Head & Heart: Preface

Shhhhh. Let’s lower our voices. After all, we wouldn’t want to embarrass the educational establishment by suggesting that a tiny school in northern California first discovered solutions forty years ago to the “overwhelming” problems facing schools today.

The Living Wisdom Schools are based on an almost ludicrously obvious insight – that children who are shown how to bring their hearts and minds to the process of education will thrive, each at his or her own level.

In recent years, the authors of books such as The Happiness Advantage and Beyond Measure have spearheaded a rebellion among parents who, in the words of Beyond Measure author Vicki Abeles, are intent on “rescuing an overscheduled, overtested, underestimated generation.”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, found while mentoring hundreds of Harvard undergraduates that the most successful did not match the stereotype of the typical academic grinder – the pale and wan kid who buries himself in the library stacks, intent on carving out top grades by sheer force of will. The students who earned top grades were uniformly those who knew how to be happy in school. They were social, talked constantly about their academic assignments with other students, and formed study groups. In short, they were happy people who possessed the personal skills to make their time at Harvard as enjoyable and successful as possible.

In Beyond Measure, Abeles documents the vast numbers of unhappy high school students and parents who’ve accepted the widespread but false belief that anything less than acceptance by a top-tier university spells failure.

Abeles descries the “no child left behind” dogma that imposes a standardized, one-size-fits-all curriculum on all students, regardless of their native intelligence and individual talents. She singles out those rare teachers who’ve defied the system with notable success – for example, the teacher who found that his students’ test scores rose when he decreased their homework.

Once again, let’s remind ourselves to be quiet, lest we give offence. These “new” discoveries are exciting to the teachers and parents of Living Wisdom School, because they lend weight to something they’ve known for forty years. At Living Wisdom School, we long ago bypassed the problems that are besetting schools today and dove straight into the far more productive endeavor of refining solutions that are only now beginning to be hinted at by the advocates of reform.

The Living Wisdom Schools, with their Education for Life philosophy, have avoided the trap that has led government officials and mainstream educators astray – namely the assumption that we can EITHER have brilliant, academically successful students, OR we can have happy, carefree kids who’ll never amount to much in their lives.

The Living Wisdom Schools have shown that we can have both – that we can teach children to be spectacularly successful in both ways – in school and life. We’ve shown beyond any possibility of doubt that it’s possible to have happy, enthusiastic, bright, positive kids who love their academic subjects and excel at them.

We’ve shown that it’s possible to create a school where it is not uncommon for the kids to actually beg us, at the end of the school year, to find a way to make the school year last year-round. (I know, I know – it baffles us, too!)

This book reveals the methods that have made the Living Wisdom Schools so outstandingly successful. In the words of teachers, parents, students, and academics, it presents an earthy, practical approach for transforming education and nurturing happy children who excel in academics and life. Our students look forward to coming to school every day – read on and discover why.

NOTE: We’ve included hyperlinks in the text. They are, of course, active in this online version of the book. You can also download a free PDF version of the book with active links that you can click to visit the referenced pages. And you can purchase a printed (or Kindle) version of the book on Amazon. (Link to come; we are currently finalizing the publishing process. The Amazon version should be available after Tuesday, November 8, 2016.)

The contents of this book are primarily drawn from the experience of the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto, California, which was founded in 1987. They reflect the  philosophy that also guides the original school in Nevada City, California, as well as the schools in Portland, Oregon, and Ljubljana, Slovenia.