While on a tour of a Montessori school, the first thing that sticks out for many people is the wide age range of children within a single classroom. This is a common sight in Montessori schools all over the nation, and it’s a style of learning that coincides with our philosophy and education style.
A multi-age classroom includes children who fall into two or more ages or grades. Over one hundred years ago, Maria Montessori pioneered this concept, and to this day Montessori programs commonly group children together in a three-year range. For three years, students will remain in the same classroom with relatively the same peers (some will age out and others will be introduced) and the same teacher.
Maria Montessori coined this concept because she noticed that children of varying ages played well together. Each age has different skill sets to bring to the table, and Montessori education honors the different pace at which children learn. In a multi-age classroom, there’s no such thing as a child “falling behind” the curve. A light is shone on the fact that children of all ages learn at a pace that’s right for them. This helps to promote a child-centered learning environment.
If you think about it, traditional schools are one of the few places where children are grouped together by one singular age. Other groups like sports teams, Scouts, and art programs don’t put those same constraints on children. The reasoning is simple: just because two children are the same age doesn’t mean that they’ll be at the same stage of development. With a three-year range of ages in a classroom, children will feel less singled out if they don’t learn at the same pace of their same-aged peers.
Multi-age classrooms take away pressure that is often found in traditional classrooms and allow for natural development in an environment where a child feels adequate and can flourish.
Room to Grow in a Multi-Age Classroom
Learning in a multi-age classroom has many benefits for children and it allows them room to grow. Here are a few ways in which they are encouraged to find their footing at their own pace.
It places emphasis on the child instead of the curriculum.
Every student is unique. Unlike traditional classrooms, where all students are expected to be at the same level at the same time, teachers in multi-age classrooms focus on teaching each student in accordance with that student’s strengths.
If a student isn’t ready for a particular skill, a teacher doesn’t force it on them. If they’ve already mastered a skill and are ready to move on, they are allowed to do just that. In a multi-age classroom, children can take the wheel of their learning journey, and by doing so they are given more opportunities to choose their path.
Being given a sense of ownership over their education and learning the art of self-direction allows a child to learn throughout their life, not just while they’re in school. This means they will grow consistently throughout their academic lives and otherwise.
It’s good for the students.
It’s natural for children to learn from one another, and a multi-age classroom is the perfect place for that to happen. Younger children can watch older children do challenging work and become inspired by it. They look at the older children in the classroom as mentors, and this gives the older children a chance to try out leadership. Leadership is critical for a growing child.
Instead of fostering a competitive mindset, children are encouraged to cooperate with one another. The classroom is a community that helps nurture social skills just as much as it nurtures children academically. Because there’s no undercurrent of competition, children are more likely to help each other and keep that outlook as they grow up.
It creates a positive outlook in children.
Children in multi-age classrooms have been shown to have higher self-esteem. They think more positively about themselves and are more likely to be confident in social situations. They also tend to enjoy school more in general.
Children develop a “growth mindset” while learning in a multi-age classroom, which contributes to their growth as a whole. A growth mindset the belief that you’re in control of your own ability and that you can always learn and improve. This mindset is the key to success.
Your Child’s Growth
There are benefits to be seen every day in children who learn in multi-age classrooms. These classrooms provide the foundation that students need to become not only well-adjusted, happy learners but well-adjusted, happy people.