Friday, February 12, 2016

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!


  1. Hi! I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on whether you think Rose learns more from FIAR or from your other Bookshark lessons. We've used FIAR for 3 years now, and even though our lessons have been memorable, I often wonder if it is enough for my kids...especially my oldest who is 8. We also do math and language arts, but I debate frequently about whether they learn enough compared to the amount of time I put into it. I often think I spend more time planning than actually teaching! But then I worry I'll have a hard time sticking to a scheduled curriculum. How long do you plan to add FIAR for Rose? Will you go through all of the volumes? Thanks in advance!

    1. If I had to say, I think she learns more from BookShark, mostly because we spend more time doing it. FIAR is something we only spend about 20 minutes a day on; we spend probably three times that on BS. I do think that FIAR would probably be enough for her, but if I wasn't also doing BS I would probably be fleshing it out more than I am (which sounds like what you are doing) and I could see myself having the same debate that you are. I would probably also add in another read-aloud or two, just because she loves to be read to so much.

      For us, I consider FIAR just a little extra fun in our homeschool, and she's my "baby" and last just making some fun memories feels like enough. I don't spend more than 20 minutes planning each book and I don't add very much besides what is already in the manual.

      Not sure if I answered your question or not - but - if I had to choose between BS & FIAR I would choose BS, those readings are really the highlight of her day and the thing she always wants to do first. FIAR is kind of the icing on the cake right now. I really like that icing though:).

      I am hoping to get through all of the volumes with her; she will turn 8 this spring and we are just about finished volume 1, so I think (hope!) I stand a good chance before she thinks she's too old for it all.

    2. Thank you Kim! My oldest son always seems to groan when we sit down to read (sad for me, since I love reading to them so much), which is why I've always hesitated to go with Bookshark or even Build Your Library, because as much as I love the idea of all of those chapter books, it would be a real struggle to get all the reading done every day, I think. With that being said, FIAR has worked for us over the past few years, so I think I should just stick with it, and start trying to incorporate even just one regular read-aloud chapter book per day and work our way up to a BS or BYL program. Thanks, your advice has been helpful. :)

      I have all of our "rows" up on my blog if you ever want to check them out. Some of them have really been fun and memorable, but we do a lot of the big extras which take up more time (which is why we've only averaged about 1 row per month over the!). We've done about half of the books in Vol 1-4.

      Love reading your blog, because I think it calms the inner planner in me. :) Now that my "baby" is turning two, I'm really trying to work my way up to having a better schedule for our homeschool. Thanks and take care!

    3. Thanks so much for the blog link - looks like your family does a ton of fun stuff. I'm bookmarking it for next time I plan a row:).

  2. I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts about Jacque's questions, too!

    You have inspired me so much with your FIAR activities, I am now considering using it not only with my 6-year old, but also my 9-year old. Or should it be Beyond FIAR? And is either one enough for a 9-year old? (with the addition of math, etc.)

    I'm also interested to know how you incorporate FIAR with BKSK. Do you have one day a week set aside for FIAR? Or do you do a little bit each day?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi! I definitely think a 9 year old would enjoy many of the activities in FIAR. Rose is 7 and some of the activities seem a bit young for her, while some she is not quite ready for. I think a 9 y.o. could still get quite a bit out of FIAR, but depending on the child, I think I would be inclined to add something else to it - maybe a read-aloud and some light history.

      I haven't looked much at Beyond FIAR (until just now), but I think it looks pretty awesome. I wonder if it would work for you to have your 6 y.o. do FIAR and your 9 y.o. do Beyond, and then your 9 y.o. could participate in whatever aspects of FIAR they like as well?

      My 10 y.o. often listens in while I read the books with Rose and he has helped her with many of the little go-along things we have done. And the other day, when Rose was doing her FIAR art, her 13 y.o. brother wanted to do it too!

      I do plan on looking into Beyond FIAR myself soon, because I was curious if I could use it with Rose when we finish FIAR, but I wasn't sure if it would be too much to use alongside BookShark. It seems pretty complete, just looking at it quickly.

      I incorporate FIAR pretty randomly:). My aim is to do a little bit of FIAR each day, in addition to our BookShark readings, math, and language arts. But in reality, I do BookShark most days, and FIAR some days, then other days if I am trying to finish up a row we might do just FIAR. So- mostly, it's just a little bit (15-20 min) of FIAR each day, along with BookShark. I also do some of the project-type stuff outside of our normal school hours. Like, today we took the day off, but I had her make paper snowflakes with her Dad which I didn't get to during the week.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Thank you so much, Kim. Yes, that was very helpful! Well, both of your responses were actually helpful. I am thinking now I might stick with BKSK for the oldest, and then use FIAR for the 6-year old. I think there is enough interesting material in both that they can each float back and forth, if they'd like. Or do everything. I just worry about how good of a fit BKSK would be for the 6-year old -- she still struggles with some chapter books. I really think FIAR will be right up her alley. Thanks, again!


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