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The Light in Each Moment

Written by BMS teacher, Hari Berzins.

The last day of school before Winter Break is challenging for a teacher. The kids are fired up! (Change fires anyone up, doesn’t it?) A few days before break began, Shelly sent an email to staff asking for help setting up for and cleaning up after our Winter Celebration, which is on the last day of school for the year. I was tired just thinking about putting more items on my to-do list. I offered to bring the fire but hardly thought I’d be staying long enough after the celebration to help with cleanup. On this last day before Winter Break, it would be easier for all of us to say, “Oh, never mind, let’s just do popcorn and a song after school.” That’s the worn-out me thinking.

It’s dark now. I’m alone in the Zion Lutheran Church parking lot lighting a fire in my portable fire pit. Lighting fire calls my attention to the moment. It was a challenging day. It took a lot out of me to navigate the energies of twelve 5- & 6-year-olds on the day before a long holiday. But I have what it takes—my breath. Deep, slow breaths help me tune into the students and the needs of each moment. We moved through our day with calm and ease. Being mindful keeps me in the present moment, and it’s a wonderful moment.

The fire is going now, and cars are pulling in. It’s almost time. I imagine what it took for us as a community to pull this evening off. Running home, cooking, running back, setting up the church, getting kids bundled up, leaving work early… And now we’re circled around the fire, and Andy’s picking Christmas carols on his guitar. The kids run in from the dark to join the circle. With only one or two reminders they settle in to listen. Several parents and teachers read about celebrations of light around the world.

It’s time to light the wish lanterns. Shelly explains, “It takes at least 3 adults or 1 adult and 2 big kids.” Excitement and rushing ensue. The first lantern takes flight. We watch it float effortlessly into the sky as we send silent wishes of peace with it. The third and fourth lanterns go straight to the trees across the street—a few moments of held breath—Andy climbs the tree to save them—released breath. A scary moment!

More and more lanterns fill and float. I run around the circle trying to capture the moment of release, and I’m struck by the beauty of our families—each one uniquely doing their best to peacefully parent and teach children that no matter how hard the moments get, we can release them with love and care. I witness the joy in blended families, co-parented families, extended families, young families, new families, all families joining to create this beautiful moment amidst the chaos of daily life and the troubles of the world.

Jagadisha rings the bell of mindfulness and reminds us that we can awake to this precious moment with every breath. Ahhh. Shelly leads us in our traditional pre-meal blessing. “Hold hands and let’s make this our longest Yum ever!” I grab the hand of the woman to my right, a new face in our circle. I delight in hearing her giggle as we chant "YUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM" and then disperse to the potluck. I introduce myself, and she tells me she’s new to Floyd. “When did you move here?” “Today!”

Yes! I landed directly in this community five years ago, and I couldn’t have landed in a more nurturing place. All my life I have longed to find a place where I belong, and now I find myself in one. Belonging is a direct result of acceptance after all. Being seen and accepted by this community has allowed me to see and accept myself and my part of the whole. I love witnessing a fellow family be welcomed and enfolded into our community.

The meal was delicious—“A good one!” says my daughter, Ella. The joy in the room was tangible. Stories and warmth filled the air, as did song. Casey, Rissy, and Jami sang as they lit the Menorah, a surprise treat.

Before I knew it, the room was empty, and I was helping with cleanup. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The worn-out me of the afternoon was replaced with an energized me happily sweeping up with my co-workers.

Thank you, Blue Mountain School, for holding us all and for teaching us that every moment holds wonder and light.

Blessings of peace and healing to our community and our world,





Come Visit the Winterfest Kids-Only Store

For the first time ever, the Jacksonville's Winterfest will have a place just for kids to do their holiday shopping! Blue Mountain School’s Kids-Only Store will feature locally-made items that kids can shop for and purchase on their own. No adults allowed! [Except store staff, of course!]

All gifts are priced under $10, with many items under $5. We hope to make these gifts affordable to our young friends, so that they can experience the joy of giving locally-made gifts to those they care about.

The store is right across from Santa’s workshop on the first floor of the Jacksonville Center and is for kids aged 4 to 12. Before you come, print out a copy of our shopping list, and you can help your kids fill it out ahead of time.

Special thanks to the Jacksonville Center for allowing us to have our store and to the following folks for donating items: Lore Deighan, David Oakes, Debbie Johnson, Warren Lapine, Starroot, Christine Tueller, Natasha Sebastian, Jennifer Newcomb, Joanne Bell, Angie Barrett, Shelly Fox Emmett, Misty & Isobel Harris, Pam Frazier, Carol & Anya Volker, Corey Avellar, and the BMS teachers and kids!

If you have items you would like to donate, there's still time! Contact Carol or call the school at 540-745-4234.

All proceeds go to the Blue Mountain School scholarship fund.





Connecting with the Broader Community

At BMS, community is one of our three core values. "We celebrate diversity in our membership and in the world. We explore Wisdom Traditions and cultural celebrations, engage in service learning, and work to contribute positively to both our local community and the larger global community." We understand the importance of community in our lives, and we work to make sure our students have plenty of opportunities to form connections with others.

One of our favorite community events is coming up next week as we gather for our Thankfulness Celebration. This will be the third year that our students, staff, friends, and family assemble at Zion Lutheran Church to rake leaves from the centuries-old oak trees. Adults and children alike work together to show our gratitude for our neighbors at Zion, and we model for each other the importance of community support. For a peek at our celebration last year, check out this article from the Floyd Press. 

While we constantly search out ways for our students to serve our community, sometimes it's the adults who are serving. This summer we were honored to provide child care at the Floyd YOga Jam. The founders of this event, Shirleyann Burgess and Laura Polant, have been a part of the Blue Mountain School family for many years. We are very grateful to Shirleyann and Laura for donating a weekend for two to YOJam 2016 for our drawing, which will take place Tuesday, November 17 at 5:00. (To enter, just donate $50 or more before by 5!)

"Floyd Yoga Jam is a three-day celebration of yoga, music, and community held in Floyd County. YOJam refreshes and rejuvenates with nationally-known yoga instructors, free classes for all ages and fitness levels, amazing fresh local food, beer and wine, hoola hoops, public art, and just plain fun!" 

Some new projects we are working on this year to help us connect with and serve our community include a pen pal project with a school in Spain, creating ornaments to decorate a tree for the Jacksonville Center's Winterfest tree auction, and making wrapping paper for the Floyd County Silver Bells program. We will also be participating in the Jax's Winterfest by opening the BMS Kids Only Store, where children between the ages of 4 and 12 can shop on their own for holiday gifts for their friends and family.

Check out some of the community projects in which we've participated in the past:

Floyd County Earth Day
Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

Growing Stronger Through Accreditation

When people learn that we are working on becoming an accredited school, they often ask two questions. First, "What is Accreditation?"

In short, accreditation is process that requires lengthy self-evaluation and reflection and requires an extensive examination by the accreditation agency of every aspect of the school for compliance with rigorous standards. After BMS is accredited, we will continue to have routine reviews to make sure we are maintaining this excellence. Completing accreditation is a priority of the Board of Trustees and staff because there is ample evidence that accredited schools are more stable and effective in meeting their goals.
Another question we frequently hear is, "Why? Blue Mountain School has been around a long time, why get accredited now?" This question is even more common when we share how much work accreditation entails.
There are many reasons for BMS to become an accredited school. All of them have to do with strengthening our school in one way or another; all of them have to do with accreditation helping us to become ourselves in a more substantial way. But one of the top reasons for becoming accredited has to do with the opportunities for connections with other schools like us that accreditation affords. Community connections provide mutual support.
Formed in 1953, the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) now has over 360 member schools. By becoming part of the SAIS community, our staff and Board will have hundreds of new neighbors. We probably won't be going on picnics or having potluck dinners with these neighbors (but who knows?). Instead, we will be sharing ideas and information and helping each other continue to strengthen our schools.
As a school accredited by SAIS, BMS will have access to these resources:
  • High-quality professional and organizational development opportunities covering relevant issues such as governance, leadership, and financial sustainability;
  • A network of independent schools through which we can communicate with other member schools about issues we may be facing and share methods we've found that work for us;
  • Grants and other types of funding specifically designed for independent accredited schools.
Relationships with other SAIS schools, just like relationships with other organizations closer to home in Floyd, give us new perspectives, provide us with more opportunities to share our unique gifts, and help solidify our commitment to our vision. The accreditation process will help us to further the development of BMS in ways yet beyond our consideration.
Blue Mountain School would like to thank the June M. McBroom Charitable Lead Trust for their support of our accreditation journey with the award of a $20,000 grant. This grant is making it possible for our school to become accredited without diverting any of our budget or fundraising efforts away from our primary mission.
We are grateful for every donation that we receive; each one matters. Thank you for supporting our school!


Donate $500, Get $325+ Back!

This year, we are able to offer you something in return for your donation that we have never been able to offer before. We are offering you the chance to decide where your tax dollars go through a special tax credit program.

As a participant in the Virginia State Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2015 tax year, Blue Mountain School is able to give you a 65% VA state tax credit when you donate at least $500 ($616 for a business).

What does this mean? For your $500 (or $616) donation, you will receive a $325 (or $400) credit on your 2015 tax return. So the true cost to you for your $500 donation is only $175.

And that doesn't include the tax benefits you'll receive for your entire donation on your federal return. De


pending on your tax bracket, you could receive 80% to 100% of your donation back through the NAP credit and federal deductions combined.

Essentially, this program directs your tax money straight to the organization you choose. To choose Blue Mountain School, click the button below.

Shopping on Amazon?

Use our link below and a portion of your sale will go towards the school!

Shop Amazon Now

Shopping at Kroger?

If you shop at Kroger, you can help BMS earn money for its scholarship fund. Our Community Rewards number is QK830.

Link your Kroger Card