Mixed Age Learning: Benefits in Academics and Child Development
The age segregation of schools is a contributing factor to competition and stress among students, according to Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and New York Times bestselling author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups. Experts now believe that traditionally age-stratified classrooms represent an unnatural and potentially unhealthy way of organizing children’s lives. (1)
According to Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist:
“In a mixed-age group, the 10-year-old takes the hand of the 5-year-old and looks both ways crossing the street. The 5-year-old looks up to the 10-year-old with admiration and trust, and does as they are told. In contrast, when you throw hundreds of kids of exactly the same age together, attention goes, unhelpfully, to comparisons within the group: Who is smartest? Who is fastest? Who is prettiest?”
This steers children’s values away from kindness, trust, and community and toward status competition, which can generate stress. (2)
Evidence indicates that when working in cooperative learning groups, children’s motivation is increased and that can improve the quality of their relationships and achievement. Older children in mixed-age class show an enhancement in their own self-regulation when they are encouraged to remind younger ones of the rules. (3)
This may bring children with social difficulties into a positive cycle where their acceptance by others leads to greater confidence and in turn, increases their acceptance by peers (4)
Jennifer Winters, director of Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, said: “This plan [mixed-age grouping] is optimal for children’s social and emotional growth, as they learn to be both leaders and followers: They learn to compromise and collaborate; to plan and negotiate; to work in a group or by themselves. It is much like a family grouping in that there is a wide range of competencies” (5)
At Brookwood Christian, our curriculum meets all Georgia curriculum requirements. However, since most students come to us below grade level in some areas, they may not be able to perform on their chronological age/grade level. Our main objective is to meet the child’s needs rather than following arbitrary guidelines that have been developed and imposed by those unfamiliar with the child’s needs, strengths, and interests.
Each child’s education and future are important to us. They have one opportunity to get it right and we are going to ensure that they do, because it matters to them.
Next we will discuss Outdoor Learning: How a Pandemic Confirmed what Many of us Already Knew, and how we were already using it.
1. Christakis, Erika. “School Wasn’t So Great Before Covid, Either.” The Atlantic (November 10, 2020).
3. Katz, Lilian G., et al. “The Case for Mixed-Age Grouping in Early Education.” National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington, D.C. (1990).
5. Peters, Peckie. “Mixed-Age Classrooms Provide Optimal Learning Environment.” Stanford School of Humanities and Science (October 2016).