Any steiner school experiences?(67 Posts)
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
As a former pupil, I can honestly say that Waldorf/Steiner education, together with the awful teachers and the constant bullying and abuse ruined many peoples lives. Both children and parents who raised concerns
Forget the smooth propaganda on YouTube etc, it is not worth the gamble sending your child to a Steiner school. The risks are huge
The same issues that crop up in the UK waldorf schools are present in other parts of the world as well. I would never send one of my children to a Steiner School but would rather let them read books at home.
Sadly my experiences are not unique. I went to 2 different Steiner schools and have subsequently met ex pupils who were also badly bullied and/or sexually abused by staff. I have met people who attempted suicide as adults due to their experiences in Steiner Schools. There are also people who enjoyed themselves and have done well but I suspect they would have done well wherever they went.
At my second Steiner school a pupil was given permanent brain damage and left as a vegetable when another jumped on his head repeatedly. Other pupils were victimised with homophobic bullying, racist bullying, and bullying based on disability. For example, a very vulnerable girl with MS was called spastic and imitated mercilessly and bullied by all the girls, most of the boys and some of the teachers. They obviously did nothing to stop the bullying. What tended to happen was that even kids who were not the ringleaders all joined in to avoid being victims themselves. Teachers also did this as they sought popularity with the bullies who were invariably the most popular, the fastest runners, best at sports etc.
Other pupils were bullied due to minor disabilities or unusual appearance.
So what new...bullying happens in most schools. Well here is the problem:
Anthropology views bullying as both Karma and that the soul of the disabled person is impure. As as result nothing is done to stop the bullying despite.
With a heavy emphasis on Greek, Roman and Norse history and myths/legends, a subliminal message is taught that only being white and of an athletic and attractive physic is the goal. Anyone not fitting this is an outcast.
Class Teachers who take the morning 1.40hr lesson each morning remain the same for classes 1-8. So if they bully or are otherwise bad teachers your DC will be lumbered with them for 8 years potentially
Bright students have no place in Steiner School, since reading, maths and science are held back, neglected or dismissed as unimportant according to some staff. Furthermore since many teachers for upper school, GCSE and A level stages are not properly qualified to teach their subject, bright students have no one to bring them on.
Steiner Teachers in my school were often unqualified for the subject they taught. Due to shortage of teachers (low wages) and the fact that teachers didn't have to have a PGCE, only the Steiner teachers course. Some Steiner teachers would never be up to teaching in a state school. Many are overgrown hippies and tend to be egoists in my experience. There are a few really nice teachers, but most are a nasty, ragtag bunch of loony lefties with no moral standards (dont be fooled by the nice trees and pretty picture you will be shown on open day)
Anyone under the impression that morality or being nice to each other is taught or encouraged in Steiner schools has been misled. On the one hand there is the quasi Christian and mystical side in the books, yet most of the the staff and the enthusiastic anthroposophists are left wing and liberal in moral outlook and this permeates the world-view children are provided.
Also quite a number of kids in Steiner Schools have been excluded from mainstream schools or have been troublemakers, but since their parents can pay, they are welcomed since they can pay full fees and Steiner education is not cheap. Money talks so the bad eggs find a home, but the good kids suffer academically and psychologically because of these imported, often disruptive, bullying kids.
Bullying is far worse in Steiner Schools for various reasons.
Lack of supervision in break times. Teachers were often smoking behind an outbuilding instead. Lack of an authority figure to whom teachers are accountable if they do nothing (ie no head) There is also the issue of Karma in that teachers believe it is the child's necessary path to be bullied or even the child's fault for actions in a previous life. Lack of accountability to Parent Governors. In Steiner Schools, the teachers together with a few prominent supporters/anthroposophists (college of teachers) are in charge of decisions and staff issues.
Basically the way Steiner schools are set up provides the ideal setting for incompetent, immoral, abusive and irresponsible teachers to succeed and be protected. In the 1980's 90's a paedophile was allowed to remain working at a Steiner school for years and rather than being held accountable was demoted from teacher to caretaker. Many students were targeted at school and in their own homes since he befriended parents and co-teachers
Some interesting comments at the bottom of this TES article about a state funded Steiner school.
I hope to God you don't get this funding, sorry.
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mollysmum828 you need to be aware, as some have already pointed out, that internet discussions of Steiner Education (and mumsnet is a big one for it) inevitably get jumped on and dominated by self-styled steiner-waldorf critics (some are here). Theyre individuals who spend a great deal of time looking on internet discussion boards for posts about Steiner Education, in order to post negative and off-putting comments. They are individuals, some are calm and clear, others are rabid and manic, some are funny, some bitter, some wistful, some scornful. Some have had negative experiences at Steiner schools and often generalise these experiences to cover all Steiner schools or Steiner education. Some actually have no experience of Steiner schools whatsoever, and really are more critical of anthroposophy than of Waldorf education. Unfortunately it makes it virtually impossible to have any meaningful or genuine discussion here, and for people who are trying to figure out what is right for your child means that Steiner Education can be ruled out based on internet platitudes alone. So if your're looking at a Steiner School, visit, spend time there (as you would at any school, right?), and meet your childs future teachers. Talk to parents and students. Ask questions about what youv'e read on the interet. Dont let critics dissuade you, and dont let Steiner aficiandos convince you. Gather information and make the decision based on your own experience and your own thinking. Good luck
I didn't send my daughter to the Steiner school, but I did check it out. I didn't have a negative experience of it, I didn't feel it was full of rogue children or same looking art work. I was simply drawn into the idea of the Steiner school because my daughter is being assessed for learning/behavioural difficulties, and has been confirmed as having a language processing disorder. She is now in year 1 at state school, where she is under great pressure to achieve, to the point that she has begun to throw terrible tantrums in order to be removed from the class (and relax!). I agreed with the general idea that children should start later, and not be under pressure to achieve... or at least my child shouldn't.
The strange ethos etc wasn't really apparent when I visited. There was no reference the surreal things people have mentioned on this thread. The only different things were that:
1) They didn't encourage television watching
2) They didn't do any work using computers (I wasn't sure I was comfortable with this - seeing as they are becoming something you really NEED to learn)
3) There was emphasis on eating healthy, locally sourced food with no processed food (This didn't bother me, in fact I would have been unhappy if she was being fed cheap processed food when I was paying so much to have her go to Steiner in the first place :P)
4) The children's clothing was... well... weird! It was like going back in time. However, this wasn't all the children, but I think my DD would have stood out in her Disney princesses tops :P
The biggest reason we didn't go ahead with Steiner was because we felt uneasy about the jump for my daughter (she doesn't cope well with change), we thought she might lose out on her assessments by changing schools... and we simply couldn't have afforded the fees in the long term.
We also got the impression they weren't very enthusiastic about taking her on, as we were very honest about her social/educational issues... and it really put me off.
I know it's a year old but i'll add my two cents anyway :-)
I had read up about steier education and then requested a prospectus from our not-so-local school and it seemed absolutely wonderful! images of children tree climbing, boat building, playing in sand etc. It looked perfect so off we went for the open day.................
Firstly I couldn't ascertain who was the "headteacher" (they aren't allowed to be called that) or teachers from the parents. There was no introduction etc, but I was only "mainstream" looking person (ie my clothes were not knitted from alpaca wool) and I got a few strange looks for that.
One of the things that attracted me to steiner education was the no teaching of religion, so I was very surprised to see a bible in every classroom and depictios of the madonna etc. When I asked a teacher about this, she said "Oh we are a very christian school!" (despite the prospectus stating otherwise).
There were one or two teachers who were originally mainstream teachers who seemed really nice and down to earth, the others being on the complete other end of the spectrum where seriously their eyes had this strange glaze (I wouldn't be surprised if they were on drugs)
The school building itself was very picturesque, in wooded gardens etc but once you went in it reminded me of the feeling I had as a child stepping into santa's grotto; it was lovely but just didn't feel real.
ALL of the artwork was the same, I questioned the kindergarten teacher if the work was really the kids because it certainly didn't look like a five year olds painting, it was all diagonal lines in the same colours, not the sort of stick man art work that you might expect from that age group.
The children were all either very sullen (dressed in goth attire) or very unruly, running around making lots of noise. When we went into the woodwork workshop i asked the teacher about the boat building, which he looked very baffled about, when I showed him the prospectus (with the pics of childre building a boat!) he said he'd never heard of it in ten years he had been there! there was a small boy running around the workshop with a hacksaw in his hand, and the teacher was desperately trying to get it off him (this was in front of about 20 parents) In the end one of the parents wrestled it off him.
I spoke to one of the teachers about academic achievement (it seemed rather poor) and he said that was up to the pupil. He was a past pupil, who had moved to mainstream to do his A levels but said he found the adjustment very difficult.
We ended up homeschooling.
Please do not get sucked in!!!!! I was a bit post-natal and went to a mother and toddler steiner group. When I mentioned television programmes, i was looked at as if I was an alien! The books were all about gnomes and had no words in them. I was told that Thomas the tank was sexist! The library seemed to be nothing but steiner /anthroposophic propoganda.
A boy who went there carried on in steiner mode. He had all his thomas the tanks locked away in the attic and he had to give away all his mr men books: I ask you? Saint Roger Hargreaves?!
When I attended the interview for kindergarten, they asked if we watched tv, I said a couple of hours a day. I was made to feel as if I was being wicked! We are talking balamory, thomas the tank or educational stuff like numberjacks. I asked if they teach anthroposophy? They said we don't ; I read on a teaching site that they are trained to not mention the anthro business till later on.
Also ...look up Steiner and racism.
I just wanted to thank you all for your posts! I've had some lovely PMs too from people who were a bit worried about airing their views in public - so thank you for those too!
To be honest I'm intrigued! The school seems lovely, the literature looks good, the staff seem nice, the toddler group continues to be nice and the kids seem happy...but there are so many people with bad experiences of Steiner it does worry me. And there doesn't seem to be any middle ground - people have either had horrific or amazing experiences.
So I'm left confused...albeit more informed! Thanks again
Well I am pleased to see you got some responses OP. What are your thoughts now.
I worked in a 'steiner environment' and being completely unaware of anthroposophy and everything which goes with it, quite honestly I thought the world had gone mad
I have to say it gave me the biggest laughs for years. I won't disclose exactly what it was, but before work, we all had to stand at the front of the building and sway around dancing and smiling. Tena pads were in order, we used to cry with laughter
I went to a Steiner kindergarten and school as a child and I loved it. Every one is different though, so the answers you get here may not help you decide. And yes - MN is fairly anti-Steiner , generally speaking you'd be best advised to go and check out the one you are interested and ask lots of questions. Go with your instincts rather than what is considered popular. After all, every child is different and for some waldorf schooling might not suit, for others it's perfect.
Here's a good link that explains a lot about Waldorf Education. http://www.montessorianswers.com/my-experiences-with-waldorf.html
A friend of mine had friends who were devout anthroposophists - lovely, lovely people but I met their DD who was 6 - a very bright, very frustrated child who lived in a room full of books but was not allowed to learn to read. I had a T-shirt with txt on at the time (did I know this was dodgy???) and she was sitting wtih me sounding out the words until her parents jumped down her throat. Very scary.
I have 2 DDs who were both very early readers - chapter books at just 5 - and I have no doubt at all that holding them back because their adult teeth had not come through would have damaged them.
I do think the UK system with its emphasis on early literacy is far too rigid though. Children are ready to read between the ages of (very broadly) 4 and 7 and between those ages the system has to be flexible enough to accommodate everyone when they are ready to learn. I went to a Montessori school in the Netherlands and it did seem to work very well there.
What's the rational for not painting young?
Certainly this has been an eye opening thread for me. As a teacher myself I had liked the idea of starting formal education later, an emphasis on art and music and in my case part time schooling. (I'd ideally like to flexischool and the Steiner School is set up so you can do that).
However some of the more odd things about Steiner do worry me.
I think I would treat it like any other school, go in with a set of questions:
how do you deal with bullying?- if they claim there is no bullying, run a mile! they have just proved that they are not dealing with it
how would you cope with a child with special needs?- (doesn't matter if your dc has no sn, still says a lot about the school) beware of any fluffiness, such as "we believe in cherishing everybody"
how would you cope with an academically gifted child who is eager to learn?
I think they allow far too much disruptive behaviour-no DC is an island and everything they do impinges on someone else. Too many 'free spirits' stops freedom.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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'
I love the look of the Steiner school near me but its just that little bit too far to commute.
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.
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.
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 unhealthy....to make the kids all paintthe same sunset...se the same medium and colours...and it was over and over...all over the school.
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