Friday, February 29, 2008

"stunning ignorance"

Here is a recent and interesting NY Times article which shows how the emphasis on test scores can cause the unintended consequence of narrowing curriculum.

Does the "stunning ignorance" of history and literature even matter? We at SLO Classical Academy believe it does! "Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it."

Any thoughts or reactions?

By the way, SLO Classical Academy is about so much more than just teaching history. To be sure, we're committed to that as well, but we're also about fostering quality family connection, rich and rigorous classroom discussion, thoughtful integration of learning and life, character formation and so much more.

February 27, 2008

Survey Finds Teenagers Ignorant on Basic History and Literature Questions

Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature, said the group that commissioned it, Common Core.

The organization describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the liberal arts in public schools.

The group says President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind, has impoverished public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics, but in no other subjects.

Politically, the group’s leaders are strange bedfellows. Its founding board includes Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is a powerful force in the Democratic Party, and Diane Ravitch, an education professor at New York University who was assistant education secretary under the first President George Bush.

Its executive director is Lynne Munson, former deputy chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former special assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne.

“We’re a truly diverse group,” Mrs. Munson said. “We almost certainly vote differently, and we have varying opinions about different aspects of educational reform. But when it comes to concern that all of America’s children receive a comprehensive liberal arts and science education, we all agree.”

In the survey, 1,200 17-year-olds were called in January and asked to answer 33 multiple-choice questions about history and literature that were read aloud to them. The questions were drawn from a test that the federal government administered in 1986.

About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German kaiser.

On literature, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of Ralph Ellison’s novel about a young man’s growing up in the South and moving to Harlem, “Invisible Man,” from a list of titles. About half knew that in the Bible Job is known for his patience in suffering. About as many said he was known for his skill as a builder, his prowess in battle or his prophetic abilities.

The history question that proved easiest asked the respondents to identify the man who declared, “I have a dream.” Ninety-seven percent correctly picked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 8 in 10, a higher percentage than on any other literature question, knew that Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about two children affected by the conflict in their community when their father defends a black man in court.

In a joint introduction to their report, Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch did not directly blame the No Child law for the dismal results but said it had led schools to focus too narrowly on reading and math, crowding time out of the school day for history, literature and other subjects.

“The nation’s education system has become obsessed with testing and basic skills because of the requirements of federal law, and that is not healthy,” Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch said.

“You can be supportive of N.C.L.B. and also support strengthening the teaching of history and literature,” a spokeswoman for the Education Department, Samara Yudof, said. “It’s good to talk about expanding the curriculum, but if you can’t read, you can’t read anything at all.”

A string of studies have documented the curriculum’s narrowing since Mr. Bush signed the law in January 2002.

Last week, the Center on Education Policy, a research group in Washington that has studied the law, estimated that based on its own survey 62 percent of school systems had added an average of three hours of math or reading instruction a week at the expense of time for social studies, art and other subjects.

The Bush administration and some business and civil rights groups warn against weakening the law, saying students need reading and math skills to succeed in other subjects.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Join us for MacDonald's Phantastes

Our next Parent Reading Group is Friday, April 4 when our discussion will center around George MacDonald's Phantastes.

Grab yourself a copy and start reading and then plan to join us. We'd love to see a few more dads joining us

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

SLO Symphony Music Van Slide Show

The SLO Symphony Music Van visited the Academy a couple weeks back. Here are some pics of the kids having fun and making some music. It also happened to be Pajama Day to kick off our Independent Reading Program, just in case you wondering. . . .

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

2.26.08 Friends of Email

About once a month or so, we send an email to those who have signed up for our "Friends of SLO Classical Academy" email list to highlight all that's going on in our vibrant community. (Sign up yourself right now in the right margin!) Here is the "Friends of" email that was sent on February 26. . . .

"I can't believe impossible things." said Alice.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.
"When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible
things before breakfast."
- Lewis Carroll

Dear Friend of SLO Classical Academy -

Winter Trimester Reflections

Things are in full swing right now at school and at times, it is hard to believe how far we've come in just two and a half year! Thanks to so many people, our students have been studying 16th and 17th century European history, they began an independent reading unit with a pajama day and professional storytelling, they are studying astronomy, they've been taking a plethora of enrichment classes (Musical theatre, design, soccer, chess, healthy eating, history, scrapbooking and science), we've had the Symphony music van for a visit, have been attending a wide variety of field trips and we're making final preparations for our all school Math Celebration evening. Phew!

On top of that, parents have been busy helping in all sorts of ways on campus, they are planning a trip to D.C. next April for 5th-8th graders, we continue to enjoy our Parent Reading Group, our Landscaping committee has hundreds of bulbs growing on campus for an upcoming fundraiser, our fundraising committee is preparing the best yet Walkathon and we are busy helping our children finish their second trimester well.

One of the things I enjoy most about our school - besides all the wonderful benefits I experience for our family (we have three children at the school and we LOVE it) - is the think-outside-the-box community we have. Our parents all bring something to the community, all working together to make SLO Classical Academy what it is - a wonderfully rich and very UNIQUE community of families with a thirst to provide a completely engaging and effective education for their students and to be intimately involved in this process. It truly is amazing, the resources we have as a group, and I look forward to the years to come. We believe in the impossible, and we see it happening every day at home and on campus.

We have had our trials this year, our most recent and most heartbreaking being the death of one of our Middle School students from health complications after open heart surgery just ten days ago. It has been an immensely sad time for us, but it has been also a rich time as we work together with students to handle this real-life lesson in suffering. Our hearts go out to her family, who have been a wonderful model of hope and faith for us all.

What now?

Our current families have been re-enrolling for the 2008-2009 school year and their priority registration closes on February 28th. The folks on the Waiting List will then take their places, and open registration begins on March 3rd. At this point, we expect that we will have spots at all levels, with the most openings on Track A (Monday/Wednesdays). If you are interested in SLO Classical Academy, please do three things:
1. Spend some time on our website.
2. Attend a Parent Information Night - this is required for a complete application. Meetings are scheduled for:
• Wednesday, March 5th
• Tuesday, April 1
We are not necessarily going to schedule more after this, so make sure to attend one of these.
Scroll down the page until you find our application forms.

What's coming up?

Besides our registration, we have other opportunities coming up.
Think Outside the Box - we really would love you to attend one of these to have you hear more about our program and to hear your feedback! We will not ask for money - we promise! It would mean a lot to have you come. They all start at 11 a.m. on campus and the next dates are:
Wednesday, March 5th
Tuesday, April 1st
Andrew Pudewa will be presenting for us again on May 1st - details to be announced.

What else?

• We have a great blog up and running - you can find out a lot about our community by visiting it regularly:
• We have updated our sponsors list as well - so many have given generously of their time and money to make the impossible become possible. Check it out at
• We also have a new wish list, for those of you who might have stuff laying around the house or for those who like to give very practically. You can find it on, yes, our web site! See - look at the top of the page for our Updated Winter Wish List.

We appreciate your support and interest in SLO Classical Academy. As always, if you'd like to be removed from this list, just let us know by replying to this email with "Please remove me from this list."

Have a wonderful week...

Susie Theule

Education is not the filling of a bucket,
but the lighting of the fire. -Yeats

Monday, February 25, 2008

two new tools

We've added two new tools to enhance your SLO Classical Academy online experience. . .

  1. We've added a way for you to subscribe to this blog so that you receive posts by email instead of having to manually check the blog each time you want to check up on what's going on. With an email subscription you are always up to date with the latest happenings at SLO Classical Academy. Why not subscribe right now?

    Enter your email address:

  2. We've added a new google custom search engine to the SLO Classical Academy website. What is so cool is that it not only searches the website, but also the blog. Why don't you take it for a spin right now and see what happens? We dare you. . .

Sunday, February 24, 2008

thanks to our valued partners. . .

We give thanks for our partners, individuals and organizations who are helping keep the fire and the dream alive. We couldn't do it without them. Please support our valued partners as you have the opportunity.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What do YOU know about the Luna Moth?

Its kind of turned into Dad's week here on the SLO Classical Academy blog...

If you're trying to decide if SLO Classical Academy is a fit for your family, maybe this video will put you over the edge and suck you in. SLO Classical Academy is about the whole family learning together. . . . in this case, the Moses family, led by Zak, had the chance to learn all about the Luna Moth . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dads Can Make A Difference

In this "Tools of the Trade" feature from the February edition of the Scoop, Mark Greenelsh shares some neat ways that he is striving to make a difference in the education of his daughter, Hannah. . . .

At the last Parent Inspiration and Encouragement ( P.I.E.) meeting we discussed ways that fathers can help in their children's education since in most SLO Classical Academy homes, mothers are the primary homeschool teachers. Several suggestions were shared including viewing homeschooling as a lifestyle, being flexible and creative in how to achieve educational outcomes, praising and appreciating your wife for all she is able to do and not worrying about the less important stuff falling to the wayside, making a family reading time a priority, and finding a practical subject that dads enjoy and can teach their kids (like how to build something, how things work, or physical education).


One other suggestion for dads that the group wanted to share with parents that weren't at the meeting is setting a few overarching goals for your children's education and then being intentional each day in crafting those into a noteworthy composition. Your child's curricula are like the colorful threads that form a tapestry. But the goals pull the individual threads together and weave them into a beautiful design. Addressing the goals suits fathers' schedules because it doesn't necessitate knowing specifically what their child is learning academically on a particular day. Here is a simple example: one goal we have is for our kids is to become effective communicators. So we have made a point in our family of not saying the word "like" unnecessarily. Every time someone does, we stop him and ask him to rephrase his statement. We keep this lighthearted and the kids are onboard with it. They enjoy "catching" each other when it happens. Another goal we have is to become a complex thinker. So at dinner time I might select some news or an event and ask our daughters to tell me what they think about it, and if they were in charge how they would solve it or prevent it. Work on the tapestry every day, but weave it into your lifestyle. Hopefully you can brainstorm effective methods and provocative questions at work, during lunch, while commuting, or on the spur of the moment when the opportunity arises.


Following are seven educational goals we have for our family that aren't tied to a core academic outcome. We have a few more, but hopefully these are sufficient to help you establish goals for your family. The first six are goals from the high school where I teach. We felt compelled to adopt the seventh in order to gratefully acknowledge
and respond to a truth and purpose beyond ourselves. Our family wants each person to become:

* AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR One who successfully receives and imparts information through speaking, writing, reading, listening, fine arts, and technology.

One who accesses a variety of resources; looks for multiple solutions to a problem; is intellectually curious; uses creative and critical thinking; applies complex problem solving processes and critical thinking to real life.

One who uses time, resources, and technology to create excellent work.

One who makes valid judgments about what to learn, how to learn it, and assesses the result; makes wise choices considering the consequences of those choices; develops significant goals.

One who uses appropriate social skills to work effectively with people varying in gender, race, attitudes, ability, and cultural background with consideration and mutual respect.

One who contributes time, energy, and talents to improve quality of life for himself, his school and his community.

One who humbly finds his greatest pleasure in God and making God known by laying down one's life to extend God's justice, mercy, and love to others.


Dads play a vital role alongside their wives in their children's education. Your family needs you as a servant leader. Diligently finding ways to support your wife and intentionally helping your children become lifelong learners is well worth the effort. Engage your kids. Enjoy the process. Equip them through your unique strengths to make a positive impact in our world.

--Mark Greenelsh, husband to Rhonda and father to Hannah (11), Grace (5) and Weston (2). This is their first year at SLO Classical Academy; Hannah enjoys being in fifth grade.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Registration Packets Now Posted!

New student registration for the 2008-2009 School Year officially opens Monday, March 3rd, but you can download a Registration Packet today and get started filling it out. For more info and to download a packet, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dads in the Game

Michael Nowak conducts the San Luis Obispo Symphony. His daughter also attends SLO Classical Academy. He is helping us integrate classical music into our classical education. Just last week, he arranged for the SLO Symphony Music Van to come to the campus, so the students could get their hands on some instruments.

Here is a recent piece that Michael wrote for the February issue of the Scoop. . .

Classical Music - New & Old --by Michael Nowak

As Music Director for the San Luis Obispo Symphony, it is not uncommon for me to be approached by a composer who has written a work for orchestra. When the request was made on behalf of composers who had been dead for 200 years, I was more than a little intrigued.

In anticipation of our June 8, 2008 concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles which will feature the music of Cal Poly music professor, Dr. Craig Russell, I asked Craig to write a new work for violin and string orchestra to feature our mutual friend, the extraordinary violinist, Kathleen Lenski.

Dr. Russell said he would be delighted, but offered an alternative concept. "What if I use music that was written for the California Missions 200 years ago - bits and pieces that can be woven together - as the basis for this composition?" Dr. Russell is the world's leading authority on California Mission music. He has spent decades exploring church archives, discovering hidden musical treasures, even realizing entire works from mere fragments.

Craig Russell is very much like an archeologist who finds a lost city or an anthropologist who can reveal human history with a single prehistoric bone. In this instance, Dr. Russell has 'unearthed' music that was extremely popular here in California in the early 1800's at the mission communities of Santa Barbara, San Fernanado, and our nearby San Antonio. Music that was once beloved by the people who founded and grew the communities we now live in. Dr. Russell has taken this exquisite music and interwoven it with his own modern harmonic and melodic structures.

The result: "Ecos Harmonicos" (Harmonic Echoes), a work recently given its world premiere at Mission San Luis Obispo. This is music rich in historical and cultural significance and classically inspired. This is music transcending the boundaries of time, bringing together in joyous celebration, old and new.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Flickr Pic of the Week, 02.01.08

The smile of this kindergarten student says it all . . . .