Early in our homeschooling journey, I was introduced to Five in a Row by a group of homeschool mom friends. I immediately fell in love with the gentle approach to learning using good books as the basis for lessons in all subjects. It really shaped our educational style as we became relaxed, literature-rich, delight-directed, lapbooking, unit study homeschoolers. Five in a Row, written by homeschool mom Jane Claire Lambert, encourages following natural trails of learning and exploration and making connections between the lessons and our real world every day.
We eventually “rowed” through all the levels of Five in a Row. I was even able to use Before Five in a Row as a preschool base for my younger daughters. We moved on to Beyond Five in a Row with my oldest daughter. Beyond Five in a Row covers chapter books up through sixth grade. Now that my daughter is 13, we were sad that our Five in a Row days were over (though I’ll continue with her younger sisters).
As I was perusing the Rainbowresource.com website (one of my favorite places to shop online and make a homeschool wishlist!), I noticed that there is yet another level of Five in a Row that we hadn’t done — Above & Beyond Five in a Row. I was so excited to see that it was designed for grades 7-8! Just right for Big Sis!
I received free products from RainbowResource.com for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. I was compensated for my time to write this post.
Above & Beyond Five in a Row Literature Unit Study for Middle School
One of the great things about using Five in a Row is the wealth of support, reviews, and general hints available from other “Rowers.” Just Google Five in a Row and you’ll find lots of blogs offering great descriptions of their activities and photos to show how they use it in their homeschools. The forum alone is a treasure trove of support. That’s why I was so shocked to come up empty on reviews and personal experience stories of using Above & Beyond Five in a Row! Five in a Row moms are generally so enthusiastic that it left me wondering, “Where are the middle school Rowers out there?”
I continued my investigation on Rainbowresource.com because, in case you don’t know, they write really great reviews right there on the site. They aren’t generic descriptions either. They are real reviews written by their team who have actually looked through the material and in many cases, used it themselves. It’s not a sales pitch either because I’ve seen them point out both pros and cons. That is so helpful to me whenever I’m shopping for new homeschool resources.
After reading the description of Above & Beyond Five in a Row, I was pretty convinced that we needed to try it. My only questions then were “Is it meaty enough for middle school work? What will I need to supplement?”
The Basics of Above & Beyond Five in a Row
Above & Beyond Five in a Row was written by Jane Claire’s daughter, Becky Jane Lambert. It uses the book Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field as the basis for this 6-8 week unit study. That book had been on our want-to-read list for a while so that was a bonus for us. It’s a Newbery Award winner that follows the adventures of a wooden doll after she is first carved in the early 1800s in Maine. She ends up traveling the world and the reader is treated to an engaging look at history and geography through her eyes.
The study guide is divided into sections to correspond to each chapter in the book. Very easy to follow — read a chapter in the book, complete the activities in the study guide. Some chapters take longer than others because there is more to explore, depending on the material covered. As Becky Jane reminds us in the introduction, there are no prizes for finishing first. You will get out of the study what you put into it. The goal is to savor the learning process, enjoy reading, gain knowledge, explore interests, and learn new skills.
Five principal areas of study are covered:
- History and Geography
- Language Arts
- Fine Arts
- Human Relationships
Each lesson section covers those five principal areas of study in this way:
- Exploring My World
- Science and Stuff
- The World of Words
- Create, Express, and Appreciate
- Getting Along with Others
- Research Paper
- Service Project
You will need to supplement:
By the end of the study, your child will have written an entire research paper and completed a service project. Above & Beyond Five in a Row is written from a Christian worldview and contains a section on Bible and Character lessons. This is the idea behind the service project as well — becoming a positive, contributing member of your community and the world at large.
How Above & Beyond Five in a Row Works for Us
As we’ve gone through the lessons and chapters, Big Sis has been able to work independently on activities, yet we still have a daily review together. She narrates what she has read to me (and her younger sisters who want to know the continuing saga of Hitty!) and asks me any additional questions that have come up. We then spend some time doing further research on the Internet or at the library to learn more on the particular subject that has piqued her interest. We’ve researched everything from Adelina Patti to Ireland to whaling ships to John Greenleaf Whittier to the Civil War, Quakers and abolitionists. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was an excellent choice for a living history book to study!
We’re supplementing math with Life of Fred. If you have a creative child who loves words and isn’t quite as fond of math, this could be your ideal solution. We’re loving Life of Fred Pre-Algebra. Yes, I said Pre-Algebra. It’s math (and more) in a way that makes sense to us! [Seriously, I need to write a separate post about Life of Fred. I’m adding that to my to-do list now.]
For the grammar/spelling/penmanship, we’re using a handy dandy Writing Journal. It has 64-lined pages where Big Sis has been recording the new vocabulary words she has learned in this study. She gets to practice penmanship and spelling all in one shot that way. At the front inside cover of the journal there is a section on parts of speech and a list of 100 high frequency words. At the back there is a list of 100 commonly misspelled words. These little reference sections are great for review and impromptu spelling bees.
We have not completed the entire unit study. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed what we’ve done so far for the past month and will continue to do the lessons and activities in Above & Beyond Five in a Row. Big Sis did already finish reading Hitty because she — okay, we — just couldn’t wait to find out what happened and we didn’t want to rush through the unit study just to be done. That’s part of the beauty of taking a relaxed approach to homeschooling and just enjoying the learning process. I love that the people at Five in a Row know that so well and encourage it!
These were all available from Rainbowresource.com, making it a truly simple one-stop shop. I like simple. I also like getting boxes of books in the mail. Win-win!
After using Above & Beyond Five in a Row for a month, I realized that my initial concern about it being “enough” for middle school was unfounded. I should’ve known that it would make an excellent spine and jumping off point for further study, because it truly has. If you loved Five in a Row for the early years, you’ll love it for middle school, too. On the other hand, if your child is going into a STEM career or focusing on math and science for a future medical career, Above & Beyond Five in a Row might not be the best fit for your studies. In the end, you know your child’s individual interests and learning needs best. Because we love literature-rich studies with an emphasis on writing and unit studies in general, this has been perfect for us. You know that happy feeling you get as a homeschool mom when you have found a *great thing* for your kiddos? Yeah, that!
Connect with Rainbowresource.com
The Rainbowresource.com catalog is legendary among homeschoolers. If you’ve never seen it or spent any time on their website, drop what you’re doing and go now. Seriously. I’ve often said that if Rainbowresource.com doesn’t have what I’m looking for, it probably doesn’t exist. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. If you’re a Five in a Row homeschooler or want to be, they have everything you need including literature packs that have all the books for each volume.
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