Frequently Asked Questions
We have a list of Frequently Asked Questions below. Should you have any further questions that are not answered please feel free to contact the office and arrange a time to meet the Education Director.
WHO WAS RUDOLF STEINER?
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 knowledge in history and civilisations coupled with his observations in life gave the world the gift of Waldorf or Steiner Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the study of humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.
WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY?
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 oneself 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 ones 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 mentally and emotionally handicapped adults and children, has established a deep understanding and work with people who have this difficult destiny.
Biodynamic farming and gardening greatly expand the range of techniques available to organic agriculture. Anthroposophical medicine and pharmacy are subjects of growing interest. While teachers work from an anthroposophical impulse, anthroposophy itself is not taught to the students.
“Anthroposophy has its roots in the perceptions, already gained, into the spiritual world. Yet these are no more than the roots. The branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of anthroposophy grow into all the fields of human life and action.” Rudolf Steiner
WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND STEINER EDUCATION?
Consistent with his philosophy, 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 encouraged creativity and free-thinking.
“Our highest endeavour must be to develop human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction to their lives”. Rudolf Steiner
WHAT IS STEINER EDUCATION
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 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 education.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT STEINER EDUCATION?
Probably the most appropriate 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.
Some distinctive features of Steiner education include the following:
Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. there is no academic content in the Steiner Kindergarten experience (i.e. pre Class 1, although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills).
During the primary school years the students have a class teacher who stays with the same class (where possible).
Certain activities are central at Steiner schools: art, music, gardening and foreign languages, to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because it means more to the children than lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.
WHY SHOULD I SEND MY CHILD TO A STEINER SCHOOL?
Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in an age-appropriate fashion.
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.
Steiner school graduates are “academically advantaged” with respect to their counterparts from outside the Steiner schooling environment simply due to their love of learning.
HOW DID STEINER EDUCATION GET STARTED?
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-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:
The school should be open to all children; it should be co-educational; it should be a unified twelve-year school; the teachers, those who would be working directly with the children, should take the leading role in the running of the school, with a minimum of interference from governmental or economic concerns.
Molt agreed to the conditions and, after a training period for the prospective teachers, Die Freie Waldorfschule (the Free Waldorf School) was opened September 7, 1919.
HOW MANY STEINER SCHOOLS ARE THERE?
Currently, there are more than 800 Steiner schools in 50 countries. There are over 60 schools and Kindergartens currently operating in Australia.
HOW IS READING TAUGHT IN A STEINER SCHOOL? WHY DO STEINER STUDENTS WAIT UNTIL 2ND GRADE TO BEGIN LEARNING TO READ?
The Steiner approach is to lay a solid foundation for oral language first, then to introduce the letters slowly, through picture, story and movement. This establishes a strong connection, and confusion of letters is less likely as each letter has a unique character and quality. By the age of 9 or 10 most children will be reading at or above the level required by the State, and the richness of the English curriculum provides them with a rich and varied vocabulary and literary sense which stands them in good stead to enjoy reading and writing as they mature.
Steiner school also prepare the children very thoroughly for reading and writing, both through the emphasis on speech and listening, and with fine motor activities such as craft, movement work developing spatial orientation and gross motor skills, and form drawing. Most schools also have Learning Support and Extra Lesson programs to identify and assist children with particular needs. It is important that all of these activities are seen as part of the approach to literacy, and are supported by practice at home.
State authorities have generally accepted this difference in approach and are respectful of it. June Cunningham, “Working with Curriculum in Australian Steiner Schools” 2004, page 47.
WHY IS SO MUCH EMPHASIS PUT ON FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES?
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.
WHY DO STEINER SCHOOLS DISCOURAGE TV WATCHING?
The reasons for this have as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the questionable content of much of the programming. Electronic media are believed by Steiner teachers to seriously hamper the development of the child’s imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.
Steiner teachers are not, by the way, alone in this belief. Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of television on young children. See, for instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, or the Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.
WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DO STEINER TEACHERS HAVE?
As a rule class teachers will have both their usual university teaching qualification, as well as training from a recognised Steiner teacher training college or institute. Typically, the course of study for teachers is one year full time, or two to three years part-time. This includes practice teaching in a Steiner school under the supervision of experienced Steiner teachers. All teachers receive continuing professional development which generally takes place during the school term breaks. All new teachers have a mentor.
Rudolf Steiner, speaking in Oxford in 1922, defined “three golden rules” for teachers: “to receive the child in gratitude from the world it comes from; to educate the child with love; and to lead the child into the true freedom which belongs to man.”
WHY DO STEINER STUDENTS STAY WITH THE SAME TEACHER FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL?
Between the ages of seven and fourteen, children learn best through acceptance and emulation of authority, 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 a child’s class.
HOW ARE PERSONALITY CONFLICTS BETWEEN STUDENTS AND TEACHERS HANDLED?
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 very rarely, especially so when the teacher has been able to establish a relationship right from the first class. Incompatibility with a child is infrequent, as understanding the child’s needs and temperament is central to the teacher’s role and training – the striving to understand the children at their deepest level lifting the thoughts above the subjective and personal.
If the teacher does not have likes and dislikes it is rare for the child to have them. When problems of this sort do occur however, the faculty as a whole works with the teacher and the family to determine and undertake whatever corrective action would be in the best interests of the child and of the class.
WHAT IS THE ATTITUDE TOWARD DISCIPLINE IN A STEINER SCHOOL?
Discipline in a Steiner school is neither rigid in the traditional sense nor free in the progressive sense.
The discipline aimed at is one which arises out of the human understanding between teacher and student – a caring concern met by affectionate regard. The ongoing Class Teacher relationship allows time for this understanding to develop. Discipline has two elements – the maintenance of outer order whilst helping the children to master themselves.
Therefore, ideally any discipline should be both constructive and therapeutic. All Steiner schools have Behaviour Management Policies which clearly state their approach to discipline and outline the steps involved in finding the balance.
ARE STEINER SCHOOL RELIGIOUS?
Steiner schools are non-sectarian and work to inspire a true morality through the development of gratitude, reverence, and love for the world. While the study of the history of civilisations acquaints the children with spiritual leaders of humanity such as Buddha, Christ, Moses and Zarathustra, the school leaves the question of religion strictly to the family.
The historic festivals of Easter and Christmas as well as seasonal festivals are celebrated, and children of all religious backgrounds attend Steiner schools.
HOW DO STEINER EDUCATED CHILDREN FARE WHEN THEY TRANSFER TO ‘REGULAR’ SCHOOLS?
Is it true that once you start Steiner schooling it is difficult to fit in to other schools?
Generally, transitions to public schools, when they are anticipated, are not problematical. the most common transition is from a class 8 Steiner school to a more traditional high school, and, from all reports, usually takes place without significant difficulties.
Transitions in the lower classes, particularly between first and fourth class, can potentially be more of a problem, because of the significant differences in the pacing of the various curriculums. A second class child from a traditional school will be further ahead in reading in comparison with a Steiner- schooled second class child; however, the Steiner-schooled child will be ahead in maths for example.
The historic festivals of Easter and Christmas as well as seasonal festivals are celebrated, and children of all religious backgrounds attend Steiner schools.
HOW DO STEINER SCHOOLS DEAL WITH KIDS THAT ARE NOT SO STRONG ACADEMICALLY?
Steiner schools hesitate to categorise children, particularly in terms such as “slow” or “gifted”. A given child’s weaknesses in one area, whether cognitive, emotional or physical, will usually be balanced by strengths in another area. It is the teacher’s job to try to bring the child’s whole being into balance.
A child having difficulty with the material might be given extra help by the teacher or by parents; tutoring might also be arranged. Correspondingly, a child who picked up the material quickly might be given harder problems of the same sort to work on, or might be asked to help a child who was having trouble.
HOW WELL DO STEINER GRADUATES DO ON STANDARD TEST? HOW WELL DO STEINER HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES DO IN TERTIARY EDUCATION?
To the best of our knowledge, no controlled studies have been done on these questions, but anecdotal evidence collected from various sources would seem to suggest that Steiner graduates tend to score toward the high end on standardised examinations. As far as higher education goes, Steiner school graduates have been accepted as students at, and have graduated from, some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in Australia.
WHAT IS EURTHMY?
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 all 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 in eurhythmy, typically for at least four years. In addition to pedagogical eurythmy, there are also therapeutic (“curative”) and performance-oriented forms of the art.