View Full Version : Introduction and questions

05-31-2007, 03:02 PM
Hello. It has been my intention to begin researching and planning for our first "official" year of homeschooling for some time now - but there's always something or someone demanding my time. Anyhow, here I am, finally sitting down to ask a few questions about FIAR and kindergarten.

FIAR is not new to me - my mother uses it with my younger siblings (I'm the oldest of 9 and my youngest siblings are 10 and 7). I used it "unofficially" this past year with my 5 and 3 year old boys. I recognize that kindergarten does not need to be super aggressive, but I was wondering ...

What have you found to be effective in supplementing for math and phonics instruction? Do you simply stick to the FIAR book or do you use other curricula in addition to FIAR?

Also, what advice do you have on planning? That is what feels daunting about FIAR - I have to plan, prepare, get the books from the library, find the materials for the projects, etc. :)

Okay, I know I've lumped a whole bunch of questions into one post here - most likely these questions have been addressed in previous threads, I just don't know how to find them.


Suz MamaFrog
05-31-2007, 04:37 PM

I'll try and answer your questions one by one, in the order you presented them:

1.) Math and Phonics - I like a free math program from the University of Exeter that I found this year. Before that, we used Singapore, which I also really liked. The Singapore Earlybird is a good program and was just enough for my dc. The only reason I switched them both to CIMT is that the cost (nothing) was better for the budget. As to phonics, we've used several different programs - Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lesons, Simply Phonics, Progressive Phonics, and the "Code" series (Get Set for the Code, etc.) Both of my children have had to use a combination of approaches, as we never really found ONE that they had 100% success with. My favorites to use have been Simply Phonics and Progressive Phonics, but where dd did wonderfully with SP, ds has preferred 100EZ and PP. Go figure!

2.) I like to add Bible and a little gentle science and history. I like to use products from Christian Liberty Press for science and history at the Kindergarten level. FIAR's science and history lessons are wonderful - there's nothing wrong with them. I've just found that I prefer a more "systematic" approach to these subjects as opposed to FIAR's unit approach. We DO use the FIAR lessons. We just do "extra" lessons from our CLP books. We used the FIAR Bible supplement along with free coloring pages to create our own Bible storybooks for Kindergarten Bible.

3.) I take a simple approach to planning. I use a Post-It note stuck to the first page of each title's lessons in my manuals. I write down on it what lessons I want to try/teach from that title. I use another to write down any go-along titles, supplies, etc. that I might need to gather. Then, I can simply open up my manual a week or so in advance and know exactly what to get and what to teach. I make out my library list and my supplies list and go get what I need. Simple! Fast! Easy! (I like to take a Saturday afternoon or a Friday evening and read over the manual, "planning" out on my sticky notes as I go.)

Let me know if you have other questions, alright? I'll be happy to help!


Paige P
05-31-2007, 05:00 PM
Hi Carole :hi: Welcome to FIAR!!!

This was my 1st year hsing (my oldest is K), and FIAR is what made our days (and weeks!). It was the "light" and the fun part of learning.

I did supplement math and phonics and found that this year was somewhat of an experiment with that as I've tried to find what matches our learning styles. I used Saxon Math this year (which I won't repeat next year -- it's not a right "fit" for us). I started off with Saxon Phonics, dropped that quickly, moved to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, and after Thanksgiving moved to Sing, Spell, Read and Write. I know that sounds somewhat crazy, but I think a huge advantage to homeschooling is that you can "match" the learning styles of your children. My oldest is a visual learner -- I didn't know that going in, but I do now, so my "choices" for curriculum match that.

As for FIAR, I think all that you need for K (other than math and phonics) is included in it. We found that the Social Studies and Science are fantastic. Do they perfectly mimic what you might find in a K classroom? Doubtful, but I think the children get MORE with FIAR. I feel the same way about the Art, Language Arts, and Math lessons in FIAR. I did not agonize over getting organized. Yes, I usually previewed my week and made a trip to the library to pick up the book and sometimes go-along books. I also tried to pick up special crafts or food if we were going to do use something that I didn't have. I often found myself getting those things in the middle of the week, though, since I was usually out-and-about anyway. Almost all of the crafts that we did, though, were with materials I had on hand. Yes, there were a few times when I didn't have things, but I could easily have chosen to do something else.

I love the simplicity of FIAR. There are plenty of "extras" should you choose to use them or do them, but there is absolutely no reason to "make" work for yourself when you don't have to.

05-31-2007, 08:41 PM
What have you found to be effective in supplementing for math and phonics instruction? Do you simply stick to the FIAR book or do you use other curricula in addition to FIAR?

Also, what advice do you have on planning? That is what feels daunting about FIAR - I have to plan, prepare, get the books from the library, find the materials for the projects, etc. :)


Math- I highly recommend Rightstart Math (http://www.alabacus.com/pageView.cfm?pageID=270)
They have a Yahoo! Group (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/RightStart/) you may want to join; you could also ask questions on the 3 R's board as many of us use it.

Phonics- We used Abeka K5 last year. The plans were pretty lengthy...and the workbook got old after about 150 pages! :lol: BUT, my ds reads and he reads well (and loves to read), and he really enjoyed the lessons (we eventually stopped doing the workbook!). You will probably have to tweak no matter what program you choose. I bought almost everything used, so I didn't have to invest the regular amount--which I think is a bit on the expensive side. I decided to skip the lesson plans and workbook for Abeka 1; we are just using the readers and the Phonics Handbook (we will really concentrate on the charts-- I think they are key).

We don't add any science or history to FIAR other than delving deeper into the topics in the manual by using library books, Lets Read and Find Out Science books, Magic School Bus videos, etc.

I have to carve out about 20 minutes each week to plan FIAR for the next week. This differs from teacher to teacher, but I don't feel prepared unless I know what we are doing. I make note of which lessons I want to cover along with any supplies we may not have on hand to go with those lessons. I make sure to plan before I do my weekly shopping.

The twenty minute investment is so worth it! After our experience with Abeka's phonics workbook, I can't imagine having multiple workbooks for multiple subjects. FIAR is perfect for igniting a love for learning (in you and your children!), creating great memories, and fostering a special relationship with your children! :thumb:

The next week I simply check off each lesson as we complete it , but I don't PLAN what we will do on each day because that stresses me out. (I generally do the story disk/geography on the first day and vocabulary on the 2nd day so that those two lessons get plenty of review, but it doesn't always happen that way.)

Oh, and a library tip...see if your library allows you to reserve your books online. That way, you can jump on the computer...click, click, click, and have the books you need (I would order two weeks' worth at a time just to save on sanity); you can just run in and pick them up! :)

Kendra AU
06-01-2007, 07:04 AM
Hi Carol!,

I started with FIAR when my eldest was five and my littlest was two. They've both enjoyed it, with my three year old feeling more endeared towards books. For instance, today we couldn't just leave the library without taking Mike Mulligan with us. Never mind that we own at least three copies of this book! :lol:

For Math, we use Saxon Math. For me I find it great because I'm nervous about teaching math. I know how to do the right thing, but I'm worried about getting my point across in the right manner. Does that make sense? With Saxon math I was able to buy the book online for 12 dollars used. They suggest you use two things with it. One was a calender book. Well we have our own calendar going each month and the boys add the right day to it, so we didn't buy that book. We simply did the calendar exercise with our own calendar. Then there's the box of manipulatives. It's pricey, but even after breaking it down and shopping around I managed to find the manipulative pack with storage box (all brand new) for fifty bucks including shipping. Because it will last through third grade I knew the money was well spent. The upside to using Saxon is that it's scripted. That means it tells you exactly what to say. The downside is that there's a LOT of lessons to be learned in a school year. You can read pros and cons about it in the book The Top 100 Homeschool Picks, and at the web page I believe.

We do use the math provided in FIAR, but we also do our Saxon math lesson each day too. We tend to pick the FIAR math that involves counting and time. Those are to areas we are really focusing in on. Be it counting by 2's (Madeline) or by ones (Mike Mulligan..).

For phonics my five year old knew all his letters (big and little as he puts it) and the sounds they make. It was a matter of helping him understand how to blend them. For his letter learning we used Sing Spell Read And Write which I'd gotten online inexpensively as well. He loved the little letter papers and felt he was doing "school". lol I think it was more the love of not taking a nap to be honest.. Anyway, now that we're in need of learning to read we're using How To Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy lessons. He's made HUGE strides with it. We'd honestly started with Hooked On Phonics after hearing good things, and it was "so-so" I felt the method (despite the title of the product) was teaching him to sight read vs sounding it out. The other book (100 Easy Lessons) is able to be bought at Books-A-Million (BAM) or borrowed from your library. My three year old likes to "read" with it too. He cracks us up, but he feels very big and special and that's what counts the most.

As for planning I do a basic outline by looking at upcoming events in our community or holidays in America and Australia (we have Aussies and Americans in our family) and I pick books that will go along with what's coming up. So for July (in Australia it's winter time and school time...) we might do Lentil which has a huge patriotic theme to it. In November we might do Cranberry Thanksgiving which focuses on Thanksgiving. October would be great for books like Pumpkin Runner, which we have a huge fondness for. September is a great month for doing books like How To Make An Apple Pie And See The World. January is great for books like Ping (Chinese New year..)

Where we currently live there's an annual event called SteamFest that happens so we planned Mike Mulligan around that so the boys could go see first hand how steam makes things work. Our homeschool group had a fun little circus event as well as having a circus in town which made Miretta On The High Wire and Andy And The Circus great books to row.

So I mark our calendar (the one in my planner) with the upcoming events and holidays and then I look over our FIAR list and I write down a book on my calendar for the weeks they might match up to. Then from there I try to take one weekend a month right now to outline our month worth of school plans.

My family has actually just made the giant leap of moving from America to Australia. Because of the difference in school terms, traveling between countries for annual visits, and a list of other reasons we're looking at doing a year round school term of so many weeks on vs so many weeks off. I try to take a weekend or a week, depending on how long it takes, to jot down a gentle outline of what we'll do for school in the upcoming "weeks on".

As for books from our library. I do all my searching from home. It saves a LOT of time and because our library system allows us to borrow from school libraries too it gives me a better look at what they have. I'll also look for books on the subjects we'll be covering. My library allows me to make a list of all these books online and print it out at the end of my session. From there I can take that list to the library and get what I'm after. I also have the ability to put books on hold via the internet too which saves a lot of time.

You might want to find out how long it will take the library to get books in that you request. They should be able to give you a rough estimate of time. That way you'll know how far in advanced to search for things. Then you wont' be caught unaware without the book! ;)

The best advice anyone has ever given me is to "go with the flow". I know it sounds SO simple, but it's so easy for myself to stress out over the silliest things. Our theory has always been, if they want to know about it we're going to jump head first into it. My children know a lot of information about some really strange things! lol However, they've never hesitated to ask questions about something they want to know, and in the end that to me is the most important.

Oo, and FIAR sells a planner, it's great for keeping track of all your notes and plans. Plus with the way it's laid out you can go back and look it over when you wish (if you wish) to rerow the book.

The only other thing I've done is to get portable filing boxes. The ones I have are kinda like rubbermaid, but they can hold hanging files (they were designed for this purpose). I've got each box labeled on the outside Volume (then the number). Inside there is one hanging file designated to each book. As I come across something that I know will be great to go with a book I drop it in the corresponding file. It saves a lot of time wondering where I stashed the latest thing. lol


06-01-2007, 07:12 AM
Thank you for all the great ideas! I am inspired to check out your suggested tools for math and reading - and excited to plan and yet be flexible :lol: with the FIAR schedule.

06-01-2007, 07:16 AM
Just wanted to say :hi: and welcome!

debbie in ak
06-01-2007, 10:59 AM
Carole- We use Math-U-See and for phonics...Explode the Code books and the Sonlight readers.

I plan FIAR a semester or year in advance because I don't have a lot of time during the school year because I work part time. This is what I do..

I pull out the manual and write on my planning sheet what lessons we are doing for each subject. Then I have files of extra activities for each book and I look at those to see if there is something we want to do and I write that down. This year I also went to www.homeschoolshare.com and printed off any printables I wanted to use and put them with my lesson plans. I try to limit any extra activities for each book because it overwhelms us.

I also do what Ami does...I get online at our library website and put a hold on the books I need for the week. they pull them off the shelves and I just run in to pick them up!

Lauri B
06-02-2007, 02:11 PM
What have you found to be effective in supplementing for math and phonics instruction? Do you simply stick to the FIAR book or do you use other curricula in addition to FIAR?

Also, what advice do you have on planning? That is what feels daunting about FIAR - I have to plan, prepare, get the books from the library, find the materials for the projects, etc. :)

You can use any math or phonics which appeals to you and seems to fit your child's learning style. Both criteria are critical as a very parent-intensive program may be a good for for your child, but not very appealing for your family structure. My approach with all three children was to read to them, teach basic phonics ala Ruth Beechick and then run through Alphaphonics once they were reading well for themselves to make sure they "got" it. When my youngest was learning to read I discovered the Leap Frog DVDs and I bought one at a time and allowed her some "special" time to watch them (we generally don't do tv of any kind) and she taught herself to read (via the DVDs) in a few months one spring. It must have done a very good job, because I found I didn't need to use Alphaphonics with her later on!

I can't recommend any one favorite math, I'm using Noble Knights of Knowledge with my youngest at the moment but it's quite teacher intensive, so I can't recommend it for anyone with a demanding family schedule. (She's my baby and the older two are fairly independent.)

As for planning, Simplicity is the key. There is very little to plan as the lessons are complete. I use a very simple planning sheet in which I note what we'll do for each subject but NOT what day we'll do them. Many people always do Social Studies on Monday, Science on Tuesday, or whatever. I find that there are some lessons that really need to be revisited several times that week. Those lessons may be Language Arts one week, or Art another week, etc. So, the lessons which call for more attention, I'll put at the beginning of the week.

As to getting all the library books ahead of time, well, that way leads to madness! (In my experience at least, of course!) After doing a week w/FIAR, I make note of which topics seemed to touch off a spark of interest with my child. On our NEXT trip to the library, I pull a few books on those topics from the shelves and take them home for free time (and bedtime*) reading, or an experiment or craft in our free time. This works as a mini-review of the lesson covered in FIAR and saves me from having to make everything "perfect" ahead of time. Even if we don't get a particular book for a MONTH after we did the FIAR lesson, so what? That's an even better review! ;) The idea that every lesson must be a neat, tidy, well-planned package is the way to burn out, and it's not what FIAR is really about. It's meant to be gentle and easy.

I find my children remember topics we studied via FIAR years and years later. That's why the FIAR lessons work better than "curriculum" lessons at this age. Story connects the heart to the topic. Worksheets can't ever engage the heart and imagination. Experiments and "projects" have a wow factor, but are easily forgotten the way candy is quickly burned off by the body. If you engage the heart, you'll imprint upon the memory - and that's real learning. If you're doing a lesson, and a project idea occurs to you, make note of it and the next time you're at the store, buy the things for the project and do it on some afternoon or evening in the future when the weather prevents being outdoors. "Remember when we read about Ping? Do you remember how the little boy had a floating barrel on his back? I thought of a fun project we could do like that floating barrel - wanna try?" They'll want to try, of course, and probably want to read the book again while the glue dries on your project. No supplement can do learning that well!

(*Note on bedtime reading: I always allowed my children to take a stack of books to bed and stay up a bit later as long as they're in bed, quiet and reading. It buys me some much needed child-free time and has done wonders for their reading!)

Carol S
06-03-2007, 10:01 PM
I just have to jump in her and say that this Carol is married to Tim and has a son named Peter!

I guess you can be my new long-lost twin. There's another Carol who is a long-timer here but rarely posts whose two daughters have the same name as my two daughters, and her maiden name is the same as mine, albeit spelled differently.

So welcome to the small FIAR world!