"Jai Satchitanand. Good Morning. Time to wake up for meditation." Out of the fairy tale world of sleep I bring myself downstairs for my morning session with that source of all fairy tales revealed by Guru Maharaj Ji. But often as not, my meditation is interrupted after 45 minutes or so: "Mommy, I want some breakfast!", "Rrrrrr! Let's be race cars!", "Quack!, Quack! Quack! I'm a duck!" The children are waking up.
Children? All ten of them that live in the Children's House of our ashram at Shri Hans Educational in Denver. So we prepare breakfast, dress the little ones and bring them downstairs for Arti, a short meditation and some satsang. All but one have had the Knowledge revealed to them, and they all are working at being good devotees, in the style of children.
After breakfast it's service time: sweeping floors, cleaning the table, emptying wastebaskets, scrubbing the bathroom sink. With only a few minutes to play, the sound of the school bell sends the children running across the street to the minischool Shri Hans Educational has been running this year. The small schoolbus arrives and the children's classmates from the premie community in Denver clamber out for school.
There are five small classes in operation this year: two nursery classes, a first grade, a sixth grade and a ninth grade - thirty children in all and a teaching staff of eleven adults. Next year it is hoped that the school can be expanded to include grades one through seven.
Let's follow the sixth grade girls through an (imaginary) school day: The morning opens with a recitation (with motions) of the class's morning verse:
When I look into the Sun
I thank God's Spirit
When I move my hands
Lives in me God's Soul
And so it is also
In my father and mother
In all loving people
In the flowers and trees
In the birds, beasts and stones
Never will fear reach me
When I thank God's Spirit
hen I live in God's Soul
When I move in God's Will
For two hours, the main lesson block, Mr. Horner tells the girls about Greek mythology, which is the subject of this week's block. The class listens to the mythological tales, perhaps writes, paints or dramatises scenes from them and hears a little about their background in ancient Greek civilisation. After a fruit juice snack and a fifteen minute recess, the class reconvenes for their music class. They are learning to read music, sing in harmony, and make and play small flutes out of bamboo. The lunch hour begins at 11.45. Afterwards, the sixth graders return to class for lessons in the two foreign languages they are learning, French and Hindi. Then it is time for crafts class; right now the girls are learning embroidery. This school day closes as the children go outside for their weekly class in gardening.
Two and a half hours later all ten children and their houseparents gather back at the Children's House to sit together in a circle, holding hands and meditating before dinner. At the dinner table one of the children speaks the dinner prayer:
God within and God without
God in Nature round about
To Your Holy Word we cling
Thanks and praise to You we bring
For light of sun and warmth of earth
That takes the seeds and gives them birth
To grow the fruits and grains and leaves
That bless our table on this eve.
There is some playtime after dinner. Then the childr begin their evening bedtime routine: bath, herbal tea snack, the telling of a story, arti, meditation and sleep.
This is also the time when two nights a week the children's adult brothers and sisters in the ashram go to "school". That is, they participate in teacher training sessions, largely oriented around understanding and learning to practice the Waldorf approach to education. Or one night a week a workshop is held for parents in the Denver premie community to give helpful suggestions and familiarise them with our approach to child care. Or perhaps, if it is a Saturday night, the children will attend a children's satsang program here at the ashram for the children of Denver area premies. So it goes with life at Shri Hans Educational, and by His grace we work towards a larger school and child service next year.
(Reprinted from Divine Times, Denver)