Forget segregating kids by age, each class should have a large enough mix of ages so that children can work at their level for a given topic. One child might be at a grade 5 math level, but at grade 3 in reading. That’s okay. Given the right environment and ridding ourselves of the idea that a child has to be at equal levels across all subjects because they are at a certain age, most children will thrive. Because let’s face it, assuming all children should be at the same level because they’re born in the same year is as asinine as lowering the standards so that all children “meet” the bare minimum.
Multi-age classrooms also allow for children to teach other children. Those who are advanced work with those who are not. They help each other out. You may end up helping your friend in math then turn around and have your friend help you in English. Not only will this help children realise they all have different strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, children learn well from each other and teaching is one of the best ways for us to consolidate and enhance our own understanding of a topic.
Giving children the chance to master their own knowledge is invaluable.
These multi-age settings also improve social skills and increase empathic behaviour. Children learn to socialise with those older and younger. They learn how to care for younger children (and we know that caring for younger children lowers bullying and increases empathic behaviour and social skills). Games involve everyone instead of same-age peers and for those students who may be “socially immature”, there is no stigma anymore because you can play with those you are most comfortable with.
I’m not a teacher so I can’t speak to how it would change the way teachers approach teaching, but they managed to do it for many years, at a time when public education thrived, and I think they could be up to the task again.
I imagine it means a lot more one-on-one with students to see where they’re at, and also structuring learning so that children can learn at their level doing the same tasks.
A science experiment teaches different things to different children of different levels, but they all get something out of it and will get out what they are developmentally ready to learn.
I don’t know that we’ll ever see this type of overhaul go back to where we were. I hope we do though because I feel so strongly that too many children are missing out on learning with the way our current school system is.
Originally published here.
Tracy Cassels, PhD is the Director of Evolutionary Parenting, a science-based, attachment-oriented resource for families on a variety of parenting issues. In addition to her online resources, she offers one-on-one support to families around the world and is regularly asked to speak on a variety of issues from sleep to tantrums at conferences and in the media. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children.