What if I’m new to homeschooling?
Only 35% of new Classical Academy parents have homeschooled before! What the school offers is an opportunity for you to come alongside of your students while they learn. You serve as a fellow learner, a guide, a motivator. For most subjects, the plans are laid out for you. In the few subjects not fully overseen by the school (phonics, reading, & spelling), we offer carefully chosen curricula from which to choose. There is parent support everywhere - including weekly emails, parent trainings, office staff, teachers and fellow SLOCA parents. You CAN do this - and we want to help! The freedom and time it offers families is worth it alone - but there is so much more to an education at SLOCA! It is the best you can give your kids - now and for their future.
My spouse doesn’t think I can do the homeschool piece. Do you have any suggestions?
This is not an uncommon concern, and we understand it. Many of the staff and parents who are in the program never expected to be educating at home, so we have all faced the fears and challenges with starting this program.
It can be comforting for new families to know that most of our families were not planning on homeschooling. Most of them are not classically educated, trained as teachers, nor are they "super parents." They are motivated to give their students that best education they can, however, and are willing to do the work to make sure this happens. The basic stance we take on our parents at home is that they must be willing to work hard and consider themselves as co-learners with their students. We offer an incredible amount of support for the parents home educating, and we encourage you to visit this link to read more about that. We also encourage spouses to talk with currently enrolled parents when possible, visit the classroom, attend our Parent Preview Nights, and offer as much support to their home educating spouse as possible. Hundreds of parents are choosing Classical Academy in the area - and figuring it out!
Do you have any families where both parents work?
We certainly do - in fact, over 50% of our families have dual incomes of some sort. Most of these families do not have two full-time working parents, although we do have a few - these families get creative, enroll in the four-day program, utilize tutors, etc. Some families have both parents working because of their deep desire to afford the best education they can for their kids - these families make sacrifices and most of the secondary income parents work part-time. Working and "doing SLOCA" can be a lot to juggle as the primary home educator - but those that do are in good company with many around them living the same wild, wonderful life.
My students are a little older. Do kids starting late do okay?
Since inception in 2005, the majority of our students have come to us “mid-stream.” While starting from the beginning is a wonderful way to embark on classical education, starting late is totally manageable and worth it, and children do well adjusting to this model. The community is very welcoming - kids know to look for newcomers and newcomers easily meld into this caring community. Teachers are experts at integrating new kids into their conversations, and the children who have been around awhile help new students “fill in the blanks” in terms of missed history, writing style, etc. And new children - well, they learn so much more quickly than adults! They are filling in the blanks before we know it!
A bigger question is how parents do when arriving “late!” Parents definitely have an adjustment period - there is some work involved in getting to know our writing approach, math curricula and whole-mind approach to history and literature. It takes awhile to figure out that we really DO believe in reading history out loud - together, as a family. And there are emails to read and schedules to rearrange. But after a few months, “we love it here!” is the common sentiment of new families.
Are kids who attend SLO Classical Academy prepared for other school settings?
We have had students transfer to other settings for a variety of reasons, and we have gotten no negative reports at all when this happens. Instead, we hear how strong writing skills are, how well they know their history, how they are volunteering for public speaking opportunities, or how they are taking AP level classes. Although we measure student growth and aptitude differently than most schools, the depth and breadth of what students study at SLO Classical Academy outshines other educational models, so students are well prepared to succeed wherever their paths lead.
Do you partake in standardized testing?
We do not do standardized testing at SLO Classical Academy for several reasons. The first is that the rich classical approach to learning has been proven time and time again over the years - from ancient days to modern times. We believe that providing this rich academic approach should be central to our classrooms - NOT teaching to tests of any sort. We also do not believe that standardized tests are an accurate representation of student ability or aptitude.
However, students are being tested at other classical schools across the country with great scores and success. Both classically and home schooled children test high on the SAT’s and ACT’s and perform above peers on state standardized tests.
Since you don’t test (see question above), how can you assess the success your program is having?
Because we have so carefully chosen our model of education, we do trust the foundation that both classical education and home schooling offer - we have combined the best of both worlds for a formula that only makes sense. Both classically education and home schooled children are astounding the world with their knowledge, thinking skills, and character.
That being said, we are constantly assessing how students are doing and if the program offers what it promises. We assess the success of our program in several ways.
1. The report of our families
2. The report of our teachers
3. The performance of our students when transferring to other schools
4. The report of outside observers
5. Comparisons to other programs
And soon, we will have high school graduates, which will provide a wonderful way to measure the richness and success of SLO Classical Academy!
Do you use grades?
We do not use letter grades in our Jr K-Middle School levels. Much like standardized testing, grades can easily become the focus of student work and achievement and they don’t necessarily reflect a student’s true ability or aptitude. While students and parents are given ample feedback regarding progress via points, assignment feedback detailed progress reports, these, along with student work, create a portfolio from which we can watch and assess student progress. We believe this approach offers a more authentic assessment approach than do grades. The goal is to work closely with students and parents to help students reach their full potential.
We do give letter grades at the high school level in an attempt to help students bridge their learning experience with those outside of the SLOCA environment and to help them prepare for college entrance. However, teachers pay close attention to student work and progress behind the grades, still working closely with them to motivate them to reach their full potential.
Are your teachers credentialed?
Most of our teachers are fully credentialed, although that isn’t the only thing we look for in hiring our faculty. We look for a lifelong passion for learning, creativity, chutzpah and smarts! We also do no necessarily require teachers to be credentialed - if past experience proves that a teacher is fully qualified to serve as a dynamic, capable teacher at SLO Classical Academy, we will certainly consider that teacher’s application.
Do any of your families hire tutors?
Our belief in parent involvement at SLO Classical Academy is clear - we believe that highly involved parents are essential in student success both in and out of the educational arena now and in the future. However, we also acknowledge that this school requires much out of parents, and that offering the best to our children sometimes means pulling together some help. We have many families where both parents work, families with multiple kids that desire help on their home days, and families who feel that a tutor might offer better guidance in certain subjects. These families often hire tutors - for different reasons and to help in different ways. But it is doable...all we ask is that the parents stay as involved as possible for the sake of their children and the success of doing this program as a family.
Do you offer a full-time option?
At this point, we offer programs that have kids attending 2 (signature hybrid), 3 (high school) or 4 (enriched hybrid) days per week, with an optional ½ day on Fridays 8 weeks each trimester
Do you have a facility - a place to call "school" where kids can play and classrooms are designated for learning?
Yes! SLO Classical Academy is so fortunate to have an actual school facility that is centrally located for all families, provides large, window-filled classrooms for learning, boasts two playgrounds and a large playing field for getting the wiggles out, and has ample parking (most of the time!).
Since the middle of our first year, we have leased the "Old Pacheco" elementary school right at the foot of Cal Poly on Grand Avenue in San Luis Obispo. Now there for seven years, we utilize the large library space, 13 classrooms and office space. We all meet in the morning on the "little playground" for our Morning Meeting. During these meetings, we review our Latin word root of the week (it's fun!), are reminded of our character trait of the month, and say the pledge of allegiance as a school - Kindergartners through High School. It is a wonderful, community-centered way to start the morning.
We also have our own on campus bookstore, where enrolled families can purchase all required materials at a reduced rate, making shopping for curricula a breeze! The store also displays the artwork and handiwork of our SLOCA families, who donate back to the school when items sell. Fresh coffee is also on sale in the store for those tired moms.
A primary focus on our campus is our community - we are thankful we have a wonderful facility that allows us to be together.
What do you do for PE?
Given our time constraints with most students attending only 2 days weekly, PE is not offered in our usual core classroom time. However, we do require parents to have their students in some sort of physical education and work to help provide opportunities to fulfill these requirements.
First of all, any organized sport serves to fulfill the PE requirement at Classical Academy. Secondly, we work to provide some PE opportunities during lunch and after school with optional classes. Thirdly, we work to offer PE options during our Academy Classes on Fridays. Our optional classes currently include a Running Club, Outdoor Games, Tae Kwon Do, and Fencing.
Do you offer fine arts?
Absolutely! We at SLO Classical Academy believe that integrating fine arts in a child’s education is essential. We pursue offering fine arts in a number of ways:
1. In the classroom, we consistently study the arts over the centuries in and through history.
2. Our new Lower Middle School has an art class integrated into their core classes each week.
3. We offer after school art classes for all K-4th graders.
4. We offer fine arts classes on Fridays, including music and visual and dramatic arts.
Why do you have mixed-grade classrooms?
It is not uncommon for one of our teachers to mention that she has forgotten which “grade” level specifics students belong in. This is because we believe that ultimately, the optimal learning environment is one which allows each child to thrive as fully as possible as his or her own rate. Mixed-grade classrooms contribute to success in this area. First of all, mixing ages is as natural as having a family - the younger kids learn from and model after the older kids, the older kids learn from and teach the younger kids. Healthy social development includes interactions with kids of other ages. Mixing grades also encourages each student to reach his or her potential as it reduces the impact of pressure to “arrive” at a specific skill at exactly the same time as others of the same age. There is more room for high achievers to go deeper or farther, and more room for students who struggle to still take some necessary time to reach his or her fullest potential. The standards students are measured by become more aligned with appropriate measures of true aptitude and ability rather than a forced “grade-level” approach.
Does this mean that students set their own pace? Not entirely. We also believe that learning to work hard, being prepared for class, and persevering are all important tasks to learn as students. We expect our students to be moving towards excellence and expect parents and teachers to help students define what this means. What it DOES mean, however, is that there is room in the program to individualize through specific assignments, curricular choice in certain areas, and in approach to learning.
How much work is assigned for home days?
The amount of work is takes to keep up with assignments depends on many factors - grade level, learning style and pace, number of children being schooled, and family dynamics to name a few. As a general rule, however, the following are average times for students at each level:
Jr K: 60 min. on home days
K: 2 hours on home days
Primary (1/2): 2-3 hours on home days
Intermediate (3/4): 3-5 hours on home days
Lower MS (5/6): 4-5 hours on home days
Upper MS (7/8): 6 hours on home days
HS (9-12): varies according to class load
It is important to remember that for most students, evening homework is virtually eliminated from home life, unless families opt for doing their work in the evenings. This frees up evenings for family time and makes those hours on home days feel like a blessing!
My child is reading several grade levels ahead, how can you accommodate this in the classroom?
Our teachers are used to and adept at meeting varying needs in the classroom. They consistently have ready various levels of work, but also include challenges like going deeper, tutoring other students, etc. In addition, there is ample room at home to provide challenges for the eager and ready learner - including choosing the most difficult assignments, adding challenging work, and using books from higher levels for history.
Is SLO Classical Academy Religious?
SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any specific religious group, nor is there a religious agenda. There has been confusion about this, however, because the school includes in its historical studies the study of all major religions as they unfold in and influence history. In addition, religious documents considered to be on most great books lists here in the Western culture will be included in our literature lists.
The school does not consider itself religious, nor are we best described as secular, which would indicate that we are primarily concerned with non-religious subjects. Instead, we are best described as non-sectarian, meaning that we are not related to a specific religious or political group. We are not interested in being as religious as possible, but rather are very much interested in religion as it relates to history and how religion has shaped and defined who we are. The study of religion is integrated into our curricula in the same manner as the study of government, cultures, science, etc. We therefore encourage families to pursue their own religious and spiritual education at home.
Our agendas, therefore, do not include religious agendas, nor anti-religious agendas. Our agendas are also not of a political nor fashionable nature. Instead, we are focused on one true agenda only - the provision of an exceptional, classical education. Focusing in this manner allows us to specialize and excel at what we do, and it is our belief that by studying classically, our students will develop respect for others, a thirst for learning, an ability to think things through on one's own, and a strong conviction of character. We strongly encourage our families to become knowledgeable about what classical education is, as this understanding will greatly increase one's understanding of what SLO Classical Academy is all about.