The Most Amazing Handwork

My friend, Anna Ziegner, makes the most beautiful crafts for school and home.  She makes the best–most sturdy and gorgeous crayon and pencil rolls–especially great for Waldorf Schools. She makes crayon rolls for Filana crayons, Stockmar crayons, as well as pencil rolls for Lyra Color Giants (14) or regular pencils (24).  She also makes incredible quilts, pillows, pouches, and place mats.  Please check out her Etsy Shop.  It is amazing work!  She is a true master.


Here’s the link:


Beautiful Waldorf Crafts and Household Items from my friend, Anna Ziegner


anna crayon cases

crayon case 1

anna quilt


pencil case


grey crayon cases anna

I Am Not a Computer, by Joseph Anthony

I Am Not a Computer


Joseph Anthony


“You must
unlearn what you have been programmed to believe since birth.  That software no longer serves you if you
want to live in a world where all things are possible.”


posted this on my timeline recently and with no disrespect intended to its author, I was immediately struck with antipathy
towards it.  As I reflected on why, my
feelings became clearer, as I have had similar thoughts and feelings in the
past about such ideas.  I think I have
them clear enough to share. At least, I’ll try.

I am not a
machine.  My mind is not a computer.  I much prefer to imagine my mind as a garden,
a vast network of soil, herbs and flowers, whose roots mingle with yours and
with the Divine’s.  A place of beauty and
mystery, wonder and creativity, a rich tapestry of land with golden harvests of
possibilities where the fruits of meditation, discipline, and prayer blossom to
be shared and enjoyed by all.

And that’s
just the beginning, the poetic beginning. 
Every time we compare our minds with a computer we distance ourselves
from ourselves and the natural world around us.  And the space that occupies this distance
devolves into fears, superstitions, and apathy.

My mind is
not a hard drive.  My beliefs are not
software.  My mind is not
programmable.  To keep such analogies in
our mind’s eye makes us look at the world more impersonally, less human, less
feeling.  We are no longer responsible for ourselves.  After all, someone “programmed” us. And since computers can’t program themselves then we wait, victims, until someone solves our bugs.

As a garden,
any unwanted crops may be removed. 
Sometimes weeds need removal. 
Cultivating an inner garden stirs more of a sense of devotion and life
than having to defragment your mind to remove limited beliefs.  Cultivate the flowers you want.  Graft the trees of your imagination’s orchard
with those of like-minded friends.  Grow entirely
new fruits.  The flavors and nutrients of shared ideas are limitless. 

Some might
argue that I am being nitpicky.  Perhaps
I am.  However, I believe we believe what
we say to ourselves all day long.  I
understand computers mean so much to us in today’s world.  I am very grateful for them.  I am not anti-technology.  It’s just that metaphors and analogies are
made up of words and images and these are both living things.  What images and words do you want living in
your head, your heart, and your body?  Are
you a robot?  An automaton?

You might
not think this matters, but look around you. 
Look at people as they walk the streets, ride the bus, sit around tables
at restaurants.  We rarely look at each
other nowadays. We rarely listen.  Our
ears hold ear buds, our gaze is turned downwards at little screens.  This is all due, in part, to identifying
ourselves with these machines.  We always
want to be one with ourselves and those around us.  We instinctively seek union.  And we do that with what we feel drawn, close to,
like.  And if we identify with our minds
as being portable programmable computers and hard drives, then, of course, we
would look away from one another and towards the objects of our imaginations.  

Lastly, these mechanistic images lead us away
from intimacy with the earth.  They
depersonalize us and separate us further from the planet.  And that’s the last thing our dear Mother
Gaia needs.  She needs us touching her,
believing in her, healing her, nurturing her, helping her breathe.

This moment and
this earth are not virtual reality.  This moment
and this earth carry the essence of all that we are.  They are alive.  They are ever pregnant, ever giving birth, ever absorbing the seeds of new
ideas and inspirations. If we think of them as mechanized or computerized, we
will not want to touch them or become intimate with them.  We will move further and further away and
wonder why we are lonely.

So the next
time someone says your mind is like a computer, imagine it instead like a
garden, or an ocean, a lake, a field, or a forest.  Let these images draw you closer to yourself,
to the earth, and to others.  You will be
surprised at the beauty, the fragrance, and the infinite possibilities of
oneness that bloom and spread from such active, living imaginations.

PS: Not
everything we learned as children needs to be unlearned.  The majority of our lessons still benefit us,
even the painful ones.  Plant new
beliefs, cultivate new desires, weed out any that you no longer want, but if
you uprooted them all, well, you’d have an empty garden. 

“Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” 

–Milan Kundera

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Write From Your Love: the Art of Writing Birthday Verses and Poems for Children

Write From Your Love:

the Art of Writing Birthday Verses and Poems for Children 

By Joseph Anthony


There is a
tradition in some Waldorf Schools for class teachers to write “birthday verses”
for their students—poems in honor of their students’ birthdays.  Some teachers write a new one for their
students every year (in Waldorf Schools teachers travel up through the grades
with the same group of students); other teachers select a passage from one of
their favorite poets and suit it to their particular students (that’s also a
good way to introduce students to wonderful poets they might not otherwise know
of).  Some teachers have their students
memorize their birthday verse and recite it to the class; others simply give
the poems as gifts.

I have
written hundreds of poems for children over my 17 years teaching thus far.  Birthday poems, graduation poems,
students-leaving poems, etc.  It’s one of
the funnest parts of my vocation actually. 
Not only do their birthdays and other milestones afford me opportunities
to write poetry, I love writing poems that I know will mean something to them
in that moment and hopefully, for years to come. Today I am offering a small selection
of some recent poems I wrote for my first graders. 

Now some of
you might be thinking, “I can’t write poems.” 
To that I say: Yes you can.  You
can write poems or stories, you can sing, you can draw, you can dance.  You can do anything you want to.  Leave go the old, limiting voices.  It doesn’t matter if the poem rhymes.  The only thing that matters is that you think
about, pray for, and imagine the child you’re writing for; write from your love
for that child; write from your hopes for that child; what you would love to
see that child do, become, or be; write what you would love to say to that
child—words they will treasure (imagine words you would have loved to hear from
someone that meant something to you and then write those).  Envision that child in the light and write
that vision, write FROM that vision.  Write
to heal, write to instruct and guide, write to entertain, write to enlighten. You
can write with themes from the curriculum, from nature, from your own
relationship with your students. There is no right or wrong.  Write from the heart.  Most of all have fun.

All that
said, here are a few poems for young children. In another post I’ll share ones
I wrote for teenagers.



Poems for First Graders


fledgling owl looked into the night,

And saw
that it was filled with light,

She drifted
like silence born with wings,

And touched
the heart of everything.

She knew
how to laugh and she knew how to care,

Her kindness
blessed the evening air,

She glided,
dreaming through the woods,

And made
it her mission to share the good.




with the wind, my heart is free and strong.

with the forest creatures, joining them in song.

paths of dappled wonder, breathing in the light,

I am
peaceful in myself, my thinking clear and bright.




the oak to the seed, “Dear one, dear star,

this truth: you are loved as you are,

shine and you thrive, perfectly you,

easy in knowing this wonderful truth.”




between running and dancing,

rabbit stopped to talk with the sun,

learned to breathe, and that all was well,

then he played until the day was done.




are taken care of,” said the earth to the seed,

have all of the warmth and light you will need,

comes from the world and it comes from your heart,

easy in knowing this right from the start.

will blossom and grow so please do not worry,

be who are and try not to hurry.

are held dear one in the arms of the Light,

rest now and dream through the long winter night.”





Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

On the Value of Making Mistakes, A Little Poem to Help Overcome Perfectionism

On the
Value of Making Mistakes




Dear Wonder
Child Blog Readers,

What follows
is a little poem I originally wrote 16 years ago for one of my first grade
students who would cry every time she made a mistake in her drawing books.  Since that time I have taught it to every
student I have taught—from first grade through 8th.  Whenever one of my students says, “Oh, no, I
messed up,” I say, “Spilled milk is a mess, my dear, you just made a
mistake.”  And then I start reciting this

No matter
what age you are, if you have trouble accepting yourself for making mistakes,
if you think you have to be perfect in everything you do, if you don’t allow
yourself the freedom and dignity to make mistakes, this poem is for you.  Memorize it, post it wherever it might help
you or someone else you love to remember that it is not only OK to make
mistakes, it’s part of the journey, it means you’re up and doing, taking
healthy risks. 

So have fun,
make mistakes, and remember your wonderfulness when you do.

Peace and



and Queens

By Joseph


and Queens can never grow,

mistakes to use as guides,

help us know the way to go,

gold within their heart resides.


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

I Am a Star: A Creative Visualization for Children of All Ages

I Am a

Creative Visualization

For Children

Of All


I originally
wrote this for my first graders but it can easily be applied to any age
children—even grown-ups.  It was
originally written as a song, which you’ll see (hear) in a minute.  I am presenting the visualization here as if you
are going to do it.  That way, you can
get to know it before you share it with any children in your care.  Once you have learned it and want to share it
with say, children aged 5-7, you can dovetail it with a little arithmetic study
and look at the number 5 as a living thing—it’s a star (pentagon), 

and it lives
in the center of an apple cut in half width-wise, 

and in the form of a human
being with their arms and legs outstretched.

That said,
the visualization is short yet profound, especially for those children already
carrying the idea that they aren’t good enough, or that they’re bad, stupid, or
dumb.  This little visualization, when done
regularly, will help such children (and all children) touch their innate
goodness and light.

You can do
this visualization anywhere and anytime you need to feel yourself filled with

OK, let’s
get started.

Watch this
video beginning at 4:13 so you can learn the song.  
Let yourself sing it and freely move the gestures
(or make up your own).
  Young children
especially learn with their whole body, so definitely encourage them to do the
gestures, and you can do that best by doing the gestures first and then with
the children.

The words to
the song are as follows:

I am
star with a Light in my body,

I am a
star with a Light in my mind,

I am a
star with a Light in my heart,

I shine
my Light all of the time.

I shine
for myself and I shine for you,

shine my Light in all that I think, say, and do.


a comfy place to sit or stand.

your eyes.

in slowly and deeply

your belly.

that breath a second or two.

slowly let that breath go.

that 3 or 4 times.

look inside your mind.

your star.

the star that lives in you.

has a star living in them.

your star.  See your star.

your star shining within you.

there, just behind your eyes,

there in your mind.

can feel it

in your heart.

with your star.

its Light shine in you.


your star shine

your thoughts.

your star shine

your deeds.

your star shine

the words you speak.

your star shine

all that you do.

that star.

is always with you.


star IS you.

be in silence for a few moments

your star shining within you.

open your eyes.

that you shine.

that YOU

a star.


As you go
through the day with the young children (or yourself) you’ve shared this visualization
with, you can point out times when they share star-thoughts, star-actions, and star-words.  Praise your children as they shine.  Praise yourself as you shine. 

Have fun,
and keep shining.

little light of mine….”




Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Breathe, Listen, Watch, Transcribe–the Art of Pedagogical Stories, Part One: First Day of School Jitters

Breathe, Listen, Watch, Transcribe

The Art of Pedagogical
Stories, Part One: First Day of School Jitters

I recently
got word that one of the first graders I am going to teach in the fall was
feeling nervous, full of questions, and anxious about starting school.  And as so often happens with me when I hear a
child is having some sort of issue, a story popped out.  Sometimes I share these stories with the
children, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes
they are for me to learn from and gain insights into the situation.  Other times, like this story, they are clearly
written for the child in question and need to be shared. 

This is an
example of a “pedagogical story”—a story designed to address an emotional,
behavioral, academic, or social issue that a student or class may be
experiencing.  Pedagogical stories are
wonderfully gentle interventions to meet children of all ages, especially younger
ones, at their level—the level of wide-open imaginations and open hearts.  Such stories have the ability to work their
way right into the hearts and minds of children and give the children the power
or permission to transform or resolve whatever the issue is for themselves.  Pedagogical stories honor the child’s experiences,
concerns, and struggles.  And since
children (and many adults who strive to keep this ability alive) think in
pictures, the language of the story—the language of the heart and imagination
is an ideal way to effectively reassure, inspire, comfort, redirect, and heal many
of the concerns of children.  They are a
tool that can be used by parents and teachers alike.  And while a story might be written with one particular
child in mind, it is often the case that if one child is experiencing a concern
most likely others in the class are as well.  So some stories are told for one, others for
the group.  This story, a simple yarn
about a bear cub and a bear, was written for one.

Some parents
and teachers think pedagogical stories are nice for those that can write
them.  Some believe they can’t “make up
such stories.”  They’ll say, “Oh well,
you’re a writer, Joseph, it’s easy for you. 
I just can’t think of what to write.”

To these
concerns I would say: let the story be born from your love for the child.  Really. 
Let it arise from the heart of the matter.  There is no need to “make up” a story.  The story is living in the situation.  It just takes a little attention, a little
care and effort to think of the issue in terms of an image and let the story
blossom from that.  Most of the images
and stories will come from nature—animals, birds, butterflies, trees—let the
language of nature clothe the particular issue and let this happen freely.  Of course, one can always pray before writing—for
guidance and insight.  One can simply
start writing, as I do, without any thought or plan—well, there’s a plan to
help comfort a child if I am writing a pedagogical story.  But in general, for me, the stories are
there, waiting to be harvested from the Garden of Inspiration, plucked from the
Tree of Life, gathered from the Fields of Dreams; netted from the Lake of
Wonders.  And while this may sound
flowery, it’s my experience.  

stories are like most children (and adults)—they are aching to be seen.  And they will open themselves before you if
you take the time to quiet yourself enough to listen and watch.  If I “try” to write a story, it will come, but
most often, it will crawl from the pen painstakingly and be crippled in some
way.  And if it does come through my
force, it will come out only to go hide somewhere in the corner of the room
perhaps forever.  If I approach the issue
a child is having with an open, compassionate heart, a heart of understanding
and knowledge of where children “are at,” then the stories just come.  You can always edit and revise the initial
story—prune, weed out repetitive words and so on, after the story sprouts, but
that’s for later.  For now, take a deep
breath.  Try it. 

Think of a
child you know and love who is experiencing some sort of concern.  It might be a little one, so to speak, and
the story might be three lines long—just an image for the child to hold onto
that honors them and gives them hope.  It
might be more involved and take many days to write and tell.  But try it. 
Your heart will be in the right place, so you cannot make a mistake
here.  Of course, I rarely, rarely, rarely
mention a particular child’s name in a pedagogical story—in fact; I often
change the child to an animal, or change the gender of the child, age, etc…that’s
really the only big guideline as I see it. 
The rest will come when you are even a little bit open and willing to
sit down a minute (or walk, some stories come to those who move).  So breathe through the experience; think of a
child you know who is experiencing an issue of some sort and let a story approach
you and reveal itself to you—you just listen and write it down—that’s really
the formula for the initial story—breathe, listen, watch, transcribe.

And then
share this gift to the child—tell it by heart, and know you have truly touched
the heart, mind, and soul of a child. 

Here’s the
story that came for one of my first graders:


Keepers of the Castle

Once upon a
time a wonderfully Bright and Kind Bear Cub stood at the edge of a Great
Forest.  Inside the woods a path towards
an Enchanted Castle wove through the trees like a shining, golden river.  Music and laughter could be heard in the
distance.  The Bright and Kind Bear Cub
wanted so badly to step into the forest and onto the path, but she was nervous.

“What will
it be like in there?” she thought.  “Will
I have fun?”  “Will anyone be mean to
me?”  “What will I learn there?”  “Will the Keepers of the Castle be nice and
friendly?”  “Where will I sit at the
table?”  “Will I be next to my
friends?”  “What if I make mistakes?”
“What if I say something silly?”

As all of
these questions, and more like them, fluttered through her mind and stomach
like so many butterflies, she suddenly heard a low, but friendly growl coming
from the forest.  Then she heard huge
paws padding towards her through the underbrush.  A crack of twigs and branches shot off like
fireworks and there in front of her stood an Enormous Black Bear. 

“Oh dear,”
said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “Who are you?”

“I am one of
the Keepers of the Enchanted Castle,” said the Big, Black Bear, “I have come to
answer your questions and invite you to join us.  We need other Keepers.  Kind Keepers, Bright Keepers, Keepers Who
Care about Themselves and Others.  We need Keepers like You.”

“Me?” She
said surprised.

“Yes you,”
he said, “I can feel your kindness all the way from inside my den.  Now, are you ready to have your questions
answered, and are you ready for a wonderful adventure?”

said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “but may I ask one question before we go?”

“Of course,”
growled the Big, Black Bear.

“Will I be
OK?  Will you love me?”

“That’s two
questions,” laughed the Big, Black Bear, “And the answer to both questions is:
Yes.  You are already OK and always will
be.  Your heart is Kind and full of
Laughter and Light.  And I love all of
the Keepers of the Enchanted Castle. 
Together we make an Enchanted Castle that is Safe, Fun, and full of Laughter,
Learning, and Song.  How does that

said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “But I have one more question.”

The Big,
Black Bear nodded.

“May we go
now?” she asked, “I’m ready.”

The Big,
Black Bear laughed a laugh so loud the surrounding trees shook their branches and
rained down their autumn leaves.  And
then the Big, Black Bear bowed before the Bright and Kind Bear Cub inviting her
to climb aboard his back.  She laughed
and did just that.  Together they
wandered their way through the magic forest towards the waiting, Enchanted


Go ahead
storyteller–we’re all storytellers and gatherers–a story is hatching within
you right now.  You can do this, you know
you can: breathe, listen, watch, transcribe…

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Rudolf Steiner, Guardian Angel of Children

“Nowhere in
our observation of the human being and nature do we encounter spirit and soul
so directly as when we contemplate the manifestations of life in a child.”



No one wrote
with such obvious affection and true reverence for children in the 20th
century than Rudolf Steiner.  Unfortunately
his tender, yet nonetheless meaningful observations of children are sometimes
couched in difficult concepts, philosophical wanderings, and somewhat esoteric
ideas.  The truth remains however.  There was no greater advocate for the total
health and well-being of children the past 100 years than Rudolf Steiner. 

His ideas of
education and child development arose during a time the world was in the throes
of war.  They arose in a culture where
children were “to be seen and not heard.” 
They arose when education was meant to be hard, cold, intellectual, with
the only aim to produce robotic beings enslaved to materialism and political
ideologies.  Steiner spoke of children as
holy.  He spoke of them as holding the keys
to the future.  He spoke of them with
such passion that his ideas, though unorthodox for the times, spread like wildfire.  When any good teacher speaks with enthusiasm,
the message spreads.  And Steiner loved
children.  In no other area did he focus
more spiritual, mental, or physical energy and Steiner gave himself to many
different areas—gardening, economics, spirituality, art, dance, philosophy,
literature, even bees.  When he spoke of
education and of children however, his eyes danced, his voice rose, his spirit
soared.  He knew his subject matter was
of the most vital importance.  He knew
that children suffered; he knew they were being stifled and mired in
educational nonsense.  He wanted children
free—children free to grow and thrive. 
To do this Steiner knew children needed to be taught with, and through,
the arts.  He knew their whole bodies
needed to be involved in education.  He
knew they needed to be happy, loved, cherished, understood, and observed if
they were to be fully educated.

I have loved
Steiner’s educational ideas since I first discovered them for myself about 15 years
ago.  Being a teacher in the public
school system for the past two years I have chosen to keep most of my ideas
about education under wraps.  I made a
few videos about education, but largely, here, at the Wonder Child Blog, I have
been silent about education in general. 
No more.  I am returning to my
educational home: Waldorf Education.

While I
believe there is no one system of education that can reach every child, there is one that comes the closest; one that nourishes
the drastically soul-starved school-child of today—that’s Waldorf Education as
described by Rudolf Steiner. 

I encourage you
to explore Steiner’s writing and the writings of such wonder Waldorf Educators
as Jack Petrash, Else Gottgens, Marjorie Spock, among many others.  And stay tuned here as I embark on my journey
back into the Waldorf Schools, I will be sure to share more of what I discover.

I’ll close
with another quote from Rudolf Steiner:

“All human
beings should function from a fundamental sense of gratitude that the cosmos has
given us birth and a place within the universe…This feeling [of gratitude] is
essential in teachers and should be instinctive in anyone entrusted with
nurturing a child.  Therefore, the first
important thing to be worked for in spiritual knowledge is thankfulness that
the universe has given a child into our keeping.”



Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog