Qualities we value in ourselves as teachers, parents, and children are:
- Honesty and straightforwardness with ourselves and others
- Respect for all beings
- Concentration and self-discipline
- A sense of resourcefulness and inspiration to work with our minds, emotions, experiences and the situations we encounter in the world
- Awareness of impermanence and the flexibility to respond skillfully to change
- Awareness of interdependence and the opportunity to observe this interconnectedness between all beings
- Awareness of cause and effect and the opportunity to experience the link between the two
- Awareness of the joy and benefit in periods of stillness
In Tibetan folklore the young and powerful Snow Lion leaps over snowy mountain peaks vibrantly and without a trace of dull mind. With all senses and perceptions clear and wakeful, each thing the Snow Lion meets leads to a deeper curiosity and joy for life. In Tibetan Buddhist cultures, the Snow Lion represents unconditional cheerfulness, a mind free of doubt, and a natural sense of delight.
Snow Lion began in the autumn of 1995 as a small playgroup of three children. Soon, word of our little home based school spread and several months later, we had a full class. After years of leasing, we found a permanent home for our school in 2014. Initially the building and grounds were run-down but with amazing vision and effort by the Snow Lion community, the environment was transformed. We currently have an older class for 2.5-6 year olds and a younger class for 1.5-3 year olds. The younger class is affectionately known as the Snow Cubs. Student teacher ratio in the older class is about 7.5:1 and 4:1 in the younger group.
Children at our school come 2-5 days per week, Monday through Friday. Parents choose their children’s schedules (which days and 1/2 or full day) on an individual basis. We have a mixed-age group program. Mixed age groups resemble families and create a village quality to our classes with each child and developmental group filling a niche that benefits the group as a whole. Children’s social skills, knowledge base, and abilities broaden as they interact with others whose knowledge and abilities are similar yet not identical. In a mixed age group, children are able to develop at their own pace and always have peers who are developing at their level, regardless of their age. The children develop a deep sense of community as they move through the passage of being the youngest, observing and benefitting from the confidence and skills of older children, and then developing into being the class elders themselves.
Seasonal celebrations and parent teacher conferences encourage the individual families at Snow Lion to come together as a delightful community. The genuine relationships that grow over time greatly enrich the children’s experiences together. We encourage families to keep their children at Snow Lion for their entire early childhood education so they have the opportunity to experience the fruition of being a part of our school.
Although we have an outwardly non-academic program, our children are very well prepared for elementary school. We do not formally “teach” but provide an environment where children naturally grow and expand their minds and skills as they play. Math, linguistics, fine and gross motor skills, practical life knowledge, and many other bases for learning are established when information is not imposed onto children’s minds but instead is drawn out of their experiences and basic intelligence.
We are often asked by parents of older Snow Lion children about how what we are doing will prepare their children for Kindergarten. One of the most amazing strengths of these early years of life is our children’s ability to use their imaginations without limit. The greatest gift we can give children in these first five or six years of life is freedom to play and freedom to expand their minds through their own self-led exploration of the world. We know from experience, also corroborated by current research, that broad expansive play in the first years of life later leads to the ability to stretch one’s mind with broad expansive cognitive skills. Letters, numbers and concepts will all be mastered swiftly when the time is right, but these few short years of magical play-based learning can never be recaptured. We want children to leave their time at Snow Lion with a strong connection to their senses. We want them to leave our little nest with great confidence, relaxation with themselves and others, and an ability to communicate well. These are the qualities that will serve as a platform upon which they will build a meaningful education.