Friday, November 30, 2012

We've Moved!

Down Home has moved to a new home! 

Come on over - you can find us at 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Logic?

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin

As part of our ongoing series of articles on Classical Education, today we want to discuss the topic of Logic, and why we consider it worthy of teaching at SLO Classical Academy. Our Associate Director Troy Wathen offers us these thoughts on the subject of Logic:
Logic in an age of illogical thinking—what’s the purpose? One only has to live through one election year to recognize how important an introduction to logic course is. The middle school students at SLOCA are taught how to recognize and name many of the logical fallacies committed by candidates who make outrageous claims, shallow promises, and personal attacks against their opponents. However, this ability to recognize fallacies is only the tip of the iceberg of value derived from four years of logic.
Students who take logic learn how arguments are formed, they play with the subtleties of language, and they are taught how to apply thinking with clarity and purpose. Recently the eighth graders discussed how immediate inferences can be made from individual statements, they learned how to restate propositions in three separate ways without changing the inherent meaning of the propositions, and they were also forced to name and use parts of speech to form cogent arguments. Furthermore, through the use of very precise language, students are exposed to many of the skills used by philosophers throughout the ages. These skills enable our students to comprehend, craft, and evaluate language in ways that challenge many adults today. If we hope that our young people are going to engage in significant intellectual inquiry, they must be equipped with the skills to understand what they read. Logic trains the mind in the skills of analysis necessary to engage with authors that most of us fear because individuals who are equipped with these skills have exercised pathways of thinking that are foreign to the modern mind.

To make this all a little more practical, consider just a few places logic is applied in today’s world. “A doctor must reason from the symptoms at hand, as must a car mechanic. Police detectives and forensic specialists must process clues logically and reason from them. Computer users must be familiar with the logical rules that machines are designed to follow. Business decisions are based on logical analysis of actualities and contingencies. A juror must be able to weigh evidence and follow the logic of an attorney prosecuting or defending a case…As a matter of fact, any problem-solving activity, or what educators today call critical thinking, involves pattern-seeking and conclusions arrived at through a logical path.” (Bennett, D. J. 2004: Logic Made Easy)
Thank you Troy, for these thoughtful and compelling reasons for learning Logic. Isn’t it exciting to know that our students are gaining these valuable critical thinking skills?

Let’s talk: Do you have a middle schooler who is learning Logic? How are they applying Logic to what they read, or to everyday life?

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's for Dinner?

Photo by: Randy Mayor; Melanie J. Clarke {source}

Turkey Vatapa
Cooking Light, Novemver 2002
Serves 6

If you still have leftover turkey hanging around, this is a deliciously different way to use it up. The recipe notes say: “Vatapa is a rustic Brazilian stew, a fiery blend with beer, coconut milk, and ground peanuts as its base. Made with leftover turkey, it's a snap to prepare. Vatapa can be made up to 2 days in advance; keep it covered in the refrigerator. It will thicken as it sits; just add a little water. Seed the jalapeño pepper to tame its heat.” I’ve substituted peanut butter for the ground peanuts and it was just fine. 

1 teaspoon peanut oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 cup water
1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (12-ounce) can light beer
¼ cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
3 cups chopped skinned cooked turkey
½ cup light coconut milk
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add ginger and jalapeño; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in water, tomatoes, and beer; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Place peanuts in a spice or coffee grinder; process until finely ground. Add ground peanuts, turkey, and coconut milk to pan, stirring to combine. Increase heat to medium. Bring mixture to a simmer; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley, cilantro, juice, salt, and black pepper. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Teaching Kids to Bake

The holiday season is in full swing, and for many of us, that means baking and making goodies. What better time to get the kids involved in the kitchen with you? 

Baking may not be your thing, and that’s okay. We all have wonderful friends, family, and local bakeries we can rely on for plenty of holiday treats. But if you do love to bake, there are many benefits to bringing the kids alongside you in the process. Baking together can be a fun and memorable bonding time. It’s a great learning tool that teaches real life math and adult skills. And as kids grow and start to learn recipes on their own, it fosters independence, a sense of responsibility, and provides a way for them to contribute something gratifying to the family or to others.

If you love to bake and your kids desire to be more involved in the kitchen, perhaps holiday baking can be a springboard to teaching your children to bake all on their own. For a great article on this topic, check out this informative and inspiring blog post from, called “Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows.

Happy Baking!

Let’s talk: What do you bake with your kids? Have they learned to make anything all on their own?

To leave a comment, click below the blog post where it says “No comments” (or “1 comment”, or whatever number of comments already exist.) You do not need a google account - under "Choose an identity" you can choose Name/URL to leave your name, or choose Anonymous.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Magical Moments: Ben Franklin

{photo by Brandy Potts}

Happy Monday and welcome back to school! We hope you enjoyed the time off with family and friends during Thanksgiving break – ready to dive back in?

Today we start Trimester 2, but before we leave the American Revolution behind us, we want to share a Magical Moment that happened before the break. As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago we had the remarkable privilege of hosting Benjamin Franklin, who time traveled to visit our school and talk with our students. If you were not able to be on campus one of those days to hear him, let us share with you a little about this amazing opportunity our kids had to interact with a true American Hero. Here are a just a few highlights and photos from that memorable time with Ben:

Dr. Franklin told the kids about his own lack of formal schooling as a child (2 years only), and how feeling ignorant drove his desire to learn as much as he could, on his own. Books became precious to him, and he claimed that reading and writing well were the most important contributors to his success in everything he did. He was a true self-learner, exemplifying that “love of learning” that we are seeking to instill in our children.

{photo by Brandy Potts}

As a young man, Ben decided that living usefully and helping others was the best kind of life to have. He wanted to live “pro bono publico” –  for the public good. This led not only to his many inventions that made life better for people, such as the lightning rod and the Franklin stove, but also fueled his passion for starting  institutions such as a public library, a hospital, a university and a fire department in Philadelphia.

He encouraged the kids to never give up in any endeavor that is worth pursuing, and to have courage, remembering how he failed many times as an inventor, but persevered and experienced success as well.

{photo by Brandy Potts}

While apprenticed to his older brother, Benjamin was treated cruelly and often beaten by him. This taught Benjamin to despise arbitrary power applied unethically, and to love liberty. He reminded the kids that the Constitution the founding fathers created was made for them, the future generations. 

{photo by Brandy Potts}

Ben had some fun with the kids, testing their knowledge of his inventions, and some of his famous quotes from Poor Richard’s Almanac. As you would expect, our students were quick to raise their hands and offer examples of his inventions, and were able to finish his lines as he quoted his wise sayings. 

{photo by Brandy Potts}

Each group of students had excellent, thoughtful questions for Mr. Franklin. A few examples from the Primary and Intermediate group: 

- “Did you know Paul Revere?”
- “How old were you when you started inventing?”
- “What did you do with the electricity that you captured in a jar during the kite experiment?”

The Middle Schoolers asked many questions, a few of which were:

- “What was one of your favorite civilizations?”
- “What invention are you most proud of?”
- “What were your ideas about women and how they should be treated?”

Our High Schoolers also came up with some challenging questions, such as:

- “Who was your inspiration for all that you did?”
- “What did you do with your slaves after you became an abolitionist?” 
- “Is it worth it to go into debt to invest in education?”

{photo by Jaime Mickey}

At the end of the Middle School presentation, it was wonderful to hear the kids break out into their recitation of the Declaration of Independence, with Ben smiling and encouraging them along. Some of the adults in the back witnessing this moment had goose bumps!

Toward the end of his talk with the High Schoolers, Ben said something that will resonate with many parents: “Invest in education, because it pays the best dividends.” That's what we are doing here at SLO Classical Academy – investing in a rich, classical education that provides extraordinary experiences like this one, to instill that interactive, hands-on love of learning in our children, the future leaders of our nation.

{clockwise: photos by Jaime Mickey, Jenny Bischoff and Brandy Potts}

The two days we had with Benjamin Franklin were full of Magical Moments that our kids will remember for years to come. They will have an even greater appreciation for this humble servant, heroic patriot, creative inventor, and founding father of our country. Isn't it amazing that our students were able to experience this? 

Dr. Franklin, we thank you for your time, wisdom, and enthusiasm. Your long, busy, useful life of service is positively inspiring. And thank you to the families who helped make it possible for Ben to visit us. It was a truly special treat!

Let’s talk: Did your kids talk about their experience with Benjamin Franklin? What did they say?

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Free Friday

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull, 1820

You did it! It’s the end of our first trimester together, and today we celebrate with our Early American Recitation Bee and Fair, happening from 2-4 PM.

Enjoy the festivities today, and then revel in your well-deserved break. Down Home will also be on vacation next week. We are grateful for this amazing community of families, and wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why Latin?

Why do we study Latin at SLO Classical Academy?  

Last year we published a three-part series on Classical Education, written by our Associate Director, Troy Wathen. (Click here to read Part I, Part II, and Part III). Today we are going to focus on Latin, with an excerpt from Part III of this series:
Latin is a common classical subject choice that gets critiqued because of its lack of use in modern society. However, Latin is foundational for unlocking the system of language in general, and especially the Romance languages of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Latin further drives the student to truly understand how English works because it forces the decomposition of language in order to comprehend the purpose words play in the sentence. It presents grammar in a different form from English, demanding that the learner wrap his/her mind around what a subject, direct object, verb, object of the preposition, and adjective actually do in the sentence. This forced understanding enriches one’s mastery of English. The key to Latin is to appreciate the benefits and beauty of the language; something often lost on pre-adolescents and adolescents—especially for those whose significant adults agree that Latin is a “dead language.” It is far from dead. It only is to those who choose not to learn and appreciate the deep benefits of the process and content of Latin.
Latin textbooks available in SLOCA's bookstore

One way SLO Classical Academy fosters the development of Latin throughout our curriculum is with a “Latin Root of the Week,” which you may have heard about. At the beginning of each school morning, Mr. Wathen discusses the Latin root word of the week with the kids on the playground, and encourages them to find that Latin root in words we use today. Parents, you can have fun with this too, and join in with your kids to find Latin in everyday English words. To download a list of the weekly Latin root words for the rest of the school year click here.

Here are a few more Latin resources, for your own education, and for friends or family members who ask “Why Latin?”:

• As part of our Parent Education Literature Series, we have a wonderful article written by our very own Latin teacher, Sarah Weinschenk, with a further explanation about why we study Latin. It just might make you want to take Latin too! Click here to download it.

• We also have an audio presentation by Sarah Weinschenck about Latin, here.

• Here’s a link to an older blog post about a great NY Times Op/Ed piece entitled,  A Vote for Latin.

Semper Discentes!

Let’s Talk: What do you think about Latin? What do you say to people who ask “Why do you study Latin? Isn’t it a dead language?” 

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's for Dinner? Thanksgiving Sides

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? As thoughts turn to that approaching feast, I thought I’d offer a couple of options for Thanksgiving sides. Happy eating to you and yours!

Mom’s Stuffin Muffins
by Cathy Berthiaume

This is my mom’s specialty, and they are delightful because everyone knows the best part about stuffing is the crispy edges, and this way everyone gets the edges. This recipe is from her, word for word.

1 ½ cups chopped celery
¾ cup chopped onion
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
9 cups cubed bread (1 loaf regular sandwich bread makes 9 cups. Any type of  bread works, but a combination of Challah and Sourdough is delicious. Try to use slightly stale bread. If bread is too fresh cube overnight and let it sit out, and cook the next day.)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbs poultry seasoning (taste after it’s all mixed and add more if there’s not enough)
Chicken broth (as much as you need, less than a can)
1 beaten egg

Cook the celery and onion in the butter till celery is tender. The smell will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Remove from heat and stir into bread cubes. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Add chicken broth till the dressing sticks together. Not soggy but will stick together when squeezed in your hand. 

Spray cooking oil into muffin tins, then place “balls” of stuffing in tins so there are little mounds on top (so muffins resemble cooked cupcakes). I just use my (clean) hands.

Bake at 350 or 375 for about half an hour. Just keep checking till the tops are golden brown but don’t burn them.

The kids will love mixing the bread cubes with the ingredients and mounding the dressing into the muffin tins.

I added the beaten egg and chicken broth to the recipe to make the muffins hold their shape well.

When I make this for Thanksgiving I triple the recipe. When I put in the poultry seasoning I mix well then taste. Using the right amount of this is crucial. Same with salt and pepper. You’ll be tempted to add too much salt but TASTE IT WELL before you do.

This is basically grandma’s bread stuffing recipe. Only grandma boiled the celery in water and used the celery water for binding instead of butter and no chicken broth. She put the onions in chopped and raw. OK this is healthier…whatever. I never told her what I did. Her bread stuffing recipe was sacred and not to be deviated from and I always told her I used her recipe…but she sure loved my dressing.

Broccolini Salad, Serves 4 - 6

I thought I’d give you a healthier option with this Broccolini Salad, a slightly fancy and very delicious way to eat this vibrant green vegetable. You could certainly substitute broccoli if needed. 

1 lb (16 oz) baby broccoli / broccolini, trimmed, and each stalk halved if you like
3 bunches scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small serrano chile pepper, deveined, 
   seeded and minced (optional)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
3 big handfuls of big, rustic croutons
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 cup (4 oz) sliced almonds, toasted
4 - 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into big chunks

Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water well and cook the broccolini briefly, about a minute, or long enough to take a bit of the snap out of the stalks. Drain, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and pat dry with a clean cloth. Set aside.

Combine the scallions, serrano pepper, olive oil, and a couple pinches of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a sizzle, stirring all the while, and remove from heat. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice.

To assemble the salad, just before serving, place the broccolini and croutons in a large serving bowl. Scoop about ½ of the green onions into the bowl, allowing most of the oil to drain off. Toss well and continue to add more green onions until everything is coated to your liking. Have a taste at this point to get a sense of whether you need to adjust the seasoning at all - with more salt or lemon juice. Add the almonds and toss, then one last (gentle) toss after adding the mozzarella.

Use the leftover oil (refrigerate) to cook eggs, drizzled over potatoes, drizzled into soup, etc.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Grandparents Involved

Yesterday we enjoyed a Magical Moment from the Pardeilhan family about how their grandmother participates in her grandson’s homeschooling. (If you missed that post, read it here.) Would your children’s grandparents like to be more involved in their education? Here are a few ideas you might like to suggest:

1. If they live nearby, perhaps they’d like to read the assigned literature or history books, or books from the same time period.

2. Even if they can’t be near to read, offer them the supplemental book list for gift ideas.

3. Andrew Pudewa, from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, suggests the wonderful idea of asking grandparents to record themselves reading a favorite children’s book aloud (either on tape or with a digital voice recorder), which can then be used as an extra special and memorable audio book for your children to listen to. (More on this in a future blog post!)

4. Ask them to exchange handwritten letters with your child, for handwriting practice.

5. Have them send ideas or meaningful quotes for copy work (as Andy Hawkins has done for her grandson). 

6. If you have a grandparent who sews or is crafty, ask for help with costumes or special projects. 

7. Ask a grandparent to cook or bake with your child, and choose something that goes along with the time period or culture your child is learning about.

8. Invite them to give. As we continue to face budget challenges, the reality is that there are grandparents who can give but it’s really hard to ask. Here are some ideas that might help:
• Often, grandparents who see first-hand what SLOCA is all about are more excited to give. Invite them to one of our campus tours (there is one tomorrow at 9:30 AM), or Grand Day later in the year.
• Encourage your kids to share with their grandparents what they love about SLOCA.
• Invite grandparents to read our school blog, and share your own magical moments with them.
• For grandparents who like to go over the top with gift-giving at birthdays and Christmas, perhaps suggest fewer gifts, with a school donation instead.

Let’s talk: Can you think of any other ways to encourage grandparents to be involved in our school and homeschool? Please share your thoughts or experiences by commenting below.

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Magical Moments: Grandparents

{photo by Catherine Pardeilhan}

Grandparents are a blessing and can be a huge influence in our children’s lives. Today we want to share a Magical Moment from the Pardeilhan family about how their son’s grandmother is involved in her grandson’s education. Catherine and Gerard Pardeilhan, with their son Julian (LMS), are in their first year as a SLOCA family, but Catherine is in her second year of teaching middle school art at SLOCA. Catherine’s mother, Andy Hawkins, lives in Seattle but has found a meaningful way to stay connected to her grandson Julian. Here’s what Andy wanted to share with our community:
I live in Seattle and my grandchildren live in San Luis Obispo. I can only visit two or maybe three times a year making it even more important for me to stay involved in their education. To achieve this I have done several things over the years. Because I am a retired librarian I have made sure they have plenty of books. Not just any books but the best I can find, the classics from all times, and a sampling of some of the excellent ones that are coming out now. There is plethora of children’s books at this time and some of them have nothing to commend them at all, so I read the ones I choose first to make sure they are something I want to influence my grandchildren. 
The other thing I am doing, because it is Julian’s first year at SLOCA, is to find quotes from famous people from the historical time he is focusing on this year. I try to find an equal number of men and women, and along with each quote I include a few lines from Wikipedia about who they were and when they lived, as well as a photograph, painting or drawing from Google Images so that Julian can visualize them. When I look for the quotes I try to find ones that are short and relatively easy to understand and have some significance connected to these people’s historical importance. I was a History minor in college so my background is coming in handy. It is wonderful to be able to share my love of books and my skills and training to help educate my grandchildren.

Catherine also wanted to share a few words about how meaningful this has been for her son:
One week Julian was working on copywork for a quote my mother had sent from Helen Keller. He had copied a few sentences without having read the context paragraph; who Helen Keller was, her accomplishments, or her disabilities. Julian asked me what this was about, and I read the context to him – that she was both deaf and blind, and yet had earned a BA, and become a lecturer, activist and author. I explained how she had learned to comprehend language, taught by her teacher, Anne Sullivan. I told Julian to close his eyes, and I took his hand and spelled out “w-a-t-e-r” on his palm (this was the subject of the quote). His eyes shot open, and he was absolutely amazed by the story. He finished his copywork, and got all excited, wanting to research more about her story.
Thank you Andy, for sharing what you are doing for your grandchildren, and thank you Catherine, for writing about what it has meant for your family. We hope other grandparents will be encouraged and inspired! Tomorrow we will look at some other ways to help get grandparents involved.

By the way, the winner of our “Gratitude” drawing is Cheryl McCabe! Congratulations Cheryl - look for a gift certificate to the school store in your family file this week!

Let’s talk: Do you have an involved grandparent or other extended family member who is participating in the home education of your kids? Please tell us about it!

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Free Friday

Today is the last day to comment on the Gratitude post and be entered to win a gift certificate to the school store!

{photo from Track B K/P field trip to Avila Barn}

Next week is our last week of the trimester – you’re almost there! Has it flown by for you? While you’re working on progress reports, finalizing history day costumes, and gathering items to help out with our Early American Recitation Bee and Fair (please visit the Volunteer Sign-Up google doc to sign up!), we hope you are enjoying the learning happening at home. 

One reminder: you won’t want to miss the “Organize Your Area Homeschool Seminar” today at 1:30 pm in Lewis Library. It’s the perfect time to pick up a few nuggets of inspiration and try something new. Bring in one organizational trick to share, and be ready to learn from each other!

Amidst all the busy tasks and events, let’s take a deep breath and enjoy a little moment of humor today. Here’s a goofy, short video from “BoredShorts” – these guys make videos of grownups acting out stories that kids tell. This is one you may relate to:

You can find more BoredShorts videos on youtube. The Bischoff kids recommend one of their favorites, “Kid History Episode 6: Healthy Food.” Enjoy a good laugh!

As you head into the weekend, we want to encourage you to be “Free by 5:00” and purposefully carve out some time to connect face to face with friends and family.

If you’re feeling very adventurous and spontaneous, here’s a last-minute idea for an out of town trip. There’s a Civil War Reenactment happening in Moorpark this weekend, and it sounds amazing. Click here to learn more.

Happy Friday!

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

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fine Arts Focus: November

Don’t forget to join in on last Thursday’s Gratitude discussion for a chance to win a gift certificate to the school store!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834

September and October’s poetry selection introduced us to William Blake and William Wordsworth.  The poem of the month for November is Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. You’ll find this on page 24 of Classic Poetry. Did you know that Coleridge was friends with Wordsworth? Coleridge’s famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was composed while taking walks with his fellow poet. Listen to a reading of Kubla Khan here and maybe follow along with your book!

For younger students, you may find this book useful, Poetry for Young People – Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This has a good author bio, great illustrations and a nice anthology of Coleridge’s poetry.

Trimester 1 Fine Arts Focus Wrap Up
Online and print resources for the artists we’ve met:

  • Rembrandt – great bio and collection of his works
  • Rembrandt – another good resource
  • Rembrandt by Xavier Niz
  • Rembrandt (Art for Children) by Ernest Lloyd Raboff
  • Linnaeus (lots of info and will appeal to older students with an interest in science)
  • Linnaeus – article and pictures
  • Audubon – good bio and much more
  • Audubon – nice read for Primary and up
  • Audubon – sumptuously illustrated book on the artist and uses his own quotes and thoughts
  • Audubon – for LMS readers and up, this title is also on the Novel Adventures Reading list!
If you’ve wondered what Vivaldi your student has heard in the classroom, we’re using this CD, Vivaldi for Valentines, across the levels. Read a bio of Vivaldi here and also enjoy listening to more of his music.

Let’s talk: Have you found a fine arts resource you and your students are excited and inspired by? Feel free to share in the comments or email us!

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What's for Dinner?

{photo by Jenny Bischoff}

White and Green Chili
Better Homes and Gardens
Serves 6

This is another tried and true dinner at our house. The recipe instructions are for a crock pot, but I often make this right on the stove, and just simmer for about 30 minutes once everything is in the pot. You can also use dried beans in the crock pot if you let it cook all day on low. My favorite way to eat this chili is with corn chips, as shown in the photo. It’s also wonderful over baked potatoes or served with cornbread. Add a salad or veggie, and you’ve got a comforting, hearty, complete meal. 

1 ½  pounds lean ground pork or turkey
1 cup chopped onion
2 15-ounce cans Great Northern Beans (or any white beans),
   rinsed and drained
1 16-ounce jar green salsa (I like Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde)
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup sour cream (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

In a large skillet, cook ground pork/turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender.  Drain off fat.  Transfer meat mixture to a crock-pot.  Stir in beans, salsa, broth, and cumin.  Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours.  Stir in the 2 tablespoons cilantro.  If desired, top each serving with sour cream and cilantro.

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

History Day Costumes

Reminder: Be sure to check last Thursday’s post about Gratitude and leave a comment for a chance to win a gift certificate to the school store!

Our Early American Recitation Bee and Fair is next Friday! Our history events are always the highlight of the school year, but sometimes pulling together a costume (or two, or three, or more if the whole family is getting into the spirit...) can be a daunting task. 

Today on Down Home, we’re going to hear some wonderful tips from a few SLOCA parents, on creating inexpensive historical costumes. We hope to hear from more of you as well – we know there are many resourceful parents out there! Please join in the discussion after reading:

- When checking a thrift store, don’t limit yourself to the costume area. There are some great finds in with the normal clothing: a long skirt, pants that can be cut off to make britches, a vest, a peasant blouse, etc.

- Many parents have had success by finding a few key pieces at a thrift store, and modifying them to create the look they wanted. For example, a lace long sleeve dress with a strapless bridesmaid dress layered over it, pinned to cinch in the waist. Or a black ladies slip, cut up the back, for a cape, with a shoe string hot glued to it to tie around the neck. Think in terms of colors and types of fabric, not what the clothing is intended for!

- Embellish if necessary: glitter glue is a wonderful tool for adding flair to a dress, coat, or accessory. Ribbons, beads, and other items found at the dollar store are also useful.

- Accessories such as hats, belts, boots, and costume jewelry can often be found at thrift stores as well.

- Basic white shirts are great for many types of costumes, and are convenient to have on hand! One parent looks for white shirts of different styles whenever she’s in a thrift store, such as button-up shirts, shirts with large collars, peasant blouses, shirts with ruffles in the front, etc. Great idea!

- If you are going to sew a costume, look for old sheets, curtains, or brocade tablecloths at thrift stores - they are a great option over buying yards of fabric. Sometimes you can even find fur, yarn, ribbon, lace, wigs and more! It takes a bit of looking, but you can get some great items for just a few dollars. 

- A ruffled bed skirt can be turned into a girls skirt with a ruffled bottom with very little sewing.

- Fake leather, suede and or snake skin make for great wrap-around belts or boots.

- Use safety pins or hem tape (pictured below) to “hem” a skirt or take in a waist. It’s faster and easier than sewing and less permanent. 

- Buy the little things. There are stores, such as Pismo Beach Party and Costume (on Grand Ave. in Grover Beach), that sell all kinds of accessories and finishing touches, such as a pirate eye patch or colonial bonnet, if you’re willing to spend a little bit to finish off a costume. 

- Here’s a photo example and explanation from Carol Dichmann, track A mom to Michael (Upper Middle School) and Abby (Lower Middle School):
For this costume, which is very appropriate for what we’re studying now, I found a black large sweat shirt, cut it open and pinned the “new” lapels down.  With lots of glitter glue, I copied the pattern from the costume example.  The under shirt is a red t-shirt and again I copied the design with glitter glue.  This was a few years ago.  I did spend some money on the hat and added gold ribbon.  But I knew we would use that hat often, so it was a bit of an investment.  SLOCA has seen this hat many times over the years. FYI, all that glitter glue needs time to dry, so this needs to be done at least 24 hours in advance.  A blow dryer will help speed up the drying process, but it’s certainly not a “day of” project.

Final words of advice: Look at google images of the character, check the thrift stores (or your closets), and generously make use of scissors, hot glue, and safety pins, and glitter glue!

Thank you Joy Erb, Jaime, Mickey, and Carol Dichmann for contributing your helpful ideas to this article. We look forward to seeing all the fun costumes next Friday! 

Do you have some additional tips for costume construction? We would all love to hear them! Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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

Monday, November 05, 2012

Magical Moments: Classical Music

{photo by Jill Talley}

Today’s Magical Moment is a great tip from Jill Talley. Jill, her husband Todd, and their children Karena (Intermediate), Violet (Primary) and Daniel (Kindergarten), are in their fourth year at SLOCA and are on Track A. Jill has discovered something effective in her homeschool day, and wanted to share it with us:

The Power of Music and Your School Time 
There is a great classical music station available to Central Coast listeners. KUSC FM 99.7 cranks out your classic favorites from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and more.  If you are curious about utilizing classical music as part of your home school line-up, consider the science behind it: Listening to music (without lyrics) stimulates the right side of the brain. Conversely, when you write and study, you trigger the left hemisphere of your brain. Doing both at the same time means both hemispheres are firing simultaneously, working as a whole and increasing your ability to memorize and retain information.
So what kind of classical music is best? Experts say Mozart and other baroque music (music in the 17th and 18thcenturies from Europe), maintain a pace of 60 beats per minute and is actually said to increase learning potential by up to five times normal amounts.
While I am no brain scientist, I did read numerous science studies linking classical music to learning when my children were babies. For me this was “new news”, so I gave it a try.  It worked. I found my toddlers playing significantly longer and with more focus when classical music was playing in our home. That mini experiment made such an impact on my husband and me that our family has incorporated classical music into our home school days as well. I truly find my children (and me) more relaxed and I do believe that it has a positive effect on their learning ability. So, let the music play…

Thanks, Jill! Most of us have heard that classical music is good for our brains, but the explanation of why, and the personal experience you’ve shared are encouraging! 

Let’s talk: What are your favorite classical cds? Any great collections you’ve discovered that are worth passing along? Please comment below to share your recommendations with other parents! 

To leave a comment on the blog, click below the post where it says “No comments” (or “1 comment”, or whatever number of comments already exist.) You do not need a google account. Under "Choose an identity" you can choose Name/URL to leave your name, or choose Anonymous.

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

Friday, November 02, 2012

Free Friday

Friday is here - aren’t you thankful? As you make plans for the weekend, show your gratitude for friends and family by setting aside some quality time to be with them, away from electronic devices. How about a bike ride on the Bob Jones Trail or around Atascadero Lake? Or a stroll along the boardwalk at the Elfin Forest in Los Osos?

Another idea: butterfly season is here in Pismo Beach! The Monarch Butterfly Grove, located on Highway 1 just south of the North Pismo State Beach Campground, is the most visited Monarch Grove in the world. It is staffed by knowledgeable docents from 10 AM - 4 PM, with daily talks given at 11 AM and 2 PM. The beautiful orange and black butterflies cluster by the thousands in the Eucalyptus trees, giving the appearance of golden leaves. Free admission and parking. For more information, visit (their Resources page has lots of butterfly links for kids, too!).

Don’t forget to move your clocks back one hour on Saturday night! Did you know that the idea of daylight saving time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin?

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

Thursday, November 01, 2012


It’s a new month, and that means a new character trait to focus on. Gratitude is defined as:
Being thankful and showing appreciation for those in our lives and for what we have and receive.
November is an obvious time to think about Gratitude, so let’s talk about it in our homes, and practice it together as families. It’s amazing how simply practicing gratitude in everyday life can transform our thoughts and give a new perspective on our circumstances.

One simple, fun way to nurture an attitude of gratitude in our kids is to let them make thank you cards for others, not only for gifts received, but just because they are thankful for that person. Here are some fun card crafts your kids might enjoy.

As we study American history, we can think about and discuss how thankful we are for all the people who came before us and sacrificed to build this country. When we read of the hardships they endured, the risks they took, the lives that were lost and the ideas that were cultivated and spread to create our nation, it inspires a deep gratitude for those founding fathers and mothers who fought for liberty. Try listening to patriotic music with your kids, in a spirit of gratitude for the history they represent.

Last year we talked about gratitude on the blog, and offered suggestions on how to foster it in our homes - click here to read that post.

Let’s talk: What are some ways you teach and encourage gratitude in your home? Share your thoughts by commenting below and be entered into a drawing for a $10 credit to the school store! (Be sure to leave your name so we know who is eligible for the drawing.)

To leave a comment, click below the blog post where it says “No comments” (or “1 comment”, or whatever number of comments already exist.) You do not need a google account - under "Choose an identity" you can choose Name/URL to leave your name, or choose Anonymous.

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