Have you heard of Steiner Education aka Waldorf? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. We somehow stumbled upon it… or, maybe it stumbled upon us! I guess you’re wondering what it is and why Steiner (Waldorf) Education?
When I first attended a Steiner playgroup with my child, I instantly felt a connection with their approach. Which in theory makes sense, intuition aside. That instant connection is found in the underlying emphasis of fostering the child’s spirit, which is at the heart of Steiner (Waldorf) Education. A holistic, integrated and multi dimensional approach of the growing child is nurtured.  With a preference to reduce the use of technology in the formative years. 
The first playgroup we ever attended kicked off with a beautiful morning rhythm, wrapped in song, storytelling rich in imagery, as well as free and imaginative play. Baking using homemade dough and freshly picked lavender was also incorporated as part of the morning rhythm. Consideration of the rhythmical nature of the seasons was also made, highlighted through communal singing.
In time, I also found the Steiner method to place a strong emphasis on the child’s imagination and fantasy. As well as help evoke a sense of wonder and beauty of life.
Let’s track back a bit and touch on the Founder…
So, who exactly founded Steiner Education? Why ‘Steiner’ himself, of course! Steiner Education was formed by Austrian philosopher, playwright and artist Rudolf Steiner. He was born in what is known as present day Donji Kraljevec, Croatia – at the time of the Austro Hungarian Empire. The first school opened in 1919. 
Steiner Education looks at the child as a whole. That is, the interconnection between mind, body, spirit. Its pedagogy hones in on an individual’s intellectual, practical and artistic skills. It is done so in a holistic and experiential manner, focusing on the individual as a complete being. There is also a strong emphasis on purpose.
With that being said, below are some areas of Steiner Education that we took a liking to…
- A sustainable relationship with the environment is nurtured. I immediately noticed this in the finer details. From the choice of high quality, sustainable learning materials to the selection of local, organic produce.
- A sense of creativity is encouraged.
- Small groups and classes.
- Support for individual’s to think outside the box.
- Threefold learning process – ‘engaging head, heart and hands.’
- Each child is valued as a ‘complete’ being.
Did someone say elephant? Now, to clear the possible elephant in the room, if you’re muddling Steiner and Montessori Education, don’t fret. While both emphasise a sense of independence, there are distinctions. While I support the Montessori approach, we went down the path of Steiner…
As per my understanding, here are some distinctions between Montessori and Steiner Education. The curriculum at a Steiner School includes a mix of ‘thinking, feeling, willing.’ In other words cognitive learning, craft and physical expression. Lessons are based on rhythms and rituals to help solidify learning. While both Steiner and Montessori nurture free directed play, Steiner incorporates more of an artistic way of teaching given the story, song and creative element to learning. On the other hand, the processes at Montessori encourage cause and effect as an outcome.
The above is based on my findings to date. Naturally in time, as with everything in life, I am sure my findings and knowledge will evolve.
Hope you enjoyed the read!
- Waldorf Education: A Philosophy of Education. Medium. September 2019.
Should We All Take Note When Silicon Valley Parents Opt Out of Schools with Tech? The Creativity Post. January 2018.
- Education: The Steiner Approach. Child The Real Guide For Parents. 20 May.
How to Design Schools and Interiors Based on Waldorf Pedagogy. Arch Daily. March 2020.