23 May, 2019, By Nik Nieuwenhuis

From a Montessori perspective every child is a unique individual with his or her own gifts and challenges. All children develop at different rates, so placing them in single-age classrooms and expecting them to be ready for the same concepts simply because they are the same age overemphasises and pathologies natural differences. This unnatural learning environment leads to the common tendency to label children as either “gifted” or “learning challenged.”

In a Montessori multiage classroom children are allowed their natural variations within the three or four year age grouping. A lesson on subtraction, for example, might be attended by children of different ages who are nevertheless ready for the same concepts. An advantage of the Montessori approach is that each child can make the most of their unique attributes. Multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests allow each child to work at his or her own pace.

Montessori students learn to recognise that everyone has their own gifts and their own challenges; that someone who is “gifted” in math may not necessarily be as advanced in other areas. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support: each can progress through the curriculum at his own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to catch up.

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