Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"

Friday, February 3, 2012

" A week together"

 Many times I have been asked about the philosophy at our Living Wisdom School and how this compares to other systems of teaching. I want to draw you to an excellent article that was written on our Living Wisdom Website. It compares Waldorf and Montessori education along with the Education for Life system.

Mostly in this blog I am focusing on Early Childhood education and the Foundation years though the Education for Life systematic approach. 

Today's set of photos above were taken throughout last week and the overall approach towards balancing all aspects of a young child's life in each lesson.

The foundation years from 0 – 6 years old are a critical period in the development of a child’s life. During this time, a child’s attitude about the world takes root.  Our job is to carefully nurture qualities of curiosity, sensory awareness, concentration, and compassion so that the children may feel a deep sense of acceptance towards themselves.  By focusing on mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of development, we foster the child’s cognitive and physical growth while strengthening the inner qualities of love, kindness and joy. In this way, the children naturally develop a sense of inner happiness and success.

 Teaching math using the Physical body.

The children are all turning 4 in my classroom and love playing games together. 

   The foundation years are also called, the physical years. During this period the children learn through through movement and their bodies. This particular activity we were using dice and cubes. Though on occasion there were fun times where the dice ended up way across the room. Then carefully carried the dice back and counted the dots on the dice.
This game corresponded with number recognition and one to one counting.
The children counted their dots on the dice and then counted out individual unifix cubes. The unifix cubes are shown in the picture above.   After counting correctly their cubes, they would manipulate, put into patterns and long towers. For some of the children they moved continuously as they counted the dots. That was the main reason for doing this project on the floor. One of the students was so visual that he could just open his hand and grab the amount automatically from the pile.  
This game gave me some further insight into which students were my visual learners, which were my physical learners, and which children were practicing using their will to make the largest tower.  There are many levels to the game, but today we started out with a simple counting game. The next level is to teach patterns and adding two dice together. 
In my classroom I set my goals for drawing out certain inner qualities that the children can experience from each lesson. Today the lesson was calling forth patience and cooperation in waiting for their turn. 

Teaching Art through Feeling and Will Power During the Physical  Years. 

Art is another way the children can get in touch with their hearts and inner feeling during the physical years.   In January I like to focus on helping the children to expand their own realities out in nature with a sense of wonder.  It is one of my favorite times of the year with many beautiful memories.

Often I ask the children, "What is happening to the animals in the wintertime?"
It is one of my favorite times of the year with many beautiful memories.
I have explored with children the wonder of the bald eagles, beavers, northwest owls and crows. Working with young children you just never know what might happen or which animal calls to their inner natures.
 This is the picture book that I use every year to introduce the concepts of habitats, animals, humans, weather and food. The children love the story, Stranger in the Woods.

This week we finished  creating our felted animal masks. Each child made a different animal from the winter forest in the picture book. We play several games using our masks, creating stories and homes for the animals.

Teaching art through the feeling and the use of their own will power.
 In the picture above selected a winter animal picture that was clipped beside their poster paper. They began drawing with a pencil the animal that that they had chosen. (There are several steps leading up to this assignment. The children the week before had really practiced their circle drawings.)

They mixed their own colors using a color wheel and added texture to their backgrounds using sponges or several types of brushes. This particular activity is a way to balance the heart's natural love for animals. If a child becomes agitated at any particular moment, we change directions or complete the painting the next day. But even if it takes several days, I always want the children to finish a painting project.  Will Power is taught at an early age to develop persevering and to conclude something that one has initially attempted. As children grow older I talk to them about how many master artists work on more than one painting at a time and may work for months and years to complete one painting.

There is a deep profound lesson that I have seen over the past 7 years that I have taught children how to use their own will power to achieve something that they have started.  It is amazing and brings tears to my eyes each time. Each one of these young children has such intelligence and wonder they can access if we can just begin to grasp their attention and guide them through the process of becoming self-achievers. In this activity, they often break through their own fears and explore deep within themselves the ability to achieve what they set their minds to do. 

Feeling inner joy

On this particular morning, our hearts were open to creating snowmen.  It was our first day back from school after a Northwest winter snow storm. This particular morning we shared many snow family stories and had a joyful time with our winter play dough.  This exercise was also taken from our picture story book, "Who's hiding in the woods."
"Joy doesn't come from outside myself but from within oneself." These children were feeling their inner joy today.
Teaching Gratitude, Detachment to any Certain Outcome and Will Power 
during the Physical Years.

The last activity I want to share with you today for children in the physical years is a game to help them flow with the ups and downs of life, learning perseverance, gratitude and detachment from any certain outcome. This was the first time I had actually done this particular game using puzzles. I had for many years done it with art materials, but now I thought to experiment with puzzles. One of our inner qualities we are addressing this month is perseverance.

I set out six puzzles for six children. We started to play soft music in the background. They quickly began to focus in on completing their own puzzle. When the music stopped, they were to stop and go to their neighbor’s chair and complete their puzzle. When they finished a puzzle, they could dump it out and start over.  This was interesting to watch the children. Some of them completed their own puzzle quickly and were eager to get to the next station. Others did not want to move, or complete the game at all. Two children ran around the table after most of the children had left, eager to complete all the puzzles while helping each other. One student wanted me to take photos of him with all his puzzles to show his mom how well he had completed them.

It was a joyful experiment for me to watch and to observe each child. As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to help children uplift their feeling energy.  I often have the time to ask myself during a planned activity, "Where are their strengths and how can I build upon those strengths?"

Education for Life philosophy has given me the tools to tune into each individual child’s energy and readiness and respond sensitively at any given moment. This sensitivity is particularly important during the physical years, so I am truly humbled and grateful to be able to use such an effective philosophy.

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