PARENTS OFTEN ASK what they can do to help prepare their child for entering gurukula, a Krsna conscious school. Some parents first ask this question when the child is about four years old, but many parents begin preparing their child from the earliest years.
Fortunate is that child who has been exposed to a Krsna conscious way of life from birth, and even more fortunate is one who has also attended a Krsna conscious nursery or preschool. A natural, gradual training over an extended period of time works best. The parent and teacher should work together to lay the best possible foundation for the child's entrance into school.
Some years ago the teachers at a New York gurukula prepared a list of prerequisites for children entering gurukula. The list included items that would also apply to children entering a secular school, such as being respectful and knowing how to dress themselves. But here's the list boiled down to suggestions for preparing children specifically for a Krsna conscious school:
1. Bring children regularly to the temple for morning services, or perform the same services in your own home.
2. Teach children the proper behavior for the temple. A child should know how to offer obeisances, offer respect to the Deity, chant prayers to the spiritual master, sit quietly during the Bhagavatamclass, and so on.
3. Regulate children's eating and sleeping habits. Feed them a standard devotee diet of dal, rice, capatis, and vegetables. Avoid foods, especially grains, cooked by nondevotees. Teach children to sit while taking prasadam, and teach them the prasadam prayer.
4. If there is a Krsna conscious preschool program in your area, enroll your child in it. It will give your child a chance to develop social skills and learn many things.
5. Read often to your child, especially about Krsna and His pastimes.
6. Avoid exposing your child to nondevotional TV, videos, and toys. Srila Prabhupada said, "To artificially impose sense gratification on a young child is the greatest violence."
Nataka Candrika Devi Dasi has been teaching in ISKCON preschools and elementary schools for the last twenty-two years. She lives in Alachua, Florida, USA, with her husband, Radha-Damodara Dasa, and their three children.