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Montessori Casa classrooms include children from 2 ½ to 6 years of age. Each class is equipped with materials to challenge and inspire children at each of these age levels and beyond. For many of our parents who have had the opportunity to observe in one of our Casa classrooms, the beauty of these interactions is almost immediately palpable.
Often, the youngest children in the classroom demonstrate a very “me-centric” view of the world. They are so busy developing themselves that they may not naturally show courtesy and empathy to others. They need tangible experiences and guides. Older children provide this mentorship and role-modelling. The older children have spent years in the same environment, learning, growing and benefitting from the previous students and graduates. They have each gone through the experiences that these new children face. They are able to demonstrate empathy and understanding with a strong willingness and desire to help. These older children have grown into leaders in their own rights.
Older children learn to be patient and tolerant, and serve as role models and teachers for the younger children. When an older child teaches a younger one, it reinforces previously learned concepts and is actually an aid in complete mastery of concepts. Younger children learn about courtesy, manners, and conflict resolution by watching the older children in the class.
In a Montessori classroom, it is commonplace to observe a 4 year old leading a vocabulary lesson with the classified cards to 2 and 3 year olds. A 3 year old could also be observing a 6 year old tackle a complex multiplication question. Within the environment and community, children are constantly provided opportunities to absorb and learn information from one another. The younger children see activities before they tackle them; the older children are able to reinforce their knowledge by leading younger children or offering their assistance. All children are then provided richer learning experiences – experiencing concepts multiple times before they tackle them directly with their Montessori teacher and demonstrating deeper understanding as the older child rearranges his or her knowledge to pass it on.
The “charm to social life [is in] the number of different types one meets.”
Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
In age-mixed play, the more sophisticated behavior of older children offers role models for younger children, who also typically receive more emotional support from older kids than from those near their own age. Age-mixed play also permits older children to learn by teaching and to practice nurturance and leadership; and they are often inspired by the imagination and creativity of their younger playmates.
“The Special Value of Children’s Age-Mixed Play” by Peter Gray on Psychology Today