Waldorf Steiner

Steiner Education is a distinctive approach to educating children that is practised in many schools worldwide.

The Steiner teachers at Collingwood College offer a living and creative curriculum based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, consistent with worldwide Waldorf education: The archetypal developmental stages of each age group inspire a culturally rich and sequential curriculum that integrates all activities in the classroom. There is a strong emphasis on creativity, the arts, social skills and creating opportunities for academic excellence.

The Steiner program at Collingwood College is aligned with the expected standards for state schools (Victorian Curriculum); it is available from Prep to Year 10.

Teachers recognise the longing of all individuals to live up to their full potential; they strive to create a learning environment that allows students to explore their own feelings and ambitions and develop their physical and intellectual capacities. These capacities enable the children’s growing connections with the world.

In a time, where over-stimulation of the senses is identified as a cause of modern learning and behaviour disorders, the Steiner approach to education becomes even more valuable. By carefully listening to imaginative accounts of world mythology and history, by careful observation and recording of scientific processes, by careful movements (Eurythmy), by careful research and investigation and by an artistic approach to all work, the students’ inner lives are stimulated and their senses educated.

Critical thinking, artistic creativity and meaningful activity (“Head, heart, hand”) are at the core of Steiner education, an education that addresses the needs of the whole human being.

The community aspect is also stressed, with the parents and teachers striving to cooperate for the good of the children.

Throughout the Steiner stream teachers and parents strive to help the children develop their capacities, appropriate at each age, which will enrich and enable their growing connections with the world outside themselves.

Our Steiner Prep to Year 10 Handbook
P-10 Waldorf Steiner Handbook 2019

Further information:

Wikipedia entry on Waldorf Education

Frequently Asked Questions about the Rudolf Steiner curriculum.

  1. What is Steiner Education?
  2. How many Steiner schools are there?
  3. How did Steiner education get started?
  4. What is the philosophy behind Steiner?
  5. Who was Rudolf Steiner?
  6. What is unique about Steiner?
  7. What is the curriculum of a Steiner school like?
  8. Why put so much emphasis on festivals and ceremonies?
  9. Why do Steiner schools discourage TV watching?
  10. What kind of training do Steiner teachers have?
  11. Why do Steiner students stay with the same teacher for years?
  12. How are personality conflicts between students and teachers handled?
  13. Are Steiner schools religious?
  14. How do Steiner children fare when the transfer to “regular” schools?
  15. How well do Steiner graduates achieve academically?
  16. How does Steiner deal with students who ‘Don’t get it’ academically?
  17. What is Eurythmy?
  18. Why should I send my child to a Steiner school?
  19. What is Anthroposophy?
  20. Statement on computer education in the Steiner curriculum
  21. What is the College of Teachers?

1. What is Steiner Education?

Steiner education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practised in Steiner schools worldwide. Steiner schools are known for teachers’ care and dedication as well as their demand for, and their students’ achievement of, high personal, artistic and academic excellence. The community aspect is also stressed, with the parents and teachers striving to cooperate for the good of the children. Throughout the Steiner stream teachers and parents strive to help the children develop their capacities, appropriate at each age, which will enrich and enable their growing connections with the world outside themselves.

2. How many Steiner schools are there?

Currently, there are an estimated 2000 schools worldwide, Steiner education has become the strongest independent school movement in the world. There are currently 11 Steiner Schools in Victoria and about 40 Steiner schools in Australia.

3. How did Steiner education get started?

In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. He held lectures and courses for workers at several factories and he had spoken to the owners about the need to involve workers in enrichment programs and in consultative bodies within the factories. 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. The school therefore began as a real people’s education cutting across class, monetary and gender barriers as the so called “Free Waldorf School”. The establishment of a school for workers’ children was considered revolutionary at the time, as academic education was available to few other than the privileged classes, with boys having preference.The staff wanted their children to enjoy an education that they themselves had missed; an education that catered for the “whole child” and not only to the intellect, which was an approach that was dominant at the time.Their vision was for an education that respected the integrity of the individual in a social context and allowed for the harmonious development of the human faculties of feeling, imagination, creativity and practical and artistic activity.This was to be an education that really prepared the child for life after school. It meant that school leavers would have acquired a wide knowledge and be able to use their powers of thinking, In addition they would have developed an interest in and concern for other people of initiative and creativity; to be adaptable and have acquired practical, artistic and social skills.Steiner agreed to establish and lead a school on four conditions: The school should be open to all children; it should be coeducational; it should be a unified twelve-year school; and that 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 government or economic concerns. Molt agreed to the conditions and, after a training period for the prospective teachers, die Freie Waldofschule (the Free Waldorf School) was opened September 7, 1919. Around the world many Steiner schools are called Waldorf Schools. The Waldorf School did not only aim to give its pupils a sound academic education but to prepare them with all the qualities and abilities needed for fully empowered adult life. The schooling program did not restrict itself to development of the intellect only, but by means of cultural, artistic and practical teaching modes, aimed to integrate the pupils intellectually, emotionally and socially. These methods of teaching ensure a strong sense of independence. Confidence and the ability to tackle situations with a creative mind.

4. What is the philosophy behind Steiner education?

Consistent with his philosophy called anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children’s imaginations. 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. Steiner and a small group of teachers worked to develop a philosophy, curriculum and methodology of teaching that was firmly child based and that allowed for the child’s individual development in a social and world cultural context.

5. 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 investigations 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 considered by many to be a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.

6. What is unique about Steiner education?

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 academic 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:

  • Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in Steiner prep experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of preacademic 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.It is considered vital for the child to play in the first seven years. Adult thinking is in our heads, where as the child’s knowing is through doing it out there-through their will forces-through their doing and their manipulating. It gives their world a fantasy and imagination. Pre 6 year old children are still very connected to the elemental life, hence imaginary friends and objects (a block can be a car and then change to be a butterfly.) Six Year Old Play – begins to have rules, although they may be unspoken rules. Solving problems is also a characteristic of play that children find stimulating. Open ended tasks that don’t need to be absolutely correct. Children find ways of solving problems; it is for the children to bring questions to themselves not by the adult. The child imitates adults they empathize with everything, its like they are one with the world, they enter into everything. They are totally into becoming human. Children learn to walk through love, talk through truth and think through clear thought. Children are in awe of the humans that can do all these marvellous things (walk, talk, think). Children are discovering that not only is life good but life is moral. If children are robbed of play the are robbed of their childhood. They play out the things that happen in everyday life.
  • 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. At Collingwood College the class teacher stays with the class from class 1 through to class 6 with the option to go to class 8.
  • Certain activities which are often considered specialist extras in mainstream schools are central at Steiner 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.
  • Telling stories rather than reading them is an essential element of Steiner education. Much teaching in all subjects is done through the medium of stories told by the teacher. Recalling and discussing the stories in a natural spontaneous manner is essential. Oral comprehensions of this kind will take place on most days. When children are listening to a story being ‘told’, they have to create their own pictures. They must bring together both their experience and imagination to make sense of the words, and actually create the picture images, usually with great detail. Children need stories to be told to them, since this can enliven, inspire and deeply nourish their inner beings. Such a rich inner life will enable them to better cope with the trials ahead, as well as help the development of true imaginative play that is now widely known to be an essential foundation for a balanced education and the full understanding of intellectual concepts in later years.Good listening comes naturally when lessons have a strong story element.
  • Daily singing and recorder playing, also dancing and rhythmic work taken each morning all sharpen the powers of concentrated listening.
  • Craft, which is an important part of the Steiner curriculum, requires concentration for extended periods of time. It develops focus and strengthens the children’s will. The end result with craft is a sense of satisfaction of finishing a piece of worthwhile work, and being pleased with the results of their own labours. Steiner talked of ‘nimble fingers making nimble minds’. Handiwork brings consciousness right into the fingertips and gives a balance to more intellectual activities. Craft actively engages the children’s senses of co-ordination and balance. Think of the eye/hand co-ordination needed for knitting. Craft also fosters an appreciation of colour and texture. The children are encouraged to make items that are useful through knitting, weaving, sewing and sculpting.
  • Music is another very important part of the curriculum in a Steiner school. Children start singing and playing recorder during class 1, and onwards through the other classes. In grade 3 the children choose a stringed instrument (cello, viola or violin) to play. The learning of a violin and others allows a musical foundation to be laid. Their ear is in training as is their receptivity to musicality. Electrode tests during musical activity have shown that all sides of the brain are active. Playing in an orchestra calls for the human being to be open, to be listening to your colleagues, to be sensitive to them, to your instrument and your music. The violin calls for tone and pitch right to the bones of their finger and for the functioning of the physical ear. Elasticity and flexibility for their speech organs will be gained by singing songs, and a fine sensibility for long and short sounds will arise by itself.
  • Poetry is encouraged because in seeing to it that children speak well, we are laying the foundation for correct writing. Poetry trains the beauty sense of language while developing memory. Poetry is part of the higher self – hence you develop a language that connects to the higher worlds.
  • Learning in a Steiner school is a non-competitive 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.

7. What is the curriculum at a Steiner school like?

The Steiner curriculum is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child’s development. The relationship between student and teacher is, likewise, recognised to be both crucial and changing throughout the course of childhood and early adolescence.
*Each class begins the school day with the Morning Circle. The ‘circle’ involves the whole class, and usually includes movement, gesture, recitation, singing and counting activities. The ‘circle’ may include all of these activities or just take in a few. The ‘Morning Circle Time’ can be very enriching for the children in a deep way, and can strengthen them for the day’s task ahead, the ‘circle’ has left them bright and enlivened and ready to move happily into the main lesson work.
In the Morning Circle, the memory is exercised, the children learn to listen, to observe, to speak, to sing and to dance. The movements involve development of spatial awareness, co-ordination and social awareness.
*The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are, as mentioned, taught in main lesson blocks of two to three hours per day, with each block lasting from three to five weeks.
The uninterrupted, two-hour main lesson with which each day begins is the academic cornerstone upon which the day is built. It is the basic element of the Steiner curriculum. It encourages the children to become absorbed in, even saturated with, their subject – presented in the block system for concentrated periods of five to six weeks. It involves the thorough working of a given topic, be it the fundamentals of maths or the study of people’s dwellings. It is conducted in the morning, when the children are their freshest, and is followed by a change of activity. The topic is approached through a variety of means perhaps through stories, painting, recitation, a physical group project, or a game until the children have made some connection to it with every part of themselves. Then it is put aside to allow the children time to consciously forget it but unconsciously absorb it. It is left to “digest” and a fresh topic is taken up. After a period of rest, which may be anything for 1 – 6 weeks, the material is recalled once more, and looked at afresh, before moving on to new horizons.
It is believed by Steiner educators that this is a more efficient and effective system of learning. The pattern is natural to children, as anyone knows who has observed the succession of “crazes” in the playground. The result is a thorough and satisfying assimilation of knowledge, thus maintaining the child’s enthusiasm for learning. 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.
*After recess are the “Practice “ sessions – the middle lessons of the day, involving language, maths, foreign languages, eurythmy, and music. Language and maths are covered in main lesson blocks but are also revised regularly in the practice sessions.
*Ideally, the lessons in the afternoon form the basis of activities that involve the ‘will’ forces of the child. They include; craft physical education and instrumental music.
This procession of daily lessons (main, middle and afternoon) provide a rhythm in the daily life of the child. They also help to educate the ‘whole child’ by engaging the life forces of the ‘head, heart and hands’ on a daily basis. Steiner educators see this structure as ideal, although they are not always able to implement it due to the availability of specialist teachers and other timetabling constraints.

8. Why is so much emphasis put on festivals and ceremonies?

According to Steiner educators, 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.

9. Why do Steiner Schools discourage TV watching?

The reasons for this have as much do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) 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.
Steiner teachers are not, by the way, alone in this belief. Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern about the effect of television on young children. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.

10. What kind of training do Steiner teachers have?

While requirements within individual schools may vary, as a rule, Class Teachers will have both a university degree and teaching certification from a recognised Steiner teacher training college or institute. Some Steiner training programs can also grant B.A. degrees in conjunction with Steiner teaching certification. Typically, the course of study for teachers is from two to three years and includes practice teaching in a Steiner school under the supervision of experienced Steiner teachers. Teachers must also satisfy whatever state accreditation and licensing requirements might apply.
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.”

11. Why do Steiner students stay with the same teacher for years?

According to Steiner, 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 his/her class.It’s worth noting that this approach is the norm in the one teacher country schools. (Not that many exist these days).

12. 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 with the class right from the first grade. Given the sort of person, who is motivated to become a Steiner teacher, incompatibility with a child is infrequent: understanding the child’s needs and temperament is central to the teacher’s role and training. If problems of this sort should occur, the faculty as a whole would work 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.

13. Are Steiner schools religious?                                                                                 

In the sense of subscribing to the beliefs of a particular religious denomination or sect, no. Steiner schools, however, tend to be spiritually oriented and are based out of a generally Christian perspective.The historic festivals of Christianity, and of other major religions as well, are observed in the class rooms and in school assemblies.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.

14. How do Steiner children fare when the transfer to “regular” schools?         

Is it true that once you start Steiner schooling it is difficult to “make it” in public schools?Generally, transitions to the public schools, when they are anticipated, are not problematical. The most common transition is from and eight grade Steiner school to a more traditional high school, and, from all reports, usually take place without significant difficulties.Transitions in the lower grades, particularly between the first and fourth grades, can potentially be more of a problem, because of the significant differences in the pacing of the various curriculums. A second grader from a traditional school may be further ahead in reading in comparison with a Steiner-schooled second grader, however, the Steiner-schooled child may be ahead in other areas.

15. How well do Steiner graduates achieve academically?                                 

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, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. As far as higher education goes, Steiner graduates have been accepted as students at, and have graduated from, some of the most prestigious colleges and universities around the world.

16. How does Steiner deal with kids that don’t “get it” 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 parent; 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.

17. What is eurythmy?                                                                                                 

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 taught by a specialist who has been specifically trained in eurythmy, typically for at least five years. In addition to pedagogical eurythmy, there are also therapeutic (“curative”) and performance-oriented forms of the art.

18. Why would I send my child to a Steiner school?

The main reason (according to followers of Steiner) 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 protect their childhoods from harmful influences from the broader society. Secondly, Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in age-appropriate (according to Steiner) fashion. Finally, Steiner schools produce graduates who are academically advantaged and who consistently gain admission to top universities.

19. 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 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 practised observation, one awakens to his/her 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 a significant impact on the word. Curative education, for mentally and emotionally handicapped adults and children, has established a deep understanding and work with people who have this difficult destiny. Bio-dynamic farming and gardening greatly expand the range of techniques available to organic agriculture. Anthroposophical medicine and pharmacy are subjects of growing interest.
It should be stressed that while anthroposophy forms the theoretical basis to the teaching methods used in Steiner schools, it 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

20. Statement on computer education in the Steiner curriculum.

It is common knowledge and accepted by parents who seek out and bring their children to a school or stream of Steiner Education that computer education is not part of the curriculum until Class 7.
Within the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner Education, the developing child up to the age of 14 (start of adolescence) moves through stages, which reflect the historical development of humankind as a whole. The curriculum strives to immerse the students in the richness and cultural achievements of the past as a preparation for the modern world. All aspects of the curriculum are fully integrated into this sequential system of cultural epochs leading up to where we are now in the 3rd millennium.
At the end of Class 7, the student is considered as sufficiently grounded and well prepared to fully meet the challenges of the modern world with all its technical possibilities. It is at this stage that IT is taught to the students as a useful tool for their education and career choices; IT becomes an integrated part of the high school curriculum.

21. What is the College of Teachers?

The College of Teachers is a collegiate gathering of Steiner Teachers which exists as a forum for their professional development and learning.
The College meets weekly to provide support and advice to its members. In a stand-alone Steiner School, the College of Teachers also handle the day-to-day running and administration of the school. However, at Collingwood College, this is managed by the administrative team so the College has more time to focus on their professional development and the direction of the Steiner cohort.
The College of Teachers offer songs, publications and performances to the whole school at special times of the year, including Easter, Mid-Winter and Christmas.

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