Tag Archives: Five in a Row

When I Was Young in the Mountains

Last week Five in a Row took us to Appalachia with When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.  It’s a sweet story that sparked several questions from Ian and Elijah.  So in addition to the lessons we did from the Five in a Row (Vol.) 2 manual, we took a few rabbit trails, which led to lots of learning!

Every time we read the first page, about how the little girl’s grandfather would kiss her on the forehead because he was so dirty from working in the coal mines that only his lips were clean, Ian asked, “Why was he so dirty?”  Finally I went hunting for a video on coal mining.  The best thing I could find was an episode of the show Dirty Jobs, which was available to watch streaming on Amazon (free for Prime members).  Episode 30 features a segment about coal mining.  (PARENT ADVISORY: the first half of the episode is on a different job and contained some rough language.  It was really too bad, because I think my boys would both really enjoy this show, but with a few bad words thrown in occasionally, it’s just not suitable for children.  I did end up letting my boys watch the coal mining segment with me, but we talked about using pure words and not copying people who don’t. I know many parents would choose not to show it to their children, so definitely watch it first.  If you know of a better video to learn something about coal mining, please comment below!)

At one point in the story, the girl talks about hearing the call of a bobwhite.  The boys wondered what that was, and since I knew nothing beyond the fact that it was a bird, we did a little research together.  The boys enjoyed seeing pictures of bobwhites and especially listening to recordings of a bobwhite’s call.  After that, every time we read this part of the story, Ian would imitate the birdcall.

The children’s lives in this story are very different from ours in many ways.  After we had read through the story a few times, I had Ian point out differences.  We talked about how the girl was poor and yet she seemed very content with her life.  I wanted to find a video that brought the Appalachian world alive for the boys, so we watched the pilot episode from the old television series Christy.  It’s about a young woman who goes to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (which doubles as a church, like in When I Was Young in the Mountains) in a small community tucked back in the hills of Tennessee.  Elijah lost interest after a while, but Ian enjoyed watching it with me.

For our last activity, Ian wrote his own story in a style like Cynthia Rylant.  I asked him to share about things remembers from when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa in their house in the hills.  I typed out his memories and then he illustrated the first one.


Such fun memories!


Truman’s Aunt Farm

Last week we had fun with Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan.  It’s the story of a little boy who hopes to get ants for an ant farm for his birthday but ends up getting aunts instead.  It’s a cute story that easily lends itself to several lessons.  Ian especially liked it because a friend gave us an ant farm a while back, though our ants haven’t built any spectacular tunnels.  (I think it was older and the gel had hardened a little too much for the ants to dig easily.)  Still, our children have all enjoyed getting to observe the ants up close.

Truman 2

We expanded on the activities in the Five in a Row (Vol. 3) manual a bit.  The most obvious lesson to go along with this book is teaching homophones, words that sound alike but have different meanings.  (The manual refers to them as homonyms, but I was taught that homonyms are also spelled the same, whereas homophones are spelled differently.  In trying to verify which term was correct, I looked both words up in several dictionaries.  Some agreed with my memory.  Others said either term could describe words spelled differently.  I chose to go with what I was taught.)

homophonesI introduced this concept before we even read the book for the first time, pointing out the spelling of “ant” and “aunt” so that Ian could understand the mix-up and why it made the story funny.  Afterword I went through a homophone worksheet with him, helping him choose the correct word for each situation.  Since we are just starting to work on spelling, it was a good introduction to the idea that two different spelling combinations can be used to make the same sounds.  Later that day we also watched several videos on YouTube that featured the idea of homophones: a segment from Between the Lions, “homophone monkey,” and a clip from VeggieTales.  As a follow up on another day we read The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne.  (Other fun books that feature wordplay with homophones/homonyms are A Chocolate Moose for Dinner by Fred Gwynne, Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones by Gene Barretta, and How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? by Brian P. Cleary.)

I decided this was also a good time to introduce letter writing.  I told Ian that Truman wrote to his aunt, but he could write to anyone he chose.  He immediately decided to write to his cousins.  I gave him a basic “form” to copy for writing a friendly letter and then let him write the body of it on his own.  His mind started thinking faster than he could write down the words, so he left out several letters.  I just wrote in the complete words above so his cousins would be able to read it, and then we put it in an envelope, addressed it together, put on a stamp and got it off in the mail.


This tied in with the lesson from the manual about stamps.  I chose to expand on that by showing the boys our family’s stamp collections.  (Both my husband and I were philatelists in our younger days.)  I’d forgotten how fascinating it could be looking through the pages of old stamps.  This hobby taught me so much about history as a child.  I wasn’t sure the boys would appreciate them yet, but they really enjoyed looking at the variety of stamps, especially several that were over a hundred years old.


Finally we had fun singing “The Ants Go Marching.”  (I thought it was funny that Ian recognized the song as being a spoof on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.”  I remember thinking it was the other way around when I was a kid.)  There are several videos of the song on YouTube, but here was my favorite.  If we row this book again when my other kids are older, I think it would be fun to have the whole family help illustrate the song substituting “aunts” in the lyrics but that seemed overly ambitious this time around.

Another fun week with Five in a Row!

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

Owl Moon

We recently spent a little over a week rowing Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.  This was another one of those books unknown to me before Five in a Row (FIAR) introduced us.  All my kids seem to have a fascination with owls, so we enjoyed our time with this book.  The main character is a brave child (probably a girl, but it’s never stated, and Ian preferred to think it was a boy), and the discussion of bravery fit in well with our current Bible story of David and Goliath (post coming soon).

We did several of the activities in the Five in a Row manual (Vol. 2).  I briefly discussed the Caldecott award with Ian, pointing out the “medal” on the front cover, and ever since he has been calling my attention to other books he find in our library that were awarded either the gold Caldecott medal or the silver Caldecott honor.  When we talked about similes, I first read Ian Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood to help him understand the concept.  He wasn’t able to pick them out of Owl Moon by himself, but he was starting to understand when I pointed them out.  It was a good introduction anyway.

We also spent time on a few additional activities:


I haven’t worked with Ian a lot on spelling because I don’t want it to be something separate from the rest of what we’re learning.  However I do like to try incorporating spelling lessons into other things we’re working on.  ow wordsThis seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the short “ow” sound (as in “owl”).  I found a couple fun videos about the sound (one from the old TV show Electric Company on YouTube, and one from FirstStepReading.com) that had both boys giggling and reading along. Then Ian did a “word sort” of words spelled ow/ou from All Sorts of Sorts by Sheron Brown.  (When we do these, I have him sort the words independently and then I check them before he glues them down.  After that’s done I have him read through all the words.)


After spending the first part of the year using Exploring Creation With Astronomy, Ian enjoyed learning more about the phases of the moon.  We enjoyed a visual simulation that helped demonstrate what causes the moon to look the Owl4way it does.  Then everyone enjoyed using Joe-Joes (like Oreos) to show the different phases using a guide I’d found back when we rowed Goodnight Moon.  I had planned on using a free set of phases of the moon cards, but I didn’t get them made ahead of time so it never happened.  Neither did the “mystery moons” activity I had thought sounded fun.  Oh well, maybe next time!

As I mentioned before, all my kids are intrigued by owls, so I wanted to spend some time studying them more in depth.  We found a National Geographic special called “The Silent Hunters” on YouTube.  Gail Gibbons’ book Owls is full of beautiful pictures and great information, like the two families of owls: typical owls (Strigidae) and barn owls (Tytonidae).  That knowledge helped our understanding when we had a family movie night watching Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.  (We really enjoyed the movie.  I hope to read through the Guardians of Ga’hoole book series by Kathryn Lasky as well at some point.)  We talked about what (and how) owls eat and dissected owl pellets. (I bought a Young Scientists kit that contained other activities we can do another time.)  Elijah wasn’t so sure about it at first, but eventually he was fascinated enough to want his own turn studying the bones we found.  If you’re not up to the real thing, there’s a “virtual dissection” available online at KidWings.

 Owl1     Owl2



We had a great time with Owl Moon.  One day we watched the story on DVD in the Scholastic Storybook Treasures (Collection 2).  We also enjoyed the story Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (both the book and a video on YouTube).  Ian’s been really into drawing, so I took him through the steps of “How to Draw an Owl” from Art Projects for Kids.  All in all, I’d say it was a successful row!  The day I was finishing this post, we went to a local children’s museum, and in the room with all kinds of wild animals (a tribute to taxidermy) Ian was quick to find an owl.  “Hey!  We studied that!”  Why, yes, we did.


To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

While the “polar vortex” froze most of the country, here in southern California we were relying on our imaginations and immersing ourselves in snowy stories to feel like it was truly winter.  Our first Five in a Row book of 2014 was Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, a picture book of the poem by Robert Frost illustrated by Susan Jeffers. (The most recent edition has updated illustrations, but we have the original version, pictured above.)  It’s a lighter unit than most of rows (intended as a review week), so it was the perfect choice to ease our way back into school.  We did a few of the lessons from the FIAR (Vol. 1) manual, as well as a number of activities about snowflakes and crystals.  We also watched several videos related to snow, including Bill Nye the Science Guy (both Earth’s Seasons and Climates) and Reading Rainbow: Snowy Day Poems

We read two books that went along well with our “snowflake” theme.  The first, The Tiny Snowflake by Art Ginolfi was one I came across as I was looking for Christmas book suggestions, but since it had nothing to do with Christ’s birth, I decided to save it for January, and this was the perfect time to pull it out.  It’s about a little snowflake who learns that God made all snowflakes unique.  We have the board book format, and Arianna has asked for the story repeatedly, so it was fun to be able to include her in our school time.  This book also prompted our morning Bible reading.  I loved reading through Psalm 139 with Ian every day throughout the week and talking about what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

We also read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (which we will hopefully cover in more depth someday using FIAR Vol. 4).  It tells the story of William Bentley, who is famous for his work photographing snowflakes.  You can find many of his photographs online, and we enjoyed looking at the variety of the snow crystals.  After seeing how amazing real snowflakes are, we decided to make some of our own.

The boys really enjoyed making paper snowflakes.  We used coffee filters, which made it easy to get to the fun part.  I love that even the simple cuts the Elijah was able to do made beautiful art.  They had a lot of fun playing with them and watching them float through the air.  Then we hung them on the kids’ bedroom windows for a winter decoration.

snowflakes1   snowflakes2    snowflakes 3

Making the snowflakes led to a discussion of how crystals have six sides.  I got out my geode collection and let the kids examine the crystals, which fascinated them.

crystals2   crystals

Finally, we made our own “crystal snowflakes” using pipe cleaners and borax solution.  I wasn’t very good at following the directions because I wanted to make a whole bunch at one time.  So I didn’t measure either the water or the borax; as it dissolved I just kept adding more powder, vaguely recalling something from high school chemistry about making a super-saturated solution.

borax1   borax2

Evidently that wasn’t quite what we were going for, because our crystals looked like they were on steroids compared to all the pictures I’ve seen from people who’ve done this activity.  Luckily it still worked, and the kids were thrilled with how they turned out.

borax3   borax4


(We also had a lovely crystal garden on the bottom of the pan which broke into pieces as I tried to get it out of the pan, and the kids thought the chunks were wonderful treasures to share with their friends.)

Last but not least, we ate snowflakes made from tortillas.  I preheated the oven to 400, warmed up the tortillas in the microwave so they would fold easily, cut the patterns, sprayed both sides with coconut oil and popped them in the oven for 5 minutes.  (The kids were all occupied and I wanted to surprise them.  They’d had a hard enough time cutting the paper, I didn’t feel it necessary to include them in this step.)  Then I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and they were quickly devoured!


All in all it was a great week of playing with snow!  Since we live in a place where we never get the real thing, we’ve had to make a special effort to expose our kids to it.  In the past we’ve taken a day trip up into the mountains for some snow play.  This year it’s been so warm I doubt there’s much up there, so books and movies are the only way we’re going to have any snow fun.  If you’re in the same boat and looking for more fun ideas to go along with snowy stories, check out my posts on The Snowy Day, Katy and the Big Snow, and Very Last First Time.

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

The last thing we did for school before Nicholas was born (over a month ago already!) was to row The Duchess Bakes a Cake from Five in a Row Vol. 3.  It is such a fun book!  This is another one of those wonderful stories I’d never had the pleasure of reading before discovering Five in a Row.  We  loved the rhythm, the rhymes, the medieval setting, and of course the fun story.  There’s something special about a book that leads your 3-year old to request some “lovely, light, luscious, delectable cake” for dessert.  (We made an angel food cake to enjoy along with our “row” all week.)

Aside from doing a number of lessons in the FIAR Vol. 3 manual (talking about alliteration, doing the action drawing tracings, and watching the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar were among our favorites), we spent a couple weeks enjoying anything we could find related to medieval times.  We revisited many of the activities, songs, poems, books, etc. that I had collected when we did our unit on Knights, Castles, and the Armor of God.  (I won’t waste time relisting them again, but check out that post because we had a lot of fun both times!)  Our Bible verse for the week was “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11.  Mama was extremely pregnant during this row, so the children got to watch a lot more videos than I’d normally allow, including the old Disney cartoon Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Bob the Builder – The Knights of Fix-a-Lot (available on Netflix and streaming free for Amazon Prime members), and Disney’s The Sword in the Stone.  We recently came across a reference to King Arthur and the round table so I enjoyed introducing Ian to the Arthur legend.

We just managed to get all the knight books back on the shelf, our armor back in the dress-up box, and our castle put back in its storage tub before Nicholas made his appearance a bit earlier than expected.  Adjusting to having four kids age five and under has gone more smoothly than I anticipated, and we’re back into our regular school routine much sooner than I had that we’d be able to handle, so I’m looking forward to getting back to blogging more regularly!

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

All Those Secrets of the World

I keep thinking I’m going to relax our school schedule a bit as we head into the final weeks before our baby arrives, mostly by taking a break from Five in a Row, but I just haven’t been able to do it.  We already do way more “school” than necessary because I’m pretty much adding FIAR to an already complete program.  The stories are just so great I can’t resist.  We mostly row from the manual without a lot of extras, which is really all anyone needs to do anyway.

Last week we discovered a charming book, All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen, from Five in a Row (Vol. 2).  Each day we read the book and did a simple lesson from the manual.  We talked a lot about perspective and how objects that are far away look small.  (For a great lesson on this, check out “How Tall is it Really?” from Living and Learning at Home.)  For our weekly art lesson, we painted pictures demonstrating this using watercolors, like most of the illustrations in the book.  I demonstrated by painting a small tree up near the horizon of my picture and then a big tree on the other side of the paper.  Ian liked the idea of making something look farther away and decided to do an ocean scene like the pictures in the book.  However, after painting a small sailboat in the background and a large pirate ship in the foreground he got so into the details of the sharks surrounding the latter, the ship itself almost got lost.  Still, he understood the concept, and he had a lot of fun doing the painting, so I considered it a great success.


(I’m so thankful the artist explained the details of the picture to me because I was somewhat at a loss as to interpreting it on my own!)

In the book Janie and her cousin aren’t supposed to swim in the water of the Chesapeake Bay because there’s a lot of oil.  We talked about how oil and water don’t mix and watched a toy similar to this one.  I found a list with some fun activities to explore this concept some more, but we didn’t get to any of them.  We also talked about the effects of an oil spill in the ocean.  He really liked this clip on YouTube about the Gulf oil spill.  (We had to watch it several times.)  I was hoping to find a way to watch the Go, Diego, Go episode “Ocean Animal Rescuer” which also discusses oil spills, but that season’s not streaming for free right now and I didn’t really want to purchase it without having previewed it.

So it was a pretty simple “row” but we had a great time with All Those Secrets of the World!

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

Paul Revere’s Ride

We recently spent a week with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic poem Paul Revere’s Ride in a book illustrated by Ted Rand.  It’s one of the Five in a Row titles I’ve been saving until Ian was a little older, but it fit in with our artist study (a portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley) so I decided to give it a shot.  We immersed ourselves in the early days of the American Revolution, and while we didn’t do a whole lot of activities outside of the Five in a Row manual (Vol. 3), I did come across several audio and video resources that I thought I’d share. Audio:

  • Ian enjoyed the drama of a radio show called “Listen My Children” from Homeschool Radio Shows.  (It also has a PDF Listening and Discussion Guide, but we didn’t use it.)
  • The Adventures in Odyssey episode #197 “Midnight Ride” was great for the end of the week.  It discussed some of the inaccuracies in Longfellow’s account and told more of the story.  It helped to be familiar with the poem first, which is why I’d recommend it for at least a few days into rowing this book.


  • I gave Ian a quick introduction to the reasons behind Paul Revere’s famous ride by watching an old Schoolhouse Rock clip called “No More Kings.” (There’s also another Revolutionary War clip called “The Shot Heard Round the World,” but he didn’t understand that one very well, and since it happened after Paul Revere’s ride, I didn’t spend much time trying to explain it.)
  • The boys both really enjoyed “The Flame Returns” from an episode of Animaniacs, which was basically an animated reading of the poem. (Warner Bros. has since had this clip removed from YouTube.)  Even now, a couple of weeks later, they keep quoting their favorite part.
  • We spent lunchtime each day watching the show Liberty’s Kids, culminating with the fifth episode, “The Midnight Ride.”  (You can get the whole series of 40 episodes on DVD for only $8.25.  I jumped on it when it was on sale for even less because I knew we’d use it for homeschooling at some point.)
  • Finally, we watched “The Birth of a Revolution” from the Learn Our History series.  If you get any homeschool emails, you’ve probably been bombarded with offers about this series by Mike Huckabee.  We tried it just to get the free “One Nation Under God” DVD, but Ian liked it so much I decided to keep the subscription coming.  The animation is pretty cheesy by today’s standards, so I really didn’t think he’d be that into it, but he requests various DVDs from the series over and over.  They really do have good information about American History, so we’re going to keep getting the DVDs each month for now.

The only lesson from the manual that I wanted to share about was our art lesson.  We talked about the use of light in all the pictures, and looked at how the moon was reflected in the water in several of them.  I wasn’t going to attempt anything hands-on until I read Heather’s post at blogshewrote.org, in which she described her children’s experience with this lesson.  P1010687Ian wasn’t terribly excited about drawing his picture (though he did enjoy using the special oil pastels I broke out for the occasion).  He still finds drawing rather frustrating, and having me do a picture along side him didn’t help.  Sometimes it inspires him, but this time it just made him ask me to take over his picture because he couldn’t make it look the way he hoped.  Still, I kept encouraging him, and in the end he managed to capture the whole idea of the reflection (at least with the masts and the moonlight), so I considered it a success and praised him for his efforts.  I’m glad we ended up rowing this book now.  I love history, especially American history, so it was fun to start teaching Ian about the birth of our nation.

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

The Glorious Flight

The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen is one of those Five in a Row books I was unfamiliar with and not terribly motivated to pick up, but it turned out to be a wonderful “row,” and I’m glad it’s part of our family library.  I know it’s one Ian’s going to go back to time and again.  I have to confess, it’s one of the few times we’ve actually managed to re-read the book every single day.

We did several of the lessons in the Five in a Row manual (Vol. 1).  I love being able to just introduce ideas like Roman numerals.  I wrote out 1, 5, and 10 on a whiteboard, and then we talked about how to make the other numbers mentioned in the book.  He caught on more than I thought he was going to, which was great.  I know he probably won’t remember, but having this introduction will help the next time we touch on the subject.

The same was true of our GeoPuzzle of Europe.  Ian loves puzzles, and just mentioning the name of each country as we put it together will help him build familiarity.  (I love that the pieces are shaped like the countries so almost every one has its own piece.)  We talked about other stories we’ve read that are set in Europe, and he loved pointing out the things he knew.

We watched several fascinating videos about flight.  The one most related to the book was A Daring Flight from Nova, which went into much greater detail about Louis Bleriot’s determined attempts to build a flying machine in the years leading up to his flight across the English channel.  I highly recommend this one, especially for older rowers.  (Even at 5, however, Ian really enjoyed it.  We broke it into two segments and he did just fine with it.)  A more age appropriate recommendation is the Reading Rainbow episode “Bored – Nothing to Do!” about two boys who works to build an airplane. (We also liked the Reading Rainbow episode “Hot Air Henry,” which has clips of various flying machines that failed.  It cracked my boys up and they kept watching that part over and over!) We also liked the Bill Nye the Science Guy episode on “Flight” we found at the library.  I wasn’t sure if it would go over well with my crew or not since it said it was for grades 4 and up.  However, it seems to have been designed for kids with short attention spans, so Ian did fine with it and asked for “the next one.” I guess he thought it was like watching a series on Netflix.  (Elijah watched parts with us but said it was “too long.”)  Ian enjoyed it so much he watched it twice over two weeks, along with another DVD we borrowed: Eyewitness DVD: Flight.

Overall, this book made quite an impression on Ian.  The videos we watched really brought it to life for him, and he loved looking at old photographs of Papa Bleriot’s various planes.  We only talked a little about the Wright Brothers through the week, but he remembered them from the videos and was excited to see a model of one of their gliders when we visited the California Science Center‘s exhibit on flight at the end of our “row.”  And any time we come across a picture of a bi-plane, it’s a big deal now!  We finished out our study with a family movie trip to see Planes, and he loved pointing out things he’d learned about.  I know he’s going to have a great time when he gets to go along with Daddy to the small local airport where Daddy sometimes does some mechanical work!

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

A Pair of Red Clogs

We had a fun week of learning as we rowed A Pair of Red Clogs by Masaka Matsuno.  I chose it because we’ve been reading The Japanese Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins, which Ian has really enjoyed, though I’ve had some reservations. (See my notes at the end of this post.)*

In keeping with one of the themes in the book, we spent quite a bit of time discussing honesty.  We read The Value of Honesty: The Story of Confucius by Spencer Johnson, as well as a poem called “The Boy Who Never Told a Lie” from The Book of Virtues (p.601) by William J. Bennett.  Our Bible memory verse for the week was Proverbs 12:22.  “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”


We discussed several of the lessons in the Five in a Row manual Vol. 1 throughout the week, and for the first time, we attempted the art lesson.  Art has not been one of Ian’s strengths, and I’ve held off on even attempting any of the lessons because he struggled even with basic coloring and drawing.  However, I have intentionally made art instruction a part of our Kindergarten “curriculum” this year, and on the weeks that we include a FIAR book, I want to try to do the art lessons.  The one for A Pair of Red Clogs was pretty simple, and Ian and I were both quite pleased with the way his picture turned out.


We spent a lot of time this week learning about Japan.  Both boys enjoyed playing a memory matching game using the continent cards  I made from part of the Grandfather’s Journey lapbook on HomeSchoolShare.  (Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say, also set in Japan, is another book used in FIAR Vol. 1P1010595but Ian was really resistant to the story for some reason, and I didn’t want to push a book he wasn’t interested in.  He did, however, enjoy reading Tree of Cranes, also by Allen Say.  I made an origami crane and all three kids were fascinated by it.)  The boys also put together our GeoPuzzle of Asia. (I bought the complete set last year when they were on sale at Timberdoodle.com, but it’s the first time we’ve gotten one out.) We watched Big Bird in Japan on YouTube, and then later in the week we watched two episodes of 19 Kids and Counting: Duggars Do Asia.  Both boys really enjoyed watching the Duggars explore Tokyo (available free on iTunes under Volume 8) and Kyoto.  These shows provided a fascinating look at some of the unique aspects of Japanese culture.

They also reminded me of our international coin collection, and P1010569I went digging through the coins to see if I could find some Japanese yen (which I identified with help from Wikipedia).  All three kids LOVE playing with coins, and we were able to look at how the numbers are the same as our numbers whereas the characters are very different from our letters.  I used that as an opportunity to go to a website that translates your name into Japanese katakana characters.  Ian thought it was so interesting, we ended up looking up the names of everyone in our family, our cousins, and the neighbors.

The one thing we didn’t do that I had wanted to was a science activity about making rain that I found on another blog.  Maybe someday we’ll get around to this one, because I think it’s a great way of teaching about the water cycle.  Still, we had a pretty full week, and everyone learned a lot and had fun doing it, so I’d say it was a successful row!

The Japanese Twins depicts the traditional Japanese view of women and girls.  I was pretty uncomfortable reading the chapter where the father tells the little girl she must obey her baby brother and tells her to bow down while he puts the baby’s foot on her neck to show his authority over her.  It gave us an opportunity for discussion, I suppose, as did the chapter where they went to the temple and worshiped a goddess.  When I started to ask Ian about that one, he pretty much led the discussion.  Having just studied the 10 Commandments, he had a frame of reference, so it wasn’t a big deal.

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

We stumbled into our latest Five in a Row book completely by accident.  I really wasn’t planning to do any formal schoolwork for a while, but as I started to get boxes unpacked, Ian was drawn to the series of ValueTales books from my childhood library.  He picked out The Value of Helping about Harriet Tubman one night to read with Daddy before bed, so the next day as I was searching for some sort of educational video to put on while I continued tackling boxes, I decided to put on the Reading Rainbow episode on the book Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter.  I figured it was a good time to discuss the concept of slavery and the Underground Railroad since the book on Harriet Tubman had already introduced the idea.  (It also just happened to fit in with our Bible lessons on the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt.)

We did several of the lessons from the Five in a Row manual (Vol. 2).  The ones the really stood out were searching for compound words (which took Ian longer than I expected to catch on to, but was really helpful because we started finding them all over the place after that) and learning the song.  Ian enjoyed listening to me sing it as I played it on the piano (so glad the music was in the back of the book!), but I also found a great video of the song on YouTube which shows the lyrics while playing the music.

We talked about gourds and how they can be used to hold liquids.  I have a calabash, or “bottle gourd” that some Maasai friends gave me when I lived in Kenya, and Ian enjoyed having something he could hold and look at, even if it’s shaped a little differently than the drinking gourd referred to in the song (which I would imagine looks more like the picture on the right).


I found a number of other videos that went along well with this study.  The first was Harriet Tubman from the Animated Hero Classics series (also available on YouTube).  The other was video Follow the Drinking Gourd starring Morgan Freeman, which is available streaming free for Amazon Prime members (anyone can do a 7-day rental for $2.99).  It tells the story of a family escaping via the Underground Railroad.  (For older students, check out Whispers of Angels: A Story of the Underground Railroad, also available streaming free for Amazon Prime members. It’s about an hour long, and it’s a documentary rather than a story, but I really enjoyed it.   Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is another option.  It was a little “dry” for Ian, but short and very informative.)

So it was a pretty simple “row,” but Ian learned a lot, and it felt good to get back into Five in a Row!

To see what other FIAR books we’ve rowed, see my “Index of FIAR Posts.”  Also, a great place to see what other people have done with FIAR books is the FIAR Blog Roll at Delightful Learning.

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