Head & Heart Appendix 2: The Education for Life Curriculum

The Education for Life curriculum embraces six areas, each of which aims to develop an essential body of learning, skills, and essential personal qualities and attitudes for a happy and successful life.

1. Our Earth/Our Universe

These activities help children expand their awareness of the physical world. We foster a vision of the orderliness of the universe, accompanied by a sense of appreciation and reverence, and helping the children gain an awareness of their place in the world, and their responsibilities for the well-being of the planet and all creatures.

Our Earth / Our Universe helps children understand that all of life is linked. The students move from hands-on observation to immersion in the subject matter, while understanding how the parts are interconnected.

Our Earth / Our Universe develops positive qualities:

Attitudes of care. The great Japanese conservationist Tanaka Shozo said: “The question of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart.”

We help our students feel their place in nature, and their connection with all living things. Feelings of connectedness engender attitudes of caring.

Appreciation for the wonders of the universe, from the smallest to the largest

We encourage each student to interact with the physical world with appreciation. We help them understand the underlying structures of the physical world, and we carefully arrange the curriculum to elicit their enthusiasm, with guided discussions and activities, field trips, and science fair projects. We teach them to apply their scientific knowledge in creative ways that express their understanding of fundamental principles.

Curriculum for Our Earth / Our Universe:

Interdisciplinary science (overview)

·         Biology

·         Botany

·         Geology

·         Anatomy

·         Physics

·         Astronomy

·         Chemistry

·         Ecology and sustainability

2. Personal Development

We nurture three key areas of each child’s growth: the physical, mental, and spiritual. We help each child to grow toward their highest potential in each area.

We give our students tools for personal growth: we help them understand their unique learning style, and we tailor the curriculum for each child to stimulate their enthusiasm and motivation to keep striving for success.

Perseverance

We help each child experience the joy of overcoming challenges – by analyzing the challenges objectively and embracing tools to improve their results, so that they learn to welcome challenges as opportunities for growth.

Self-control and joyful self-discipline

Control of our energy opens space to understand the realities of others. In a climate of self-restraint, attitudes of kindness and compassion can grow.

We help students develop joyful self-discipline by teaching them how to be calmly focused while doing academic work and while interacting with others.

Subjects that foster growth in Personal Development:

·         Physical education

·         Sports

·         Health and hygiene

·         Mental skills such as concentration, memory development and organization

·         Mathematics computation skills

·         Beginning reading skills

·         Spelling

·         Any subject matter involving memorization

·         Long-term projects

·         Learning new tasks such as handwriting, CPR, typing, etc.

·         Developing and using positive qualities such as gratitude, contentment, honesty, servicefulness, and responsibility

Self-Expression and Communication

Self-expression and communication are essential for success in academics, and in our interactions with others.

Our students begin developing clarity of mind and creativity in self-expression and communication from the first day they enter kindergarten. The goal is to help each student express ideas and feelings clearly and creatively, verbally and in their written work.

Our middle school students develop writing skills that give them a tremendous advantage in high school and college. Our graduates thank us for giving them a big head start in the skills required for writing term papers and research reports.

Language Arts instruction at Living Wisdom School follows our school’s core theme of teaching the students how to be enjoyably immersed, enthusiastic, and creatively insightful in their academic studies.

The students receive intensive help with vocabulary development, starting at age four and five and throughout their years at LWS. Through constant feedback, encouragement, and hands-on instruction in copyediting and rewriting, we teach the students to write and speak in ways that communicate clearly to the reader or listener – a very rare skill in business, technology, and academia.

Lessons in Self-Expression and Communication foster the following:

·         Honest, objective introspection

·         Clarity of thinking

·         Clarity of expression

·         Creativity

We measure the students’ growth in this area by the clarity of their written and oral communications, by the originality of their work, and the degree to which it reflects their honest thinking and enthusiastic engagement.

Subjects that foster growth in Self-expression and Communication:

·         Mathematics

·         Writing mechanics

·         Creative writing

·         Interpretive dance

·         Music composition

·         Music interpretation

·         Computer programming

·         Creative problem-solving

·         Engineering

·         The use of the voice as a means of self-expression in singing and speaking

·         Public speaking

·         How to develop creativity

·         Visual arts

·         Drama

·         Vocabulary development

3. Understanding People

The K-8 years are the prime time of a young person’s life for developing the ability to feel. The quality of instruction at this age therefore has huge consequences for the person’s whole life, since feeling, not reason, is the faculty that enables us to tell right from wrong, and to understand, and respect and empathize with the realities of others.

Our practical approach to helping children develop these very important life skills permeates every moment that the student spends at Living Wisdom School.

The prime media for children to learn to be aware of their feelings and direct them in positive, expansive ways are the arts. We encourage the honest expansion of the children’s calm, perceptive feelings through our theater program, through music instruction, and by observing and guiding students in learning to interact and communicate with respect and awareness of how their words and actions affect others.

We employ highly effective conflict resolution methods that transform disagreements and arguments into experiences of personal expansion, starting at the earliest ages.

We help the students discover what all human beings everywhere want most deeply from their lives, and which actions and attitudes lead to lasting happiness and freedom from suffering, for themselves and others.

By understanding others, we can gain insights into our ourselves. As the students participate in our all-school theater program, they learn from the successes and mistakes of others. Through the theater process, they learn these lessons up close and in three dimensions, with lasting positive effects for their character formation and their ability to develop a  strong sense of values. As understanding grows, it leads to deepening empathy and compassion for others and oneself.

Lessons in Understanding People foster the following development in the students:

·         The ability to discern the underlying reasons and motivations behind the actions of others

·         The ability to recognize similarities between the motivations and actions of others and ourselves

·         The ability to translate the experiences of others into wise lessons for our own lives

·         The ability to enjoy positive interactions with others, by drawing on our understanding of their realities, and the behaviors that create harmony, cooperation, and happiness for all

Growth in this area is seen in the manner in which the students interact with others, and the choices they make. We can also witness growth in this area through the insights that the student share in class discussions and in their schoolwork.

Subjects that foster growth in Understanding People:

·         The study of other cultures, and their customs and beliefs

·         Foreign languages

·         History

·         Geography

·         Psychology

·         World religions

·         The study of the lives of great people

·         Travel

4. Cooperation

We teach our students practical, down-to-earth skills for cooperating with others. They learn that cooperation is a highly enjoyable and very productive way to work. The ability to cooperate comes more naturally to some students than others; but in the environment and culture of LWS all of the students soon experience the joys of working and playing expansively, harmoniously, and inclusively.

The children have countless opportunities to practice the cooperative attitudes and skills that will be extremely important in every area of their lives – career, personal relationships, and raising their own children.

We have mentioned that our instruction is practical and down-to-earth. All of our teachers give extremely careful attention to observe and, as needed, help raise each student’s level of mental flexibility, willingness to compromise, and to respect others.

Almost everything we do in our lives as students, employees, and parents involves other people. Harmonious relationships lead to happiness and a greater measure of success in every endeavor. A lack of harmony diminishes our happiness and satisfaction, regardless of the level of our outward success. Our home life, friendships, school, work, and everyday encounters with strangers, all involve other people. Skills in cooperation make all of these interactions more enjoyable and harmonious.

Lessons in Cooperation foster the following development in the students:

·         Non-attachment to our own desires

·         Genuine caring for the well-being of others as much as for our own

·         The ability to compromise without violating our principles

·         The ability to learn from others

·         Flexibility of thinking

We can observe our students’ growth in this area most obviously in the quality and harmony of their interactions with others.

Subjects that foster growth in Cooperation:

·         Academic study of the human realities in political science, economics, history, and business

·         Supportive leadership

·         Listening skills

·         Etiquette

·         People and events in history where cooperation played an important role

5. Wholeness

Wholeness is the art of finding an increasing expansion of awareness, with an accompanying increase in happiness and inner satisfaction. Wholeness gives cohesion and meaning to the entire person, and the entire system of Education for Life.

This area of the curriculum focuses not on a single developmental aspect, but on all of the ways the various curriculum areas work together, and how each one enhances the others. Speaking of the individual child, Wholeness means how the child’s entire experience of an Education for Life fosters the development of his or her whole being.

Lessons in Wholeness foster the following development in the students:

·         When facing challenges, Wholeness is the ability to draw on many personal qualities and skills and external resources to solve the issues at hand.

·         Wholeness is being able to view every situation from many different perspectives and discern which response is the most appropriate and useful.

·         Wholeness is the ability to look beyond the separate, small fragments of a situation or a person, and see the “big picture.”

We can observe the child’s growth in this area by the results of their actions. When facing a challenge, and when interacting with others, are they able to respond in ways that bring about positive change? Do they habitually use the skills that are appropriate for the people and situations confronting them? Do they demonstrate a commitment to living according to their highest principles and ideals?

Subjects that foster growth in Wholeness:

The following subjects influence the student in ways that cross any isolated categories. They will frequently, even routinely, uplift the student’s consciousness, helping them be more energetic, insightful, sensitively aware, and happy. These subjects have the power to effect positive changes and new insights.

  • Music

·         Meditation and other centering techniques

·         Art

·         Literature

·         Philosophy

·         Religion

·         Nature studies

 

6. “Our Earth — Our Universe”

“The Sciences.” Surely, it’s a boring name for one of the most potentially interesting, engaging, and fruitful of the standard fields of study.

Stated abstractly, as a rational category, it’s a lifeless label. It is words without poetry, music without melody. It conjures images of test tubes in a laboratory, rather than the endless wonders of nature.

Why not create a new name for this part of the curriculum? Let’s call it “Our Earth – Our Universe.”

This name covers everything that is taught under the arid rubric of “The Sciences,” but it suggests the orderliness of the entire created cosmos – with an appropriate appreciation for the beautiful balance of planetary life, and that sense of awe before the universal mysteries which, as Einstein famously said, is the essence of great scientific discovery.

It invites the students to learn how to relate harmoniously to the universe, to feel themselves a part of everything instead of merely participating as intellectual secondhand observers of whatever the universe is doing around them.

“Our Earth – Our Universe” suggests an expansive approach to studying the physical reality in which we live. It encourages the students to think of the universe as a great wholeness – to see the particular and universal in relation to each other.

It might even suggest a comparison between physical laws and higher principles.

Newton’s law of motion, for example, might suggest laws of action and reaction on other levels of reality.

Gravity and electromagnetism might be examined for their connections to subtler forms of magnetism – even, if the teacher dares take the step, to such high principles as divine love.

In various ways, it suggests a view of the universe as not something inert, but pulsating with life. Thus, from a lifeless catalogue of facts, “Our Earth – Our Universe” makes the sciences themselves (customarily the most intellectual of studies) something heartfelt and inspiring.

The separate sciences can be taught not as compartmentalized disciplines, but as a totality revealed through its different aspects.

Thus, nature assumes a coherence that mirrors the goal of education itself: maturity. It is easier to relate to diverse realities when we can see them in meaningful relationship to one another, and finally to ourselves.

“Our Earth – Our Universe” includes all of the branches of science: physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, general science, botany, geology, and anatomy.

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