The 100 languages of children

Today I’m sharing a poem I’ve come across recently (Sorry, can’t credit where. I tried looking but can’t find the original post.) and that’s been playing through my mind as we’re currently having issues with preschool. It’s been tough on Sprout, and on us as well. I honestly don’t know what the best course of action for this year is. Pulling him out of school brings along issues of its own, plus we otherwise have a hard time exposing him to French language sufficiently given we’re in a very International, predominantly English speaking milieu. It’s such a pity the schools I absolutely loved (namely Montessori and Roots and Wings) are either obscenely expensive or only English language.

The Hundred Languages of Children

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

11 thoughts on “The 100 languages of children

  1. thanks for sharing this poem… how very true! how schools waste the other 99! in schools, there is only one way of doing things… because of that they stifle our children’s creativity.

  2. How sad that the options you would prefer, don’t work for you.
    The Reggio Emilio philosophy is wonderful – there’s a book about it that I’d recommend: The hundred languages of children
    I guess that we’re lucky in New Zealand to have Playcentres, which are partly based on the Reggio Emilio approach, and (because each one is a parent co-operative) aren’t expensive (well, not in $$$ terms, you have to be prepared to put the time and effort into it – but it’s *so* worth it).

  3. Oh, how I would love one of those centres. I really don’t mind putting in the effort, I really do believe it’s worth it!

  4. Pingback: A new school year | Brussels Sprout

  5. Hi Sandra,
    We’ re moving to bx soon from Uruguay and are suffering from school anxiety for two youngest children. They have just spent the last academic year (we’re in the Southern Hemisphere) at a BRILLIANT Reggio Emilia school. Do you have any suggestions for a good preschool that isn’t a million euros? BTW we are also a PT/ Eng bilingual family (actually trilingual now we’ve all learned Spanish!)
    Many thanks for any help you can give us (via email) ….

  6. I am happy to announce that such a place exists in the Brussels region! I registered my two youngest daughters in a French speaking public school, and last year went very, very smoothly. But this year, when September came and they returned to school, the 5 year old started complaining and crying every evening after asking me whether the next day was a school day…after a couple of weeks of her getting worse and worse (she lost her appetite completely and was showing signs of depression), I was able to put her in Evergreen International School, in Waterloo. Within days of being in such an environment and receiving the nurturing attention of Teacher Laura, she was eating like never before! She has blossomed: she’s getting more autonomous, confident, eager to learn new things, hardly whines… I’m so happy for her and it’s so beautiful to see your child, any child for that matter, develop in such a way! It makes my day every time they post pictures of their day or I go to drop her off or pick her up. It’s her home outside of home…I think that is pretty much the ideal school (which is what my older siblings call it).

  7. Hi Thomas!
    Sorry for taking long to get back to you! The only Reggio Emilia-inspired (pre-)school I know of in Brussels is the Turtlewings one, although I can’t find any info on their new site – . I’ll probably be popping over there this weekend, so I’ll try to garner some information for you. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions, or need help getting to grips with things here! bxlsprout (at) BTW, Portuguese from Portugal?

  8. Marisa, Great to hear! Too bad it’s outside Brussels and private. Well, too bad for those not living there and who can’t afford it anyway 🙂

  9. Hi Sandra and all the parents, who would like to give their children the possibility to use also the other 99 ways.
    I saw the comment from my dear friend Marisa and I also would like to respond as well. Our son also attends the Evergreen International School in Waterloo. It was our best choice ever! Beforehand he used to go to a private International School in Brussels, but he wasn’t happy there at all. To see the change in his behavioral, in his mood and in everything he does it makes us so happy!
    His English improved so much that we are stunned. 2 days per week is French, which is great.
    He changed and so did our life at home. Our child is balanced and happy and learns so much more than in a big formal school. More over he can be himself and can explore life with the help of great teachers.
    Well, even if it is private it is affordable. Even private school fees are tax deductible depending on the parents income, which is also an option to consider. The education, care and love the children receive there is what makes it worth.
    It takes only 22 minutes by train from Schuman to get to the station in Waterloo and from there 5 minutes walk to the school. We have done it and also other children do it every day. Our lovely teacher Laura goes every day to pick up the kids from Brussels by train and brings them back at the end of the day as well. We are lucky because we moved closer. I just really could recommend it and encourage everybody to visit the school and decide what is more important.
    We have done also Turtlewings which was great for a week in summer, but they don’t provide a full term education only weekend projects and activities for school holidays.

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