Peaceful Heart Preschool: A Deeper Look
Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga in the classroom
Peaceful Heart Preschool is focused on the education of the whole child. To balance our society's focus on "mental body", we strive to educate the Physical, Emotional and Energetic bodies. We are aware of our feelings and use them appropriately to ask for what we want, to communicate our experience to others and to make boundaries. We learn to sit still with ourselves in meditation to learn first hand "who we are" and how we feel beyond the mind. We practice awareness and empowerment of our "energy body" through concepts like a "magic magnet", imagining roots like a tree, and breathing love into our hearts, then out to others. Most importantly, I teach from the heart of my own yoga practice; from my intuition. Yoga simply means "union": When what you think, feel, say and do are all aligned. I sit in the stillness of my heart and listen carefully to the children in order to guide them. The classroom environment is one of integrity, awareness of self and others, truth, compassion and acceptance.
Peaceful Heart Preschool's main intent is to promote confidence, joy, adaptability, resilience and groundedness through the exploration of yoga, meditation and mindfulness and to foster social and emotional intelligence and ease.
We explore the letters, their sounds and blending of sounds into words using "Animated Literacy" which teaches using a verb (bow, juggle, fish) and a motion to connect a sound to a letter. Young children more easily connect with the sounds of the letters and the motions associated with a verb make longer lasting connections in the brain.
Numbers / Math
We practice 1:1 correspondence in counting and begin identifying written numbers on a daily basis in the 3yo class. We count up to 100, practice reading and writing double digit numbers and do basic addition and subtraction in the 4/5yo class.
Following the interests of preschool children, we will focus our extra lessons on the external and internal natural environments by studying the earth and its creatures (external) and our own bodies (internal). These are intimately connected in the study of Ayurveda (sister science to yoga): when we connect to the earth's rhythms and the wisdom of nature, we have greater health. We may explore rivers and blood vessels; roots and groundedness (focus, balance, steadiness); electricity and the nervous system; fire and the digestive system.
What is a "Yoga-Inspired Preschool?"
Yoga in a larger sense - beyond fitness
The world uses many languages to describe very similar experiences. The language of Yoga has "clicked" with me the most, so it is an organizational term I use. The translation means "union" or "yoke" and the evolving field of yoga is one of diversity, personal expression and constant evolution. I often ask, "what is your yoga?" as yoga to me is about finding an authentic and joyful expression of self that is truly your own.
How do I see this playing out in preschool?
- As a framework for "yoking" together (working together) with friends to build community.
- A way to experience the interconnectedness of body and mind as our children are growing up in a mind-dominated culture.
- Demonstrating greater compassion for all things - self, others and the earth.
- Teaching awareness of body, emotions and mind - thinking before acting and realizing where emotions live in the body and how to "move" them.
- Strength, balance and flexibility practiced in the body also creates these attributes in all aspects of daily functioning.
- How children express themselves is innately beautiful.
- I teach and "hold space" from the heart of my own practice. Children learn through demonstration.
Most importantly, a yoga based preschool means that the teachers are immersed in the study of yoga. That becomes the guiding force behind what we create - hence the children are immersed in the practice as well. Young children learn so much from us without words - by imitating and in an energetic sense, they develop their own body "frequencies" based on the vibrations around them. I also offer them a language to use to understand their inner workings from feelings to energy.
I teach from my experience with mindfulness, yoga and intuition. I have goals for subject matter and create experiences to reach those goals, then I allow the endeavor of learning to belong to the children. When they express interest in something, we follow it. I serve as a guide and a grounding force to hold space for their explorations. It is only through our own innate motivation that anything of value is ever accomplished, as it is with children. I offer the "answers" when they ask the "questions", rather than giving answers to questions they have not yet asked.
Emotional Awareness and Empowerment
Each yoga pose we do carries a lesson for life too - "Warrior" to feel brave, "Child" to feel nurtured and "Tree" to find our grounding and steadiness. We also have a new breath for each letter of the alphabet! These fun breaths are used as tools for different scenarios:
- Peace breath, to feel relaxed: with an exhale, whisper the word "peace"
- Laughing breath for releasing tension: inhale up tall and exhale with a loud "ha-ha-ha" and swipe the floor, folding forward
- The "Quack Shake" is a way to shake off resentment: breathe in and exhale as you shake your body and say "quack, quack, quack" We do this because we've learned from the ducks, who shake their whole bodies after getting in a fight with another duck, rather than holding a grudge.
Movement / Body-Mind Connection
It also means that we move a lot! We use sign language and gestures that go along with letter sounds (animated literacy curriculum) and for communication, keeping the mind and body in sync. We practice yoga postures to increase body awareness, confidence, flexibility, strength, focus and coordination and to develop healthy brain development.
What a day looks like
Every school day I send out an email about our day! Here's an example from the 3 year old class (names changed for privacy):
Circle: We sang some of the Animated Literacy characters' songs, Baby Beluga and Mister Sun with me on guitar and kiddos on other instruments. We took a peace breath and put our hands on different places on our bodies that needed some extra love (very easy, effective hands on healing technique!) and played a mindfulness game: With hands behind their backs, each child received an object, but couldn't look at it! Each then had a turn to describe what they felt and guess what it was before bringing it out. We learned descriptive words, patience, describing rather than labeling and worked on connecting the touch sensation to language centers.
We spent some time with counting today! We played a game where we counted how many animals were in each cage in the zoo, then went to get that many pieces of food to feed them. We counted in the books we read and in Vinnie Vulture's story about hide and seek.
Animated Literacy: Vinnie Vulture "vanishes" when he plays hide and seek. His gesture is to pull his wings (our arms) over his face as he says his sound /v/. Help your child remember these sounds by practicing each letter's gesture! We worked on writing a V by connecting two dots at the top of the page to one at the bottom of the page. Then they (expertly!) cut out a big V and turned it into a vulture by adding a head, beak, neck and feathers (how it was done was up to them!)
Movement: We ran in place in many funny ways (large, silly, like a dog, with one leg...) and wiggled and jumped around to get our blood moving, then acted as dinosaurs in a song about marching around the world to keep it flat. We "climbed a ladder" to the moon where we turned into a Quarter Moon and then "Reached for the Sun" (reach up, grab some "sun" and put it somewhere in your body while saying "ha!") All of these poses are immune boosting as it stretches the side body, increasing lymph function. Back on earth we rooted ourselves to the earth as a Tree and then Great Blue Herons (balance). We turned our selves into Peanut Butter and Fish sandwiches with the fish that we caught as Great Blue Herons by saying "Peanut Butter toes, PB ankles, etc. as we spread PB all the way up to our heads before folding in half in a forward bend.
Snack: carrots, raisins, bananas, foccacia (from Le Petit). At snack each kiddo did something nice for the rest of us spontaneously! "John" put out bowls while we were still washing hands, "Sarah" brought "Billy" another spoon after I borrowed his, and "Billy" offered the last piece of bread to "John"! I've been focusing on encouraging the kids by asking how it felt to do such a nice thing, rather than giving praise that makes it about me ("I'm so happy you did that") I loved this concept, based on the book "Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community (I highly recommend this book, it was amazing!!).