Authentic Montessori environments have children grouped into three to four year age spans based on Dr. Montessori’s research on the stages of child development. MIC has multiage classrooms with children aged from three to six years, six to nine years, nine to twelve years, twelve to fifteen years, and fifteen to eighteen years. In the Early Years, 5-year-old students spend part of their day in a ”Prep” homeroom where they focus on Prep-level academic work, with the balance of the day spent working with other children in leadership and mentoring roles.
This three-year multiage grouping is the core feature that energizes or makes possible the other important features of Montessori classrooms: choice of activity, personal connection, and collaborative learning. The multiage structure allows older children to validate their learning by becoming the ‘experts’ in the room. Peer teaching can occur with the older children sharing their knowledge and skills and taking on the role of the caretakers of the classroom. It is these older children that provide the role model for younger children. The youngest three-year-olds have a group of willing people ready to help them when help is required. Younger children receive preliminary introductions to future lessons as they watch older children work nearby with the next steps in the progression of materials.
“The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.” (Maria Montessori, The Child, Society and the World).