Free Friday: October 24, 2014




We are deep in the era of the technological sublime, when awe can most powerfully be generated not by forests and icebergs but by supercomputers, rockets, iPods and particle accelerators. We are now continually awed by ourselves.

~ Alain de Botton


It’s Friday, time to take things a bit slower and think about unplugging from technology for a short while. Maybe if we get away from the gadgets and devices, we’ll be awed by something truly spectacular…


Down Home wishes you a restful weekend with your friends and family!



SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with the above mentioned website.


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Categorized: Archive, Home Life

Pedagogic Ponderings: The Well-Trained Mind




Mrs. Burns is back with another illuminating review for us today!



Pedagogic Ponderings

Mrs. Burns’ Book Review Blog


This month I’m reviewing The Well-Trained Mind. I chose this book to review because it is THE authority on classical education homeschooling. You cannot research the topic without repeatedly running into this book and for good reason.  The Well-Trained Mind provides a detailed and clear explanation of classical education as well as a wealth of resources for the home educator.  So, read on to find out: an embarrassing truth about Mrs. Burns, what classical education is, and an explanation of the Trivium.


I had the distinct displeasure of going to the dentist last week.  Have you noticed how going to the dentist makes you feel helpless? It’s the way you’re flat on your back, drooling onto a bib, with someone else’s fingers in your mouth!  But it is always the worst for me, because (and this is really embarrassing) I don’t floss.  As my dental hygienist worked up a sweat scrapping off my plaque while my mouth turned into a bloody horror show, she asked me in a crisp voice, “Do you floss regularly?” 




It reminded me of Mrs. Brown’s Kindergarten class when she had caught me eating.  As she questioned me in front of everyone, I frantically tried to chew and swallow the evidence (a tootsie roll).  Hot tears ran down my cheeks as I adamantly refused I had been eating.  There was no fooling Mrs. Brown and she turned the card next to my name from green to yellow, my first memory of shame.


But I’ve learned a few things since Kindergarten, so I turned to my hygienist and admitted, “No, I don’t floss.”  Still, I felt small and I began to believe that going to the dentist with healthy gums was my Litmus test for when I will have arrived at a mature, organized lifestyle, where “I have it all together.”  Until then I wonder, if I’m not even flossing, can I really handle homeschooling my child through SLOCA?  Maybe you have great teeth but you’re wondering – If I don’t remember math, can I really homeschool my children? Or – I have four kids. Can I really homeschool them all?


The book, A Well-Trained Mind, provides practical tools so that average parents with busy, full lives can successfully homeschool.  In the book the authors Jessie Wise and her daughter Susan explain classical education philosophy and what it looks like in practice in the home at each grade level.  They provide resources like daily schedules and curriculum suggestions to take the guesswork out of teaching at home.  Reading this book will leave you empowered to teach your child and confident in SLOCA’s educational approach.     


{photo by Mary Knudson}


As the author says, “this is a very big book,” (XXIII).  It’s divided into four parts.  Parts I – III outline what subjects to teach and how to teach them at every grade level. Part IV deals with homeschooling specific issues like how to socialize your child and make sure s/he ready for college.


My Three Take-Aways:


One – Classical education is about the subjects taught.  Classically educated students learn: spelling, grammar, reading (great books), writing, math, history (the four-year cycle), geography, science, Latin, logic, art and music.  It is a rigorous, systematic approach.


Two – Classical education goes much further than just the subjects being taught to outlining the way in which they are taught.  Classical education divides K – 12th grade into three stages.  In each stage the student is in a different place developmentally and so has different learning needs.  More on this later.


Three  - Classical education is about the subjects, how they are taught, and how the student learns.  This may be one of the most important goals of classical education – to create a lifelong learner:  “Classical education is designed to teach the student how to learn.  [It] trains the mind to gather, organize, and use information.  And the student who knows how to learn – and has had practice in independent learning – can successfully do any job,” (601).




How A Well-Trained Mind relates to SLOCA:


Being a classical school there are many parallels I could draw between this book and SLOCA, but I will focus on the Trivium, because it is core to what we do at SLOCA.  You may have heard of the Trivium before but, if you’re like me, you’ll find this a helpful review.


The Grammar Stage (K – 4th): “are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid,” (13) because the young mind “is ready to absorb information” and enjoys memorization, education involves “the learning of facts: rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics – the list goes on,” (14).


In the Logic Stage (5th – 8th) as the student naturally begins to think in the abstract the focus shifts from absorbing facts to analyzing them.  As students “think more analytically,” they begin to ask “Why?” and in doing so they seek out the, “cause and effect, relationships among different fields of knowledge, [and] the way facts fit together into a logical framework,” (14).


The Rhetoric Stage (9th – 12th) is all about effective written and oral expression.  Success in this stage is dependent upon the two earlier stages: “the student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses her conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language,” (14). 




Of course, the challenge is putting all this educational philosophy into practice.  At SLOCA, we follow many of the book’s practical approaches so we can do just that. These include: recitations, narrations, copywork, timelines, reading the classics, offering Latin and Logic, mindfully approaching spelling, grammar, and writing, and using the four-year history cycle as a spine.  The book also references many of the same curriculum choices we have made from Singapore Math to IEW.


The great thing about this book is that it works nicely as a reference.  Do you want to know why we do recitations, or why we learn Latin, or what the study of Logic is? All these questions (and much, much more) are answered in the book, and the table of contents will help you get to your answers quickly.  It is a great resource for any of you wanting a clearer picture of classical education. Enjoy!


Bauer, Susan Wise and Jessie Wise. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.


Coming up next: A review of The Core by Leigh A. Bortins



Great stuff! Thanks again, Mrs. Burns, for sharing these helpful reviews with us. We encourage our parents who want to be life-long learners to keep reading about classical education, and to invest in valuable reference books such as this one.


We also look forward to seeing everyone TONIGHT at the Madonna Expo Center at 6:30 for an evening with Gary Schmidt! Come support our amazing school and listen to this talented author discuss topics that are near and dear to our hearts. 


If you have any thoughts to share about The Well-Trained Mind or classical education, please leave a comment below!


Other reviews in this series:

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child by Anthony Esolen



SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned websites or businesses.



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What's for Dinner: Swedish Meatballs




Swedish Meatballs

Martha Stewart

Servings: 8


This Swedish recipe made me think of Vikings — perhaps it’s a loose connection, but it’s a good excuse to make these tasty meatballs! (Can we also justify a trip to IKEA because we’re studying the Vikings…?) I’ve made this a few times and really enjoyed it. I have only used ground beef, so if you don’t have ground pork it will work, although perhaps it’s not as authentic. 



1 pound ground beef chuck

1 pound ground pork

3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 garlic cloves, minced

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups canned reduced-sodium beef broth

Grape or red-current jelly, cooked egg noodles, chopped parsley, for serving (optional)



1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, panko, 1/2 cup milk, eggs, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and allspice. Mix just until combined.


2. Using a rounded 1-tablespoon measure for each, form mixture into meatballs (you should have about 48). Place meatballs onto two rimmed baking sheets; bake until golden brown and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.


3. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add flour; cook, whisking, 1 minute (do not let darken). Gradually whisk in remaining cup milk and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until sauce has slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.


4. Using a slotted spoon, add meatballs to bowl with sauce; gently toss to combine. Serve as an appetizer, on toothpicks, with jelly on the side; or as a main, over noodles, garnished with parsley, with jelly on the side.


Cook’s Note: Divide meatballs and sauce among airtight containers; freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator (or place containers under cold running water to release frozen blocks). Reheat, thinning sauce with water if necessary.



Click here for a printable pdf of this recipe.



SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with the above mentioned website or business.


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Categorized: Archive, Food

History Day Costumes: Viking Quest




Our Viking Quest History Day is a little over 3 weeks away, and we know some of you have already started planning your costumes! Dressing up for History Day is one of the fun, hands-on ways we make history come alive here at SLO Classical Academy. We will be celebrating the end of our first trimester together as a community, Viking-style, and it’s always a blast to see everyone dressing the part. 


If you're new to SLOCA, and wondering exactly what this History Day thing is all about, click here to read an inspiring and informative history day blog post from last year, written by Track B mom Kate Scott.


While costumes are not required, and we want you to come to History Day even if you don’t dress up, we know the kids always enjoy wearing them (and they love it when the adults are in costume too!). When we dress up for history day, it creates a dynamic effect and makes the whole event more memorable. 


Costumes need not be elaborate! Do what suits your personality and budget. Here are two great tips to help get you started:


1. Did you know that SLOCA has a Pinterest page with tons of ideas? There’s a whole board for History Day Costumes — Click here to check it out. There are links for items you can make, as well as pictures with ideas of “the Viking look”  to help you piece your own costume together. Oh, and you don’t have to be a seamstress to make a costume… you can do a lot with a simple tunic, faux fur, peel and stick fabric tape, (or duct tape!) hot glue, safety pins, and/or a few made or bought accessories.



{source, source}




2. Obviously this is the time of year when costume shops and thrift stores carry lots of costumes. Our own Fred & Betty’s thrift store has costumes right now, and you never know what you’ll find! Peruse these shops with history day in mind. Sometimes you’ll find a complete costume, but even if you don’t, you can often find pieces here and there that can be used to make a homemade costume pop — a piece of jewelry, an apron, a belt, a hat, a headband, a scarf, a sash, a weapon… Again, looking at photos of Viking and Medieval dress can help you know what types of items to look for. Go for the overall effect, don't worry too much about fine details. 




So happy costume hunting — we look forward to hanging out with our band of Viking brothers and sisters next month!


If you have any additional tips, stores to check out, or helpful websites with Viking costume ideas, please share in the comments below!



SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned websites or businesses.




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Categorized: Archive, Community, On Campus

Raising Friends As Well As Funds


{all photos taken from SLOCA’s Flickr site unless otherwise noted}


Happy Monday! We are veering slightly from our usual Monday Magical Moments to discuss what is sure to become a Magical Moment later this week:


As many of you know, our big Fundraising Event of the year is happening THIS Thursday, October 23rd, from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Madonna Expo Center. This exciting (and FREE) evening with award-winning author and medievalist Gary Schmidt will be centered around a very relevant topic that we believe will resonate with many folks in SLO County — the importance of reading WHOLE, great literary works and the unfortunate trend of deconstructing literature in our country. 


{photo by Rachel Neumann}


We know you’ve been hearing a lot about this event, but please keep reading and think about it from a slightly different point of view…


This will be the first time we’ve offered our entire Central Coast community a taste of what makes SLOCA unique and what we have to offer — a chance to show how we value learning together. We regularly come together to educate and inspire our own parents in our SLOCA community (think parent history/literature trainings, Andrew Pudewa, Adam Andrews, Singapore Math training, etc.), and this night will demonstrate our own love of learning to our greater community, in the hopes of educating and inspiring as many others as possible. 



Along with being our main fundraiser of the year, with the goal of generating the funds needed above and beyond tuition to keep our program running strong, this event is also intended to reach another equally-important goal: to raise friends. It’s our desire to reach people with the mission of SLO Classical Academy, communicate the “why” behind what we do, and give people inroads to learning about and connecting with our school.  And we want to invite others to become a part of our learning community! 



You may be thinking that you don't really want to invite people to another fundraiser. We get that. But we encourage you to invite friends and neighbors to this free dessert event, with no expectation to give financially, just so they can hear the message of what our unique school is all about. If you know people whose children go to other schools, invite them! If you have a neighbor or co-worker with grandchildren, invite them! You never know who will be touched by what they see and hear — some may be seeking educational options, while others may be inspired to support our school in some way, or to simply spread the word to others in their circles of influence. 




Support from families, staff, and our greater community is needed to ensure a solid future for SLOCA. Please stand with us to make a lasting impact on those around us and our world. Our heartfelt belief is that SLO Classical Academy offers the best education on the Central Coast, and we want others to experience our school as a community who loves to learn together — semper discentes!


We know that this incredible evening, learning together from Gary Schmidt, will be a powerful testimony to what SLOCA has to offer. Will you invite others to experience it? It's not too late! 


One last time, here are the details:


Date:  Thursday, October 23


Time:  6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Place:  Madonna Expo Center


Cost:  Free of charge - is a benefit for SLOCA.  It is open the general public so please share!


Click here to RSVP (or share this link).


We will see you there — we look forward to a rich evening of learning together from Gary Schmidt, and showing others what our learning community is all about!




{photo by Rachel Neumann}








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About Down Home

Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy's blog! We are a classical school offering options to make education work for families. We have a full hybrid program for grades K-8, which means two days at school with three days of home education, all days following the classical model and curricula carefully laid out by the school. We also have a four day program available for grades 5-8. Our high school students attend school three days each week. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home. Semper discentes - always learning together.

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