How To Do Reggio At Home!

By Ms. Carmen

Hey Birds Nest families! You are all so awesome and I feel really lucky that this school year has brought us together. The community of Abeona House is so near and dear to my heart and these trying and confusing times have above and beyond confirmed that. In my years at Abeona, it has been an honor to get the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and I feel strongly that it is a very positive model for early childhood education. It says a lot about y’all as parents that you sought out the Abeona experience for your babies. Certainly none of us predicted that this year parents all over the world would become tasked as not only parents but homeschool teachers as well. I speak for every member of the Birds Nest teaching team in expressing a commitment to being a guide and resource for y’all in this unexpected undertaking.  I would like to share my understanding of the seven main principles of the philosophy, how they apply to the education of infants, and how you can lean on them to inform your parenting while we must be apart.

1) Curriculum that is directed by the child

At the core of Reggio Emilia philosophy is a strong belief that children are capable and passionate explorers and therefore deserve license to design their own paths of learning. Such a focus asserts that it is the teacher’s duty to tune in closely to the interests and curiosities of the child and support learning accordingly and with a respect for individuality, rather than prescribing a uniform system of learning that is the same for every child year after year.  

What this means in the Birds Nest:

We pay close attention to the toys and activities that our babies enjoy most and use these observations to inform which materials we offer to them. We make a point to switch up what is available to them often; because they are not yet able to express through language what interests them most and what they want to try, it is the role of an infant teacher to offer a varied and ever changing array of options and make sure that each baby has plenty of access to their favorite activities.

How to implement at home:

Take time to sit back and closely observe the activities your baby chooses to engage in without your prompting, as well as reflect on which new materials could be offered that correspond to interests your baby expresses. As you watch your baby develop and advance new skills such as fine motor, gross motor, and language, ask yourself how you can make new activities available that will support and nurture the skills you see your baby already working to practice on their own. And please feel free to reach out to Liza, Brittany, and myself with requests for types of activities and questions about how to best guide and support your brilliant little learner!

2) Learning through relationships

This principle acknowledges the importance of social and emotional development of students and prioritizes this realm of young childrens’ learning over academics. Reggio Emilia teachers foster an understanding that the ways in which children learn from each other are as valuable as the role in education of the teachers themselves. 

What this means in the Birds Nest:

At Abeona House, there is a strong focus on learning how to be a kind and respectful friend. For Birds Nest students, this mostly means learning how to respect each others bodies. We support this development by teaching about gentle touches, sharing and taking turns with materials, and that it is okay to ask for space when you need it. We also focus constantly on how to act in ways ourselves that model gentle and loving consideration for everyone in the room. 

How to implement at home:

By simply treating your baby with warm, loving, and patient care, you are supporting healthy emotional and social development. A baby who feels they can trust and enjoy the company of the adults who care for them is able to approach other relationships with confidence and excitement. If applicable, be consistent with discussing and modeling “gentle touches” in ways that your baby can understand. I am so excited for the days when the Birds Nest crew gets to be back together, showing off and sharing all of their new developmental achievements with each other! 

3) Children are natural communicators and do so in a multitude of styles

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, wrote about something known as the Hundred Languages of Children. This concept proposes that children are natural communicators and should be supported in expressing themselves through not only language but numerous modes such as drawing, painting, building, singing, moving, and many more. This aspect of the philosophy further encourages an esteem for each child’s ability to direct their own individualized and rich journey of learning.

What this means in the Birds Nest:

We are sure to offer our students many different forms of expression to explore. We read books, sing songs, dance, paint, build structures, and play with musical instruments to name a few. 

How to implement at home:

Give your baby opportunities to try out new activities and skills and pay attention to which modes of expression they show the most interest in. 

4) After teachers and peers, the environment acts as the third teacher in the room

In being considered a guiding tool in the learning process, the Reggio Emilia classroom is designed to showcase and amplify the exploration of its students. This is in part accomplished through an intentional layout that allows children to move freely as they learn and play. Toys and materials are highly accessible and displayed in arrangements that are aesthetic and inviting. The classroom as a whole is a warm and comforting space. The learning process of the students is celebrated as well as documented with displays that are highly visible to the children of their own work.   

What this means in the Birds Nest:

Toys are arranged on shelves that the babies can reach themselves. The classroom is open and easy for the babies to traverse and explore. We have soft, comfy blankets and pillows as well as a cozy and inviting reading nook that is easy to crawl into. We allow the babies to implement parts of the classroom in developing their ability to stand and be mobile such as the bars of cribs, shelves, sensory tables, and infant safe climbing equipment. The classroom is designed with the intention of allowing abundant and varied opportunities for our babies to freely explore and safely take risks.

How to implement at home:

Designate a room or section in your house that you can easily baby proof so that your little explorer can move about and play without a need to avoid anything in the area. Your baby’s bedroom is a good place for autonomous exploration or any other room in which you can clear furniture to the sides so that there is plenty of open floor space to play on. Allow your baby to engage with the environment of your home as they please as long as they are safe, even if it sometimes gets messy. Spend time with your baby outside so they can discover and learn from nature 

5) Teachers are collaborators and guide and support their students through long term projects that are directed by the children

As Reggio Emilia teachers closely observe the interests and passions of their students, they provide them with further questions to explore and experiment more deeply. This relationship positions the teacher as a facilitator rather than director of the childrens’ projects which are self-appointed and distinguishes the approach from other more traditional forms of early childhood education in which the content and duration of classroom projects are pre-determined by the teacher. In Reggio Emilia, it is up to the children to decide what they will study, by what means, and for how long while their teacher patiently nurtures the process and provides necessary materials and opportunities. Projects therefore take different forms depending on the interests of the individuals in the class, rather than fulfilling the predetermined expectations of an assignment from an adult.   

What this means in the Birds Nest:

We aim to nurture our babies’ development of the confidence and independence necessary to try new things, make choices for themselves, and ultimately direct their own paths of learning. We patiently allow them to make mistakes and lovingly encourage them while they are testing out new skills. We promote a sense of empowerment by giving them space to work things out on their own, rather than fostering a dependence on interference from adults to accomplish challenging new tasks. When our babies are working on something new like tummy time, crawling, building with legos, using furniture to pull up and stand, or walk to name a few, we provide guidance and examples when necessary to stimulate experimentation and then attentively cheer them on from the sidelines even during times when our friends get a little frustrated while mastering developmental milestones. Providing our babies with the materials as well as emotional support they need to learn and play is how we promote the development of confident, trusting, enthusiastic, and autonomous learners, rather than passive receptacles of prescribed knowledge.  

How to implement at home:

Your baby is a natural explorer and student who is learning everyday. If you find that your baby enjoys playing in a particular way, ask yourself how you can offer a slightly more challenging version to deepen and progress their learning. Allow them to try new things without your help and be patient if something takes them a while to master. Show them loving praise and validation as they explore new abilities, even when they don’t get it perfect. Let them spend as much time as your daily schedule allows for them to engage in their favorite activities.  

6) The child’s learning is documented by adults

Reggio Emilia teachers closely document each individual student’s experience of the school year so as to deepen their own observations of the learning process as well as prove to the children that their work is of value. Teachers do this through photography, video and audio recordings, transcription of the students’ spoken words, and displays of the students’ work both in portfolios and on the walls of the classroom. This documentation in turn helps to inform and direct the curriculum.   

What this means in the Birds Nest:

We photograph our babies as they learn and play and reflect on their endeavors in writing in the form of weekly newsletters as well as portfolio entries.

How to implement at home:

Keep taking pictures and videos of all the awesome stuff your babies are up to and please share the footage with Liza, Brittany, and myself! Email or Brightwheel message us to inform us of the incredible learning you observe your baby engaging in. 

7) Parental participation is essential

A goal of Reggio Emilia is to aid in developing a supportive community that incorporates teachers, students, and their families so that teachers and parents function as collaborators in the care and education of the children. This entails attentive communication between parents and teachers and for parents to share their skills and resources with the school community at large when possible. Such a dynamic of reciprocity among teachers and families leads to parents who can trust teachers to be supportive guides deeply invested in the wellbeing of their children.

What this means in the Birds Nest:

Liza, Brittany, and myself invite any and all questions you ever have about your babies. We love updating you about what they get up to while we are lucky enough to have them in our care. And we all love when you parents participate in traditional Abeona events such as trick or treating at St. Margaret’s, potlucks out on the yard, and the renowned Krewe of Abeona   

How to implement at home:

Just keep doing what y’all have been doing! Keep attending Zoom singalongs, keep taking time out of you and your baby’s day to say hey when we deliver weekly materials, and keep reaching out when you have questions or awesome baby updates to share with us! 

At the time of its origin in Italy directly following WWII, the Reggio Emilia philosophy and practice was a community response to the devastation of fascism and war. Amongst the parents and teachers involved with developing this revolutionary approach to education, there were shared goals of healing collective trauma and teaching children to be independent and democratic thinkers capable of becoming empathetic and inspired leaders and instigators of societal change who criticize systems of power and oppression in their adulthoods. Respect for and validation of the brilliant capabilities of children, the importance of their role in their communities, as well as a focus on social justice all are at the core of Reggio Emilia and it is important to me as a teacher to hold these principles close in my work. Another valuable aspect of the philosophy lies within that it does not exist as a formula that is set in stone but rather a set of guiding principles that are designed to be applied to varying communities, cultural landscapes, and eras in time; Reggio Emilia is intended to shift and develop along with society and advance in its applications to meet the needs of different children in different places at different times. It goes without saying that Covid19 has changed life for children and families and will continue to in ways we cannot necessarily predict and therefore a system of education is necessary that can change and adapt to support the learning and care of young children in these unprecedented and chaotic times. As teachers and parents brought together by Reggio Emilia, we are gonna get through this pandemic together and we are going to nurture loving and dedicated citizens who will one day change our world while we do it.  

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