What’s on our learning path?
How did we get here?
Where are we going?
How do I plan?
Do I use a curriculum?
I was recently asked, “What curriculum do you use for Homeschooling?” That question inspired me to write a detailed blog post to share how I use the Reggio Emilia Approach at home.
A short answer is I mainly use and focus on the Reggio Emilia Approach and I dabble into Montessori, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason. All of these approaches have significant nature-based elements to their philosophies. Curriculums have been created for all of these approaches except for the Reggio Emilia Approach. There is no set curriculum because the curriculum emerges from the child’s interests and play that is discovered through observation and documentation. However, the Reggio Emilia Approach is more than an “Emergent Curriculum” and “project-based learning,” which is why I never simply say it’s an emergent curriculum or project-based alone. The child’s dialogue, input, reflection and revisiting of ideas all make the course of study run deeper. There is much more to be said about this, the teacher’s role as a facilitator of learning and the environment as the “third teacher,” as all are important facets of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
When I do supplement learning materials I think about my children’s strengths and needs. I also think about our environment as the “Third Teacher.” Supplemental materials are used for our provocations as well. I try my best to supplement materials from other entrepreneurial women who are mostly mothers that have used these materials with their own children. Here’s my list so far as it is ever growing:
Mariah Bruehl is the author and founder of Playful Learning. The Playful Learning Website offers Lessons, Resources (for observation and assessment) and Professional Development! I first became a fan of Playful Learning through her book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. Then she recently developed The Playful Learning Teacher’s Lounge! where I can search based on topic, category or age. All lessons come with goals and standards as well to show me how play is meeting these goals. The Teacher’s Lounge is a gold mine for me! Several curriculum writers are Reggio Inspired and teach in Reggio Inspired classrooms. One of their P.D. videos is literally titled, “Image of the Child.” My heart leapt when I saw it and yes I started watching it seconds after discovering it!
Allyson Speake is the founder of Tanglewood Hollow. I love her nature-inspired curriculum and pdf downloads from her TeachersPayTeachers website. I have also used The Homeschool Printing Company to affordably print Allyson’s larger nature-based curriculums. Her work is eye candy to me and my girls have loved her engaging materials.
Some Etsy favorites I’ve purchased from in the past were: Just Off Normal: Personalized Wooden Toys, Games and Learning Tools, Montessori Restore, Simple Gifts Toys, From Jennifer and Readysetplay.
Every child is different. I don’t have all the words to fully express that enough. I’ve learned more about children developing at their own pace from being a mother than I could have learned in any child development course. And trust me, I’ve taken a lot of child development courses! For our family, I felt strongly we needed to supplement our learning with Handwriting Without Tears (I have found cheaper materials from Amazon and christianbooks.com). My daughter who is very self conscious about her handwriting gets excited when we implement the tools from this program. That’s exactly what I want: something my kids find fun and naturally engaging, which in turn develops the skills they need to express themselves more.
I wrote another post awhile back about the early readers we use. You can view that here if you are interested: Supporting Your Emerging Reader Not mentioned in that post are Secret Stories: The Secret Reasons Why Letters Do What They Do When They Don’t Do What They Should. and Usborne Books And More: My First Reading Library.
Last but certainly not least, one of my favorite resources and podcasts is Julie Bravewriter. I also love following her on Instagram @JulieBraveWriter. We are doing Jot it Down right now and loving it. I can incorporate it into ANYTHING. Any life experience can be made into a meaningful writing experience. When I’m mindful of this, I’m showing and teaching my girls that they have an inner voice. I’m showing them how that inner voice can be expressed through writing. It’s a beautiful, powerful and yet so basic of a concept. The Bravewriter Lifestyle is a FREE course on how to more naturally incorporate writing into your everyday life. I highly recommend checking out Brave Writer Values as well. It values the child in ways that align with my beliefs from The Image of The Child in the Reggio Emilia Approach.
I don’t supplement from other programs or resources lightly. I give everything much thought. I ask myself: Does this align with my Reggio Inspired beliefs about children? Is this Developmentally Appropriate? I have 6 teaching certifications. I’m not sharing that to brag, I share that because I have a lot to think through when reading through different programs and resources.
My planning is based on observation and reflection. You can find more on that here: Documentation: Honoring Childhood and Enhancing Discourse. I observe my girls during their play, during our nature walks and what stories they repeatedly gravitate towards. After a month or so, I have a good idea on where we’re going on this learning journey together. In the Reggio Approach, I don’t see my children as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge, but rather as co-learners on this journey with me. I am a facilitator rather than a teacher. They have so many thoughts, predictions, questions and hypotheses to share with me and the world. I see THEM as experts. I help guide and facilitate these childhood years that I find so sacred and special. Because I value their insight, I don’t rush through topics. We really take our time. Some projects last ALL YEAR, others last a few weeks to a month, sometimes a couple months!
Outdoor play and nature walks are experiences we value and incorporate every day. Because of that, I find it easy to supplement nature materials based on the current season. Provocations (an invitation to provoke learning that may or may not be of interest to the child) have generally been based on items found in nature or supplemental materials that encourage further exploration of those items from the season. So far my girls have loved exploring the current season. My guess for why that is, is that it’s always at our fingertips, literally! Nature is always changing and it brings great joy when we pay attention to those details. For me, those details have been life giving and develop great empathy for all living things. I can see that happening in my children and it’s a wonderful gift to pass onto the next generation. With that said, my girls have specifically shown current interest in butterflies, birds and trees regarding the changing of leaves.
Regarding pretend play my girls also show repetitive interest in playing Store. All kinds of store: Quilt stores, craft stores, grocery stores, pizza shops and bakeries. They also love building blocks (all kinds of buildings from museums to apartments) and maps. Their current interests also include this Autumn season (apples, pumpkins, migration, animals getting ready for winter–which is related to their interest in butterflies and birds), and variations of fairy tales. These interests seem all over the place listed this way, but they are repetitive themes I continue to see in the natural course of their days/weeks.
For me, nothing is separate. A child’s interest contains a deep well of learning to explore and discover. Subjects that are easily separated in the classroom (and sometimes homeschooling) like math, science, reading and writing, can so easily be interwoven into those interests. Then they also get to see how math, science, reading and writing is incorporated in everyday life, which I think is more meaningful.
I have a rotating list of interests I use to reflect back with them, to reflect on myself and build from. The supplemental materials I mentioned above are incorporated into these interests as I see fit. Sometimes my plans and ideas run smoothly, other times they are a complete mess. Other days we just relax and let life teach us lessons for that day. For example, it may mean we spend the day in pages of stories snuggled on the couch, or mostly outdoors or running errands or doing chores. All of us (the girls and I) seem to function better when we have a routine, but not everything always goes as planned. I learn from my children what works and what doesn’t work. The road isn’t always clear or easy, but the journey is always worth it.
I have a few Reggio Inspired Reflection Templates I use to help map out my thinking as I observe and play with my kids. I could only get one of them to upload for now, but I’ll upload the other one as soon as my computer is fixed. Try out one of my Reflection Templates I created here: Goals for the Week Based on Reflections.