What is Reggio Emilia?
After WWII, parents in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy began a grass roots redefinition of early childhood education. This new vision, led by Loris Malaguzzi clung fiercely to the belief that children are born free and powerful individuals able to direct and construct their own knowledge. The Reggio method places the utmost importance on the environment because it views the child as the primary designer of the educational process. This process of learning is a creative one composed from the environment, and children are more than capable of climbing this educational mountain when given space, time and appropriate materials.
Mixing Modalities: The Flow of the Day
Throughout our home, we have activities that are open ended invitations to play. Baskets containing plain construction blocks sit happily next to Montessori bead work. Frequently a spurt of imagination combines the activities. A container of PVC pieces lives next to a soft bag of Waldorf silks. A pile of magnets sits on the floor next to a shelf holding worksheets, copy work, and beginning readers. I see no dilemma in combining the best techniques from the best minds in educational reform. Children place no such restraints on their learning and activities.
The big boys especially seem to appreciate the differences in modality. There are times of the day when they will be drawn to the exactitude of the Montessori works from our Buckets and Berries homeschool curriculum. They will hunker down and take great joy lining up three part cards and studying the differing details between pictures.
When their bodies and souls have filled this need, they will move joyously to the backyard. Piles of boards and concrete blocks become houses, and tables. The sweet workers will spend hours exhausting themselves... sometimes they will begin with an end in mind. Sometimes they will just move stuff around until something strikes their fancy.
They come across obstacles of all kinds, and the creative solving of these problems provides a priceless education. Loris Malaguzzi upheld that the child, left to explore and discover the world as their interests sparked, develops his self completely.
After a snack, the air conditioning and comfort of the home will beckon them to a corner where they will play with silks and figurines. This world of fantasy and the beautiful atmosphere that accompanies it will settle in for a few hours as they create the picture perfect Waldorf experience. And most days include at least one snuggle-fest as we devour the Charlotte Mason inspired piles of living books.
Children have 100 languages with which to learn and express themselves, as Reggio Emilia noted. They can speak Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf and Mason fluently! And 100 other languages!!
Mixing Modalities: The Environment
How do you arrange and equip a Reggio inspired homeschool setting? There are a few basics to begin with.
Firstly, provide plenty of open ended materials to spark interest for your child. There is a preference for natural materials. Wooden blocks, chunks of bark, shells, interesting and beautiful rocks, potters clay, seeds and other collectible natural objects.
Other materials are acceptable too, though... A decent collection of different sized bottle lids make for interesting building material. Play Dough, crayons, colored pencils, paint... Really art supplies of every variety.
Second, provide space and time for mess. The creative process frequently involves combining parts from multiple areas to create something magical. This is all well and good, but it is not always easy to watch as the person in charge of the home. I have to frequently remind myself, "I am raising children, not grass."
The third step is where you come in as the teacher. Observe, plan for extension, adapt the materials, and explore together.
Watch your child for those sparks of interest that can lead down other rabbit holes. As with the bug building activity below, one days worth of "Mom! Look! These rocks look like an ant." can grow into a much larger beast, influencing art projects and field trips, book choices and nature walks. It is your job as the teacher to provide parts, watch the interest take root, and then provide additional experiences to help expand upon that seedling.
More often than not, this will involve learning on your part as well. This is an extremely good thing!! Providing a loving and excited example of life long learning is a blessing to your children. Even when your curriculum demands direct confrontation of a topic, it can be done in a manner that gives the child a chance to be creative, as with the invitation to play with the number six below.
We find great pleasure and great educational opportunities upon the doorstep of the Reggio Method. I would love to hear about what has worked for you too! I hope our journey inspires your own!!
Buckets and Berries
(Making skis. "Since corona cancelled our soccer and we don't need our cleats." Obviously!!)