The Steiner curriculum is structured to respond to the developmental needs of children. It is broad and comprehensive, based on three developmental phases of childhood: kindergarten (4-6 years), lower school (6-12 years) and upper school (12-16 years), bringing "age appropriate" content to the children that nourishes healthy growth and educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
Teaching is focussed on pupils as individuals: how can we encourage each child to find their own sense of achievement, to be valued for who they are and what they bring? How do we call forth enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, interest and concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world? How can we help pupils find meaning in their lives?
Teachers in Steiner schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. Subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner which allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning. When children relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and alive, and what they learn becomes their own. The purpose of studying a subject is to awaken and educate capacities that every human being needs. We believe that that early education should give a broad palette of experiences; in this way, each subject studied can contribute to the development of a well-balanced individual.
The main lesson and subject lessons
In Steiner schools, each day begins with a long, uninterrupted lesson on a single subject which the class works on in-depth every morning for several weeks at a time. This long session – the ‘main lesson’ allows the teacher to develop a wide variety of activities around each subject, allowing the children to experience the subject in great depth and breadth, be it history, physics, geography or ancient mythologies.
Steiner Academy Hereford - (c) 2013
Each of the themes for the main lessons is like a lens through which the pupils look out into the world. Through the main-lesson program, teachers lay the groundwork for a gradual vertical integration that deepens and widens each subject experience.The pupils’ learning journeys are beautifully written, illustrated and laid down in individual ‘main lesson books’. For the Steiner pupil, music, theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about: they are experienced. Through these experiences, Steiner pupils cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as a range of intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities.
Later in the morning, foreign languages and other subject lessons are taught whilst the afternoons are devoted to lessons in which the whole child is active: movement, handwork, crafts, art or gym, for example. The arts and practical skills play an essential part in the educational process throughout the grades. They are not considered luxuries, but fundamental to human growth and development. Thus the day has a rhythm that enhances balanced learning.