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Meet Laila Hussain of Synapse Atelier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laila Hussain.

Laila, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My journey in early childhood education began at Evergreen Community School where my daughters attended. As a parent, I was curious about how children learned and what skills would be most valuable in life so I attended almost all of the educator discussions on the Reggio Approach, Social Constructivism, and Progressive Education and volunteered with teachers in the classroom on a daily basis.

The director and teachers invited me to attend the Reggio Conference in Italy. What I discovered is the power of allowing young children to have a hand in molding their own learning yields confident learners who formulate and express their ideas connecting with peers. I witnessed that children learn a great deal in these contextual exchanges with peers, which provide possibilities of focused attention, hearing and listening, developing curiosity and interest, asking questions and responding to them with reflection thus developing skills/attitudes that are essential to the quality of life.

After teaching at Branches Atelier and The Growing Place where I worked with teachers and directors who were also my daughter’s first teachers, I was inspired to start a preschool in my own neighborhood. I wanted to share the knowledge and experiences gifted to me by these passionate, inspiring educators.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a preschool in a new neighborhood is a journey of building relationships with parents and community members who may have not heard of the Reggio Approach and Progressive Education. It takes time, but to my surprise I connected with parents and educators at a local school, Westland school, where my daughters had attended elementary school decades ago. Reconnecting was heartwarming and I found that the community remembered me as a parent and I soon found parents touring our preschool and wanting to join. Today, the granddaughter of my daughters’ elementary school teacher attends our school and I’m so excited to have this opportunity to give back to the families who were an important part of our education journey. In July 2018, we started our preschool with three children and today we are full to capacity – 12 children. We are blessed and have come full circle!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Synapse Atelier – what should we know?
We are a home-based preschool nestled in nature in the hills of Bel-Air. What sets us apart is our 4:1 student-teacher ratio in an intimate nature-based environment. Each Space at our preschool is intimate and designed to promote dialogue and collaboration. Our teachers are experts in supporting meaningful explorations and investigations that cultivate a deep exchange of ideas. We want children to leave our school with skills to communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve. We feel these skills are essential at all levels of life: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Our name Synapse Atelier fuses together two ideas that are at the core of our learning philosophy.

Synapse is a late 19th-century Greek word which means “to join together.” This is symbolic of our core belief that learning is a shared experience.

Atelier is a French word which means “studio” where artists create. This is symbolic of our second core belief that learning is the result of careful effort, free expression, and thoughtful reflection.

At Synapse Atelier, we offer our children a progressive education, where they engage in meaningful explorations and investigations that cultivate a deep exchange of ideas. These exchanges allow our children to explore their identities and thought processes while gaining a deeper understanding of the people and world around them.

We inspire our children to have a lifelong passion for learning.

Inspired by the Reggio Approach, we infuse our preschool environment and practices with a rich array of materials that promote exploration and innovation. The Reggio Approach acknowledges and taps into the infinite ways that children express, explore, and connect their thoughts, feelings and visualizations. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Approach, refers to these as the “Hundred Languages of Children” and we carefully pay attention to children’s Hundred Languages in facilitating their learning journey.

At Synapse Atelier, we equip our children with a unique and bespoke set of tools to think, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I feel the most important factor in my success is my outlook. Children are very curious and competent! They teach us so much if we are willing to observe and listen. They are capable of thinking in-depth and carrying out their ideas in detail. This is the viewpoint and outlook that inspires me to listen carefully and to give the highest importance to children’s ideas.

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Image Credit:
Photos by Synapse Atelier

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