Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TOS Review: Beyond Five in a Row

This review was due yesterday.

I hate posting reviews late. It's not professional. It frustrates publishers. It makes me look bad. It's just plain old poor form. But the fact is, I tried to finish this review several times yesterday. I had a draft in my folder, ready to go. All I had to do was plug in some key information and hit "publish." That's not too tall an order, is it?

One slight problem: my review copy of Beyond Five in a Row Volume 3 was missing.

While I am by no means a stalwart example of orderliness, I do a pretty good job of keeping my business affairs in order. Therefore, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had left the green, softbound book to the left of my computer keyboard--my launching pad, if you will, for the project next in line. When I didn't find it there, I wasn't terribly concerned, however. If you'll remember, my house in on the market. Mr. Blandings had been the one to tidy the desk area in our "Show-ready Sweep" on Sunday before we left for church. It was entirely possible that he had relocated the book without realizing it was for review.

I perused my school shelves and came up empty. I did a scan of the usual haunts: my bedside table, that persistent pile on the kitchen counter, the gameroom shelves. Nothing. I put in a call to Mr. Blandings at the office, only to receive word that he was in meetings all day. Desperate, I shot not one, but two emails to his Blackberry. He replied (in true, "Gee, hon ... I'm busy here!" fashion): "Did not touch book. Last seen on desk by comp."

Which wasn't very helpful at all, now was it?

Daylight was fading by the time I took up the search again. As I was plunking Oliver and Manolin into the bath, it occurred to me to question the troops.

"Atticus? Have you seen that green book that was by my computer? The one with The Cricket in Times Square study that we did in it?"

"Oh, yeah. It's in Jo's room. We were reading it," he replied before scampering off to take advantage of his nightly free time before stories.

They were reading it?

I don't know how much you know about Five in a Row, but folks, it isn't designed to be reading material. This is a curriculum, after all. The book I reviewed (the aforementioned Beyond Five in a Row) is specifically a literature-based unit study approach to learning for children ages 8-12. Four selections (two fiction and two nonfiction) are covered in the study, which delves deeply into the details of a book to guide you through some pretty amazing and in-depth rabbit trails. In other words, it's about books, but it's not actually a book, per se.

Curious as to what my three little discoverers were doing with a curriculum guide, I waited until the little ones were down before rounding them up and starting the inquisition. I'll be honest here and say that we first reviewed the fact that we ask before we snag someone else's property. After that, though, it was a rather pleasant discussion. :-)

The whole affair, it seemed, had started with Marie Curie. A recent topic of interest thanks to Cousin Malcolm, Beyond Five in a Row includes as one of its books to study a juvenile biography of this particular scientist. Jo had found it while sitting at my desk the afternoon before and had leafed through the readings and activity suggestions, finding them interesting enough to cart off and share with Atticus and Logan.

"But it's not really a book about Marie Curie, guys. It's curricula," I pointed out.

"We know that. But it had really, really interesting stuff in there, like the geography of Poland," Jo answered.

"And some words in Polish, like 'Do widzenia,'" chimed Atticus.

"And a guide to the Dewey Decimal System!" said Logan.

"Wasn't it boring, though? I mean, it's a teacher's guide."

"No! It was great. Very interesting. The part about the dangers of radioactivity was really, really good," Logan told me.

Turns out, they did an experiment with magnets without me, and have decided, based on what they read in Beyond Five in a Row, that they'd like to hang a copy of the Periodic Table of Elements in their bathroom, where they can memorize it. (This is a habit that they picked up after we read Cheaper By The Dozen. It's odd, I admit, but somewhat endearing as well.)

"So you'd like to do the study on the Marie Curie book?" I asked, knowing that it was a foregone conclusion at this point.

"YES!!!" they all screamed.

So there you have it; not only was our test run of The Cricket in Times Square a success (that was the topic of my original review, by the way), but my children are clamoring for more. I'm off to put a hold on that Marie Curie title at my local library. After all, I don't want to be responsible for forcing my children to read books about unit studies. I'd rather they spend their time doing them.


The Small Scribbler said...

I love everything about 5 in a Row!

And funny you should mention Cheaper by the Dozen. The children and I were just discussing Frank Gilbreth's contribution to increasing productivity as they were clearing the table very, very slowly.


The Small Scribbler said...

Oh, and the Periodic Table of the Elephants is a GREAT and fun compliment to a real periodic table.


Benny said...

Now that's the sign of a really good homeschool curriculum.

Either that, or it's a sign of really well educated children. ;o)