Keeping Good Friday

[Esther Leisher has shared ways in which she celebrated many seasonal and religious festivals with her children when they were growing up. Here she describes how she created a religious mood in the home during the days before Easter.]
Keeping Good Friday with the Family
by Esther Leisher

The days before Easter are each a part of a whole. Good Friday is followed by Holy Saturday, a busy day of preparation that expresses confidence that Easter Sunday will bring rebirth, happiness, sunrise. Many resources offer suggestions for celebrating Easter, but few consider the days before, the days of Holy Week, which are part of the process. I wanted the somber Good Friday mood to enrich our family celebrations, enhancing the meaning of Easter Sunday. “Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

At our house at noon on Good Friday the children and I stripped the house. Pictures were taken down, anything of beauty put away. A black table cloth was put on the table. A barren, desolate feeling pervaded the house for a few hours. The weather often turned moody with clouds in the western sky. When the Earth’s somber mood was most pronounced, I would say something like: “The Earth remembers. Each year on Good Friday she remembers the time when Christ experienced the suffering that human beings experience.”

In the evening, the supper table had at each place a white plate and on the plate a stalk of celery and some almonds. The table was otherwise bare, stark — an artistic expression of the Good Friday mood. However, once the symbolic celery and almonds were eaten (or not eaten), a regular meal was served, macaroni and cheese, maybe — nothing special.

Sometime during the day, before or during the three somber hours from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock, I would read the Ludwig Bechstein story, “The Wandering Staff,” a story which focuses on the sufferings of the world. The little boy in the story, whose mother keeps an inn, steals the walking staff of an old man who comes to the inn each year just before Easter. The boy hides the staff in the grandfather clock case, but each Good Friday it comes out and forces the boy to walk the world, seeing all the sorrow and suffering. Year after year the boy suffers, until at last when he is so weak and ill that he can hardly walk one mile in one day, the old man returns and takes the staff back.

I left the story unexplained, honoring the mood more than the content. I knew that if I read it (or told it) with feeling, in the night it would speak its truth inwardly. Rituals and festivals have a language that is truer than any explanation we can give to our children. What we do and how we do it have their own language. If words seemed necessary–and sometimes they really were- I used words that speak to feelings and insights. I discovered that children about five years old and up appreciate words that speak of feelings and ideals. It gives the soul words to express its thoughts. If the children were younger I might answer direct questions with a few words that give a picture more than a thought or simply leave it open by saying something like “I wonder about that, too.”

Saturday of Easter Week became the day of waiting and preparing for the joy that is sure to come. The children and I were busy all day with cleaning, decorating, baking, dying eggs, preparing the materials for the dreamy, sunrise water color painting we would do the next day. Many of our Saturday activities were family traditions, but always there was something new–a new way of decorating eggs, a new decoration, a special food we had not tried before.

The Easter box held the things we brought out each year. For example, the small, gaily painted wooden spring scenes, simple folk art — a little bird on a wheelbarrow, flowers, a small birdhouse. We also had symbols of transformation in various styles — butterflies made with gauze or painted wood or tissue paper. One Easter I got a babysitter for a couple of days in the week before and made a wall-sized sunrise scene out of pastel tissue paper, a surprise that magically appeared on the dining room wall during the night (with my help, of course) and was there in its glory on Easter morning. Another year we discovered the book The Easter Egg Artists by Adrienne Adams and pored over the illustrations for ideas for Easter eggs.

Children need meaning, of course, as well as activities. Thoughtful preparation creates the mood in you, a mood that tends to permeate the space around you, passing from one person to another. Finding a way to spend some meditative time alone in the days before can enrich their lives, and your own. Reading, contemplating, talking with another adult brings thoughts that activate heart forces, forces that can then subtly enhance family rituals. So little time is actually required, but it always took an effort on my part to find that time. There is so much else to do.

Children may not act thoughtful or reverent or even seem interested in what is going on, but the inner things still make an impression. It may be late in their life (or never) when what lies in the depths wells up, but still, it is there. Regardless of the approach they take to Spirit, to the inwardness of things, what you offer may have a later value.

The week that leads up to Easter has a quality all its own. Year by year you can discover in yourself the depth of feeling and the anticipation that lead from Good Friday to Easter.

The story “The Wandering Staff” is from The Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein (recommended by Steiner), copyright 1966. This is an old book that I discovered at a second hand sale. You are not likely to find it. I could make some copies of the story for anyone who wants me to send them one. eleisher@aol.com

The Easter Egg Artists is by Adrienne Adams and can be found at most libraries in the seasonal section.

Waldorf sources have many verses, stories, and songs for celebrating both Spring and Easter. Occasionally you will also find something about the days before Easter. –Esther Leisher

About the Presenters

Books, videos, and/or CDs are available from the following keynote speakers and workshop presenters from various “Waldorf in the Home” conferences. Brief biographical information is arranged in alphabetical order.

Lorene Allen is an independent trainer in the art of compassionate communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg in his book Nonviolent Communication (NVC). She was a Waldorf parent and now has a a grandchild in a Waldorf program. Lorene teaches this work and compassionate parenting in Wldorf charter schools in northern California.

Joan Almon was a Waldorf early childhood educator for over thirty years and served as founding Chair of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America. She has also served on the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in America and was a General Secretary of the U.S. Society. She is currently focusing on the Alliance for Childhood, a broad-based advocacy group that brings together educators, health professionals and others to work on common concerns, such as the need to restore creative play and other healthy essentials to childhood.

Rahima Baldwin Dancy is internationally known as a midwife, parenting educator and author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher on Steiner’s indications from birth through age six. She has been organizing “Waldorf in the Home” conferences for more than twenty years (first as “The Magical Years” Conference).

William Bento is co-director of Gradalis, a resource center for remedial, therapeutic and transdisciplinary education. He has been an adult educator in the field of human development for over 30 years. William has been a noted pioneer in the field of a new anthroposophical approach to psychology (Psychosophy). He brings a unique synthesis of sociological, psychological, cosmological and spiritual perspectives to bear on almost every facet of education and therapy.

Nancy Blanning taught Waldorf kindergarten 17 years before becoming the remedial and therapeutic teacher at the Denver Waldorf School. She also does teacher training and mentoring.

Carolyn Brown and her husband formerly kept 350 colonies of bees and farmed 25 acres. They have been involved with the Bio-Dynamic Association of Northern California for over 20 years. Carolyn now teaches gardening full time at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, where she developed their gardening curriculum starting in 1991.

Kristie Burns, MH, ND has lived half her life in the Midwest and half in the Middle East. She studied Waldorf by reading and assisting in a Waldorf school in Illinois, then ran a Waldorf Enrichment program from her home in Saudi Arabia for four years. She holds a Naturopathic Doctorate and Masters in Herbalism from Trinity College.

Tim Burns is an educator, author and presenter with a keen interest in human development, learning, and creativity. His background includes over thirty years of experience as classroom teacher, counselor, adolescent and family drug-treatment program director, university instructor, and staff development specialist. His presentations on recent brain research support the importance of movement in education and other approaches utilized by Waldorf education. He has presented at over 2000 schools throughout North America, New Zealand and Australia and was greatly appreciated at the last AWSNA Regional Conference in Santa Fe, NM, where he lives with his family. Two of his daughters graduated from Santa Fe Waldorf School.
Tim is the author Our Children, Our Future; From Risk to Resiliency; and Anatomy of a Crisis: The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on the Brain. In addition, he has authored several resource manuals and a 22-lesson curriculum entitled Brain Gain/Brain Drain: Teaching Students to Build a Better Brain. His website is www.TimBurnsEducare.com.

Joseph Cornell is one of the most inspiring nature educators in the world today. His first book, Sharing Nature with Children, sparked a worldwide revolution in nature education and became a classic. His six Sharing Nature Books have been translated into 20 languages. In 1978, he founded Sharing Nature Worldwide, a popular and highly acclaimed nature awareness program. He is the honorary president of the Japan Nature Game Association, an organization of over 10,000 leaders who use and promote his nature education philosophy. A fifth-generation Californian, he and his wife are residents of Ananda Village, an intentional community in Nevada City. See www.sharingnature.com.

Dee Joy Coulter, Ed.D. is a nationally-recognized neuroscience educator, known for her unique ability to present complex ideas in clear and humorous ways that are useful for parents and educators. She holds a doctorate in neurological studies and holistic education and for the past 20 years has been applying brain research to education issues in her college courses at Naropa University in Boulder.
Several of her educational booklets and over thirty-five audio tapes of keynote addresses are available on her website, www.kindlingtouch.com. Her strong interest in trauma research and its relationship to learning and to global, cultural conditions inspired her to design a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing children’s trauma around the globe, ACT with Genius (www.actwithgenius.org).

Thomas Cowan, MD has been in prviate practice in natural and Ahtroposphic medicine for over 20 years. He is a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, promoting traditional nutrition. He is principle author, with Sally Fallon and Jaimen McMillen, of The Fourfold Path to Healing.

John Cunningham is both a Waldorf teacher and a certified NVC trainer. He trained individually with Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Compassionate Communication (also called Nonviolent Communication, or NVC). Since June 2000, John has been giving trainings in NVC throughout the country as well as consulting to the Waldorf school movement (see www.empathyconexus.com).

David Darcy has a deep understanding of Waldorf education and Steiner’s social philosophy. He has been a Waldorf class teacher, admissions director, high school teacher and consultant to home schooers. He helped start The Harvest, a Waldorf school in The Woodlands, Texas, and has written a curriculum integrating Waldorf activities into a program for homeless children.

Shea Darian received a BA in Speech and Theater from Iowa State Universitiy, a Masters of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, and is working toward certification as a multifaith spiritual director. She has served in various ministerial positions and as a Waldorf school administrator. With her husband, Andrew, and their grown children, Morgan and Willa, Shea is also an inspired homemaker; she considers her familiy to be her most sacred earthly sanctuary. Her books include Living Passages for the Whole Family, Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child through the Rhythms of the Day, Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child’s Spiritual Life, and Grandpa’s Garden, a children’s picture book.

Sieglinde De Francesca has over 25 years’ experience teaching Waldorf (N-4) and homeschooling (K-7). She currently teaches drawing, painting and puppetry in the San Francisco Bay area. She recently authored Coloring with Block Crayons.

Simone Demarzi has been involved with Waldorf education for 25 years and is currently director of the LifeWays childcare program at the Caldwell Early Life Center at Rudolf Steiner College.

Barbara S. Dewey, MS Waldorf Education, has written many publications, consults and lectures for homeschooling families internationally through Waldorf Without Walls, and produces the online publication and website of the same name. Barbara has four grown children and six grandchildren, some of whom she has homeschooled.

Suzanne Down has been a favorite presenter at past Waldorf conferences and is known throughout North America as a master storyteller and founder of Juniper Tree School of Puppetry and Arts, now based in Vancouver, BC. Suzanne presents workshops as well as extensive training programs and has produced several puppetry kits and books of seasonal tales. She is currently working on Lifting the Veil. The Renewal of Puppetry Arts. She is also active with “Puppets for World Change,” The Hope Puppet Project, and Puppets Against Hunger Project. Her numerous books and puppetry kits can be found online at wwwjunipertreepuppets.com.

Sharon Sofia Fletter is the founder of SoulSong enterprises, an organization dedicate to reaching every child through its publishing company and Global Outreach Foundation. Her experience as a mother, midwife and early childhood teacher have passionately fueled her desire to foster the young child’s innate spiritual wisdom. Her books are designed to entertain the young child with stories that honor their deepest memories and relationship with Spirit and include My Guardian Angel. She lives in Crestone, Colorado in a straw bale house she built along side her 5 sons.

Cynthia Hoven will be sharing insights from Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul and ways in which he understood the Earth as a living being. She will share how the seasons and celebration of the festivals cross culturally reflect the “breathing” of the earth and profoundly affect our emotional and spiritual life. Cynthia has taught Eurythmy and given courses on Anthroposophy for over 25 years. She directs the four-year, full-time training in Eurythmy at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks.

Thesa Kallinikos has been a Waldorf teacher for 28 years, graduating from Emerson College in England. In her fourth class cycle, she currently teaches 4th grade at Shepherd Valley Waldorf School.

Susan Kaplan, MSW, has a private practice in Denver called Balance and Harmony for Families, Classroom and Workplace and does contract work for The Conflict Center. She also works as a professional storyteller, using the power of stories to teach skills.

Rachael Kessler, founder and executive director of PassageWays Institute in Boulder (www.passageways.org), is an internationally-known expert in the field of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and is widely recognized for bringing spiritual development into mainstream K-12 education. She is the author of numerous articles and curriculum, as well as The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School (ASCD 2000).
Her work in educational reform has been embraced both internationally and locally, in a multi-year demonstration and research project in a large, diverse public high school with 1800 students in Ft. Collins, CO. Her work promotes discussion and learning among educators and parents about the relationship between nurturing the inner life and academic performance, character development, and the prevention of violence and destructive behaviors.

Linda Knodle is an experienced Waldorf teacher and the founder and director of Community Education Toward a Healthy Social Life. She is a pioneer in bringing coming of age work into the Waldorf schools, teaching blocks in many Waldorf middle school classrooms. She has recently published I Find My Star Curriculum, written by Tamara Slayton, Linda Knodle and Anne-Marie Fryer (see www.LindaKnodle.net).

Claudia McLaren Lainson has been a Waldorf educator for the past 24 years, teaching both Waldorf kindergarten and adult classes in Anthroposophic Studies. Claudia studied Therapeutic Education with Gradalis Institute and has been in private practice in Boulder since 1998, helping children and parents meet the challenges facing so many families today. Claudia has raised three children, and she and her husband John recently founded Wind Rose Farm outside of Boulder, Colorado.

Esther Leisher, the mother of four children now grown, home schooled her youngest two using Waldorf principles. She gives workshops and writes articles about her experiences as a Waldorf parent and is actively involved in a Waldorf-inspired charter school in New Mexico.

Marin Lipowitz is currently developing a line of Hands-On Curriculum Kits. She holds a masters in Waldorf Education and has taught in Waldorf classrooms (grades 1-4), presented hands-on workshops for home schoolers (grades 1-8), and facilitated curriculum for charter school homeschoolers (K-12).

Regina Mason holds her M.Ed. from Antioch New England, with Waldorf and public education certifications. Her journey with Waldorf began in Camphill Village and has continued through 24 years of homeschooling her children, with a two-year experience of “life in a school” as a class teacher in Ann Arbor.
A fiber artist, shepherdess, and mother of six, she heads The Shepherd’s Child Handwork Studio at BelleWeather Farm in rural New York, where she teaches weaving, spinning, felting and knitting. There, through handwork, festivals, homeschooling, farming and retreats, she and her husband work with a growing community of artists, musicians, and families in celebration of the cycles of nature. On the road, Regina brings homespun traditions to colleges, schools, homeschool collectives and fiber events throughout the Northeast. You can see her work at http://theshepherdschild.wordpress.com.

Myra McPherson has served children with learning challenges for more than two decades. She maintains a private practice in therapeutic education work with children, families and teachers and does consultant work with Waldorf schools in and around Fair Oaks.

Michael Mendizza has been an educational and documentary filmmaker for the past 25 years and is founder of Touch The Future, a nonprofit learning design center in California (www.ttfuture.org). He has done extensive research on what athletes call the zone, researchers call flow, and children call play. By studying the lives of peak performers, Michael discovered that excellence, at any age or in any field, is “state specific,” which he explains in his talks. He is coauthor, with Joseph Chilton Pearce, of Magical Parent-Magical Child: The Optimum Learning Relationship, which applies the basic principles of “state specific learning” or “being in the zone” to parenting and education.

David-Michael Monasch is a eurythmist, actor-director, juggler-clown and father/husband. He has performed and taught throughout the US, Canada, New Zealand and Europe. He was a cofounder of Sound Circle Teacher Training in Seattle; the Monasches now live in Boulder.

Kelly Morrow is a Waldorf teacher and reading specialist. She taught at Four Winds Waldorf School in Illinois and is now taking a class through the grades at Shining Mountain Waldorf School. In this workshop, she shares how she taught painting with grades 1 and 3.

Betty Peck brings over 50 years’ experience as a kindergarten teacher and educational consultant to her work with parents and teachers. She will be sharing an inspiring slide presentation of the magical garden that formed the basis for her work with young children. She was also founder of the Saratoga Community Garden, an educational organic garden for school children. Betty is the author of Kindergarten Education. Freeing Children’s Creative Potential (Hawthorn Press). Betty will be joined by Mary Roscoe and Wendolyn Bird, who will share other innovative programs that are bringing together nature and children.

Jack Petrash is the founder and director of the Nova Institute (www.novainstitute.net) and a nationally-known parenting educator. He taught for over 30 years and took three classes of children from grades one to eight at the Washington Waldorf School. His books include Covering Home: Lessons on the Art of Fathering from the Game of Baseball, Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out and Navigating the Terrain of Childhood: A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline. Jack and his wife Carol have raised three children (31, 27 and 16).

Nancy Jewel Poer, mother of six, grandmother of 14, lives on a ranch in the Sierra foothills, with biodynamic gardens, orchard, and animals. She has forty years’ experience teaching children the joy of nature, gardens and composting. Artist and writer, her children’s book Mia’s Apple Tree explores a child’s love of gnomes, fairies and nature. She is a founder and has been a faculty member of Rudolf Steiner College for 30 years.

Cook Rodgers was the founding teacher at River Song Waldorf School in Ft. Collins, Colorado and taught Waldorf early childhood for 10 years. She has also been a pioneer in Animal Assisted Therapy and directs Wildflower Nature Center, from her home in Boulder.

Rainbow Rosenbloom, M.Ed., is a Waldorf educator who has been working with home schooling programs since 1985. He is founding director of Live Education!, offering a Waldorf home schooling curriculum and consultation for grades K-8.

Daena Ross has been involved with Waldorf education for 22 years as a grade, kindergarten and specialty teacher and mentor for teachers. She also guided homeschool families in a California state charter for 8 years. She has a private practice and has worked with learning challenged children for 20 years and is currently the remedial support teacher at East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante, California.

Ingun Schneider is Director of the Remedial Education Program, a three-year part-time program at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks. She has over 40 years of professional experience in the fields of physical therapy, childbirth education, and Waldorf education. Ingun travels extensively to give workshops and lectures on child development and learning difficulties with a focus on Extra Lesson educational support.

Eugene Schwartz has served as Director of Waldorf Teacher Training at Sunbridge College, as well as having worked with the late Ernest Boyer at the Carnegie Foundation to establish new curricular ideas and methods. He has lectured on new ideas in education at Harvard, Columbia, University of Tennessee Medical Center and the Aspen Institute. Eugene recently graduated his fourth 8th grade class, from Green Meadow Waldorf School and now serves as a consultant to both Waldorf and public schools. He also provides resources for home schoolers through his website, www.millennialchild.com.
His many books and articles have been widely published in the US and throughout Europe, including Millennial Child and Why the Setting Sun Turns Red and Other Stories for Children. As the father of two grown boys and two girls (15 and 7), and the grandfather of three boys, Eugene has experienced the joys and challenges of family life in two different millennia.

Donna Simmons is founder of Christopherus Homeschool Resources (www.Christopherushomeschool.org ), providing books, resources and consulting on Waldorf home schooling. She has been involved with Waldorf education most of her life: first as a student at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City; then, briefly, as a class teacher at the Sheffield Steiner School in England, where she also ran a Mom-and-Toddler group and started the Merlin Nursery. She and her family lived in Camphill (a Steiner-based community for people with special needs) for a number of years, where she also taught gardening to local Waldorf students. Now they live in Wisconsin where Donna juggles teaching at a Waldorf high school, homeschooling her youngest son (age 12) and running Christopherus with her husband, Paul.

Penni Rich Sparks is a Waldorf master teacher, consultant and parent educator. Penni has developed workshops for adults who would like to be effective, present and loving authorities for all the children in their lives through her empowerment-based programs called Take Heart (see www.teachingheart.us).

Elizabeth Seward, PhD, bridges academia and Waldorf education, having recently earned a doctorate in education after 17 years as a Waldorf teacher, specializing in handwork. She also directed the Waldorf teacher preparation program in Los Angeles and San Diego for three years. Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Waldorf handwork teachers throughout California.

Betty Staley is well-known as the author of Between Form and Freedom, A Practical Guide to the Teenage Years, which has become a classic for parents in grades 5-12. She has worked with adolescents for 35 years and currently directs both the Waldorf High School Training Program and the Foundation Year at Rudolf Steiner College, where she also works with public school teachers and with teachers of at-risk students from throughout California. She consults with Waldorf schools (and Waldorf-inspired charter schools) and gives workshops for parents, university students and teachers.

Cynthia Wand is a trainer and facilitator for Virtues Project International, recognized by the UN as a model global program for families of all cultures. She is also a homeschooling mother, applying Waldorf principles for her daughters, ages 11 and 5. Her presentations and workshops are designed to inspire parents and educators to “be the change they want to see” by discovering and strengthening their inner gifts.

Books, CDs and Videos

Our on-line store is up and running! We’re pleased to be able to offer professional-quality audio recordings (CDs) and videos (DVDs) of the keynote addresses and selected workshops from the recent Waldorf in the Home Conferences in Fair Oaks and Boulder.

The CDs and videos are grouped by category: simply select the categories that interest you under “Online Store” on the right in the “Categories” column. Or you can enter a specific title or speaker in the search engine, also on the right.

Secure payment can be made through Paypal, either by using a credit card or with a Paypal account.

Some people like CDs because they can listen to them in their cars, but we especially recommend the videos as a media that engages more of your senses and encourages couples to watch them together and discuss the ideas afterwards. We have kept the videos very reasonably priced at $20 each ($27 for the double workshop on Watercolor Painting with Kelly Morrow). The videos are produced by Lisa McVicker, a professional videographer and Waldorf mother from Florida who is on a mission to make this material more visible and more available–thank you Lisa!! Audio duplication is provided by David and Adam at Audio Consultants in Denver; all CDs have a label printed on them and come in their own cases.

Please let us know your reviews and reactions in the “comments” section following the individual entries–we’d love to hear from you! Rahima