Learning Plan: Grade 5 & 3 (2012/13)

Cinder and Flora’s Learning Plan for 2012/2013–Cinder’s Grade 5 and Flora’s Grade 3 year.


Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Cinder and Flora were being read from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers through most of the summer, and were very immersed in the story. They’ve also watched the first part of the movie, and started playing the Lord of the Rings Warhammer Strategy Board Game (especially Cinder) and working on the little LOTR miniatures.

The 39 Clues Series. Cinder and Flora listened to the first five six books of The 39 Clues series, and continue to listen to them on CD. Although “they’re not quite as good as Percy Jackson.”

Handwriting. Both Cinder and Flora continued handwriting practice through the summer. They’ve made amazing progress.

Manitoba Trip. The family spent a week with grandparents at Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba. Both children kayaked, boated, swam, fished, rescued water-logged dragonflies, watched dragonflies metamorphose, ran from mosquites, and otherwise communed with the wild.

* CYPT Drama Camp. Flora participated in a week-long drama camp by the Calgary Young People’s Theatre. Her group developed and presented a fantastic play that included Greek gods, the captain of the Titanic, and some Ice Age humans and mammals.

* Eaglefeather Horse Riding Camp. Cinder and Flora both participated in a week-long horse camp at Eagle Feather Ranch and enjoyed it very much. Fortunately, not enough to beg for year-round horse-riding lessons, but we have tentatively slotted in another horse riding session for next summer.

Dance Camp. Flora participated in a week-long dance camp at Freehouse Dance Plus. She worked very hard, but did not fully enjoy the experience.

* Chill-days around town. Our focus this summer was to enjoy the city and the weather. We took in various summer city festivals and events, including Shakespeare in the Park, and spent a great deal of time at the city’s rivers and nearby lakes. Favourite places/events: Ghost Lake area near Cochrane; Elbow River “Secret Spot”; rafting down the Bow; hot days at Bowview Outdoor Pool.


The over-arching philosophy for the coming year for Cinder and Flora’s learning adventure continues to be interest-led/delight-driven learning. Perhaps the most important principle for 2012/13 for us is “less is more”: fewer classes, fewer scheduled outings; more time and focus spent on the handful of activities Cinder and Flora want to focus on this year, more open days to take advantage of special events and activities around the city.

For Cinder: Cinder wants to focus on practicing archery and Tang Soo Do, as well as learning to program so he can “mod” Minecraft.

For Flora: Flora’s big goal for the year is to work on her writing. She also wants to complete a “major” work of art.

Both children will work on their reading; Flora with the goal of “easily finishing” chapter books, and Cinder with the goal of “being able to read instructions.”

On the parents’ agenda: Sibling harmony, predictable rhythms, a continuation of the handwriting/copywork discipline, and a more active creation of time and space for “alone” reading/time with books.



Literacy. Both children will continue to be read to from a wide assortment of literature, quality and not, fiction and not, to listen to audio books of their favourite stories, and to be given the time to spend alone with books. Additionally, each will be taking some responsibility for reading on most days to their little brother. The books that capture their imagination set the tone for projects and exploration in all other areas, so this is perhaps the defining component of our learning plan every year. Which books? Hard to say. There’s one more Lord of the Rings book to read, a new Rick Riordan Heroes of Olympus title expected in the fall, more books in The 39 Clues series, and an entire library of treasures to discover. We have a variety of book lists we’ll be trying things from, including AMightyGirl.comBoysBookshelf.comKidsRead.com, etc.

New: We’re adding a more conscious “ok, now go and be alone with a book for a while” element to our days. We’re a household that reads a lot as a family, which is wonderful, but it also means the kids think of reading as a social rather than alone/independent activity, and we’d like to strengthen that aspect of the reading experience for them.

Handwriting, copywork, and dictation. Both children will continue to work on their handwriting, seguing into building a foundation for future writing exercises with some copywork, narration and dictation. We may use the Writing With Ease program to help us along here; we may just continue to use the self-selected sentences and passages approach that has worked well for us this summer. Flora wants to start dictation exercises as part of her goal to be able to write on her own by the end of this year. With Cinder, we will take things more slowly. Both children will be encouraged to self-initiate independent creative writing if they like, of course, but our main focus is to work on the essential building blocks first, for as long as necessary.

Note: This has been such a positive practice since we’ve started phasing it into our lives last September; we expect it to continue to evolve in a positive way. Flora turns each handwriting session into an art-creation opportunity, and Cinder, while grumbling about it, has found a way to make it his own through the sentences he chooses or the inserts or illustrations he adds to the pages.

Science. We will be playing with a number of new science resources this year, notably books from the Great Science Adventure series—we started working with Vertebrates a little this summer, and it’s a neat little resource.. We will also continue to read our Horrible Science and Basher book/magazine series, and continue to seek out new resources as the children need them. Science Centre Homeschool days and frequent day trips to Drumheller and other hands-on science adventures will also be a priority for us this year. In the winter, we may look into Mad Science workshops or other activities if it looks like Cinder’s science thirst is not being quenched.

Science experiments for Cinder. We’re at a bit of a resource-gap for hands-on science experiments for Cinder—he’s worked through all the “obvious” ones; the science kits and science books readily available are really too basic for him now, and the next step up too complex/text-heavy to be appealing. Science Foundation Alberta has put its Science Crates program in abeyance for the coming year as it redesigns it, which is a big disappointment for us. We’re planning to fill this gap through Cinder’s interest in programming Minecraft mods and his Lego Mindstorms robots (see below).

Science for Flora. Most of our science exploration is geared to Cinder’s needs and drive, but Flora is generally happy to come along for the ride. The Great Science Adventure series is a resource we hope really works for her, as it has a big creative component.

Art. Flora is ready to try formal art lessons again this year (you may recall she had a very negative art camp experience last summer, and it took her this long to recover from it), so she will try learning with Theresa Grasby of Grasby Studios. She will also take a couple of shorter-duration classes through the City of Calgary Art Centres. And, of course, she will continue to create on her own.

Art for Cinder.Cinder will participate in the occasional one-off art project or adventure, as well as in a family art class, but this is not an area with much pull for him. However, Lord of the Rings has gotten him interested in the Warhammer role playing game, and he has started painting Warhammer miniatures, so this may be an area of artistic expression for him this year. We may also take a Family Cartoons and Comics class this year, chiefly to get the Cinder drawing and writing.

Music. Flora is taking her last year of Orff Music, Ensemble 2, this year.

Lego, Mindstorms, and Programming. Cinder is starting to get seriously interested in programming and moding, and we look forward to seeing where that will take him next year. We are looking into a Mindstorm class for him at Brickz4Kids, and he may work with a one-on-one tutor on programming.

Fitness and Health.Tang Soo Do for both children, archery for Cinder, gymnastics for Flora, regular swimming for the whole family, as well as daily biking, scootering, playground playing, hill-climbing, and generally moving are a critical part of Cinder and Flora’s life and well-being.

Around the city and around the province. We plan to continue exploring the offerings of the city’s arts, theatre, cultural and community groups and centres as they fit our family’s interests, including Y-Stage plays, Loose Moose plays, special events like Aggie Days and the Mayor’s Environmental Expo, open houses, presentations, workshops etc.

Sibling and family harmony. A key family “project” for the year is to foster sibling (and family) harmony, a particularly important goal as Cinder and Flora reach the ages when their interests diverge, and as their baby brother continues to go through the demanding toddler and preschool years. We will be actively looking for opportunities for the children to be together, to actively do kind things for each other, to take care of each other, to cooperate and collaborate etc. (The last year, we were focused on making sure they were able to go “their own way”–follow their unique interests—at the price of spending enough time playing and just hanging out together. So that “togetherness” and sibling harmony are front and centre of the 2012/13 agenda.)

On the Backburner

All other subjects and areas of interest are on the backburner for us for this year. We have no formal plans for focusing on math, although daily “numeracy” awareness and practice will continue (and we still have a mathletics.com subscription until January 2013, as well as Life of Fred and other books Cinder and Flora may dive into if they wish). History, geography and social studies exploration may or may not happen depending on what books and activities capture the children’s interests this year.


This is the target “default” rhythm of a day at home when we don’t have a specific project on the go or an outing planned:

30-90 minutes of chill time and breakfast
Walk on the hill with dog
Reading together
Alone time with books
Kitchen table activity (art, science, baking, whatever)
DVD/Game time
Run on the Common / Bike ride / Dog play / Playground
Bath time
Reading together

All subject to the vagaries and necessities of life as it develops

Monday: Swimming/Free day for outings
Tuesday: At home day / 6:15-7 p.m. Tang Soo Do (Cinder and Flora)
Wednesday: 11:30-noon Orff Music for Children (Ender)
Thursday: Swimming / 5:30 – 6:15 p.m. Orff Music for Children (Flora)
Friday: At home day / 6:15-7 p.m. Tang Soo Do (Cinder and Flora)/ Family movie night
Saturday: Short-term/seasonal classes, library workshops etc., while weather holds, firepits at SHC Common; when whether turns, Board Game Saturdays hosted at our home
Sunday: Y-Stage or Loose Moose plays, Glenbow Museum visits, events around town, Sunday dinner with Nana


One response to “Learning Plan: Grade 5 & 3 (2012/13)

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