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Steiner Inspired Home Education

Michelle Ross, Exploring Approaches to Home Education Seminar, Adelaide 2008

I was first introduced to Steiner education when my oldest were about 3 nd 1. Before this I had wanted to home educate, but Steiner sounded to me as though I would get the best of both worlds: input from others, facilities I ould not provide, and the homey, slow, nourishing environment that I desired for my children.

It was important for me that my children be allowed to remain children. I loved that play was emphasised in the first seven years, and that no formal education is introduced until class 1 at around age 7. I appreciated the artistic and oral traditions used within the teaching, the emphasis on nourishing all facets of the individual - thinking, feeling and willing - or body, mind, and spirit as it may be understood, with the rich and varied curriculum, with an emphasis on practical and experiential methodology and a strong connection with the natural world.

One of the things I noticed was that my children, though each of the four is very different in their learning styles, interests and temperament, is that they go through definite stages of development, and aspects and the Steiner curriculum can be used to work with this.

The child recapitulates the entirety of human evolution as it grows up. To allow the child to be what it is at any given stage is vital for continued development. For example, at around age 11, or class 5 within a school, Greek mythology is introduced, and this is used as the basis of not only history, but writing, drawing, games, maths: in fact it permeates through everything. What I noticed was that the children were just naturally embodying this. Not the mythology, though they were very interested in this, but more in their actions and interests. The ancient Greek civilisation had an emphasis on beauty (eg sculpture), on movement (eg games- Olympic events), discovering truth, and developing the intellect (Plato, Socrates).

If you consider a child at this age, you can see that they have these traits if allowed to pursue their natural inclinations. A year later they develop into little Romans - much more definite and martial by nature, more in charge of their need to move beyond what they already know and organise into a form. To conquer the unknown by force if necessary! You don't have to do anything to cause this, but it can be useful to know so you can use stories, art, excursions and anything else you can think of to suit.

There is a great deal of information available on Steiner education and the curriculum available on the internet. A couple of links that cover the basics and show what may be used the different class levels are:

I have not followed a set curriculum since I have been home educating. My natural inclination is much more relaxed; however these are some aspects of the philosophy I have found useful:

  • The need for rhythm in the day, the week and the year. Not so much a strict structure but a rhythmic approach to living. Such as eating at similar times, routine before bed, a story after lunch. Play with this and see what works for you.
  • Awareness of the need for sensory gentleness, particularly in the early years. By this I mean being wary of overstimulating the nervous system with sharp sensory experiences such as bright colours and lights or overly loud sound.
  • Introduce new concepts slowly, preferably with story and allow the child to draw, paint, write, speak or act it out. Understanding builds slowly and becomes something that is a part of the child. When they use their creative side, the knowledge becomes far more than a simple intellectual understanding. It allows a depth of connection within the individual which then can be used in a way that is in harmony with the flow of life, rather than something they simply do or know.
  • Focussing on one subject or topic for an extended period of time. This is known as a main lesson, and allows in depth exploration. This seems to be the natural way of going about learning. My children tend take up a particular interest and focus on it almost to the exclusion of everything else, until they are 'done'. The main lesson in a set curriculum mimics this to a certain extent.
  • Knowing what is in the curriculum at the different phases of development, so perhaps I could steer the direction toward Shakespeare, or looking at the Renaissance, though I have found generally that I have not needed to do this, that if given the opportunity and a library, they go for it automatically.
  • Using natural objects, unstructured toys in the early years, having lots of different things around to use in whatever way they want and these are often nothing like what the object was made for, making space for cubbies (even as they get older).
  • Allow time - for whatever. Don't be in too much of a hurry for your child to get onto the next level. They grow up so quickly, cherish each moment for what it is.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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