Why do you think Steiner schools are better than state schools? Steiner education is fundamentally different from the education model applied in NZ state schools. We leave it up to each individual to make the value judgement about what is better. Our differences arise from a different understanding of what it means to be a human being, and therefore the purpose of formal education and the role of community. We believe that formal education and community should be very involved with helping children find their purpose and meaning in life. An excellent summary is given in this lecture.
Why is the Motueka school not state-funded like most other Steiner schools in New Zealand?We would like to receive more money from the government. Our parents pay tax like everyone else, so our children’s education should be funded like everyone else’s. Our conversations with the Ministry of Education revealed several obstacles to gaining state integration. Our current buildings and grounds are not up to Ministry of Education standards, and nearby state schools have spare capacity.
Are you a private school? The term private can refer to ownership, funding, or entry. The Ministry of Education defines us as a private school because we are privately owned, not state owned. We are also mainly self funded rather than state funded. We have open entry to all children if parents are willing to support the school and its principles. We believe the term ‘independent school’ better describes what we are.
Why do you keep children at kindergarten until they are 6 or 7 years old?Steiner education recognises that the growing child passes through three major developmental stages on the journey to adulthood. The first stage being birth to about 7 years – the kindergarten years (3-6 years), where children take hold of their physical body and develop their will by learning through doing. At this age a child’s senses are also wide open to everything around them. The physical and social environment of the kindergarten is therefore carefully planned. We provide a nurturing and beautiful environment where children have opportunities for meaningful play so they can practise and find mastery of their own physical and social skills. This play with imaginative, creative and physical opportunities lays the foundations for intellectual learning in the next stage of development.
How does Steiner education accommodate children with special development needs? There are a number of ways in which Steiner education can support the special developmental needs of children from residential schools, to special classes attached to Steiner schools, to therapeutic help (extra lesson, eurythmy, nursing therapies, anthroposphical medical care, music and art therapies) given to the child within the classroom setting. In kindergarten all children are supported in their development with the rhythm of the day, the nurturing environment and physical and social opportunities. Due regard is given to the developmental task of these early years and sometimes the child reaches a harmony in their development after being given the time and space for maturing in these first seven years. If needs are more complex then Kindergarteners may seek help from Special Education Services. The child may be eligible for help up to the age of five years old. The visiting Anthroposophical doctor may be able to provide advice and guidance, and our therapy group, consisting of nursing, art, music and extra lesson therapies – the practical services required.
Why do children have the same teacher throughout classes 1-7?The relationship between child and teacher is very important. Rudolf Steiner saw the value in encouraging that relationship to deepen over several years. Teachers can be more effective when they have a deeper understanding of a child and also the time to deliver a personalised learning plan. They can also take a long term view in helping each child with particular challenges or gifts. In most cases very close and trusting bonds form between students and teachers over the years.
What happens if teacher and child don’t get on? In our experience it is very rare for the teacher child relationship to become a problem. However, most children will at some time test boundaries with a teacher and they may not like the response. There is important learning in such conflict. Teachers are explicitly charged with the task of forming a constructive relationship with each child in their care. They are supported in this task in many ways. All teachers meet once a week for child studies, and this is an opportunity to get collegial support and discuss any child behavioural issues. Teachers know they will have a long journey with each child so they have every incentive to make the relationship work. We also have access to therapeutic help (extra lesson, eurythmy, nursing therapies, anthroposphical medical care, music and art therapies) given to the child within the classroom setting. It is the experience of the teachers at our school that a child who transfers from another education system, and who is expressing developmental or behavioural problems , will usually settle down within a matter of weeks and the so-called “problems” simply fade away. Such children have usually not been accepted for who they are and have suffered under a curriculum-driven rather than a child-needs perception of their development such as they receive at a Waldorf school.
What happens if we really want a Steiner education for our child but can’t afford the tuition fee? Beginning in 2018 our Tuition fees will be compulsory. The school has a Bursary fund to help families unable to afford the fees. The funds come from donations and any surplus earned in other parts of the organisation. Application for bursary is done on the enrollment form.
How do children adapt to mainstream education once they’ve been in the Steiner system? A child’s personality is the main indicator for how easily they adapt to the change of school. Most children who have moved onto other schools have done very well. In fact, most of them become outstanding students in their new school. Most of the students who complete class 7 with us go onto the local state high school. We receive very positive reports from the high school teachers. Click hereto see the video interview with the high school principal.
My 5-year-old can already read and write. Won’t she be bored at the Steiner kindergarten? We provide a nurturing and beautiful environment where children have opportunities for meaningful play so they can practise and find mastery of their own physical and social skills. This play with imaginative, creative and physical opportunities lays the foundations for intellectual learning in the next stage of development. Children relish this time to be and to play. The young human being has a natural development path which involves physical and social growth as well as that of the imagination. On the contrary, engaging with the intellect at a stage when other faculties must be developing, hampers those critical areas of development. Play is something the human being needs to experience richly to develop fully. Without this opportunity, creativity, will, and social feeling is stunted. No child is discouraged from using their natural talents. However, a child who can already read will find extra stimulus in imaginative play and in the imaginative ways in which reading is introduced and progressed at a Steiner School.
My seven year old attends a state school. Would it be difficult for her to change to a Steiner school now?Most children blossom when they enter the Steiner school at any stage of their development. The curriculum content is, simply, geared to childhood in all its stages of development; children feel “at home” and fulfilled. (parent response) Hi, my daughter was seven when we changed her from a state school to the Motueka Rudolf Steiner School. I think the transition was all positive for her but sometimes difficult for us as parents. Her previous school was very focused on reading, writing and maths so she was ahead of her Steiner classmates in these areas when she arrived. Her Steiner teacher removed the reading, writing and maths pressure for the first year and focused on art, drama and social skills. She blossomed in this broader learning environment with less pressure. I think many things will influence the success of the transition, especially the personality of the child and the support of the parents.
TV, movies and video games are part of modern life. Surely educational games and programmes are okay. Why do you discourage it for young children, and until what age? Research shows that TV and similar electronic media damages the young human being, quite apart from it being a passive activity at a time when the child needs to be developing motor skills. We encourage parents to keep their children free of this as long as possible and even in teenage years to limit time spent in this way – there are so many other, more enriching ways to spend one’s time! The goal of Waldorf (Steiner) education is to develop all the Human senses in a healthy and balanced way so that the child develops its full capabilities as a Human being. The modern media prevents such development. The use of the media in education will happen soon enough in the child’s development; let the child enjoy the full benefits of an active childhood while they can! Adulthood will be all the more creative when this healthy foundation has been allowed to develop!
How is reading taught in a Steiner school? Why do Steiner students wait until Class 2 to begin learning to read?Letters are introduced in a variety of ways from Class 1, and the young child is involved in literacy from kindergarten days through stories. Once the child’s physiological development has progressed towards more intellectual engagement after the 7th year, so reading and writing are more formally introduced. As is the experience in some European countries, most children are then ready to move easily through what for many younger children can be a stressful time in their education.
Are Steiner schools religious? Why are there religious pictures in the classrooms? At our school we celebrate the Christian festivals based on an anthroposophical view of the world throughout the year. We endeavour to do this in a way that embraces all of humanity and honours the diverse cultural backgrounds in our community. Within the festivals live universal truths that play an important role in moral education. In addition, the yearly rhythms give children and families a feeling for the changing seasons and world around us. Religious practice is not taught as a subject. Throughout the curriculum teachers bring stories, myths, histories and religions from different cultures and civilisations. We start and end each day with a verse and say a grace before eating our morning tea and lunches communally as an expression of gratitude and reverence for the natural world.
We’re told that children are like a sponge when they’re young. Therefore, isn’t it better to start teaching them young? Doesn’t delaying the start of formal education miss this critical developmental opportunity? The young human being has a natural development path which involves physical and social growth as well as that of the imagination. On the contrary, engaging with the intellect at a stage when other faculties must be developing, hampers those critical areas of development. There is a great deal of evidence to show that the intellect can take on information and skills at a later stage – the right stage. Research results on this topic can be found at RoSE.
Isn’t it a school more for artistic and creative children rather than academic or sporty children? Art and creativity form part of all Steiner education, not as separate activities, but rather woven together as a complete approach. Successful academics require creativity to flourish and we often hear of wonderful athletes praised for being creative artists in their field! Our school enters sports teams into several local competitions and many of our pupils also play for sports clubs.
What are the criteria for acceptance into the school? A willingness to work supportively with the teachers so that the child enjoys consistency at home and at school, and a commitment to supporting the school through money and deed, as set out each year by the school, to the best of each family’s ability.
What parent involvement is encouraged? Parent involvement is encouraged through liaison with the class teacher, attendance at community meetings and working bees, attending parent talks, and many other parent groups that meet regularly. See our school community page for more information.
How does a play-oriented approach to the early years of schooling prepare children for the high-tech world in which we live? What about computer literacy? I want my child to have a competitive edge, not be left behind. Play is something the human being needs to experience richly to develop fully. Without this opportunity, creativity, will, and social feeling is stunted, all adult tasks are harder and the adult is able to enter into them less fully. If one sees the task (for example, computer work) in its full form to carry it out well, every human being needs this experience of healthy forming as a child. If we miss out important stages of development to rush onto some other experience, we do so at great cost.
Isn’t the school full of problem children who can’t cope in mainstream education? No, it is not. Some children come because they have problems at another school, some because they are unhappy for particular reasons; most come through our kindergarten because their parents resonate with the educational philosophy. The school gets very few “problem” children from our kindergarten, which is testament to the wonderful work of our kindergarten teachers and the educational philosophy. As an independent primary school we cannot access special government funding for extra resources for high needs children, which has lead some parents to decide that a state school will better serve their child.
If the school does not test its pupils, how can parents know that standards are being met? The school does test children in literacy and numeracy, and it assesses them regularly through the collegial work of the teachers. Testing is seen as having a place, but always in the context of the individual’s development path – which cannot be fixed by reference to a ‘norm’, without undermining the individual child.
How does the Steiner curriculum fit into the New Zealand context? The kindergarten works with Te Whariki, the curriculum for Early Childhood Education in NZ, and as this curriculum is holistic, it fits totally with our view of the young child. We use natural NZ materials and incorporate Maoritanga (maori culture/practices) and Te Reo (Maori language). In the Primary School, the curriculum addresses the development of the child and their environment, and consequently meets the needs of the child. Thus, each class in each Steiner School is unique, yet universal.
Every school is fund raising or has a gifting program. Are you asking other schools to help with your fundraising? Yes, we are appealing to other schools, and their parents, and beyond. Other independent schools, that are now established, will understand our difficulty. They were once small and pioneering and needed help to grow. Now that they are established, we hope they will be willing to help us get a permanent home. Their help may be a donation or loan, or they may forward our appeal to their data base and help us find donors.
Your website is very interesting so I obtained a book by Rudolf Steiner to learn more. I’m finding the book difficult to understand. Can you recommend a good introduction book? Yes, Rudolf Steiner’s books are not easy for modern day English speakers. Some of the difficulty is in the translations. Check out our links page for some other sources of information. Also look for a copy of the documentaryThe Challenge of Rudolf Steiner.The following quote may also help. “One cannot read an Anthroposophical book as one is accustomed ordinarily to read books at the present day. In certain respects every page and even many a sentence will have to be worked out by the reader. This has been intentionally aimed at. For only in this way can the book become to the reader what it ought to become. He who merely reads it through will not have read it at all. Its truths must be experienced, lived. Only in this sense has Anthroposophy any value.” — Rudolf Steiner [“Theosophy” — from the Preface to the First Edition]