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Any steiner school experiences?

(67 Posts)
mollysmum82 Wed 08-Jun-11 14:22:20

I went to a toddler group at our local steiner school today and it was just lovely. There was such a calm atmosphere and my daughter adored it. We've been thinking about schools for a while now and I wondered if anyone had any good (or bad) experiences of a steiner education, in preschool, primary and secondary levels. Many thanks in advance

TheCrackFox Wed 08-Jun-11 22:18:43

I know an adult ex-Steiner pupil who is just a little sad about the fact that she has no qualifications and can't actually get a decentish job.

She is, however, very nice. Employers, however, aren't all that impressed with niceness which is a shame.

Tigresswoods Wed 08-Jun-11 22:22:02

My cousin went in the 90's, he is no 30. He has found it very hard to settle into a job and generally what I consider "normal" life. He just always seems to be on the outside of things. That could just be him though.

I don't really remember details because I was a teenager myself when he was there but I do remember:

He could wear what he wanted so long as there was no writing on it
He was not allowed to play football and instead seemed to spend his games lessons doing dance
They didn't seem to "believe" in qualificiations and thought there was no need to have more than 5 GCSEs.

I could have the qualifications bit wrong but that is what I recall. He is not very academic so maybe if he was conventionally "clever" it would have been a more enriching experience for him.

Saying all this he was happy there.

I am going to sit and watch the bunfight now.

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Thu 09-Jun-11 08:26:47

i am a big believer that emotional intelligence is far to low down the list of priorities in the standard education system (despite it being better indicator of "success" later in life than IQ). I'd like to know how steiner schools address this...

I also believe there is far too much pressure to get kids reading and writing before they are ready. Some kids are ready earlier than others. I'd rather take the line that you follow the individuals lead (montessori i believe) than not allowing children access to books/letters etc till seven a la steiner. Seems very controling and arbitary to me. I would be genuinly interested if someone could explain the thinking behind this.

I have friends that think steiner is very creative. I don't see how, seems restrictive to me and again i'd be genuinly interested to hear more about this from anyone who is into steiner...or i might have to have the conversation in rl!

I went to a steiner event in a park...was very much an adults idea of what kids want imo. Highly organised and a bit tame. Not nearly raucus enough for my liking... grin

If anyone could answer my q's i'd be very grateful. smile

My parents both went to the Steiner school in Kings Langley back in the 60s. They are definitely not anthroposophy etc! We have lots of friends in Germany who teach/went to Steiner schools. They are a little bit hippyish but in a very gentle way and there was nothing cultish about them. We stayed with them every summer holiday and had a wonderful time running about, doing carpentry, playing in the woods etc. I was a huge reader from being tiny and noone ever commented that I shouldn't be reading until I was 7.

My BIL (now 21) went to a Steiner school when he was 8 simply because my MIL took him out of a school where he was being bullied but then couldn't find another school with places. It was just what he needed at the time as he was suffering from anxiety but when he had to transfer into m/s school for secondary, the academic side was sadly missing. However he is now a tennis coach and I don't think that he was ever going to be an academic regardless of which school he went to! grin

onadifferentplanettoday Thu 09-Jun-11 09:14:41

My son is at our local Steiner school,I had had like most people heard all the negative comments but decided to go and look for myself. For my son it is the perfect environment he had become a confident outgoing child,is learning three languages,two instruments and the academic work is of a very high standard. he has also developed a love of gardening.woodwork,pottery and cooking. I wonder how many of the people who go on about gnomes,no tv and hippies have actually any real experience of steiner many seem to simply be repeating third hand information. My child is certainly in no way 'feral' in fact he is very well behaved,polite and courteous rather more so than many of the children who live in our street. We have tv,internet and xbox and have even been known to visit McDonalds and KFC,we don't sit at home on a toadstool knitting!
Another poster says sport is limited,last term my son's sports were swimming and climbing and this term circus skills and cycling.
Steiner is not for everyone, but then neither is the local state school.
By the way I have three other children each have gone to the school I considered right for them,you know your child better than anyone else and know what will suit them .

snailoon Thu 09-Jun-11 09:37:13

It depends on the school. Some are better than others, but they can be quite closed-minded and judgemental if you don't toe the line.
Staying with the same teacher for years could be a huge problem too, I think.

BamBam21 Thu 09-Jun-11 09:39:56

I have a young nephew who attends a Steiner school. I have also attended several of the school's fundraising events, and all I can say is that my impression is not good. The kids are allowed to run wild, with no basic manners or social skills in evidence. The parents all float around wearing their hand-knitted-in-Peru ponchos, totally ignoring their kids' inappropriate behaviour. The kids appear to be dab-hands at climbing trees, building bonfires etc, but there's no great evidence of anything more academic than that. They have to wear clothes made entirely of natural fibres, and are not allowed TV or computer games, and "ordinary" kids' toys are frowned upon. However the thing that most shocked me was that the teachers (who get called by their first names) actually visit the kids' homes to inspect their bedrooms, and ensure there is nothing "inappropriate".
My DS attends the local state school, and he is thriving under the routine and discipline, and his literacy and numeracy are very good. IMHO children need a bit of well-structured discipline. It pays dividends in the long run, and better equips them for the real world, where you can't just wander off to look for ladybirds whenever you fancy.

mollysmum82 Thu 09-Jun-11 13:26:02

Thanks so much for all your posts, they've been tremendously useful!

Its great to hear some people have had good experiences at these schools but I'm absolutely shocked at some of the negatives! The reasons for lack of security and the abusive punishments in particular. How is this not better known? (Or do I walk around with my eyes shut?) I'm a teacher myself and I had no idea! How do they manage to get away with it? Have Ofsted been involved? I didn't know about the religious side either. Is it the case that one or two of the schools have had the odd bonkers teacher and its tarred the brush of the other schools? I'm tempted to post the names for the school(s) I'm interested in to see if anyone has any direct experience of them (or will my post be deleted if I do that?)

Thanks again

mollysmum82 Thu 09-Jun-11 13:29:31

Maybe I should hint a bit at them? Okay the schools I'm interested in are in the region of England initialled the EMs. One of the schools is in the city of N and the other is in D county. If anyone knows either of these schools but is uncomfortable posting (either for good or bad reasons!) would it be really cheeky to ask if you could PM me? Many thanks

WhatsWrongWithYou Thu 09-Jun-11 13:39:43

I can assure you nothing in any of my posts was second-hand information. It all happened at the school my children attended.
I also thought a lot of the things I came across must have been down to rogue teachers/one-offs, but if you google 'Waldorf critics' or 'Waldorf survivors' you will find a lot of similar accounts, and much worse, from all over the world.

As for Ofsted, the schools are very skilled at putting on a fantastic front for prospective families at open days and suchlike (it's how they keep going), so why wouldn't they be equally able to impress Ofsted?

But don't take my word for it - I'm sure you'll do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

mollysmum82 Thu 09-Jun-11 13:42:02

I'm so so sorry to hear you went through all that Whatswrongwith you. I really appreciate you posting, I know it must be really hard to talk about x

WhatsWrongWithYou Thu 09-Jun-11 13:48:31

Oh I'm fine, so are my DCs - we got them out quick enough! Thanks for your good wishes though smile.

worldgonecrazy Thu 09-Jun-11 13:53:18

All Steiner schools are run autonomously so, just like State schools, there are good and bad. I think the best advert for any school, state or private, is the young adults it turns out into the world, and all the teenagers I have met at my DDs school are polite, well mannered, confident, keen to learn, and the academic work in the upper school is of a very high standard. If there is a school you are interested in, go along, have a look and meet the pupils.

My DD is attending our local Steiner and it is certainly nothing like any of the horror stories I have read online. Yes, the children learn myths, but there is a bit of a clue in that the children are taught them as myths. At the school my DD attends they learn about myths from all over the world, not just Norse ones. They also learn biology, chemistry, physics, maths, geography, history, English, French, German and a lot of other stuff too.

Most of the anti-Steiner comments I have read are really as stupid as expecting Catholic Schools to be teaching that at Communion the host and wine actually become real flesh and blood.

The kindergarten are even allowed to use black crayon - just to pop the bubble of another bit of misinformation I've seen.

With regard to it leading to children unprepared for the world of work, we read enough each day about how ill-prepared many children leaving state schools are. The list of ex-Steiner alumni certainly seems to show a number of high-achievers, including the ex-CEO of American Express, and of course, Sandra Bullock.

RitaMorgan Thu 09-Jun-11 14:16:31

Catholic Schools do teach that the host and wine become actual flesh and blood.

I do agree though that some Steiner schools are probably more orthodox/strict in their beliefs than others.

WhatsWrongWithYou Thu 09-Jun-11 14:32:43

That point occurred to me also, RM. I'm sure Steiner schools do vary in the mix of beliefs and practices prevalent in each.

I'd still urge the Op, as others have mentioned, to research Anthroposophy as it is the underlying belief/religion/philosophy common to all of them.

WGC, you may or may not be interested in finding out which of the above subjects your DD will be able to gain a qualification in. At our local school the maximum, I believe, is six, and that does not include history or geography. Combined sciences is also the only option as far as sciences go, and I believe they all have to take music GCSE.

You may be happy with this, but others contemplating putting their child/ren into that system might want to be made aware of those things.

worldgonecrazy Thu 09-Jun-11 14:55:58

Gosh? Only 6? It must be to do with the size of school or something similar? Our local Steiner offers a choice of 13 different subjects, including the individual sciences, though I'd presumed that the system was still taking around 9-10? Four are sat in Year 10 and the rest in Year 11. DD's school doesn't seem to have a particularly heavy academic focus but does seem to allow those children who are academic to reach their potential.

I agree it is definitely worth checking what the upper school is like before making any decisions but surely that is also the case with State schools?

WWWY - surely it would be clearer and less antagonistic to say "putting child/ren into that school" rather than "putting child/ren into that system", as the latter implies that all Steiner schools only allow six GCSEs, when clearly this is not the case.

WhatsWrongWithYou Thu 09-Jun-11 19:15:40

I didn't use the word 'system' to be antagonistic - was using one school as an example, but meant that with any school within that system (or any system, for that matter), you would need to check what the situation was regarding exams and availability of subjects.

I didn't intend to imply all Steiner schools only offer six subjects, simply that you'd want to check out whichever school you were considering before entering that system.

I've now said it twice and I'm still not sure I've made it clear! smile

MumblingRagDoll Thu 09-Jun-11 20:42:32

WorldgonecrazyCan I ask...dothey do that "wet on wet painting"? And do all the kids art look the same or are they allowed freedom? Not being provocative...but for me that ws the clincher...I just thought it ws so make the kids all paintthe same the same medium and colours...and it was over and over...all over the school.

worldgonecrazy Fri 10-Jun-11 08:13:40

mumbling yes they do the wet on wet, but I wouldn't say that the pictures were any more samey than at any other primary school, from what I've seen, pictures have a general theme and I think children at that age tend to copy each other anyway.

The books are the same because the children are creating their own text books, but within these the pictures tend to be different, just the text that is copied down verbatim (interestingly with no spelling or grammar errors in any of the many books I've seen at open days).

I'm sure there are dreadful Steiner schools out there, just as there are State schools that I'm sure many parents would rather eat their own eyeballs than send their children there.

mollysmum82 Fri 10-Jun-11 14:11:22

Thanks so much again for all your posts, its great to hear both sides of the argument in such a productive and balanced way (i.e. no waging of war!)

I think one of my concerns is the reading issue - I love the idea of children learning at their own pace and not being pressurised into learning, thus retaining their joy for knowledge. This is one of the reasons I considered Steiner in the first place. But I worry, what if my daughter is dying to start reading before the age of 7 - would Steiner schools actively discourage this?

I also worry about the kind of situation Whatswrongwithyou describes - how would you be sure the school you chose would not have the same horrific issues? I know you can't be sure about any primary school but at least state schools have the LEA, Oftsed etc to answer to (they seem to have more accountability?) So maybe on balance its too big a risk to take.

I think I'm just thinking aloud now! Thank you again for all your help.

emsies Fri 10-Jun-11 20:39:14

I love the look of the Steiner school near me but its just that little bit too far to commute.

swash Fri 10-Jun-11 21:03:30

Wow this is fascinating! Lots of my friends did the Steiner toddler group and they all loved it. I was a bit disconcerted when one of them sang a hippy-grace with her children at our local cafe though.grin

Another friend just signed up her dd because 'the teacher was wearing a floaty dress and carrying a wand and I thought she would just love to be in her class' hmm

Piccadilly Sat 11-Jun-11 13:27:44

I think if you want a Steiner school which would not discourage reading before the age of 7, you have to find a "poor" Steiner school, if you see what I mean... one in which the teachers are not too really doing the Steiner thing 100%... I do know of parents who have been called in for a talk when it became clear in the Steiner nursery that their under 4s were allowed to paint at home. This was considered by Steiner to be too early to be allowed to use a paint brush and those nursery teachers were conscientious Steiner teachers and put some pressure on the parents to stop painting at home.
I would also recommend you to read as widely as you can regarding anthroposophy before sending your child to a Steiner school - there are an awful lot of books which Steiner wrote himself. Then you have to look at your own school and try to get an impression of how they implement Steiner´s ideas. This is not so easy, I think, as a parent.

Piccadilly Sat 11-Jun-11 13:32:47

Sorry, when I wrote "I know of parents" it sounds as if I have heard stories of...
i.e. 3rd hand. This is not the case. It happened to a close friend who I trust to tell the truth. Just that I know she is not the only one who experienced this at this particular nursery.

mollysmum82 Sat 11-Jun-11 13:54:04

They has this video on one of the schools' websites and its so inspiring:

This is why I'm thinking about a different kind of school!

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