As a parent who is considering home schooling, or interested in educational philosophies, you may well have heard of Steiner schooling. While you probably know some of its practices or concepts, you may be less aware of how these are put into play, or how they can be integrated into home schooling techniques. This article looks into the details surrounding a Steiner education.
What is a Steiner education?
If you hear reference to the Steiner (also known as Steiner Waldorf) educational method, this will usually be a reference to the education philosophy started by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, who developed a new kind of school – the “Steiner school” – which is very different to a traditional school, state or private. Steiner school pupils do not usually use textbooks within their education; instead they will normally use ‘Main Lesson Books’, which are spaces for Steiner-educated children to complete in their own imaginative ways, for example with writing, pictures, explanations, diagrams – while they are going through their education. In essence, this is a key aspect of the Steiner education: pupils are in charge of their own textbooks.
One of the first things you might notice when comparing the Steiner education philosophy with the traditional, “normal” way of schooling is within the Steiner route, a ‘formal’, academically rigorous learning environment is not initiated until the student is six (or sometimes older). Before this age, during what is traditionally known as nursery or kindergarten years, children are encouraged to play – mainly using their own imaginations, as well as through activities like baking, drawing, artwork, creative dressing up, and so on.
At primary school level, Steiner schools will normally involve a wide-ranging curriculum that includes aspects such as art, drama, movement, music and crafts as well as foreign language learning. Academic teaching is normally mixed with arts, music and movement rather than separated into “periods” or “lessons” as occurs in most traditional schools. The Steiner system also encourages schools following the philosophy to have one single teacher stay teaching a year group throughout their time at the school (rather than changing every year as would traditionally occur) and this sense of teacher continuity is a clear link between most home school education philosophies and Steiner.
Steiner Links with Home SchoolingIn America particularly, the Steiner method is very popular amongst home schooling families (put Steiner or Waldorf home schooling in a search engine for a taste of the mass of information available on the net about this education method). There are many similarities for some home schooling families, such as the emphasis on independent learning and following a personal pace. Home schooling families often also place greater emphasis on learning through nature and through daily tasks, which can also form a core of Steiner education methods.
If you’re interested in discovering more about home teaching in a Steiner-influenced way, it’s a good idea to research some books on Steiner’s teaching methods and how they’re adapted throughout the world. Some places to start include The Wellspring Bookshop, www.wellspringbookshop.co.uk, which is a dedicated site to buy books about the Steiner education system. It’s a good idea to talk to other parents who are home teaching using the Steiner method, to find out more about the benefits and disadvantages, although remember that different children will respond to different teaching methods in their own unique ways.