The essence of the Steiner approach is the principle that education is an art. Whatever the subject, its presentation must live – it must speak to the child’s experience. Each child is valued as a complete individual – not exclusively for academic skill. A caring, rather than competitive relationship is encouraged between students. Steiner education develops the student’s capacity to learn, to be open to life and to develop a sense of meaning and purpose. A non-competitive environment allows children the time to learn and develop at the pace they need and protects them from the pressure to enter the adult world too quickly.
Being part of a class community that journey together through the school awakens individual capacities and social awareness. So not only is the individual’s development fostered, but students are also encouraged to develop a genuine regard and respect for humanity, and service to others.
“The aim is to educate our children to be positive towards others, resolute in oneself, thoughtful in observation and self expression and to pursue all this with enthusiasm, and with faith in the striving qualities of humankind. To do this is to ennoble the mind, to fire the imagination, fortify the will, and quicken the initiative for positive action in life.” (Francis Edmunds, Essentials of Rudolf Steiner Education)
Sophia Mundi’s artistic curriculum is a feature of Steiner education. The visual arts and drama are mostly integrated through the primary school. We are able to draw upon strong links with our surrounding artistic community: for example, students in Year 10 spend time with local artists and artisans, many of whom have their studios within the Abbotsford Convent Precinct. In music, each child is required to play an instrument and the Strings Programme commences in Year 3. From this time, students participate in a class orchestra until Year 7 when they join one of a range of ensembles. Eurythmy, a movement art unique to Steiner education, is taught from Prep right through to the end of the Senior years.
Early childhood is a time for creative play, an exploration of the physical world and an introduction to the rhythms of the school day. Primary school with the same Class Teacher is a time for imagination, learning through artistic creation and practical achievements. Secondary school is a time for increasing independence and responsibility, and the ability to think in ways that are both critical and creative.
Our curriculum’s content and teaching methods have been carefully aligned to children’s developmental stages. By having the courage to wait for, and the wisdom to recognise, the right time to introduce concepts, educational outcomes may far exceed traditional expectations.
Our acclaimed Outdoor Education Programme takes students from Year 3 and above to some of South-East Australia’s most remarkable locations. Most year levels go on two camps a year, while Year 9 students undertake seven camps (from bushwalking along the coast, to hiking in the mountains, to spending two-weeks on a sustainable bush-land property) learning self-reliance, cooperation, commitment and a deepened love of nature. This experience lays the foundations for the seminal Year 10 exchange programme, where students spend up to a term living with a host family and attending a sister school in France, Switzerland or elsewhere.
Academic standards are underpinned by mapping our curriculum to the 8 key learning areas of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS).
Sophia Mundi is part of the Steiner Waldorf school movement, a highly respected international educational movement with over 1050 schools in 60 countries. There are also nearly 2000 Steiner Waldorf kindergartens, home programmes, child care centres and pre schools around the globe.
Steiner Education and Academic Achievement
Steiner education is sometimes misrepresented as an alternative to an academic education. This is far from the case. Steiner education is in fact a deeply academic education directed towards the natural development of a balanced and healthy individual. At Sophia Mundi our teaching is inspired by the very same high classical and liberal standards that inform the best schools in this country. Our lessons are innovative, but the content we use is established. Our curriculum is alternative, but it complies with the educational standards set by the federal and state government. Our highly experienced teachers come to teach here not only for the creative freedom we allow, but for the academic values we insist on.
The Main Lesson
Steiner education’s use of a daily “Main Lesson” is integral to its deeply holistic and academic focus. Every morning, from their earliest years, students are given a ninety minute to two hour lesson (on a particular subject for three weeks). The learning that occurs during these long lessons extends far beyond what is possible in a conventional lesson length. Teachers relish the opportunity to teach their subjects originally, creatively and thoroughly. Students are given the time to process information organically and to understand it imaginatively. In Class 1 they learn primarily through craft and pictures and stories. By Class 6 they are exploring the histories and literatures of Greece and Rome. By class 8 they have developed the capacity to read Shakespeare and Ancient Greek literature intimately and thoroughly. They engage in intensive experiments in Physics and Chemistry in our recently built science labs. They are given the opportunity to extend well beyond rote learning and to understand the deeper principles at work in Mathematics. The rhythm and pace of the Main Lessons enables this deep learning to happen. All of this is taught at the level appropriate to the class. By year 11 students have developed the writing, numeracy and problem solving skills to meet the challenge of the International Baccalaureate.
The academic standards of the school are both in line with the approved standards of Steiner Education Australia and rigorously mapped to the 8 key learning areas of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. As a member of Steiner Education Australia, Sophia Mundi remains closely involved in the continuing development and improvement of curriculum.
The principles of Steiner education place the human being at the centre of everything. In light of this we prefer not to rely excessively on technological teaching aids such as computers, videos and interactive whiteboards. Although these tools are sometimes useful in the classroom, our philosophy is that over reliance on technological aids and programmes restrict the child’s educational development and capacity to think freely. In the early primary years in particular we employ no technological devices in the classroom. Instead of prescribed systems we prefer creative, practical, self-made solutions as the basis of learning. We introduce IT and computing based lessons in the secondary school. By years 11 and 12 our students have developed a high level of proficiency and work predominantly on laptops.