Image of the Child

The more time you spend with children, the more you notice how inquisitive they are about the world and how keen is their thinking even about the most subtle things- things which escape materiality, easy recognition, definite forms, and the laws of invariance, things you can touch but can’t touch, that brush against the real and imaginary, that have something of the mysterious about them and offer wide margins of interpretation.” – Loris Malaguzzi 

“Image of the child” is one of the foundational principles of the Reggio Emilia approach.  However, each “principle” is difficult to discuss on its own because they are all intertwined and related to one another in deep meaningful ways.  You’ll see how each aspect involves the other because the child and process of teaching, learning and reflecting is holistic.

Two resources I’m referencing for this section are from:

Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner’s Guide for American Teachers by Julianne P. Wurm


The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach- Advanced Reflections by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Forman

The view we have of children can be seen in the way we present materials, the way we talk to our children, the way we maintain space and even through the food we serve.  Carla Rinaldi, the director of Early Childhood Education in Reggio Emilia is devoted to research and the dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach.  She offers these fundamental questions that can begin to give shape to your view of the child and create a foundation for the vision upon which your school or in our case, homeschool will function:

  • Who is a child?
  • What is childhood?
  • How do we learn?
  • How do children learn?
  • What is the meaning of to educate?
  • What is the relationship between teaching and learning?
  • What is the relationship between theory and practice?
  • What is the role of school (or homeschool) in society?
  • What is the relationship between school and research? And what is the relationship between schools for young children and research?
  • What is the relationship between school and education?

I think with homeschooling, we can tweak some of these questions or add some more.  What questions would you add to Rinaldi’s list? Answering these questions should take a significant amount of time and reflection.  They should be explored slowly and in depth and be aware that your answers will change over time as you think about them more deeply and as your child grows and develops.  A question I would add to the list is, “What is more important to you: Process or Product? And Why?”

In Reggio, the child is viewed as powerful, competent, rich in potential and strong.  They are driven by the power of wanting to grow, and nurtured by adults who take this drive towards growth seriously.  However, research in the United States shows that children are seen as weak and in need of protection (Wurm, 2005).  It’s interesting to think about how our culture influences our thinking and why… sometimes we don’t even know it, or are aware of it’s influence.  My hope is that these questions will help us and you, the reader, reflect and bring to light thoughts you didn’t even know were there.

Another difference that occurs more frequently in Reggio schools is “wait time.”  “Wait time” gives children time to come to their own understandings, and is seen as critical to the process of learning in education.  According to Wurm, teachers in Reggio may leave what seems to Americans like a huge amount of time between conversations on a given subject.  The image of the child as competent is practiced because the children are given the time to make connections to their own world, and in their own time.  If we see children as competent to construct their own knowledge, then the children must be given time to do this. Children are given time and freedom to explore.

When Malaguzzi observed a small group of five year old children painting a mural  at the Diana School, he said, “It’s not just the images that come from the hands and imagination of the children that count, but also the fruit of the harmony of all their ideas.  To place the colors, to find the right balance in a symphony of colors, means for the child to become the extraordinary instrument of an orchestra” (Hundred Languages, p. 288).  Now those are the lenses I want to see through when I see children working together!

In our specific homeschool group, we are mothers, teachers, colleagues and friends all at once and at the same time.  We are learning how to see our children through the lenses of a mother who wants to educate and give our kids the best childhood they can have…like every parent feels as we learn, grow, sacrifice and reflect together.

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