We have officially started our Five in a Row (FIAR) curriculum this week with the book The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen.

For those unfamiliar with FIAR, it is a storybook/unit based curriculum designed for use with 4 to 8 year olds. You read each book every day for five days and each day do a subject related lesson. For example, on Mondays you might do social studies, Tuesdays art, etc. The suggested lessons are simple and sweet, and the potential for expanding the curriculum is limitless.

So as I said, we started with The Glorious Flight. This is the story of Louis Bleriot, an early French aviator who designed, built, and flew his own planes.  After 8 years, 11 planes, and many mishaps, Bleriot became the first pilot to cross the English Channel from France to England in a glorious (and dangerous!) 37 minute flight.

The first time we read this story, neither Henry nor I were terribly thrilled by it. I thought it would be like pulling teeth to get him to sit through it even one more time. Today we read it for the third time, and something amazing has happened. We’ve been able to see and appreciate the richness of the story, language, and art of the book. Now, those who have been “rowing” for awhile will silently chuckle I’m sure. For that is the point of FIAR – delving deeply into one book to truly mine its riches.

We have come to love the unflappable Papa Bleriot and his family, and we have found much to treasure in this beautiful book.

Here are some of the things we’ve done and learned with this book. I’ll try to break it out by subject.

Math and Science
We’ve spent a lot of time flying different kinds of paper airplanes, discussing which ones go the furthest and why. We’ve seen what shapes make better flyers, which glide best, which go the fastest, etc. These experiments led to a discussion of angles as I instructed Henry to launch a plane at a 45 degree angle and he asked what an angle is. So we got out paper and pencil, learned what an angle is, how a triangle has three angles, a square has four, etc. We learned about right angles, 180 degree angles, and 45 degree angles. Not too bad for not having a math curriculum!

We will supplement the science with The Way Things Work video on flight. As soon as I can get it from the library.

History and Social Studies
In addition to Louis Bleriot, we’ve learned about the Wright Brothers, Ruth Law, and Lt. Gail Halvorsen a.k.a. the Chocolate Pilot. We still have books to read about Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and some other early pilots.

Through these books we’ve learned some geography. Henry now knows where France and England are on the map and that they are separated by the English Channel.  He’s learned that people in France speak French. He knows where to find Chicago and New York City on the map and that Chicago and NYC are cities in the states of Illinois and New York.

We’ve learned lessons of perseverance and the importance of making reparations. We’ve learned how much can be learned from making mistakes.

One of the most “schooly” things I do with Henry is our “word of the day.” This is simply a word, chosen from the book and usually a verb, that I write on our chalk board. The first time I did this I was amazed at how much he learned from this simple lesson. I never say a word about it. I wait for him to notice it. He’ll either sound it out or ask me to read it for him. Then he’ll point out what he notices about it. This week we’ve discussed the “silent e” that makes the “i” say it’s name in the word glide. We reviewed the rule “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking” with sail. And we learned that “y” is sometimes a vowel with the word fly.

We learned about onomatopia and will review the concept with tomorrow’s word of the day, CRASH!

My favorite language activity involved using the Lord Alfred Tennyson Poem, The Eagle. Henry loves it and I hope we’ll both have it memorized by the end of the week. Here’s the excerpt.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Ringed with the azure world, he stands. 
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls. 
I looked for a good read aloud poem at the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I was simply looking for something that somehow related to flight in some way. I chose this poem before I had even read The Glorious Flight. So I was thrilled when I came across this passage in the book describing the first flight of Bleriot II:

“Like a great swan, the beautiful glider rises into the air . . .  . . . and shoots down into the river with a splash that frightens the fishes.” 

We discussed how the images were similar and different and compared the language used by each author.

One of the lessons suggested in FIAR is a discussion on perspective. We talked about how some of the pictures are drawn looking up into the sky and others are drawn looking from the sky down on the village and people. I then gave Henry a camera and let him take some pictures from different perspectives. I’ll get those up ASAP. Henry’s favorite perspective was the “extreme close up!”
We haven’t gotten to this lesson this week (though the discussion reparations would certainly fall here too). I looked up the patron saint of pilots and discovered St. Joseph of Cupertino, a.k.a. the Flying Friar.  We have The Reluctant Saint coming from Netflix so we can learn more about this fascinating man of God during family movie night. I’m hoping the story will be compelling enough that Henry will ignore the fact that it’s in black and white. Otherwise, Ryan and I will watch it together and share the story with the kids afterward.
Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much this curriculum has had to offer us – especially since it wasn’t a book I was really looking forward to! Next week we’ll “row” How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. I’m expecting that one to be even more fun!

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