Whether you’re still weighing up the benefits between a mainstream or Waldorf school, or just want more information about the global Steiner movement and how this relates to your family’s values, the information below provides answers to many commonly asked questions.
Steiner education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practiced in Steiner schools worldwide. Steiner schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of independent private schools in the world. There is no centralised administrative structure governing all Steiner schools; each is administratively independent, but there are established associations, which provide resources, publish materials, sponsor conferences, and promote the movement.
What is unique about Steiner Education? How is it different from other alternatives (Public Schooling, Montessori, etc.)?
The best overall statement on what is unique about Steiner education is to be found in the stated goals of the schooling: “to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives”.
The aim of Steiner schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities.
Steiner teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading.
Some distinctive features of Steiner education include the following:
The Steiner curriculum is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child’s development. The era of human history being studied corresponds in many ways with the stage of development of the child. For example, pre-Class 1 children are presented with fairy stories matching their dreamy state of consciousness, Class 4 study the Vikings and Norse mythology which suit their war-like feelings at this age, Class 5 learn of the Greeks at the time their intellect is awakening and their sense of fair play is becoming obvious, and so on.
The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are, as mentioned, taught in main lesson blocks of hours per day, with each block usually lasting three weeks.
The total Steiner curriculum has been likened to an ascending spiral: subjects are revisited several times, but each new exposure affords greater depth and new insights into the subject at hand.
A typical Primary School curriculum would likely look something like the following:
Special subjects also taught include:
Consistent with his philosophy called Anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children’s imagination. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.
The main reason is that Steiner schools honour and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Steiner schools safe, secure and nurturing environments for the children, and to value and safeguard their childhoods.
Secondly, Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in an age-appropriate fashion.
Finally, Steiner schools produce graduates who thrive in the world in whichever pathway they choose.
Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and well-published scientific, literary and philosophical scholar who was particularly known for his work on Goethe’s scientific writings. He later came to incorporate his scientific investigations with his interest in spiritual development. He became a forerunner in the field of spiritual-scientific investigation for the modern 20th century individual.
His background in history and civilisations coupled with his observation in life gave the world the gift of Steiner Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with a developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Steiner-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, the factory’s owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory’s employees. Steiner agreed to do so on four conditions:
Molt agreed to the conditions and, after a training period for the prospective teachers, die Freie Steinerschule (the Free Steiner School) was opened September 7, 1919.
Steiner education is deeply bound up with the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout the early childhood years and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Steiner education: mastery of oral communication is seen as being integral to all learning.
Reading ‘instruction’, as such, is slightly deferred. Instead, writing is taught first. During the first grade the children explore how our alphabet came about, discovering, as the ancients did, how each letter’s form evolved out of a pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the children’s art, and their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.
Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. The festivals originated in ancient cultures, yet have been adapted over time. To join the seasonal moods of the year, in a festive way, benefits the inner life of the soul. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and the memories.
Festivals and celebrations also mark significant moments in our student’s journey through school. We stop to recognise and celebrate with camp celebrations, beginning and graduation rose ceremonies, moonlight learning events and Class 12 Project milestones, for example. Celebration and connection through festivals are valued by all of our community.
We encourage the development of children’s imagination and capacities for play and problem-solving through engagement in the world and with others. We consider the faculty of imagination as central to the healthy development of the individual. While screens may be a feature of our world, they are increasingly understood as being unhelpful for the developing child, their senses and nervous system.
We offer parent learning opportunities on helping children to develop healthy relationships with the world, themselves and later on, with the tools we need for our lives, including devices.
As well as State teaching certification, our teachers have been Steiner trained through a variety of different avenues. Some teachers have undertaken a B.A. degree in conjunction with Steiner teaching certification while others have undertaken postgraduate study in Steiner Education. Some teachers have undertaken practicum placements in Steiner schools and others join us while studying Steiner education. There are many rich pathways to becoming a Steiner teacher.
We offer regular Steiner conferences and in-school mentoring to support our teacher’s ongoing growth. We encourage our teachers to share their strengths with each other through opportunities for collaboration and artistic work and to continue their learning through other Steiner professional learning opportunities.
We are all learning in our community!
Between the ages of seven and fourteen, children learn well with the consistent and loving authority of a teacher who travels with them through their schooling, just as in their earlier years they learned through imitation. In primary school, particularly in the lower grades, the child is just beginning to expand his or her experience beyond home and family. The class becomes a type of “family” as well, with its own authority figure “the teacher”, in a role analogous to parent.
With this approach, the students and teachers come to know each other very well, and the teacher is able to find over the years the best ways of helping individual children in their schooling. The class teacher also becomes like an additional family member for most of the families in his/her class.
This is a very common concern among parents when they first hear about the “Class Teacher” method. However, in practice, the situation seems to arise rarely, especially so when the teacher has been able to establish a relationship with the class right from the first grade. Understanding the child’s needs and temperament is central to the teacher’s role and training. When rifts in relationship do occur from time to time, the teacher and the family work together with the support of school mentors and the School’s Leadership team, to restore the relationship using a restorative practices lens.
Steiner schools, however, tend to be spiritually oriented and are based out of a generally Christian perspective although not religious. The historic festivals of Christianity, and of other major religions as well, are usually observed in the class rooms and in school festivals. Classes in religious doctrine are not part of the Steiner curriculum, and children of all religious backgrounds attend Steiner schools. Spiritual guidance is aimed at awakening the child’s natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life.
The term “Anthroposophy’ comes from the Greek “anthropos-sophia” or “human wisdom”. Steiner expanded an exacting scientific method by which one could do research for her/himself into the spiritual worlds. The investigation, known also as Spiritual Science is an obvious complement to the Natural Sciences we have come to accept. Through study and practiced observation, one awakens to her/his own inner nature and the spiritual realities of outer nature and the cosmos. The awareness of those relationships brings a greater reverence for all of life.
Steiner and many individuals since, who share his basic views, have applied this knowledge in various practical and cultural ways in communities around the world. Most notably, Steiner schools have made significant impact on the world. Curative education, for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has established a deep understanding and works with people who have this destiny path. Bio-dynamic farming and gardening greatly expand the range of techniques available to organic agriculture. Anthroposophical medicine and pharmacy, although less widely known in Australia, are subjects of growing interest.
Anthroposophy forms the theoretical basis to the teaching methods used in Steiner schools, but is not taught explicitly to the students.
Anthroposophy has its roots in the perceptions, already gained, into the spiritual world. However, these just the roots; the branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of Anthroposophy grow into all the fields of human life and action.
We appreciate all students for who they are; every child has different strengths. We consider it the teacher’s role to try to bring the child’s whole being into balance.
A child having difficulty with an aspect of learning might be given extra help by the teacher or by parents; tutoring might also be arranged. They may also be supported by members of our Student Support team. Correspondingly, a child who picks up the material quickly and with confidence, might be encouraged to engage with further challenges, or might be asked to help their peers who are not yet as far down the path.
Most simply put, eurythmy is a dance-like art form in which music or speech are expressed in bodily movement; specific movements correspond to particular notes or sounds. It has also been called “visible speech” or “visible song”. Eurythmy is part of the curriculum of many Steiner schools, and while it often puzzles parents new to Steiner education, children respond to its simple rhythms and exercises which help them strengthen and harmonise their body and their life forces; later, the older students work out elaborate eurythmic representations of poetry, drama and music, thereby gaining a deeper perception of the compositions and writings. Eurythmy enhances coordination and strengthens the ability to listen. When children experience themselves like an orchestra and have to keep a clear relationship in space with each other, a social strengthening also results.
Eurythmy is usually taught by a specialist who has been specifically trained, typically for at least four years. In addition to pedagogical eurythmy, there are also therapeutic (“curative”) and performance-oriented forms of the art.
We provide an education of the highest quality so that our students become balanced adult individuals, having developed clarity of thinking, sensitivity of feeling and strength of will.