Updated 5/23/12: Hi there! We don't self-identify with reggio methods or philosophies anymore, but I'm leaving this post up anyway, as it seems helpful to others who do. All Reggio posts on this blog were written in 2009.
This is part two of an ongoing series about my reflections on Julianne Wurm's book. See the sidebar for a complete list of these posts.
All of the major educational philosophies (Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Classical, etc) have placed considerable emphasis on environment. In Italy's Reggio, the environment is considered the 3rd teacher, and it is approached less as "environment" and more as "ambiance"- thus the title of this post: Ambiente. What we are talking about here is "how the physical space is dressed up, lived in, defined, and redefined over time." (p. 26)
I'm being gentle with myself as I consider our learning environment. I tend toward impulsivity (I'm a sanguine choleric, for those of you familiar with the temperaments). When I hear an idea that I like, I tend to jump in full-force. This can be a good thing (my husband appreciates that when he asks me to do something "in the next week," it's usually done the next day) or a hindrance (hello? can I actually think something through before I just go for it??). I'm considering our learning environment in the midst of living in a construction zone. Our home, for the next 8 weeks, will be torn about, messy, disorganized, and in-process. I'm not going to be able to put any of these ideas into practice until the fall. Even then, we will likely be preparing to move. So... I'm considering this a brainstorm. I hope to, at some point in the not-too-distant-future, make each space in our home (wherever that may be) lovely and functional. But in the meantime, I'll just have to be patiently muse and dream.
Julianne explains in chapter two of her book that regardless of whether you homeschool or not, "all environments communicate views about children and education that may or may not be explicitly stated. The environment makes your values explicit." Waldorf and Montessori classrooms are obvious examples of this. Their spaces are lovely, simple, functional, and everything is carefully placed where it can serve the children who use the space best. At home, I won't decorate my home to look like a Waldorf or Montessori classroom, but I can allow my children to live freely in the main family living spaces. Our living room, for example, is a place where our family- all of us- live, work, and play. These areas are not going to be free of toys or books or projects, because children learn and live and work there, and I value their opportunity to do so.
"The environment was set up and organized...to make it easier for children to pursue their interests without the need for adults to manage children, the space, or their time... In Reggio it is understood that the environment should support the work and interest of the children without constant adult guidance and invervention. The children work in the spaces, and while the adults are present, the children build their stories there. The environment is set up with enough provocation to fuel the children's worlds and minds." (can't seem to find the page # for this one...)
Julianne says that in order to create spaces that "invite us to linger", we should consider the room's smell, the movement of air & light, and the arrangement of furniture.
So keeping all these things in mind, I've thought of a few areas I'd like to provide within our living space.
- A reading nook: soft chairs and/or pillows, baskets of blankets, and a bookshelf.
- A studio: this will likely be our kitchen table, but at some point I'd like to have a separate space where there is always a place to work (table/easel), easily-accessible art materials, paint smocks hung on pegs, a place for art to dry/wait, and a place to hang art/inspiration. (There would need to be a well-established protocol for the use of this space.)
- Bedrooms that are simple, lovely and functional, decorated with art that the children have created themselves. (Currently, there are clotheslines hung on the wall, where the children can hang/change out their art easily, using clothespins. This works well and I'd like to continue in this vein.)
- A Holy Table: we use a small table as a nature table/family alter, combined. It reflects the liturgical season and displays our treasures from the great outdoors. Currently, this table is near the entryway of the house, which makes it a common dumping ground for wallets, keys, and everything a 3-year-old can stuff into his pockets :). I would like to move this table to a more inconvenient location, so that it can be enjoyed for its original purpose. (And I hope to post some pictures of it before too long!)
- Documentation panels (still pondering these...more to come, I'm sure)
- In general, I'd like to consider adding twinkle lights, prisms, and mirrors in our decorating. We already use candles, live plants, and in-season flowers. We are ever-so-slowly moving from bright, primary colors to more natural, muted tones and earthy materials.
(p.s. Kerry is working through this book, too. Go see her posts at The Eyes of My Heart.)