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 Steiner & Froebel-Blog

We previously wrote about how Montessori and Reggio Emilia can have a positive impact on your child. In this article we take a look at two other alternative forms of schooling, Steiner and Froebel, and give you all the information you need to see how Steiner and Froebel schooling systems can have an impact on your child’s lives.


What are the Benefits of Steiner for your Child?

 Steiner is another alternative schooling approach that has plenty of benefits for children. Research on the Steiner method is fairly limited, however the research that does exist shows extremely positive results about the impact that a Steiner school will have on your child.

In one study it was found that children are more than capable of achieving what they want in life and are happy in the process of pursuing their goals. The majority of them considered that life-long learning was a significant part of their life journey.

Another study focused on how Steiner children adjusted to tertiary education in comparison to those who attend traditional schooling. The study found that they experienced less anxiety and depression and showed greater life satisfaction and academic achievement. The study also found that students actually performed below their mainstream counterparts in grades two and three, but performed better than their mainstream counterparts by grade 8.

Experts agree that the Steiner education aligns with many of the goals of 21st Century education.

So how does Steiner work to achieve these excellent results that are seen from the studies?

1.    Age Appropriate Learning

 Steiner schools divide childhood development into thirds. There is birth to age 7 sections, where children are driven by imitation of their teachers and parents. School is considered an extension of the family, and the same teacher follows children through each stage, as do parents. Spoken stories and fairy tales are how they develop their language abilities as opposed to books and media, as well as imaginative play, seasonal festivals and natural outdoor toys and influences. They have a hands-on approach to learning such as working with wood, wool, needle-felting and knitting which focuses on motor skills as opposed to desk work. Learning to read and write as well as math and media are not part of the curriculum at this point. This is the complete opposite of traditional schooling; however brain development experts agree that the left and right brain hemisphere remain largely unattached up until the end of this development stage. In fact, writing is introduced before reading as more of an art form. Music and dance is a must and every child learns to play the recorder and a string instrument later on. It has been proven that music stimulates the entire brain through many studies.

 As we’ve said the learning is very hands-on and science is learnt from nature, not a textbook. This type of experiential learning helps to solidify ideas and thoughts in the brain.

2.   Mass Media is an Absolute No Go Zone

 There is an absolutely zero tolerance for mass media. A counsellor undertook detailed studies and found that children are literally frazzled with too much media. He concluded that exposing children to media had the exact same effect on them, both emotionally and psychologically, as spending time in war ravaged Bosnia or famine-ridden Somalia. He also went on to explain that the diagnosis of ADHD is growing considerably, and that this could possibly be due to less outdoor play and children being in more traditional schools.

 For these reasons Steiner has zero tolerance of mass media.

3.   Non-competitive Environment

 Like many parents of our generation, life without media or competitive sports is a hard pill to swallow.  But for young kids especially, it has been proven that they prefer to co-operate and not have their skills constantly evaluated or tested.  Similarly, the Steiner curriculum does not place importance on seat work and memorisation for testing.  This is quite amazing and forward thinking, the children actually write and illustrate their own handmade “text books” which are really more like journals that incorporate their own creative work.  Learning is specific to the individual, while also being really simplified, so that the same concept is approached using different learning methods. The kids only really sit down for 2 hours in the morning and the rest of the day they are focused on activities around a core lesson, but played out in different ways like art, crafts, plays and seasonal festivals. There is a predictable routine, which is important for your kids to feel safe and comfortable.

4.   Family Rules

 In Steiner schools, the teacher will follow the children up from Grade 1 through to Grade 8.  Other specialised or guest teachers will rotate through each class, but mostly a student has a consistent role-model similar to that of being a surrogate parent that follows them through their schooling career. The teacher is seen as the authoritative leader of the classroom, just like a parent.  Lessons that involve home-like work such as cooking, making bread and cleaning up, sweeping the floor are practiced and then demonstrated by the teacher and students.  A typical Steiner school classroom is focused on calming colours on the walls.  Cloths, silks and rugs soften the look and feel of each room, with faceless dolls to inspire creativity, and natural earth tone colours in all furnishings.  Most items, toys and furniture are wood where possible, or handmade.  This again reinforces a home-like atmosphere which is familiar, safe and encourages learning.

5.   The Natural World

 Outdoor play is one of the central themes to Steiner learning. It has been well documented around the world how outdoor play helps children to learn in a meaningful and unforgettable way. Kids have daily sessions of outdoor play, which are longer than a normal recess time in a traditional school. A lot of emphasis is put on this. Crafts are always with natural fibres such as wet-felting, finger-knitting and needle-felting using wool dyed with natural inks.  Woodworking is common. Even the outdoor playground looks more like something you would make out of ropes and timbers if you were shipwrecked on an island.  Branches, leaves, plants, vines and soil are played with on a regular basis.  Steiner schools can be considered “spiritual” in their ideas of “Mother Earth”, but they are not specifically religious, and are very open to all beliefs.  Steiner schools are all about natural beauty.

 As we pointed out in the beginning, there have been a few studies done on the impact of Steiner schools on children, and they are extremely positive, which will set your child up for a lifetime of success and happiness.


What are the Benefits of Froebel for your Child?

 There have been a number of studies done on the benefits of the Froebel schooling method, and here we’ll take a look at some of the findings.

 The German educator, Friedrich Froebel, was one of the innovators of early childhood education. He strongly believed that every child possessed their full educational potential at birth, and that the right type of educational environment was necessary to encourage the child to grow and develop in the optimal way.

According to one study Froebel’s vision was to stimulate an appreciation and love for children and to provide a new but small world – a world that became known as the Kindergarten – where children could play with others of their own age group and experience their first gentle taste of independence. His early educational vision laid the foundation for the framework of Froebel’s philosophy of education which is made up of four parts:

  • Free self-activity,
  • Creativity,
  • Social participation, and
  • Motor expression.

 As an educator, Froebel believed that stimulating voluntary self-activity in the young child was the necessary form of pre-school education. What he meant by this is that self-activity is defined as the development of qualities and skills that make it possible to take an invisible idea and make it a reality; self-activity involves formulating a purpose, planning out that purpose, and then acting on that plan until the purpose is realised. A significant part of the Froebel system is that of introducing play as a means of engaging children in self-activity for the purpose of externalising their inner natures. Froebel’s clarification of play is depicted through free play which encourages all of the child’s imaginative powers, thoughts, and physical movements. When children are at play in the Froebel system, they should not be driven by rules or prescribed systems of activities; they need to play freely, which is self-activity. In a nutshell Froebel believed that through stimulating play which creates self-activity, the ultimate goal of the child is the fullness of growth which brings about the realisation of his budding powers and continually carries him from one plane of educational growth to another. 

To assist children in their development of moving from one plane of educational growth to another, Froebel provides children with many stimulating activities to enhance their creative powers and abilities. Froebel designed a series of instructional materials that he called spielgabe/spielgaben (Play Gifts). These gifts are objects that are given to a child to play with, such as a sphere, a cube or a cylinder. This helps them to understand the concepts of shapes, dimensions, sizes and their relationships. It also helps them to explore solids, surfaces, lines rings and points. They are used to explore the principles of movement, math and construction.

The occupations are items such as paints and clay, wood work, lacing, weaving, drawing and cutting which the children can use to make what they wish; through the occupations, children outwardly express the concepts existing within their creative minds. Therefore, through the child’s own self-activity and creative imaginative play, they would begin to understand both the inner and outer properties of things as they move through the developmental stages of the educational process.

A third part of Froebel’s educational plan involved working closely with the family unit. Froebel believed that parents were a child’s first teacher. Since a child’s first educational experiences occur within the family, they are already familiar with the home environment as well as with the occupations carried on within the home. Naturally, through creative self-activity, children will imitate those things through observations of daily family life. Froebel believed that providing a family setting within the school environment would provide children with opportunities for interacting socially within a familiar territory and a non-threatening way. Focusing on the home environment occupations as the foundation for starting subject-matter content allows children to develop social interaction skills that will prepare them for higher level subject-matter content in later educational developmental stages. The belief is that there should be a strong link between home and school, which is an excellent way to build on a child’s educational performance. 

So what does the classroom situation look like and how are Froebel’s philosophies brought to life to benefit the child?

1.    Children learn through Play

Play allows children to discover how things work. Play is actively engaged in, through hands-on activities. This allows children to learn in a way that is far superior to sitting at a desk. Hands-on play is highly effective as a medium for teaching. 

2.    Children Develop at Different Times

 The key to really learning is to understand that children develop in different ways and at different times. Children should only learn what they are ready for and move through the curriculum at their own pace. This allows key concepts to be cemented, which sets them up for a successful future.

3.    Guidance

 Teachers are actually considered to be more of a guide. They shouldn’t be seen as the only people who have all the knowledge, but rather guide a child who will ultimately ensure that they understand exactly what they’re doing, through questioning and hands-on activities.

 4.   The Unique Froebel Classroom

 One thing about Froebel that you will see wherever you go is that their classrooms are very carefully prepared, in a similar way to Montessori. They might at first glance look like they are designed for free play. On second glance however, you will notice that they are very carefully prepared. Children are presented with the right tools and materials that are ideal for their level of development.

 5.   Movement

 Any Froebel school places a great amount of emphasis on allowing children to move and that it is critical for their development. Movement is incorporated in many different ways with songs, dance and even activities like finger plays. The opportunities for movement are endless.

 In terms of how Froebel will impact your child, they are able to see problems from many different angles and solve them without help or instruction. As they work with the different materials, they learn how to persevere, which is an important life lesson, as they attempt to figure out how to manipulate things to get the output that they want.

Your child will also be highly independent, and feel confident in their abilities to handle any issues that may arise.

Froebel’s approach should not be taken lightly and brushed aside as a mere play and craft based education for young children. It is much more than that and it takes time to learn and understand what it’s all about. It is suggested that if you decide on a Froebel school for your child, you should start them in one right at the beginning to get the ultimate benefits out of this schooling system. His theories are not dry, but full of life. They are thoughtful, imaginative, and active. They address the head, heart, and hand.

We hope that this article has given you some good insight into how Steiner and Froebel alternative schooling can impact your child. If you haven’t already, read our article on how Montessori and Reggio Emilia can impact your child. We hope these two articles help you to fully understand the benefits that some of these alternative schooling options can bring.


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