In 1917 the model for future Education for Life schools was founded in Ranchi, India, by Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi. He described some of his ideas in two documents, the Psychological Chart and the The Balanced Life, along with chapter 27 of his autobiography. After Yogananda was called to the United States, the school flourished for several years, but gradually lost its focus without the direct guidance of its founder.
J. Donald Walters
In 1972 a fortuitous confluence of events made it possible to revive Yogananda’s educational ideals. J. Donald Walters, a close American student of Yogananda’s, had founded Ananda, the first World Brotherhood Colony, along the lines suggested by Yogananda. The families that gathered there were eager to provide their children with a school based on the principles from Ranchi.
That same year, Nitai Deranja arrived at this new community near Nevada City, California. Nitai had earned an MA in education and a California teaching credential, but had been uninspired by his work in the public school system. He was eager to explore these new concepts of spiritual education.
That first year there were six students, ages four to eight. The school grew gradually and by 1986 had ninety students in preschool through eighth grades. Week-long Parent/Teacher Training Seminars were launched in the summer of 1976, and in 1979 Nitai finished the Art of Joyful Education, the first printed description of the Ananda Schools.
Education for Life Book
In 1986 Mr. Walters published a major work, Education for Life, a book which describes the principles that Yogananda developed in language that is attuned to the modern Western audience. The book was launched at a weekend program at Ananda Village, attended by over 150 people. Walters emphasized that the principles described in the book are non-sectarian and could be broadly applied.
Education for Life Expands
In 1992 the second Living Wisdom School was started in Palo Alto, California in response to the request of parents there. The next Living Wisdom School was founded by Susan Dermond in Portland in 1997. Again, the desire of parents for conscious education was the impetus that led to the school’s founding. In the mid-nineties, Nitai began working with Irene Schulman to explore ways of serving the will years, ages 12 to 18. By 1997 they had started a boarding high school, first for girls, then including boys three years later. In recent years new schools have been established in Assisi, Italy, Seattle Washington, and Ljubljana, Slovenia. This period also saw the publication of two books that give many examples of how Education for Life can be implemented in the classroom and home: For Goodness’ Sake by Nitai and Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan.
Education for Life Movement
Education for Life International was incorporated in 1998 to support the schools and share the EFL principles with all interested educators and parents through the Educators for Higher Consciousness and Families for a New Tomorrow programs. Usha offered the first online teacher development class during the 2009-10 school year, reaching students from three continents and five countries. These classes continue today.