Louisville Classical Academy    Porter     Stevenson


posted Jan 9, 2018, 11:44 AM by Louisville Classical Academy

By Dr. Laurie Duesing

English and Latin teacher

I did not study Latin for any of the right reasons.  I was in the first year of a Ph.D. program in English Literature at UC Davis and attempting to dispatch ‘nattering requirements.’  Among such requirements was proficiency in two foreign languages.  French was my college language, and I dispensed with the requirement quickly.  Now what?  I took a look at a very long list of acceptable languages, and with one exception, three semesters of study were required.  The exception was Latin.  I am a practical woman, and I was also teaching full-time at Solano Community College, which offered two years of Latin in our evening program.  Perfect!  I could teach my classes in the day session and stay on one evening a week for two semesters and fulfill my second language requirement.  I thought, “How hard can it be?”

My first Latin teacher was Ken Bubb, a former Jesuit priest, who was charismatic, knowledgeable and kind.  Just as we do at Louisville Classical Academy, I started my Latin study with Wheelock’s Latin, and I was almost immediately blindsided for one simple reason: Latin made sense.  Already a seasoned English instructor, I was accustomed to the irregularities, inconsistencies and bewildering plethora of rules (and exceptions) governing English grammar, pronunciation, you name it. . .   I was stunned: Latin was orderly.  It had constant rules.  All I had to do was learn them and apply them, and I could do the homework and translations as if I were a first century Roman.  A few weeks into the semester, Mr. Bubb said, “You can almost count the number of irregular Latin verbs on one hand.”  Astonished, I yelled out, “I’m in!”  

The clincher came when Mr. Bubb showed a clip from The Gladiator where Russell Crowe is speaking to his troops and utters “Hold the line” and “Stay with me.”  Explaining how this dialogue truly replicated Roman ideals, Mr. Bubb launched into a further exposition of Roman culture.  I was so moved, I wept.  

So Latin had its way with me.  I fulfilled my second language requirement and made a vow I would study Latin in depth whenever I had some time.  That time finally came when I moved to Louisville and discovered that U of L had an undergraduate minor in Latin.  Since 2007, I have taken every Latin course offered (and more because the Chair of the Department keeps changing the authors in the senior level classes so that I can repeat those classes for credit.).  At last count I had garnered 84 Latin credits.

The irony in all of this is that I have learned more about English language (my specialty!) from studying Latin.  Latin is the ideal; it shows how a language should operate.  It’s gorgeous rhetorically and poetically.  (To my chagrin, I now believe that Vergil is a poet superior to Shakespeare.)    At the conclusion of every semester at U of L (when I was teaching Latin 101 and 102), one or two or three of my students would come up to me and say, “I understand English now better than I ever did.”  Of course.  Latin is the illuminator, the illustrator, not to mention the firm basis of the English language.  (Percentage estimates range from the low 90s to the 97th percentile.)

Is it any wonder that Classics majors (more than any other major) invariably perform better on all kinds of graduate school qualifying exams?  This is no surprise to me because graduate entrance exams are language exams.  And Latin is the grand template of them all.  


posted Oct 31, 2017, 6:50 PM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Oct 31, 2017, 6:53 PM ]

By Kelly Stevenson

    While thinking through what I wanted to share about science education at LCA, I was trying to find an analogy that would explain the importance of experiential learning. It hit me that I have been living through the perfect analogy for experiential learning—teaching my son to drive.

    I am sure that when you get into the car to go somewhere today, you do not have to think about how to make the car work or the myriad traffic rules that govern your transit. But it was not always that way. At some point, all of us who drive had to learn how to do so. Reflect back on that experience with me for a moment.

    Did reading the permit manual and having someone TELL you what you needed to do make you a good driver? Was it sufficient to know which pedal was the gas and which was the break? Maybe, like me, you learned on a manual transmission, and also had to deal with the clutch pedal and the subtle movements that allow for a smooth drive. Didn’t the real learning occur when you actually sat behind the wheel? Through the experience of DOING, you probably learned more than from all that reading and listening combined. You needed that background information as a starting place; it informed how you went about figuring out all those controls and making the car go where you wanted it to. However, the real experience of learning came from you making your own meaning from that background information you had been given. You constructed your own understanding, and through practice, you mastered a new, complex skill.

    This reminds me of one of the important ways that education happens at LCA. There is more to learning than reading textbooks and listening to teachers lecture. In the sciences, I feel this is particularly important. In my experience, for so many schools, science education is made up of just reading the book and completing worksheets: learning the facts, the names of things, reciting the steps of a process, but nothing more.

    Yes, there is a role for direct instruction. There is a place for learning what the scientific method is. What are the steps you should go through to test how things work? What do words like observation, hypothesis, and conclusion mean? But after a relatively short instruction period on the underlying concepts, students need to jump into creating their own understanding of HOW science works. Students must USE the scientific method in real experiments to truly understand how it works, as well as its power as a learning tool.

    From the very beginning of their science education at LCA, students are making predictions about what they think will happen. How will this action affect what we see? How can we change things to get a desired result? This methodology is built upon and formalized as students grow in their science education. I know that the 3rd graders this year are maintaining science journals in which they are keeping records of their observations and recording results from many classroom experiments in tables. My 4th and 5th grade students work through planned experiments, but also get the chance to start choosing variables and discussing the best ways to find out what they want to learn. By 6th grade, students are working to design their own experiments, including controlling variables and analyzing what their results mean. Lab experiments and reports get more thorough and complex as students get older.

    To me, this process of learning HOW to do science is even more important than memorizing facts. Yes, you need to know the names of things; yes, you need to know some underlying facts; and yes, you must learn from those who went before you. But meaning that is constructed from the student’s own experience is so much more powerful than anything that he or she just hears a teacher say. True understanding comes from experiencing something yourself. This is the way science is done. Science is not just a collection of facts: it is a vibrant, living discipline that is about learning new things through experimentation. New research is constantly making new discoveries that expand our understanding of how this world works and help make it a better place. That is the nature of science. THAT is what I want my science students to learn—and experience.


posted Sep 26, 2017, 9:37 AM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 11:45 AM ]

Amanda Proietti

By Amanda Proietti

    At our opening school ceremony, I urged students in grades 4-12 to spend time in silence every day.  With the presence of music and news or audiobooks streaming through our ipods and phones and computers, and music in supermarkets, elevators, waiting rooms, and while on hold, we have to work hard to find silence.  Few of us succeed.  And I worry about the implications of that.


    I worry about it for several reasons.  One is that we have reduced music to wallpaper, to mere background noise, and I think music deserves better than that.  Another is that most students perform worse on cognitive tasks when they are listening to music.  And though there is some evidence to suggest that extroverts perform better in the presence of background noise such as TV or chatter, introverts perform significantly worse (Furnham and Bradley, 1997), and we don't need one more way to put introverts at a disadvantage.  We also don't need any more ways to fragment our already restless attention, jumping from texts to emails to Facebook posts to TV screens to a textbook.  We need mental rest.


    A recent study points to a connection between silence and permanent growth of neurons in the brain (Kirste, 2013).  We have heard about the beneficial effects of silence on blood pressure.  Such medical and cognitive effects of silence are wondrous, but what interests me more is how silence aids us in forming our personalities.  It is in quiet that we hear our own voice, that we ponder and muse and give thoughts space to develop, that we confront the less attractive aspects of our personality and work to refine them.  I don't know that we can know who we are unless we learn that in silence.  It is the source of our strength and authenticity.


    Can parents and teachers find space in the day to cultivate silence for ourselves and our children?  Could we have silent car rides or walks in the neighborhood or chores or crafts or homework performed in amiable, companionable (not rigidly enforced) silence?  In moments of high drama or tension when we lose touch with ourselves, can we resist reacting with torrents of words but find space for silence, too?  


    If, as a community, we could undertake to find periods of silence in every day, would our younger students become more imaginative and resourceful, our middle-schoolers more accepting and confident, and our high-schoolers more optimistic and discerning?  Would we adults find ourselves calmer and clearer headed?  


    To find out, what do we have to lose but noise?



posted Sep 26, 2017, 8:37 AM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 9:20 AM ]


By Kelly Stevenson

Over the summer, a number of LCA faculty were lucky enough to get to hear Richard Louv speak when he came to town. Louv’s national bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, introduced people to the idea of Nature-Deficit Disorder in 2005. In this work, Louv brought together many sources that indicate that most children today (and adults, for that matter) are suffering from a lack of exposure to nature in their everyday lives. There have been many studies that show increases in both psychological and physical health associated with time spent in natural settings. Being outside in natural settings can lower stress, increase attention and focus, exercise multiple senses, and stimulate many diverse areas of the brain. All of these things lead to better learning as well as happier, healthier people, so it seems like a logical cause for educators to take up.

And some educators have. Since the publication of Last Child in the Woods, many people have made a point to have children spend more time in nature. In the last ten years, with this increased awareness, there has been much more research on the topic. This research has lent even more support to Louv’s thesis. Schools based on his ideas, in which children spend significant time in nature, have higher test scores than comparable schools--despite the apparent loss of “instructional time.”

One of the biggest areas of improvement when children spend time in nature is creativity: children spending unstructured time outside are much more creative in their play, and there are indications that this creativity carries over into other aspects of their lives as they grow. One study demonstrated that children playing in a more natural, less planned environment are more likely to play with other children who do not look like them than children in a more structured playground environment. There was also a noted decrease in the amount of bullying found in the natural setting. The Richard Louv event I attended was geared toward families, so there was a wide range of ages represented. While the adults sat under a tent and listened to Louv talk about these studies, behind him, a diverse group of children who had never met each other before were running around, unknowingly making his point even more eloquently than he. Their play was creative, physically active, and engaging. I never heard a single tear shed through the whole evening, though there were certainly plenty of squeals of laughter and joy.

All of us who listened to Richard Louv are newly energized to apply what we learned at LCA. We want to continue to incorporate more experience in nature into our school days, and invite you as families to join us in making sure that our children do not grow up with Nature-Deficit Disorder. In small ways, we have already begun this transformation. More students are enrolled in PE this year. During our daily recess, students get free time outside. We have also added a bit of time on Friday afternoons in which 4th and 5th graders will get some explicit “nature time.” This could include a nature hike, using natural materials in an art project, or games that take place in nature as well as demonstrate aspects of how nature works. Many of the ideas will come from Richard Louv’s newest book, Vitamin N, which is a great resource if you are interested in finding ways to incorporate more time in nature with your family. I look forward to taking some time to reconnect with nature myself, as well as seeing it anew through the eyes of these interested young students this year.

Richard Louv’s books:

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

This book lays out the case that children are suffering from their lack of exposure to nature and why that is important, as well as what we can do about it. Apparently, the newest addition has much more information added.

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age

This book focuses on the importance of relating to the natural world for adults, businesses, and society. He calls for a “nature-balanced existence” that will allow both humanity and the earth to thrive.

Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life

This is a guidebook to ways connect with nature, chock full of ideas of things you can do to get more nature in your life.



posted Sep 26, 2017, 8:35 AM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 10:37 AM ]

Proietti, G.

By Dr. Gerald Proietti

    Across our first decade, people have often asked us: What does the “classical” in our name signify? Its meaning can be traced to the ancient Greek development of two interconnected sets of principles that we strive to cultivate: “shared inquiry” and “habits of mind.”

    We refer to the antiquity of these principles, not because we want to revere their old age, but because it is helpful to keep in mind that these are not modern inventions—they are deep-rooted sources of vitality in our own striving to be free, to understand the world, to understand ourselves, and to live good lives.

    Socrates of Athens developed shared inquiry into a method of pursuing truth. While he himself did not leave any writings that we know of, his students Plato and Xenophon show him using dialogue (dialogos) to pursue clarity about universal human principles such as love, justice, courage, and integrity.

    Socrates did not mean the kind of dialogue that merely seeks practical compromises, but instead something like the kind of discourse among modern scientists, gradually sifting out invalid theories, that has led to our enriched understanding of the fundamental forces of physics, the quantal nature of matter—the periodic table of the elements!—and the cellular basis of plant and animal life. All of these advances required rigorous, truth-seeking dialogue among scientists across many generations.

    One of Socrates’ sober observations about democracies is still humbling today: that one of our most prized possessions, freedom of speech, leads to a constant, confusing clash of diverse ideas—and as a result, many citizens come to believe that moral principles are merely cultural creations with no universal basis as guides for human life. But he also argued that this diversity of ideas, if used carefully—in productive dialogue—can make democracies a great environment for the pursuit of universal moral truths that lie concealed beneath the surface differences of opinion.

    We cannot use experimental methods or microscopes as evidence in pursuing the truth about moral principles; so it is harder for dialogue to produce such decisive agreement about the human fundamentals as it can in the physical sciences. Yet in some ways moral principles are more self-evident to us than the fundamental forces of physics. Socrates compared basic moral principles to the elementary principles of geometry, such as “straight.” Their reality is not proven by logic; yet courageous and artful dialogue can help us to sift out their core meanings.

    This ancient thinker showed, ironically, that in pursuing moral inquiry through rigorous dialogue, we are compelled to continually practice the very goodness that we are seeking to understand: we have to practice courage and self-control in striving, through dialogue, to understand them.

    Explicit, direct inquiry about moral principles arises more naturally in some classes—in literature, especially—than in others. But at LCA our diverse studies, with teachers using diverse methods, have this in common: we explicitly, consciously strive to practice the “parts” of both intellectual and moral excellence—which the ancient Greeks and Romans called virtues, and which we call good habits of mind—through the challenge of honest, truth-seeking dialogue.


posted Sep 26, 2017, 8:13 AM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 9:22 AM ]

By Alan Krome 

    This is a salute to Bill Harvey, my algebra teacher at Norfolk Academy.

    I salute him because he was able to take a word-nerd and imbue him with awe at the mysterious and echoing beauty of mathematical pattern. I already knew by the time I was in his tenth-grade class that I wanted to be a poet, so most of my demigods were wordsmiths. I was good at math, but it didn’t engage me any more than history or geography, two other courses that seemed to me encrusted with facts as dull as dried mud cracking in the sun. (The fact that I later learned to love these disciplines is another story for another day . . .)

    But Mr. Harvey took a few minutes one day to point out that any time you took a square, such as 10 x 10 and instead multiplied its square root + 1 times the square root - 1, you would always get one less than the square: 10 x 10 = 100, 11 x 9 = 99; 7 x 7 = 49, 8 x 6 = 48, etc. I don’t recall why he pointed it out--possibly as a short-cut for finding the product of two numbers separated by 2? What I do remember is wondering how far this pattern went; surely when you got into larger numbers, the difference must get larger. So I tried 80 x 80 and got 6400; 81 x 79? Whoa, it was 6399! The fact that this held true despite the size of the numbers defied my understanding of multiplication. [So I continued noodling with the numbers. Before long I tried adding and subtracting 2 from the square roots. 12 x 8 = 96, which was 3 less than the 99, 4 less than the 100, and 9 x 5 3 less than the 48, 4 less than the 49. Subtracting 3 gave me 91 and 40, each 5 less than its predecessor or 9 less than the original 100 or 49 . . .]

    Highly excited, I took these findings to Mr. Harvey, who—may blessings shower upon his memory—said, “Wow, Alan, that’s a fascinating discovery. It certainly means something—I want to you to figure out what.” [So after several hours of chasing this elusive mathematical mystery down into a simpler form, I discovered that if (x + 1)(x - 1) = x² - 1 and if (x + 2)(x – 2) = x² - 1 - 3 = x² - 4 and if (x + 3)(x – 3) = x² - 1 -3 - 5 = x² - 9, then possibly (x + y)(x – y) = x² - y². I tried it by adding and subtracting 4, then 5—Eureka: I’d found a pattern powerful enough to predict things I hadn’t tested yet!]

    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies when some new planet sweeps into his ken . . .

    It was the first time I was aware that numbers are magical because they can give us some slight insight into all the rhythms that pulse beneath the surface of the universe, keeping it in balance. I became aware of it because Mr. Harvey planted a seed that happened to take root in my imagination. But much more importantly, because he didn’t short-circuit the power of that seedling’s growth by explaining it to me: he made me explore it for myself. For that insight and the awe it still can evoke within me, I owe Bill Harvey more than I can ever explain, much less repay.


posted Sep 26, 2017, 8:04 AM by Louisville Classical Academy   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 9:26 AM ]


By Lana Stein

    Our country faces a literacy crisis. In order to ensure that US students graduate high school equipped to find post-secondary and career success, it is essential that our students leave school seasoned readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. Expert educator and author Jim Burke cites a report by the Conference Board on ‘basic knowledge and applied skills’ for the twenty-first century workforce. Titled Are They Really Ready to Work?, the report discusses how students enter the US workplace and struggle to perform the critical thinking, collaborative, and communication tasks expected of them. Moreover, Burke shows evidence that in the decade ahead, “approximately 85 percent of newly created U.S. jobs will require education beyond high school” (Burke, 2013, pg. 3). This means that for students to prosper later, they must acquire the college-level oral and written proficiency.

    Strong reading comprehension offers each of us independent access to new ideas and insight into how we might clearly and compellingly pass on our own ideas to others. At Louisville Classical Academy, teachers across subject areas support students as they learn to read and communicate effectively. In our classrooms, teachers practice active reading strategies with students so that they learn how to independently employ these strategies later on, further developing the higher-order thinking necessary to unpack complex information.

    Research has shown that the strategies associated with the close-reading technique that we use at LCA are effective for dramatically improving reading comprehension. In our classrooms, before students read, they first make predictions about what they might encounter in their reading, discussing with classmates any connections they can draw between a topic and their past experiences. Teachers then show students how to monitor their own understanding of vocabulary as they read, employing fix-up strategies to infer meaning in context as necessary. Students also learn how to identify the most important information in a reading passage, observing how supporting details focus our attention back to main ideas. Finally, students are asked to generate questions and answers based on the information they encountered as they read.

    There are many things that families can do to ensure their children's reading comprehension growth. Some key recommendations from literacy specialists include making reading a regular activity at home, perhaps setting aside a half-hour each night for quiet reading; asking questions about what your children are reading and also discussing what real-life connections they are drawing to the content; carving out time to listen to your children read aloud, oral reading having been shown to dramatically improve fluency; and writing together whenever possible, whether that means notes back and forth or letters to family members and friends.

    A positive attitude toward reading is shown to correlate directly with reading achievement: the more children read, the better readers they become. Spark your children's interest in reading by helping them find books that address topics of personal interest. Ask your local librarian, your children's teachers, and education communities for recommendations.

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