Appendix 3: Research that Supports Education for Life

To obtain a PDF copy of this book with clickable links, visit the website of the Palo Alto Living Wisdom School: In the PDF, you can follow the links to the articles in the list below that support the principles and practices of Education for Life.

Most education research focuses on how teaching methods affect academic performance, but forty-five years of experience have shown us that practices that enhance a child’s inner development can powerfully contribute to their academic success.

(If you come across supporting research, please let us know. You can send us a message at


Education for Life online teacher development: For teachers-in-training, and for continuing teacher education.

Active Focused Learning Approach. Quotes: “I’m not really held back anymore, just sitting in class waiting.” “There’s not a lot of lecturing, which makes it easier to stay focused.” “I really like working with other students.” Students spend more time working in groups. The strategy is getting more students to achieve better results in class.

Longer school day and year failed to improve test scores.

Task to Aid Self-Esteem Lifts Grades for Some.

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play In School (PDF)

The Heart in Holistic Education. (PDF) Educational programs based on new scientific discoveries about refined feelings lead to improved emotional stability, cognitive functioning, and academic performance.

Tutoring Tots. MSNBC News feature.

10 Ways to Improve Schools Using Coaching Principles. An important article by Tony Holler, a public high school honors chemistry teacher and football and track and field coach (Plainfield North HS, IL). Living Wisdom School has followed Tony’s 10 recommendations throughout its 40-plus-year history, and because we’re very clear that they’ve played a large part in our success, the principles are engrained in our school’s philosophy.

We’re destroying our kids — for nothing: Too much homework, too many tests, too much needless pressure. A Salon article argues that we’ve gone overboard on academics, destroying the enthusiasm in kids that’s essential for academic success. The result? “Children are born curious, and it’s pretty easy to facilitate that, to groom it,” says Vassar College neuropsychologist Abigail Baird. “We’re doing the opposite. We’re squishing their desire to learn new things. And I think that’s a crisis.”

Impact of Homework on Academic Achievement (PDF).

Going in circles puts students on path to better choices. Quotes: “The goal is not so much to punish as to get students on paths to make better choices, to understand the impact of what they do, to deal with people better”… “We’ve become more like a family and not just kids who go to school together,” said freshman Leah Brito. “We’ve grown up big time in the last few months.” “One result of the new approach is that kids are giving more thought to the effect what they do and say can have on others,” she said. “In eighth grade, the he said/she said stuff was horrible when many of the students were together at Audubon middle school,” Brito said. “This year, there is much less of that.”

Is Test Prep Educational Malpractice? In many elementary schools there is little or no time for non-tested subjects such as art, music, and even science and history.

Preschool Controversy — Academics or Play? Quotes: “People who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.”

Why I pulled my son out of a school for ‘gifted’ kids. In this Mashable article, a mother tells how her son thrived after she transferred him out of an elite academically oriented elementary school in New York City. “If you are privileged enough to be selective about what schools your children attend, please consider how they are learning and not just what they are learning. School isn’t only about cramming as much as possible as quickly as possible into their little brains.”

Pressure Cooker Kindergarten. Quotes: “Kindergarten has changed radically in the last two decades in ways that few Americans are aware of. Children now spend far more time being taught and tested on literacy and math skills than they do learning through play and exploration, exercising their bodies, and using their imaginations. Many kindergartens use highly prescriptive curricula geared to new state standards and linked to standardized tests. In an increasing number of kindergartens, teachers must follow scripts from which they may not deviate. These practices, which are not well grounded in research, violate long-established principles of child development and good teaching. It is increasingly clear that they are compromising both children’s health and their long-term prospects for success in school…. Kindergarten has ceased to be a garden of delight and has become a place of stress and distress…. Blindly pursuing educational policies that could well damage the intellectual, social and physical development of an entire generation…. There’s ongoing concern about American children catching up with their counterparts in countries such as Japan and China. Specifically in areas such as science, math and technology, schooling in those countries before second grade is “playful and experiential.” And youngsters in Finland, where teens consistently score high academically, also attend play-based kindergarten and start first grade at age 7 rather than age 6.”

School starting age: the evidence. An article on the website of Cambridge University. “In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four. A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).”

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success. The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.

One in Five Girls in Upper Secondary School Suffers From School Burnout. Quotes: “A sense of optimism during university studies along with high self-esteem tend to predict job engagement ten years later on, while an avoidance strategy tends to predict work-related burnout…. The more encouragement the students got from their teachers, the less likely they were to experience school burnout.”

Explaining Math Concepts Improves Learning. Quotes: “Teaching children the basic concepts behind math problems was more useful than teaching children a procedure for solving the problems — these children gave better explanations and learned more,” Rittle-Johnson said. “This adds to a growing body of research illustrating the importance of teaching children concepts as well as having them practice solving problems.”

Social Skills, Extracurricular Activities In High School Pay Off Later in Life. Quotes: “High school sophomores who … [had] good social skills and work habits, and who participated in extracurricular activities in high school, made more money and completed higher levels of education 10 years later than their classmates who had similar standardized test scores but were less socially adroit and participated in fewer extracurricular activities…. ‘Soft skills’ such as sociability, punctuality, conscientiousness and an ability to get along well with others, along with participation in extracurricular activities, are better predictors of earnings and higher educational achievement later in life than having good grades and high standardized test scores…. Schools are increasingly cutting…activities that foster soft skills in order to focus almost exclusively on achieving adequate yearly progress on state-mandated standardized tests.”

Students Benefit From Depth Rather Than Breadth. Quotes: Teaching fewer topics in greater depth is a better way to prepare students for success in college science. Teachers who “teach to the [standardized] test” may not be optimizing their students’ chances of success in college science.

Task to Aid Self-Esteem Lifts Grades for Some.

Teacher Teaming. (Teachers routinely engage in “teaming” at Living Wisdom School, thanks to the integrated curriculum and school environment that encourages teacher collaboration.)

Teaching Resilience With Positive Education.

Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement. Quotes: Students who have been shamed or belittled by the teacher or another student will not effectively engage in challenging tasks. To learn and grow, one must take risks, but most people will not take risks in an emotionally unsafe environment.

Creating Positive Classroom Management. (A teacher developed creative ways to encourage positive attitudes and behaviors in younger students. The method and theory are very similar to the “Rocks in the Basket” game used at LWS and described in this video.) Quotes: “I’d spent years offering students rewards (stickers, tickets, tangibles, intangibles) for good behavior and I’d come to realize how they were often self-defeating…. One change I had already made was … I would celebrate ‘great work’ by reading aloud the child’s name and stating what they had done well. Often their classmates would give an actual round of applause — which was lovely.”

Learning and Motivation Strategies Course Increases Odds of College Graduation.

Recess Makes for Better Students. Quotes: Study finds getting enough of it [recess] each day helps kids perform better in classroom…. Children learn as much on breaks as they do in the traditional classroom, experimenting with creativity and imagination and learning how to interact socially…. Conflict resolution is solved on the playground, not in the classroom…. The more physical fitness tests children passed, the better they did on academic tests…. Walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration.

Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure.

Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350 — and They Still Don’t Work Today. A conversation with David Thornburg about designing a better classroom.

Physical Education

Physically fit students do better on tests. Quotes: “Physically fit students … are more likely to do well on … tests and have better attendance…. Fit students are less likely to have disciplinary problems.”

Schools use mind-body relaxation techniques to help kids fight anxiety. Quotes: “Mind-body relaxation, including yoga, can improve self-esteem and boost grades and test scores…. Regular exposure to the [relaxation] training boosted students’ work habits, attendance, and academic performance.”

Physical Activity May Strengthen Children’s Ability to Pay Attention. Quotes: “Following the acute bout of walking, children performed better on the flanker task…. Following acute bouts of walking, children had a larger P3 amplitude, suggesting that they are better able to allocate attentional resources…. The increase in reading comprehension following exercise equated to approximately a full grade level.”

A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind. Quotes: “Cardiovascular exercise was related to higher academic performance…. Regular exercise benefits the brain, improves attention span, memory, and learning … reduces stress and the effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder…. Aerobic exercise pumps more blood throughout the body, including to the brain. More blood means more oxygen and, therefore, better-nourished brain tissue. Exercise also spurs the brain to produce more of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which Ratey calls ‘Miracle-Gro for the brain.’ This powerful protein encourages brain cells to grow, interconnect, and communicate in new ways. Studies also suggest exercise plays a big part in the production of new brain cells, particularly in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain heavily involved in learning and memory skills…. [Many] schools are cutting back on PE and reducing recess hours. It’s a huge challenge with budget restraints and No Child Left Behind.”

Joy in Learning

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland (The Atlantic),  by Tim Walker, a former teacher based in Finland. He now cares for his two young children and writes regularly at Taught by Finland and Papa on the Playground. Research and school experience show that play time is crucial for children’s academic and social development.

How to Parent Like a German. German students excel, yet in German schools academics are balanced by other kinds of learning.

Stay Focused: New research on how to close the achievement gap (The Economist, UK). A review of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by journalist Paul Tough, a former editor at New York Times Magazine.

Psychologist explores how childhood play influences adult creativity. Sandra Russ’s new book, Pretend Play in Childhood: Foundation of Adult Creativity, reveals how high-achieving innovative adults use methods learned in childhood play to help them achieve success.

Most 1st Grade Classes Not High Quality. Quotes: “Only 23 percent of classrooms could be judged to be of ‘high quality’ in both their instructional practices and social and emotional climate.”

Happiness Contagious as the Flu. Posted on the LiveScience website. At Living Wisdom School, we create a joyful, caring environment among the students. When a new student arrives, he or she immediately feels supported and positively affected. Parents routinely comment that soon after their children enter LWS they seem happier than at their former school.

Meditation, Breathing, Yoga, Affirmations

Meditation Program in the College Curriculum. Quotes: “[Meditation] produced significant freshman-senior increases in intelligence and increased social self-confidence, sociability, general psychological health, and social maturity.”

Self-Affirmation Can Break Cycle of Negative Thoughts. A report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Meditation in the Treatment of ADHD. Meditation-training showed significant decreases in levels of impulsivity [and significant improvements in] selective deployment of attention and freedom from distractibility in the behavior of the children.

How Meditation Can Give Our Kids an Academic Edge

Meditation seen promising as ADHD therapy. Quotes: “The effect was much greater than we expected.” — lead researcher Sarina J. Grosswald, a cognitive learning specialist in Arlington, Virginia…. The children also showed improvements in attention, working memory, organization, and behavior regulation.

Faith rites boost brains. Even 10 to 15 minutes of meditation appear to have significant positive effects on cognition, relaxation, and psychological health.

Schools use mind-body relaxation techniques to help kids fight anxiety. Quotes: “Mind-body relaxation, including yoga, can improve self-esteem and boost grades and test scores. Regular exposure to the [relaxation] training boosted students’ work habits, attendance, and academic performance.”

Silence is Golden (Mindfulness Meditation study).

Smacking Hits Kids’ IQ.

Smiles Predict Marriage Success. Many parents report their children smile more after attending Living Wisdom School.

Vedic Science based Education and Non-verbal Intelligence. An increase in student problem-solving ability was found.

Meditation and Assertive Training in the Treatment of Social Anxiety.

Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function. Meditation practice produced significant positive effects.

Meditation Improves Leadership Behaviors. Quotes: “Subjects who learned [meditation]… as a self-development technique improved their leadership behaviors.”

Social Skills

UCLA neuroscientist’s book explains why social connection is as important as food and shelter.

Psychosocial stress reversibly disrupts prefrontal processing and attentional control.


Adolescents Involved With Music Do Better in School. Music participation has a positive effect on reading and mathematics achievement for both elementary and high school students.

Adolescents Involved With Music Do Better in School.

Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills. Quotes: “Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music … display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.”

Music Training Linked to Enhanced Verbal Skills. Quotes: “Music training … may be more important for enhancing verbal communication skills than learning phonics…. potential of music to tune our neural response to the world around us…. Music training may have considerable benefits for engendering literacy skills…. (Musicians have enhanced subcortical auditory and audiovisual processing of speech and music.)”

Other Articles and Papers

It’s Official: To Protect Baby’s Brain, Turn Off TV (from Wired online). Quote: “A decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that parents limit TV consumption by children under two years of age. The recommendations were based as much on common sense as science, because studies of media consumption and infant development were themselves in their infancy. The research has finally grown up. And though it’s still ongoing, it’s mature enough for the AAP to release a new, science-heavy policy statement on babies watching television, videos or any other passive media form. Their verdict: It’s not good, and probably bad.”

The Human Brain: Wired for Values? This article was published as a sidebar to an article in Mothering magazine that strongly praised Living Wisdom School.

Lack of Playtime Killing Joy of Learning.

Smart and Good High Schools. A “Report to the Nation” from the State University of New York.

The Heart in Holistic Education. (PDF) Quotes: “Educational programs based on new scientific discoveries about the heart lead to improved emotional stability, cognitive functioning, and academic performance.”

After Abuse, Changes In the Brain. Quotes: “Affectionate mothering alters the expression of genes in animals, allowing them to dampen their physiological response to stress. These biological buffers are then passed on to the next generation. [There is] direct evidence that the same system is at work in humans.”

Loneliness Spreads Like a Virus. At Living Wisdom School, feelings of connectedness and joy spread like a virus.

Positive Action Program. The program focuses on helping students be aware of which behaviors are positive and will increase their happiness in the long term.

National education standards can end up hurting students.

Self-Control Is Contagious.

Nature Makes Us More Caring.

College prep math failure full study. (PDF) Quotes: “This study indicates that artificially pushing children beyond their current capability is counter-productive.”

Studies Reveal Why Kids Get Bullied and Rejected. The researchers’ recommendations for teaching children social skills uncannily reflect how LWS teachers practice conflict resolution during playground time.

Mothering magazine praises Living Wisdom School.

Education in the Age of Energy. Human awareness is becoming less materialistic and more energy-aware. How will schools adapt? Living Wisdom leads the way.

National education standards can end up hurting students.

Nature Makes Us More Caring, Study Says.

When Friends Make You Poorer. Quotes: “Students tend to gravitate to a major chosen by more of their peers. And the students whose choice was driven by their peers were then more likely to end up in lower-paying jobs that they didn’t like.”

Kids Get Worst SAT Scores in a Decade.

APA review confirms link between playing violent video games and aggression.

Exposure to TV violence related to irregular attention and brain structure.

School Starting Age: The Evidence.

Appendix 2: Education for Life and the Living Wisdom Schools

As of this writing in mid-2022, there are six thriving Education for Life Schools in Palo Alto and Nevada City, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Assisi, Italy.

(You can find brief descriptions of the schools online at this page:

The term “Living Wisdom School” refers to schools that follow the Education for Life philosophy, and that were founded under the auspices of Ananda Sangha. (The first school was started at Ananda Village in 1972.)

Thanks to the success of the Living Wisdom Schools, the good news about this inspiring broad-spectrum approach to academic excellence has spread to organizations that have started, or plan to start their own schools that will be based on the Education for Life philosophy and methods, but that will not be formally associated with Ananda. These schools can generally be referred to as “Education for Life Schools,” but they are not, strictly speaking, Living Wisdom Schools.

Because this book is based on the experience of the original schools, the terms “Living Wisdom School” and “LWS” are used throughout.

Appendix 1: Education for Life Resources

Education for Life Schools:

Palo Alto, CA

Nevada City, CA

Portland, OR

Seattle, WA

Assisi, Italy

Ljubljana, Slovenia


Ch. 32: Final Thoughts: On Choosing Your Child’s School

Many schools with a heavy academic focus, perhaps aware of the growing demand among parents for a more balanced education, are now claiming to offer a blend of academics and joy. We sincerely hope these claims are true! But, ultimately, we feel that parents should make their own comparisons. Request a tour of the schools. Speak with the teachers. Above all, observe the children. Then visit a Living Wisdom School and choose for yourself. We’ve been practicing the Education for Life methods for a long time!

A second factor to consider in choosing a school is how the teachers are trained. The Living Wisdom Schools are extremely selective in the teachers they hire. Teacher training is long and rigorous. Impressive academic credentials alone are not sufficient; they must be accompanied by highly developed skills in understanding all aspects of the child — body, heart, will, mind, and soul — and a high degree of expertise in guiding each child to take the next, natural step in the unfolding of their individual success and happiness.

New teachers spend a year interning with another teacher, absorbing the culture, language, and methodology. They also take a three-month intensive course in yoga that includes instruction in Hatha Yoga and basic meditation techniques.

Last, but far from least, every teacher in the Living Wisdom Schools is expected to have a lifelong commitment to a personal spiritual practice, whatever their religious affiliation. This is an extremely important requirement, as it enables the teachers to understand that happiness is an internal quality, that it is the indispensable foundation for success in school and life, and that its source is Spirit.

Prayer and meditation help the teachers form a soul bond with each child. By offering themselves daily to the highest source of love, wisdom, and joy, the teachers are able to serve as channels for those qualities to help the children, and to help them form their own inner connection with that source.

Ch. 31: More Testimonials for the Living Wisdom Schools

Student Testimonials

We started meditating every morning before school, 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 Living Wisdom School, I learned that I can choose to be happy, and it led to another idea: that no one can make you unhappy, nor can you blame your unhappiness on other people, because it’s you who decide to be happy or not. — Rewa B., Oberlin College


I am a senior at U.C. Davis, graduating with honors this June in Genetics and minoring in French. I now have my own research project, studying the evolution of centromeric proteins, which I am hoping to have published in a scientific journal. I am also in the process of writing my honors thesis and will present it at the U.C. Undergraduate Research Conference in May.

I was originally interested in medical school, but am now applying to Genetics PhD programs such as the Marie Curie Institute in France. I attribute my love of learning and confidence in myself to my foundation in Living Wisdom School. I was taught that we really do have the autonomy to choose our own happiness, and I try to remind myself of this every day. However, it is curious how many students I see in college refusing to do this. — Hadley


The way I view people and the world around me has changed dramatically. When other people are teasing or making fun of somebody in a joking way, I can easily tell how that person is feeling about it, even more than just by seeing the look on their face. I can tell if they are not finding it funny or if they are actually hurt by it, even if they are acting as if they are fine. None of my friends understand when something like that is happening, and when I talk to them about it, they 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, 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. — William P.


In math at LWS, 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 the 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.

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, and this increased my capacity to do well in school and in life. Basically my best got better. 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. LWS 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. — Genyana A.


During Freshman Orientation 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 S., Georgetown University


I just received my acceptance to Stanford. Seriously, without LWS this never would have happened. — Peter A., Stanford University



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 F., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Opera Chorus, and Gilbert and Sullivan Lamplighters

Testimonials from Education Professionals

The work you do with the teens on a daily basis is so meaningful for them, helping them grow internally and learn who they are, especially during the turbulent adolescent years. — Physician, Palo Alto, California


If you could put what you are doing in the public schools, it would change the world. — School Superintendent at initial accreditation visit to Living Wisdom School


This school is the best-kept secret in Northern California. — WASC official at renewal visit


Education for Life…is an exalted call for change, based on deep insight into the potentials of every human being. It tells us how to nurture creativity, wisdom, and intuition in each child, and how to tap their unexplored capabilities. — Jay Casbon, Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate School for Professional Studies, Lewis & Clark College


I marvel at the spirit of Living Wisdom School. I embrace its visionary ideal, and I celebrate its remarkable accomplishments. I urge us all to spread the word on how special a place it really is. — Michael S. Katz, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, San Jose State University, Philosophy of Education, Past President of the North American Philosophy of Education Society


This is a wonderful school. — Keith Devlin, PhD, co-founder and Executive Director of Stanford University H-STAR Institute

Testimonials from the WASC Accreditation Committee,

The committee members offered the following observations following their visit to Living Wisdom High School of Palo Alto in the fall of 2021.

“LWHS has a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary faculty culture.” – Chris

“Some of your strengths are the use of personalized learning plans and the high degree of student feedback and how it is incorporated into informing instruction.” – Chris

“You offer your students great opportunities, especially on campus but also off campus. Some of the things students did off-campus really made a difference in their lives…. The opportunities (at LWHS) are tremendous….  Through creative mentoring and partnerships, the LWHS students were able to get involved in things they wouldn’t be able to experience in larger schools…. The (educational) ideas you have are working very well, and you can be quite happy and proud.” – Yanik, former public school superintendent

“The interdisciplinary work among the faculty was notable and impressive… There were lots of synergies in your work.” – Chris

“Students, parents, and alumni consistently noted and appreciated the value of the education they are receiving. They valued the feedback they are getting from the school and the teachers.” – Chris

“A strong sense of community, collaboration, and partnership is the first thing that we noticed, and it ran throughout as a thread in our experiences observing the school! It is clear that in this small and tightly knit community, everyone is dedicated and driven by the mission and vision of the school, as well as the powerful educational philosophy.” – Melissa

Testimonials from Parents

I highly recommend Living Wisdom High School that just opened last Fall. I am incredibly impressed by their academic team, personalized learning plan, blended approach, and focus on providing an education for life. We have only been there for a few months, but I am happy to answer questions about our experience and why we chose this school for our high schooler.

When my husband and I noticed that our once exceptionally bright, enthusiastic, and talented daughter was struggling (emotionally, socially, and academically) in our top-rated public school, we knew we had to pull out all the stops in order to help her.

We’d already tried a very disappointing local private school when she was younger. Thus, we knew that putting her in another typical private school is not the answer. What she needed was something truly extraordinary. Thankfully we found Living Wisdom School.

It’s been about five months since our daughter started Living Wisdom School, and honestly, we have never seen our daughter this joyous, appreciative, and happy with herself — and so motivated to learn and to give her best as a student.

I have also never seen such dedicated faculty: The teachers intimately get to know each and every student. They recognize the beauty and strength of each child, and they REALLY invest in each child. In another word, they give and give — and they don’t hold back.

The educational philosophy and approach of LWS are both highly intelligent and amazingly evolved. As a former UCLA psychological researcher and a psychotherapist, I notice that everything they do is meaningful, purposeful, thoughtful, conscious, love-centered, and extraordinary. Furthermore, the proof is in the pudding — our daughter is absolutely thriving in every way possible.

I am convinced that this remarkable school is the best-kept secret in the Silicon Valley, and we will forever be grateful to have found this priceless gift. I highly recommend LWS to all parents who want their kids to truly succeed in life, as measured by their level of joy and positive contribution to the world. It just doesn’t get better than this.

Our daughter is blossoming like never before!  Thank you! — Anadi G., parent of a 9th grader


Our three daughters started at the Living Wisdom School five months ago. They were studying in a private French school in Berkeley for five years and the transition was worrying for us, especially for the older girls. We have only one word to express how we feel right now: gratitude.

The girls unequivocally declare that this is the best school ever. They love the time and attention the teachers and administration give to them and their particular needs and interests.

My oldest who was always afraid of math now says she needs no help from us when she does her homework. Our middle daughter, who barely read a book five months ago, now will not stop reading.

In a competitive place like Palo Alto, it was a priority to give our daughters an excellent education, but also to impart values about how to live and how to comport themselves. We wanted them to develop a love of learning as a lifelong process, and we wanted a stress-free, supportive environment.

I feel that this is happening every day at Living Wisdom School. I am looking forward to our daughters growing up into intelligent, articulate, and overall good citizens in a global world.

I’ve been an honorary aunt/grandmother to many Living Wisdom School children. Some of “my kids” are through college now, and it’s worth noting how many of the students credit their success in life now to what LWS gave them.

Education is so information oriented now — teaching to the test. It’s ironic when the world is changing so fast, that information is obsolete before the degree is earned. Success today is how quickly you can learn, how easily you can adapt, how creatively and joyfully you can respond. The emphasis on pure academics — to the detriment of creating well-rounded individuals — makes even academics difficult to achieve. Develop the whole person and learning comes effortlessly. That’s what happens at LWS. Cutting-edge research in education is looking more and more like Living Wisdom School.


As an education researcher, I see that the rest of my field is just now becoming aware of the pivotal role of self-regulation and executive function.

Living Wisdom School has a rich tradition of equipping students with content AND the tools to become self-directed learners. When you know HOW to learn, you can learn almost anything.

A natural question that some parents have is this: can children have a loving, joyful learning experience in school AND still be prepared for life?

The answer is yes. Last spring’s survey of LWS graduates showed that alums have an average grade point average of 3.85. Living Wisdom School graduates have gone to Stanford, many of the UC campuses, Cornell, University of Michigan, NYU, Georgetown, Oberlin, Bowdoin, London College (UK), University of Bremen, Germany, University of Washington, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and many more.

The school is a wonderful community, preparing students not only as learners but as happy, productive, fulfilled people.

Living Wisdom School provides a safe and nurturing setting to learn and grow both emotionally and academically. The academics are appropriately challenging while taking into consideration every child’s unique learning style. Not only has my son received an excellent education, he has grown personally by being part of a community that fosters kindness, collaboration, and joy in learning. He will graduate from Living Wisdom this year, well prepared for the years ahead and fondly remembering the time our family spent as part of this wonderful school.

We have had two children in LWS. To sum it up succinctly — it’s the type of school that we as parents always wanted to attend ourselves. Just on the surface level, the school has:

1) A very low student to teacher ratio

2) Highly customized instruction

3) A curriculum that simultaneously addresses core academic requirements and supports healthy emotional development

But beyond the surface the school is much more:

  1. The creative expression in the yearly play about a historical spiritual leader brings the school community together and consistently inspires audiences to pursue life with understanding and courage.
  2. A warm and inviting environment that accelerates a student’s self-growth and encourages individual expression

We could say a lot more, but it’s difficult to share in a short review. We encourage you to contact the school and speak to a parent. They can share more details.


Our son went to LWS after a really difficult year and a half at a local Palo Alto school. The difference in the quality of the teachers, the calming atmosphere, and the love and genuine caring shown by the teachers was instrumental in turning his life around. His comment on returning from his first day at LWS was, “I can be who I am, and don’t need to pretend to be someone else.”

Our son received an excellent education at LWS, was well prepared, and made an easy transition to a much larger school. What sets this school apart is its willingness to allow the students to learn at their own pace. In so doing, the school fosters a love of learning. This has made our son’s academic life joyful and given him an edge. We could not recommend Living Wisdom School more highly.


LWS is an incredible school. We are Palo Alto parents who have tried the local schools, and feel that this school is giving our two children an amazing education. The academics are excellent and we find that the life skills our children are learning are helping them grow into great young adults. Our children have gained confidence, are more focused, are better able to navigate through conflicts, are more emotionally mature, and just seem happy. The teachers are very dedicated, accessible, and are inspiring role models. LWS is the school I would have wanted to go to when I was a child.


This is a remarkable school. I truly believe it is the best gift we have given our sons in life. The academics were great; both sons are getting As at a rigorous high school now. Most impressive, though, is not the academics but the priority and emphasis the school places on teaching and training the children to get along well with others. The teachers’ dedication to this is truly inspiring. When I volunteered for lunch and other duties, I saw teachers do conflict resolutions between kids whenever there was any upset — even just unkind words. They taught the kids, even the youngest ones, to look each other in the eye, take turns telling their feelings, and listening. The kids learned true maturity, how to empathize with others, and how to include others in their play. This is true leadership training. Many schools offer living skills and leadership classes, but few take the time to apply them in the heat of conflict.


LWS has been truly transformative for my son. The small class size and level of dedication among the staff could not possibly be beaten anywhere.


This is a wonderful school. Students learn so much more than just the academics. They learn compassion, understanding, and finding joy in learning.


My two sons attended Living Wisdom School, and it was a wonderful experience for them. They learned to relate to other people of all ages, young and old, with compassion and empathy. The school was a vital part of their emotional development. Today one is at Cornell University, the other at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Sending them to LWS was one of the best things I could do for them.


We have a joyous, enthusiastic, and very sharp “firecracker” of a daughter in LWS. I already had a sense that this is an unusually thoughtful and emotionally intelligent school when I first met with the director and got a tour of the school years ago. Hence, we had a high expectation of the school’s curriculum and culture, teaching methodologies, and the staff when our daughter started school there. Amazingly, this school has managed to exceed our expectations in every level. — Tess N., Menlo Park, CA


I am a Palo Alto violin teacher who has had the privilege of teaching eight children in past years who have attended the Living Wisdom School. These students started with me in fourth grade and the last child is graduating from high school this June. These children, throughout the time I taught them, have been exceptional in their attitude, in their loving interactions with other students, and have achieved exceptional levels both in school and on the violin.

In the past, I attended the performances of my students at Living Wisdom, and I believe it has been LWS that has helped make all of these children so well-rounded, grounded, and relaxed. When children at Gunn and Sacred Heart are behaving in such self-destructive ways, the students from Living Wisdom are providing their friends with guidance and helping them to recognize their self-worth. — Denise C., Palo Alto, CA


My daughter scored 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.

She 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. — Mother of an LWS graduate accepted at U.C. Berkeley


There are few things I can recommend without any reservation. Living Wisdom School is one of them. It is the best-kept secret in Palo Alto. I cannot say enough good things about this school, but let me name a few of the highlights that made us choose the school for our son.

  1. Size — The school is tiny. This allows a truly individualized approach where the teachers know every child and their needs in a deep way.
  2. Academics — The small size allows self-pacing. Our son is consistently 1-2 years ahead of grade level. At the same time, in areas where he needs help he gets intensive and dedicated support.
  3. Multiple-age classrooms — this arrangement groups younger kids with older peers that they can emulate. We love this about the school and it works VERY well.
  4. Emotional Learning — The school practices no religion. Most teachers live at the Ananda Community, but Ananda does not play a day-to-day role at the school. They teach a philosophy of kindness, love, and emotional honesty that is rare today. The children are taught yoga, meditation, and kindness. The teachers practice what they preach and live this approach in the classroom.
  5. Teachers — The teachers are dedicated to the children and the philosophy of the school. They know each child very well and form deep bonds with them.

If you want to raise an independent, kind, self-aware child – you owe it to yourself and your child to look at Living Wisdom. — Ben R., Palo Alto, CA


If you are considering a private school, I would highly recommend Living Wisdom School (LWS). We love so many things about the school, it’s hard to pick just a few to mention here:

  1. Their main philosophy is Education for Life. They want their children to love learning, and this is not just words!
  2. Each child can go at his/her own pace with learning. At the same time, the teachers are very careful. Their goal is to keep the children interested in the subjects, not to jump grades.
  3. The teacher/student ratio is excellent.
  4. The teachers are amazing.
  5. In most schools, only the most gifted students take the Math Olympiads and AMC 8. In contrast, at LWS all students take these challenging tests. Last year, my husband and I were at the graduation ceremony, where they were announcing the results: it turned out that the girl who got the best score in California was an LWS student (she achieved a perfect score of 100% — the only perfect score by a sixth-grader in the state). We were very impressed. — Lana S., Redwood City, CA

Ch. 30: Living Wisdom Graduates Enjoy Varied and Exciting Careers


David Kretzmann
Motley Fool Investment Analyst

I attended the original Living Wisdom School from kindergarten through eighth grade, and I graduated from Living Wisdom High School in 2010. I entered Berea College in Kentucky, where I graduated in 2014. I studied business administration and was elected student government president two years.

After graduating, I became an investment analyst at The Motley Fool, a private financial and investing advice company based in Alexandria, Virginia with over 300 employees worldwide, which is where I am today, helping individual investors and evaluating companies and recommending stocks.

When I reflect on my time in the Living Wisdom Schools, I see it as an experience where I learned how to live a good, successful and happy life, recognizing that academics are important, but what really matters when you’re in junior high and high school and you’re coming up into adulthood is learning how to live your life — how to be happy in what you do, make friends with what you do, and be joyful in everything you do.

I’ve carried the lessons from Living Wisdom School with me each day, whether it was in college or now in my career. I’m really grateful for what I got out of Living Wisdom School, and I recommend the experience to anyone.


Mirabai Deranja Commer,
Professional Tango Dancer and Dance Instructor

Mirabai graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA degree in Astronomy. She now has a thriving business as a tango teacher and performer in the San Francisco area and in Buenos Aires, Argentina.





Shyama Helin
Project Manager, ID Branding

I work with an award-winning advertising and branding firm. I’m married and we own a home in the north end of Portland, Oregon. I graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1995 with a major in Fine Arts.

I attribute my ability to communicate effectively to my Education for Life experience at Living Wisdom School. The small classes and close relationships with teachers and fellow students helped me build strong bonds and gave me the tools to know how to work cooperatively with others.

As a team leader on high-stress projects in my work environment, I consistently rely on the centering and affirmation skills I learned at EFL. I remain closely connected with many of my school friends.

Kai Girard
Mountain Guide, Alaska Mountaineering School,
American Alpine Institute, National Outdoor Leadership School,
and Outward Bound

My early memories of Living Wisdom School include outdoor pursuits that were many and varied. From exploring rivers and caves, to canoe trips and making fires in the rain with our teacher, going to school in the foothills gave us the opportunity to be outside in so many ways.

I connected with outdoor sports starting in high school, and in an even bigger way in college at Seattle University, where I progressed from a rock climber to a raft guide and a trip leader. I now work as a wilderness educator for some of the best companies in the industry.

Being paid to explore, experience, and share the wilderness while participating in fun and challenging activities is certainly a great perk, but the real treat is exploring, experiencing, and sharing the process of personal growth as a facilitator and educator.

Organized classes can convey a certain amount of information, but direct experience, where you’re held accountable to a high standard by nature itself, really makes the lessons stick, and the most impactful learning often comes from the realization that you arrive at upon returning to the outside world. Classes may be convenient, but they remove the accountability of direct experience, where you’re forced to use your integrity and will to survive.

I might never have realized this perspective if it were not for the teachers and educators I encountered at Living Wisdom and later.

The chance to try with your hands and your heart is not commonly given in most schools. The chance to try while being inspired and supported by self-assured, competent leaders is a unique and powerful way to find your interests, your abilities, and yourself. The leaders at Living Wisdom School were the ones who inspired me to know the impact we can truly have on our own lives and the lives of others. They are my role models, and now the wilderness is my classroom.



Keith Ross, Commercial Pilot

Keith flies for MC Aviation, based in Santa Monica, California. He graduated in 2005 from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with a major in aeronautical science and a minor in meteorology. He was interviewed by Susan Dermond, director of the Living Wisdom School in Portland, Oregon and Keith’s fifth-grade teacher.

Susan: What do you remember about your experience at Living Wisdom School?

Keith: It was all fun. I entered in fourth grade and attended LWS through eighth grade. Of course, like any kid I enjoyed the field trips best. But I remember all of the personal interactions and the friendships with teachers and students.

Susan: What do you think were the advantages of the education you received at LWS?

Keith: The small class size. It meant that we got lots of individual attention. I remember the caring of the teachers and the encouragement to be who you are.

Susan: Was high school difficult after Living Wisdom School?

Keith: No. I graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade-point average.

Susan: Did you notice any differences between yourself and the other kids you met in high school and college that you attribute to your training at LWS?

Keith: Oh, yes. I feel that I’ve really found myself, mentally, spiritually, and career-wise, and I feel that I did it at a younger age than most people.



Gita Matlock
Leadership Coach (

Gita attended Education for Life schools from pre-school to eighth grade. She has worked in non-profit fundraising for thirteen years, after earning a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s in Nonprofit Administration.

Q: What do you see as the advantages of Living Wisdom School?

Gita: I learned life skills and tools to succeed both in higher education and life. The meditation and centering practices taught me to focus and be calm. The relationships with adults helped me transition very easily into the working world, and the values stick with me in all my decisions.

Q: Was high school difficult after attending LWS?

Gita: No, it was very easy. I knew all I needed to know about how to get my work done and communicate with my teachers and classmates. Most of us who came from LWS ended up in the honors classes in our high schools.

Q: Did you notice any difference between yourself and the other kids you met in high school and college that you attribute to your education at LWS?

Gita: Yes! Many of the kids couldn’t relate well to adults and lacked a sense of self. Each of my friends from Living Wisdom School shares two major things in common with the others: a strong sense of self and an interest in giving back to the world.


Simon Hermann
Financial Institution Specialist at the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Simon graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University at Chico with a double major in Business and Economics. He now works as a Bank Examiner for the FDIC.

Simon travels around northern California, working with teams that analyze banking institutions’ capital, assets, management, earnings, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk.

It’s a job that requires considerable flexibility, since he constantly needs to change roles and responsibilities from bank to bank, weekly or monthly, depending on the current assignment.

Simon says his work involves “the review of banks’ sensitivity to market risk. This review includes reviewing the assumptions and outputs of statistical models and simulations. How non-maturity deposit accounts react to changing interest rates is a large part of most model assumptions and is often measured through some form of regression analysis. I also need to understand the economy that our banks operate in.”