes he still comes up with the craziest answers when I ask him, “What word rhymes with [blank]?” It makes me wonder: does he really not understand the whole concept or is he just being silly? I figure it never hurts to have a little more practice.

This story didn’t “click” with Ian as much as some of the others we’ve done, but I love it because it’s so sweet.  I’m looking forward to re-rowing it with Elijah and Arianna down the road!

The Snowy Day

I introduced The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats a few weeks ago because we were heading up to the mountains for some snow play, and neither of the boys really knew anything about snow.  I’m glad we got that experience in, because the weather quickly turned warm and we wouldn’t have been able to find any snow to play in if we’d waited until we were ready to row the book.


We also enjoyed some other books about snowy days.  First we listened to an audio recording of a Ukrainian folk tale in The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt.  Then we read the same story told a little differently in Jan Brett’s The Mitten, as well as its companion book, The HatIan especially liked the last one because he could read the title all by himself, thanks to a few lessons at readingeggs.com.  (See my post about it for more information and a promo code if you have someone eager to begin reading!) And we all enjoyed this fun video on YouTube.

I think the boys’ favorite part of the week was when we made “snow” by throwing some ice in the blender.  I presented it as a “special treat” (which in Ian’s mind means dessert), prepared to add some cranberry juice if they caught on and protested that I was passing off water as something more delectable.  They were thrilled with it plain though.  They enjoyed trying to make miniature snowmen, but mostly they just had fun eating it.  We turned it into a science lesson by trying to predict what would happen if we left it out in our warm kitchen.  After it had melted down to water we boiled it to see how it turned into steam.


There were a number of things I had planned that we never got to: some of the suggested discussions in the Before Five in a Row manual, the pages I put in Ian’s “workbook” from Homeschool Creations, and the sequence cards from HomeSchool Share’s Snowy Day Lapbook which I had printed and laminated.  We’ll try to get to all those when we re-row this book with the younger kids in a couple years!

For more snowy fun, check out our time with Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening.