Parents new to Montessori often question the multi-age groupings found in our classes. “Will my child have enough friends? Will they cover the entire curriculum for their grade level? Can the teachers keep track of it all?” For each question asked there are even more answers as to why children benefit from this system. It allows them to learn from each other, to have multiple mentors, to become leaders themselves building their confidence, and to develop a deep connection with their teachers, just to name a few.
The true magic of these multi-age groups is always more evident on the trips we take, as it was on our most recent trek up to Haliburton with our grade 4 through 8 students. “Your students are so supportive of each other. How do you guys do it?” began the conversation between the program guides and teachers over dinner the first evening. The resulting reflection encompassed many things, however, agreement kept centering on the multi-age groups. When kids of different ages are together in a group they look after one another in a way that just isn’t present in groups of all the same age. Younger ones look up to the older ones. They work hard to be mature like their older counterparts and enjoy the attention from them. Experienced students keep a protective eye on the younger ones, and relish in the chance to be in the spotlight. The result is a caring community where students feel supported to be who they are.
Whether it was putting on skis for cross-country skiing, making sure that everyone at the table had enough food, or cheering on each other at the high-ropes, the Dearcroft students did a phenomenal job of supporting each other. Older students rose to the occasion leading our younger group, especially acting as cabin councilors, making sure that all the kids were comfortable. The respect the senior group earned was clear one evening when the entire group of girls were excited and wanted to share a story with the teachers. Over the screaming and excitement of all in the group, one of the grade four’s voice rang out above; “Let Samantha tell the story: she is in grade eight and is our elder!”
In and out of the class, the benefits of the multi-age grouping are clear on a daily basis to the staff working with the students. The program instructors from the trip are arranging a visit to Dearcroft because they were so impressed by the group work and support they saw in the children. We are lucky to say it is the norm for us to hear such compliments about our students when we are out on trips, something we credit in large part to the multi-age groups found in Montessori classes.