Students and Parents talk about Living Wisdom School

If you are considering LWS for your child, we’ll be happy to put you in contact with parents who can talk about their children’s experience at our school. Please call us for a list of names and phone numbers: (650) 462-8150. Or email Living Wisdom School

Will your child be happy and successful at Living Wisdom School and beyond? Listen to what our parents and graduates say.

“I came across another big idea as soon as I entered Living Wisdom: I can choose to be happy. And it led up to another idea: that no one can make you unhappy, nor can you blame your unhappiness on other people, because it’s you who decides to be happy or not.” (Rewa Bush, class of ‘08, graduate of Los Altos High School)

“I don’t know what the exact statistic is, but most Americans’ number one fear is public speaking. The way I see it, public speaking is not restricted to speeches in front of large groups of people. Raising your hand and asking a question in class is “public speaking.” And sadly, some children are afraid to do this. They are afraid they will look stupid or people will think they are dumb because they didn’t understand something. The LWS school plays taught me to get over the fear of public speaking when I was very young. Now I am much more comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people. Granted, I still sometimes get nervous, but I have the confidence to try. Also, LWS included everyone in the school plays, so everyone received this beneficial experience. No one was or felt left out.” Genyana Greenfield August, Class of ‘06, graduate of Mid-Peninsula High School

“In sixth grade we started meditating every morning, more than before, and I found that it quieted the pools of my mind, which on some days were already boiling over by the time I arrived at school.” Rewa Bush, class of ‘08, graduate of Los Altos High School

Telephone conversation with Peter Abrams, (Class of ‘04):

Peter: Hi, Helen. I just wanted to call and say thank you.

Helen: What’s up, Peter?

Peter: I just received my acceptance to Stanford, and I know it would never have happened without you guys. Seriously, without LWS this never would have happened.

(Peter is now a sophomore at Stanford, majoring in history. He redshirted in varsity baseball last year and will try out for the team this year.)

“I am writing to say thank you. You taught me many things in my two years at Living Wisdom, but the most important, by far, was how to use common sense. In the theater business (and, frankly, in any business), there is always a delicate balance between doing what you’re told and acting instantly upon your own judgment. We memorize our lines and blocking, but if something goes wrong, we have to ad lib…we have to think on our feet and act accordingly. I owe my ability to do these things almost entirely to you, and for that I am most grateful.” Rose Frazier, Class of ‘06, is at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, sings in the San Francisco Opera Chorus, and performs with the Gilbert and Sullivan Lamplighters.

Email to teacher Gary McSweeney:

“When I was at Living Wisdom, I never really understood what you and the school were doing for me, and how incredibly fortunate I was to be in that situation. Looking back, I can see how much I took the entire thing for granted, your teaching style, the philosophy of the school, and the whole environment that surrounded it. In a way I think I really didn’t take advantage of all the help you were trying to give me, but even through all the troubles I gave you (even though they were all somebody else’s fault!), you managed to impart upon me the secrets of life, and indeed, the universe itself!

“In all seriousness though, it is especially easy for me to notice the difference in myself now because I am surrounded by people who are still in the state of mind that I was in when I came to Living Wisdom. Now, that’s not to say I don’t get in trouble anymore, or that I am a perfect child or anything (I am), but the way I view the world around me and other people in it has changed dramatically. Where other people are teasing or making fun of somebody in a joking way, I can really easily tell how that person is feeling about it, even more than just the seeing the look on their face.

“I can tell if they are not finding it funny, or they are actually hurt by it, even if they are acting as if they are fine. It doesn’t sound like much, but none of my friends understand when something like that is happening, and when I talk to them about it, they will look confused and say that they had no idea, or that they didn’t mean for it to be hurting the person. And I believe them. I don’t think they were doing it on purpose or anything, but it just shows that for some reason I am more aware about other people and my surroundings than most of the kids my age.

“It shows itself in other ways too, but that is the most obvious at least to me.

“Another one is the way I think about my actions before I do them. I spend a lot of time worrying about causing somebody else a lot of unnecessary trouble, and when I do (I never do), I spend the next few nights lying awake thinking about it and regretting it. I think basically what it boils down to is that I am just more aware about the world outside of myself, and I think that you are the one who showed me how to look at the world that way. And for that, I am forever grateful.” William Prince, Class of 08, graduate of Mid-Peninsula High School

“Throughout my time at Living Wisdom, I was constantly exposed to the ideas and truths behind all religions.” Rewa Bush, class of ‘08, graduate of Los Altos High School

“Before I came to Living Wisdom School, I used to have long philosophical conversations with my mom on the way to school every morning, and I feel that educated me more than filling in bubbles on worksheets in second grade. But at Living Wisdom, school and education were one, like they should be.” Rewa Bush, Class of ‘08, graduate of Los Altos High School

“LWS gave me the confidence to be able to handle the outside world. Because I had teachers who always believed in me, I learned to believe in myself. They pushed me to always do my best. This increased my capacity to do well, in school and in life. Basically “my best” got better.” Genyana Greenfield August, Class of ‘06, graduate of Mid-Peninsula High School

“One of the things I think is great about the math department at LWS is that everyone gets to work at their own pace. The children who are ahead learn to help the children who are behind them. And no judgment is passed about where a child is in her or his math book. Everyone is very supportive of each other. . Now, in high school it seems natural to me to help others when they are behind me or need help.” Genyana Greenfield August, Class of ‘06, graduate of Mid-Peninsula High School

“St Stephen’s strives for excellence in the arts, athletics, and academics. Of course, with everything there is to do at school, I am challenged and busy. The teachers are fun and encouraging. I have slowly started making friends. Friendships take time to occur. Unlike at Living Wisdom School, it has taken a long time to meet people who easily accept you. Through my short experience at St. Stephen’s, I have realized what an incredible learning environment was provided at Living Wisdom School. Going to school at LWS was like going to your extended family everyday.” Elliot Sakatch, Class of ‘05; Elliot moved to Austin, Texas with his family and enrolled at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.

Peggy Sakatch, mother of Elliot, Class of ‘06, writes about Elliot’s new school when they moved to Austin, Texas: “We both miss LWS. There is something intangibly better about LWS, period. It’s stuff that’s all well described on the website (kids can be themselves, and wow, does that ever open them up to all that they can possibly accomplish and enjoy, etc.”

“As I was acting out the lives of great people on stage, I was developing life skills like confidence, while wrapping my mind around the fantastic ideas and words of Buddha or Hafiz.” Rewa Bush, Class of ‘08, graduate of Los Altos High School

“To me we are doing more than acting. We are telling a story of a legend. This year, the play was on the life of St. Francis, with whom I am familiar. It was very beautiful and moving. But last year’s play on the life of Buddha, about whom I knew nothing, was really interesting for me, because I had to act a story and culture I knew nothing about. I learned so much from Buddha. What a beautiful legend and story! Living Wisdom plays are a true treasure to me.” Lea Buonocore, Class of ‘08, graduate of Palo Alto Preparatory High School

“I love being on stage. I love the feeling I get when I am up there dancing or reciting my lines. I loved this play because I loved learning about the wonderful and interesting life of Buddha. I learned to be more compassionate and understanding of others.” Joy Barajas, Class of ‘07, graduate of Notre Dame High School, Belmont

“Gary (LWS middle-school teacher Gary McSweeney) says he honestly believes LWS students have successful interviews for high school, talk more easily in public, and relate more readily to adults because of the Living Wisdom Theater program. He knows firsthand because he has seen a huge transformation in his son, Bryan, who attended LWS from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

“In Kindergarten, Bryan refused to participate in the play at all. The next year he had a small part and the next year a little bigger part, and soon he had worked his way to the lead role. He would get very nervous, but he faced his fears and went on with the show. Later, as a high school freshman, he knew only one other person in the whole school, but he also knew that he liked performing, so he went to the drama department. There, he made many friends. Now in college, he has no problem at all talking in front of groups. As one of the speakers at a Living Wisdom School fundraiser last year, he cracked one joke after another! Gary attributes Bryan’s growth as an individual in large part to the theater program.”

(Excerpt from “Rules of the Theater,” an essay in the school literary magazine, Living Wisdom School Angels Have a Lot to Say, June, 2007, by Rewa Bush and Class of ’08, graduate of Los Altos High, and Hadley Sheppard, graduate of Notre Dame High School, Belmont.)

“Sinead scored exactly 1500 out of 1600 on the SAT for Math and English. The SAT now has three parts, and out of a total of 2400, she scored 2150. She had a perfect score on the PSAT in Math. She has also been recommended for enrollment as a National Merit Scholar and has a four-point GPA.

“Sinead also chided fellow students as they mocked their teacher who had his back to them. ‘That would never fly in my old school,’ she said. And they stopped.” (Ria Toolis, mother of Sinead Toolis-Byrd, Class of 03, who attended high school at Harker Academy and is a junior at U. C. Berkeley, majoring in Art.)

“During Freshman Orientation (at Menlo School), I observed that I noticed things other kids did not. I think I have a different level of awareness. I was also taken aback when teachers strongly encouraged freshmen not to be afraid of them. I thought, ‘Why would anyone be afraid of teachers?’” (Mara Schleck, Class of ’03, graduated from Menlo and is a junior at Georgetown University majoring in Economics.)

“When I went to India on a school trip, I realized that my experience performing the lives of Buddha and Krishna left me much more prepared than many of the other kids to get the most out of the experience.” (Mara Schleck, Class of ’03, now a junior at Georgetown University majoring in Economics)

“We asked Drew if there was anything he missed about LWS now that he is in high school. He said the one thing he misses is how much the teachers care about the students at LWS. He has great teachers at Menlo, but the level of caring is not the same. He is doing very well – he has only had a month of school. He was pleased to get an A on a physics test. He said he was well prepared by LWS for high school. (Suzanne Schleck. Her son, Drew, Class of ‘06, is a senior at Menlo School.)

“Hey! Wow, high school really is different. But you and Helen prepared me REALLY well. I’m sure you said something like this when I wasn’t listening, but it really seems like high school is about the people you meet. The school can push academics all they want, but having teachers who are unique and students who are, too, really seems to be important, which I guess is why I remember LWS being so ‘cool.’ It gives a good idea of what to look for in a school and hopefully in life.” (Drew Schleck, Class of ‘06, now a senior at Menlo School. Drew wrote this note to LWS middle school teacher Gary McSweeney as a high school freshman.)

High School Freshman Report Card Comments:

English: “Anjali has an upbeat attitude, good cheer, is meticulously prepared. A lively voice emerged throughout her writing. Thoughtful insights. She used language in a lively fashion.”

World Religions: “Rare student who has correct answers and thoughtful comments. Puts thought and effort into her homework consistently.”

Algebra: “Unfailingly polite and cheerful, does all the work, and seems to have a good grasp of the subject. I have at this point little concern about her doing well; I am more concerned about making sure that this class stays challenging enough to be interesting.”

Physics: “Anjali has been doing very well in physics this quarter. She’s a very responsible student, and I really enjoy having her in class.”

Jazz Dance: “Wonderful in class. Participates all the time. Stays focused and on task. A lovely dancer.”

(Anjali, class of ‘06, graduate of Menlo School.)

High School Freshman Report Card Comments:

Chemistry: “Rose continues to shine. I hope that she considers advanced study in one of the sciences; she’s good at them and really seems to enjoy herself as she learns.”

Humanities: “Through her frequent participation in class discussions, as well as the superb quality of her written work, Rose has once again demonstrated a solid command of the subject matter for Humanities.”

Mandarin I: “Your performance in this class is unimpeachable. You set extraordinary standards for all of us.”

Writing Workshop: “Rose has had a stellar trimester. She is a remarkably focused and diligent young woman. Two observations on Rose’s performance stand out: the consistency and seriousness of purpose she brings to her work, and her range and versatility. While she sees herself as most able in creative and imaginative work, I found her discipline and acuity in expository and analytical assignments to be equally impressive.”

Rose Frazier, Class of ’05, attended high school at The Bay School in San Francisco. Although accepted by Stanford University, Rose chose to enroll at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Catching up with Peter Abrams, Class of ‘04, at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

Peter has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. As a freshman, he received the achievement award in both his Algebra and English class. As a sophomore, he repeated that accomplishment in Math and Japanese. His natural athletic talent and great work ethic paid off in sports as well. He was slated to play for the varsity baseball team in spring, having overcome an earlier football injury.

“The teachers are what made LWS even more special. My teacher, Gary, was also one of the most special people in my life. He helped me grow as a person so much; he was very real and down to earth. Gary understood me and knew how he could help me grow. He would put faith in me and trust me to do things I didn’t think I could do. He was a great influence on me, and we are still good friends to this day. The motto of LWS, which is ‘Education for Life,’ really shone through when Gary taught because he applied everything we did to life and how to deal with it.” (Ashim Ahuja, Class of ‘03, a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in Film.)

“This school did not just change me personally; it also inspired me in my goals in life. Every year we put on a play celebrating the life of a saint, sage, or guru, like Buddha, Joan of Arc, Krishna, Jesus, and of course, Yogananda. I was involved in the last three. [I played] a leper in the Life of Jesus, Shakuni, an evil uncle, in Krishna, and Yogananda as a teen in The Life of Yogananda. As Yogananda, I started to understand truly what a blessing this was. When I got on stage, I felt like I was in India, looking through his eyes, just as if they were my own. For those thirty minutes, I was Yogananda. This transformation I felt was like nothing else I had ever felt before…” (Ashim Ahuja, Class of ‘03, is a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in Film.)

Samantha Shireman writes in response to the news that the middle school had just returned from the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon:

“I loved reading Macbeth (seven years ago)…and still love it. (Samantha, Class of ‘04, a sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in Physics.)