An unique feature of a Montessori-based education is a pedagogy which uses mixed-age classrooms. Under the Montessori method, students learn skills at their own speed, free from any requirements to master a particular set of skills within a certain period of time.
Studies show children who learn alongside classmates of various ages and abilities have a distinct advantage over their peers who attend more traditional schools. If research shows that learning in a classroom with a wide range of ages and abilities is more valuable, then why are students separated by age in most schools?
The Faulty Reasoning Behind Grade Levels
To better understand why most schools do not favor mixed-age classrooms, you need to recognize why students were first divided into groups by age. Horace Mann, an early 20th century educator, popularized grouping students by age in response to a flood of recent immigrants into the US. At the time, organizing same-age classrooms was easiest way to place students into groups.
Grouping students by age does not require extensive testing and eliminates time-consuming decisions about which class is the best for each individual. Although this arbitrary method of distributing students works well for the "average" student, students who fall above or below average range of students suffer.
How Can Mixed-Age Classrooms Benefit Students?
There are many advantages for students studying in a mixed-age classroom. These are a few reasons Montessori schools believe mixed-age classrooms are the best way to develop successful students:
Children can become teachers. A common saying is, "Once taught, twice learned." It means that when you teach someone you are relearning the material at the same time. When students help their classmates learn a new skill, they are naturally reinforcing their own understanding.
Students are free to learn at their own pace. In a mixed-age classroom learning is more natural. Students gain skills based on their innate abilities. This reduces the stress level of both students and their parents.
Kids maintain a stable community. Since students remain with the same teacher for a three-year period, students become familiar with their teacher, and in return, the teacher gets to know her students at a deeper and more meaningful level then what is possible at traditional schools.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School offers children in the Excelsior area an exciting multi-age learning environment. The school educates student from preschool through the 8th grade in faith-guided Montessori-based curriculum. Call 952-474-5812 to speak with an enrollment specialist to learn more.
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