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How successful is teaching at Steiner schools?

(25 Posts)
cherryblossoming Thu 11-Jul-13 22:47:02

I know that the pupils learn their numbers and letters when they start school, which is when they are 6 or 7 years-old. So how do they learn that fast to transfer successfully into secondary education? Do the teachers follow an intensive learning programme?

RonaldMcDonald Fri 12-Jul-13 08:58:23


Exhaustipated Fri 12-Jul-13 09:07:48


Kind of the opposite - the kids develop their reading ability at their own pace. Often by this age the pace is much quicker than that of younger children, so they 'catch up' and it is supposed to encourage a greater appreciation and love of reading/learning as it isn't pushed from an early age. But from what I've heard sometimes that doesn't happen and it can be a problem. Probably depends a huge amount on the school. Steiner schools vary hugely.

Saracen Fri 12-Jul-13 23:40:52

I'm not familiar with Steiner schools.

Following on from Exhaustipated's post, some people believe that a large proportion of children aren't developmentally ready to make much progress in a formal academic setting when they are very young. If this is true, then you would expect progress to be very slow when young children are taught formally, but much faster if you simply wait a few years to introduce formal academics. It doesn't require an intensive programme, because the children are ready to get stuck in.

By analogy, you might start coaching a two-month-old baby to walk and if you plotted his progress at various "pre-walking" skills he might seem to be making a small bit of progress very slowly. He might even eventually walk at a slightly earlier age than he would have done if left to his own devices. Or you could leave him and wait, and then one day he'd get up and walk. By the age of five no one would know whether he had had intensive coaching in walking or whether he had done it on his own a bit later.

Anecdotally, among my home educating friends it seems to be a common pattern that children start learning to read at the age of seven or so and then make much faster progress than a four-year-old would do. However, it's a difficult thing to design a study which would prove that this approach is effective.

There was a "study" of sorts in the 1930s which does suggest that early formal teaching of arithmetic may do more harm than good: You'd not get away with conducting such an experiment these days!

cherryblossoming Fri 19-Jul-13 10:16:42

Sorry, I am a bit late. Looks like many people enjoy the weather instead of browsing the internet. I am just worried that may be I made a mistake by sending my DS to school when he was five. Children on the continent start school when they are 6 or 7 and progressing very fast. Later on you would not see the difference. Of course the only problem is childcare. Parents in the UK can return back to work sooner because of their children starting school when they are 4 or 5. The holidays are also short to fit the parents' needs. I often hear complains from parents how tired they children have become in the summer. But on the other hand I am glad my DS is at school instead of playing with his computer at home.

rrbrigi Fri 19-Jul-13 10:30:53

They start the school at 6 in some country in Europe, but they go to nursery from 3 to 6. And the last year in nursery pretty much the same like the Reception here. Although they do not learn to read, but they have formal learning sections. And they learn the letters, numbers, some maths lots of painting, and making things, learning about the environment, etc… So in the first year of the school they need to concentrate only to reading, writing and maths. They have a few lesson for other things. And the first year, when they are 6, they sit next to a table for 45 mins, then get 10-15 mins break, then again 45 mins next to a table, etc...

Pyrrah Fri 19-Jul-13 13:57:49

Having a lot of friends in other countries and having lived in another European country for 8 years, I think the whole idea that the kids there are doing nothing but play until they go to school at 6 or 7 is incorrect.

My American friends on FB who have children the same age as DD (4) are posting up pictures of their kids writing and doing basic arithmetic that is far beyond what DD is doing. They are taught all this at their pre-schools.

It may not be called 'school' and they may not be actively pushing reading and writing in exactly the same way, but what is actually being studied is not so very different.

There are also plenty of children who teach themselves to read and play with numbers in all countries - it's not just England where you find kids who can read at the age of 3.

maizieD Fri 19-Jul-13 15:12:44

Schmedz Fri 19-Jul-13 23:21:40

Scary stuff Maizie.

mathanxiety Sat 20-Jul-13 03:31:51

My DCs started formal instruction at 6ish in the US. They went to various classes from age 4. DD1 went four afternoons a week in a RC school, DS went to classes three mornings a week in the local YMCA and the other three DDs went to a different RC school three mornings a week at age 4. At age 5 they all went to kindergarten in the second RC school. This was 'half day' kindergarten, five days a week. Two and a half hours a day.

There was a lot of play. Play included hands-on science, cooking, craft and maths activities (no pencil and paper exercises), and there was story time, circle time, discussion of weather and season, trips to the local park, snack time, bathroom time, time allowed for taking off coats and boots unaided in the morning (no parents allowed into the school) and dressing again at home time (no parents allowed inside). Self care was really focused on, as well as care of the environment and shared materials, and school etiquette (talking in turn, consideration for others, quiet when the teacher made the quiet sign). There was no formal instruction and importantly no testing. It was assumed each child had his or her own developmental stage, academically speaking, and having everyone in the same room held to the same academic standard was an idea that didn't occur to their teachers. Wrt self care otoh, all of the children were expected to do for themselves, including buttoning, zipping, putting on mittens, wiping themselves in the bathroom. In Kindergarten they were expected to master tying shoelaces.

The DCs were all reading by the time they emerged from kdg. Two of the girls were reading just before age 4, so before they ever set foot in school. I read to them a lot at home. They were taught formal phonics in First Grade (age 6 to 7), which was their first year of full day-all week long school (8am to 3pm)

I would never, ever consider Steiner school for a child of mine. Steiner-Waldorf education is a cult. Parents get sucked in by the artsy fartsyness and the natural materials and the carefully designed simplicity of the environment. They are not told about eurythmy or the idea that their children are held to be incarnating themselves (Hindu stylee) or that the school curriculum is designed with karmic incarnation in mind first and foremost (this affects what is taught as 'history') and therefore there will not be any attempt made to intervene if behaviour issues arise, your child's or anyone else's child's. Your child could be in a class with a domineering little madam and suffering all sorts of problems but the individual journey must not be interfered with -- your child has her journey to undertake and the bossy brat has hers.

They are not told that their children's artwork will be carefully scrutinised and that it is possible for a child to get art 'wrong' -- this happened to DD2 at a watercolour class I got her into that was run by a Steiner teacher, when she was 3 and asking to go to big girl school. I thought an afternoon of watercolour painting couldn't do her any harm. How wrong I was. DD2 even at that age realised there was something wrong with her dreamy watercolours though the teacher never said anything to her. I later uncovered her fault -- her paintings lacked any semblance of the shape she was supposed to reproduce on her naturally sourced, rounded cornered, expensive watercolour paper. They were 'just' dreamy whirls of colour. I loved them. Not telling people what the expectations are, and then making it clear that a child is falling short of those unstated expectations but still keeping the exact nature of the expectations secret is part of the MO of Steiner educators. Most sensitive and intelligent children respond to this type of exposure to the esoteric by trying harder and becoming disheartened and bewildered by the lack of approval.

Thank you for that link, MaizieD.

One of the companies mentioned as an offshoot of anthroposophy, Weleda, had links to the farming/kitchen garden operations at Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbruck and other places. The land, wholesomeness of nature, and farming, etc., was one of Himmler's pet projects.

mathanxiety Sat 20-Jul-13 03:35:59

Want to add -- DD2 had blondy brown curly hair and big blue eyes, a child with an English rose complexion and a few freckles across her nose, and what was puzzling to the teacher was the lack of correspondence between her karmically advanced appearance and her 'inferior' art.

cherryblossoming Sat 20-Jul-13 08:37:30

If there were links with Nazi why then so many jewish families send their children to Steiner schools? Steiner schools are very popular amongst the jewish. Sure they would have known.

mathanxiety Sat 20-Jul-13 18:14:50

Because it takes a little rooting around to find them?

My guess is that most Jews who go to Steiner schools are not observant Jews, more culturally Jewish. Anyone who was observant would notice and be jarred by the quasi religious elements in Steiner. I am a practicing and knowledgeable Catholic and the religious elements hit me straight in the face when I visited a local Steiner school before DD1 started school. I also visited a local Montessori and had no such reaction. I would have sent the DCs to Montessori with no problem except of course the little matter of not being a millionaire.

I sent DD2 to the watercolour class thinking it was a watercolour class plain and simple -- my mother does watercolour painting with a retirement group that is led by a retired gentleman who teaches proper technique, and I expected this class of DD's to be sort of the same except with a different age group. Nowhere in the prospectus was anything to do with Steiner mentioned, and the organisation that owned the hall where the class was conducted was a local authority facility, but it was a Steiner class through and through. I would not have sent her to the class if there had been any honesty about what it was really about.

My friend whose children attend a Steiner school (they live in a sort of Steiner commune actually) has African and Jewish heritage and was brought up in a secular home, though she is vaguely a Unitarian now; she might be quite surprised and maybe quite put off if she knew about Steiner's origins and links. But maybe not - she is an operatic soprano and sings Wagner, in German. She told me it was a little hmm to be learning German in the conservatory she attended but she thinks it is a beautiful language to sing in. She had to learn German in order to sing properly in the language. There are a lot of Jewish musicians who play Wagner as members of orchestras - Daniel Barenboim is a Jewish conductor and pianist who is a well known example of extolling the music for its own qualities.

As an example of how elements of the dark past can survive and even prosper in the peace -- if you've ever used AGFA, Bayer, BASF or Hoechst products or own stock in any of them then you are contributing to the bottom line of the successor companies of I.G. Farben. They were four of the original six companies that combined to constitute I.G. Farben (a cartel) in 1925. I.G. Farben held the patent for Zyklon B. Thousands of slaves were worked to death in I.G. Farben factories. Some of the people who were tried for war crimes because of their involvement in I.G. Farben's wartime activities eventually returned from prison and became prominently involved in successor companies. - yes wikipedia, but this is pretty accurate.

It is unthinkable that this might be so. We like to think that people such as these rotted away in prison, or were all hanged or somehow or other were all consigned to the dustbin of history. But they were not. The mistaken belief that it would be completely impossible for anyone convicted of such an important role in the deaths of so many people to ever emerge alive from prison let alone get right back in the saddle and carry on where they left off but without a war effort to support wholeheartedly (big business put its money behind the Nazis very early on) is perhaps a reason people don't even look for the close links that there are to the past.

Similarly, Weleda was up to its eyes in Nazi business. However, it is far more difficult to dig up information on Weleda's Nazi involvement because farming and the land and nature is a sort of back lane of Nazi history. It did not occupy centre stage but Nazism had its tentacles in all aspects of German life, and drew its guiding philosophy from a large number of different strands in German life and thought. It wasn't all Mein Kampf and grievances stemming from WWI on top of runaway inflation that gave Nazism its appeal. Brief description of interwoven farm/nature/politics/policy here. Some of the hiddenness of Nazi links to anthroposophy and the mutual attraction of National Socialism and ecology warriors has to do with the fact that people do not read German and therefore much material goes under the radar. Weleda material airbrushes the history of the company, 'naturally'..

mathanxiety Sat 20-Jul-13 18:18:16

Overview showing list of I.G. Farben personnel who found gainful employment in the postwar period.

cherryblossoming Sat 20-Jul-13 18:26:06

Thanks mathanxiety. I will check your links but do not promise today.
I also think that jews are very proud of their culture and keep strong helping each-other. They are very informative regarding who is jewish and who is not so that is why I am surprised they attend this school.

mathanxiety Sat 20-Jul-13 20:44:36

Most of the Jewish people I know are non-observant and not even too keen on political issues affecting Jewish people such as problems in the middle east, though my immediate neighbours are active leafletters on matters concerning the ME/Palestine while they are not observant at all. I know only one couple who are members of a temple (Reform) and go regularly. Their children went to state schools where they did very well, and they were happy with them. I don't feel I can really comment on how Jewish people would view Steiner schools or anthroposophy in general as I don't feel I know a representative sample and even if I did my poll would be pretty unscientific.

I would say my friend is culturally Jewish and technically she is Jewish as her mother is. However, I would call her a 'spiritual seeker' who overlooks many details if the spiritual/communal feel is right. She sang at her Unitarian church before she and her family moved and she liked what the church offered in terms of a spiritual home (diversity of beliefs, no particular creed insisted upon, focus on the individual and on rational thought in the search for meaning and truth, not really scripturally based, a sort of self improvement society of like minded people who espoused the same social concerns). Her tenure as a singer in her church ended when the organist hired another singer (a close relative of his) and then informed her her services would no longer be needed. It was then that she revealed some unhappiness about the way things were run in the organisation, whereas before all had been sweetness and light. I envisage some sort of denouement with the Steiner school and community too, but in the meantime she is happy and floating along.

She was annoyed when my youngest DD taught her DD to read (my DD is older by a year but they are great friends). DD4 did so after her friend pestered her (this was a child who wouldn't take no for an answer). DD sat her down and showed her how letters and sounds corresponded using her own phonics based reader from school. The little friend caught on fast (at age 5/6 ish). They weren't going to introduce reading in her school until her milk teeth fell out. At one point when this child had done a year in Steiner (at age 4 ish) they decided to give Montessori a whirl for her as the Steiner school had moved to a larger building that was a good bit further away than it had been. The DD lasted one month in the more structured environment. She had meltdowns every day when she came home.

Tizian Tue 23-Jul-13 13:54:34

The article by Andy Lewis promoted by maizieD gives a seriously distorted picture of anthroposphy and Steiner Waldorf education. For a more reliable description, see and

For some comments on the myths he promotes, see

Tizian Tue 23-Jul-13 13:59:31

Forgot: for some comments on the writings of a former French Steiner Waldorf teacher, that Andy Lewis publishes, see

mathanxiety Wed 24-Jul-13 05:42:35

Was wondering when Tizian would arrive on this thread with links to Waldorf truthiness.

mrz Wed 24-Jul-13 07:16:12

mathanxiety Fri 26-Jul-13 00:37:48

My Russian friends mentioned to me that the Soviet education system they had experience of (they are in their early 70s now) featured the same teacher from age 7 onwards just as Steiner does. The aim under Communism was to insert a person in loco parentis to exert just as much influence over children as parents at home did. The class teacher would be very much part of the children's lives.

Tizian Sat 27-Jul-13 12:09:57

mathanxiety Sun 28-Jul-13 03:00:01

That article is almost completely undigestible and impossible to follow. But thanks anyway and good try Tizian.

mathanxiety Sun 28-Jul-13 03:00:25

It's not much of an advertisement for the effectiveness of Steiner ed..

mathanxiety Sun 28-Jul-13 03:31:51

'(The views expressed above are the personal views of the undersigned and does not represent the views of or is financed by any Steiner Waldorf school or related organization.)'

This disclaimer is at the bottom of your link.
Care to explain?

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