Sayings of the Child

the child gives me
little messages. 
 I usually post them
on my twitter account
But today,
as I did back in June,
I am going to share some of them
with you

“Is there a way to open the doors of the heart?” the young woman asked the child. He smiled at her, taking her hand, and said, “Yes, sing.”

“What must I do to feel inspired?” asked the man. The child handed him a broom and said, “Sweep out the doubts and fears, and clean house.”

The child fed the dragon elderberries from his hands. The dragon’s whiskers tickled his arms. The child laughed. The dragon smiled.

“Sometimes there is so much self-doubt,” said the young man to the child. “That’s why we need each other,” said the child, taking his hand.

“I wonder about abundance,” said the young man. “And that is why you are lacking,” said the child. “No more wondering–give.”

“Sometimes,” said the old woman, “I just feel so afraid.” “I know,” said the child as he opened the doors to heaven, “but not anymore.”

“Will I ever see you again?” the old man asked. “When you walk through heaven’s doors,” said the child, “you will live where I live.”

The child stood on the dragon’s shoulders. The dragon walked like a moving mountain. Together they rambled through their fears.

“What is courage?” asked the angel. “Dancing with fear,” said the child, “and watching as it changes, right in your arms, into bravery.”

“What is the Law of Attraction?” asked the angel. “Love,” replied the child, “Ask yourself–What do I love? That is the Secret and that is the Law.”

“Abundance?” said the child, “The key to abundance is not what you have, but  what you give away; what you share.”

The child picked up the fallen star and held it to his heart. Suddenly the star began to glow, and soon it flew back into the sky, shining.

“Where is the best place to have peace?” asked the angel. “In the center of a storm,” answered the child.

“What do you get to take with you to heaven?” asked the old man. “Everything you have given away,” said the child, wiping the old man’s tears.


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Art of Teaching and Flowing With the Tao, Part II


The Tao nourishes by not forcing.

By not dominating, the Master leads.

From section 81 of the Tao Te Ching


Education cannot be forced.  The minds of children are not empty waiting to be filled.  They come to us already full—full of dreams and imaginations, fears and hopes, wacky inventions and little songs.  They are brimming with wisdom.  The art of teaching consists in drawing out the loveliness of children and weaving it with what you want them to learn.  Trying to stuff in facts, most of which are out of context, is futile.  It might make for people who can play trivia games, but it doesn’t engender citizens of the world who are filled with character, understanding, and compassion.

If we aren’t meant to cram random facts into the heads of children how do we teach them?  The key is in two of the words from this passage from Lao Tsu:  Nourish and lead.  True education nourishes the minds, heart, and bodies of children.  True educators lead, they do not compel. 

Many people have pointed out that the original Latin roots of the word education mean to bring forth, to draw out.  The Latin, educere, is also related to the word, dux, which is where we get the word duke—a leader.  In other words we want to educate children in such a way as to make them leaders instead of followers; leaders of themselves, savvy to the whims of advertising executives and shady politicians. We want to draw out and nourish the fruits of the Divinity within them.  And this takes gentleness, not force.

Watch gardeners work.  They give the keys to good teaching.  See how they tend the soil.  See how they water the crops.  See how they ensure the leaves have adequate light and space.  Never will you see a gardener reach down and pull out a plant in an attempt to make it grow faster. 

We tend the soil of a child’s intellect by using the gifts they already have within them and merge them with activities that help awaken their interests in the world around them and in the things we want them to learn.  When we couch facts in stories, songs, poems, movement games, and dramatizations we are using the gold already within the minds of children.  These activities nourish the child and allows for the things we want them to learn to take root. 

We water their minds with the sweat of our brow and the tears of our love.  Memorizing songs, poems, stories; writing plays, learning and leading in active learning games—all of this takes work.  It is much easier to simply read the scripted teacher’s edition of a textbook.  The cost is grave however to both the soul of the teacher and the student. 

We give children adequate light and space by protecting their need for outdoor time.  We get them outside at least twice a day for at least a half an hour each time.  We begin the day with active learning games that are both fun and invigorating.  Some people object and say that will wind the kids up and make it impossible for them to sit still.  I say you just haven’t gotten them moving long enough and with the proper, age appropriate activities.  How long am I talking about?  For young children 6-8ish, an hour of active, poetic, musical movement will probably do the trick.  An hour?!  I can just hear it now:  “That’s too much time taken away from learning time!  This isn’t Romper Room!”  Fill the acitvites with things you want the children to learn—anything form times tables to grammar rules and make it active and fun, and they will learn far more, and in lasting ways, than if you sat them down and tried to force the knowledge in by a lecture or movie.  Once children get into the rhythm of activity first thing in the morning they will welcome desk work, provided it is appropriate and meaningful and creative.

Sunlight, open windows, outdoor play is crucial to the development of young minds and bodies.  Taking children on nature walks is a lost art in itself, lost amidst fears of lawsuits and too much urban sprawl.  There are ways to bring nature to children and to get children outside.  Do you run the risk of children getting scraped knees?  Yes, but scraped knees are good for the soul (“Remember that time I fell and my leg started bleeding and you picked me up and put that Sponge-Bob band aid on my cut and sang me a song?”—Children remember their wounds, and how we tended them, and how they healed).

Lastly, let the children blossom at their own rate.  Any significant organic learning issues will become apparent with ample time to address them.  In general, every child is different, just as every stalk of corn is different, just as every species of plant is different.  Draw them out with compassion, ease, and understanding.  The moment we get nervous that a student hasn’t learned something in the time we think they should have then that student picks up on our anxiety.  Yes, I realize modern public education builds on itself—layering facts upon facts (largely simply expanding on the same tired facts year after year with bigger and bigger words), and so some teachers worry students will fall behind if they don’t meet the objectives you are required to write on the board.  The task of the teachers is to honor their students not the objectives thought up by someone who doesn’t know your class. 

In short, help your students become leaders by guiding, planting seeds, nourishing them, and tending the gardens of their intellects with active, creative, and imaginative activities.


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

My First Ever Interview

Hi Dear Readers,

Yesterday I was interviewed by Todd Weaver, creator of WEBE Radio.  Check it out and hear about how the Wonder Child Blog came about, and where it’s going.  Here’s the link. 

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Listen to internet radio with WEBE on Blog Talk Radio

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Art of Teaching and Flowing With the Tao, Part I


Over the next few weeks I will be using Lao Tsu’s beguiling and beautiful text: The Tao Te Ching to glean various alternative teaching methods that can be employed in practical ways directly into a classroom, or into the school of your life.  I do not claim to be a scholar of the Tao, nor do I believe everything in the Tao Te Ching applies to education.  In fact, the way I utilize the text should give some indication of my over-arching educational philosophy: there are no cookie-cutter educational systems and the more black and white rules there are the more stressed things are in the classroom and in your life. In other words, I pick and choose what I’ve found works, and leave the rest.  The days of all or nothing are gone…for the most part, that is.

The first lesson comes from Chapter 73*:


The Tao is always at ease.

It overcomes without competing,

answers without speaking a word,

arrives without being summoned,

accomplishes without a plan.


One of the keys to being an effective teacher is to strive to be at ease in the classroom even when things appear to be in chaos.  If you can use tools like deep (belly) breathing, affirmations, and even EFT tapping (“even though things are a bit disorderly right now, I love and accept myself and my students”) then these moments can be strategically utilized to help transform the chaos into order.  After all, Allan Watts once pointed out that even though clouds and surf may appear disorderly there is an indescribable order and beauty in them. 

If you try and compete with the mayhem and yell over the yelling, then more bedlam will ensue.  Lowering the voice, doing mini visualizations (to yourself or with the students) such as imagining mercury dropping in a temperature gauge, will help bring the energy level down in the room.  Really.  Try it.  Beware of contempt prior to investigation.  You do not try to compete with the chaos, you simply transform and channel the energy into productive directions. 

One key thing to do, after the dust has settled, and you’re alone in the classroom or with your own thoughts, is to ask yourself what you need to change in your lesson plans, delivery, or expectations.  Is what you are giving your students really meaningful?  Are you just filling time?  Before asking the students to change, ask yourself what you can do better or differently.  Sometimes when kids are restless it’s because they have a sense that what they’re doing is useless and pointless.  They also sense when you are unattached from your subject matter and/or are unprepared. So love what you teach, make it meaningful to them, and always be prepared.

The use of the body can help break the trance of mayhem in any classroom.  Try using body language, proximity, your eyes, eyebrows, or even physical comedy.  If you are always relying on your voice to direct, teach, discipline, and to praise, students will eventually learn to tune it out.  So become at ease in your body enough to get their attention by doing a little dance if necessary, or by simply walking into the center of the storm and staring intensely at something out the window or on the ceiling.  I guarantee the students will stop and wonder what you’re looking at.  You can also move in close to the loudest students and look them in the eye.  Over the years I have used the one-raised eyebrow trick to great effect.  If you can’t raise your eyebrows then try raising both hands, not in a gesture of surrender, but in a gesture of triumph.  When you do something out of the ordinary the students will stop talking and ask if you’re OK.  To which you answer: “Please turn to page 57 in your textbook.”  Remember the key is to not compete with the disturbance, but to transform it.  Singing works wonders too.  Just start singing a catchy tune and they will soon be singing along.

Physical proximity isn’t just for quelling disturbances either.  It’s also an effective way of sending messages of praise.  Look a student in the eye and give them a gentle nod and smile when they’ve done something well.  They will remember the gesture longer than your words.

In addition to discovering alternative, noncompetitive methods for lowering the noise level of a group of children, you can also preempt outbreaks of commotion by “arriving without being summoned.”  In other words, use your intuition to anticipate where trouble might be brewing and make your presence known in the midst of the cauldron. 

The last part of this passage might appear to be imprudent, and even contradictory to what I just said above about the importance of being prepared, but I do not believe it means to be unprepared or to not have routines and classroom management plans in place.  I think it means to be willing to do something that most curriculum developers discourage teachers from doing nowadays—improvise.  So be prepared, but be prepared to toss the lesson plan out the window if a hornet flies into the room and you end up giving a lesson on insects.  Be willing to move with the flow of the students, and while it may seem like you are succumbing to their whims, in reality you are leading them by dancing with them rather than fighting them.  Honor their sense of curiosity and their wisdom.  Trust them to tell you what they need.  And what they need might not be in your scripted teacher’s edition.  It might have to come from your heart.

*all quotes come from Stephen Mitchell’s translation

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog