An Introduction to Steiner Education by Francis Edmunds

Edmunds’ introduction to Steiner education is weighty enough but every bit worth the read. It’s informative and doesn’t leave many questions you might have about Steiner education unanswered.

The early chapters are structured chronologically and bring you through the developmental years of a child’s life, from preschool up to secondary school and examinations. He doesn’t shy away from pitting Steiner education against other more conventional education systems and uses plenty of anecdotal evidence to illustrate various idiosyncrasies of the Steiner approach.

In his consideration of what he calls the over intellectualisation of children today, Edmunds says that “spontaneous child fantasy forces have begun to dry up”. The result is that “humans are unable to beset problems they are faced with”, as we have not been given the appropriate chance to let our imaginations develop freely enough to be creative. He warns against bringing a child too soon into her wakefullness or nerve senses, describing ways the child can be guided less abruptly through to their next stage of development by painting, modeling, cooking, sewing, building, nursery rhymes, action songs, eurythmy, simple fairy tales and little plays.

Regarding the developmental stage of age 7 to 14, Edmunds talks about the Steiner idea that this period of childhood is a unique gift to man. He refers to ‘feeling and heart’ learning, where teachers use ‘picture’ as opposed to bare fact. He discusses the social instinct in us and how Steiner education tries to overcome egotism and foster a sense of being sociable. The teacher doesn’t need to focus on either marks or rewards but help and guidance. This facilitates a ‘spirit of emulation’ instead of competition. A focus on success is replaced by a focus on sound results.
In a dedicated chapter, Edmunds answers questions on discipline, eurhythmy, religion, changing schools, coping in a modern society after Steiner schooling, games in Steiner schools and so on.

Overall the book presents Steiner education as a sensible and practical way to approach the education of children.