The big question for parents who find out that their child is gifted is where to send them for the best educational outcome. You may have heard that preschools or schools using the Steiner method could be the right place for your gifted child, especially if they are creative.
Steiner (1861-1925), who was born in Austria, based his educational ideas on his own spiritual philosophy (Anthroposophy). His methods were largely adopted in Northern Europe where children started school at 7. Although much has changed since his time, children in these countries still start school later than in Australia.
The reason schools commenced at age 7 is based on Steiner’s belief that children should not be set academic tasks such as learning to read before their first adult teeth appeared. The start of adult teeth in children occurred around 7 years of age in Steiner’s day. This, of course, happens much sooner now, with better nutrition, but the Steiner philosophy and practice has not changed accordingly. A gifted child who reads or wants to learn to read or write before this time may therefore not be a good ‘fit’ for a Steiner education.
Steiner posited that before the age of 7 children were in a physical phase of development. Mentally children were thought to be still partly in the spiritual realm (as they had rebirthed, one of Steiner’s beliefs). If you are uncomfortable with such spiritual beliefs then a Steiner education may not be a good fit for your family.
Activities encouraged before the age of 7include physical exploration and play, art and craft, eurhythmics (a special Steiner designed dance or movement activity), and listening to fairy tale stories. Children are provided with faceless dolls so that their imaginations can fill in the features. Wooden toys are used, and there is an emphasis on the use of natural elements, such as pebbles for their play. The use of computers and television are discouraged. Art and craft involves a repetitious diet of mainly wet paper water painting, and specific stitches sewn into hessian or similar fabric. A child who wants to explore other art forms may feel stifled at a Steiner preschool.
Once at school, Steiner teachers stay with the children for 7 years. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether the children and their parents get along with the teacher.
Steiner was a man of his time. He was racist and anti-Semitic. In his autobiography he states: “Beloved Christians, realize who are the enemies of the truth: it could be a Freemason or a Jew” (p 32). That attitude still prevails in some Steiner schools. I personally experienced a blatant anti-Semitic incident, my first and only, in one of these schools. More can be read about Steiner education at the following link: