Multiage classrooms (and homes!) are defined as a group of children who are not the same age or grade. In Montessori, the age groupings are divided by planes of development, every 3 years. The most common Montessori age groupings are infant toddler for ages 0-3, Primary or Children’s House for ages 3-6, Lower Elementary for ages 6-9, Upper Elementary for ages 9-12, and approximately 12-18, adolescence.
There are many reasons why Montessori classrooms are multiage. One of my personal favorites being that there are no grade levels, just three year groupings. This way, teachers and classmates see one another as individuals in an academic and developmental sense. Little Timmy is developmentally where Little Timmy is right now, not necessarily as specific as a named grade or expected level.
Consider the experience for each age grouping. In any of the classes or levels, there is a first year student, a second year student, and a third year student. The first year student has the chance to see the scope of what the next few years might look like for them. The first year student has the older children, generally 2/3 of a class, to help guide and support them. This new child comes with a blank slate, ready and open to experience work. In the view of the second year student, they are now midway, no longer the youngest- and yet not the oldest. They are getting deeper into working, and they have the ability to model for the younger children and the guidance of the oldest group of children. The third year is where is all comes together for Montessori children. It’s the year that has been building on all previous experiences and the child becomes the leader. There is so much to be said for learning and retaining what is taught to someone else. Each day the third year child gains a chance to teach and lead, imagine the confidence that comes with that.
In my home, I see it all the time. My oldest is four, and the twins are two. I see big sister teaching and showing her world to her sisters, and the little ones eat it up. I believe she did more potty training than we did, her modeling those skills helped them through it. When we have our Montessori time, I see my oldest giving lessons to her sisters with such grace and care- it’s magic. I feel that my toddlers are soaking up every bit of what she shows them. And to think, when they were born everyone asked, “How will you manage?” Nothing to manage, but enjoy. I remember thinking, even then, that one day we will have multiage magic, too!
Jessie is a mother of three beautiful daughters (twin tots & a preschooler), an AMS trained Montessori teacher of 40 students, and a wife to one. Jessie has a background in dance, a yoga certification, and a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Jessie has a childhood education blog at http://educationofours.blogspot.com/.
This post was linked up to One Hook Wonder.