Friday, September 28, 2012

Free Friday

Friday is here, fall is here (well, it is on the calendar at least), and there’s a beautiful weekend ahead of us. To help get you in the Autumn mood, you might want to check out The 75th Annual Arroyo Grande Valley Harvest Festival, happening September 28th and 29th, in downtown Arroyo Grande. Fri: 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Sat: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Here’s their website for more information:

We hope you’ll try to be Free by 5:00 tonight and spend some of your weekend time in real-life interactions with family and friends. Have a good one! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Singapore Math Tips: Level 2

Today as a special treat, we will hear from Lisa Ann Dillon, our Singapore Math Curriculum Coordinator.  Lisa Ann will be writing a series of articles for us, sharing some tips on how we can help our kids be as successful as possible with the Singapore Math program. This week we will begin with Level 2, and in future weeks work our way up to Level 6, then come back around to Kindergarten and Level 1. This may seem confusing, but the idea is that the Level 2 parents and up are getting deeper into the Singapore way of things, so they can benefit from these tips sooner than might be needed for the younger grades. Regardless of your child’s math level, we hope the following information will be a good resource for you:

The Singapore Math program is founded on the principle that students must first build, then work with pictures before they learn the rules of math or algorithm.  We call this approach C – P – A.  This stands for Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract.  Only in keeping this in mind will the program make sense, and only in making use of all 3 stages will the program serve your student with all of its potential.
In Level 2 students begin using mental math to solve problems up to three digits with and without renaming.  Students who have all math facts memorized to automaticity (without thinking about it) have an easy transition to this skill.  Make sure your student gets the facts memorized the Singapore Way so they are also developing visual images and kinesthetic understanding of number sense. 
The following activities can be used to get your math lesson started.  You might also consider using them another time during the day and then the student might not even realize the math lesson is continuing!
• Get some fun manipulatives like plastic insects or sea creatures.  Using the double ten frames from last year, build the most difficult facts to memorize.  After building them in the frames, have your student write the number bonds.  Then write the equations.  Spend several days working to get both subtraction and addition facts memorized then move on to another.  
click here for a blank ten frame 
click here for a blank double ten frame
• Play games with cards or dominoes.  These are two excellent tools to help kids develop an imprint on the brain of the numbers from 1 – 9.  
• Throw a ball, or better yet a bean bag to your student.  Give a math fact as you do.  As the student throws back the object, the answer should be given. 
• Remember that students at this level should still be counting objects even as the math facts are becoming solid.  Have your student sort and count how many knives, forks and spoons as the dishwasher is emptied.  Or count how many red legos or beads are in a pile.  You get the picture.
• As understanding grows, begin estimating larger quantities and have students count objects to see how close the guess was. 
Keep in mind that Level 2 is still a year for exploration.  The goal is that students will master math facts, an understaning of place value, memorize multiplication facts for 2, 3, 4, and 5 and also be exposed to other strands of measurement, time, money, fractions and geometry.  This should be a fun and exciting year for your student.  If frustration encroaches – go back to the Manipulatives!  
Thank you, Lisa Ann! We all want our kids to be successful with Singapore Math, and ideas like these are so very helpful. Print and save these tips, and have fun with math!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's for Dinner?

{photo by Jenny Bischoff}

Bow Tie Pasta

If any of you were here five years ago and remember the “Let’s Eat” publication we used to have, you just might recognize this recipe. This year I thought I’d bring back a few oldies-but-goodies, recipes that I’ve been making for a long time and still love. This dish is from my good friend Katie’s mother-in-law. It has great flavors, it’s easy to prepare, and though we often pair it with a salad, it can be a one-pan meal since it’s got everything you need. You can substitute any kind of pasta, and you can leave out the chicken to make it a vegetarian meal. I sometimes add more chicken, pasta and broccoli to make this stretch a little further, increasing the liquids if it seems necessary.

2 T extra virgin olive oil (or use the oil drained from the tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch strips
1½ cups small broccoli flowerets
¾ cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
1 tsp dried basil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
   (optional, or sprinkle on top only for those who want it)
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 T butter or margarine
½ lb bow tie pasta, cooked and drained
grated parmesan cheese

In a skillet heat oil over medium heat. Sauté chicken until golden, then add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, dried basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, stir. Add wine, broth and butter, stir. Add broccoli, cover, reduce heat and cook about 5 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Remove lid, stir, toss with hot pasta, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Tidbit: Lots of Links!

We all know there are tons of amazing resources and activities online to provide extra fun enrichment for our home days when we’re in the mood for that sort of thing, but who has time to go searching? Today, we’ve done a little of that research for you, and are giving you a list of fun and educational links that relate to our first trimester. These are totally optional, of course, so feel free to ignore this or save it for a rainy day (or an E&E day!). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope there’s something here to interest you and your kids:

- Map of America made in 1636 - interesting to see what they thought it looked like!

- Colonial Williamsburg’s website has a fun Kids Zone with several games and activities:
(the last page of the Activities has a cool “Zoom in on the Constitution” and other documents, where you can read the originals!)

- Liberty’s Kids:

- Colonial House, a PBS special that aired years ago, has some Interactive History activities:

- Interactive maps and activities about the 13 colonies (and he has lots more on this site):

- Great pictures showing the clothes early Americans wore:

- Make a Colonial three-cornered hat:
(this is a membership site, but you can view 5 items for free)

- Early American life coloring pages:

- Label the American Revolution timeline:

- American Revolution hangman game:

- Learn about George Washington with this interactive site:

- The Patriot Papers activities:

- Virtual tour of Mount Vernon (requires Flash):

-The Betsy Ross homepage, and lots of American Flag info:
(but here’s a better virtual tour of her house:

- Samples of Folk music from the American Revolution (keep scrolling down to find more, click on song titles to hear them and read the lyrics):

- It’s a great idea to purchase (cds or iTunes) or check out from the library some patriotic songs and learn them with your kids. You can also find some online, but it’s more difficult to find complete tracks. Here’s a link to find lyrics to some popular patriotic songs:

- Biography of Robert Louis Setvenson:

- Fun Blackbeard the Pirate site:

- Pirate Printables:

- Cute Pirate crafts:

- Instructions for making a milk carton Pirate Ship:

- A Sailor’s Life for Me! Hands-on activities:

- How a Sextant Works: 

- Latitude and Longitude Treasure Hunt:

Have fun - and please email Jenny to let me know if any of the above links are not working. Thanks!

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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Magical Moments: Road Trip

Magical moments often pop us and take us by surprise, but we can also help create them by making history come alive for our families. A fun way to do this is to take a family field trip and explore something that relates to what we’re learning. Today our guest blogger, Jenny Curzan, shares with us her passion for making educational road trips a part of their home learning experience. Jenny, her husband JP, and their son Michael (Intermediate) are a Track B family in their third year at SLOCA. 

Road trip anyone?? 
Although I love being home and spending time in our gorgeous community, I also LOVE trips! I love thinking about a trip, planning a trip, actually going on a trip - I love it all! Our family used to travel often (just the three of us!) but when we started our SLOCA adventure, we found other families who liked to travel too. Together, we have explored some amazing places and our children have been able to experience their studies in a very real way. 
Generally, we will be at a park or by the pool and we dream about places (near and far) that we would like to visit and explore with our children and family.
Since we were going to study early American History in the Fall, we thought Summer would be the best time to head north and explore Sacramento and Columbia and the surrounding areas. After booking hotels, contacting family in the area and packing the car, we were off! These are some of the places we explored:
California State Railroad Museum
Sutter's Fort 
Leland Stanford Mansion (free tour!)
California State Capitol Museum (free tour and we received Governor Brown's business card, too!) 
There was panning for gold in Columbia and a train ride in Jamestown and lots of time in the pool, too!
We are so fortunate to be able to spend such rich time with our children exploring California's early history. Every adventure brings joy to the kids and new information for the parents, too! 
Where would you like to explore??
(click to enlarge) 

Thank you Jenny, for inspiring us to plan some family adventures! Vacation and learning all in one - sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Please leave a comment below and share your plans (or dreams) for a family road trip!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free Friday

{Treasure Island cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth, source}

It’s Friday again, and we hope your family has been enjoying the reading of Treasure Island. The version many of us have, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, contains wonderful pictures that help bring the story to life. But if you haven’t looked at the original illustrations by N.C. Wyeth (see one example in the photo above), they are also fantastic and can be found here

This weekend, if you happen to be looking to get out of the house for awhile, you might want to stroll around the Avila Beach Fish and Farmer’s Market tonight or next Friday, September 28th, which will be the last night of the season.  

For those of you who were with us last year, remember Don Quixote? Tonight and tomorrow night the REC Foundation will be performing “Man of La Mancha” at Centennial Park in Paso Robles, starting at 7:30 PM both evenings. Lawn seating starts at 6:30 PM, and admission is free! Click here for more information.

And just for kids, the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum is featuring a special event on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1:00 PM called “Return of the Robots”. Use recycled materials in a clever way to build your own robot creation. This activity is for kids age 5+; two classes offered and limited to eight participants each. Here’s the museum website if you’re interested.

Enjoy the weekend, and remember to take some time to be free from electronics and connect with your loved ones!

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Revolutionary Cannon Bowl!

The battle has begun! We are well underway in our fundraising efforts as the Revolutionary Cannon Bowl approaches on October 12th. As you know, this is our student-driven fundraiser and it is a fantastic opportunity for our kids to participate in and contribute to something greater than themselves, and demonstrate Stewardship. We want our kids to be the ones going to neighbors, sending the emails, and making the phone calls to ask family and friends to support them as they support their school. 

The goal for this event is for each family to raise $250, which will go toward funding our online math videos, science and art supplies for our classrooms, and our playground supervisor. If your kids love to get creative and you’re looking for some suggestions, here are a few ideas that may inspire them and help make the whole process more fun:

- The kids could make a video to send to family and friends, dressed as rebels or redcoats, asking for assistance on the battlefield. (They could even sport their best British accent!) 
- How about writing up their request as a letter home from a soldier, asking for help?  
- For the artistic-types, a drawing depicting the brutal battle scene (at the bowling alley) might be a humorous way to bring up the subject. Take a photo of it to attach to an email, or make photocopies of it to show to friends and family members when asking for a donation. 
- Let your children mention why they love their school, and why they want to help! Most people appreciate a personal connection and hearing why kids care. It might be particularly nice if they talk about the awesome new math videos, or what they love about science and art. 
- Earning money on their own is also a great way to support this fundraiser. Kids can offer to do chores around the neighborhood or for family members, do some pet-sitting, collect cans and bottles to return, set up a good old-fashioned lemonade stand or bake sale, or anything else they can think of to help meet the goal.

The Revolutionary Cannon Bowl is sure to be a fun and rewarding event. Let’s help our kids get into the excitement of helping our school. Do you have other ideas or creative ways to ask for donations? Please leave a comment below and help our whole community in this effort!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's for Dinner?

Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Everyday Food, March 2004
Serves 4

We love this classic dish, and this recipe is very home-cook friendly. Everyday Food recommends Chinese noodles (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets) as a delicious accompaniment, but you can also serve this over white or brown rice.

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
Ground pepper
1½ pounds flank steak, cut diagonally across the grain
     into ½-inch-by-3-inch strips*
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 head broccoli, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into
     ¼-inch rounds, florets separated into bite-size pieces
Coarse salt

1. In a large, shallow bowl, mix soy sauce, apple juice, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate; reserve marinade.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook meat until lightly browned, turning once, about 2 minutes per batch. Remove meat. Add ½ cup water to pan; stir up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into marinade; whisk in cornstarch.

3. In same skillet, fry broccoli in remaining teaspoon oil over high heat until bright green and crisp, tossing often, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water; cook until broccoli is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Stir marinade, add to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 30 seconds. Return meat to pan; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

*Cook’s Note
To make it easier to slice the steak very thinly, place it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, wrapped well in plastic.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Home Timelines

After last week’s inspiring parent training about history and literature, you may be wanting to boost your home learning time by incorporating a home timeline. Using a timeline at home helps kids connect the dots as we study different events and people in history, gives them a visual connection to the stories, and helps us parents keep the big picture in mind. There are many different types of timelines out there - here are a few ideas to consider:

(click to enlarge)

1. A fantastic way to make an interactive timeline is to use cards (3x5 or 4x6 index cards, or 5x8 half sheets of cardstock). Each card has a picture of an event or person, which the kids can draw or you can find and print. On the back write the dates and any other information about it if you desire. Hang the cards clothes-line style across the wall (or this wire system from IKEA works great for this, if you happen to be going...). This allows you to move the pictures around, or add others in between easily. The best part is that you can take the cards down and play with them, like having your kids put them in order. A game idea Mr. Wathen shared with us last Monday evening is to hold up a card and ask your student, “Tell me one thing that happened before this, and one thing that happened after this.” 

2. If you don’t have wall space, you could make a timeline that can be rolled up like a scroll and brought out to roll across the floor. This style of timeline also works well vertically on a wall if you have a tall, narrow space.

3. If you DO have the space, making a large timeline across the wall is a fun way to give history a prominent space and allows kids to draw larger pictures.

4. File folders can be used to make an accordion-style timeline. 

5. Wall chart timelines are popular and it’s easy to make your own with poster board, display boards, or a large piece of paper. 

Our very own Intermediate teacher, Mrs. Milligan, loves to use timelines in many different ways in her classroom. There is the large timeline that goes around the top of her room that shows the order of civilizations from Mesopotamia to modern day. She uses a smaller timeline in the class to track some of the themes of history   specific to our year of study. She says it’s the best way for her to keep track of things as she teaches, and having the children participate in the creation of it adds to their understanding of the big picture.

For parents at home, she recommends simply using a piece of butcher paper to make a more specific timeline to track themes that interest your child and/or your family as a whole. For instance, you may want to have a sheet that simply places the heroes of our country in order. (There are some great character qualities to draw attention to this year!) Maybe you want another sheet to track the events that led to the formation of our US government. Other great themes are scientific discoveries, explorers, great women, famous artists and composers… the possibilities are endless.  
If the idea of making a timeline sounds daunting, remember that it doesn’t need to be fancy or include every single event that ever happened. It just needs to be useful to you and your child. To start, try adding one item each week, and see what happens. The most important thing is to be excited about it and treat it as a fun project, so that your kids catch on to your enthusiasm. Remember, useful learning tools are not always pretty!  

Do you keep a home timeline, or are you planning to start one this year? Comment below to share your thoughts.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Magical Moments: Italy

There’s no doubt that most (if not all) of us would consider a trip to Italy to be magical in and of itself. Today we will hear from the Levy family about an extra special field trip two of them made with other SLOCA families to Italy this past summer, and what made it so magical. Eric and Gina Levy have three children: Max (UMS), Nyah (LMS), and Isabel (Primary). They are a track B family in their third year at SLOCA. Here’s what Gina wanted to share with us about their inspirational visit to Italy:

     Leaving part of the family behind for various reasons, my daughter and I excitedly joined hands for an adventure neither of us will ever forget.  It's hard to find the right words to describe seeing Brunelleschi’s Dome for the first time.  “Mom, it’s bigger than huge!”  Entering Venice at dusk on a water taxi going full speed, breathtaking.  Walking into the Galleria dell’Accademia, turning the corner and seeing Michelangelo’s colossal David at the end of the corridor, emotional.  The Roman Colosseum, with is grandeur and ancient past, awe-inspiring.  Walking Leonardo footsteps from the ancient town of Vinci to his home as a boy, surreal. 
     Any one can take this same trip and see the same sights as we did on our 10 day tour of Italy.  But, not everybody gets to do it after studying and learning all about the history of each of these amazing sights.  Having that knowledge in our back pocket enriched our experience by leaps and bounds.  My daughter Nyah and I truly had one of the best adventures of our lives and will always cherish that time we spent together in Renaissance Italy.

(click to enlarge)
1. The group picture is in front of the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice
and includes everyone who went on the trip.  
2. Nyah and I in front of the Colosseum.
3. Nyah's hands surrounding the staute outside of Museo Leonardiano.

Wow, thank you Gina, for sharing a few glimpses of your amazing trip with us, and reminding us of the beauty of studying history and how it can enrich our experiences!

If you have an inspiring story or magical moment, please share it with us. A simple “aha” moment, learning with your kids at home, can be just as encouraging as a tour of Italy! Email Jenny at

Friday, September 14, 2012

Free Friday

Welcome to another Friday! We hope you’re getting into your groove and enjoying the journey so far. This weekend might be a great time to get out for a family hike, stroll around downtown SLO and get frozen yogurt, or stay in and cook dinner together. And of course we want to encourage you to be Free by 5:00 and put those electronics out of sight for awhile. For those of you feeling adventurous, here are some local events happening in our area:

Learn to Fish at the Lopez Lake Kids Free Fishing Clinic
Bring the Kids (under 16) to the Lake for a Free Fishing Clinic on September 15th from 9:00AM-12:00PM. The clinic is held at the Nature Center near the Marina. Attendees must sign up before 11:00a.m. to allow time to fish. Kids will be given lessons with an experienced fishermen on fishing ethics and conservation, knot tying, fish types and ecology as well as how to cast your line. All equipment needed is provided and everyone gets a chance to fish. Click here for the SLO County Parks calendar.

SLO County Coastal Cleanup Day
Saturday, September 15th, 9:00AM to 12:00PM
Would you like to do something outdoors and show Stewardship for our community? Tomorrow you have the chance to get involved with Coastal Cleanup Day, a service project that helps our community in its desire for clean water and healthy marine life. To volunteer, follow this link and sign up for the cleanup site of your choice. (Great idea for UMS students looking for Community Service opportunities!)

Templeton Summer Movie Nights Bring your fold-up chair, a big beach blanket, and a picnic dinner and enjoy an outdoor movie night. It’s fun for the whole family - movies on a giant 25 foot blow up screen - and certainly worth getting out of the house to see!  “Dolphin Tale” will be showing tomorrow night, September 15th, at dusk. This free event will be held at Evers Sports Park on Old Country Road in Templeton.  Call 805.434.4900 for more info.

Next week, be sure to pick up some delicious, locally grown, organic strawberries, for sale before and after school on Tuesday and Wednesday! 

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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Home Days with Multiple Kids

If you are working with more than one student on your home days, you’ve probably experienced how tricky it can be to complete the assignments and reading and home subjects, all in a reasonable amount of time while connecting with your kids and enjoying the process, right? If you’re new to home education, or you’ve just added another student, or are in need of some new ideas for home educating multiple children, you’re not alone! While our goal on home days isn’t perfection, there are usually some tips we can try to help the day run more smoothly. Here are a few to get the ball rolling, including some from SLOCA parents, and we hope you will chime in with what works for you!

- Workboxes, or some other system that clearly lays out each child’s work for the day, can be a big help and keep everyone moving forward even if mom (or dad) is working with someone else. Lindsey Cheney, Track A mother of Gracie (Intermediate), Lily (Primary), and Silas (Kindergarten), claims workboxes are her biggest tip to share with other parents. She tries to set up the boxes so that two kids are working independently while she works with the other child. She also places toys in some of her youngest child’s boxes so that he can have fun while waiting for mom, but she gets to decide what he plays with rather than letting him wander off to another room to make a mess. 

- Try to figure out what time of day each child is at their most alert and ready to learn, and plan your most difficult subject with them at that time. For example, I (Jenny) have one child who needs to do math first thing in the morning, but another child isn’t really awake and cooperative until almost noon. I stopped trying to teach math to that child first thing, but let her start her day with independent reading, copywork, and spelling, which are easier tasks. 

- Have a few different spots where children can work, so that if one needs quiet and the others need interaction, you aren’t all in each other’s space. This doesn’t mean you need multiple desks. You can have one main desk or table area, but give another child the option to use a clipboard or lapdesk on the floor or on a bed, or send independent readers to the living room couch, etc. It might be helpful to utilize the hallway floor for a student who needs to be free from toys and visual distractions.

- Take reading outside where younger siblings can play while the older ones sit and listen, maybe sketching while you read. You’ll all appreciate the change of scenery, and get some vitamin D!

- Let an older child read to a younger, or help them with simple tasks.

- For older students (in the logic and rhetoric stages), training them to work independently is obviously a huge help, and the ultimate goal. Although we still want to be involved as parents, older students don’t need us right next to them all day. Many kids want to be more independent as they get older, so the key is to work out systems for reviewing their work and having them check in with you to make sure they’re completing their assignments. One idea is to set up “office hours” for these students, much like a college professor would.

- Tamzin Ritter is a Track A mother of three SLOCA students: Mia (Intermediate), Sienna, (Intermediate), and Fiona (Primary). She has a great idea to share about home educating multiple children. She has a few centers set up in her home that she rotates her three girls through. One is a listening center where the kids can read along with audio books, keeping them engaged and quiet. She also has an art project center set up each day, and a poster center. These centers give each girl independent work time, while allowing Tamzin quality one-on-one instruction time with each student. 

- Penny Malley, Track B Intermediate teacher and mother of four SLOCA students, definitely knows a thing or two about homeschooling more than one child! She is helping Katie (UMS), Tyler (LMS), TJ (Primary), and Abby (Kindergarten) on home days, and has a few tips to share with us about how she makes it work:
  1. Workboxes! I spend a few minutes the night before getting everything ready for the next home day, and that day goes so much more smoothly than if I’m scrambling to check grids and see “what’s next”.
  2. Tyler likes to start his work earlier in the morning and be done sooner, so he and I do math together at 8:30, and the others join us at the homeschooling table (i.e. dining room table that’s no longer used for actually dining) at 9:00. 
  3. I stagger the workboxes that contain activities that need my assistance, so that everyone keeps busy working while I’m helping one particular child. This works in THEORY; it is a work in progress, for sure! I start math with TJ at 9:00, so I give Abby a couple of independent activities to start her day, like her own journal or a dot-to-dot or cut-and-paste activity. When I’m done with TJ’s math, I start Abby’s math with her. TJ moves on to handwriting and spelling, which are independent activities for him. 
  4. I read all history and literature to everyone. It’s usually at snack-time, so as soon as I say, “Let’s meet in the front room!”, everyone scrambles to the kitchen to grab something to munch on while I read. Katie usually takes out her knitting or friendship bracelets to work on, as well. I have found that she actually listens better if her hands are busy. I start with the youngest history readings, in this case, Primary. As soon as TJ’s readings are done, I send him back to work on his narrative or draw a picture of what he learned. Then I focus on the older kids. They hear a simplified or condensed version of history thanks to the Primary readings, and they comprehend more of their own readings. It’s a win-win!
  5. Since we're all reading Treasure Island right now, I’ve chosen to only read the middle-school version aloud. TJ reads the Classic Starts version on his own, and we talk about it after he’s finished the day’s reading. This saves my voice (yay!) and gives TJ and Abby the chance to hear the original story that’s full of rich language and beautiful illustrations.
What a great list of ideas - thank you ladies, for sharing what works for you! We know there are other useful tips out there and we’d love to hear from our community about what helps you with multiple children at home too. We can all benefit from the ideas of others, so please comment below and join the discussion!

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's for Dinner?

(photo by Jenny Bischoff}

Black Bean Soup

I think I found this recipe on the back of a bag of dried black beans, and surprisingly, it’s a keeper. This is a great use of the crock-pot, and one of my go-to soups when I know I won’t have time in the evening to cook. My family loves this served with quesadillas. 

1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed and picked through
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups (or more) water
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. lime juice
sour cream, chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro

Place beans in the crock pot. In a large skillet cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Pour off and discard all but 1 tbsp fat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes. Add mixture to crock-pot. Add spices, broth, water and tomato paste. Cook on low 8 hours, or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lime juice. Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream, chopped tomatoes and cilantro. 

Serve with crusty bread, soft tortillas, or quesadillas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Man to Man

Today's post is written by SLOCA dad Paul Bischoff, to encourage other dads to join in the home learning experience. There are many ways to get involved (see this previous post written by another dad on this topic), but today we are specifically hoping to inspire fathers to read with their kids in the evenings.  Paul and his wife, Jenny, have three children: Kate (UMS), Georgia (Intermediate), and Calvin (Kindergarten).  They are in their 7th year at SLOCA. 
Today I’d like to motivate and encourage each dad/working parent to read with his kids at night. My first comment would be to ask you to just jump in. If you've done it and fallen out of the habit, today’s the day to get back on the horse. Take advantage of this new school year to start over. If you’ve never done it, promise yourself you’ll give it a try through one book this fall. If you do this, I’m confident you won’t need any further motivation. And in reality, you know it’s the right thing to do already. If you need more convincing, then here we go...
1. The books chosen are great books. These so-called “kids books” are great books, well written, interesting, and are the centerpiece of a great time with your spouse and kids.  I have grown to love that time with my children, actually looking forward to it. How can I deny a nightly ritual that involves spending time with my kids, reading books that are extremely pleasurable, knowing what they are learning, and engaging in great family conversations about the character traits we all hold dear?
2. You will help your kids become great writers. A few months ago, Mrs. Bischoff shared with me a talk by communication expert Andrew Pudewa. This information turned into more motivation to read at night. Mr. Pudewa states that for kids to become great writers, reading great writing actually doesn’t help nearly as much as hearing great writing. For kids who are starting to understand sentence structure and such, learning how to write well comes more from hearing the way sentences are constructed, rather than reading those same sentences. Mr Pudewa then took the next step and states that having a loved one read to the child was more of a benefit than the child hearing someone they don’t know read an audiobook. So reading to your kids at night directly helps them become better writers. Click here for a condensed version of the talk. 
(If you wish to hear the complete talk, you can download it for $3 here.)
3. You will help your homeschooling spouse. And now for the practical... no doubt you see how much work it is for your homeschooling spouse to travel this little-worn road. Mrs. Bischoff shared with me that one of the many positives in my willingness to read to the kids at night is that she doesn’t have to find a spot for it in the homeschooling day, giving her time to focus on other subjects. If your homeschooling spouse is anything like Mrs. Bischoff, having one fewer item to cover in the day is very welcomed and appreciated. So nevermind the kids; do it for your spouse.
I hope you will consider these points, and go for it!

And speaking of dads, did you know we have a Dad's Reading Group? The meeting date is still being finalized, but the first book our SLOCA dads will be reading is Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Wouldn't it be great to have read and discussed this book before we read it with our kids? This is a great opportunity to prepare for those family conversations by getting some advance insight. We hope all of you dads will join in! More info to come...

We would love to hear from other dads out there - how do you get involved and learn alongside your kids? Please leave a comment below.

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

Monday, September 10, 2012

History and Literature Training

Magical moments of learning and connecting can happen at any time. The more we are prepared to engage with our kids in our home studies, the more likely we are to recognize and value those moments. Today we want to feature a little teaser on this evening’s History and Literature Parent Training, led by Mr. Wathen:
This evening we are offering an opportunity for parents to get a global perspective on the history and literature we will be teaching this year. This is a time-period full of new discoveries, new ideas, and new adventures. The struggle for the democratic ideal resurfaced after centuries of monarchical rule. With trade between continents on the rise, piracy became a lucrative criminal business. The age of the renaissance led into this period of intellectual, scientific, and geographic discoveries as whole continents became European colonies. There may have been a need for a class on “the ethics of land colonization,” but that would make a good discussion for a SLOCA class. 
The purpose of this evening is for us to enter into our homeschooling with some degree of understanding of the big picture. It is impossible to cover all that needs to be discussed or all the nuances of historical interpretation, but it is a time to highlight some of the historical and literary themes we may come across this year. Come join us tonight at 7:00 PM as Mr. Wathen shares some of his observations of the late colonial to country-formation time period. Time will be given for sharing of ideas from parents in addition to what has been prepared by Mr. Wathen. Please make time to join us.
This is sure to be a valuable and informative evening, leaving us feeling inspired and excited about the historical journey we’re on with our kids!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Free Friday

Happy Friday! The weekend is here and we can rest and rejuvenate with family and friends. It seems there’s always something happening on the Central Coast, and we’ll highlight a couple of events you may be interested in this weekend:

The I Madonnari Festival is scheduled for Sept 8th-9th, from 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM in the Mission Plaza. These colorful, large-scale street paintings are created before your eyes, as artists work throughout the two-day festival. There is a special section for kids to create their own works of art too! This is a free event. Click here to learn more.

The 2012 Bike Rodeo is also happening this weekend, on Saturday Sept 8th. It will be held at Emerson Park and is a free event for kids ages 4-14. There will be a bike safety course, safety skills ride, and a BMX stunt show and raffle. Participants will also enjoy bike decorating, goody bags and a delicious BBQ lunch. Bike tune-ups and helmet fittings will also be offered. Click here for more info.

And of course, don't miss our very own Popsicle Party this afternoon from 1-3 PM, where you can find out about Academy and Enrichment classes, volunteering, and carpooling. There will be fun for the kids too! Look here for more info. Hope to see you there!

Enjoy the weekend and don't forget to be Free by 5:00 tonight - turn off your electronics and spend quality time together! 

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

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Here at SLOCA we believe that character development is essential to a good education. Each month we will focus on a different character trait and look for ways to help our students not only know about it, but to understand its value and to seek growth in that area. This month’s trait is Stewardship, which is:
The careful and responsible management of things entrusted to one’s care, including one’s mind, body, time, money, environment and property, with proper regard to the rights of others.
When we think about stewardship, we usually think about managing money, and it’s certainly a good idea to teach kids how to make wise financial choices. (Here’s one list of games and tips on teaching kids about the value of money.) But perhaps you could ask your kids these questions: What about managing one’s mind? Are we careful about how we use our minds, and what we fill them with? How can we take good care of our bodies? What about being good stewards of our time, and using it with proper regard for others? How do you think we can best be responsible for our property, or the environment? Try having a conversation with your children about these aspects of Stewardship, and see what they think. 

One way to be good stewards of our time, money, and the environment is to share the responsibility of driving to and from school by carpooling with other families. Today our Development Director Cozy Faber wants to remind us about an excellent opportunity coming up tomorrow:

Like a pond that draws the parched, so too does SLOCA attract families from near and far.  In fact we have students who trek in from as far north as San Miguel and as far south as Orcutt!  While the commute is only two or three days a week, we have found that many who are driving-in prefer to share the responsibility and carpool with each other. 
Carpool Connection:  This year we are creating a carpool connection and collecting names of people who are interested in carpooling and connecting them with others in their area.  To participate in the carpool connection be sure to visit campus during the Popsicle Party on September 7th from 1pm-3pm.   We will have a designated table set up for the purpose of carpool match-making!

Thanks Cozy - it sounds like a wonderful chance to connect with other families and help each other.  

How do you teach Stewardship in your home? Please comment and let us know what is working for your family!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What's for Dinner?

Florentine Salad
adapted from Romano's Macaroni Grill
Serves 4 to 6

Did you ever order this salad at Macaroni Grill long ago when it was on their menu? I did and I loved it! A friend’s mother-in-law saw the recipe printed in a magazine and sent it to her, and she shared it with me. I will tell you that this is definitely more than just a salad. It’s one of my favorite dinners, and in my circle of friends it’s a frequently-requested meal when we have “girls night in” together. You can make a basic vinaigrette dressing to top this (I make one with lemon juice and garlic), or a purchased champagne vinaigrette goes really nicely on it as well. I don't add the dressing until I'm ready to serve. This can easily be adapted to be vegetarian by leaving out the chicken, and it's still a bold and hearty meal. Enjoy!

8 oz. orzo pasta, cooked
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bunches of baby spinach, chopped
1/2 head of arugula, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 oz. parmesan cheese, shaved
salt and pepper to taste
optional: chopped red onion

Prepare pasta according to package directions. When done, drain and place in a bowl. Toss with the olive oil so it doesn't stick. Set aside and allow to cool completely. 

In a large bowl, toss together the remaining ingredients except for the cheese and dressing. The tomatoes should be in a half-inch dice, and the greens should be chopped to a similar size. Toss the cooled pasta with the vegetable mixture. Add the dressing and toss again. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Top each serving with shaved parmesan cheese. 

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Organize Your School Space

For some, the thought of organizing any room inspires excitement and gets the creative juices flowing. Others might feel a sense of dread just thinking about the areas in which they would love to be more organized. Wherever you fall on the organization spectrum, we can all use a fresh perspective and new ideas, especially when it comes to arranging the space where home learning happens. Even if you don’t have a dedicated school room (or maybe especially if you don’t), it sure is nice to have “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Since we belong to this amazing community of fellow-learners, why not exchange ideas? Today, Joy Erb shares a few photos and comments about some changes she’s made to her home school space this year. Joy and her husband John are a Track B family in their 6th year here at SLOCA, and have four children: Katie (LMS), Austin (Intermediate), Cameron (Kindergarten), and Colton (2 years old). Here’s what they are trying this year to help keep things running in an orderly fashion on home days:

(click to enlarge)

1. Don’t lose the grid! (Or your bills either!) 
2. Supplies Shelf
3. My workboxes are out of the toddler’s reach.
4. Cute cup for all of our dice
5. A “Go-Backs” bin. My idea is to have one person be responsible for it each day. We'll see if it works! 

Thanks, Joy! 

We hope some of these ideas will inspire you or help you on your way toward a more organized home learning area. If you are interested in seeing more SLOCA home school spaces, watch for more info to come about our second annual Down Home Tour, happening in October!

Do you have some helpful tips or photos to share on homeschool spaces? Are you trying anything new in your home learning area? Please comment below or send me an email. We love to see what others are doing at home!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Magical Moments: The First Day of School

(click to enlarge)
{photos by Lisa Boyd, Jenny Curzan, and Jenny Bischoff}

The first day of school came with a flurry of excitement and anticipation! Many magical moments were experienced and witnessed by students, parents, teachers and staff. But today at Down Home, it’s all about the kids. We asked several students to share their favorite thing or first impressions about this momentous day, and here are their sweet (and honest!) responses:

“It was really fun! We got to do a lot of coloring and hold these frogs that had red bellies with black spots on them!”
-Sandy Peterson, Primary, Track A 

“It wasn't as hard as I thought. Just Latin, we had to learn five words.”
“What words did you learn?” mom asked.
“I forget.”
-Joshua Peterson, LMS, Track A

“My favorite moment was when Mrs. Frago announced in science that we're going to make a Rube Goldberg machine--cool.”
-Benjamin Harding, LMS, Track B 

“In math I got to wear the answer to a math problem on my shirt - it was a sticker!  And in art, we got to create our self portrait!”
-Michael Curzan, Intermediate, Track B

mom: “Cal, what did you think of your first day of school?”
Cal: “I'm... so... TIRED!... Today lasted a lot longer than I was expecting.”
mom: “What was your favorite part?”
Cal: “Eating apple pie while singing about apples with the music teacher.”
-Calvin Trapp, Kindergarten, Track A

“I made a new friend!”
-Kylie Womack, Primary, Track B 

“I REALLY like Mrs. Wright--she's very calm.”
-Carina Womack, LMS, Track B 

“The best part of the first day of school was Mrs. Milligan's presentation of our Big Orange Binders named BOB.”
-Karena Talley, Intermediate, Track A

“I liked Science today because we got to examine frogs with orange bellies.”
-Violet Talley, Primary, Track A

“I liked the first day of school because I got to do a running race with friends at recess.”
-Daniel Talley, Kindergarten, Track A

“I liked having Art and Science. My new teacher is really great.”
-Amea Haar, Intermediate, Track A

“I really liked having my favorite chips at lunch.”
-Elica Haar, Primary, Track A

“I loved playing house in Kindergarten with Sophie and Dane!”
-Abby Malley, Kindergarten, Track B

“I liked the teachers and I got to meet new people. I love my class because it's epic!”
-Tyler Malley, LMS, Track B

“I love being with Mrs. Perneel again.”
-TJ Malley, Primary, Track B

“Well, today was mostly all rules and regulations, but I'm really excited about my classes and having Mrs. Weinshenk for Latin, Mrs. Frago for math, and Mrs. Burns for Core.”
-Katie Malley, UMS, Track B 

"Two things:  the best thing was that the new girl in my class was really nice and kind.  My favorite thing was doing music class.  But the bummer was that it wasn't that long at all.  It seemed like only 5 minutes."
-Lily Cheney, Primary, Track A

"My favorite thing was that we got to do art class and that I got to sit next to my best friend Karena.  And I have the best teacher in the world!"
-Grace Cheney, Intermediate, Track A

"Going to the playground with the water sprayer!"
-Silas Cheney, Kindergarten, Track A

“Pre-algebra class...getting to know about pre-algebra, getting to know the class and Mrs. Frago.”
-ShiLu Vanasupa, UMS, Track B4

“I have a binder called BOB and I really liked the responsibility Tuesday when I had to get ‘him.’  It made me feel proud of myself.  I think it's really funny that it’s called BOB.  It got to be BOB because of the first letters in Big Orange and Binder!”
-Grant Dillon, Intermediate, Track A

“School was REALLY great, it was so fun to see my friends and hang out and laugh with everyone again, and Mr. Wathen was really funny when he was talking about wearing a skirt during the dress code chat.”
-Autumn Boyd, UMS, Track A

“I really liked my lunch!”
-Evan Boyd, Intermediate, Track A

"Mom, my teacher is actually really nice. I have three new friends. My high for today was the playdough, the scavenger hunt and eating my sandwich wrap.  My low was...nothing!"
-Cameron Erb, Kindergarten, Track B

“I loved being with friends and playing a game at recess and I like my teacher, she is really nice.”
-Hayden Eades, Intermediate, Track A

“I liked art because I love to draw!  We also have a good teacher.”
-Isabel Helm, Intermediate, Track A

“I’m looking forward to getting to work on creative writing skills this year in history/lit and learning more about the upcoming election (which I can vote in!) during current events.”
-Caroline Rein, Senior, HS

“I’m intrigued by my Trig teacher's sense of humor.”
-Christopher Rein, Sophomore, HS

“I think Latin is going to be a lot of fun!”
-Brigitte Rein, UMS, Track A

“I’m really excited about Mrs. Frago's science class. It’s finally my turn to have her as a teacher!”
-Sammy Rein, LMS, Track A

“I thought Intermediate was just going to be hard.  But it was really fun!”
-Chase Jacobson, Intermediate, Track B 

“I liked playing ‘I Never’ in Mrs. Peterson's class.”
-Taryn Jacobson, LMS, Track B 

“I will not ever forget meeting my teacher and writing words however I wanted.”
-Kyra Tucker, Primary, Track A

“Learning my way around the classroom with a scavenger hunt. Now I will never forget the bathroom!”
-Kyan Tucker, Kindergarten, Track A

“I liked showing my new friends all around the school and introducing them to everyone.”
-Kate Bischoff, UMS, Track A

“I love Intermediate because I have three different teachers and I feel older walking to different classes.”
-Georgia Bischoff, Intermediate, Track A

“The best thing is that everyone in the class is my friend now. And my music teacher said her brother’s middle name is Calvin!”
-Calvin Bischoff, Kindergarten, Track A

And we’ll end with a memorable conversation between one mom and her girls:

mom: “How was your first day of school?”
“GRRRRRRReat!” (Just like Tigger the tiger!)
Tonight as we were talking about what we are going to do tomorrow for home school this is what our conversation looked like:
Sia: “Mom, what’s the plan for tomorrow.  I mean do we have to do more work in Lower Middle school than in Intermediate?”
Mom: “Well, uh, yeah.  There is going to be more work.....”
Ava: “Well, will have to do more writing?”
Mom: “Yep, you have to do more writing.”
Both girls: “YES!”  
Sia: “I LOVE writing, I think I love writing more than reading, I just love to do writing.  In fact mom can I write something tomorrow?”
Ava: “Mom, I heard Mrs. Wright say that we weren’t going to narratives in her class. I love narratives, can I do them anyway?”
Mom: “Of course you can write tomorrow. Of course you can do narratives!”
(Mom in her head: I should have recorded this conversation to play back for these children when we are arguing over an IEW paragraph because I am not so sure that these will be the same words coming out of their mouths then!)
-Sia Faber and Ava Faber, LMS, Track B

(Cozy, that conversation is now officially recorded on the blog. Refer back to it any time you need to!)

Such a fun day - thanks for sharing your thoughts, kids! If we haven’t heard from you yet, what was your most magical first-day-of-school moment? Please join in and leave a comment below.