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Can Reggio-inspired learning and Classical education work together?

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I am learning, alongside all of you, what it means to bring Reggio Emilia inspired learning into my home and homeschooling.  This approach to early childhood learning believes that a child is capable to cultivate learning through their own interests and curiosities.

We have drastically improved our art play by incorporating Reggio ideals into our Reggio-inspired painting.

We have created a Reggio-inspired play space.

We bring nature into our home and learning through a nature table and nature play time.

We have increased Reggio-inspired playdough time in our home — a time to model and sculpt and create without limits

We continue to use small parts and manipulatives for mathematics work and letter learning in our home, both during free play and structured teaching time

Constructing their own meaning in the early years

A core element of Reggio learning is that of children “constructing their own meaning” through their interests in various topics and learning.  A parent, or teacher, observes and listens to the child and creates an environment to continue the child’s learning in those interests .

I believe that excitement in learning is important.  And Reggio encourages a child to create projects based on their loves and joys.

We can expose children to different literacy work or math work or science work through hands on and attainable activities.

Cultivating questions for learning

I have always loved the idea of asking a child a question, and allowing them to discover the answer.  Usually, at least during my teaching days, this was for science learning.  “What does a plant need to grow?” or “How do gears work?” or “Why are there different rocks?”

Reggio-inspired learning and Classical education?

I believe in teacher-led Classical learning for the elementary grades and beyond for rich, quality knowledge learning in subjects such as grammar, rhetoric, and logic (the Trivium) and arithmetic, music theory, geometry, and astromony (the Quadrivium), combined with history, literature, music, and languages.  You can see the article: What is Classical education? to learn more about this approach to education.

So how can I, as a teacher, step away and allow this type of project based, child led learning?

Well, in terms of early childhood education, hopefully any educator believes that play-based learning is the foundation on which all future learning and subjects will be based.  I do believe in structured, teacher-led, wisdom-driven learning later on — I intend to write a post on how I can intersect these two seemingly very different styles of teaching and learning in my home.  There is no right or wrong way.

Does Reggio learning contradict with my desire to classically teach my children?

But where I deviate from the Reggio approach, is I don’t believe children can cultivate all of their own learning.  I think they can learn how to learn in the early years, but later, there there is beautiful and valuable wisdom that they must be taught.  Wisdom of the Greeks and of the Romans.  Wisdom of languages and astronomy and history.  Wisdom beyond their years…..

For me, as a former teacher, having a set curriculum will be important for me to achieve success in homeschooling for my individual family.  But the Reggio approach has shown me that my children thrive in their interest-led projects and reading and play time, while I still do have a plan and curriculum that I follow.  At all turns, I hope to incorporate hands on, and beautiful, nature-inspired work with them.

I can teach them the recitation and memorization that I believe is critical in developing their minds towards logic and rhetoric later.  But my children, in their early years and beyond, can explore their world around them through art processes and musics, through hands on math learning and immersion reading and writing.

But they are not the creator of all learning or knowledge.  Well, certainly not.  So I do have strong intentions to teach my children the trivium and the quadrivium.  Hopefully, this will come with excitement on their part.  If my children want to focus on birds or insects, certainly they can choose.  

They will learn Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and classical literature.  We will move through history — the Greeks and the Romans and the Ottomans, on up.  And these subjects build their minds towards what is upright and dutiful and beautiful.  Rhetoric and logic to build their problem solving and thinking skills.


Reggio is adaptable

This is what is so wonderful about Reggio early childhood learning. It is not a method of teaching, it is an approach.  It can be adapted to what you need it to be.  To what is beneficial to your home, your homeschooling, and most importantly, your child.  I believe that play time equals learning time for those important early childhood years. The Reggio coincides perfectly with the eventual introduction to Classical Education. And, for us, it will promote a spark of creativity throughout our homeschool.

I could not explain the Reggio Emilia approach better than Kate over at An Everyday Story: Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach and What is Reggio? Reggio-Inspired Books.

What are your thoughts?  How do you incorporate open-ended activities in the early years?  When do you begin formal lessons?  What are your thoughts on unschooling and project-based learning for grade school and beyond?

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