From birth to the change of teeth at around 7, the child grows strongly into their body and learns about the world through action, based upon imitation. In this phase, and at a rapid pace, children master skills of movement, speech, gesture, verbal and non-verbal communication and many others. In Early Childhood the curriculum and activities are based upon the child’s ability to imitate and their strong impetus to learn through ‘doing’.
Steiner Education – Our Philospophy
To teach a child, a teacher must understand the developmental level of each year level. They must truly know the children in their care, to understand their phases of growth, physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. Only by having a holistic understanding of child development, can teachers bring a comprehensive curriculum to each child. Thus the uniqueness of Steiner Education lies not so much in what is taught but in how and when.
Steiner brought his indications to the world at the beginning of the 20th century, they are even more important today, as children will grow up to be young people ready to face a world of sophisticated technology, global citizenship, significant environmental challenges and a global economy. To be able to understand the world, a child must first know him/herself, feel confident and empowered to achieve his/her potential in life. Steiner education aims to do that.
We shouldn’t ask “What does a person need to be able to do in order to fit into the existing social order today?” Instead we should ask “What lives in each human being and what can be developed in him or her? – Rudolf Steiner
Steiner identified 3 distinct stages:
While the above overview of the three main phases of childhood reflect how particular age groups relate to the world this model also recognises and respects the cultural nature of the learning style of various ages. These phases are certainly not static however, though the variety of conceptual impulses informs the work of the teachers.
Out of this understanding of human development a truly comprehensive curriculum has been developed and it is delivered in over 1000 Steiner Schools world-wide.
Rudolf Steiner was a scientist, educator, philosopher, artist and ‘a universal genius in an age of specialists’. He had an unusually deep insight into human nature.
It is out of this insight that he was able to offer an artistic, academic and creative educational style. A company owned by the wealthy Astor family contracted Rudolf Steiner to offer his method of education to local children in Waldorf, Germany. He wrote several books, which continue to be studied for their observations of human nature and the development of self.
Rudolf Steiner called his ideas about the world and humanity ‘anthroposophy’. He wanted to indicate the difference from his ideas and the philosophies developed by others before him. Anthroposophy has influenced agriculture, medicine, care for the disabled, the arts, architecture, banking and business and continues to be studied world-wide.
The Relationship Between Teacher and Class – A Long Term Commitment
One of the fundamental principles of Steiner education is the profound importance of the class teacher and the long-term relationship between the teacher and the class. During their years together, children build very strong relationships with the children of their class, their families and their class teacher. Teachers come to know where each child needs further development in the academic, artistic and social spheres of their lives. The constancy of the class teacher in their lives also brings a feeling of a family group to the class. We have seen that many friendships among Steiner graduates last well into and beyond high school.
Where possible, a class teacher will be with their class for up to six years. During that time, relationships between teacher and students will go through different stages. The class teacher changes their teaching style at each year level, according to the developmental needs of the class.
During the class teacher journey, a real partnership develops between teacher and the families of the children, providing a strong base for resolving differences that might occur as the children get older and start to relate to the world around them with more questions. Teachers strive to work closely with families to find solutions to arising difficulties and to support the children’s development through all their phases.
Competition Versus Cooperation
It may well be said that the only worthwhile competition is with yourself, to outgrow what you are and to strive to become what you might become. The question is not so much whether or not you are better than another, but rather whether you are the best you can be. Steiner schools prefer to encourage aspiration rather than competition. How people cope in a competitive world depends on their self-esteem. If they leave school with an inner confidence in their ability to grow to meet the demands of a situation, they will be able to live their lives positively and constructively. A teacher will encourage each student to be the best they can be and find many opportunities to acknowledge to the whole class the achievements of individual students as they show particular strengths. Similarly, as students overcome weaknesses, the whole class celebrates their successes.
The seasons and cultural festivals are celebrated to bring awareness to the children of the greater rhythms in nature and the world around them. The Harvest Festival in autumn, the Mid-Winter Festival on the solstice, spring and the approach of summer and Christmas are all celebrated with community events, songs, poems, dance, plays and food. In our busy lives today, there is often a lack of tradition, time to stop and reflect, and to be part of a wider community. These opportunities are highly valued by the children, their families and the staff and at each festival former students and their families return to experience this sense of community togetherness.
SEA is the peak body for Australian Steiner schools. Steiner education is recognised as a highly valued approach to helping young people develop flexible, agile thinking alongside an ability to collaborate and thrive in a 21st Century world.