Children learn best by observing each other. In a Montessori classroom, the children are placed with their peers in a multi-age environment that allows the younger children to observe the work of the older children. It also helps the older children to reinforce their understanding every time they help the younger children.
In a multi-age classroom, a child may see an older child clean up a spill around the snack table, or watch another child getting a lesson on the trinomial cube. As children go through their day, they are absorbing information…effortlessly, simply by being in the classroom. Each day, children are exposed to new information even if they don’t “formally” have a lesson.
Multi-age classrooms encourage the development of:
- Self-esteem- the child is in the same classroom for three years and knows the teacher and expectations.
- Reinforcement of knowledge- older children in the classroom share their knowledge with the younger ones, reinforcing their understanding and teaching them leadership.
- Motivation- younger children are inspired by the things the older children can do and strive to grow to that level.
- Self-confidence- older children model appropriate behavior for and nurture the younger children and naturally learn leadership skills.
- Compassion and courtesy– the classroom is a family-like setting where children develop strong, sibling-type relationships as they progress from being “younger siblings” during their first year to being “older siblings” in their last year, while remaining with the same teacher for three years.
The multi-age grouping sets the stage for success at every stage of development. It is in this environment (the classroom) where children become curious about meaningful activities. Once interested, a child is naturally motivated to learn new skills—which leads the child to fully engage, sustain attention and completely concentrate. A multi-age Montessori classroom allows a child to gain an early enthusiasm for learning, which is the key to becoming a truly educated, engaged person.