'It's not a cult.' I went to a Steiner school. This is what I want you to know.

Meet Ebony May Gagel. She's a 19-year-old Australian woman who loves to bake cupcakes and is studying a business degree at university. In the future, she wants to be the CEO of her own cupcake business with employees working for her.

Oh, and she went to a Steiner school, and people seem to have a problem with it.

Six days ago, Ebony posted a video on TikTok in response to a user who made a comment about her Steiner school education. The comment read: "Steiner students usually graduate and struggle to get anywhere. It's almost like they lack ability to function to conform in normal jobs."

@ebonymaybakess Replying to @—:— Its definitely not for everyone but it worked for me! #steinerschool #schoolstorytime #foryoupage #highschool ♬ original sound - Ebony May

It's this kind of misconception and stigma that Ebony is working hard to tear down. Speaking to Mamamia, Ebony opened up about her experience in a Steiner school and why she wants to change the narrative around this type of alternative education.

Ebony attended a Steiner school from year 5 until graduating with an ATAR in year 12. She originally attended a Catholic school but after her older brother started having learning difficulties, their parents decided to move all of their children to a Steiner school.

Steiner schools were established in 1919 by Dr Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and scientist. The schools aim to approach education in a creative and unhurried way, allowing children to find joy in learning.

Ebony believes her parents' decision to move her and her siblings to a Steiner school changed all their lives for the better. 

"I was having a few issues at my Catholic school," Ebony tells Mamamia. "They weren't really meeting my needs or giving me the confidence to achieve what I needed to." 

Watch: The horoscopes home schooling their kids. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As we know every child is unique and with that in mind, Ebony thinks education should be approached in a more fluid way. "Those kinds of schools try and churn out the same kind of person and if you don't fit the mould, you don't fit in," she says. 

At her Steiner school, she was about to flourish in a 'warm and welcoming' space.

Recalling her first day, Ebony says the teacher shook her hand and invited her into a "morning circle" where each student was given the opportunity to check in and open up about how they were feeling. Then at multiple points throughout the day, students would break out into song. From her first day, Ebony knew this was the right place to further her education. 

"At that kind of school they make you feel like you can do anything, there are no limits," she says. 

Whether it be breaking into song or a clear focus on promoting creative learning, these kinds of Steiner school characteristics seem to invite jibes from naysayers. Ebony says one of the most common misconceptions is that Steiner schools are like cults. 

"People tend to see it as a bit of a cult. Our school was perceived that way," she says."We had different festivals like the winter festival where we had fire sticks. But those were some of the magical experiences when I was in primary school that I absolutely loved."

Ebony isn't too bothered by the misinformation.

"I don't really mind because I loved it. For me it wasn't a cult," she says.


In the case of Ebony and her siblings, the switch from a traditional school to an alternative environment empowered them to reach potentials she thinks wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

When it came to testing and assignments, there were no rigid rules around the work you submitted. Ebony thinks this kind of curriculum encourages students by taking the pressure off while still giving them access to necessary knowledge. 

"There was definitely a focus on creativity rather than academics but still getting the academics done to meet the requirements," she says. "You still achieve everything you need to as per the curriculum but just in a different way."

Ebony makes a pretty impressive case for why Steiner school graduates can go on to achieve a successful career. At 15 she began baking and by the time she was in year 12, she had turned it into a business selling cupcakes and cakes to the public. She believes it was the support of her Steiner school teachers that helped lay the foundations for her bustling business. 

She is now studying a Bachelor of Business at the University of Canberra and has big plans to expand her ideas by becoming the CEO or her own company one day. 

With her sights set on big entrepreneurial goals all before the age of 20, Ebony is shutting down Steiner school misconceptions one delicious cupcake at a time.

Did you know we have a whole family-focused community you can join on Facebook for more discussions like this? Join the Mamamia Family Facebook group and follow Mamamia Family on Instagram and tell us what #parentinglookslike for you!

Feature Image: TikTok @ebonymaybakess.

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