Related: Will my older child be stuck learning the same things every year? Will my younger child be confused by the lessons?
We model our multi-aged classrooms after Dr. Maria Montessori’s original example in the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House). Because children are constantly observing their classmates and learning by absorbing from their environment, diversity in the classroom enriches the entire educational experience. Younger children become encouraged to try new, more difficult activities, because they see others attempting these challenges. Older children practice leadership skills by becoming role models. When children have meaningful conversations with peers about what they are learning, they develop metacognitive skills that help them decide what they want to learn next. There are also many opportunities for children to teach one another, which is an excellent way to deepen and consolidate their learning!
In the Montessori Method, the teacher-directress follows a child’s unique developmental readiness. Children grow through ‘sensitive periods’ where they show an intense affinity or interest in a specific area. The teacher-directress provides opportunities for learning through inquiry and exploration. There is no limit set on how much the child can learn; rather, the child shows us when s/he is satisfied and wants to move on to something new. Therefore, (older) children can always learn more, and (younger) children are never forced to take more than they can handle.
Many schools choose to divide their classrooms according to age/grade, and only one curriculum is presented to the entire class. Children are assessed based on how well they understand the standard curriculum level. The kids that are successful are sometimes discouraged by teachers that say, “Wait until the next grade. You don’t need to learn this now.” On the other hand, children that are struggling are discouraged because they feel ‘behind’ everyone else. In ACMS, there is no competition, and diversity is celebrated because children appreciate each other’s efforts and successes.