Last month I talked about the classroom environment in an authentic Montessori school. This month I thought I would add-on to that topic and talk about the children who are in that class room.
Many other schools and childcare providers group children together by level of development and 6-9 month age ranges (maybe about 1 year difference at the most). With Montessori they use a mixed-age approach, with a 3 year rule. So within a Montessori school, you would see a pre-primary class with 0-3 year olds (Lennox’s school doesn’t start until 17/18 months – 3 (ish) years), primary class is 3-6 years old and secondary is 6-9 (and so on…).
So focusing on what I already know, Lennox is in the Pre-Primary Montessori class (for a little while longer). When she started, she was about 17 months old, but she had enough skills to enter the classroom before turning 18 months. The other children in her class range from that age to a little over 3 years old. At 3 they start transitioning the child into the Primary Montessori classroom (as long as they potty trained fully and have met all other developmental milestones). That is when the main Montessori journey really begins, from what I hear.
When we started at this school, I knew Lennox would love being with the “big kids”. With her previous child care situation, she was in a home with other older children, and always tagged along with them, rather than playing w/ children the same age as her. She fit in no problem and this has kept being the case as she has continued with her schooling now.
So why the big age differences in the Montessori environment? There are a number of reasons; Learning/Development, Community and Teacher-Student Familiarity.
Learning/Development: Maria Montessori believed that the interaction and development between the mixed ages would benefit the children. They will learn from each other and help each other. The young children can ask for help from the older children, while still learning and the older children learn to help the younger children. They learn to help and responsibility along with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The older children in the class will have to learn to be more patient and tolerance while a younger child tries to succeed at a new task.
Community: Other than learning from each other, children who are in the Montessori environment build a great sense of community. The main friends Lennox has had, she has had now for over a year. It is nice when you get to stay with the same children/families for a longer period of time. Some of these friendships, hopefully will last all the way through the primary level and into the secondary if we/they continue on.
Parent/Teacher/Student Relationship: The natural relationship that forms between a younger child and their teacher can be great. In Montessori school, when you can be with the same teacher for up to 3 years, a great relationship can form and that teacher will help guide you through your learnings. The teacher learns the way you learn, the best way to encourage you and what your weaknesses are, so that they can better help you develop all around.
“The child’s progress does not depend only on his age, but also on being free to look around him.” – Maria Montessori
Montessori school can be criticized for the long stretch of time with some of the same children, same teacher and some see it as isolating, but so far, we have had the opposite issue. Lennox is 110% comfortable at school, she loves going and doesn’t want to leave. To me, that is a successful school experience!
Do you have any thoughts/questions about about this type of classroom model?
Interested in more Montessori Topics? Check out all the Montessori Moments topics.