To integrate the gentle, nurturing spirit of change and growth into academics, creativity and consciousness.
The Story (Philosophy) of Chinook Spirit Children’s Academy
In the diverse, desert city of Albuquerque, during the fall of 2009, two National Board Certified Teachers, who were friends, became moms. Their daughters were just three weeks apart. The girls grew to a preschool age, and these educator moms began thinking ahead to which kindergarten they would consider for their daughters. The spiritual principles they believed in as individuals had amplified in importance as parents, and they quickly learned that the dream school they wanted for their daughters did not exist in their area; if it was that important to them, then it was theirs to create.
–Henry David Thoreau
So they began. They believed that if they dreamed it, spoke of it, put it on paper, and affirmed it in prayer, then it would be manifested. The words, “This or something better,” as spiritual teacher, Mary Morrisey, says became their expectation.
They hit obstacles, unexpected bumps in the road. The first one or two were challenging. Fear wanted to rear its ugly head and make them doubt. They put fear aside and replaced it with faith, faith in believing that they were on the right path for them, their family, and many families to come. Before long, obstacles were welcomed as opportunities to realize their strength, to reaffirm time and again how important this school is for children.
Children are born with gifts, talents far beyond the basic five senses, ways of knowing their world and knowing their soul. We all have access to these abilities to know. Intuition. Creativity. Imagination. Will. Memory. Deep connection with animals and nature. The ability to heal. What happens generally is that these spiritually wise young people go to school, and society teaches them the ways of the world, putting their spiritual knowings back on the shelf. It’s inevitable, learning the ways of the world, so we are not proposing full sheltering from such realities. We are proposing that our children learn the ways of the world through the lens of a spiritual being, of using their intuition to interpret and navigate the world around them. Rather than letting those gifts and senses be placed at bay in early childhood, why not create a learning environment in which their abilities can be nurtured through application? Why not let them grow?
For young children, it’s a simple lesson: “Listen to your heart. What does your heart say?” At a young age, children can learn to accept negative emotions such as fear, sadness and anger without using them to guide their decision making. Nothing is coincidence, and for children, school is life. When life happens at school for a child, we want our children to learn from this life experience, to not judge the persons involved, but accept them as teachers in this life.
We teach the whole K-8 child, from spirit to intellect. We differentiate instruction so that the needs of each learner are met in a manner which is developmentally appropriate. We follow national standards, so our curriculum is competitive with other schools and states. We teach thinking, so students become, no, so students remain the problem solvers and critical thinkers that they were born as. Students will learn to follow their own creative consciousness, and in turn, they will have a genuine interest in finding their own truths about their world and themselves.
Childhood is for learning both academic lessons and life lessons. We celebrate those learning opportunities, as we are all here to learn from each other and ourselves. Life is our classroom. We are building a school where children will be able to learn in loving harmony, where each spirit is honored and respected as both teacher and learner. Through education, we are helping kids find their soul path.
The Dalai Lama has a beautiful vision about raising the consciousness of our world, one that we embrace fully: “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Two teacher-moms, who thankfully had each other to lean upon, started with a dream for a change in choice on how their children were educated. The warm Chinook wind of change blew their way, and seeds of growth are being planted, one by one.
A Note About Multiage Instruction
The K-8 school is held in a multi-age setting, which means that all ages of students often learn together via whole group, small group, or individually. This is our preference as teachers and as parents. We strongly value this approach because it is the utmost example of “community of learners.”
Learners collaborate about the topic at hand and naturally extend that topic to the level that suits that learner. The nature of the curriculum is open, so students are always be able to “catch” and apply information at the level which is applicable to him/her. The next time that information cycles around, it is understood even deeper. The information is learned at a level which is developmentally appropriate.
From a spiritual and “Life is Our Classroom” perspective, opportunity for application of spiritual lessons is constantly present as students learn to be helped by another, to be the helping person, to give wait time, and more. At times, students are employed as “experts,” which surely gives confidence and leadership opportunities. At other times, students accept that they are the learner, that we all have strengths and growth areas, which we embrace and love about each other. The world is comprised of all ages, levels, talents and interests. Our classroom represents the world.
In 2015, our 2nd year in operation, CSCA expanded from K-5 to K-8. Our 6 th – 8 th grade model is one of a nurturing extension of the elementary years. This allows the pre-teen to learn in a family-structured, multi-age atmosphere, without the need to feel like growing up rapidly. We use Common Core State Standards and New Mexico standards to guide curriculum selections. Due to our multi-age classroom and small group approach, the instruction will continue to be differentiated to each student’s needs. Part of the criteria for a 6th-8th grader to be enrolled at CSCA is that his or her personality lends itself to our nurturing model, one that considers all ages of learners with compassion and respect.