Throwback Summer: SLOCA's First Year


{photos from SLOCA’s Flickr site}


Welcome back to the blog! Enjoying the break so far? We hope you’ve had a chance to relax, slow down a bit, maybe purge some things from your homeschool area… that always feels good! 


In honor of SLO Classical Academy’s 10th birthday (we’ve completed TEN years! Wow!), Down Home is having a Throwback Summer… kind of like Throwback Thursday, but on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We will be sharing some favorite posts from the past few years, and hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time if you haven’t been reading the blog that long. 


(Every so often though, we will also throw in some new content, because there’s just too much fun stuff happening in the here and now that we want to share with you too!)


Our school has grown considerably over the years and our program has expanded, but the heart of what we set out to do remains the same. Our distinctive learning community brings students, parents and teachers together to provide the highest quality education possible – a community that forges character, fosters wisdom and nurtures a lifelong passion for learning. 


As many of you know, SLOCA was founded by Lisa Lewis and Susie Theule, who followed a dream and opened the school with 27 children grades Kindergarten - 6th grade in four homes in 2005. (Click here to read a brief history of our school.) 


Although the blog wasn’t as active in the early years as it is now, we do have blog posts from waaaay back. Today we bring you a few snippets from several of these, primarily from the summer before we began, as well as a few photos from our first year. It’s fun to look back on the process of getting the school going, and to enjoy how far we’ve come! 



June 9, 2005 (the very first blog post, which happened to be the very first weekly email update)

Encouraging Parent Information Nights

After having 10 families represented at our first "Parent Information Night" on May 23, we held our second Information Night on Monday, June 6th. We had 13 families represented this time around and two special guest teachers were present. In both sessions, we shared valuable discussion and fielded many great questions. Thanks to all for setting aside the time…


Grade Levels & Spreading the Word

We are hopeful for at least 20 students to start this fall, but do dream of a higher enrollment in order to provide more teachers and more classes. The more kindergarteners we get, the higher chance for a separate kindergarten class. The more 6th graders we get, the higher the chance for a 6th grade class! Please join us and spread the word to those with whom you are in contact…


Articles of Incorporation Completed

Starting a non-profit corporation has been quite a learning experience for Lisa and I. We continue to feel our way through the process. What a lot of steps and heaps of paperwork. We happily completed and just sent off our Articles of Incorporation as part of the process of obtaining our Non-Profit Status at the state and federal levels. We are also in the process of writing a business plan and completing the rest of the paperwork for our non-profit status (thank you, Lisa!). We continue to run into surprises and new work, so if anyone is available to help, please let us know!



Friday, June 10, 2005

Volunteering at SLOCA?

Parents are vitally involved in school life and are expected to contribute in every way possible to see that their children receive a superior education. SLO Classical Academy, especially during early years, is dependent upon parent volunteer time. We will require 6-8 hours per family per month. Ample opportunities will be available to allow completion of this requirement, and will include time in the classroom, secretarial/clerical hours, coordinating and chaperoning field trips, fulfilling administrative needs, teaching an elective, and other needs as they arise.



Thursday, June 16, 2005

Well, we continue to work towards San Luis Obispo Classical Academy's opening this fall. As we move through the lengthy and involved process, we are learning a lot about schools and businesses, and continue to grow in excitement about what the school will be like this year and in years to come. Classical education continues to draw our loyalty, and the concept of coming alongside parents in the education of their children in the unique manner we are offering continues to motivate us…



Friday, June 24, 2005

We're Halfway There!

We currently have 10 committed students...half of our 20 student goal. We are hoping, though, for 27! Why 27? We'd love to see 7 kindergarteners start this fall on their classical education journey. Thus, our goal is 20, our dream is 27. A lot can happen in 2 months time (the time we have before school starts!).



Friday, July 01, 2005

SLOCA is definitely moving forward and is becoming a reality! It has been an extremely encouraging week, both with sign ups, planning and feedback, and the short-term future of the school is now on solid ground. In addition, we've had many doors open and many people encourage us towards our long-term goals, giving us every reason to believe that this school will get stronger year after year.



Saturday, July 09, 2005

We've Reached Our Goal!

We are so happy to announce that as of today, we have 20 registered students for this fall.  Our goal was 20, and we are thrilled we've reached it at this point in the summer.  We are confident we'll keep adding in numbers during the next 6 weeks.  Thank you again to all who have joined us and for those that have spread the word to interested families.  We are excited!



Saturday, August 06, 2005

We are so excited to say that we are at 27 students! Our goal was twenty students to start the year. Now we have set a cap of 12 per class for the sake of space and management! We have only one spot in the 1st grade class and only two spots in the 2nd - 4th group. We still have room in Kindergarten and 5th - 6th. We have fabulous teachers waiting in the wings to work with all these wonderful children. Once again thank you all for speaking so favorably of what we are bringing to our community.



Friday, October 07, 2005

SLOCA October Update: We're rolling!

Well, we are five weeks into our first trimester! It has been a great, eventful school beginning — so much has happened we can't believe it has only been just over a month. Here are some highlights of what has been going on at SLOCA:


• We have four wonderful classes that are jelling together

• Students are responding to the teachers, each other, the curriculum and their home schooling and are loving their work

• We have a new and dynamite monthly newsletter

• We've adopted a stylin' new logo

• We have a web site in progress

• We have our first fundraiser going on, working to raise money for classroom furniture

• We have four Academy Classes that our children our thoroughly enjoying - 2 levels of drawing classes, P.E. in the Park for K-1, and sign language.

• Our new systems are working and continue to be refined

• We are experiencing the beginning of a wonderful sense of community

• Field trips are being coordinated and we had our first one together at Avila Barn

• Our teachers are loving our children and growing in our classical focus

• All the paperwork for nonprofit status has been completed and sent off for approval


We think all this is pretty exciting for the school being only five weeks old! Thanks to those who have given your time, energy and hearts to make our dream a reality.








And now, ten years later, with around 325 students, we would say the dream has most definitely been realized, and continues to grow and thrive beyond our wildest expectations! Thank you, SLOCA families, for being a part of this special community, for taking this educational journey, and for nurturing that lifelong passion for learning that will continue to move our students, families, and school forward into the next ten years and beyond! 



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Summer is Here!


{image credit: Peter and Ute Grahlmann / CC BY-NC 2.0}


And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


Congratulations everyone, we did it! We’ve wrapped up another wonder-filled school year, and summer lies ahead. The end of of school is always somewhat bittersweet, but we hope you’re ready for the long break and looking forward to family vacations, down time, a slower pace, a little extra freedom, and relaxing with your kids.


If you like to have some structure to your summer days, and appreciate a loose plan, here’s a super-helpful blog post from Creative With Kids with a few simple ideas to keep in mind:


Keep Summer Freedom from Turning Into Frustration – 5 Top Tips


These tips are doable, practical, and great for kids of all ages. Having a flexible, basic plan like this can help set you up for a smoother summer. 


We wish you a glorious break and the new beginning that summer brings! 


Down Home will be taking the next two weeks off, and we will return on Monday, June 29, with content three days a week for the rest of the summer. We won’t tell you yet what it will be… come back and see! 


How about one last comment? Share your summer plans, as well as any of your own tips on keeping summer relaxed:



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



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Categorized: Archive, Home Life

Pedagogic Ponderings: Play


{image credit: Ed Schipul / CC BY-SA 2.0}


For our last book review of the year, Mrs. Burns has chosen a fitting title for summertime reading. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series this year – these reviews are an amazing resource!


Pedagogic Ponderings

Mrs. Burns’ Book Review Blog

Pedagogic Ponderings is a blog review of pedagogic (educational) books by our own Jenna Burns.  After teaching History and Language Arts at SLOCA UMS for five years, Jenna is taking this year off of teaching to care for her new daughter, Julianna.  But she is not taking a break from learning!  She is seeking out the best books on education, reading them, pondering them, and reviewing them for us.  In her blog she gives us a snapshot of the books and how their educational philosophies connect to what we are doing at SLOCA.  We hope her blog helps you better understand classical education and our school.



Summer is the perfect time to rediscover play.  Do you have the end-of-the-year blues?  Play could be just what you need. “The opposite of play is depression,” explains Dr. Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brian, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (126).  “When we stop playing, we start dying,” (73).  If you don’t want to be depressed or dying, read this month’s blog and find out about: Mrs. Burns’ play personality, the brain eating sea-squirt, and how play can transform your life.


Dr. Stuart Brown in his book, Play, guides you through the process of taking your play history.  This is the process of reflecting on what brought you joy as a child in order to reclaim play as an adult.


It took me longer than I expected to take my play history.  Does any one else have surprisingly few memories of childhood?  But after some thoughtful introspection I struck upon it, and I can sum up my play history in one single word: water.  Ah, the fun I had in water as a child.  I spent my summer days in my backyard pool.  My siblings and I would race to jump in the water because, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” and no one wants to be a rotten egg.  My fondest memories growing up center around swimming, canoeing, crabbing, boogie boarding, tubing, houseboating, and basically anything on, in, or near the water.   I continued to gravitate toward water as I grew.  In high school I was a lifeguard and swim instructor.  Brian proposed on the cliffs of Montana de Oro.  Together we learned how to scuba dive, and every vacation we have ever taken has always been to a place on the water.  Yes, there is no doubt about it.  Water is my play.


{image credit: Dani Alvarez / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0}


I chose Play to review because I wanted to learn how to encourage Julianna’s development through play.  That is not what this book is about.  It is about understanding and reintroducing play in your adult life.  It encourages you to make play a value in your house, your work, your marriage, your friendships, and your parenting.  Can I tell you, realizing it is important for me to play makes me want to giggle . . . to giggle and throw off my shoes and jump in a pool. 


So, I dedicate this final blog of the year to our fabulous SLOCA parents, who have worked hard all year and who deserve to play this summer just as much as their kids do.  May this give you permission and direction to bring play back into your life – not as another thing for which you have to make time and space – but as an attitude.  May play start to become a way of life for you.


Play is an easy and quick read.  Along with scientific studies, Brown provides anecdotal evidence of play in animals and humans.  His book is relevant to a wide stretch of people: the home educator looking to make lessons more playful, the boss wanting to foster more creative and productive employees, the lonely adult seeking more fulfilling relationships, and so on.  For myself, I found these three points from Brown’s book most helpful:


1. Play has purpose.

Brown sums up three of play’s purposes with, “Play creates new neural connections and tests them.  It creates an arena for social interaction and learning.  It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents,” (49).  In other words, play helps the brain develop, improves our social skills, and furthers our acquisition of skills.  That is all very important, but it misses out on the heart and soul of play.  The purpose of play is also to breath color into our lives, “Making [play] part of our daily lives is probably the most important factor in being a fulfilled human being,” (6). 


Brown uses an example from nature to illustrate the paramount importance of play. The sea squirt has a very tiny, primitive brain that, “helps it move selectively toward nutrients and away from harm,” (47). It spends its youth exploring the sea, but as an adult it permanently attaches itself to a comfy little nook, allowing the passing current to provide its nourishment.  Now that this “couch potato of the sea” need not explore the world, it “digests its own brain,” (48).  That’s right.  It is a brain – eating, cannibalistic couch potato.  I wonder what its final thought is? “Yum, my brain tastes delicious!”  But I digress.  The point is: “Either we grow and develop, or we waste away,” (48).  Unlike most animals, humans are “designed to be lifelong players,” and, “If we stop playing, we share the fate of all animals that grow out of play.  Our behavior becomes fixed.  We are not interested in new and different things. We find fewer opportunities to take pleasure in the world around us,” (48, 71).  Play has purpose.  It nourishes the body, mind, and soul.


Don’t be a sea squirt!

{image credit: wikimedia commons}



2. Play is personal.

Gardening is one person’s play and another’s chore.  Play is personal.  One of my favorite parts of this book was reading about the eight play personality types.  I’m the “Explorer.”  I love going to new places (especially restaurants) as well as learning about new subjects, ideas, and discovering new books.  Maybe you are the joker, competitor, or collector. Understanding your play personality and taking your own play history makes it easier to pursue activities that will bring you happiness. What is play to you?


3. Play is powerful.

According to Brown, play has the power to reinvigorate not only your own life, but also your marriage and friendships: “Play is the cornerstone of all personal relationships,” (158).  To test his theory, I busted out Jenga after a long day of chores.  The baby was finally asleep and both Brian and I were maxed out and a little cranky.  It didn’t start out very promising.  Just setting up the game was a pain and I wondered if we shouldn’t just give up and watch T.V.  But ten minutes into the game we were laughing, teasing, and making wagers.  I won and have been calling him “Gorilla Hands” ever since. 


{image credit: Kelly Teague / CC BY 2.0}


Brown encourages us to make a, “conscious decision to take on a playful attitude,” (162) because, “When we do that and create a playful household, everything from education to chores will go better,” (80).  I put this to the hardest test: I took up running.  “I’m going to pretend it’s a really fun game,” I decided.  With, “3 – 2 – 1 Blast Off!” cheers to Julianna each time I start, keeping track of my times, and focusing on the refreshing breeze on my cheeks, I can say it is almost, nearly, kind of, just about play.


Play is a powerful force of good.  Harness it in your marriage, your household, your morning jog and watch it replace the doldrums with joy.


I hope I have convinced you of the importance of play in your adult life.  But this is a blog about education so let’s talk about play at SLOCA. 


Brown touches on the relationship between play and education.  “Play is learning’s partner,” (101), he says, and, “People reach the highest levels of a discipline because they are driven by love, by fun, by play,” (143).  Brown provides evidence that facts and skills learned through play are retained longer.  But is play a traditional value of classical education? When puzzling over this (Brown does not address this point), I thought about how wrestling was a regular part of an ancient Greek’s education.  Having taught second graders I can say boys love to wrestle, so that to me sounds like play has a place in classical education.  But let’s take the question to a classical authority: Socrates. In Book VII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates promotes play: “Don’t use force to train the children in these subjects; use play instead.  That way you’ll also see better what each of them is naturally fitted for,” (208).  Here, Socrates himself recommends a playful approach to education!


Play is the kindling that helps us light the fires of a life-long love of learning in our children at SLOCA.  In his book, Brown outlines the different types of play, and you can see each in action at SLOCA.  Children memorizing chants with hand motions are engaged in body play.  Object play can be found in abundance in Little Wonders.  As students recite lines from Hamlet they are participating in storytelling play.  Social play is in the friendly interactions among students and teachers.  You might catch a glimpse of some rough and tumble play during recess.  Imaginative play is the puppet theater in Latin class or the Black Plague simulation in high school science.  When our 8th graders promote and our seniors graduate, we experience a kind of ritual play.  I bet you could ask any SLOCA teacher for an example of play in his or her classroom and he or she could give you one, probably from that very week. 


click to enlarge:

{photos taken from SLOCA’s Flickr site}


Summer is a great time to make play a priority.  What will you do to play today?


{image source}



Brown, Stuart. Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Avery, 2009. Print.


Perrin, Christopher. “Plato and Play.” Inside Classical Education. 6 May 2015. Web. 28 May 2015.


Plato, Republic. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992. Print.



These thoughts are definitely an encouraging way to transition into the next season. We hope all of our readers will enjoy plenty of play this summer, both in activity and attitude, and harness that powerful force of good!


Our deepest thanks goes out to you, Mrs. Burns, for reading and reviewing each of the superb titles in this series for us. We appreciate your insight, inspiration, humor, and personal connection through these blog posts! 


Other reviews in this series:

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

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

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise 

The Core by Leigh A. Bortins

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig 

Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv



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



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What's for Dinner: Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake


{image credit: Julie Ruble for Willow Bird Baking}


Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

Willow Bird Baking

Serves 6-8


I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood to celebrate – who cares about dinner, let’s eat dessert! Here’s one that’s fit for a special occasion, such as finishing an amazing school year. Grab a handful of forks or spoons and dig right in to the skillet, family-style. Yes, you do deserve it! 




1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

dash salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla



1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

2 tablespoons cocoa

3-4 tablespoons milk (as needed for consistency)

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

ice cream (for serving)

caramel sauce (for serving; this one is delicious!)

whipped cream (for serving)



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together and set aside.


In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, bring the butter, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, and water to a boil. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the dry ingredients well. Mix in the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Bake the skillet cake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.


While the cake starts to cool, make the frosting. In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa, and milk to a boil. Remove them from heat and add the icing sugar, nuts, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over the warm cake, spread with a spatula, and serve with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce, and whipped cream.


{image credit: Julie Ruble for Willow Bird Baking}



Click here for a printable pdf of this recipe.



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


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Categorized: Archive, Food

Tips for Enjoying a Relaxed Summer


{image credit: Ano Lobb / CC BY 2.0}


Are you looking forward to a slower pace, extra freedom, and more relaxation with your kids this summer? Do you ever start off the summer full of hope and expectation, only to become discouraged and frustrated either because the pace is NOT slower, or suddenly everyone is bored? 


Having a “successful” summer – whatever that means to you – can be tricky! We all need to recharge and relax, we often yearn for some unscheduled down-time, we want to connect with our kids in fun and meaningful ways, and many of us tend to do better with some type of routine to keep the days running smoothly. How do we balance all of that?  


Well, we probably won’t get it all just right every day. But today we’d like to share a blog post from Creative With Kids that is super helpful for the intentional parent who wants to start off with a plan and a few simple ideas to keep in mind:


Keep Summer Freedom from Turning Into Frustration – 5 Top Tips


These tips are doable, practical, and great for kids of all ages, but especially for families with young ones. Having a flexible, basic plan like this can help set you up for a smoother summer.


What’s a “successful” summer to you? Having nothing on the calendar? Meaningful family activities? Extended vacations? Leave a comment and let us know your hopes for summer, as well as any tips of your own:



SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any og the above mentioned websites or individuals.


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Categorized: Archive, Home Life

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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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