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Steiner/Waldorf Schools - requesting info from those in the know...

427 replies

Rantmum · 11/01/2008 15:08

...anyone know anything about the Steiner/Waldorf school system, pros and cons (particularly with reference to early years/primary education, but any info is good!. Had not really given them too much consideration but have recently moved and met several mothers who speak highly of the their approach.

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Rantmum · 11/01/2008 15:13


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Blu · 11/01/2008 15:14

If you search the MN archives for 'steiner' and 'waldorf' you will find some very informative, somethimes heated, threads from people who have experienced steiner schools as parents and as pupils.

Worth reading in detail, imo.

The discussion and further research into the steiner movement changed my view.

Blu · 11/01/2008 15:21

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CoteDAzur · 11/01/2008 15:40

Rantmum - Waldorf Steiner schools come across as a gentle, art-based pedagogy, which is quite attractive to many parents. However, they see education as a means to facilitate the reincarnation of the soul in the child's body.

Their education is filled with things that seem only slightly alternative from the outside but have their roots in the pseudo-religious "Anthrosophy" that they adhere to - children can't use the color black in drawings (it is an evil color), they are discouraged from watching tv, listening to radio etc (a devil called "Ahriman" talks through electronic devices), kids are taught a funny dance called Eurythmy (to communicate with spirit world), they start the day with a longish prayer that talks about 'the spirit of God' and 'the soul that lives in me' (reincarnated?) etc

If you are comfortable with the above (and more) then Steiner schools are by all accounts a lot of fun and they encourage kids to be creative.

We came close to sending DD to the local Waldorf Steiner school but, personally, I would hate DD's little brain to be brainwashed with this nonsense. The staff & teachers' complete lack of honesty was also a turn-off.

Rantmum · 11/01/2008 15:40

So, does that mean that your overall opinion of the system is quite negative Blu? I am very concerned when I hear that some people feel that the philosophy contains aspects which are borderline racist (if racism can ever be "borderline" but ykwim) or outmoded with regards to gender and of course any suggestion of bullying being tolerated bothers me immensely, so that kind of info puts me off, but on the otherhand I have heard so many positives about the schools allowing children to develop at their own rate etc rather than forcing them to adhere to strict learning patterns in a one size fits all state system. It is very difficult to form an opinion. We are in Luxembourg and it seems that the school available here is multicultural to reflect the nature of the city, but I just don't know what to think. Thank you for the link, I will continue to read the old threads, and also welcome any recent experiences or opinions of MNers...

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Rantmum · 11/01/2008 15:46

So that pseudo religious stuff also starts alarm bells ringing - do the schools still adhere so strongly to anthrosophy or is it the founding philosophy which has adapted over time, but retains some of the practices?

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MaryAnnSingleton · 11/01/2008 15:52

ask Northernrefugee39 - she knows all about Steiner schools

Blu · 11/01/2008 15:53

Rantmum - I have absolutely no personal experience of Steiner Schools - but i was attracted, like you, to the 'own pace' stuff etc, and almost considered exploring it fo DS.

BUT a friend withdrew her dd from a UK steiner school for reasons associated with the bullying and non-intervention by staff in children's disputes. The child concerned is mixed race and the comments she was getting were racially based. Then, having read some of the critical posts on Mn I read one of the critical websites where Steiner's own views on the role of violence were reproduced. In view of some experiences MN-ers posted, I began to wonder about the 'non-intervention' in bullying that occurs and Steiner's views on violence. Also possible refusal to deal with issues of race, that my friend experienced.

But ask your local school specifically how they deal with conflict between pupils and anything else that occurs to you. Your local school may be wonderful and just right for your child.

I have always found 'Steiner parents' to be quite evangelical about it.

Blu · 11/01/2008 15:54

Also - ask Stripeymamma, I think (apologies if it is someone else). She is v positive and about to send her DC to a steiner school, I think. And went to one herself.

northernrefugee39 · 11/01/2008 17:07

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TheodoresMummy · 11/01/2008 22:10

I considered Steiner education for my DS, but have decided against it.

The kindergarten looked promising. Lots of ree play, outdoors lots of the time, part time hours.

But on further investigation it appears to be very controlled further up the school. Everything is copied from the board/teacher, all artwork looks the same, no books (fiction or non fiction) on the shelves...

Not my cup of tea.

I am not into their philosophy either, but don't find it any more offensive/ridiculous than Catholic or C of E schools.

Whereabouts are you ?

I have done a bit of research into 'alternative' schools.

Rantmum · 11/01/2008 22:15

Thanks northern - glad to hear your experience, hope that it didn't negatively impact your dc's.

TheodoresMummy - I am in Luxembourg - it is really the only "alternative" school available here, I think...

What other "alternative" schools have you researched, out of interest?

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StripeyMamaSpanx · 11/01/2008 22:21

Yes - I went to Steiner school and dd is at the same school (in kindergarten)

Will post more when not about to go to bed, but will say now that people undoubtedly have bad experiences with Steiner. But that doesn't mean all Steiner schools are bad.

I am very happy with dd's kindergarten. I am also an atheist and do not suffer pseudo-spiritual crap gladly - dd is at the school because I believe it to be better suited to our way of life than the state system.

The school we are involved with would not tolerate racism. Neither would any parents or teachers I know. Steiner himself was arguably a product of his time - his ideas should not be rigidly applied to schools in this age IMO.

In eight years at Steiner school, and with two younger brothers who went from 3-17, I have never heard anything about Atlantis. Yes, eurythmy is odd, but as a form of movement it is no odder than all sorts of others - yoga, anyone?

Have never heard black described as an "evil colour" - the reason I was given is that they prefer children's pictures not to be rigidly outlined and coloured in - a bit wooly but not really indicative of racism.

Janni · 11/01/2008 22:33

Rantmum: my two boys have been at a Steiner School but we're now moving on, for various reasons. I don't feel like joining in an open debate on Steiner but if you want to email me, do so and I'll share my experiences with you. The address is [email protected]

TheodoresMummy · 11/01/2008 22:44

Interesting Stripey.

I was really disappointed when I went to an open day at the Steiner school in Bromsgrove. It wasn't at all friendly and felt quite 'exclusive'.

Then I also visited a Kindergarten near to me which was the complete opposite. I was honest and told the lady who founded it that I was only interested because I didn't like the state system and that I wasn't 'into' Steiner philosophy. She said that was fine and quite common. We got on well, but the Kindy closed.

CoteDAzur · 11/01/2008 23:17

Stripey - re 'black is an evil color'

I didn't think that was racist, actually. Just spooky from the pseudo-religious crap angle. Who would think of banning a color, any color? Why?

As for "they prefer children's pictures not to be rigidly outlined and coloured in" - and I prefer the color purple, but if I were to teach kindergarten, I wouldn't make all kids draw only in purple.

One thing I found bizarre in our (aborted) application process to the Steiner kindergarten was their dishonest explanations, like:

"Children start the day reciting poems"

What they don't tell you is that kids say one and only poem every morning, which is in fact a prayer that talks about 'The spirit of God' and 'the soul that lives in me' (referring to reincarnation)

"We don't push children to read. We wait until they are ready"

What they don't tell you is that they wait for the adult teeth to come through to teach reading, because Steiner said teething had some spiritual significance. A friend's 5 year old daughter is begging to learn to read and her Steiner school is not teaching it to her.

"We discourage TV, radio, etc because it is bad for the child"

What they don't tell you is that Anthrosophy says that a devil called "Ahriman" talks through electronic devices and that is why they are all considered bad things.

"We teach children to move in rhythm and encourage them to dance"

What they don't tell you is that this particular dance is called Eurythmy and is supposed to allow children to communicate with the spirit world.

There is more, but it's past midnight here and I have an early flight. Will write more tomorrow night if you would like to hear more.

StripeyMamaSpanx · 12/01/2008 09:44

The 'religious' aspect may well be ofputting for some people - as an atheist myself, it doesn't pose a problem to me. I have to say that I have always found it to be more spiritual than directly religious - reverence for the Earth and seasona are a big part of it, which fits well with our family beliefs and so is fine by me.

The school I am familiar with uses different verses to the one you describe. They are chosen by the class teacher to be suitable for the class in question.

Reading is not taught til the age of seven. That is the case in all Steiner schools. If your friend's daughter is that keen to read, she would be better off in a state school. The Steiner system will not suit all children and all families - no system will.

No teacher or parent (and I know plenty of them) has ever menioned anything about a devil called Ahriman. That may be what Steiner said, but it is not something that is widely held to be true. You may well be able to find crackpot references to it on the internet but they are not (in my twenty years experience) the views that are representative of Steiner teachers and parents.

For those who are happy with it, it is a good alternative to the state system. For those who aren't, it isn't.

I suggest you visit your local Steiner school, meet the pupils, parents, and teachers, and ask as many questions as you can. Only through experience will you be able to decide - MN is great for getting opinions, but that is all they are. We don't know waht will work for (or be acceptable to) your family!

thenewgirl · 12/01/2008 10:27

great post stripey.
from someone with loads of experience of steiner I would have to urge you to go and look round, a few times, go for a tour, visit on open days and speak to the teachers and parents. you quickly find out if it is for you or not. But also I would recomend that you don't listen to the negitivity on the internet, nothing I have ever read has ever rung true of mine or dh's experiences.
I personally love it and can't wait to get my kids there.
My belief is that my children will reach their destiny in life and that my job is to make their journey a safe and enjoyable one, and in my opionion, steiner school is the best place for my children to spend their early years.
good luck!

lush007 · 12/01/2008 10:35

I came across this site the other day and have read a few posts ref: Steiner. I would like to add my own interpretation. A few posters have said that some things are kept secret and are not shared with propective and existing parents. When I started out all of the quotes (below)that I have come across many times on this site were actually offered at the initial stages of the parental enquiry/interview.

children can't use the color black in drawings (it is an evil color),

My son was allowed to use the black crayon in Kindergarten, I even have some of his artwork which is littered with the colour.

they are discouraged from watching tv, listening to radio etc (a devil called "Ahriman" talks through electronic devices)

Never heard that one bantered about, I think some anthroposophists believe it, not all.

As for discouraging the children from watching TV etc, the teachers ask us to restrict the viewing & listening of electronic media during the school week because it will interfere with the childs learning, (the main lesson) I don't see a problem with that.

kids are taught a funny dance called Eurythmy (to communicate with spirit world)

Interesting, but I have never heard that as a reason. It is a funny dance because it is a way of expressing the letters, gestures, emotions - no different to ballet IMO.

they start the day with a longish prayer that talks about 'the spirit of God' and 'the soul that lives in me' (reincarnated?)

It is called the morning verse and the children in Kindergarten recite a different verse to the children in the lower classes & upper classes.

What they don't tell you is that they wait for the adult teeth to come through to teach reading, because Steiner said teething had some spiritual significance.

No they don't wait for the adult teeth to come through, they wait until the child is 6-7 & 7-8 before starting the reading process.(similar to Europe and I know this because my youngest child (6) has been through kindy and is in class 1 now) You are still encouraged to read to your child and if your child wants to learn to read before 6 then they dont stop you. The milk teeth bit is because most children do start to lose their first set around the same time as the next stage of the childs learning.

My children have been at a Steiner school for 4 years. One in Kindergarten & the other starting in Class 1. Before I made the decision to change my childrens education, (it isn't a decision taken lightly) I did MOR and yes I did do a lot of googling and came across and read the Plans website thoroughly - 4 weeks before they were to start the school - hair raising at the time, I can tell you. But (and you knew it was coming eh? ) having experienced the state system and not enjoying it at all, I had made the decision and I liked what I had read! (apart from some on the Plans site, although I felt it was mainly from parents from the US.) And, if it did turn out to be an evil, racist, soul leeching cult then I would pull them like I did with the state system!

TheodoresMummy · 12/01/2008 12:29

Stripey and Lush - which schools are you familiar with ? (if you don't mind saying, of course .

TheodoresMummy · 12/01/2008 12:31

Ooops, I meant Stourbridge in my earlier post, not Bromsgrove.

StripeyMamaSpanx · 12/01/2008 14:58

Don't want to say on here which school as it will instantly identify me to any other parents on MN! But email me on lollipoptree at hotmail dot co dot uk and I'll tell you more.

Lush - I agree with everything you have said.

The Steiner/Anthroposophical movement does have its lunatic fringe (what movement doesn't??) but you simply cannot extrapolate from their views that the whole system is the same.

Christianity has many completely bonkers groups and individuals, who claim to be acting in accordance with biblical teachings. That does not mean that the vast majority of moderate believers and church goers are in agreement! (And I say that as an atheist)

The same holds true for Islam, for political movements, for animal rights activism and so on.

CoteDAzur · 12/01/2008 16:35

The problem here is that Steiner schools are not upfront about their spiritual/religious tendencies. If you visit a Catholic school, management will tell you all about the prayers, religious education etc. You will know what you are getting into. Not so with Steiner, where they don't tell you anything about the quasi-religious agenda. In the four meetings I had with various teachers and management, nobody even used the word 'spiritual'. I would have been out of there like a lightning bolt if the did.

I did noticevthey had no color black and even no crayons or pens or any art with straight lines. All paintings were abstract watercolor.when I asked, they said something about encouraging creativity.

StripeyMamaSpanx · 12/01/2008 16:47

The Steiner school I have experience of is upfront about its spiritual and religious aspects. DD's kindergarten allows children to draw whatever they want, using crayons, and also does not actually discourage them from writing. It is not taught, but DD comes home with pictures that she (and the 'teachers') have written on.

Can I ask, did you do any of your own research on Steiner education prior to getting involved? What exactly made you think it would be suitable for your family?

A few minutes on Google will tell you lots from both pro- and anti- Steiner points of view. The prospectus for 'our' school mentions the spiritual and religious aspects and I'd be surprised if that wasn't true for other schools. They do not actually gain anthing from having children at the school whose parents do not support Steiner education, and most schools will ask parents to read and sign a Home/School Agreement to that effect.

northernrefugee39 · 12/01/2008 17:54

Alot of what's being said here is typical-
most parents are happy to go along with it.
Stripey and Lush- have you ever read Steiner- Occult Science? In search of Higher Worlds?
If I had a penny for every time I'd heard- he was speaking as a man of his times- did someone at the school tell you that?

It confirms everything I've put before- they are secretive-and it's quite possible to go through all of it without hearing things like anthroposophy mentioned- it's suits the main players well.
Much of the time- that Steiner Waldorf promote themselves by saying what they're not- no tests, child centred, and as a progressive liberal arts based education. This could not be further from the truth.
There are very few alternatives for people- like alot of us- who want that liberal, arts, nature based education. But Steiner does not provide this.

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