Frequently Asked Questions about Steiner Waldorf Education
Will my child learn the same things/ amount as those in other pre-schools?
The Kindergarten provides a marvellous entry to the world of learning for any child fromthe age of three onwards. The Steiner Waldorf approach believes in appealing to the whole child, not just their intellect, so all our activities are planned with a focus on the head, heart and hands. For example, outdoors in the garden they learn about the names of vegetables and the process of sewing seeds. The experience the excitement and pride of harvesting what they have sewn, and they develop hands that are strong enough to dig, but gentle enough to plant the tiniest seed.
My child will not learn any letters or numbers- won’t that be a problem when they start school ?
In Kindergarten, children learn the foundations for reading, writing and maths, but written letters and numbers are not taught. Increasing research evidence is supportive of the Steiner approach on the delaying of formal academic learning until the seventh year. Also, state schools in countries such as Finland, which consistently ranks in the top three for child literacy and mathematical skills, adopt a similar approach to the introduction of formal learning.
Is there any religious instruction in the school?
The school the aims is to cultivate a moral mood towards the world and our fellow human beings. In the kindergarten a sense of wonder, respect and reverence is central. While Steiner Waldorf education has a broadly Christian ethos, we are non-denominational , and welcome children of all faiths and none.
How do Steiner Waldorf-educated children cope with the transition to
The confidence instilled in children as they experience the Steiner approach
appears to stand them in good stead when they make the transition to the next level.
What is unique about Steiner Waldorf education? How is it different from other alternatives (public schooling, Montessori, unschooling, etc.)?
Steiner Waldorf education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practiced in Steiner Waldorf schools worldwide. Steiner Waldorf schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of independent schools in the world.
The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances pre- academic subjects with artistic and practical activities.
Steiner Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. Some distinctive features of Steiner Waldorf education include the following:
Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Steiner Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills), and minimal academics in first grade. Reading is not taught until second or third grade, though the letters are introduced carefully in first and second.
During the elementary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or “main lesson”) teacher who stays with the same class for (ideally) the entire eight years of elementary school.
Certain activities which are often considered “frills” at mainstream schools are central at Steiner Waldorf schools: art, music, gardening, and foreign languages (usually two in elementary grades), to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.
There are no “textbooks” as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have “main lesson books”, which are their own workbooks which they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own “textbooks” which record their experiences and what they’ve learned. Upper grades use textbooks to supplement their main lesson work.
Learning in a Steiner Waldorf school is a noncompetitive activity. There are no grades given at the elementary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.
The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Steiner Waldorf schools.
What part do festivals play?
Festivals, both seasonal and those adapted from the culture that is local to the school, play an important part in the life of the child. These festivals serve to awaken the child’s natural reverence, recognition of the mood that is appropriate for such occasions and a respect for the spiritual essence that exists in us all. Festivals also provide an opportunity for participation and celebration by the whole school community.
How is the children’s behaviour managed?
All Steiner schools have Behaviour Management Policies which state clearly their approach to discipline which is neither rigid in the traditional sense nor free in the progressive sense. Each school day is clearly structured. There are clear expectations and clear boundaries. Children learn best when they feel secure and when they know what to expect. A warm, well structured environment gives them essential support in finding out about the world and themselves in an age-appropriate fashion.