When you're looking into early childhood education choices for your toddler or preschooler, you'll notice that some preschools separate children by age, while other preschools group children of multiple ages in the same classroom. Since most people are more familiar with the practice of separating children by age, you may be wondering what is to be gained by choosing a preschool that offers mixed-age grouping instead. Take a look at some of the benefits of this type of grouping to find out why it may be the right choice for your child.
Mixed-Age Classrooms Promote Learning and Leadership
One setting where mixed-age classrooms are common is in Montessori schools. Typically, Montessori schools group students using a three year age span, so your three year old may share a classroom with students up to age six. The younger children learn by watching and mimicking their older peers. They also learn from playing "student" to an older child "teacher." They may actually learn more readily from a slightly older peer, in the form of play, than from an adult teacher.
Older children also benefit from this arrangement. Having the chance to teach their younger peers allows older children to solidify their own knowledge. This is something that happens naturally in families. Older children tend to have higher IQs than their younger siblings, and scientists believe that one reason why is that older children tend to strengthen their own knowledge by teaching younger siblings. In a multi-age classroom, everyone eventually gets the chance to be the older child helping the younger ones, so even children who are the youngest (or only) child in their home can benefit from this phenomenon at school. Being the older child in a multi-age classroom also offers the opportunity to take leadership roles as they arise naturally.
Mixed-Age Classrooms Are Less Stressful
Even preschool students can be affected by the stress of being pressured to achieve. Students who have special needs or who are simply slower to develop certain skills can easily feel as if they're being left behind by their same-age peers. Also, parents and teachers may unintentionally put too much pressure on a child to catch up to the rest of the class or compete with other children.
However, a mixed-age classroom is almost always a mixed ability classroom as well. That means that a child whose development is delayed for whatever reason will not be the only child in the classroom on their level – they may simply relate better to some of the younger members of the class. This can prevent feelings of isolation and insecurity. Parents and teachers may also be more comfortable allowing children to advance at their own pace in a mixed-ability setting. When everyone involved expects the children in the classroom to function at a variety of different levels, the environment becomes low-pressure and less competitive overall.
Mixed-Age Classrooms Promote Better Social Skills
As older children in a mixed-age classroom take on leadership roles, they'll develop a sense of responsibility toward the younger ones. They'll be inclined to be protective, nurturing, and empathetic toward the younger and smaller children that look up to them. Children who are more empathetic have better social skills because they're learning to appreciate what others are feeling. They may be more inclined to share, take turns, and eschew bullying behaviors.
In turn, the younger children will model the empathetic behavior that they see displayed by older children, allowing them to function on a higher level socially than they might in a classroom full of same-age students. Essentially, mixed-age classrooms help teach students the ins and outs of socialization in a real world setting.
There are many different ways to organize a preschool, and a grouping or teaching strategy that's right for one child may not be right for the next. As the person who knows your child best, only you can decide if a mixed-age classroom is the right fit for your preschooler. Take the time to tour a mixed-age preschool and other options in your area, like Basics Primary School & Day Care, to see if you think your child would benefit from either approach.
Kids develop at their own pace. Some kids are ready to learn at a very early age while some require more time to be prepared to take in information. My blog will help you identify the learning pace in which your child is ready to perform. You will learn signs to watch for so that you know what your child can handle and signs that could tell you that you are pushing a little too hard. I hope that my own personal experiences can help you and your child begin on the path of learning at a pace that you are both comfortable with.