Some schools ascribe to the multi-age grouping philosophy in which students remain with the same teachers for at least two years. There are several advantages and disadvantages to this approach. For example, it normally takes a while for teachers to understand their students learning styles, behavioral tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. The multi-age approach allows teachers to identify which method of instruction works best for your child, how your child reacts to different forms of discipline and maintain an on-going assessment of your child’s progress in learning various skills. The teacher will also become more close to the parents over time, allowing her or him to communicate with them more frequently and provide them with tips to reinforce the lessons she is instilling at school at home.
Moreover, students benefit from multi-age groups, because they are allowed to play various academic and social roles over the years. As a younger student in a multi-age group, your child will learn academic skills and acceptable behavior not only from the teacher but older classmates. They will be able to mimic their older peers’ behavioral patterns and have a mentor at school. When your child becomes one of the older members of the classroom, she or he will have earned the respect of the teacher and become more close to her or him. Moreover, your child will serve as a mentor and tutor to the younger students, developing leadership and communication skills.
Unfortunately, there are also disadvantages to multi-age classrooms. If your child has a poor teacher, she or he may be stuck with her or him for more than one year. Moreover, some teachers believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction and may not take advantage of the additional time with your child, if she does not understand or appreciate different learning styles or intelligences. Moreover, there are many cases in which the older students are not sufficiently challenged or the younger children are not provided the support they need.
When touring multi-age programs, look at the younger students to ensure that they are not overwhelmed and look at the older students who should not be bored. You also must make sure that the teacher seems approachable and responsible, because you will be spending a good deal of time with her or him for at least two years. There are many social and academic advantages that multi-age programs can offer; however, a mistake may have a lasting impact.