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July 7, 2019

Can’t Afford Reggio Emilia Pre-K? Bring It Home

Reggio Emilia, named for the northern Italian province famous for its production of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shares its name with an Italian teaching style gaining steam in early learning classrooms nationwide.

KLA schools, a quickly expanding franchise, point to Reggio — for short — as a child-focused alternative to traditional curricula.

“There’s no right or wrong way to do it. We try to meet the child’s needs and make it fun. This is their first foray into learning, and we’re setting that stage. We don’t just teach specific information, we teach how to love learning,” said Gillian Gavurin, a teacher turned director of operations at Kids Learning Adventure (KLA) Schools in Miami. They serve children from six weeks old up to six years old, with a pilot elementary school in the making.

The thing that sets the Reggio preschool curriculum apart most is that there isn’t one; rather, it’s to be determined.

“When we’re training new teachers, they ask ‘where are the lesson plans?’ But we don’t purchase any. They write them based on the children’s interests and developmental milestones,” she said.

With a price tag that ranges anywhere from $280 to $400 a week depending on age and length of day, and occasional opportunity for vouchers, many parents can’t afford to access the child-centered pre-K lauded for its support of early brain development.

But that doesn’t mean parents and caregivers can’t adopt Reggio teaching at home, since “it’s an experience, not an activity,” Gavurin said.

Stay open-ended
“The way you speak to your child is the biggest factor,” she said.
Give them space to think and value what they’re saying. If they ask “why?” or “how?” instead of answering, ask, “How do you think it might work?”

Respect their time and effort
Stringent adult schedules can be difficult for young children to navigate.

Instead of cutting a child off and scrapping a drawing or sculpture they’re working on when it’s time to leave, save it to work on the next day. Talk about things that happened since they left off, and how that might play into adding to it.

Tone down toys
Avoid toys that spoon feed.

Eschew books that do the reading, action figures or dolls that do the talking, or flashy, noisy toys that lead children into a specific activity.

Do stock the home with age-appropriate, paper books on shelves they can access.

Also stock blocks, pine cones, stones, leaves, sand, art supplies, and molding clay.

Recycled materials like fabric, tile, and bottle caps can be used as building supplies.

Keep an herb garden or potted plants they can smell, pick, help care for, and use in the kitchen.

In the kitchen
Make fresh lemonade or mint water with fresh leaves.

Arrange fruit and cheese in a fun pattern before eating them.

Buy or make dough and let the child knead it and mold it into shapes before baking.

Make music
Create your own sounds with salt and pepper shakers, pasta in the box, and the bottoms of pots turned upside down. Create a beat and sing to it, making up the words as you go.

This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.

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