Out of the Box Learning

Otis OMSIYesterday the Upper Elementary class went to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) to stay clear of the demo process happening at school. I had the great blessing to accompany them. As tired as I was at the end of the day I was also inspired, invigorated and even more passionate about out of the box learning.

One child, often disinterested in academics, spent 30 minutes in the Chemistry Lab, exclaiming as she walked out, “ I love chemistry!”. Another child focused his attention for quite along time at the PGE alternative energy station, truly satisfied when he achieved a balance of economic, environmental and people variables that his experiential exercise deemed “Success!” visible on a 6 ft. screen.

When you take kids out of the classroom you are presented with moment after moment of learning opportunities. From talking about the plight and possibly solutions of homelessness (on the drive home) to the importance, once again, of washing your hands before you eat. If you can get the energy right, students can move, talk, inquire, listen, focus, explore, and strategize within a portable vessel created by the teachers and other adults on the trip.

There are many opportunities to learn out of the box at LWS, having an experience like yesterday brought the reminder of its value to the forefront of my mind. Their value can be priceless!    ~Rose

upper elem omsi

Reach of Faith

Thanks to Megan Barella, Administrative Assistant and Kindergarten parent, for her thoughts about this next stage of our school development.???????????????????????????????

At Living Wisdom School (LWS) we practice many little—and sometimes big—“reaches of faith” every day.

Our teachers practice faith in the individual potential of each student, helping each student reach for the best within themselves.

To do this, our community has faith in our teachers to reach for the best within themselves.

As students reach for the best within themselves, they are also taught to practice a reach of faith as they work to understand the intentions of their peers and classmates, and the entire world around us.

In these many “reaches of faith,” that happen every day at LWS, we build a microcosm of our global community in which the strength of the whole is based on the individual strength & faith in the goodness of each one of us.

We help to create a world where each and every single person is respected and loved for their soul’s purpose, and we practice a reach of faith for the inherent goodness of humanity.

In the microcosm of every life counts, we hope to reflect back the macrocosm of our existence.

PLWS 3D IMAGE  3-4-14 (2)In a miraculous reach of faith, and our largest one to date, we are building a beautiful new school building! A building that reflects the high quality of teaching and learning that happens every day at LWS with Education for Life (EFL) and that meets the current demand for more classrooms and the new families who are waiting to enroll in LWS.

We hope our new building inspires each of you to practice your own reach of faith for the good of humanity.

Watch for more details about the new LWS school building- plus pictures & stories about the building process in the coming weeks and month!


Share the Love

Living Wisdom School and its programs can be hard to explain to prospective parents, and extended family & friends of current families. Below is a video of a spontaneous testimonial from a LWS Parent of a preschooler. Enjoy the love!

Deciding What to Teach

Matthew Fredrickson is the 5th-7th grade teacher here at Living Wisdom School in Portland. Here he shares his inspiring planning process based on Education for Life.

In any modern school, certain academic skills must be taught. We know these skills as the three pillared core of education: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

P1100509Education for Life teachers have incredible freedom to decide what to teach their students beyond basic literacy. There are guidelines (EFL curriculum areas, lists of practical and traditional topics for each grade, suggestions, years of teaching experience to draw upon), but no mandated curriculum. That’s great, and one of the distinct advantages of EFL, but it may at times leave even a seasoned teacher in bit of a quandary:

Hmmm, what shall I teach next?

I’ll admit to being recently perplexed while contemplating my classroom’s next history unit. Slavery/Civil War? No, covered for now. The Industrial Revolution? Probably not. Civil Rights, the 1960′s? Maybe later.Since I myself was schooled in a very traditional educational setting, the default question-What should the children be learning?-flashed urgently to mind. Default answer-They must memorize a list of ALL the dates and ALL the names from the history of…everything, if they are to succeed in this world. That’s rather a long list, friends. Thankfully, I smiled, took a breathe, and remembered three questions an EFL teacher must ask when deciding what to teach.
John DAy group shot cropped more1. Who are my students?
Who are those bright-eyed little people gazing expectantly up at you? How old are they? What Stage of Maturity are they moving through? What do they already know? Answers to these basic questions alone should significantly narrow the field of possibilities. For example, a unit on Slavery and the US Civil War is fine, if handled with sensitivity, for children in the late Feeling Years (5th Grade and up). It is not fine for 1st Graders.

2. What are the needs and interests of my students?
Essentially, question number two is an extension of question number one. In connecting, understanding, and listening to your students, you will naturally acquire knowledge of their interests and needs; both general and immediate. If you can arouse the enthusiasm of your students, and especially the natural leaders, a successful unit is virtually assured.

3. What are my interests and areas of knowledge?

Yes, you, the teacher. What interests you? What lights you up? And more importantly, what would you be enthusiastic about teaching? If you’ve determined that your students simply must learn about the Industrial Revolution in order to grow up and live the American Dream, but that particular topic is Number 999 on your personal Top 1,000 List, and your students see disdain reflected in the torpid drudgery of your presentation-how interested do you think they will be? Conversely, if you are genuinely excited about something-whether it be The Industrial Revolution, Music, European history, or whatever-chances are, they will be excited.

There is oh-so-much to know, to learn, and to teach. The next time your feeling uncertain about what to teach your students, thoroughly answer these three questions and you’ll be on your way to a teaching experience that will be great fun not only for your students, but for you, too.


The Power of Family Traditions

This time of year is a wonderful time to create special traditions for just your family. Below is an excerpt from our December newsletter written by Rose Neal.

May your holidays be filled with light, love and connection!

Every Monday since September, the elementary students have been joining together Christmas Ornaments Made by Children on Treefor a morning sharing time, the inner joy circle. We spend about 30 minutes together with the intention of connecting with one another and sharing in practices that raise our consciousness as a group and facilitate a child’s personal growth.

This last week we talked about our favorite things during Thanksgiving. Almost all of the hands raised wanted to share something about their family traditions, not only for Thanksgiving but for the upcoming holidays as well. Traditions convey warm, security and self-identity for kids and how eager they are to tell you about this important part of them! It was a great reminder, to keep those rituals alive in my own household and to be more thoughtful in carrying them out.

 “Rituals are the lenses through which we see our emotional connections to each other, to a culture, and to a higher power. They are symbolic expressions of our most sacred values.” Becky Bailey


Here’s how one Living Wisdom family has created a special tradition just for their family:

gratitude jarWe have a jar which sits on our kitchen table, year round, with a small pad of paper and pen next to it. It is our family Gratitude Jar. Throughout the year we jot down experiences which brought us joy, situations which left us feeling inspired and uplifted, random acts of kindness which were offered to us and ways we decided to “pay it forward”. We write about simple things that make us smile. It is an intentional gratitude practice that fosters the gratitude jar2type of environment that I want our home to embody. Our New Years Eve is spent on the floor, in front of the fireplace, reading over our many blessings from the year. On January 1st, the jar is empty and we begin again, with new thoughts and fresh experiences.



Our School is Growing!

The Living Wisdom School in Portland is in the process of raising money to build a new school. We are using an exciting new platform for investments, so that the community can support our growth, while also getting a return on their investment. Here is some information about investing in our school through Semble.

Question: What is the purpose behind this investment opportunity through Semble?cute journey nitai campbell- cropped

Answer: Hopefully you are aware of the exciting expansion plans for LWS.  To build the new school building where the four-plex currently sits, it will cost the school approximately $1,000,000. Growing Living Wisdom, LLC has been formed so that families and friends of LWS can actually take the place of a bank and invest in the future of the school, all while earning a competitive interest rate. Similar to a commercial loan, the loan from the LLC will have the real estate as collateral, and the school in addition to the church, will act as guarantors on the obligation.  As the school makes payments on the loan, investors will receive quarterly distributions.

Question: Is the school asking for a $20,000 or more donation? That sure is a lot of money from one individual.

Answer: This is not a donation; it is a socially responsible investment opportunity. Instead of a bank being the benefactor of our loan, an opportunity for supporters of Living Wisdom School has been established. Through Semble, individuals are actually able to loan the school money and collect an interest on their investment. The investment is a 5 year commitment and provides a 4% annualized return.

PLWS 3D IMAGE  3-4-14 (2) Question: Where would the money come from to make an investment?

Answer: If you are managing a portfolio of investments such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, this investment could possibly fit within your financial goals while also driving social impact by helping Living Wisdom School with its need to expand facilities. It is important to note that it is possible to utilize self-directed retirement accounts such as IRAs as well as funds in taxable accounts.

 Question: What if I move large amounts of money and the project doesn’t happen?

Answer: It is important to understand that no funds will move unless there is assurance that the loan to the school will be made. In the unlikely event that funds were moved but the loan does not fund, the money would be returned to the investor.

 Question: When would I get all of my investment back?

Answer: As mentioned, the school will be making loan payments monthly. Some of this amount will cover the interest to investors while the balance will begin paying back principal.  At the end of the 5 year loan the school will look to refinance the remaining loan balance so that all investors realize a full return.

 Question: Sounds great, how can I get some questions answered right away and move things P1100184along quickly?

Answer: We will put you in contact with Chris Walcott at Semble who will walk you through any questions you have and the steps to take if you are interested in investing. Semble is also able to guide you through any paperwork that might be the result of any funds you are looking to utilize.

Question: How do I learn more and what can I do right now?

Answer: Please visit the online listing for the opportunity for the Living Wisdom School (https://www.semble.com/listing/living-wisdom-school).  If, after looking over the information, you are ready to get involved, click the ‘Get Started’ button and complete the information requested.  If you have questions that you would like answered in advance of taking this step, you can contact Chris Walcott at Semble (425.214.5871).

Also, you can join us for a webinar with Chris from Semble: “Funding the New Building Through Community Investments” on Thursday, November 20th at 1 pm .



Teaching as Spiritual Practice

Recently, I had the honor of presenting at the Holistic Teaching and Learning Conference in Ashland, Oregon. It was a very inspiring conference to attend. There were several people there working in schools around Canada and the US who are re-imagining an education that looks at the whole child – not just the intellect.

In Education for Life, we work each day to create lessons that cultivate the intellect, and also the will, the body and the feelings. There is an expanding understanding in our culture of the importance of bringing up well-balanced people. We can all see the destruction that is wrought when someone’s will is strong, but it is not balanced with intellect or feelings. Or, the meaningless and sometimes dangerous ideas created by someone who has a strong intellect, but who is not interested in the body or the feelings. It is exciting for us at Living Wisdom School to be a part of this burgeoning education movement.path photo

One of the recurring messages of the conference is one that we talk about frequently. That is, the greatest tool for a teacher is her sadhana – spiritual practice. As a teacher, when my spiritual practice is strong, I am able to look at what is really happening in the classroom. I can adjust my teaching to meet the energy in the class and to shift it gently if that is needed. I am not looking at my own need to control the students, but I am tuned into their needs in each moment. Teachers can only do this when they are truly grounded and able to notice what is happening in each moment.

In this way, teaching is a spiritual practice. The “problems” of the day become great teachers that expand the consciousness of the teacher beyond himself. It is a wonderful gift to be able to teach.

First Day of School Aspirations

We had a wonderful summer of rejuvenation and are back to school and back to the blog. Megan Barella is a Living Wisdom mom who has been floating around the school and classrooms, picking up inspiration to share on the blog. Here are her observations from the first day of school. 

singing day 1 2014On the first day of school this year, there were 75 students, teachers, and parents at the Opening Circle. It was the largest Opening Circle at LWS, and the energy was high as we gathered to celebrate the first day of the school year journey, and our upcoming School Expansion. As we welcomed new faces, there was collective joy to be together again for a new school year. At Living Wisdom School, learning is held in a gentle and nurturing vessel in which each student, teacher, and parent is supported in becoming the best of who we are. It is this unfolding of the spirit in human form that we celebrate each day at LWS.

And we love to sing! Rose shared a sweet story about one student who asked why we sing at school? Her reply: because it’s good for our brains & hearts and brings joy to others. With all of our hearts happy, our individual voices joined as one to welcome in a year of learning and friendship. We opened our singing with “The Birds of the Air”, written by the great Nature Educator, Joseph Cornell.

The birds of the air are my brothers.

The flowers my sisters, the trees are my friends.

All living creatures, mountains, and streams

I take unto my care.

For this green Earth is our mother.

Hidden in the sky is the Spirit above.

I share one life with all who are here.

To everyone I give my love.

To everyone I give my love.

P1090775It is in this spirit of Oneness, with one another and the world around us, that we began our school year. The new school year offers us the opportunity to open up to the highest aspirations and ideals of each individual student, teacher, and parent. As so often is the case, our children often lead the way. One parent shared a sweet story about her son’s aspirations for this year. A LWS tradition is the Award’s Ceremony that happens on the last day of school. Each child receives an award that honors the individual strengths of each student. Dynamic Willpower, Kindness, & Friendship are a few of the past awards given to LWS students. This first-grade student said he really wanted to receive the goal for Kindness this year, and that this was one of the goals he was going to work towards this school year.

While the excitement and energy of new beginnings are with us all, what are your P1090679aspirations for this school year? May we all do our part, like our sweet first grade student, to aspire to our highest potential as people as we work for the collective good of our school, and the world. Happy School Year!

“’God’ stands for ‘the universal desire of human beings to be inspired.’ Children yearn to be told that there is indeed something worthwhile in which to believe and toward which to aspire. Yes, they yearn for ideals.” ~ Education for Life


The Living Wisdom Experience from a Parent

One of the parents of a Living Wisdom School student wrote about her experience looking for a school for her son and her experience here. Please enjoy!girls with tiki

I discovered the Living Wisdom School (LWS) after reading former LWS former Director Susan  Dermond’s book Calm and Compassionate Children: A Handbook when my son was 3 years old. We were looking for preschools at the time. Excited to learn the author of the book was the Director of a school in the area, we visited Living Wisdom School and instantly knew we had found the perfect school for our son.

At LWS, children get a stellar, top-notch education due to the high caliber of teachers, small class size, and individualized instruction found in every classroom at LWS. Teachers are able to design curriculum around the educational interests of their children. But at LWS, education is not only about subjects and academic mastery. Students also get something more, something I have not seen in ANY other school, and something that is desperately needed in our world. Children at LWS develop their inner world. LWS students know who they are, they believe in themselves, and they feel secure in their place in the world. As a society, recent discoveries in brain science are affirming that self-worth, self-confidence, & self-love are no longer frivolities to human beings in our childhood.  Children who feel safe in themselves and their world is an absolute necessity & requirement to learning and to future success in life, in higher education, in the workplace, and in our home & family lives. At LWS, children love who they are and they know how to find happiness within.

Honoring Nature Poem


Here is a nature appreciation poem and activity that is especially popular in the Helen’s kindergarten class.

Bow To Mother Nature Poem
I bow to mother nature
I lift to father sky
I open to the sun and the clouds going by
I welcome the rain that flows to the sea
I honor the kindness in you and me!

(Adapted by Becky Bailey)

Use the poem as a circle time activity and let the students create hand movements to go with each line. Or create your own motions and teach them to the children.

Happy Earth Day!