Benefits of Montessori Education: Mixed Age Groups and the Three-Year Cycle

Children in Montessori programs spend three years in the same prepared environment with the same teacher, in groupings that line up with stages that Dr. Maria Montessori called planes of development. At MSSA, the early childhood years that we call the Primary Level (3 – 6) correspond with the second half of the first plane of development. Elementary spans the second plane of development and MSSA’s levels correspond with Lower Elementary (6 -9) and Upper Elementary (9 – 12). Middle School (grades 7 and 8) falls into the first half of the third plane of development.

Each plane of development has sensitive periods for learning and growth, and Montessori’s work has been validated over time with research that tells us brains develop over time in predictable stages. Each plane has its own milestones and challenges, and the full journey through the planes of development isn’t just an academic one, it’s a journey of development of children’s selves in community, as they engage in prepared and purposeful activities to become flourishing human beings. The journey includes curiosity, wonder and awe in relation to the world, as well as connection to peers, adults, and surroundings.

MSSA’s classroom environments provide certified teachers who prepare and present materials to the children, all the while observing and adjusting so that the children are acquiring skills and academic knowledge. The mixed-age groupings allow children the opportunity to work and socialize with children younger and older than them, as well as with children who are the same age. A classroom community is created as the older children develop patience while helping and mentoring the younger children, and younger children look forward to naturally becoming the leaders of the class in the third year of the cycle. Teachers and families get to know each other well over three years, and the three-year cycle coincides with the end or half-way point of each plane of development. The third year of the cycle allows children to exercise their independence and leadership capably with confidence.

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