How I Organize and Plan Our Five in a Row

First of all, for long-range planning I use Google Calendar.  My husband and I share a Google Calendar for our family activities, but I also have a separate Google Calendar for homeschooling.  I can make both accounts overlap and be visible together, or I can select to only show one or the other, which is a big help when planning things out!



Sorry, it is not easy to get a good picture of a computer screen!  But this kind of shows you a snapshot of my Google Homeschool Calendar for next April.  I entered the dates for various activities (when our county fair will be here, when Passover is happening, and the date of Paul Revere’s actual ride in 1775) and then entered (in green) some potential rows to coincide with those happenings.

Keep in mind that this is very flexible.  I won’t hesitate to move the rows around to accommodate our schedule.  We often row alongside some friends of ours, and both of our families are willing to be flexible so that we can make our schedules work together.  With Google calendar it’s easy to simply open an event and change the date to another week.

Storing the Books and Materials:

As for all of our Five in a Row Materials, I keep everything all together on our bookshelves…


I have two shelves for Five in a Row…the shelf on the left houses Volume’s 1 and 2 (all grouped together) and the shelf on the right houses Volume’s 3 and 4.

A close-up picture of the Volume 1 section shows that for each row I have a folder, plus the FIAR title itself, along with any go-along stories and/or coordinating chapter books that I own.


You’ll notice that each of my Five in a Row books has a piece of green tape on the spine.  When I plan potential “rows” by putting them into my Google Calendar, I color-coordinate the events by making them green.  No reason for green…I just happened to pick that color a while back.

Inside each row’s folder, I keep my planning sheet, a copy of the recipe from the Five in a Row Cookbook, a copy of any appendix sheets from the back of that volume’s manual, and any printables or miscellaneous information that goes along with that row.

Here is an example of our row of Madeline, which we just finished…


The books…we own all of these and I didn’t request any from library.


The stuff inside the folder.  As you can see, some of the sheets that I printed from the Homeschoolshare Lapbook have already been colored in or used by Conner and Logan.  Those will get thrown away or saved in their keepsake boxes and I will replace them now with a fresh copy to be used in the future with Barrett and Dalton.  All of the reusable parts of the lapbook will stay stored in this folder for next time.

Here is an example of our row of Papa Piccolo, which we are just starting…

I don’t own any books that seemed like good go-along’s for Papa Piccolo, so I requested many from the library.  (I usually start thinking ahead to next week’s row the week before, that way I have time to request library books.)


There is no lapbook for Papa Piccolo available on Homeschoolshare, nor is there a Fold-N-Learn for this book, so I ended up searching Pinterest for this row.  My general recommendation is to avoid Pinterest, but in this case I needed some ideas.  I didn’t have much creativity in my head for this one because we are just not cat people.  So this row will be heavy on go-along stories and light on worksheets, which is fine.  Each row is different and unique!


This is a planning sheet that I created…


There have been a few different versions over the years, but it has evolved into this one, which fits our needs pretty well.  First I go through the FIAR manual and pick out any of the activities I like.  As you can see, I don’t plan day-by-day.  I try to plan a little bit from each category, if possible, but some rows are heavy in one area and light in others, so it doesn’t always end up with a plan for each category.  Back when we started FIAR, I ordered the pre-colored, laminated story-disks.  I’ve already cut them all out and stuck them to my planning sheets with a piece of tape, where they will be easily found when we row that story.

My goal for each row is to read the story at least twice, and to end up with about 3-4 activities for each day.  That means I try to plan somewhere between 15 and 20 activities total.  An activity can be something as simple as putting the story disk on our map or watching a YouTube Video, or as fantastic as going on a related field trip.  So each day I decide on the fly which activities we are going to do, based on how busy our day is otherwise, and I try to create some variety.

Sometimes I will highlight each idea from my planning sheet as we accomplish it.  Sometimes I end up crossing things out as the week goes on and I realize that idea either won’t work out or isn’t going to be cool the way I envisioned it would.  Sometimes I end up adding stuff to the planning sheet if ideas come to me during the middle of a row.  I like having flexibility and room for creativity, which is why I don’t plan things day-by-day.


Aside from go-along stories and games, plus any lapbooks from Homeschoolshare or the FIAR Fold-N-Learns, there are a few other resources that I pull from often for various rows…



Animal Habitats from Scholastic.  Reproducible mini-books and 3-D manipulatives that teach about oceans, rainforests, polar regions, and 12 other important habitats.

Draw-Write-Now boxed set.  I purchased this years ago and we pull it out occasionally if I find something that goes along with one of our rows.  They almost never do the handwriting portion of it, though.

Giant Science Resource Book from Evan Moore.  I’ve heard about this one off and on over the years as being a good resource for FIAR users.  I found it recently at a really good price used, so I went ahead and bought it.  I’d say it’s pretty cool for basic information and there are definitely things in here that will go along with some of our rows, but not all of them.

Individual Resource Boxes:

In an effort to streamline our rows a little bit, I came up with the idea of having a “resource box” for each child who is actively rowing (at this point it’s Conner and Logan).


It’s basically a scrapbooking case and I have a different color for each child.  I like these scrapbooking cases because they are large enough to store a variety of items, but small enough to transport easily.  Plus, they can be used as a flat surface for writing on if needed.  The downside, obviously, is that they don’t have handles and mostly have to be carried with two hands, so they wouldn’t be good for going on nature walks or anything like that.  They are great for road-trips, though.

Anywho, this is what is currently inside each child’s resource box…


– Some plain white drawing paper for anything they want to draw or sketch.

– A spiral notebook with lined paper for jotting down vocabulary words or any other handwriting activities.

– A Draw-Write-Now drawing and handwriting workbook for when we find a Draw-Write-Now page to accompany a row we are doing.  I don’t think it’s necessary to buy the special Draw-Write-Now workbooks…any sheet of paper would work fine…we just happen to already own some.

Dover Around the World Coloring Book  (Instead of finding various printables for each country we visit, we just use this coloring book as a guide and overview of each country.)

IMG_20150728_143922 (1)

DK Flags of the World Sticker Book  (We use this as their actual “passport” for visiting countries.  There are two flag stickers for every country in the center of the book and then there is a page for each continent.  I like using it as a passport book because we can place our stickers on the countries we visit and see exactly where they are in relation to each other.  Another good way to practice our geography skills.)


Dover My First Human Body Coloring Book  (Every time we do a row that involves learning about a part of the human body, we’ll just find that body part in this coloring book and color it in.  Over time we’ll be able to see how all the parts fit together and function as a whole.)


(In this photo, you can see where we found and colored the appendix on both pages that showed the digestive tract.)

Our 2015 – 2016 Five in a Row Scheduling Plan:

And last but not least, here is my plan for the upcoming year, completely NOT set in stone and likely to change frequently…

August:  Gramma’s Walk and The Tree Lady (FIAR’s brand new Volume 4 digital unit), both of which will tie in nicely to our San Diego beach trip later this month.  Plus Henry the Castaway at the end of the month.

September:  Little Nino’s Pizzeria (because it’s hot outside and we can try to get inside and tour a pizza place or something), Follow the Drinking Gourd ? (my friend was thinking about this one and I can’t remember why), and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (because it will be apple season)

October:  Not sure about the beginning of the month, but towards the end of the month (around Halloween) I’m thinking of doing a Night Animals unit study and learning about bats and other night animals, plus rowing Owl Moon again with our friends.

November:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear (This row has a connection to hospitality, which I thought would go well before Thanksgiving…plus it’s cold in Russia!) and The Finest Horse in Town (To coincide with a rodeo happening here right before Thanksgiving and doing a Fall nature study with it.)

December:  Babar to Duet or Not to Duet ? and The Rag Coat (because cold…and generosity)

January:  Wee Gillis ?, Wild Horses of Sweetbriar (coldness), and Who Owns the Sun (MLK Jr. Day)

February:  Paper Lanterns to go along with Chinese New Year, Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, and Clown of God at the end of the month and then maybe attend the Renaissance Festival.

March:  Ferdinand (to tie in with another local rodeo), The Giraffe That Walked to Paris (because the weather’s nice so we can hit the zoo and see giraffes).

April:  A Pair of Red Clogs, Daniel’s Duck -or- Down, Down the Mountain (the county fair is happening), Paul Revere’s Ride (the date of his actual ride was April 18, 1775), Mrs. Katz and Tush (Passover)

May:  ?

June:  ?


  1. Kendra C. says:

    I absolutely love that you did this!! I’m going to definitely give your recommendations a shot!! I love that your plan is simple, visual, and easy to implement. I’ve tried FIAR several times with one and some of my 4 children for the past 4 years and I think my plans just had too much going on! Too many resources, too many different types of lapbooks, notebooks, printables…ugh! All the prep just sucked the fun out of it! I like that you keep referring to the same workbooks, you have only a couple go-alongs, and you’re so organized! Easy peasy! I think at this point, I just need to find some really good reference spines I can keep referring to. I like some of DK’s First Encyclopedias, we have a couple Osbourne’s…a BrainpopJr subscription…
    Don’t assume that because you don’t have comments that you aren’t being seen and your ideas are being overlooked! I was going to be your millionth lurker, but I just had to write ya and tell you, “Thank you for sharing your life with us!”

    Live blessed!

    • J@cque says:

      Awe, thanks for the sweet words, Kendra! Most of the comments I get on here are spam and I often wonder if I’m just talking to myself here! It’s nice to know somebody is benefiting from this site. I love to write and I’ve always hoped that I could say something that would help somebody else. Good luck to you!

  2. Faith says:

    Thank you for the great ideas! I really like your planning sheet, too. Which program did you use to create it? I’m having a hard time getting my plans down on paper and yours looks perfect 🙂

Leave a Reply