Planning BFIAR (Before Five in a Row)

Before Five in the Row

Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) is a simple curriculum aimed at 2-4 year olds. It is designed to be a pick up and go curriculum. When we were using BFIAR as our sole curriculum, I expanded its scope by adding in lots of extra, fun hands on activities. So, for me, planning BFIAR takes a little longer than it strictly should 😁. It is this process I shall be sharing today.

Planning BFIAR: A Themed Project Based Unit

As I begin my planning BFIAR, I choose an obvious topic from the book.  For example: a farm theme to go with Ask Mr Bear; a hospitality theme for If Jesus came to my House.  This is useful on three accounts:

  1. First, the open endedness of the topic allows me to teach two children together, even though they are 2 1/2 years apart
  2. Second, the fun topic theme with all its related activities allows the older children to join in a very meaningful way
  3. Third, the children become very familiar with the books we’ve rowed.  As we row each one they go into A4’s quiet time box which doubles as the little ones bedtime story book basket. This means the younger children have the books read and reread to them throughout the year.  A4 knows most of them off by heart and really LOVES them.
  4. And lastly, it allows me to plan their Pre-School Adventure Box. ‘What is a Pre-School Adventure Box? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Creating a Preschool Adventure Box

Planning BFIAR

I began this a few months ago to give my little ones a visual cue to the topic of the week and increase their anticipation of the coming days.  Once I have chosen my topic from the B4FIAR book I look around the house for any bits and pieces I might use.  My main goals are:

  • To find some sort of dress up linked to the topic
  • To make a pretend play set – this could be puppets (Going on a Bear Hunt) or small world (The Little Rabbit) or even toys which replicate real life (If Jesus Came to my House).  My main aim is to encourage them to use their imagination in a purposeful way.
  • To find topic based activities for their tray time.  My main aim here is to encourage their creativity and to expose them to as many art mediums as possible
  • To gather fiction and non fiction books I can use as go alongs

Everything I intend to use is collected up and piled into the Preschool Adventure Box (a wooden box I painted and wrote ‘Preschool Adventure Box’ on!) and is put in a prominent position until Monday.

Snacks and Fun Food

Planning BFIAR
Planning BFIAR

Once I know the resources I have, it is easy to start planning BFIAR to suit the theme. Firstly, I research topic related snacks (they must be simple enough for my two year old to do- I always have at least one helper in the kitchen with me). Secondly, I play around with some ideas for my themed muffin tin (using this planning sheet). Thirdly, I discuss with the rest of the family ideas for a group activity, such as: a slumber party (Goodnight Moon), re-enactments (Going on a Bear Hunt), tea party with guests (If Jesus came to my House), field trip (Ask Mr Bear) and a rabbit hunt (The Little Rabbit). And lastly, I try to plan for an activity for just Abigail and myself or Becca and myself to do alone. So far, we have made sock puppets, baked together and done art activities together.

Using Trays for Activities

This has been one of the best things I have done. Each night, I set out specific activities on different trays. There can be anything between three to six separate trays, each with a unique activity placed on it. The little ones use these activities alone if the activity is easy and safe. Or sometimes their older siblings will step in and help if the activities need explaining. They do one activity at a time, changing trays and therefore activities every ten minutes or so:

L10 wanted some tray time with A4 so made up her own trays and away they went!

These trays help to encourage concentration as well as reducing any boredom episodes 😉

Including Older Children

Planning BFIAR

For me this is key to the success of our school day.  Even from a young age the older children had what I called ‘sibling time’ – a concentrated time of half an hour a day to spend 1-2-1 with another sibling.  As I had more children, they were simply added into the mix.  This has enabled me, over the years, to have 1-2-1 with one of the children, a spare half hour to school plan, and a means of keeping the younger ones occupied.  The added benefit, of course, is that I have children who have had the opportunity to build their relationships.  Good, deep friendships don’t happen without lots of time being invested into them and that is what the children have – time.  Together.

Encouraging Selflessness

One thing to come out of this time has been a willingness to help alongside the little ones’ school work.  It makes my heart very glad to see this. It is an unselfish giving of their time and themselves for the good of not just their siblings but also their mummy.  For 1 hour a day (30 minutes each child), the older ones take one sibling each to do tray activities.  The left over older sibling prepares lunch and snack for that 60 minutes.  I have an hour to school plan.  The way I have chosen to school takes a lot of planning and gathering of resources.  The children know this and are very happy to help out where they can.

Bringing in the orders

In Conclusion

You know, if I could give one piece of advice it would be this:  Follow your heart as to how you want your homeschool to look.  Have a vision and work towards it, pigeon steps if necessary.  Be true to yourselves, your families goals and prayerful considerations of how you should school each child.  As Max Lucado puts it – find your sweet spot and live there!

Further Resources

All Before Five in a Row posts

All Language Arts posts


  1. Great post! I love how your children work together. As you say, it’s vital that the older children spend time to be with the little ones. You’ve got it worked out so well!

    1. I don’t know about that, B2 has been the hardest baby I’ve had, so I’m only just now feeling like I’m getting a grip on our school. It’s been a bit haphazard over the last couple of years- schooling when B2 was asleep (the only time there was any peace!) Things have improved now, and she can join in with so much more, which she loves- things really are easier now!

  2. This is really helpful. We are just starting to row some FIAR books for the second time so it is useful to have ideas to add in. I have been rather light on writing related to FIAR so thank you for the lapbook idea and especially sticking the pieces on card and in a page protector.

  3. Hi Claire, I loved reading this even though we don’t use Five In A Row and I don’t have littlies! You did a fantastic job, you make it all sound so clear. I’m working on a different kind of post from what I’m used to at the moment so I totally relate to how it feels to be outside your comfort zone! Lucinda

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a message on this particular post, especially given it was of no real use to you! It was very kind of you! I’m sure you’ll do a great job on your post and I look forward to reading it! (Psst, what’s it on? I promise I won’t tell anyone!)

  4. Wow, you’ve such a great blog! Many thanks for your sharing. May God bless you abundantly in all you do for His glory. 🙂

  5. What a great post – SUPER helpful! I am sharing this with my Facebook Readers on Tuesday =)

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! I hope you have a wonderful Easter!
    Beth =-)

  6. I have just purchased the BFIAR book as well as the set of books to go along with it but I am feeling almost discouraged because I am not having any great ideas of where or even how to begin. I’m new to this and teaching ideas don’t just pop into my head but I love what I have seen with BFIAR and FIAR and would love to really figure this out! I’m glad that I have found your blog!

    1. Thank you, Tara! I’m pleased to know it’s been useful to you. If you have any questions ask away – it really is a very simple curriculum to use, because of its flexibility to suit any family! I hope you are not feeling so discouraged anymore and that you enjoy the journey!

  7. I love it! I’m just started my hs journey with my two year old last month. I love your ideas here…and it didn’t sound awkward at all. 🙂

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