Questions we find parents ask:
What is the philosophy behind Steiner Education?
Consistent with his philosophy called anthroposophy (translatable as the “wisdom of humanity”), Rudolf Steiner designed a form of schooling that nurtures children’s imaginations and is responsive to what he identified as the developmental phases in childhood. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than to the demands of government or economic forces, so he developed a style of education that encourages creativity, practicality and free-thinking.
What is the curriculum at a Steiner school?
The Steiner curriculum is both comprehensive and integrated. It is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child’s development. The main subjects, such as Maths, Science, Language and History, are taught in Main Lesson blocks (see paragraph on Main Lessons). The total Steiner curriculum has been likened to an ascending spiral: subjects are revisited several times over the course of the primary years, but each new exposure affords greater depth and new insights into the subject at hand. A typical curriculum would look something like the following:
- Pictorial introduction to the alphabet, writing, reading, spelling, poetry and drama
- Folk and fairy tales, fables, legends, Old Testament stories
- Numbers, basic mathematical processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (the Four Processes)
- Nature stories
- Building and gardening
- Writing, reading, spelling, grammar, poetry and drama
- Norse myths, history and stories of Ancient civilizations, the Roman world, biography
- Review of the four mathematical processes, fractions, percentages and geometry, business Maths
- Local and world geography, botany and elementary physics (heat, light and sound)
Special subjects taught include:
- Craft: knitting, crochet, sewing, cross stitch, basic weaving, toy making and woodwork.
- Music: singing, recorder, string instruments (from Class 3), wind, brass and percussion instruments (Class 5 & 6)
- Foreign Languages: at Mumbulla School this is French language (written and spoken) and cultural activities (Festivals,Tour de Bega, projects, performances and assemblies)
- Movement: Gym, Bothmer gym, dance
Why is the curriculum delivered through stories?
When children listen to stories they engage with the human voice. They learn to listen and concentrate. Primary aged children think in pictures, and hearing stories develops this image-making power. Children respond emotionally to stories and it is this emotional response that the children remember, and it is this that makes the lesson content memorable.
During their time at a Steiner Kindergarten and primary school children receive an immense gift in the form of many of the great stories from human civilization. These stories are the more vivid for being told by their teachers rather than read. The stories in some way recapitulate the development of mankind. In Kindergarten children listen to Fairy stories where good overcomes evil and magical events are the norm. In Class Three they hear stories from Biblical times where right and wrong are clearly defined, but by Class 4 they are told stories of the Norse gods and goddesses who are only too human in their desires and foibles. Class 5 stories cover the stirring epics of the Ramayana and Gilgamesh and the lives of world religious leaders, Buddha, Christ and Mohammad. With the study of the Greeks a more historical perspective arises which is followed in Class 6 by stories of Roman conquest and the inspiring biographies of more recent heroes and heroines such as Gandhi, Shackleton, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, David Unaipon.
What is a Main Lesson?
The first daily period of concentrated study every morning is known as the Main Lesson. This is an integrated thematic topic that is studied for 3-4 weeks. This system of study has many advantages. Children are able to study the subject in some depth.
Within the Main Lesson period there will be a variety of experiences – recapitulation of previous work, oral, dramatized or written recounts of stories, skills practice, illustration and new material to absorb. Much attention is paid to oral work and collaborative learning.
Why do we celebrate seasonal festivals?
Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. The festivals originated in ancient cultures, yet have been adapted over time. To join the seasonal moods of the year, in a festive way, is believed to benefit the inner life of human beings. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and the memories.
Typically, Mumbulla School has the following seasonal festivals:
• Autumn or Harvest class-based festival in Term 1
• Winter Festival in Term 2 (alternating between a Spiral Walk and a Class 1-6 play). This is a whole school festival.
• Spring Festival in Term 3, sometimes a Kite festival or a class-based picnic at a nearby river or lake
• Summer Festival is our whole school End of Year Festival where we present a play performed by either parents or children and farewell our graduating Class 6 children.
What role does imagination play in the development of children?
Einstein stated that “Reason is an experiment carried out in the imagination.” Imagination is the ability to think in pictures. While this is the primary mode of thinking for primary aged children, it forms the basis of abstract thought in the high school years and beyond. The ability to empathise with others is a faculty of the imagination, as is the ability to visualize in order to be creative on every level, whether it be the creation of a work of art, or the creation of new ideas or social structures.
Do you give homework?
Yes, but the nature of homework changes throughout the Primary years:
• In Class 2 parents are encouraged to hear their children read every night.
• In Class 3 parents are asked to support regular violin/cello practise and continue listening to their child read.
• After Class 4 there is routine work which is expected to be practiced at home – Spelling and Maths as well as learning the times tables are obvious examples.
• In Class 5 and 6, homework in the form of projects, allows for guided research work and gives the children extra practise at research skills in readiness for High School.
Homework has the role of giving parents a better understanding of what their child is learning and experiencing at school.
Does Mumbulla School do NAPLAN, standardised tests?
All schools must provide standardised testing for children in Years 3, 5 & 7. These are the annual NAPLAN Assessment held in Term 2. Parents are able to withdraw their children from these tests if they wish.
• Many teachers Australia-wide question the merits of standardised National testing. In particular, Steiner education is based on an understanding of child development whereby the introduction of skills and knowledge is based on a concept of child readiness. In the younger years, the introduction of formal literacy/numeracy skills is delayed to allow for the fuller development of physical faculties, eg. eye-hand coordination, gross/fine motor skills.
• A great deal of what is taught in the NSW and Australian curriculums is being introduced earlier than in a Steiner curriculum and is often more complex, conflicting with the Steiner approach of natural progression and child readiness. An over-emphasis on the assessment of intellectual skills at Class 3 level is considered contrary to the developmental needs of the children.
• Pressure on children to acquire complex reading and writing skills and to push numeric skills in an intellectual can cause distress for children which may become a barrier to learning at a later date.
• At Mumbulla School, nearly 100% of Class 5 children undertake the standardised NAPLAN Assessment. At this stage, the children are able to deal more maturely with the pressures of testing and most of our children do well in the tests.
As a parent, how can I be more involved in the school?
Parents are encouraged to participate in many aspects of the school’s life. For example, the Board of Directors at Mumbulla School consists of up to six teachers and six parents who have volunteered their time and energy as Directors.
Parents are encouraged to join our active Parents and Friends group. The P&F supports parents within the school, providing opportunities for education and inspiration through workshops and talks, raising money through fundraising activities such as our Spring Fair and Mumbulla Market.
Parent volunteers provide invaluable support to our Literacy programmes, Working Bees and Festivals.
Parents offer expertise in a wide variety of areas, enriching our community and our curriculum and the school is most grateful to them.
Some of these titles are available in our school library.
• Baldwin, Rahima: You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, 1989
• Barnes, Henry: An Introduction to Waldorf Education. Mercury Press, Chestnut Ridge, NY, 1985
• Childs, Gilbert: Steiner Education in Theory and Practice. Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1991
• Cusick, Lois: The Waldorf Parenting Handbook
• Davy, Gudrun: Lifeways: Working with Family Questions. Hawthorne Press, Gloucestshire, 1983
• Finser, Torin: School as Journey. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1994
• Gorman, Margaret: Confessions of a Waldorf Parent. Rudolf Steiner College Publications, Fair Oaks, California, 1990
• Harwood, A.C.: Recovery of Man in Childhood. Myrin Foundation, New York, 1958
• Harwood, A.C.: Life of a Child. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1979
• Harwood, A.C.: The Way of the Child. Rudolf Steiner Press, London
• Piening and Lyons: Educating as an Art
• Querido, René: Creativity in Education: The Waldorf Approach. Dakin, San Francisco, 1982
• Richards, M.C.: Towards Wholeness: Steiner Education in America. Wesleyan University Press, Irvington, NY, 1980
• Spock, Marjorie: Teaching as a Lively Art. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1962
• Stebbing, Lionel: Understanding your Child. New Knowledge Books, Sussex, 1962
• Steiner, Rudolf: Kingdom of Childhood. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1982
• Steiner, Rudolf: Education of the Child. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1982
• Steiner, Rudolf: The Four Temperaments. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1982