Education for Life’s Principles
The Tools of Maturity
“An astronomer scanning the heavens needs a mirror for his telescope that is clean and ground accurately. A carpenter building a house needs tools that are well made and well maintained. A jeweller dealing in precious stones needs a scale sensitive enough to weigh small fractions of a carat. In every department of life, the right tools are needed. In this age of sophisticated technology, especially, great care must be devoted to their development and maintenance.
It is a matter for surprise, then, how little attention gets paid to the ultimate “tool,” the one on which every human being relies: his own self, his body and his brain.”
J.Donald Walters, Education for Life
Education for Life provides an education for children that integrates body, mind, feeling and spirit.
The basic goal of EFL is to cultivate each student’s experience of maturity, which is defined as “the ability to relate appropriately to other realities than one’s own”.
The primary means of developing this ability are the Body, Feelings, Will, and Intellect, which are referred to as the Tools of Maturity. Each one has a particular period of childhood where it is best developed.
The Stages of Maturity
The Foundation Years
The stage from birth to 6 encompasses the Foundation or preschool years. During this period the child is primarily occupied with learning to relate to physical realities, especially exploring how the body works. An EFL preschool will promote physical vitality through a healthy diet and generous amounts of exercise, sunlight, and fresh air. Frequent nature outings will be interspersed with activities specifically designed to promote physical agility and coordination. The Foundation Years are also a time for cultivating the physical senses through creating a beautiful classroom environment and involving the children in painting, crafts, music, dance, and other activities that refine the children’s capacities for hearing, seeing, feeling, etc. Storytelling and role-playing are popular venues with this age for sharing initial insights into human behavior. The preschool years also provide an opportune time for cultivating uplifting habits of cleanliness, cooperation, and truthfulness.
The Feeling Years
The next cycle of growth covers the period from 6-12, the Feeling or elementary years. During this stage, the emphasis shifts from the body to working with and through the child’s feelings. Children are helped to notice the different kinds of feelings and their varying effects on people. Special consideration is given to cultivating the uplifting influences of qualities such as kindness, cheerfulness, and even-mindedness. Conversely, children can learn to redirect the disturbing energies that produce anger, greed, and jealousy. Of crucial importance during these years is the cultivation of the calm, centered state that leads to clear intuition. Techniques for working with these energies include breathing exercises, affirmations, yoga, and meditation. Students also learn to discriminate between the positive and negative effects of different kinds of activities and environments. During this period, teachers can utilize feelings as a powerful stimulus for other kinds of learning through emphasizing the awe of nature and scientific exploration, the sense of order and symmetry in mathematics, and especially, the encouragement to be gained from the study of inspiring people from history and culture.
The Will Years
Properly understood, the Will Years from ages 12-18 present some of the greatest opportunities for the child’s development. Adults can help students avoid the self-involved negativity and rebelliousness that can plague the junior and senior high school years by encouraging positive applications of the will. Realistic, yet challenging goals must be set for these young people; goals that are in accordance with their own higher sensitivities as well as their individual talents and interests. Through faith in their positive potential and consistent adherence to appropriate disciplinary procedures, adults can support the students’ efforts to gradually learn such lessons as perseverance, self-sacrifice, responsibility, and self-control. Classroom applications of this approach will emphasize a “hands-on” style of learning where students can apply their energies to life-like situations. Science projects, debates, service projects and challenges of physical endurance are especially appropriate for this age group. A primary goal of the EFL teacher is to help each student identify and realize individual areas of expertise, thus providing a basis for the healthy development of the will as well as an enduring sense of self-worth. In an EFL school students of this age are asked to share in the responsibility for financing field trips and other special activities, even to the point of earning part of their tuition.
The Thoughtful Years
The final EFL cycle covers the Thoughtful or college years from 18-24. During this period the intellect is trained to work in conjunction with the three complementary tools of the body, feelings, and will. Intellectual insights are coordinated with the energy and enthusiasm produced by physical vitality, the intuitive feel for the rightness of an idea that comes from clear, calm feeling, and the dynamic application of the will that makes it possible to manifest ideas on the physical plane. In this way the intellect becomes an effective tool for leading a productive and fulfilling life.
“First, we have to recognize that since we live in physical bodies, we can see our bodies as tools for helping us to grow. If we don’t properly take care of our bodies we may find them becoming our foes instead of our friends.
Second, we find that we respond to the world with our emotions. If our emotions are always agitated because of intense likes and dislikes, we will respond emotionally to what others say and not really hear them. We may hear our own idea of what they are saying, but if we have an emotional prejudice, we won’t hear the objectively.
Third, if we don’t know how to use our will power to overcome faults in ourselves, or to set goals and accomplish them, then we will never know fulfillment in life.
Finally, if we don’t develop our intellect , then we cannot understand things clearly, and our life’s experiences will come through our minds in a dull way.”
J. Donald Walters
The Education for Life system tries to point the way to maturity. It doesn’t presume to give maturity, but creates a mind-set that will endure for the whole of life. It provides a direction of growth that people can take all the way into old age and still keep growing so that they find things to marvel at in the world around them.
Some of the highest expression of Body, Feeling, Will, and Intellect follow.
Physical Energy and Control: development and care for the body for the long-term; relating to life by moving, acting, and expression through the body.
Emotional Calmness and Expansiveness: the ability to harness and channel turbulent emotions and to be in touch with one’s own calm, sensitive feeling as an invaluable tool of understanding; relating to life by feeling harmony, enjoying friendship, and through the arts and music.
Dynamic and Persistent Will Power: the ability to focus one’s energies towards overcoming obstacles and achieving success; relating to life by changing the outcome of events, mastering challenges, and accomplishing goals.
Clear, Practical Intellect: clarity of thought; relating to life through thinking, learning, and understanding.
“Only by understanding and respecting his nature as it is
can he be helped to achieve the equilibrium of true maturity.”J. Donald Walters, Education for Life
A true Education for Life is uniquely structured around a balanced approach to each student’s growth and development. It offers personalized learning experiences designed to help students achieve academic excellence, build meaningful connections with others, and prepare for the challenges of life through creativity, service to others, dynamic adventure, and self-discovery.
“The children get so much love, they feel safe to be themselves. Then anything can happen: learning, growing, they are just wide open. They have so much self-assurance, so much confidence in their abilities, they can learn anything!”
LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Education for Life is child centered, in the sense that every aspect of school should be focused on supporting the all-around, balanced development of each student.
For more than 40 years Education for Life has helped children thrive academically and personally. A success that is based on a proven principle: children who are happy and confident approach learning with enthusiasm.
Children who feel respected, included, and safe can enjoy the challenges of a rigorous academic curriculum, delivered in an expansive spirit of joyful adventure.
Most education is curriculum-centered, focused on specific information or skills that teachers are trained to transmit to the students. How do you teach reading? How do you teach math? Questions like these dominate most training programs. While it is helpful to have some background in these areas, the crucial problem with this approach is that it immediately places the focus on What is being taught, instead of on Who is learning, with potentially devastating consequences for the student.
EFL by contrast, is student-centered, with the goal of identifying and cultivating each student’s highest potential.
When children’s individual strengths are continually and consistently encouraged and reinforced, they develop self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
Classes are kept small, so that the teachers can work closely with each child. The teachers are trained to assess each child’s physical, mental, and emotional development and guide the child accordingly.
There is ample evidence that when students feel that their education is focused around their needs and interests, the initial love of learning flourishes throughout the school years.
When a teacher takes the time to create classroom activities based on the needs and interests of the students, school becomes an exciting, life-enhancing experience that goes a long way toward solving the problem of student engagement.
With experience, teachers develop an intuitive sense for what children need, along with the confidence to implement creative ideas that meet these needs.
The emphasis on a child-centered curriculum also contributes to a feeling of mutual respect between teacher and student. In paying close attention to individuals, the teacher develops an appreciation for each student’s positive qualities. Children, on the other hand, sense that the teacher is seeking to adapt the learning process to their interests and abilities as opposed to imposing a rigid program of prearranged lessons. In this way teacher and students can partake in the excitement of co-creating the curriculum.
“If we can retain a focus on each new child that comes into our class, take the time to connect with the child, and then use this connection as the basis for utilizing all the wonderful tools of EFL, we will be doing our part to serve the highest needs of our students and fulfill the mission of Education for Life.” Nitai Derania
“Remember, whatever you want others to be, you must first be yourself, and you will see that they will respond in the same way … The better you are, the more you will raise others around you. The person who improves himself becomes happier; and the happier you become, the happier the people around you will be”Paramhansa Yogananda
Properly organized schools are gardens where infant souls are grown and nurtured. The gardeners should be well-selected and cooperated with by parents and the public. The teachers should never be neglected, for they are soul-molders. The care and spiritual nourishment of the early life of a human plant usually determines its later development.
Living examples can inspire children much more effectively than rules.
Education for Life is built around teachers’ open-hearted sensitivity to the children in their charge. It is essential, therefore, that in his/her life, the teacher expresses the positive attitudes, spiritual and moral values, and maturity that we seek to impart to the children
“The teachers are very positive. They see only the best in each child and endeavor to nourish that special part. Each Living Wisdom School teacher is on a spiritual path which includes meditation. The teachers have a wonderful clarity and joy which they infuse into our children daily.” LWS Parent, Palo Alto
The teachers participate in Education for Life as a lifelong process. Each teacher is actively committed to his/her personal and spiritual development. They meditate regularly, and practice the principles of emotional self-mastery that form the foundation of our educational approach.
They receive ongoing support and training to stay fresh, enthusiastic, and expansive.
EFL teachers are authentic, and the children sense it immediately.
The teachers of Living Wisdom School are able to see the unique gifts in each child and to celebrate them in a hundred ways in the course of the school day: by encouragement, positive affirmation, challenge and support, celebration and joy. They understand that fine teaching is an art and a science, driven by inspiration, not coercion.
They focus on the positive, not the negative—on solutions, not problems. Creativity and spontaneity as well as discipline and structure infuse their pedagogy. They, themselves, are life-long learners.
“They [the teachers] were living the principles they were teaching which made me respect them immensely…”I.Z., EFL Alumni
“Never dwell on the thought of your faults. Remember, instead, your good deeds and the goodness present in the world. Convince yourself of your innate perfection.”Paramhansa Yogananda
Many of us, as adults, have felt that at some time we lost our connection with our inner lives. We searched desperately, and may still be searching for a way to get back in touch with that essential part of ourselves. We may not even be sure of what it is we are actually looking for, but we do know there is an aspect of ourselves that is more a part of who we really are than just our possessions, appearance, and all the other ways that we usually identify ourselves.We instinctively know that there is some way in which we are connected to the rest of this vast creation, with the essence of life itself, and with a power that sustains it all.
We all have an inner life. Some describe it as spirituality, while others think of it as a “still place within” where we can collect ourselves and gather strenght to meet the next challenge. Some think of the inner life as reverence for the mistery of creation or for a higher power that intelligently guides our lives. But whatever name we give it, the spiritual dimension of life, wich is so natural and obvious to most children, is fully acknowledge in a Living Wisdom School classroom.
For Education for Life spirituality isn’t defined as a particular dogma or creed. Thus, it isn’t “religious instruction” in the traditional sense. Rather, the focus is on the child’s personal, direct experience of universal spiritual truths such as kindness, compassion, empathy, loyalty, honesty, and courage. The key is Self-realization – the individual realization that happiness increases as we expand our awareness to embrace ever-broader realities.
“The children learn to connect with the spirit within, and to find answers within themselves, instead of looking to the world outside to tell them what to do, or to make them okay. The teachers help the children figure out what is going on inside themselves, instead of ignoring it.”
“Children develop an inner source of strength that they can draw on always. They get to discover who they really are.”LWS Parents, Palo Alto
When it seems appropriate, teachers point out that certain attitudes and actions increase the children’s inner sense of weel-being, while others choices take it away. Many parents have told how much they wish they had been encourage to learn these lessons when they were young.
“When our children are too excited or restless, we teach them to breathe properly and remind them of the link between breath control and the calmness of the mind and emotions. We let the children practice breathing that relax them before an important task or a baseball game, and they find out for themselves that it works.” Helen Purcell, Director of the Palo Alto Living Wisdom School, California
“Daily meditation at the school gave us an opportunity to slow down our minds, analyze our thought patterns, and help us get to know ourselves better. Learning the differences between positive and negative thought patterns was extremely valuable.”EFL Alumni
We help the children cultivate an inner life, respecting and supporting their intuitive awakening to a greater reality.
Every morning time should set apart for singing, quiet meditation, affirmations, prayer, yoga postures, and other activities that help the children experience for themselves what it feels like to be in harmony with a higher level of consciousness. In the classroom the students create a universal altar on which are symbols of all the world’s religions, plus objects and decorations the children individually find sacred and meaningful.
“My daughter, all on her own, put an altar in her room. She made it herself and changes it according to her mood. Right now it has on it pieces of colored glass, a little bear, a feather–nothing identifiably religious, just her own special icons. But she seems to understand that altar as a way of focusing her energy and appreciating and loving the world around her.”
LWS Parent, Palo Alto
“Educational authorities deem it impossible to teach spiritual principles in public schools because they confuse them with the variety of conflicting forms of religious faith. But if they concentrate on the universal principles of peace, love, service, tolerance, and faith that govern the spiritual life, and devise methods of practically growing such seeds in the fertile soil of the child’s mind, then the imaginary difficulty is dissolved. It is the greatest mistake to ignore this problem just because it is seemingly difficult.”Paramhansa Yogananda
“The premise that underlies “Education for Life” is that the only real purpose of life is to learn who we really are; and what we really are, beyond the body, the mind and the personality, is the soul, and the nature of the soul is joy.” Helen Purcell, Director of the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto, California
“The highest education is not that which merely supplies us with information, but that one which places our life in harmony with the whole existence.”Rabindranath Tagore
“My daughter is learning at school to approach life with joy, love, kindness, and a positive attitude. We see the changes in her quite clearly. The love and joy she brings home seems to have an uplifting effect on us parents, too. If we ever have to move out of the area, we will only go to a place where there is another Living Wisdom School!”LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Universal values are the jewels of human existence. They improve the quality of life for both children and adults and enable us to meet life’s countless challenges with courage and joy. With alumni now in their 40s and 50s, we can see how incorporating these values into the very core of education prepares students for a life-long experience of meaning, purpose, and well-being.
The children discover that expansive feelings, thoughts, and actions increase their own sense of well-being, whereas contractive feelings and actions take that happiness away. “Right and wrong” thus become first-hand experiences of the consequences of personal behaviors, rather than a fixed set of abstract rules.
Living in harmony does bring joy. Living at the cost of others’ happiness brings discontentment, even if there is some passing pleasure from getting one’s own way. Giving children opportunities to serve others, and helping them become consciously aware of the benefits and joy of such actions, guides them towards that realization.
“So often children have come to me just beaming with joy and excitement over some act of kindness. In these situations I try to help them see how their actions have produced these wonderful feelings. In this way, from their own experience, the children begin to appreciate that there really is an inner joy that is activated by outward acts of kindness. Their serviceful acts can then become freed from the need for outward recognition since their inner feelings are a sufficient motivation. From here it is only a short step to begin to feel happiness in the joy of others, a point where we start to tap into the one spirit that we all share.”Narani Moorhouse, LWS teacher in Nevada City, California, from her book Supporting Your Child’s Inner Life
“The kindergarten put on an improvisational dance program. All the other kids in the school were in the audience with the kindergarten parents. Afterwards, there was an all-school circle on the stage, and everyone was singing. I looked at the children’s faces, and they were so happy and so content. Later, I tried to explain it to the people in my office, but I couldn’t find words for it. I just knew my kids were loved and cared for, that all the children there were loved and cared for, and that I could never find a better place for my children.”LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Discover that true happiness includes the happiness of others on their long journey to awareness of the unity of all things.
Learn to practice kindness with one another and to recognize that in doing so you help create a loving and safe atmosphere.
Learn that you have the power to choose how you will respond to life’s challenges. Learn to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Learn to control your moods and raise your energy to meet difficulties that arise.
Be a loving friend to everyone—both children and teachers.
Play together across the grades. Enjoy helping younger children. Share your knowledge and receive it from others—both students and teachers.
Laughter and lively exchanges in the classroom help to make learning a joyful process.
Be a life-long learner.
Discover the love and joy of learning for its own sake.
Learn to consult your own knowledge and intuition rather than to succumb to peer pressure as you confront life’s challenges.
Use your will to create good energy.
Prize perseverance and courage in the face of challenges. Embrace life moment to moment in the lessons learned, songs sung, plays performed, etc.
Find the joy within.
Become aware that happiness resides within, not without. Learn to use the breath to center and calm yourself. Look to the lives of saints and sages of all religions as models in your search for true happiness.
The mission of education is to attract children to the ideals of maturity, to guide them to include the reality of others into their own. A child has the natural need to feel safe within the borders already known. Fortunately for its development, it also feels the inborn need to expand those boundaries, as it perceives in itself the ability to push itself out.J. Donald Walters, Education for Life
Every child, as every adult, is on a journey.
He walks towards joy’s fulfillment and expansion.
Expanding Consciousness is the essential purpose of education and life.
There is a dimension of consciousness that runs through all of life. At the upper end of this spectrum we find a vibrant, expansive energy that reveals itself in qualities like kindness, truthfulness, forgiveness, generosity, self-respect, love, and joy. At the least developed level, it flickers with a low level of energy in a constricted range of behavior, manifesting in such qualities as obstinacy, negligence, lack of self-confidence, superstition, procrastination, callousness, and duplicity. In the middle range of consciousness we find a mixture of behaviors where the energy is generally high, but with a turbulent, egotistical expression as in the qualities of selfishness, impulsivity, pride,fastidiousness, revengfulness, worry, and arrogance.
Progress along this dimension of consciousness is essentially motivated by a person’s desire to avoid pain and sadness and to achieve an ever-more enduring and satisfying experience of happiness. At the lower levels where consciousness is contracted, motivation is almost always produced through the enforcement of rules and other outward forms of discipline, as when an insensitive child must be forced to stop bullying others. As we move up the spectrum however, a deeper, more enduring form of motivation gradually becomes accessible.
Within all of the higher life values, there is an intrinsic core of experience that provides a natural motivation for expressing that quality. For example, there is a calmness that accompanies the expression of truth, and a joy that can be felt in selfless service. As a person’s consciousness evolves, the need for external motivation is gradually replaced by these awakened inner sensitivities, providing a sound, practical basis for constructive life choices.
We strive for the highest level of awareness, in which we act in the common good on the personal and social level, we have an overview of the whole situation and are oriented towards acting with a view of the outcome that goes beyond personal interests.
Teachers and school leaders themselves and pupils consciously lead from lower consciousness to higher ones. Gradually, when students raise their awareness, they also become mentors in this process.
This EFL principle is called Progressive Development: observing children, the adult begins to perceive that everyone is driven by different trends. But everyone, in his own way, is looking for fulfilment and happiness. The adult has to go beyond appearances and judgment, helping the children to refine more and more the pursuit of happiness, which consists in avoiding pain and in seeking more and more to make choices that bring joy closer. The child will understand for himself that he can expand, from anger to peace and forgiveness, from laziness to activity, from sadness to unconditional happiness, from competition to cooperation.
“As a young naturalist I realized there is a sequence for games and activities that, regardless of a group’s age, mood, and culture, always seems to work best. People everywhere respond to this sequence because it is in harmony with deeper aspects of human nature.”Joseph Bharat Cornell
Joseph Bharat Cornell, the founder of the movement Sharing Nature Worldwide, creates Flow Learning as a simple, yet subtle and powerful system of teaching based on universal principles of awareness and how people learn. Flow Learning™ is easily adapted from its origins in nature education to a broad-based approach that lets teachers in any discipline help students gain an intuitive as well as an intellectual understanding of the subject matter.
There are four phases to the process:
Awaken Enthusiasm, Focus Attention, Direct Experience, and Share Inspiration.
This sequence provides a simple framework that allows the teacher to structure classes for best effect. You can meet people where they are in interest and energy level, and then guide them step-by-step toward more meaningful and profound learning experiences.
Without enthusiasm, people learn very little, and can never have a meaningful experience of learning. Enthusiasm is an intense flow of personal interest and alertness. Awaken Enthusiasm games develop alertness and overcome passivity, creating involvement and establishing a rapport between teacher, student and subject, fostering positive group bounding. Time spent in creating an atmosphere of curiosity, amusement, or personal interest is invaluable because once students’ enthusiasm is engaged, their energy can be focused on the upcoming lesson or experience.
Without focused attention and concentration no true learning can take place. If our thoughts are scattered, we can’t be intensely aware of anything. We want to bring students’ enthusiasm toward a calm focus. Focus Attention activities help students become attentive and receptive, increasing concentration, deepening awareness and calming the mind.
Offer Direct Experience
Once students’ interest and energy is awakened and focused, the stage is set for deeply experiencing activities. During immersive direct experiences, students make a deep connection with the objects of their learning, fostering intuitive understanding and promoting personal revelation and inspiration.This stage inspires wonder, empathy and love helping us discover a deep, inner sense of belonging and understanding.
Reflecting and sharing with others strengthen and clarify one’s experience. Sharing brings to the surface unspoken but often universal feelings that—once communicated—allow people to feel a closer bond with the topic and with one another. Giving students the opportunity to share their experience increases the learning for the entire class. Sharing brings everyone together and creates a sense of completion and an uplifting atmosphere, making it much easier for the teacher to share inspirational ideas and stories.
Flow Learning’s four stages flow naturally from one to the next. Each stage contains activities that are joyful, intellectually stimulating, and highly engaging.
A Lifelong Love for learning
Academic success depends on bringing the whole child into the learning process — their energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and intensity.
The small class size allows to give individual attention to every child, every day. An enriched, balanced academic curriculum challenges the students at all levels of development.
Children develop self-confidence through kindness and supportive guidance. An excellent academic program, combined with attention to the individual child’s emotional needs, fosters exceptional and joyful learning.
Students learn how to learn, how to ask questions, how to listen and evaluate the answers. Children learn to take risks and express what they think and feel, in an atmosphere of respect: a model for an education that lacks the stress so many children experience in school today.
Cultivating a lifelong love of learning and critical thinking in an atmosphere of respect for the individual
“Children at Living Wisdom School develop an underlying sense of self-confidence, no matter what level of skill they operate on. Enthusiasm and self-confidence, this is what you need for your whole life. So often, when children go to school they lose these qualities. Living Wisdom School makes them stronger.” LWS Parent, Palo Alto
“My third-grade student was given a 3 x 3 grid whose numbers must add up to the same sum in all directions. He struggled for three days, then in the middle of class suddenly solved the puzzle. He exclaimed, ‘Yes! Yes!’ and kissed his paper. I then gave him a 4 x 4 magic square on which he struggled for four days. He finally solved it. A few mornings later, he was sick and debated whether or not to come to school. ‘Wait,’ he said, ‘Do we have math today? I need to go. My teacher needs me.”Third-Grade Teacher, LWS Nevada City
“The only source of knowledge is experience.”Albert Einstein
Children find a real connection between their lives and the studies and the learning.
With the body and the senses they live concrete experiences; through the heart and feelings they create positive connections; through their will they express creatively what they have learned, integrating the learning in their lives.
“When you learn experientially, the learning sticks. It becomes part of who you are–different from just memorizing facts, then being tested on them.
When my daughter was learning to write poetry, her teacher respected her ability, so much that it was like my daughter learned the essence of what it is to be a poet.” LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Only by calm inner feeling can a person know definitely the right course to take in any action. J.Donald Walters, Education for Life
Children can learn to recognize the difference between emotion and feeling.
A calm, sensitive feeling is an invaluable tool for the complete understanding of most subjects, while turbulent emotions prevent clear and objective understanding.
Feeling, when it is calm and refined, is essential both to truly objective and to mature insight.
There are ways of clarifying feeling, just as there are principles of logic for learning to reason correctly.
Those who direct their lives from this deeper level of feeling achieve levels of success that are never reached by people who limit their quest for answers to the exercise of reason. Reason, indeed, if unsupported by feeling, may point in hundreds of plausible directions without offering certainty as to the rightness of any of them.
Usually, the greater the scientist, the more deeply he feels his subject; as Einstein put it, the essence of true scientific discovery is a sense of mystical awe.
Children need to learn how to react appropriately. This they can never do if their reaction springs out of their subjective emotions. Considerable training is needed to learn how to harness feeling and make it a useful ally.
From the earliest grades, we try to help children learn to be in charge of their happiness.
Many age-appropriate classroom practices are specifically designed to help children become aware of the choices they make, and the consequences of those choices. Thus they learn from their own experiences, rather than through dogma or punishment.
Children are encouraged to recognize that they can learn to choose their responses to the world around them.
“My children are completely comfortable at school, they are not afraid at all. In fact, since going to Living Wisdom School, they have developed such self-confidence they are not afraid of any new situation.” LWS Parent, Palo Alto
“When she comes home from school, my daughter is so peaceful, calm, and happy. The children at Living Wisdom School are very much like her — the same sensitivity, the same values at home. I feel great, too, just being around the school. There is good energy there. The Living Wisdom School feels like family in a way I haven’t seen at other schools.”LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Lack of conflicts is not what builds character; rather, it’s how we learn to deal with life’s unavoidable conflicts that defines how we will lead our lives. Small class size means that conflicts must be resolved. The classroom is thus an excellent laboratory for mastering conflict-resolution skills.
As Maturity is the ability to relate appropriately to other realities, and not only to one’s own, at Living Wisdom School we encourage the children to become more aware of the needs of others. As the children experiment with kindness and unselfish behavior, we are careful to bring their attention to how much better it feels to act from an open heart.
“Both of my children, now in their late twenties, went through a Living Wisdom School Program. I notice that, as young adults in professional settings, they have an acute sense of how to work with others. Each in her own way, brings to her work a sense of how to get along with people, how to create community, and how to cope with challenges.”Parent of Living Wisdom School Palo Alto graduates
Creativity is often understood as an instrument exclusive of the arts. Yet, creativity is an important asset to every aspect of life. A great example is on the field of relationships. Dynamic creativity can be used to communicate with others in an ever increasing effective way. Even the very effort of communicating something creatively clarifies our own understanding of the topic being conveyed. This because, indeed, in order to be able to communicate something clearly, one before must have clarity about it himself.
“Normally, the test of greatness in the arts is the ability to state deep feelings and perceptions simply, clearly, and well.”J.Donald Walters
To develop creativity it is important to understand the very essence of it. True creativity comes from intuition, which demands a neat balance of clear reasoning and calm feeling. Intuition means to increase one’s awareness of truths that lie already deep within his very self, beyond mental and emotional bias. This is why many great artist such as G. F. Handel, speak of creativity as an act of listening and receiving. The mind and the heart then work as filters to “translate” this subtle inspiration into an objective creation. Hence the need for a clear mind and a calm feeling. For indeed one could not even succeed at listening to this inspiration if the static of restlessness and confusion are altogether muffing the silent whisper of intuition.
Yoga and meditation are used as tools to develop clarity of reasoning and calmness of feeling and art itself is used as a tool to develop creativity.
“We need intuition, and not merely keen intelligence. Without intuition there is no way for us to transcend the limitations of human nature and know things as they are.
It is in this sense, indeed, that we need the arts – not as a kind of vent for pent-up emotions, but because the arts, more than most other activities, can help us to develop intuition and to direct it wisely.”J.Donald Walters
Arts, moreover, play a fundamental part in Education for Life, as they serve as an instrument to develop not only creativity but also sensitivity, intelligence, empathy, sincerity, self-awareness and many other important values that will serve the child during his entire life.
Singing, for example, can help to understand the importance of the human voice as a medium of self-expression. With dancing the attitudes of the mind can be brought to the surface by relating them to body movements. Painting can be a mean of drawing out feelings which, once objectified, might be emphasized if the feelings are constructive, or positive redirected if they are destructive. Acting can be used as a tool to learn how to get in touch with one’s feelings and to express them in a clear and healthy way.
“When I first heard about the kind of plays they do, I thought it was way too much for the kids. I don’t just mean how elaborate it is; I’m talking about the plot: “The Story of St. Francis,” “The Life of Buddha,” “Krishna the Beloved.” I mean, we’re talking elementary school! But as usual, the teachers know what they are doing. The kids are thrilled to be involved in something profound, rather than the kind of plays children often have to do. By acting it out, they really get the point of what makes a great person great: courage, dedication, selflessness, love. And they remember it. For years afterwards, I hear them talking about things they learned from the plays and using what they’ve learned as a standard for their own lives.” LWS Parent, Palo Alto
Last but not least, children are also instructed in how to develop more mundane but perennially useful, skills such as carpentry, computer technology, public speaking, salesmanship, and much more.
“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”John Muir
“The natural world instills in children a sense of awe and security at the same time. It is so vast, and yet intricately small. It is filled with liveliness, but also deep calm. It has natural rhythms of constant change-day and night, the cycle of the seasons, birth, life, and death — and still there is such steadfastness to the patterns that those changes follow. All of these qualities are a part of the magnetic power of nature to draw children into a greater awareness. Time and time again I have seen quite restless children become completely transformed simply by sitting silently, gazing out across a mountain vista.
…Caring for animals, especially baby animals, opens the heart to the joys of service for almost all children, especially in the feeling years. If you have ever seen a child in the presence of a baby animal, you will know what I mean. They want to do everything for it: feed it, carry it, comfort it, and protect it. You can almost see the child’s heart expanding.”Narani Moorhouse, Nevada City LWS teacher
Nature is a space for children to explore, enjoy vigorous exercises, using the will to face challenges, have experiences of quiet observation, introspection and peace, focus attention, engage concentration, be inspired and expand their breath, arising their gaze and their hearts
Nature whispers children the idea that they are not alone in the world, and that realities and dimensions exist alongside their own.
I remember a recess when the entire class spontaneously lay down on the pavement in the parking lot to watch cloud formations and insisted that I join them.
Another great experience was the time we drove to a nearby creek to picnic, but it started to rain. I was all for going back to the classroom, but no; the children reminded me that the kids in the book wouldn’t let a little rain or snow stop them.
We went down by the stream and spread out to find dry spots. Crouching under banks and trees, we ate our lunches silently, watching the rain fall on the water. We were all so content to just be there in communion with the nature around us; it was one of those unforgettable life events that cannot be planned. The only word I can think of to describe how it felt is sacred.
Nothing surpasses the power of nature to relax and engage children in a way that calms them and opens their hearts.
Susan Usha Dermond, Calm and compassionate children
Education for Life take deep inspiration and precious activities from a worldwide movement dedicated to helping children and adults deepen their relationship with nature called Sharing Nature.
Sharing Nature founded by Joseph Cornell, uses creative, life-changing nature activities and Flow Learning, a revolutionary teaching system that fosters empathy and awarness and makes learning alive.
The mission is broaden people’s sympathies and inspire a sense of stewardship through immersive and life-changing nature experiences; teaching principles of ecology and natural sciences by experiential games and stories and foster intuitive, heart awakening experiences of nature, helping people to discover their own higher nature.
When Joseph Cornell’s first book, Sharing Nature with Children, was published in 1979, it was greeted with universal acclaim. Renowned conservationist Sir Peter Scott said, “I found Sharing Nature with Children a most original and imaginative concept in a field which is vital for the welfare of the planet.” J. Baldwin, editor of Whole Earth Review, wrote, “This is absolutely the best awareness-of-nature book I’ve ever seen. Sharing Nature with Children has become justly famous because it works.”
“Playing Sharing Nature games is one my favorite things to do! It’s not only so much fun, but it gives me the opportunity to form a deeper and more meaningful connection with whomever I am playing with, with Nature and with my own Self.” Aaron Resendiz, Assisi LWS Teacher