Montessori schools are typically broken into three curriculums, or programs: Primary, Lower, and Upper Elementary. This nontraditional structure means children share classrooms with a range of ages, usually three to six year olds in one class, six to nine year olds in another class, and nine to twelve year olds in another, and so on. Creating mixed-age group classes has a number of unique benefits.
Dr. Maria Montessori observed individual developmental stages that encompassed several years and believed that allowing children who occupy the same stage, or plane, to share the learning environment had immense benefits. Instead of isolating children to groups that are presumed to be in sync developmentally because they are the same age, such as a classroom full of 8 year olds that we assume have progressed through their developmental plane in alignment, in Montessori classrooms, children at the beginning, middle, and end of the plane learn and develop together. This looks like a class instead comprised of 6 to 9 year olds, a structure that acknowledges that age alone doesn’t designate where a child is developmentally, and further, that development isn’t always linear in all aspects.
One of the easiest academic benefits to see for children in mixed-age groups is the chance to learn at their own pace. When they share the same classroom for three years, children are empowered to let their own interests and motivations guide them deeper into the subjects as they build their skills. This also allows the teachers in the Montessori classrooms an opportunity to observe and get to know the child and how they learn over a longer duration. This has great benefits for teachers and students as they form a more productive partnership in learning. Additionally, as children acquire and master academic skills, they can then teach other children who are new to the subjects. Teaching or demonstrating a skill so that others are learning is one of the best indicators of mastery of a subject.
Schools are not just places to acquire knowledge of math, language, and other academic subjects. Schools and their classrooms are also meant to be a practicum in social and emotional intelligence. When children are in mixed-age groups classes, they benefit from more diverse and advanced lessons in social skills. They are given the opportunity to interact with a wider variety of