Q: How would you feel about changing the age groups in a Montessori environment? Our four year olds cannot be in the same classroom as the five year olds due to Ministry regulations, which leaves us in a predicament. Our school principal wants to group the five year olds with grade one and two students. Do you think the five years olds are better alone (this is working fine) or should the age groups be redefined?
~ A confused Montessori teacher.
Montessori Mixed Age Groups and Ministry Regulations: Why Socialization MattersA: In this instance it sounds like the Ministry has placed restrictions on the age grouping that schools are able to include in a single class setting, and it is unfortunate that they are not able to follow the traditional Montessori 3 to 6 (Preschool/Kindergarten) and 6 to 9 (grades 1-3) age grouping. I have had the opportunity for many years to implement the Montessori philosophy with a classroom community of just Kindergarten children, so I know firsthand that it is definitely feasible. I actually loved teaching Montessori Kindergarten (age 5-6) as there is so much you can do with the children because they are far more capable and confident than they were when they were younger. However, in my opinion, something was always missing in this environment. I always felt that my Montessori kindergarten students missed out on being the ‘big kids’ of the Montessori multi-age classroom and the important experience of being the leaders and helping the younger children in the classroom.
Any Montessori preschool/kindergarten teacher will attest to the fact that everything seems to come together for the kindergarten child in a Montessori 3-6 classroom. In particular, their social/emotional development and the preparations for later academic work are decidedly progressive. A big part of that can be attributed to the unique Montessori environment of the mixed age grouping.
In this Montessori casa classroom, it appears that they still adhere to the mixed age grouping without the kindergarten-aged students. In this scenario, although the preschoolers will miss out on having the guidance of the confident, capable kindergarten children it is still very much a feasible grouping for a Montessori environment. The four year olds will still act as mentors for the younger children and will still serve as role models. The three year olds will continue to be inspired by the older children and the environment should still emulate that endearing sense of community so indicative of the Montessori classroom.
I really believe that if a school is unable to accommodate the traditional Montessori preschool/kindergarten age grouping, it is better to have the kindergarten students with the six and seven year olds rather than on their own, simply because mixed age grouping is the backbone of a harmonious Montessori environment. We all know that a Montessori classroom thrives on the mixed age grouping, and it helps to form a bond only seen in small social communities and families. Being in a class with all kindergarten students would mean that the children miss out on that very important aspect.
I hope this is helpful.
NAMC blogs that may be of further interest:
- Real Questions About Mixed Age Grouping in the Montessori Classroom
- The Stages of Montessori Curriculum - Educating the Whole Child
- Thoughts on Daily Preparation Routines for the Montessori Preschool Environment: Planning for Space and Time
- Thoughts on Daily Preparation Routines for the Montessori Preschool Environment: After School Planning
- Daily Preparation Routines for the Montessori Teacher
- Personal Preparation and Development for the Montessori Teacher
- The Peaceful Montessori Classroom: Prepared Environment Design
- Montessori Teacher Perspectives: Prepared Environment and Classroom Design
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.