Practicing: Beauty - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

Semper discentes—always learning together.
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Practicing: Beauty

“We are pursuing beauty here. With what we assign, the spaces we curate, and the books we read, we are not merely choosing what we like, what is trendy, or “cool.” We’re chasing beauty — the things that move us and have moved generations of humans before us. This is why we read Homer and Gilgamesh and Emily Dickinson and Ancient Chinese poetry and Martin Luther King. It’s why we take our students camping in the woods and study natural sciences. It’s why we appreciate and make art. In our students, we want to cultivate a love of beauty. Ultimately, these moving experiences will come to shape their own tastes and loves over time.”

– History Teacher Sarah Shotwell

This week’s video on ”The Good, The True, and the Beautiful” explores what beauty is, and why we need it in our lives! While some people believe that having encounters with beauty is a “want” and not a “need,” the Greeks actually thought beauty was important to the health of our souls. The more we encounter beauty, the more we cultivate an appreciation for it! But how do we do that? And how do we teach kids to think about beauty, and to seek it?



To some, creating time for beauty feels like a luxury, and not a necessity, so it’s all too easy to push it aside in the name of addressing more urgent, “practical” concerns. But appreciating beauty is really important, and prioritizing it models this value to our students and kids!

Here are some ideas on how to get started!

  • Schedule time to seek beauty once a week. Put it on the calendar so it’s a priority!
  • Get outside in nature. Go out late at night or early in the morning and gaze at the night sky, or go take your kids for a walk by the ocean. Go for a leisurely hike, or this winter, drive to the snow and play in the woods! Make nature a priority. And while you are there, insist on being present. Keep that phone put away — even if it means having to resist snapping that photo for Instagram! Try to keep the experience personal, present, and special for you and those you are with.
  • Take your kids to attend a live concert. Live music is back! There are now ways to safely attend musical performances. Experiencing music live is extremely special, and can be a transformative experience for kids and teens.
  • Aren’t ready for a live show? Listen to beautiful music at home or in the car. Curate a playlist, or put on an old vinyl record. Classical, jazz, pop, blues, world music, opera, soul, R&B, folk — even rock’n’roll and hip-hop — can be beautiful! Introduce your kids to the music that inspires you. Then, invite them to introduce you to the music that inspires them. Talk about music and beauty. Even if you don’t “get” their musical taste, try to understand what they find beautiful about it! They may surprise you.
  • Visit an art museum or attend a poetry reading. Seeing and hearing works of art in person can be a much richer experience than reading or looking at them in a book or on a computer.
  • Did you know that cinema is an art form built on the principles of Greek drama? To this day, many screenwriters in Hollywood still read Aristotle’s Poetics to learn the secrets of storytelling. Film is a modern art form built on classical criticism. And there are many beautiful critically acclaimed masterpieces that are great for children. Movies are not just for entertainment — they can be a sublime art form, too! Not sure where to start, try The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Singin’ in the Rain, Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (Be sure to check ahead to make sure these are age appropriate for your kids). My favorite critically acclaimed children’s film is Alfonso Cuaron’s A Little Princess. The beauty and composition of each shot, the story, music, the writing, and the acting are all sublime examples of children’s cinema at its best!
  • Pick some of these films to watch with your family, and have a “cafe discussion” after. Treat the movie like you would treat a book for school, and talk about the movie in a way that elevates it to a work of art! Dig deep and explore the meaning, choices, shots, colors, characters, score, and symbolism! In time, kids will begin to recognize craft in movies, and this will help them recognize beauty.

These are just a few ideas on how we can get started appreciating beauty. But there are a million other ways we can appreciate and cultivate beauty together this winter! What are your ideas? We’d love to hear them!

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