How I Plan FIAR

Rose and I have been using Five in a Row since the start of our school year, and we both love it. If you haven’t guessed from reading this blog, I am a pretty dedicated box-checker/laid-out curriculum type. When we first started homeschooling, I did much more of my own planning and pulling together. I loved doing it, but it took a lot of time and energy, both of which tend to be in short supply around here. I also found that, for whatever reason, the more energy I put into planning and pulling together resources, the less likely I am to actually use my plan properly.  I suspect I enjoy the planning more than the doing, or that I burn out on the planning, and then don’t have the energy to actually do it. 

I don’t want to spend a ton of time planning extra stuff anymore, but do like to spend a little time. FIAR fulfills my planning urge nicely. It takes only a short amount of time to plan each book, and I have a ton of fun doing it. So today, I thought I would share how I go about planning a row. If you aren’t familiar with FIAR , it’s called a “row” because you are supposed to read the book five days in a row, doing related activities each day. We usually take more like two weeks to row each book, because we are doing this alongside Sonlight Core B.

I am currently in the process of planning our next three FIAR books: MadelineMike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and Katy and the Big Snow. Once they are planned, I will let Rose decide which order we do them in. I use a few resources to plan a row: my FIAR manual, the FIAR cookbook, and a couple of blogs.

The first thing I do is crack open my current FIAR manual: Volume 1.  There is no particular reason to finish one volume before starting the next, but that’s how I have decided to do it. (If you are curious about what we have rowed so far, you can click here). I am going to plan Madeline first, so I flip to that section of the manual.

I also start a Word document on my laptop. FIAR provides planning sheets in the back of the manual, but I prefer to type my notes.

I divide my Word document into sections that match the subjects covered in FIAR:

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Art
  • Math
  • Science

I add a fifth section “More Fun” for anything that doesn’t fit in the above categories.

I start by looking through my trusty FIAR manual and adding any ideas I like to my document. Looking at the geography section, I decide I want to have Rose look up France on the map, talk about why cities are located on major rivers, discuss how to have compassion for others, and bring up some of the historical aspects of the illustrations. I do not spend a lot of time going through the manual or making these notes. I just skim the manual and type an abbreviated note in my document, something like:

 “Discuss history in illustrations” (m).

The (m) reminds me that there are discussion notes in my manual, and I will refer to them while we are doing FIAR.

Then I move on to the Language Arts section. By the end, I have a decent list of ideas, just from the manual itself. I do not do everything listed in the manual, though. I pick and choose based on what I feel like doing and what I think Rose will enjoy. If something feels like it would be busywork, repetitive of something we have done already, or will take too much effort,  I skip it. For Madeline, I decide we will not take a trip to a working riverfront or ride on a bus. Both ideas sound great, but it’s the middle of winter and we live in a rural area, so neither is easy to do. However, we have visited rivers and ridden on buses in the past, so I will mention that to her as we read. I am always amazed and inspired by the imaginative things I see families doing with FIAR, but for us, it really is just a fun extra. I don’t want to get overly stressed with a long list of to-do’s that will be hard to fit into our regular day. So, I keep it simple.

After I’ve checked the manual and noted down the ideas I’d like to use, I turn to the FIAR cookbook. The cookbook includes two or three recipes for each story, but I aim to make just one recipe per book (okay, sometimes two).  For Madeline, there are recipes for quiche, french rolls, and a fruit platter.

Rose does not like eggs, so quiche is out. Rolls would be great, but to keep things simple, I think we will make up a fruit platter for dessert one night. I add a note under my “More Fun” section.

Next, I go to one of my favorite FIAR websites Delightful Learning. There are tons of helpful and inspiring FIAR posts there, and I almost always find a neat idea or two to add to my list. I might visit one or two other blogs for ideas, then I look over my notes to see if anything jumps out at me. This time, it occurred to me to look up the Eiffel Tower’s website, where I found and bookmarked an online tour activity we can do, plus a page just for children.

I think I have plenty of ideas now, so I make sure the list looks neat and pretty by adding some bullet points and colored headings before printing it out. Now we’re ready to go!