I spent years wishing and hoping for a baby without success. I started to wonder if I would ever be a mother. So when, miracle of miracles, I finally became pregnant at age 40 and gave birth to first one son and then another a little less than two years later, I was overjoyed.
I was so grateful and was determined to give these children the best upbringing I could.

When I was still pregnant with my oldest son, my husband and I formed a study group with other parents to learn about different types of education. I knew even then I didn’t want to send him to just any old school but that I wanted to carefully consider my options.

It was during a visit to Grass Valley that we first learned about Ananda Village. We were looking through the local paper for things to do when we heard about a Christmas caroling performance at Master’s Market. When we arrived with our children, then 1 and 3, someone asked us if we were interested in the school. “What school?” we asked.

Intrigued, we made an appointment to come back another day and tour the Living Wisdom School, founded more than 40 years earlier. I remember being struck by the stunning beauty of the wooded hilly campus and the rustic playground. We both knew about Paramhansa Yogananda and had read Autobiography of a Yogi but it never occurred to us that there might be a community of people dedicated to living his teachings and applying them in education.

At the same time, I was struck by how far out in the country Ananda Village was and I wondered how we could ever afford to send our children to a private school. I filed it away in my mind as a nice idea but not realistic for us.

A few months after that, we went on a long-planned year-long trip of North America with the kids. It was the fulfillment of a dream that we had to tour national parks. My husband recently retired as a college administrator and I was a freelance journalist so we were free to roam as we wanted. Along the way, we visited any progressive schools we could find. Our favorite at the time was the Waldorf schools because of their spiritual focus and their emphasis on childhood and preserving beauty.

We liked Grass Valley a lot and figured we would land there and enroll our kids in the free local Waldorf-inspired charter school. But something about the Living Wisdom School stuck with both of us. While we stayed in an Airbnb rental in Grass Valley trying to figure out our next move, we continued to visit Ananda Village.

It seemed so difficult to move there. There was a shortage of housing and we would be far away from job opportunities for me if I ever wanted to try a more conventional job again (I had previously worked for years as a newspaper reporter). I remember sharing these concerns with an Ananda resident. He said something to the effect of – if this is the right thing for us to do, he was confident opportunities would open up for us.

More and more, it became clear to me and my husband that this was the best choice for our children and we should make it happen. We were impressed by the quality of the teachers, who lived their spiritual values and had meditation practices. We could see how wonderful it would be to put our children in a place where kindness and being a good person was a top value, not something to fit in on the side after everything else. We were thrilled that they would learn meditation and yoga as part of the curriculum. The tuition, while obviously more than a free public school, was low compared to other private schools we had investigated.

The choice made, we changed our lives and decided to move out to the San Juan Ridge so our children could benefit from this unique education. As our friend predicted, we were able to find the perfect house for us despite the challenges.  I was able to find enough freelance writing work to have a decent part-time job and still be able to spend a lot of time with the children.

We have never regretted this choice. The boys immediately loved and still love the Living Wisdom School. My oldest son, who is now finishing up second grade, recently told me he would like to attend through high school. The small school, which has had less than 50 students in our time there, feels more like a family than an institution. I often tell friends I feel like my sons are homeschooled only someone else is doing the schooling.

My boys are growing up in a place where they are treated daily with respect and love. When I take them to outside programs, they are surprised if they hear people talking sharply to each other or using derogatory words. They never hear anything like that at Living Wisdom School.

Childhood is so brief and as parents, you only get one shot to make it as wonderful as you can. I am so grateful for the Living Wisdom School. I am very grateful that Ananda exists and that my children can be a part of it.

-Lisa Renner

3 Comments

  1. Lisa, your article is so heart-touching — thanks for writing it!

  2. Thank you Lisa for writing this and sharing your story. Many thanks to you and Lee for your adventuresome spirit, taking the high road, and having deep faith and trust in those values that support learning and high-mindedness. It is a blessing to have you here as a family and we are ever grateful for your contribution as a family on so many levels.
    Bless you all, nayaswami maria

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