Did you know that only 43 percent of Americans say that they're fond of the current mainstream K-12 schooling system? There's no wonder why. Standard K-12 schools teach students bits of information by rote memorization while offering them little context for how this knowledge can be used in the world.
While sure, these children are learning information, they're not really receiving an education. Education should seek to contextualize all knowledge and give children the tools they need to navigate our complex and ever-changing world.
This is the goal of Reggio-Emilia inspired schooling. If you've felt unsatisfied with the way most children receive education and don't want your children to fall into the mold, you should consider choosing a school that makes use of Reggio Emilia techniques.
But what exactly is this form of schooling? How did it come about in today's world? And what problems does it seek to address with its approach?
This article will walk you through all you need to know about Reggio Emilia, so you can better understand this alternative option.
What's the Problem?
The problem goes beyond the classroom and the lack of context. It's linked to the way children learn in school in this country.
In modern times, children are taught information, in hopes that they'll get into college. This is not what our education system was designed for.
Back in the 1940s, only a select few people went to college. These were the people who were entering into intellectual or academic careers. For the rest of the people, education ended at a much earlier age.
When we tell everyone to go to college, we develop a results-driven education, where grades matter about much more than helping students grow. In the past, people were fine with stopping school to pursue other endeavors. Now, students who don't respond to this way of schooling get shamed by others into attending college.
This has had devastating effects. More and more students are getting into exorbitant amounts of financial debt that they will never pay off. The result is that more young adults live at home now than during the Great Depression.
As you can see, the problems with our education system are more than philosophical problems. They've left a whole generation of young people despondent. When there are problems, it's best to look for solutions.
Parents are starting to catch on to this and seek out alternative schooling options.
Alternative School Option
There are other ways to engage in schooling than the standard K-12 education system. Many people don't realize there are a variety of schools that you can select your children that offer a quality education.
Let's look at few options, so you can break the mold.
Preparatory schools are a sort of catch-all term for schools that charge a certain amount of money for people to attend and boast that their students are years ahead of their chronological age when measuring academic knowledge. The approach in these schools is quite similar to that relied upon in public schools but is increasingly intensse and, some students have been heard to say, punishing. Growing up, you probably knew a kid or two from the local private school.
However, while preparatory schools can offer an intense learning environment students are rarely fully engaged in their learning. In fact, many suffer in this type of school with a sense of inferiority and self-doubt. If you want your child to break free of the chains of today’s education, you're going to have to look beyond.
Surely one of the best ways to get around the disastrous standardized school education is to teach your children yourself. Indeed, there are many programs that help parents teach their children all of the things they need to learn at home.
However, homeschooling isn't an option for everyone. It requires that a parent put a significant amount of time into teaching their own child. While every parent surely wants to have the time to do that, it isn't a reality for most people.
Another big drawback of homeschooling is the lack of socialization and mentorship. While there are many options for homeschooled children to connect socially, your child won't develop as many mentors.
Mentors are important to the development of any successful person. If you want your child to receive the full benefits of education, they need mentors who aren't their parents.
The Montessori Method
Montessori schools are some of the most popular alternatives to standard schooling. In the Montessori Method, children and teachers seek to guide each other on what the essence of learning will be.
This is a big step. However, we believe that The Montessori Method is a bit too close to mainstream schooling for it to be as effective as it needs to be.
Teachers encourage children to navigate certain materials at their own pace. However, the materials and lessons used in The Montessori Method are codified, meaning that the same materials are used for all children and children are taught there is only one way to use the material. This is eerily familiar to standardized testing.
While the Montessori Method has children's best interests in mind, it's best to get away from rigid structures as much as possible. Imposing structures from without isn't the best way to let children learn.
Waldorf schooling is another popular option for alternative education. The approach of Waldorf is play-based, and students set aside times for activities such as baking and gardening. We believe that Waldorf is onto something in their belief that students need to train to become members of society, not robots who are able to answer questions.
However, we disagree with the Waldorf belief that every student already has inside of them all of the knowledge they need, and just need to discover it. While play is important, it's also important to remember that children are children. They still need to learn.
Waldorf is on the right track, but they're missing something. While it's important to dismantle the current education systems, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. An education system needs to still focus on educating the children.
There are better options, however. . .
What Are Reggio Emilia Schools?
If you're looking to stay clear of the standard ways that children are misled in our day and age, but still want to makes sure that your child receives a proper education, there are no better options than a Reggio Emilia school. Reggio Emilia focuses on turning each individual student into a curious learner.
Reggio Emilia History
The Reggio Emilia style of schooling was developed first after the end of the second world war, by an Italian psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi. He believed that children learn their own unique ways of expression, and communicate their ideas in "a hundred languages". He devised a method of schooling that would take into account all of these unique languages.
The philosophical approach to schooling is named after the Reggio Emilia community, a highly interwoven community, that relied on every member stepping in to help each other. Because it's named after a specific community, many America Reggio Emilia schools will refer to themselves as "Reggio-Inspired".
Reggio Emilia Philosophy
Whereas contemporary schooling focuses on producing cogs in the machine that will go to college, Reggio Emilia schools base themselves on a vibrant and well-thought-out philosophy.
Reggio Emilia stresses the image of the child. Each student has their own languages that they express themselves in, and Reggio-inspired schools seek to develop these languages. Students may communicate through writing, talking, music, nature, construction, dance, or fantasy.
Another important concept to Reggio Emilia Philosophy is the idea of the "emergent curriculum". Teachers will listen to the students, and from there, create a curriculum that will serve the individual interests of each student. There is no use teaching children things that they don't care about; this will only lead to students not completely grasping the material, and never understanding how it applies to the world.
Reggio Emilia schools are project-based in their approach. This means that rather than simply sitting around and doing busy work, or taking homework home, students complete tasks that develop a sense of community through their week.
We believe that a project-oriented education means that learning is made real to students. From these projects, children learn the values of planning ahead, collaborating with other children, and delaying gratification to complete something in the future.
Reggio Emilia Classrooms
Do you love nature? Do you think it's a shame that most children are cooped up all day? Do you think we've lost something in teaching children an increasingly more urban way of living their lives?
Then you agree with some of the main tenants of Reggio Emilia.
The Reggio Emilia Philosophy believes that the environment is as important as the teacher and the student to learning. Through encounters with the outside world, students are consciously and subconsciously taught their learning isn't limited to the school.
At our schools, students spend at least 10 hours a week outdoors. In our excursions, we encourage active thinking and scientific exploration. There's no way to learn quite like learning with your hands.
However, the connection with the great outdoors goes beyond pragmatics. In a world where children spend twice as much time playing video games as they do outdoors, we believe that teaching an appreciation for nature is important in its own right.
We believe that a child interacting with nature while in school is more likely to engage with nature when they're out of school.
The Parental Connection
Reggio Emilia combines the advantages of homeschooling with the mentorship of more traditional schools. In Reggio-inspired schools, parents may continue the education that the students receive at home. If you always wanted to homeschool your child but never had the time, this is the perfect option for you.
Teachers will share with you what your individual child has learned. On top of that, you have to remember that the curriculum is based on what your child is interested in. Because of this, you'll always be talking to an excited child, so continuing their learning will never feel like pulling teeth.
When you teach children that learning can happen at home and at school, you teach them that the classroom is a microcosm of the full world. They'll be far more likely to ask questions, and a child who asks questions is a child who will learn.
Pets are also an important part of our learning philosophy at Voyagers' Schools. Pets break down barriers and help students feel more engaged with their peers. This once again reinforces that learning can happen everywhere.
When children encounter new pets, they learn the skills required to make friends. They learn to break down their prejudices and engage with new experiences.
When children learn how to interact with many different types of pets, they learn problem-solving. They learn that every single pet (and person) is different, and needs to be interacted with in a different way. This is much different from the traditional schooling system, which teaches that all problems can be solved by cramming for a test.
There Are Other Options For Schooling Children
If you despite the contemporary public school system, you have good reason to. Most people's education consists of the regurgitation of facts. Whoever can think most robotically does the best.
This is not true of Reggio Emilia Schools. Children are taught to interact with each other, engage in a vibrant philosophy, explore nature, learn at home, and interact with pets. While private schools, homeschooling, The Montessori Method, and Waldorf schools are other options, there's nothing quite as good as Reggio Emilia.
For more information, apply with us today.