I did an experiment this fall and tried a modified version of the Five in a Row idea with my preschoolers (both actual and developmental). Knowing that I would never be able to keep up with it every week, I decided to do this style of learning just one week a month. As I think about going back to our regular schedule, I decided to share how things went. Plus, it fits in with my whole book theme for the week.
For those who do not know, or are not in the homeschooling world, let me describe to you what Five in a Row is. It is a curriculum that takes good books, usually picture books unless you are using the older child curriculum, and reading the book five days in a row. At the end of each reading, there is some type of learning activity that happens, usually broken up into different subjects... language arts, math, science, geography, and art. I have always been rather taken with the idea, mainly because it closely matches to how we homeschool. In full disclosure, thought while I have flipped through the actual curriculum, I have never bought it, figuring I could do it on my own without spending the money. So what I do is my own little variation.
First off, with the number and age range that I have, I just don't have the energy or time to really go whole hog as some parents do. We do just a little bit, especially since the children I am doing this with are fairly young. If they were in grade school, I would do a little more. At this point in the game, I just don't have the patience to do a lot of academic activities with children who aren't quite ready for them. Yes, that's me, old and crotchety.
The four books we read together this past fall were, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Storm in the Night, The Glorious Flight, and Cranberry Thanksgiving. I thought I would give a brief review of each book; some we liked better than others.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World was the hands-down favorite of the four. Everyone loved it; everyone wanted to sit and listen to it each day; and everyone talked about it afterwards. We talked about the life cycle of an apple and read the book Apple Fractions. The art project was making apple prints on large pieces of paper. Everyone loved it all and was engaged. This was the first book we did and I had high hopes that the rest would go as well.
Our second book was Storm in the Night. Everyone was very excited to see and listen to the next book, and then they weren't. I've been trying to figure out why they all disliked this book as much as they liked the first. I've come up with a few ideas (because the book itself isn't bad and I wasn't expecting their reaction). First, there is a lot of unattributed dialog in it and I can only guess that it was difficult for preschoolers to follow it. Also, it is a longer story that has an ambling sort of feel to it. You are not immediately sure what the conflict in the story is and where it's going. While adults and older children are used to having to get into a book at first, most picture books do not do this. If the book started about midway through, I think it would be a stronger story. We didn't end up doing the activities we had planned, since it was difficult to even get through the book.
The Glorious Flight came next. I was a little apprehensive to start this after our abysmal experience with the last book. This book was better received. Everyone liked looking at the pictures of the airplanes and at Louis Bleriot's family. We (meaning A.) made a couple of cardboard box airplanes that were enjoyed and that was also the week we had our field trip to the airport.
Our last book for the fall was Cranberry Thanksgiving. This book was enjoyed by everyone as well. They enjoyed listening to it and we did a few activities... perhaps not as many as we would have normally done, but it was right before Thanksgiving and that's when life starts to get crazy. We did look at fresh cranberries and taste some cranberry juice. We also watched an episode of How It's Made about cranberry farming. This will be a good addition to our family Thanksgiving books.
I had scheduled to begin our next book on Monday, but I'm not feeling overly excited by the prospect of school in general, much less creative preschool teaching. It would probably be wise to get back into our groove and postpone our new book for a week. I find my attitude has a lot to do with how my children feel about what we're doing. If that's true, I may have to come up with some sort of introductory activity for the week, because at the moment, Monday could be a disaster. First item on my to do list: take myself in hand and work on getting excited about ending vacation.