Curriculum FAQs

What is the "Reggio-Inspired" approach, exactly?

Reggio-Emilia is an educational philosophy led by Loris Malaguzzi founded in post-WWII Italy.  The Reggio-Emilia approach is distinguished by the following elements:

* Focus on collaborative play
* Short and long-term projects as the foundation of the curriculum
* An inspiring and productive school environment (“the third teacher”)
* Ongoing documentation as a means of evaluation
* A supportive community of parents and teachers
* Child-directed learning
* Emphasis on the arts (100 language of children include music, drama, sculpture, drawing, etc)
* Teachers as co-learners

As child development and child psychology improves and changes, so do the tools and techniques used by modern Reggio-inspired teachers. Reggio-inspired teachers are free to consider three main things when developing their emergent curriculum:

  1. –What does the most current research say about best teaching practices for young children?
  2. –What is the local community like, and how can I incorporate the children’s life and outside                         world experiences into the curriculum?
  3. –What are the children interested in and what do they want to investigate?

At Il Villaggio Dei Bambini, teachers co-construct learning as guides to self-directed inquiry-based activities. They are partners with the child, mentors, and caretakers of the “third teacher”—the classroom environment which inspires children and scaffolds their learning. They are also researchers and documenters who listen to children, document their learning journey, and collect evidence of growth and development to make this learning visible.

What’s the difference between Reggio, Montessori, and Waldorf?

That’s a great question!  Compared to the typical Hong Kong style school, Waldorf, Reggio, and Montessori share some common traits that may make them seem very similar. So, first, let’s look at how they are the same:

  1. All three are child-centered. The needs of the child come first.
  2. All three are play-based. Children learn through play, not worksheets, flashcards, adult-directed activities, or focused on acquiring academic skills like mathematics or language.
  3. All three were developed in Europe (Italy and Germany) and offer “Western-Style” educational philosophies.
  4. All three encourage mixed-age learning. Children are not separated by age.
  5. All three offer a child-friendly alternative to high-stress, adult-determined, competition-based, test-driven education found in local schools.

Now, let’s look a the important differences that distinguish them from each other.

Montessori: Developed in Italy by educational psychologist Maria Montessori, the main idea is that toys are tools and children should learn at their own pace. All toys are developed specifically for the Montessori method, and children are assessed based on how well they solve the puzzles presented by the toys. Children choose which toys to play with, and are encouraged to challenge themselves with harder toys as they solve easier levels. However, children are never forced to play with anything, and are not required to participate in social events if they prefer to work by themselves. Children develop independence and self-identity. Socially outgoing children will also develop leadership skills as they help the younger children throughout the day.

Assessments: Children are occasionally “graded” according to “norms” (Most children can do XX activity by YY age. This child can/cannot, so they are typically/atypically developing). The “grades” can be shared with the parent and a leaning plan can be developed. The grading system covers a wide range of academic and social skills.

Waldorf: Developed in Germany by Austrian Rudolf Steiner, the leader of a religious group believing in “Anthroposophy”. Waldorf teachers are expected to strictly adhere to certain values and incorporate them in the school. Imaginative play and creative play is heavily stressed. Gardening, sewing, cooking, cleaning, and working with natural materials (wood, wool, cotton, silk) are strongly valued. On the other hand, plastic and metal are strongly discouraged, as are electrical objects or electronics (computers, TV, vacuum cleaner, microwave, etc) of any kind. The classroom tries to resemble a pre-modern home so children feel comfortable. Children are encouraged to work together and solve problems on their own, as a team. There is a strong focus on nature, self-help and self-care, empathic other-care, developing social skills, developing creativity and the arts (music, drama, and visual arts).  Assessment: They are strongly against assessments of any kind, until secondary school. There is no homework or testing done for the first 14 years or so.  Children are not allowed to learn reading and writing until primary 1.

Reggio Emilia Inspired schools:

Unlike Montessori and Waldorf, which have strict regulations requiring special certification in their methodology, Reggio teachers are certified by their local boards of education and educated in regular teacher education programs. They draw inspiration from the educational practices of the innovative schools in Reggio Emilia Italy, but the only schools that are Reggio schools are those in Reggio Italy. Thus, “inspired” is always part of the language of Reggio-style schools.

Developed by the Reggio Emilia Board of Education in post WWII Italy, Reggio schools focus on communication through the arts, the value of community and family as part of the educational process, and the value of child-directed project learning. Children choose what they want to study, and determine how they will learn. They may work as a whole class, or in small groups. Reggio schools understand that the child’s environment is the “third,” and often most important, teacher. ALL materials are valuable tools, from the sticks and stones in the garden , to the machines that help us live our modern lives. Children are also considered teachers (peer learning), as well as nature, the classroom, toys, parents, and community members at large. Children are encouraged to leave their classroom and study real objects in the real world and interact with the real world to develop their learning. Then, they are encouraged to document their learning through photographs or artistic illustrations. Citizenship, leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving are the key social skills they will develop. Children need them to solve problems and directly ask to be taught.  Children will also naturally develop a host of academic skills including reading, writing, multi-lingual communication, and early science/mathematics concepts in order to solve problems, organize information, and communicate their needs.

Assessment: Children and teachers document learning through artistic projects, and photographs. These are put into portfolios and the portfolios are shared with parents and children. Documentation is also often found decorating the walls and spaces of the classroom itself. Teachers may also include local assessments according to the needs of the community.

What is emergent curriculum (project approach)?

A: This is an approach to education that organically arises from the needs, interests, and questions posed by the children. Teachers guide children to explore in as many ways as possible themes that come from children’s inquiries to deepen learning and make it more meaningful.

Without grades or worksheets, how will I know how my child is learning?

A:  Children keep portfolios of their best work as part of the documentation process. This may include photos of creations that are temporary in nature, such as block structures, water play, or sand play creations. This documentation is available for parents to look at any time and will be used as the basis of parent-teacher conferences.

How will my child learn to read and write without a set curriculum/ worksheets/ homework?

A:  Children quickly and easily learn what they are personally motivated to learn.  Through observation of the world around them, children discover that text is meaningful and eventually show a desire to learn how to read and write text when they indicate they are ready. At that moment, children will be provided with whatever support they need to help guide them through the necessary stages of pre-reading and pre-writing until they are ready and able to formally read and write. Some children need more time to work through the stages than others, but by Primary 2 or 3, all typically developing children will learn to read and write regardless of the curriculum.

Knowing that children generally always learn reading and writing regardless  of the method used to teach them, the question becomes not “Will they learn?” But “Will they develop a love of learning that will inspire them to keep learning on their own and bring them joy?”

Research has become very clear in recent decades that forcing a child to practice skills (such as reading and writing) before they are ready makes children hate performing the skill and resistant to any effort to teach further.  However, if they learn that performing the skill brings them JOY, they will persevere even when it becomes very difficult.

How will my child transition into Reception/P1 if they don’t have formal classroom experience?

Any program which is child-directed or inquiry-based  will appreciate children with experience in self-directed learning with self-care skills.  VdB children will transition easily. Local schools with traditional approaches are difficult for all children to transition into, regardless of their kindergarten experience. However, children with the ability to self-direct their learning and self-care will enjoy a great advantage over peers who cannot think or work independently.

What is the role of parents/community members in a Reggio-Inspired classroom?

Participation in the education of their children is considered by Reggio educators to be a right and a responsibility of parents and families. Parents and teachers focus on establishing and sustaining strong and respectful relationships. Parents and families are invited to participate in every possible way in the life of the center or school. The participation of local community members is also strongly encouraged and expected. Education is viewed as a public responsibility.

I know/suspect my child may have some special needs. Can he/she still attend the playgroup?

Possibly.  Currently, Il Villaggio Dei Bambini cannot support children with severe special needs. However, certain developmental delays might be accommodated for. Please consult with Headmaster Mabo about your child’s needs and your concerns to determine if VdB is a good fit for your family.

Is there a "Reggio Certification" for teachers like found with Waldorf or Montessori?

The Reggio approach requires each classroom to be exceptionally unique to respond to the unique needs and interests of the children and their unique environment. Thus, there is no known certification program for Reggio Inspired educators. There ARE, however, Reggio study groups and associations where educators collaborate and share ideas and resources to ensure ever-improving quality education. Il Villaggio Dei Bambini is an active member of the Japan Reggio Study Group and the Hong Kong Reggio Association.

I have other questions not listed here!

Great!  We’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to contact us with your questions any time.

Admissions FAQ

What ages do you enroll?

Children between ages 18 months and 3 years are welcome to join the “Bambini” class with their parent/caregivers.

Children ages 3-6 are welcome to join the “Villaggio” group (no guardian is necessary during class time, but volunteers are always welcome!)

Adult childcare providers (parents, helpers, grandparents, etc) are welcome to join “La Communita” classes.

Special arrangements can be made for  school-age children in special circumstances, such as homeschooled children or children interested in volunteer opportunities as Future Teachers.

How do I apply?

There are two ways to apply:

  1.  Come to our village home in Lam Tsuen and pick up a paper application form
  2. Apply online here!

Is there an application fee?

Yes, there is a non-refundable $500 application fee, payable online or in person at time of submission of your application form.

Click here to apply today!

Is there a deadline for applications?

No!  You can apply any time!

Apply now!

Can I take a tour first?

Of course!  This is highly recommended, to ensure we are the right “fit” for your family. Please contact us to arrange a tour today!

Do you enroll children earlier than age 18 months?

VDB is the host of the Tai Po Messy Play Baby Group, which meets in various places at various times. Although we do not organize these events, we do have some information relating to events hosted in our facility, which anyone is welcomed to join.

Officially, VDB does not yet have a baby group meeting specifically for children under the age of 18 months.

There are two reasons we encourage parents to join at or after 18 months:

  1. Children under the age of 18 months are cognitively very different babies. However, a series of mental “leaps” in development happens around 75-80 weeks where the prefrontal cortex begins to develop and an explosion of development occurs in the cerebral cortex (You may find your child’s head is noticeably larger around this time as brain tissue develops). The brain of an 18 month old baby is physically different from the brain of a 16 month old. Just as you cannot teach a fish to fly, you cannot teach a 16 month old citizenship, cause/effect, or how to organize information in meaningful ways (big to small, by shape, by color, etc).  They may benefit socially, but not academically, by joining earlier. Parents who wish for earlier socialization may agree to join earlier with the understanding that their baby will not be able to understand what their peers are doing and may feel frustrated or confused or overwhelmed.
  2. Children under the age of 18 months have not yet received the most updated vaccinations and are at risk to catch viruses that older children may be carriers of, such as measles, mumps, or Rubella. Parents willing to join earlier may do so at their own risk.

Miscellaneous FAQs

What language is used in the classroom?

Hong Kong is a multilingual city and we expect our community to also be multilingual.  Children are encouraged to communicate in whatever language they know best, but the lingua franca will be English.

Will bus service be provided?

Unfortunately no, at this time, there is no bus service, but we hope to be able to provide this service in the future.

What clothes should the children wear?

Children cannot fully enjoy the learning experience if they must be careful about their clothes. Some activities involve working with soil, paints, and other messy materials. Children are encouraged to come to playgroup in loose soft comfortable play clothes.

During off-campus learning enrichment field trips, children must wear the orange Villaggio Dei Bambini t-shirts provided upon admission to the playgroup. This safety precaution allows for quick and easy recognition of the group members in crowded public spaces.