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 "A Sonoma County Private School..." 
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Post "A Sonoma County Private School..."
A Sonoma County Private School Speaks Out For the Multiage Movement
by: Alex Paige

Star Valley Academy, a small progressive private school in Sonoma County, California is embarking on an eight year study investigating the development and practice of multiage schools. The school is near Sonoma State University and is hoping to attract on-going observations from faculty and students pursuing a career in education. The study will focus on seven children beginning their educational journey and will follow their progress until graduation.

The multiage classroom is often confused with a multi-grade class. Multiage classrooms socially and academically integrate children of different ages and grades into one flexible group. Instruction is tailored for different stages of learning as seen in Montessori or Progressive schools. These particular philosophies have realized the advantages of the multiage learning environment for decades.

Traditional multi-graded classrooms separate the students by their grade levels and supply curriculum accordingly within the shared environment. Multi-graded classrooms are usually temporary structures put into place due to budget constraints or class size reductions.

Schools that adopt the multiage philosophy do so because they firmly believe it is the most respectful and natural way to educate young minds. Students are free to progress at their own rate and are not limited by grade level only curriculum. The entire student community is able to realize the full experience of being a child until it is time to leave.

Multiage classrooms are designed to inspire and fulfill the curiosity of children. There is an invisible welcome mat that attracts many to enter. The children can identify with the warm family atmosphere that often resembles home-life. The dedicated teacher utilizes resources, activities and projects to meet, enrich and expand the needs, interests and learning style of each student. It is an exceptional sight to see students of different ages and abilities working together in harmony.

There seems to be fewer discipline problems in a multiage setting. The students must learn to get along, share ideas and communicate. The group works together to solve issues as they arise. Everyone has a voice and an opinion. There is less anxiety and fear. The children are busy, productive and happy.

The educational plan revolves around the natural progression of each child. The student comes first. A child that is learning in an accepting, nurturing environment will readily embrace challenge at the appropriate time. The curriculum is carefully prepared to provide opportunities for students to develop internal motivation for life-long learning. Multiage educators seek to make the process of education relevant to the child�s world.

Students who attend multiage classes have a broader and more natural social experience than their single-age class counterparts. Their environment reflects real life. The younger children are fascinated by the knowledge and artistic talent of their older schoolmates. The more experienced students become mentors and help guide the young. They are equally impressed by the intelligence and creativity of the beginners.

It is a misconception that children will not learn what they need to know unless herded together with same age classmates. The reality is that children are beautifully created to excel. The timetable of processing information will be different for each child. All children deserve the right to succeed and the freedom to do so. The multiage environment offers numerous advantages that a single grade classroom cannot achieve. The academy hopes to bring forth a better understanding of this important philosophy so it can eventually be adopted by all schools as the most humane way to educate children.

If you are currently teaching in a multiage classroom, Star Valley Academy would like to hear about your experiences. You may contact them directly through their website.

About The Author
Alex Paige is a child advocate currently working on a series of children’s books exploring educational freedom. The author currently is visiting Sonoma County Private Schools and Sonoma County Theatre Programs for children.

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[Note: Due to a size limitation, the title, above, had to be abbreviated. Apologies to the author and - Admin]
This article was posted by permission.

Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:57 am
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