Out of the blue, the opportunity to be involved in the setting up of a Kindergarten adopting the Reggio Emilia approach landed on my lap. I grabbed it. Now, before we get too excited, its probably going to be a very small role. There are already experts in running childcare centres and RE trainers involved. Financial sponsors are also nearly all in place. I really just need to be the coordinator since I’m the one with no skill and no money.
I’m really really excited about this project. As evident in some of my earlier posts, I was searching for preschools for Sophia and so far none have been fully satisfactory. Among those that I looked at, the ones adopting Reggio inspired approaches appealed to me but at the end of the day they would be lacking in certain aspects.
I first heard about this method through reading the website of The Blue House Nursery, which my sister told me about. She was very drawn to this nursery but my reaction was lukewarm because all their teachers seem non-local, which is fine, but none seemed to be froma chinese speaking background. Which is just a dealbreaker for me because much as I like the reggio approach, billingual exposure is much more important to me. The window before 7 is such an important window for linguistic development beyond which I am a stong believer that one can learn a language well enough to be proficient but certainly not fluent. As a result I did not even make enquiries at The Blue House.
The next time I stumbled upon the website of a Reggio Emilia inspired school I really liked what I saw. On paper. The said school was Between 2 Trees set up by a lawyer and a lady with designing background. The teachers all have degrees, not just diplomas. The curriculum was very fluid depending on where the conversation brings the class. There was a lot of emphasis on art and creating an environment which inspires creativity. I thought I struck jackpot. I made an appointment to visit the school with high hopes. I wouldn’t say my hopes were dashed but it could be because I visited at a bad time where most children have already gone home and some were taking their afternoon nap, the school felt lifeless. We were brought around and we saw more good stuff. Classrooms set up for pretend play where shoes are contributed by families so that children can pretend to be mother, father, children etc and wear the corresponding shoes then playact in the mock kitchen. We saw models of owls done by the children. We saw a bunch of children playing with clay. The lighting was turned down because it was wind down time before nap. And the best part was, there was an art material room with rows and rows of raw material for artwork, not all professional art material, most collected from everywhere like ice cream sticks, buttons etc. It was a creative child’s dream come true. My brain fericiously wanted to like this school. My heart strongly refused to. The only logical reason I could give for rejecting the school was they allowed the auntie who cooked for the children to be part of the clay session and the Auntie was saying things like “ni-ni” (nice nice) to them. But surely learning to interact with the old is part of the learning process so I can’t fault them for it. No reason but I just didn’t quite like the vibe of the school. Blame it on bad timing I suppose.
And so the search continues. Now its not that I’m tied to the Reggio Emilia approach. I’m just generally drawn to any approach that allows young children freedom to bloom and grow. Play based approach, project based approach etc all appeal to me. Worksheets, montessori, not so. Approaches that tie children to pre-set tasks doesn’t quite work in my short experience as a mum. A few of the mummies I know raved about the Glenn Doman books and flashcards so I read a few of his books and invested in a combination of store bought and homemade flashcards. The Glenn Doman methodology is rather military style forcing information down babies throat imho and while I managed to do it when Sophia was largely immobile, the moment she could run away from it, she did. So teh flashcards were dropped and instead she was allowed to roam around the house. Strangely (or perhaps this is actually normal) she prefers to roam to the her row of books on the bookshelf (second from the bottom so perfect height for her when standing up) and start pulling books out. So as she pulls a book out we open and read it to her. Surprisingly, she remembers things from her first words book whereas for flashcards its really short term memory. If we force her to look at 2 flashcards and immediately afterwards quiz her about them she points to the correct card. But I’m not convinced it would work if we ask a week later. On the other hand, the book knowledge seems permanent. Perhaps this is the difference between self directed learning and forced learning.
So there. I am sort of, accidentally, applying a sort-of Reggio inspired appraoch at home and am now sort of involved in setting up a Reggio inspired preschool. I hope it becomes a success in that it grooms confident, intelligent individuals. Perhaps I’ll think about sending Sophia there instead of the other premium schools I’m considering. But since I have so little say in how the school is shaped, I’ll need to evaluate it as it develops. Very excited to be given the chance to participate nevertheless. Glad that its not just the high income that gets to send their children to inspired preschool programmes like these.