The Montessori Learning Relationships

  1. Mixed Age (Family) Grouping
  2. Social Setting as a Community
  3. Cooperation, Collaboration, NOT Competition



“What matters is to mix the ages.  Our schools show that children of different ages help one another.”

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 226.

"People sometimes fear that if a child… gives lessons, this will hold him back in his own progress.  But, in the first place, he does not teach all the time and his freedom is respected.  Secondly, teaching helps him to understand what he knows even better than before.  He has to analyze and rearrange his little store of knowledge before he can pass it on.  So his sacrifice does not go unrewarded.”  

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 227

“…classes typically group children across a three year age span.”

The Authentic American Montessori School, p. 37.

Carmel Montessori Academy conscientiously observes the three year age span of family groupings throughout the School.  For the sake of forthrightness, however, it should be noted that the developmental needs of the CHILD is the determining factor in individual placement.  Each CHILD moves from one class to another when the Parent, Director/ess, and other interested adults (and with the older CHILD, the CHILD him/herself) determines that s/he is ready:  physically, personally, socially, and academically.  Chronological age is a factor, but a very minor one in these determinations.  In the case of the special needs and/or the “specific” gifted CHILD, development may be particularly uneven and require special consideration of one or more areas in order that the CHILD may continue to grow in all areas.



“Children have an anxious concern for living beings and the satisfaction of this instinct fills them with delight.”

Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child, p. 71.

“The social setting is somewhat like that of an extended family. The emergent skills of individual CHILDREN are harnessed for the good of the whole group.  CHILDREN routinely demonstrate newly achieved competencies to one another.”

The Authentic American Montessori School, p. 37.

Of all the benchmarks of the document called The Authentic American Montessori School this quality of “family” may apply most aptly to the community of Carmel Montessori Academy.  The concept of “extended family” is the one most commonly mentioned to describe the School - by CHILDREN (specifically older CHILDREN), Parents, visitors, and, perhaps most significantly, alumni.  Several examples of “preparing the environment” toward this end follow, however, many more are available.  With the exception of the Toddlers when they are housed in their own classroom, the CHILDREN at the School are not confined to their own classroom environment; indeed, several classrooms have several rooms, plus.  The CHLDREN are encouraged to seek the adults, the STUDENTS, the environments that most meet their needs at a particular time for a particular activity.  The guideline is only that the Director/ess know where they are and that they remain on task; each Director/ess has an appropriate control of error for behavior and activity; each Director/ess joins his/her other colleagues in assuring the continuity of freedom within limits and individual needs in the School as a whole.  The Community Education Program is organized with STUDENTS and Parents and Faculty in a multi-aged, multi-interest manner.  The Community Line is designed to bring the entire STUDENT body together at least once each day as a community.  (Note:  Toddlers may or may not attend; at times they “around” the group).  Songs are sung together, usually folk songs, songs from the country of study, special CHILDREN’s songs that appeal to all ages.  Two or more CHILDREN either accompany the songs or give individual performances on their music instruments.  Announcements are made about the next field excursion or special celebrations; birthday greetings are extended.  Problems regarding the outdoor environments, scheduling (which adults have missed!), planning, STUDENT perspectives, and other pragmatics are brought to the fore.  Cooks announce the menu for the day.   The Community Line lasts for less than twenty minutes each day; on special occasions (e.g. Thanksgiving Opera, Mardi Gras Talent Show) it is extended to include special performances that are attended by parents and others as well, who then join the CHILDREN for lunch.  The School has been widely described as an extended family.



The children “cooperated for the honor of their community…  this sense of solidarity… completely extraneous to any form of emulation, competition or personal advantage [is] a gift of nature.”

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 223.

Cooperation, collaboration, NOT competition…invidious comparisons between children are avoided.”

The Authentic American Montessori School, p. 37.

Heterogeneous groupings in classrooms, on field excursions, at lunch, to name a few settings, are undoubtedly the single most important environmental tool to encourage cooperation, avoid invidious comparison, and encourage a peaceful, supportive Montessori community.  However, several other examples of structuring the environment may further illustrate.  Oftimes CHIDLREN simply need to be given the appropriate words to use to be supportive of one another and avoid the competitive “edge.” A very simple, yet apparently very effective, appropriate response by CHILDREN to others who are sharing their home experiences or birthday gifts or shopping purchases can be: “Oh, I enjoy my (toy) like that, too.” or “Mine is (red); what color is yours?” (rather than “Oh, I have one of those!” or “So what!”).  When receiving a gift (e.g. on Valentine’s Day when the School exchanges gifts) that one already has:  “Now I have two! It will be so much more fun to play with two!” (rather than, “I already have one of these.” )  Competition for “things” is reduced and the emphasis is placed on the giver and the thought rather than the item.  Individual classroom Lines and Community Line are places where these social amenities are discussed.  In the outdoor environment any game or sport may be accessed at any appropriate moment by any age CHILD.  Thus, if a four year old wants to play baseball with an Erdkinder group, the rules are immediately adjusted to accommodate the younger CHILD.  For example, the pitcher moves closer and aims at the bat, “toe-to-toe” steps are taken to retrieve the hit, first base constitutes a home run, etc.  CHILDREN learn to accommodate the different skills/abilities of others placing cooperation before competition. The preparation of food in the Home Economics Program is often a good format for encouraging cooperation and helping CHILDREN recognize that a great disparity in age, size, and ability are great assets in building a successful community or accomplishing a great feat.  In the planning stage, Preprimary are often given the washing of fruit, cutting up vegetables, pouring juice, etc.  If a kettle of potatoes needs to be drained, an Upper Erdkinder STUDENT or an adult needs to be consulted.  Compliments on lunch at tables is thus cross-class, cross-age, cross-ability and the cooperative spirit is encouraged.