Thrive Whenever You Arrive - SLO Classical Academy
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San Luis Obispo Classical Academy San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

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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Thrive Whenever You Arrive

We are not shy about the fact that SLOCA is a special place. We read great books, we provide an incredibly effective education that creates forever learners, and we teach kids to think, really think, for themselves. To provide this level of excellence takes an enormous amount of intentionality in our approach to learning, curriculum, and character development. 

Knowing this, some families can feel hesitant or intimidated to jump into  SLOCA at a later grade level. They wonder if their child can be successful among a group of peers who have been in this community for years, immersed in the fundamentals of a classical education that includes subjects and methods not found in a public school education. To address this concern, SLOCA puts a concerted effort into making sure new students feel welcomed into the community and academically prepared for their time at school. In this post, we focus on our approach to welcoming in students entering middle school and high school. You do not have to join in kindergarten or first grade—you can thrive whenever you arrive.

“Dear Late-Comer Parents,

I am a late-comer too. Have no fear! You can do it too!

If you have that gut feeling that SLOCA might be the right fit for your child, I recommend giving it a try. My daughter went to public schools from TK – 6th grade. She did not feel like the odd one for changing schools, or that she was missing out on fun activities with her friends at her former school. 

I knew transferring to SLOCA would require a greater time investment on my behalf on the homeschool days. However, I spent much of my time volunteering for PTA and other school activities when my daughter was at public school. Additionally, I was meeting with teachers for various reasons—clarifying assignments to addressing social/behavioral issues. I was already invested in my daughter’s education, and I was willing to put in a little more time for the right school. SLOCA is definitely the right school for us right now. I have grown to love the community. There is a warmth and welcoming at SLOCA that surpasses any other school I have experienced. I appreciate that community service is required. My daughter enjoys community service, but she is even more proud that it is valued at her school.”

– Natalie, parent of student who started at SLOCA in 7th grade

Thriving Academically

Right before the start of the school year, middle school students are invited to a Summer Intensive at SLOCA. This is a full week for new students to begin their studies in Latin and Grammar, two subjects that are likely new to them. In addition to the heavy focus on those two subjects, the intensive is meant to help students learn our SLOCA basics. We teach them how to read a grid, demystify our many acronyms, and delve into character traits and fundamental writing skills. 

These intensives are required for new students, but they are also open to students who are brushing up on their skills before the school year begins. This gives our new students a chance to get to know a wide variety of peers. The Summer Intensive sure covers a lot of ground!

“The Latin instructors are kind and encouraging to the students. Each student picks a Latin name that they use in class, mine chose Papilio (Butterfly). The Latin Intensive was a nice way for my daughter to dip her toes into learning Latin and adjust to the school campus before the rest of the students joined for the school year.”

– Natalie

While the Summer Intensives do a great job of building a foundation, middle school (and high school) at SLOCA will still take a lot of hard work and determination. We have found that students who show up, are willing to learn, and put in the work find their rhythm by midyear. It may be encouraging to know that a lot of what the students do in middle school is new to ALL of the students at SLOCA, even those who have been attending for years! The same is true for our high school. Our middle and high school teachers are going to take plenty of time to explain, teach, and help each student get where they want to go. 

It’s hard and you all did warn us. Yes, thank you, you did warn us. And you do warn new families and give plenty of support through communities and meetings and communication. The access to teachers and information via the grids is also incredible and something we didn’t have at our previous school. You told us the curriculum would not be easy but it would be worth it—Susie told us at the Sneak Peek. Amy told us in our family meeting interview. Our beloved Stephanie Ridley told us as we applied to get in. New teachers told us in the new family orientations. Mrs. Dillon told us at Parent Portal Live education nights and your printed packets and Field Guides of many pages told us…And let me say it was AS ADVERTISED. But it has been worth it just as Susie said and that has delivered on every level as well. While none of you undersold the amount of work it is you also did not oversell the richness or reward.

– Carrie, kids started at SLOCA in 6th and 1st

Thriving in Community

We spend a lot of time on community-building in middle school! At the start of the year, our Upper Middle School (7th-8th) students and teachers enjoy a team-building day out at Lopez Lake. Together, they cheer each other on through an obstacle/ropes course and zipline. It is a day for students (and teachers too!) to experience some healthy struggle that creates healthy bonds. Toward the end of the school year, the students return to Lopez for a 2-night camping trip with their peers and teachers. Add in school dances, sports, and Friday classes…there are so many opportunities to get plugged in! 

At the high school, there are a multitude of opportunities to connect. Social events abound—spirit weeks, senior trips, dances, extracurriculars, clubs, sports, and the weekly “Friyay” events. This bounty of community building all starts off with a bang at the annual fall retreat. A unique getaway (to the Santa Cruz Mountains!) during the first week of school includes all high school students and teachers, this event is planned with the specific goal of building a strong SLOCAHS community. The retreat is also where new students are sorted into their academic houses (modeled on the residential college system of schools like Oxford and Cambridge); another way we encourage camaraderie between grade levels. 

Thriving with Support

In addition to the intentional strides we take to transition new students in the areas of academics and community-building, we go even further to create the best possible environment for them. Our small class sizes are an essential ingredient to the success of our students for a multitude of reasons—a big one being that each student is truly known and seen by their teachers, so they can easily identify when students need a little more support. We utilize Family Action Plans (FAP) to create concrete, actionable plans for students and parents before things get too unmanageable. 

“The teacher-student ratio is golden. That part for us is a non-negotiable and it’s why we FIND the funds to make it possible for our kids to be here. It’s too important. Maybe our kids won’t have money left in their college funds at the end of this (as once we made the move over here we intend to stay allllll the way through SLOCA high). It’s too important for us to invest in our kids’ education now. They may be on their own when it comes to college funds ha! Sorry kids … but also YOU’RE WELCOME.”

– Carrie

Additionally, our staff spends a great deal of time and attention on each class list. They do their best to spread the kids out for an ideal mix of both veteran and newer students, really focusing on what kind of class makeup is going to make for the most welcoming and healthy environment.

Our focus on character goes much deeper than platitudes. Because SLOCA places such a high value on character development and our monthly character traits, we hold kids accountable to them. Showing kindness when welcoming in new students, showing courage when getting to know someone new or speaking up in class, showing diligence in your work…the list goes on. We see that this does make a big difference in our community of students and how they interact with each other. 

“Our 7th grader faced some changing times when she entered middle school at the local public school. She felt like a very small fish in an extremely large pond. Her mood changed from excitement about school and friends to sadness and apprehension. We wanted her so badly to feel supported, seen and included. We are now in our 5th month at SLOCA and our child feels supported, seen and included every day!”

– Heather, child started at SLOCA in 7th grade

In a nutshell, we want our students to do well! We know that setting them up for success academically is important, but the task of giving them a sense of belonging and creating a place where there is real community is equally salient. One reason we ask so many questions during the application process is so we can get to know your child and set them up for a successful entry into SLOCA. 

“We travel too much, my husband has a crazy job with unpredictable hours…blah blah. AND WE STILL LOVE IT. I 100% look like a deranged sea otter at morning meetings but for the most part our kids ARE THRIVING AND WE LOVE THIS COMMUNITY. Worth it. In short…we love this place. We’re so happy to be here I cry every time I think about it.”

– Carrie

“I can go on and on about why SLOCA is a great fit for us—the hybrid option allows my daughter to continue other hobbies and interests without feeling over-scheduled, the small class size encourages her to speak up in class, and Logic class is perfect for junior high students! She can recognize good, sound arguments and poor ones. This helps surprisingly with peer pressure and with communicating an intelligent argument to get what she needs from me and her father. So cool! I wish I had taken a logic class when I was 13. My teen years would have been a little smoother. 

I wish you the best in choosing a school for your child. It is one of life’s treasures to watch your child thriving at school.”

– Natalie

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