We really are loving the books that go with the Five in a Row curriculum. It’s funny, I keep mentioning to people that we are enjoying it so much, and the common response is one of surprise. I guess a lot of people tried Before Five in a Row (as we did) and didn’t really enjoy it. I’ve gotta tell you, Five in a Row is completely different. It’s FULL of wonderful ideas and great lessons to walk through with your young learners. But I digress. We spent this week rowing The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. It’s a sweet story about a little girl named Minna who lives in Appalachia. Her papa is a coal miner and they are very poor. Minna desperately wants to go to school but she doesn’t have a coat and it gets very cold in the winter. All of the ladies who quilt with her mama decide to piece their families’ scraps together to make a coat for Minna. When she wears it to school, the children are terribly mean to her. They tease her and make her feel terrible about the coat she was so proud to wear. The messages of forgiveness and contentment ring loud and clear in the beautifully written, beautifully illustrated book. Here’s a peek at our week with The Rag Coat.Rag Coat Collage

I found a great lapbook to go along with this story. Although we didn’t complete everything, it definitely guided our discussion of what it was like to be a coal miner, what Appalachia is like, and it guided our discussion about some of the important themes of the story, such as “People need people and nothing else.”

Since a large portion of the story revolves around the quilting mothers, we talked about using scraps of fabric to make something new and beautiful. We looked at some of the quilts that I have made, we looked at a t-shirt quilt that preserves memories from various events and functions, and we looked in Addison’s grandma’s scrap bin to find some fabric of our own to use for a project.

I cut the pieces into small squares and triangles, and Addison glued them in the shape of an “A” and then decorated the “A” with some sparkles. We took scraps that would have been tossed and made something pretty out of them.

quilted A


I also made a set of Paint Chip Tangrams to go along with our shape practice. Addison knows all the names of shapes and can tell me how many sides they all have, but I thought copying some tangram patterns would challenge her spatial awareness a bit. She had fun playing with them. If you want to make your own set, you can find the tutorial here.

tangrams with text

We also talked about forgiveness quite a bit, and we read the story about forgiveness that goes along with our We Choose Virtues lessons.

Addison has also started coming up with her own ideas for school lessons which is so fun to see. This week, to review her letter sounds, she made a letter scavenger hunt for Doc. She practiced writing all the letters we’ve learned so far on sticky notes. And she hid them around the house. Then Doc had to run around and find them. Each time he found one, she would tell him the letter name and the sound it makes. It was so cute to watch them work together!

letter hunt collage


Toward the end of the week, I asked Addison to tell me in her own words what happened in the story. She didn’t want to do it. She told me that she decided she didn’t like the story anymore. When I asked her why, here’s what she said:


Wow. I am impressed that Addison was able to empathize with this character so much. She later told me she doesn’t really dislike the story, she just dislikes the way the kids treated Minna. Here again we got to talk about how Minna forgave all the mean kids, and how they all ended up being friends.

If you are looking for some go-along books for The Rag Coat, check out what else was in our book basket this week!


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