Year-End Progress Report: Grade 4 & 2 (2011/12)

Year-End Progress Report 2011/12: Cinder’s Grade 4 year Flora’s Grade 2 year

Recap of Objectives for the Year

Cinder’s Focus and Objectives

Cinder wants to continue to practice Tang Soo Do through the fall, and to return to a more “rigorously regular” swimming schedule. He also wants more science experiments this year, but fewer external lessons or workshops. He plans to continue working on his reading skills via the Terraria Wiki and “that awful spelling program I hate.”

Flora’s Focus and Objectives

Flora wants to do art, colour, take a clay class, do more art, draw, and take another year of music class. She plans to continue learning all about animals, spend lots of time with her friends, add to her Museum of Natural Mystery, and keep on learning about Greek myths, and maybe other myths.

Parents’ Focus and Objectives

Over-arching: “we want Cinder and Flora to continue to learn and to love learning as they grow and develop into loving, capable, intelligent and productive people.”

For Cinder, our key goals are to support him as best we can along his literacy path, to re-sharpen our awareness and attention to his high physical needs, to ensure we’re feeding his hunger for science, construction, and activities with a tangible goal/product at the end, as well as to respect his need for non-social time (while structuring some opportunities for some social time).

For Flora, our key goals are to provide her with the space, time and supplies she needs to create and imagine, to ensure we’re feeding her hunger for story and imaginative play, to stay aware of the fact that she does not need as much physical activity as Cinder―and indeed, that amount exhausts her―and to provide ample opportunities for her to play with her friends.

For both: 1) To introduce some more tangible and regular handwriting practice, to provide them with the tools they need for their other activities and explorations. 2) To return to a more predictable week in the fall, anchored on a weekly basis by external activities.

Summary of September-December

An interesting and well-paced fall. Flora remains focused on art and drawing, and has leaked some of her enthusiasm onto her brother, who has increasingly been picking up pen and paper to draw zombies, sharks and other scenes of action and disaster. Cinder has upped his Lego interest by entering Lego contests at the public libraries. He continues to play Terraria and reading the Wiki with us is part of his daily reading practice. Both children have recently discovered Mathletics and we have added that to the mix. Flora continues her music lessons and Cinder Tang Soo Do.

Summary of January-June

A busy winter, giving way to a relaxed spring. Cinder replaced Terraria playing with a return to Minecraft, and continued to work on his reading in a variety of ways. He sped through Mathletics for a few weeks, and then retired that resource. He worked very diligently at his Tang Soo Do and successfully tested for his yellow belt. Flora continued to practice her music and drawing, got pulled into Minecraft by her brother, and has become a very strong independent reader. She enjoyed working with Mathletics for a few weeks as well. The focus for both children has immersion in key stories and projects, the most important of which are summarized below.


Handwriting (year-long, on-going)). Both children worked through Book A of the Getty/Dubay Italic Handwriting series. Flora completed the tracing activities in Book B, and is now working through the free handwriting in the book, with occasional dips into Book C. Flora enjoys this and imbues it with a great deal of artistic fervour. Cinder abandoned Book B in favour of tracing the alphabet on photocopied sheets. He still does not really enjoy it, but he perseveres with the routine and is starting to see some progress. In June, we gradually morphed handwriting practice into copywork practice, in which Cinder is a sentence or paragraph from one of the books we’re reading/have read, and Flora is tracing and copying a paragraph.

World Map Learning Wall (year-long, on-going). We’ve put up a giant, unlabeled world map in our kitchen, and every few days―and some days every day at every meal―the map is the focus of discussion. The children have learned about continents, oceans, seas, the source of the Nile and the Amazon, the world’s 10 largest countries, who Alaska belongs to and why, the tundra, etc. They’ve also cut out and pasted animals in their places of origin, tracked their grandparents’ Australia-Asia trip (more on this below), discussed the Equator, the poles, etc. It’s been a very rewarding project, and we plan to continue working on the map intermittenly through the summer and the year to come.

Australia (December-January). The children’s grandparents went on a month-long trip to Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Cinder and Flora took the opportunity to learn a great deal about Australia, reading various down-under books and watching videos about life in Australia and Australian wildlife, and exchanging almost daily e-mail message with their grandma―on her side full of Australia adventures, on their side full of advice about what venomous creatures to avoid. We plotted the course of their travels on the map, and collected all the photos they emailed us into a book.

Crocodile Hunter (January-March). Their grandparents brought them back a nice collection of Crocodile Hunter DVDs (Steve Irwin nature how), and for the three or so months, the DVDs formed the core of Cinder and Flora’s “nature studies.”

Heros of Olympus and Percy Jackson revisited (September, October; March). In early fall, Cinder and Flora revisited Ancient Greece―and segued into Ancient Rome―with the reading of the two latest Rick Riordan books in the Percy Jackson series, The Lost Hero and Son of Neptune. After a long break, Percy Jackson returned to the house in March, both via a revisiting of of Neptune and a return to the first book in the series, Lightening Thief, as well as Demigod Files. (Also see: Cinder and Flora become Hellenic pagans.)

Charlotte’s Web (November-January). Flora read and listened to Charlotte’s Web for weeks―she still pops it on her i-Pad in the background when she draws or builds―and fell in love with Wilbur and Charlotte. Cinder endured it as best as he could.

Bone (year-long, on-going). The real literary adventure of the this entire year was Jeff Smith’s Bone, all nine volumes of which have been read and re-read by us to them, by Flora individually on her own, and with Cinder in secret, repeatedly. After mining the first series of graphic novels (and and Tales and prequel), they’ve moved on to chapter books : Quest for the Spark.

Drama (year-long, on-going). Both children have attended all the fall and winter Y-Stage plays and enjoyed them tremendously―especially Aga-BOOM! (it remains the year’s favourite). Additional plays attended included the CYPT’s presentation of Man in the Moon at the library, and CATS at Theatre Calgary. They were both enrolled in the Evergreen Theatre drama class in the fall; Cinder withdrew after three classes, but Flora completed it and enjoyed it. Flora and her co-op friends have also started a dance class that they “teach” to each other on weekends and then perform to their parents and neighbours. Flora will take a drama camp and a dance camp this summer. Cinder will probably be happy if he never takes another drama class again.

Orff Music (September to April). Flora continued her Orff Music practice, which she enjoys very much. She is now quite more adept at reading music and playing her recorder. She plans to return for the final year of Orff in September.

Tang Soo Do (year-long, on-going). Cinder continues his Tang Soo Do practice very diligently. He has successfully tested for his yellow belt, which was a very interesting experience for him. Flora joined him in Tang Soo Do in January, and is progressing enthusiastically. Both children observed their first martial arts tournament

Archery (December-on-going). Cinder has become interested in archery, and has pursued this interest with occasional practice.

Video Games: Terraria, Minecraft and Skylanders (year-long, on-going). These are the three video games that the children―in particular Cinder, but also Flora―have enjoyed this past fall by themselves and with their friends. The Terraria Wiki continues to be Cinder’s primary reader, and Terraria and Skylander multi-player modes are one of their favourite ways to play with each other, some friends, and even their dad. In the first half of the year, Terraria dominated. In the second half―and particularly since May―it’s all been Minecraft. Some of Cinder’s creations on Minecraft are extraordinary. Flora is also getting into it, and they’re dreaming of creating Minecraft mods and “how to videos.”

Mathletics (January, February, April). Flora binged on Life of Fred, the elementary series, early in the year, while Cinder showed no particular interest in anything math-related. Then, their school friends introduced them to Mathletics. I signed them up below grade level―grade one and three respectively―as they’ve never done any formal math or math drill, and they enjoyed it for a few weeks. The below-grade level work was too easy―but it meant they’re getting fabulous scores and very positive feedback. Cinder asked to be put up to Grade 4, did a few sessions at that level (scoring in 90s+), then lost interest. Flora has stayed playing at the Grade 1 level, but after April her interest waned as well. We may return to Mathletics again in the fall. Or on rainy days in the summer.

Lego contests (November, December). Cinder entered two Lego contests, and Flora one, this fall, and they both enjoyed the experience and handled the creation, competition, and not-winning aspect of the process very well. (See also: The Art of War: Lego Contests.)

JRR Tolkien (February, March, ongoing). Both children were read to from the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and enjoyed it―relating it to Bone and some of their other novels. It was the most ambitious reading project we’ve had since the first four books of Harry Potter. They’ve now finished The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, watched the 1973 cartoon of The Hobbit, watched the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring movie, and have started on The Two Towers.

The Kane Chronicles (May, June, on-going).Both children are currently listening to The Serpent’s Shadow, the third book of Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, having more or less memorized books one (The Red Pyramid) and two (The Throne of Fire). It hasn’t quite pulled them into Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology the way Percy Jackson pulled them into Greece, but they are enjoying it very much and identifying with the brother-sister team of Carter and Sadie Kane in a very positive way.

Art (year-long, on-going). Flora has continued to pursue her drawing and art with a passion, taking intermittent lessons from her artist Aunt and spending hours at the Discovery Room in the Glenbow Museum. The Ed Emberly drawing books have been a critical resource for her. We did not have a formal Art Centre or other class for her this year, and she’s put in requests for a clay class and another art class for the fall―a sign that she has put her negative experience with the attempted summer camp last year behind her. For Cinder, art in its various forms was of minimal interest this year.

Flip Factory (January-March). Flora participated in a homeschool gymnastics class for 5-8 year olds at the Flip Factory and enjoyed it very much; wants to return in the fall.

Total Biscuit Reading and Flash Cards (March, on-going). We abandoned All About Spelling early in the year―Flora was bored by it, and Cinder started to get too frustrated with it. We experimented with a variety of different approaches to help Cinder build skills and confidence―including laying off and doing nothing for stretches of time―but the most successful strategy was “Total Biscuit Reading.” Using the flash cards from All About Spelling (176 basic words, most one syllable, a few two syllable), we worked through them with Cinder while he was watching a Total Biscuit (or other) videos. Watching the video relaxed and distracted him: I would place a card on the computer keyboard, he’d read it, I’d replace it with another one, he’d read it, etc. Some days we worked through 10 cards, other days, we worked through the entire stack. By early May, he had full mastery over all the words―he could read the majority of them on sight, and when he stumbled, could sound them out correctly pretty quickly.

Additional books: The following are some of the other books the children read (had read to them) over the year which they enjoyed―but which didn’t have quite the impact/staying power of the books highlighted above:

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Marcia Williams books (all of them), especially Fabulous Monsters

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (revisited)

Wow! Canada (read it first in June; spent about two weeks reading and re-reading it, February)

War Diaries of Alistair Fury: Summery Helliday by Jamie Rix

Danny Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon

Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons by Cressida Cowell

intermittent re-reading of the Binkertons’ Good Times Travel Agency series by Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin

a copious number of books on Greek and more recently Egyptian mythology

Science. As I’m finishing writing this up, I’m struck by how science-light it looks, and science has always been such a big part of the learning journey for our family, particularly for Cinder. It does, however, seem to have receded into the background this year. Reading of Horrible Science and Basher books and watching of nature shows and Mythbusters continued to happen―but with less frequency than in the past. Flora continued to add to Flora’s Museum of Natural Mystery (a gopher skull from Waterton is the prize addition). We continued to visit the zoo (but less) and the dinosaurs and live reptiles at Drumheller, we attended some workshops, did some experiments―but none of it grabbed either Cinder or Flora this year the way the Percy Jackson books or The Kane Chronicles or Lord of the Rings did.


It was a fairly close-to-home year for us this year, chiefly because of Cinder and Flora’s younger brother’s challenges in the car. Still, we got a few great trips in:

Invermere/Fairmont (October). We spent Thanksgiving around Invermere, spotting wild turkeys, coyotes, and big horn sheep.

Edmonton (January). We celebrated Flora in Edmonton, with a trip to the Waterpark, Sea Life Caverns, Galaxy Land, and the Royal Alberta Museum. The featured water/rivers exhibit was almost as big a hit as the Bug Room.

Banff (November, April).We spent a weekend in November with visiting grandparents in Canmore and the last weekend of April as a family in Banff. Several lovely wildlife encounters, hikes, and the kids’ first experience horseback riding.

Southern Alberta Adventure in an RV (May). To celebrate Cinder’s birthday, we rented a Class-C RV and spent a week exploring Southern Alberta, including Chain Lakes, Leitch Coilleries, Frank Slide, Waterton National Park, the Remington Carriage Museum, Fort Macleod and Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Other out-of-town excursions included two trips to Blackfoot Crossing, Bar U Ranch, day trip to the Okotoks Erratic, and, of course, a few trips to Drumheller.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS, from Calendar of Activities

Various summer festivals including Bow River Flow, Strongman and Riverwalk, Cavalia (for Flora, July 2), Insect Presentation by Antennae (September 28), Homeschool Days at Leighton Centre (Sepmteber 30 & October 28), Alberta Art Days at Lougheed House (October 2), Ogden Grain Elevator Blast (October 16), CYPT: Man in the Moon (November), Alberta Dance Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (December), Homeschool Days at Science Centre, CATS at Theatre Calgary (April 26), Military Museums Open House (June 3).

Looking forward to Summer and Fall

In brief: More of the same, keeping what works, shedding what doesn’t. We plan to continue the focus on handwriting/copywork through the summer, and to continue to read great books and seize learning and exploration opportunities as they occur.

Specific plans: Flora is enrolled in a drama camp and a dance camp this summer, and both Cinder and Flora are enrolled in a horse-riding camp.


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