Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"

Friday, September 27, 2013

"All the World is My Friend"

Working together

Every September I begin our year with the unit: "All the world is my friend." This is a song written by: Nayaswami Kriyananda.  This has such a broad way of introducing new friendships, cooperation and harmony in our daily activities. 
The words to the song:
All the world is my friend
When I learn how to share my love.
When I stretch out my hand and smile,
Then I live from above. 
Here is the link to the music. 

The children begin to sing this from the first day of class. I offer books, puppet plays, yoga practices, games and art activities to bring in the theme for the month. 
This year I did a few new activities in case you read my October entry from 2012. 

Felting world balls
Integration of whole body drawing with our feet. When we draw with our feet, and switch to the hands it all seems easy. We draw with play dough, sand, in the air and on each others backs. This is so exciting to be silly with our new friends. 

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. 
Sewing patterns with our friends

Harvesting sunflowers together from our school garden. 
Harvesting apples together at our Equinox celebration
Prayers together

Celebrations and parades

 This was our globe the children painted together.
One of the girls in my afternoon Prekindergarten class was coloring with our block beeswax crayons. She said to me: "These need to be cleaned." So I had told her about an idea that I heard and never thought I would have the opportunity to actually try it since I knew it might be time consuming. But we pulled out basic vegetable oil, and a small bowl.  We began to rub and rub. All the markings came off on our paper towels. It made hand made paper. It was so lovely and reminded me of all the felting projects that I love to do. I couldn't throw the paper away.

 So tore it up in small pieces and glued it as land continents on our globe.
This added another level of fun. We cut out many photos of animals that lived around the globe and glued them to our world.
The children also put a large floor puzzle together using the same principals of maps and habitats.

The mural had so many beautiful stages.

Here is the list from what a mural can accomplish in a classroom setting.

Celebration of harmony, cooperation, and joy in class. Dynamic tracing hands, right and left hands, cutting, pasting, geography, animal habitats, willingness to help others, gross and fine motor skills, sewing, sensory integration, grip control, recycling, singing , watercolor techniques, blotting, crayon resist, sponge painting, and blending.
One of the students as she helped me commented: " Wow, I had no idea, we did all that!
It is beautiful."

What a lovely way to honor our friendships and live in harmony with the world all around us.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Try it you'll like it!" New rhythms for the fall season.

Where has this month of September
actually gone?

The beginning of a new school year is filled with many projects to accomplish and new families to greet. The children need to melt their energies as one and just begin to settle into new classroom  

Last year about this same time I wrote about the change in our seasons, and rhythms with our families. If you didn't get to read it here is that entry. 

I was writing about my new habit of driving in my car to our school. 
Well this year, I am creating newer habits and have switched my impatient look at the annoying stoplights. 
Silly for me, I have always had some great moments while sitting at a stoplights.  
I have for many years prayed at a stop light for others and blessed them while I am waiting for the lights to turn green. Another more expansive thought is by trying to visualize and imagine, all the many stop lights in the world at different intersections. We are all connected at this exact moment in time, all throughout the world. You can realize the unity of people, cultures, cars and all kinds of emotions happening everywhere. Simple as it seems. Give it a try. It can brighten you day. 
I can get carried away with it and often brings me deep inner laughter and joy. 

But then as the light turns green, I am off to my next thought and moving along my way.

 So now this fall, I am changing my morning habits to embrace new rhythms.  In new ways I am changing small things as I begin each day.  I leave earlier each morning, pack my lunch the night before, prepare my veggies for my juicing the night before ,and my morning yoga/meditations are fully recharged and inspiring.  I find myself arriving totally recharged and refreshed. My day just flows beautifully.
 I think the children feel it too. It is glorious. 

 This brings me back to rhythm. What types of new rhythms are we all creating each day? Each moment?
How long does it actually take to create a new rhythm or habit? I am sure the experts have many opinions about this, but in actuality does that really matter?

I have found new habits and rhythms create enthusiasm and honestly that is how I love to start every day. 
With joyful, calm enthusiasm. This also sustains me as my inner reward to keep going everyday. 

One of the new ways of sharing on my blog for the next few months will be more photos of our activities and less writing. 

Another commitments of change this fall, is that I am retaking my Ananda Yoga Teacher Training again after 12 years. This is a thrilling time.   

There is a old saying that goes: "Try it you'll like it." 
Try some new rhythms of change. Let me know what is happening in your lives, and how your family is turning into the greater rhythm of life all around us. 

Joy to you. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

What can a yoga class look like for children and how can it benefit my child?

  What can a yoga class look like for children and how can it benefit my child?

I have been teaching Ananda Yoga to children since 2002, when I received my first training from Ananda Yoga. This was also the first year of the Living Wisdom Preschool which is now the Living Wisdom School of Seattle. Just as the school has evolved with over 50 students my yoga classes have also evolved over the years. I am now teaching 4 classes a week during the school year to about 40 students. The ages I mostly teach are ages 3-8. 

Now often I get many puzzled looks about how I can teach a 3 year old yoga but I have found teaching to the young child can be uplifting, joyful, creative, and entertaining. I believe in teaching children's yoga it is all about moving, centering, listening and creating a deeper state of calmness that a child can tune into on their own. 

So what is Ananda Yoga and how does this differ from other types of yoga techniques?

Many hatha yoga traditions are generally known for toning and stretching the muscles, building strength and flexibility. It also promotes cardiovascular health and emotional well-being and providing stress relief. Yoga also stimulates and invigorates internal organs and thus encouraging the body to heal itself and one that really helps our children is it improves concentrations and focus while increasing mental clarity. 

But Ananda Yoga also provides our children about body control and breath without force, and a gentle ease of,well being connectedness, vitality and inner joy that can help children in their daily routines. Ananda Yoga helps us tune into our bodies opening up the energy channels, that awakens the subtle life force. We learn how to move the energy inward, feel and then move it upward. The children learn the subtle ways to tense, relax, and feel their energy. 
Ananda Yoga also uses subtle affirmations with each asana. The children can memorize these and use them in their daily lives when faced with different circumstances. 

" With calm faith, I open to thy light" 
"Through mightiest storms I stand serene"

A typical yoga class can last for about 40 minutes. I begin with the flow learning. Flowing Learning created by the Sharing Nature Foundation is a simple, and natural framework that can sequence activities and teaches in a systematic way.  "Awakening Enthusiasm" Each class begins with a bell, and I say:

Now in deep faith and gratitude we come to the practice of yoga . 

 We continue with  a song, or a story with our warm up poses. This changes depending on who I may be teaching at any specific time.
After I have matched my energy to all the children, then we begin our day.
These are story cards that we may in . Each child selects a card and we carefully weave our asanas and story through the daily class.
I like to start out with easier asanas first to " Focus Attention".
In Ananda Yoga we do all the starting asanas standing up first. These asanas awaken the body and awaken the energy channels and flow in the body.

I often teach asanas each week the exact same way,and build on their strength and I tune into the asanas that are their favorites. I have found the ages beginning at age 4 the children really need to build core, upper body and upper leg strength. This helps them in all areas of their physical lives. I have found yoga strengthens their bodies to make them stronger runners for soccer, stronger upper body strength for swimming and leg strength for body awareness and control of their upper torso.

The next stage of our yoga class is "Direct Experience." These are the times of deep concentration. This can happen during our "deep relaxation" visualization journey that the children go on, a short meditation we practice together  or  a song that I sing while ringing our ending bell:  "I am rocking until I get real still "segment of our class."This is ultimate climax to the class and the ultimate joy of experiencing the deeper aspects of yoga together.

All of this is done with familiarity from week to week can be  with games, stories, puppets, story cards and songs.
I have many tricks in my magic basket from 12 years of teaching yoga,  that I share. All the  classes build on one and other/ It keeps things actively calm and calmly active.

At the very end of class I offer our" Shared Inspiration" segment of the class. This is when I pull out an muti-faceted glowing egg. We all pass our egg around as we share together the quality of the color that that the egg is releasing for us. As they hold the egg, it turns spiritual colors. The colors represent, love, wisdom, calmness, truth, healing and kindness. They love to hold the egg and share their quality their families after class .
Ananda Yoga allows the children to expand their realities outside of the classroom and share those qualities in other situations and events.

Above all of the techniques and rituals of any yoga class, it is my deepest devotion to share yoga with children. I am humbled and honored.

As we say at the end of our class:
I bow to the soul in you,
I bow to the soul in me
and together we are one.

Many Blessings,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Environment is stronger than will. Beauty in the Living Wisdom Classroom.

 The summer is slowly ending, but I can say the life of a teacher is always in clear focus.

 The past three weeks, I have been changing my classroom at the Living Wisdom School and creating my yearly curriculum. There are a few new changes in our environment.  Every item needs to be cleaned, and moved to create an uplifting foundation for the new students that arrive on Wednesday.  Some how it feels like I have been going at "turtle " pace though. I like to spend quality time in my classroom meditating, singing and actually creating some new art. This year some new felt pieces and art will be added into the classroom.

The environment is the third teacher and helps to uplift the spirit of the child. I like to prepare my classroom with soothing harmonious colors, materials and fabrics. This year especially I am focusing on beauty and calmness. Mentally I place each item in a certain location that can uplift and spark inner love, creativity, and beauty for the young child.

 I believe that children don't need a lot of unnecessary materials that clutter their environments and spaces. The materials I use are also natural woods with the elimination of  unnecessary plastic in the space. I also create all my own visuals. I don't buy teacher materials to put up all over the walls. The art on the walls, are there to stimulate children's creativity and instill the qualities that everyone can be an artist. We all have creativity deep within our beings. If I am teaching an aspect I will add my own visuals. These are just my own personal views and are very subtle to the spiritual child.

I begin imagining children playing in a certain location before the first day of school. What area will have the most children playing? What is the flow in the classroom? Are their areas that a child can play alone or with others? Are their areas for drawing, reading, and block play? Are there dark spaces? Is the lighting soft? Is every corner uplifting without clutter? Are the counters clean? Are there plenty of baskets for natural material: rocks, drift wood, and shells? Does the classroom flow with ease? Is there a space for all the materials?

I also place an importance in meeting my students before school starts. I like to bond a little with them and make them at ease with the new transition of entering the Living Wisdom School.

This past week, I added a whole new cooking area for our room and painted this picture that hangs in our reading area.  We are doing more cooking this year, so the children will be practicing along side of me while we prepare: soups, breads, muffins, fresh organic juices, and moon biscuits of course.

In the  pre-kindergarten classroom I use uplifting but soothing colors. The classroom is a nurturing space for a young child. For many children this is one of the first places away from their home. My classroom provides the bridge into a more traditional classroom. I use soft lighting, plants, flowers, crystals, and soothing colors.
This is our angel ring over their heads. 

Our classroom mural of the moon. 

I will end with a thought that a wise man said:

"No matter what work I am called upon to perform, I know there is a way to bring beauty and inspiration into it. May I always be alive to beauty and creative inspiration."

Many Blessings,