Rowing The Finest Horse in Town {FIAR}

Horses are a big thing around our house. Both girls take riding lessons and older sister Grace is very involved at the barn. We spend tons of time driving back and forth to the barn and many weekends at horse shows.  So it was fun for Rose and I to have a Five in a Row book with a horse theme.

The Finest Horse in Town is a selection from FIAR Volume 3.

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • This story takes place in Maine, which just happens to be my very favorite state. We are heading there for vacation in a few weeks and I am greatly looking forward to it. We found Maine on the map. 
  • We talked about what “turn of the century” means, because that’s when this book takes place. 
  • This book offered a good opportunity to talk about dishonesty, since one of the characters steals the finest horse in town. We talked about how that man was treated after he was found out. So often, being dishonest comes with a built-in consequence! Especially in stories:). 
  • The main characters in the story give gifts to other characters who help them throughout the story. We played a little memory game to see if she could remember what was given to whom.
*Language Arts*
  • The manual suggested using the opening of the book “Long before my mother was born, her aunts owned a store…” to introduce the concept of reminiscing, so we did just that!
  • We talked about how this book is really three stories in one…the author comes up with three different explanations for who may have cared for Prince. It’s an interesting and fun technique, and we spent just a few minutes discussing it. 
  • We talked about the medium used ~ watercolor ~ and spent some time looking through the illustrations to notice the many details pointed out in the manual. There were so many things ~ such as the story opening and closing with a watch face illustration ~ that I am not sure I would have picked up on my own. This is exactly what I love about FIAR!
  • We talked about how overlapping objects, like the bowl of candy in the general store, are drawn. We arranged fruit in a bowl to see the effect first-hand. You can only see partial outlines of some of the fruit. 

  • She tried the technique out for herself, with watercolors.


  • We reviewed how many years are in a century and did the simple counting by hundreds activity suggested in the manual.
  • We reviewed the two’s time tables.
  • We discussed why it is important for a shopkeeper to be able to tell time. Rose sometimes struggles with this skill, so it was nice to have a way to introduce the concept of its importance so gently. 
  • We touched briefly on how to care for horses, always a popular topic. 

  • And we briefly discussed ice houses and how important ice was in the “old days” and what a luxury it was. I also shared the information from the manual with her about why leaves change color in the fall. 
And that was it for this row! The last rows of our year tend to be pretty light as we are trying to finish things up. I’ll have our row of Truman’s Aunt Farm up soon, we just need to bake an ant cake to finish that off. 

Rowing Paul Revere’s Ride {FIAR}

I have three long overdue Five in a Row “rows” to share in the upcoming weeks, starting with Paul Revere’s Ride. This poem has such a wonderful cadence to it – it is just sheer fun to read aloud, yes even several days in a row! And I love this picture book version with it’s lovely illustrations. It really brought the whole story to life for us. 

I grew up in New England and my kids are growing up in New England, so reading about early American history is always pretty exciting for us. By a happy accident we rowed this book right around the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride!

Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We talked about when the ride of Paul Revere took place and I had her add the date ~ April 18, 1775 ~ to her timeline book.
  • We found Boston on the map, and I reminded her of a previous row that took place there.
  • We talked about the signal used to alert Paul Revere and the other riders to the movements of the British troops “one if by land, two if by sea”….referring to the number of lanterns that would be lit in the Old North Church tower. 

*Language Arts*
  • As suggested in the manual, I asked Rose if she knew why the Somerset was in italics; she remembered from a previous row that that is how you deal with ship names in text. 
  • I read her the information on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from the manual, and we read The Village Blacksmith, another of his poems.
  • There was a long vocab list in the manual ~ lots of new and interesting words in this poem…like “spectral”, “grenadiers”, and “impetuous”.  I briefly went over them with her.
  • Our manual pointed out that much of this story revolves around light. Using the suggestions found in that section, we examined the illustrations for all sources of light.
  • The manual also includes an interesting section on colonial architecture. I shared a bit of that information with her, and we looked for examples in the illustrations. 
  • We examined the scene where the British ship is reflected in the water. We talked about how the artist portrayed that reflection and another, quite different, reflection later in the book.


  • We put our math caps on and figured out  how old Longfelllow was when he wrote this poem -it’s pretty amazing!

  • We talked about what causes fog and why it tends to form over rivers, as it does in this story.

*More fun*

  • Rose watched a Liberty Kids episode about Paul Revere’s Ride. And later, I bought the whole series for us to watch together over the summer. 
My next FIAR post will feature our row of The Finest Horse in Town. Thanks for visiting!

Rowing When I Was Young in the Mountains {FIAR}

Rose and I have finished all of the Five in a Row books I wanted to cover with her from volume two (you can see all of our rows to date here).  I chose to skip several titles from this volume for various reasons, usually (but not always) because the book was out of print and/or not available to buy.  We will not be rowing Wee Gillis; They Were Strong and Good; Babar; Down Down the Mountain; Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car; Gramma’s Walk; or Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Now, I am a ‘finisher’ so it pains me not to do every single book, but Rose is at the upper age range for FIAR right now and that factors into my decision, too.  We will just focus on covering the titles I want to do from volume three, rather than worrying about chasing down every last book. I have about six more books I want to do from volume three, which we have already begun.

Okay, on to our row of When I was Young in the Mountains!

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We discussed the setting for this book ~ Appalachia~ and I showed Rose the general area on the map.
  • This story features a traveling photographer. We talked about what that meant and why people needed them then and not so much  now. And I tried very hard not to cringe at this picture of the kids with a giant dead snake around their necks, because I don’t want to pass my totally unreasonable fear of snakes to Rose!
  • We looked for old-fashioned details in the illustrations…such as the outhouse behind Grandma’s house and the water pump the children use. 

    *Language Arts*
    • I asked Rose to identify the repeating phrase that runs though the book…hint it’s the title! We talked about how this choice really helps tie the whole story together.
    • We discussed the theme of the book – which the manual tells us is contentment: being happy with just having enough. The lives of the children portrayed in this story are certainly a great deal simpler than our own lives!

    • In the illustration with the water pump below, the artist chose to illustrate the sky with just a little bit of color. We discussed that technique, which we agreed was a pretty awesome and simple way to get your point across. 

    • One illustration shows Grandma pouring milk from a pitcher and we talked about how the artist drew the milk – the stream of milk is curved. I had her pour some water from a pitcher to a mug to see the effect for herself. 
    • Using the notes in the manual to start us off, we discussed some of the illustrations in greater depth. We talked about how the artist chose to portray the faces of the characters very simply, and how a limited palette of colors is used throughout. There is a wonderful double-page illustration of the general store, and we made a giant list of all of the items we could see for sale at the store. We also took some time to admire the simplicity of the dedication page and how it really sums up the simple essence of this story. 

    • Because there is a scale featured in the general store illustration, we did a quick review of pounds and ounces. Then, I had her choose several items to weigh. She chose her owl from our row of Owl Moon

    • There was a suggestion to make up math problems using the scenario of the children filling buckets at the well. So I asked if they each filled a pail, how many trips would they need to take to get six buckets, and similar problems. She also made a bar graph showing the types of animals in the story and how many times they show up in the illustrations. 

    I figured it would be snakes, since they seemed to be everywhere, but actually chickens won!


    • I read Rose the information about snakes from the manual and then she made a snake egg. The idea is to soak an egg in vinegar for a few days until the shell dissolves. But two days later I was checking it and somehow managed to break the shell ~ experiment fail!

    • As suggested in the manual, we used the illustration of the family’s dinner to discuss the four food groups. Then, we fixed the cornbread recipe from the FIAR cookbook and had it with pinto beans for lunch. 

    And that wraps up our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains! Stay tuned for our first FIAR volume three selection!

      Rowing Owl Moon {FIAR}

      I still remember reading Owl Moon with Grace when she was little ~ we had checked it out from the library, and I was lucky enough to find a used copy at a book sale shortly afterwards.  This is one of those books I can almost recite by heart. You know, one of the good ones:). Our copy is a bit well-loved.

      Here’s what we did!

      *Social Studies*
      • We discussed maturity. The main character in this story (we never learn her name) is a young girl who is finally old enough to “go owling” with her father. To do this, she has to be brave enough to walk in the dark woods and have enough self-control to stay quiet. 
      • We read the bit in the front of the book about where the story takes place – the farm shown in the illustrations is actually the farm of John Schoenherr, the illustrator.  We thought that was pretty neat!

      *Language Arts*
      • We reviewed what a metaphor is using the line “The trees stood still as giant statues”. Then, we hunted for similes throughout the book, as suggested in the  manual. Example: “quiet as a dream”.
      • I defined hyperbole for her – this is an exaggerated statement ~ so when our main character says she stared at the owl for maybe a hundred minutes, she is using hyperbole. 
      • There are so many wonderful lines in this little picture book. We talked about how so many of the lines help us “see” the story ~ even without looking at the illustrations. 
      • This is an “I” story ~ so we discussed first person point of view briefly. 

      • Using the manual, we looked for little details in the illustrations. Many of the illustrations have animals hiding in them, for example. 
      • We carefully studied the aerial view of the farm ~ the manual suggested this was the owl’s point of view. I love this illustration!

      • We discussed drawing trees, since there are so many throughout the illustrations. There was a nice explanation in the manual about how to teach your child to draw trees. I asked Rose if she’d like to do it with me, but she declined. She didn’t feel confident in her ability to draw trees. I didn’t push it, but next time she did an art lesson, I noticed that she included several trees. I love when that happens!
      • We reviewed units of time – how many minutes are in an hour, in two hours, in three hours, and so on. We also reviewed how many hours are in a day, two days, three days, and so on. 
      • The main character says that she and her father watched the owl for “one minute, two minutes, maybe even a hundred minutes”. As suggested in the manual, I challenged Rose to tell me when she thought a minute had gone by (I used a timer). She actually got it almost to the second ~ I think doing timed poses at gymnastics helped with that!

      • There was a lot of information in the manual about owls, so I shared that with her. We looked in a local nature guide to see what kinds of owls live near us. We also checked out the owl calls in a bird call book we own. I am not sure if I have mentioned this book here on the blog before, but we absolutely adore it! We have had it for many, many years and it still works perfectly and still draws a crowd whenever someone gets it out. The dogs, however, are not fans;).

      • We talked about the moon and briefly reviewed the phases ~ we just did a project with this for Harold and the Purple Crayon, so we kept it short and sweet. 
      • We looked at the tiny tracks in the snow on the first page of the text. The manual pointed out that they are so small they could have been left out, but since they are included, they make the story that much more authentic. We whole-heartedly agreed. I had planned to go look for tracks with her, but we ran out of time. Instead, she noticed some tracks in the snow all by herself when she went out to collect eggs. 
      • The manual suggested reading “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle”. Luckily, we have The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, so we were able to do just that. I miss reading those stories. I told Grace she should read them now, as a teenager. They actually get better with age, I think. 
      • We talked a bit about shadows, and why the father’s shadow is long and the girl’s is short and round. The manual pointed out that this was covered in Three Names, and I was grateful for that reminder, as I don’t know if I would have thought of it on my own. 

      *More Fun*
      • We made the root beer floats from the Five in a Row cookbook to go along with this story. Not really sure root beer floats had much to do with the story ~ but it was a nice excuse to make them!

      • And she dissected a real owl pellet, along with her siblings.

      A close-up of her brother’s pellet…I ordered a set of five and they all had neat things in them. I think Rose preferred the virtual dissection, though. 
       And that’s it for this row! My next FIAR post will be about our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains. 

      Rowing Harold and the Purple Crayon {FIAR}

      One more Five in a Row post, and then I think I’ll be caught up! We are currently rowing Owl Moon, at a very slow pace. But this post is all about our recent row of Harold and the Purple Crayon. This is such a unique story ~ but at first I considered skipping it. I thought it might be too “young” for Rose due to the limited text and sparse illustrations, but I am so glad I didn’t! Turns out, there is a lot to get out of this little picture book, at any age.

      Here’s what we did!

      *Language Arts*

      • We discussed the progressive setting of this book ~ which is what makes the story so fun, because Harold actually creates his settings as he goes…with his trusty purple crayon. Rose began making her own purple crayon story, which I thought was a really neat idea, but she lost interest partway through. I stored it on her school shelf just in case she ever feels like going back to it. 
      • We spent a few minutes chuckling over the humorous aspects of this story ~ puns, and things like that. For example, when Harold gets in bed at the end of the story, he draws up the covers…with his crayon! When he is done sailing, he literally “makes land”.

      • One of the illustrations in the book gave us a reason to discuss vanishing point ~ the technique of making a road or path look like it disappears into the distance. We tried the technique out on a piece of scrap paper (not shown here!).
      • We also discussed the technique of foreshortening ~ making something look closer in an illustration, This was used in the illustration of the pies Harold set out for his picnic. 

      • As suggested in the manual, we tried this technique out with a piece of string to make a foreshortened circle….

      • Rose has been working on her multiplication tables this year, so I was pleased to see the idea in the FIAR manual to practice multiplying with pieces of pie. We looked at the picture where Harold has five pies set out, and I asked her how many pieces there would be in total if each pie was divided into 2 pieces, 3  pieces, 4 pieces, etc. In this way, we reviewed the entire fives table. Then, we did the same for the illustration of nine pies and the nines table. 
      • We also got in a fractions lesson with this fun, printable pizza pie game. She played this several times – with me, then with her brothers and her dad. 
      • I had her list all the ways she could remember that Harold traveled in the story, then we brainstormed other ways he could have traveled. This was an idea from the FIAR manual. For the record, Rose’s favorite way to travel is by horse;). 
      • Harold climbs a hill at one point to figure out where he is, and we discussed how this is something you can do if you are lost…but I stressed that staying put if you are lost may make better sense, depending on the circumstances. 
      • The manual suggested doing a review of the phases of the moon. We decided to do this with cookies! The printable is here. This girl loves Oreos, so naturally, this was right up her alley!

      *More Fun*
      • We decided to have a pie-themed dinner to wrap up this row. Rose helped her Dad make two chicken pot-pies and a blueberry pie ~ with a lattice crust ~ for dessert. 
      And that wraps up our row of Harold and the Purple Crayon! I believe we will be finishing up Owl Moon tomorrow; I have just a couple little activities I want to get in, like dissecting some owl pellets! And then we’ll be moving on to When I Was Young in the Mountains
      Till next time!

      Rowing The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge {FIAR}

      I have two Five in a Row adventures to catch you up on (our current “row” is Owl Moon). First up is our row of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. This is one of those picture books that just about screams “classic” to me. It’s a story about a little red lighthouse that is proud of the important role it plays, until the Great Gray Bridge takes over its job…or does it?

      Here’s what we did!

      *Social Studies*

      • This book takes place in New York City, so we found NYC on our map. Rose has been to New York City, but she was just a toddler, so she doesn’t remember! But I told her about some of my favorite sights. As a side-note, we were also reading The Cricket in Times Square around this time ~ a completely unplanned, but wonderful coincidence!
      • The FIAR manual recommended the book My New York as a go-along book, so I decided to splurge and purchase a copy. I am so glad I did. This book is lavishly illustrated, with so many little details…it’s the kind of book you can pore over and find something different each time. I read through it with Rose, and then she had fun finding the little orange cat in each illustration. I LOVE this book!
      • The back cover flap of the Little Red Lighthouse tells a bit about the true Little Red Lighthouse and how it was saved. I read the information with Rose, and I am actually hoping to plan a trip to see the real Little Red Lighthouse this spring, since it’s only a few hours from us!
      • We discussed pride, using the notes in the  manual. The Little Red Lighthouse is described as being VERY VERY PROUD (yes, in all caps). We talked about what made him proud and at what point he goes a bit far in his pride (good lessons here!). 
      • As suggested in the manual, we discussed why it is wrong to jump to conclusions. The lighthouse reached the unfortunate conclusion that he wasn’t wanted anymore, when in reality, a logical explanation exists. 
      *Language Arts*

      • This book, like our previous row of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, provided a good opportunity to review personification, both in the text of the story and in the illustrations….
      • We discussed how balanced the title is ~ two phrases balanced with “and”. Something I would not have thought to point out!
      • We looked for and found several compound words in the story.

      • As suggested in the manual, I had Rose search the illustrations for the one that showed the most contrast in size between the little lighthouse and the great bridge…we agreed that the last illustration was best…
      • I pointed out the repeating lines used in many of the illustrations ~ in the bridge cables, fences, and more. 
      • We discussed how the artist indicated that it was night – just a bit of blue shading and a couple of stars can do the trick! Then, she made her own nighttime picture. 

      • We noticed how there are really only three colors used throughout the illustrations, but how they are enough to make the story come alive. 
      • There was a long and interesting section on rivers in the manual, so I shared a few facts with her. I thought about doing a proper river study, but decided to keep things simple. 
      • We talked about the job of lighthouses ~ we live in New England so we have seen many lighthouses ~ in fact, during this row we took a daytrip to Nubble Light, one of our favorites. It was an absolutely beautiful day!
      • Then, for fun, we made our own Little Red Lighthouse, following these directions.
      So cute!

      *More Fun*
      • We made one of the recipes from the Five in a Row cookbook for this story ~ the foccacia bread. We had it with lasagna, baked from our favorite recipe, rather than the one in the cookbook. 

      The bread was a bit hit! My next FIAR post will be all about our recent row of Harold and the Purple Crayon. And just as a reminder, you can click on the tab at the top of this blog to see all of our FIAR adventures to date. 
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Rowing Miss Rumphius {FIAR}

      Here’s the last pre-holiday Five in a Row adventure to catch you up on! Miss Rumphius was a fun book to row as winter set in ~ it reminded us that spring is really not far away!
      Here’s what we did!
      *Social Studies*
      • We are told Miss Rumphius lives by the sea, but we aren’t told exactly where…however there are many clues in the story, such as an icy harbor scene and this illustration of Miss R with some young visitors…so we assume the story takes place in Maine, which just happens to be one of my very favorite states!
      • We discussed how Miss R does what she can. Instead of sitting around doing nothing when her back hurts, she takes small steps towards accomplishing her goals. A wonderful lesson!
      • In this story, we see Miss R grow from a little girl to an elderly woman. Along the way, a lot changes in her world! Using the FIAR manual prompts, we spotted things like horse-drawn carriages in the illustrations of her youth, and cars as she gets older. 
      • Miss R is called a “crazy old lady” at one point, so we talked about why it is hurtful to call names and why people do it….the story characters changed their minds when they saw what a wonderful thing she had done!
      • Miss R is quite the world traveler! In the story she visits a beautiful island, mountains, jungles, and deserts. We had a brief discussion about each of these environments and I reminded Rose that she has visited tropical places, mountains, and a desert herself. 
      • As suggested in the manual, we discussed what the “Land of the Lotus Eaters” means, and we looked for a photograph online of a camel kneeling down (since Miss R hurts her back getting off a camel).
      *Language Arts*
      • We had a brief discussion of the Dewey Decimal System, since Miss R works in a library. I had planned to go to the library and show Rose how to find a book on a specific topic, but we never made it during this row ~ this is something we have done in the past though. 
      • We went over the vocabulary for this story ~ mostly fun sea-related words, like “chandlers”.
      • We discussed the medium used in the illustrations by Barbara Cooney ~ the manual tells us she used acrylic paint and Prismacolor pencils. 
      • The manual includes many fun details to look for in the illustrations ~ such as the same pictures, and even the same type of cat, in the living room when Alice is a little girl and when she is an elderly lady in her own living room. There are so many fun little details in this story, and I am not sure I would have picked up on even half of them without the notes in the manual. 
      • We talked a bit about Islamic influence in architecture, using the illustration with Miss R and the camel (which is above) as our jumping off point. 
      • In several of these paintings, the artist shows wind blowing…like in this picture, where the curtains are blowing back from the bed. We looked for more examples in the story and discussed how the artist showed that there was a breeze in each one. Then, Rose made her own picture of trees blowing in the wind. 
      • There are a few illustrations in this book that show the sun at high noon, with shadows puddled right underneath people and objects. We shone a flashlight directly down on this little porcelain owl to achieve a similar effect. 

      • Miss R. plants five bushels of lupine seeds. We happen to have a bushel basket in the house, so I showed her that. Five bushels is a lot of seeds!
      • She counted all the people in the story from beginning to end, and came up with 134. 
      • Since this is a book that features gardening, Rose sprouted a bean seed in a glass jar. We watched it develop over a couple of weeks. 

      Fun! She is hoping a bean will grow on it;). We also started a few amaryllis bulbs around this time, so we had lots of things growing. 
      • I took out some shells from past trips to the beach, and we listened to see if we could hear the ocean in them ~ we could!
      •  The manual called our attention to the stuffed birds in the illustration of the library where Miss R works. I asked her to identify the species shown, then she chose a bird coloring page to do.

        • Little Alice has a set routine for her life…we talked about Rose’s routine and how it helps her stay healthy. Then, she set out to make  a collage of favorite foods.

        Because we did this row right around Christmas time, we ended up cutting it a bit short and we never made the recipes in the FIAR cookbook ~ they looked good though, and I hope to get to them at a later point. Also, I have a note in my planner to purchase a  lupine plant this spring 💗.

        Well, that’s it for this row! We are currently completing our row of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, and I should have that up soon. And in the meantime I am working on a mid-year update for each child…what we’re using and a bit about how the year is going.

        Thanks for stopping by!