Teaching Character Through Literature: Courage - 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.

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Teaching Character Through Literature: Courage

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. – Robert F. Kennedy

As we talk about our Character Trait, Courage, this month, it is hard to sidestep what is happening in the world around us. As we study the Ancients it is easy to be disconnected with reality of ongoing wars and living in a state of uncertainty. We hope that these stories encourage discussion and conversation around this important trait in your home life.

SLO Classical Academy defines Courage as:

Attempting difficult things that are worthwhile and facing difficulties and challenges with determination to do the right thing even when others don’t.

Catch Phrase: Dare to be different!


The Frightened Little Owl by Mark Ezra

Although afraid to fly, Little Owl leaves the safety of her nest and takes flight to look for her missing mother. After searching here and there, she finds that her mother has been watching over her all the time. Ages 3 and up.

The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony, illustrated by Cris Arbo

A little dandelion seed won’t let go because it’s afraid of the world. Soon, the winds blow it free and it learns that the world is full of challenge, wonder, and beauty. Eventually, it lands, grows, and casts its own seeds. Finally, it finds itself reassuring one scared little seed that the sun, the wind, and the rain will take care of it. This beautifully simple book teaches about seeds, cycles, and courage. Winner of the Publishers Association Award for Picture Books in 1998. Ages 3 and up.

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Norman is happy to discover he grew a pair of wings overnight but quickly hides them under his jacket, embarrassed to be different. He finally decides to be brave and takes his jacket off and realizes there is no such thing as perfectly normal. Ages 3 and up.

Thunder Cake by Patricia Pollacco

One of our favorite authors tells the story of how her grandma–her Babushka–helped her overcome her fear of thunder when she was a little girl. Her grandmother’s compassionate and creative response turns a frightening thunderstorm into an adventure and ultimately . . . a celebration! Ages 4 and up.

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade

A young bird contemplates whether or not he should endeavor to fly – it’s scary, and he might fail! But he also might soar, and he’ll never know if he doesn’t try. This poetic and charming book will inspire you to dare greatly. Ages 4-8.

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Determined to be brave, six-year-old Ramona Quimby has to deal with starting first grade, her mother’s new job, and a teacher who does not understand how hard it is for Ramona to grow up. For ages 6 and up.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were two of the most admired and respected women of all time. They were also good friends. This picture book illuminates the true story of a thrilling night when they made history together. On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia and Eleanor did the unprecedented. They slipped away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane, and took off on a glorious night flight, still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns. This picture book celebrates the pioneering spirit of two friends whose passion for life gave them the courage to defy convention. For ages 7 and up.

Poppy by Avi

When Poppy, a courageous deer mouse, attempts to move with her family to a different part of the woods where the food supply is richer, Mr. Ocax refuses to let them go. Despite what she’s been led to believe for years, Mr. Ocax is not as strong as he wants the mice to think he is. Poppy embarks on a dangerous quest—joined by the lovable porcupine, Ereth—to defeat Mr. Ocax and lead her family to a better home. Ages 8 and up

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

A much-loved classic that is often compared to Little House on the Prairie, but with more adventure! It tells the story of a spirited and brave young girl and is based on the life and memories of the author’s grandmother. Ages 8-12.

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen

This historical fiction novel is set in Lithuania during the late 1800s when Lithuania was occupied by Russia. 12-year-old Audra finds herself smuggling books during a time when Lithuanian books were banned in an effort by the Russians to suppress Lithuanian culture. Ages 10 and up.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt

Turner Buckminster has been in Phippsburg, Maine for just a few hours, but he already hates the place. No one in town will let him forget that he’s a minister’s son, and his father demands that he starts acting like one. But then Turner meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a smart and sassy girl from a poor nearby island community founded by former slaves. Turner defies everyone’s disapproval to spend time with Lizzie, which opens up a whole new world to him, filled with the mystery and wonder of Maine’s rocky coast. The elders of Phippsburg plan to build a lucrative hotel to attract the tourist trade. But first, everyone on Lizzie’s island must be removed—by force, if necessary. As Turner finds the courage to stand up to the townspeople, and to his father, he also finds new compassion and new maturity. A sensitively written historical novel, based on the true story of a community’s destruction. For ages 14 and up.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

In the spring of 1863, while engaged in the fierce battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia, a young Union soldier comes to grips with his conflicting emotions about war, and comes to manhood and a sense of peace. This is a powerful psychological study of a young soldier’s struggle with the horrors of war. Crane realistically describes the moment-by-moment riot of emotions experienced by men under fire. First published in 1895, when Crane was only 21, this is considered to be the first great ‘modern’ novel of war by an American, and is arguably the finest novel of the Civil War. For mature teens and up.

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