Benefits and Common Questions About Multi-Age Learning
When considering homeschool methods, parents and homeschool teachers may wonder about mixed-age grouping. This may especially be true in households that contain more than one child. Will catering the lessons to multiple age groups at the same time benefit your homeschool? What is mixed-age grouping exactly and what are the benefits?
What is Mixed Age Grouping or Multi-age Learning?
Mixed age grouping is when children of varied age groups are taught in the same classroom setting. It is also sometimes referred to as multi-age learning. Sometimes the children are taught the same lessons, sometimes not. But in mixed age grouping, regardless of age, they are all learning in the same vicinity, instead of being grouped by age or grade level.
Benefits of Mixed Age Grouping
Since courses will focus on varied levels, the children will receive education in a more rounded way. For instance, if the older children are learning about a particular Native American tribe and their lifestyle, the younger kids may be dressing up like them or drawing related pictures. If all of the kids witness and even participate in the various aspects, there could be a greater understanding of each lesson. Other benefits include constant review for the older kids as the younger kids learn alongside them. That also goes in the opposite direction with a head start for the younger children as they observe what's going on with the older kids.
What About Peer Interaction and Social Skills?
Some believe that homeschooled children will receive inferior social skills, due to lack of peer interaction. However, recent studies counter that belief. In fact, children in a homeschool setting, particularly one where mixed-age grouping is involved may receive more rounded social skills. Because homeschooled kids are out in the real world interacting with people of various ages all day long, they learn how to socialize with everyone, not just their peer group. Children educated in a mixed-age setting experience that advantage even more because they are with varied ages all day long. Yes, children can benefit from being around kids their age, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so - and not all of them are during school time.
How Do Kids Advance in a Mixed Age Setting?
Just like children in any other school setting, success is measured. Depending on other methods being used, the grading system could be traditional or not. Some parents may go with unschooling and some may go with a more traditional curriculum format. When tracking the scores, the grading system itself is not as important as creating a transcript that accurately reflects what the child has learned and assigns credits accordingly.
Can Other Homeschool Methods Be Combined With Mixed Age Grouping?
Yes. In fact, mixed-age grouping allows for a great deal of flexibility. It can be used in unschooling, along with the Montessori method, and in children of all ages, of course. There are many methods that can be adjusted to fit a multi-age model. Some will of course be better suited to this model than others.
Does Multi-Age Grouping Need to be Done with Every Lesson?
It is completely up to the parent or homeschool teacher whether every lesson should be tailored to multiple age groups or just some. It can be something that goes along with the whole curriculum plan or it can be used once in a while for certain lessons. For instance, a group story may be read together. But some parents and teachers may prefer math lessons to be done on a solo basis. Yet others would find a way to teach the math lesson to all applicable age groups.
Is Multi-age Grouping Right for My Homeschool?
Deciding whether to use mixed-age grouping in your homeschool could depend on many factors. The first factor is more obvious. Do you have more than one child and are they of varying ages? If the answer is no, you may actually need to search for a homeschool co-op that practices multi-age learning. Will you be comfortable coming up with plans for each age group that coincide with each other. Mixed-age teaching may require more planning and detail from the instructor, which often is one or more of the child's parents. Is there a way to tailor the mixed grouping to fit the way in which you have determined your child needs to be educated? All of these questions and more are things you should consider when deciding whether or not to integrate mixed-age grouping in your homeschool lessons.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
In the early days of schooling, children would often pile into a one-room school house. These kids were not sorted into different classrooms based on age or grade level. Everyone learned together and kids excelled based on their individual abilities. But then, things changed for many schools and the most common model involved sorting classrooms into grade levels. Should all schools go back to mixing age groups?
What is mixed age grouping?
Mixed-age grouping (also called multi-age learning) is the act of placing children at different age and grade levels in the same classroom together. Think back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse. While kids were in various grade levels, they all were in the classroom with the same teacher or set of teachers. Anytime children of multiple skill levels are in the classroom together, it is referred to as mixed-age grouping.
Benefits to mixing age groups in school
Studies have shown that mixed-age grouping teaches kids independence as well as teamwork. When kids of varying levels are placed in the same space, many will naturally work harder to achieve the next level. They also learn to work together with all people, not just their peers. In our homeschool, the kids all learn together, even though each of them is at a different level. That experience combined with research has convinced me that all schools should go back to mixed-age grouping.
Who uses mixed-age methods?
Most schools use it on a smaller scale. But Montessori schools, open schools, private schools, homeschoolers, and many others implement multi-aged learning for the full school day. Some schools have older students read to younger students during a small portion of the day.
Other schools may have the children work together all day long, regardless of the difference in skill levels. In a homeschool, if there is more than one child, mixed-age grouping often comes naturally. Some homeschoolers teach the kids as a group, while others separate the learning.
Should all schools go back to multi-age learning?
Based on my family's experience, as well as extensive research I've done over the years, I would fully support implementation of multi-age learning in all schools. In my experience, there really haven't been disadvantages where the kids are concerned. It can sometimes be more challenging for the educator to teach kids of various levels.
But with practice and the correct planning, for me it eventually evened out with teaching kids who were on the same level. The main issue that would come with converting all schools to this method is the change in the way the curriculum is handled. That in itself may be a hurdle for some schools. But in my opinion, it would be well worth the change.
What do you think? Should all schools go back to mixed-age grouping?
LAST UPDATED 1/17/2023
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