Enjoy the Ride Retreat: Reflections - 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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Enjoy the Ride Retreat: Reflections

Happy Friday! We recently had a mini retreat here at SLO Classical Academy entitled “Enjoy the Ride” for our staff and other educators. Our speakers spoke on a diverse range of topics spanning our theme for the year “The Good, The True & The Beautiful.” I (Wei) came away from the retreat reconnected to the original vision of why our family originally started this hybrid homeschooling journey. The sessions were:

  • Unearthing the Good in Nature: the National Parks And the Role of the Transcendental / By Adam Johnson, Professor of Theology in the Torrey Honors College at Biola University
  • Beauty and the Big Picture: Using Observation to Find Beauty in the Seemingly Ordinary / By Mel Narish, Learning Designer for the Center for Education Through Exploration at Arizona State University
  • To Show the Truth: Making Sense of Riddles and Rhymes / By Jessica Hooten Wilson, Louise Cowan Scholar at the University of Dallas

I (Wei) personally was a little apprehensive about the mini retreat. Like every busy parent there is always the pull of weekend sports activities, household projects and the never ending to do list. I haven’t had to discuss texts with university professors since ‘ahem’ my own university days long ago. As a family we enjoy poetry and read aloud’s but in the back of my mind it is always with the end of goal of checking that box off in the grid! In the rush of getting things done, and trying to tease out answers from unyielding children, the Enjoy the Ride retreat helped redirect me back to the beginning. That our family chose this ‘ride’ because of the greater ‘good’, not necessarily to say that we checked all the boxes and delivered a perfect education, but because we felt that walking with our kids on this journey was worth it, the time, the energy, to encourage them to discover the good, the true and the beautiful for themselves, lesson plans notwithstanding .

This morning I had a conversation in the car with my elementary aged children about teaching and learning. We talked about how teachers are not meant to know everything, but to teach their students how to see, and how to discover the world around them by themselves. This I learned in a new way from Ms Narish’s session, where she spoke about being a research scientist, where there was a cultural expectation that there was so much more to learn, and then being a teacher, where the expectation was that she was a human ‘Google’. Ms Narish took us through a very interesting session where we read a text (see resources below) on mosses while being connected to the ground (see photo 1), and then took us out to observe and respond to the curb outside our classroom.

Ultimately, I came away realizing that this ‘ride’ is intertwined with how we do our everyday lives, how we do our parenting, our relationships, the way we do life. More than ever, I want my children to be able to think deeply about the world that they live in, regardless of whatever profession they choose. For me, retreats are meant to be a balm for the soul, when one is tired and weary from doing the grind, they provide refreshment and a new way of seeing things. Enjoy the Ride did just that.

Please also read on for other attendees reflections from the ‘Enjoy the Ride’ mini retreat.

SLOCA added adventure as a twist to the Good, True & Beautiful in a breakout session I attended led by Adam Johnson. In the session Johnson illustrates the transcendental nature of the National Parks, the truth, beauty, and goodness common to all human beings. Johnson describes the National Parks as a hierarchy of goodness, but rather than a pyramidal hierarchy, it is the center of a nesting doll, radiating a whole host of goods: exercise by accident, funding local economies, cultivating an aesthetic, and social connection. He describes a simplicity where “none of these goods are at odds with each other and every aspect is interwoven and completes the other aspects of goodness.”

It is this awareness of the interwoven nature of goodness, truth, and beauty I hope to apply to our home days and instill in my students.

– Jaime Hendrickson, Track A

I certainly “enjoyed the ride” at the educator retreat. What I appreciated most is that the speakers led us to see that instilling truth, beauty, and goodness in education does not need to be complicated. The magic happens when we reread a rich text, mull over a poem, or observe things just a bit longer than we might otherwise. I’m walking away inspired to create the space for this both in my classroom and in my own home.

– Kristina Doles, Intermediate Track B teacher

At the Enjoy the Ride Mini-Retreat, I was privileged to be in the presence of intellectual thinkers of the highest level. I left the retreat inspired, challenged, and chastened. I left chastened because I’ve been given this golden opportunity of teaching and learning alongside my children; of access to wonderful, rich literature; and the time to sink into the richness of SLOCA’s program. And, I think at times, I have squandered this gift. I have not taken full advantage of these opportunities and I am reminded that with great privilege comes responsibility. I was inspired to dust off some Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf (just to name two authors!) and begin reading. I read a lot, and although I don’t believe we need only read “great” literature, I can admit that my reading diet has become heavily skewed toward the easily accessible and consumable. 

I left the retreat challenged to read more thoughtfully and intentionally, to make connections between other works and my life. I am fairly certain this won’t be my steady diet yet, but I want to add more literary works to my reading. I left inspired to be more aware of what’s good and to invite my children consistently into interactions with what is truly good. This will hopefully cultivate their tastes and teach them how to savor the great goods. 

I am so glad I took the time for the mini-retreat!

– Joy Newman, Track A

One of the best things about retreats are the resources from many experts in the field. Jessica Hooten Wilson led us through a creative writing exercise that I am still digesting weeks later! Below are some of the books that were mentioned, we encourage you to seek them out in The Den and online.

  • Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor
  • Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott
  • How to Think by Alan Jacobs
  • 30 Poems to Memorize (Before It’s Too Late) by David Kern
  • Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder
  • How to Read a Poem by Tanya Runyan
  • The Practice of Creative Writing: A Guide for Students by Heather Sellers
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer

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