It all started 5 yrs ago. Martin was around 16 months when our quest for the perfect preschool started. We visited Montessori schools, Catholic, Presbyterian, one that was like a mix of all philosophies, a tiny nature based school, a couple more traditional ones...and none struck to us like the right match for him, and for us, of course. I clearly remember the moment that defined what we wanted for our child. We walked into this school that was one of the most recommended by friends, and coincidently the little ones (about 3 yo) were in "art class". Each one of them was presented with a printout of an Eiffel Tower and were given glue and pasta to fill in. My husband and I, being both artists, stared at each other. Sigh. As I continued the tour, my head spinned with questions; Why present every kid with the same print out and the same material to represent the Eiffel Tower? Why the Eiffel Tower? What relevance does it have for these kids? Why were they all covered in smocks if they weren't even painting? And then I realized what I needed (and wanted) for my first child was not available in any of those schools we had visited. I was starting to worry...I love children, I love teaching, but mannnn, I did not want to homeschool my own!
But there was still one more school in my list, a Reggio inspired school that had good reviews and was relatively close to my home. Reggio, what the heck was this? I Had never heard of it before. Slacker as I can be at times, I did not do my research. I had little hope left. But then, I enter into this beautiful school, tastefully designed, with no smelly carpeting or sticky floors. It was clean, it was organized but a little chaotic too, in the right balance. The classrooms had their very own space for the arts, a variety of materials, papers, mediums, loose parts, tinker trays, nature items, rocks, sticks. That's when I thought, "ok, you had me at hello, where do I sign?"
Then we got to see the atelier; a dreamy space where creativity and imagination take place in the most unexpected ways. Children were at work. literally at work here. They were making decisions, choosing materials freely; materials where at their level. They were exploring, creating, tinkering, and each one of them was approaching similar topics but in such different ways. There was truly a freedom of expression. They talked about the 100 languages of children and it was a big blur then, but now, it is so clear. There's so many different ways in which a child can express themselves. And each of them is valuable, important, relevant and respected. This school respected children's capabilities, embraced and even highlighted the differences.
So all of this long introduction to explain to you how I first fell in love with the Reggio Emilia approach, and then started investigating, reading more about it, taking courses, etc. Now, I just try to inhale and exhale bits of it, to in some way spread them around through my art classes and with my 2 boys. Yes, now it's 2. Martin is 6 and Manolo 4. They both continue to go to this Reggio inspired school and I'm telling you these kiddos have nonstop ideas and limitless imagination!
Now, I don't care if my kids read, write, count and solve intricate math formulas. I don't care if they know all the countries and cities of the world. I don't measure their knowledge by comparing them to other kids their age. I know they will do all of that, eventually, at their own rhythm. My kids are unique. They are creative thinkers. Their imagination is vast. They question everything and have their very own theories. They know about dinosaurs and frogs because it interested them and had me help them research. They do get bored every now and then like any other child their age, but they don't stay in boredom. They move right out and tinker. They are engineers and come up with the wildest, tools, instruments, weapons, and more, out of cardboard, strings, and paint. They are problem solvers. They are kind and show empathy for others. They are Reggio kids, and for that, I am grateful and I do hope I may continue to foster this natural curiosity for learning in them always.
These creations below are some of the few they have come up with in the past 2 weeks. I may be a little biased lol, but to me, all of them are pretty awesome.
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