Mixed-aged schooling promotes a more life-like environment for children than the traditional classroom approach. Thus, in the US, such schools are starting to grow in number.
In New Jersey, for example, they have a mixed-age child care in Eatontown that offers progressive education from infancy to Grade 12. But, what is it with these mixed-age classes that seem to appeal to parents nowadays? How is it better than traditional schooling?
First of all, it is important to note that mixed-age schooling uses the Montessori model of grouping children in multi-age classrooms, instead of having only one age per class. Children are also given real tasks to do. Teachers assess their progress through observation not testing.
Also, mixed-age schooling focuses more on skills and values (e.g. creativity, curiosity, independence) than academic excellence. It operates on the concept that a persons intellect is not only determined by age. Hence, there are certain advantages to this unique educational approach that is worth considering:
The environment in mixed-age classes allows your children to interact with other kids of varied ages and abilities.
Traditional schooling focuses on the disadvantages that this setup may bring. But, mixed-age schooling encourages a sense of cooperation and helpfulness among students. Older children learn to help younger ones and at the same time, they get help from much older students.
Likewise, in such classes, older children become role models to the younger ones. They develop a sense of patience and tolerance positive qualities to keep through adulthood. The little ones learn about good courtesy and proper manners from observing their older peers.
Avenue for Creative Expression
The subject Arts is often a part of most traditional schools curriculum. But, in mixed-age schools, it is not only a subject. Instead, the system infuses Arts in its entire educational approach.
The learning environment always encourages creative expression. It helps make concepts more concrete and allows for emotional expression, too. Visual arts, creative writing, dance, music, and drama are only some of the ways that help explore creativity. These are all part of mixed-age programs.
No One Gets Left Behind
In mixed-age classes, children are not labeled according to their intellectual abilities. As such, average, above average, and below average do not exist. Thus, students are more likely to cooperate than compete no one gets left behind.
Because there is no such thing as labelling, your children become free to take pride in their own efforts and abilities. This kind of freedom is, in fact, a better source of motivation to improve than any academic award a traditional school could give (only to the best students).
Optimal Student to Teacher Ratio
Student-Teacher ratio is one of the issues that you might encounter if you decide to enroll your child in a traditional school. This is because the typical setup is one teacher per class of 15 or more students.
Not too many parents make a fuss about that. But, it goes without saying that children would benefit more from individualized teaching where a teacher handles only a small group. This allows the teacher to focus more on each of her students and what that student can do, rather than what he cant.
Aside from an optimal student-teacher ratio, mixed-age education also aims to tailor instructions to students individual needs. It is not to set the pace for a whole group.
This is because children have distinct learning strategies. They should be learning at their own pace neither held back when theyre ready to advance nor forced to keep up to the learning pace of others.
Builds Self-Esteem among Students
Your child is more likely to develop self-esteem where she can express herself. This is possible because in mixed-aged classes, students get to have a second family by being with one another for succeeding years.
Children who are part of such a class also develop a sense of community and belongingness. It helps them achieve better social and emotional stability as individuals.
Fun Learning Experience
A lot of mixed-aged schools hold their classes outdoors. This is because being outside of the traditional classroom setting inspires curiosity. It also sparks creativity among students, especially the younger ones. Moreover, it makes classes livelier and less boring, promoting better learning.
In general, while physical maturity and experience due to age can sometimes create unfair advantages in some areas in life, it does not affect a persons ability to learn. This happens if the school uses a system that encourages children to learn without differentiating them.