Five in a Row Curriculum Review – The Pros and Cons You Want to Know

five in a row curriculum

If you’re thinking about trying the Five in a Row curriculum in your homeschool, you’ll love this in-depth review! 

We’ve used the Five in a Row curriculum in our homeschool since 2020, and we’re excited to share our experience with it here!

Choosing the right curriculum for your kids is one of the toughest decisions a homeschool mom can face.

There are so many different curriculum options available that it can easily be overwhelming.

This is why we offer these honest, tried-and-tested, curriculum reviews here at The Reluctant Homeschool Mama! We’re here to share our personal, hands-on experience, sharing both the pros and cons of the curriculum we’ve tried.

So let’s dive right in and take a closer look at the Five in a Row curriculum now!

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Overview of Five in a Row Homeschool Curriculum

Five in a Row is a popular literature-based homeschool curriculum that uses books from children’s literature to teach lessons in social studies, language arts, applied science, math, and art.

Five in a Row is ideal for kids ages 5-9 and can work well for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.

Related post: How to Easily Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

Using the popular unit study approach, this curriculum is a great way to take one topic (ie: the children’s book) and apply it to different school subjects.

Homeschool moms who have used Five in a Row often describe it as a “gentle” curriculum and rate it very highly.


There are five different volumes of the Five in a Row curriculum, called Instructional Guides.

The first three volumes are all the same difficulty level and are best for younger elementary ages. Volumes four and five introduce more complex books and activities.

Each instructional guide features between sixteen and twenty different books from children’s literature.

The featured books are not included with the curriculum and need to be sourced on your own. (More on this in a minute!)

How to Use Five in a Row

Each book featured in the Five in a Row curriculum is intended to be read aloud once each day for five days in a row (hence, the name Five in a Row!).

with Five in a Row, the book is read every day for five days

After the specified book is read aloud, there is a daily lesson or activity in one of five subjects: social studies, language arts, applied science, math, and art.

Each instructional guide offers multiple lesson ideas for each of the five subjects.

These lessons typically need at least a few minutes of preparation beforehand, but usually do not require more than that.

List of Books Used in Five in a Row Volumes 1-5

Here is a list of all the children’s literature books used in each volume of Five in a Row. There are many wonderful children’s classics, as well as good number of Caldecott Medal and Caldecott Honor books.

*Please note that the Five in a Row Volumes below are all Second Editions.

Five in a Row Volume 1

  • The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese
  • Lentil by Robert McCloskey
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno
  • The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
  • Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
  • The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
  • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
  • Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin
  • Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk
  • Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley
  • Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews
  • The Clown of God by Tomie DePaola
  • Storm in the Night by Mary Stoltz
  • Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (with illustrations by Susan Jeffers)

Five in a Row Volume 2

  • The Giraffe That Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton
  • Three Names by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert
  • Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
  • Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
  • Babar To Duet or Not to Duet based on characters by DeBrunhoff
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  • Down Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter
  • Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car by John Burningham
  • All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  • When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
  • Gramma’s Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Five in a Row Volume 3

  • The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
  • Andy and the Circus by Ellis Credle
  • The Wild Horses of Sweetbriar  by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
  • Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand
  • Henry the Castaway by Mark Taylor
  • The Finest Horse in Town by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  • Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan
  • The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl
  • Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty
  • The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
  • Daniel’s Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders
  • The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
  • Climbing Kansas Mountains by George Shannon
  • Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston
  • Little Nino’s Pizzeria by Karen Barbour

Five in a Row Volume 4

  • Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
  • The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins
  • The Pumpkin Runner by Marsha Diane Arnold
  • Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx
  • Albert by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell
  • Cowboy Charlie by Jeanette Winter
  • Grass Sandals by Dawnine Spivak

Five in a Row Volume 5

  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • The Raft by Jim LaMarche
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  • Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Weil
  • The Gullywasher by Joyce Rossi
  • Minette’s Feast by Susanna Reich

Your local library is the absolute best place to look for the different children’s books featured in Five in a Row, especially if you are trying to keep curriculum costs low.

But if you do want to curate a library of great children’s books, the books used in Five in a Row are a fantastic place to start!

Many Five in a Row books can be found on Amazon, Thrift Books, or from other online booksellers.

Additionally, if you don’t want to source the books individually, you can buy the majority of books needed for each volume with the Five in a Row Literature Packages available at Rainbow Resource.

Additional Five in a Row Curriculum Resources

If you’d like to download a free unit from one of the Instructional Guides, be sure to visit the Five in a Row website!

You’ll be able to get a feel for the different types of activities that are suggested for social studies, language arts, applied science, math, and art.

reading a five in a row book

Also, there are two volumes of Instructional Guides called Before Five in a Row and More Before Five in a Row that feature books for preschool kids, ages 2-5!

These are fantastic for your motivated early learners who want to be involved with homeschool.

A Sample Week of Five in a Row

To give you a really clear picture of how the Five in a Row curriculum works, here’s a quick rundown of how we use it on a day-to-day basis in our homeschool!

This week we’re reading Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, which is featured in Five in a Row Volume 2.

On Monday, we’ll read the book and look at the artwork. We’ll spend time discussing some of the specific art details, such as lines indicating water and lines indicating speed. Then we’ll practice drawing water on the provided workbook page and moving objects, such as a ball.

For Tuesday, we’ll read the story again and discuss the geography of Boston. We’ll find a map of Boston and trace the route that the ducklings took to get to the Public Garden. Then we’ll look online at a picture of the Make Way for Ducklings statue that is still there today.

make way for ducklings statue

On Wednesday, we’ll read the story a third time. On this day, we’ll focus on math and counting. We’ll count the number of automobiles and windows in the illustrations. Then we’ll talk about groups of eight since there are eight ducklings in the book.

For Thursday, we’ll read the book again and then cover language arts. We’ll talk about rhyming and find as many rhymes as we can in the book. Additionally, we’ll fill out the rhyming worksheet included in the Instructional Guide.

On Friday, we’ll read the book for a final time and focus on science. We’ll discuss animal parenting and make a list of what baby animals are called.

Related post: Homeschool Unit Studies – What are They? And Why Do People Love Them?

Free Resource Library

Whether you’re looking for unit study worksheets, holiday printables, or organizational homeschool resources, we invite you to join The Reluctant Homeschool Mama’s Free Resource Library by clicking right here!

newly updated resource library

With over 50 free printables, there is sure to be something you can use to make your homeschool even better.

Pros about using the Five in a Row homeschool curriculum

There are several big pros that we’ve found with the Five in a Row curriculum:

1. Affordability

Five in a Row is a very affordable curriculum, especially if you borrow the featured children’s literature books from your local library!

find five in a row books at your library

2. Longevity

The Five in a Row curriculum is designed for kids ages 5-9. This means that once your kids are accustomed to the Five in a Row method, you can settle into a routine that can last for several years of homeschooling!

3. Ease of Use

In our experience, Five in a Row has been a very easy curriculum to use. We typically spend about 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the week reviewing the upcoming unit and choosing one different activity for each of the five subjects. There is a section inside each chapter of the Instructional Guide for you to record your plans.

Related post: Handwriting Without Tears Curriculum Review

4. Engaging

Our kids have really enjoyed almost all of the children’s books that have been featured as a part of their Five in a Row curriculum! The different activities each day are engaging and fun. They’ve also helped to promote further interest in various topics in each of the five subjects.

5. Fun to see progress

Another thing we love about Five in a Row is seeing how quickly our young elementary kids learn the words to each of the children’s literature books. Additionally, it has been awesome to see our kids’ powers of observation deepen with each reading of the book.

6. Lots of resources available

The Five in a Row website offers lots of great additional resources, such as a digital cookbook, a planner, and a Bible supplement book as well.

7. Comprehensive

Because the Five in a Row curriculum incorporates social studies, language arts, applied science, math, and art, it can be fairly comprehensive.

However, it is important to have a separate math and phonics program to round out your kids’ complete homeschool curriculum.

math curriculum flashcards

Cons about using Five in a Row

There are only two simple cons to the Five in a Row curriculum. For us, they aren’t dealbreakers at all, especially when using Five in a Row as an early elementary school or kindergarten curriculum.

1. Some books can be difficult to find

Because many of the featured books in Five in a Row were published a long time ago, they can sometimes be difficult to find. (If you’re having trouble finding one of the books, Rainbow Resource is the best place to look!)

For example, we have yet to find a standalone copy of Babar, To Duet or Not to Duet or Down, Down the Mountain from the Volume 2 collection.

2. Lacking academic rigor

One of the other most common criticisms of Five in a Row is that it isn’t academically difficult enough. We have only used Five in a Row as a preschool and kindergarten curriculum, and it has been perfect for an early introduction to structured homeschool learning.

We are big fans of unit studies, and we can see how Five in a Row could be beefed up to include more strenuous academics; however, it would definitely take some extra work and planning.

We will be using the first three volumes into first grade and then transitioning to some of our other favorite curriculums for elementary school.

Final thoughts about Five in a Row

Overall, we absolutely love the Five in a Row curriculum! We look forward to this part of our homeschool every day!

Reading these wonderful books from children’s literature has brought a lot of fun, easy learning, and happy memories to our family. We’ll continue to use and recommend the Five in a Row curriculum for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade for years to come.

If you have any questions about Five in a Row, please drop them below and we’ll do our best to answer!

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What are your thoughts about this Five in a Row curriculum review?

Five in a Row Curriculum Review - The Pros and Cons You Want to KnowFive in a Row Curriculum Review - The Pros and Cons You Want to KnowFive in a Row Curriculum Review - The Pros and Cons You Want to KnowFive in a Row Curriculum Review - The Pros and Cons You Want to Know

Hi there! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m Jen, a former reluctant homeschool mom who is ready to help you actually enjoy homeschooling too. Read more here…

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