In our culture, we like to divide people up by age, grade, and season of life. In Sunday school, we have the pre-schoolers, fifth graders, young marrieds, singles, older adults, and almost-Heaven-bound seniors. Is that biblical? Nowhere in Scripture do I see people segregated like that with the exception of pulling out the men of fighting age to go to battle. Instead, God places us in families and compares the church to a family. It was not a Christian who suggested dividing children up in age groups to learn. It was a humanist named Piaget. Now, I am not against groups of people learning the same thing, but I don’t think it helps our children to be segregated with children their own age all the time, or even most of the time. God had a great idea when he designed the all-ages group, the family.
How Does Age-Integrated Learning Affect Your Kids?
When my oldest daughter hit high school, she studied off by herself, learning independently. While the rest of us read books aloud together or enjoyed hands-on projects, Katie Beth was alone with her books. Now, don’t get me wrong—her classes were interesting and intellectual, but all her learning was alone, separated from the family. I made a big mistake. She felt isolated while the rest of the family was enjoying life together.
For the next four children, though they did some classes independently, we made sure that we had at least one or two classes where we learned together as a family. We found that history was great for this. The whole family could read a novel aloud together, work on a craft, fill in outline maps, work on a timeline, bake an historical dish, or watch an historical movie. The older kids could delve deeper into the time period we were studying. This kind of learning kept us unified as a family.
Now, don’t get me wrong, fifth graders can’t study chemistry or geometry with your high schoolers, but I bet they would love to be part of the chemistry labs. Teens in the same family can take most classes together.
OK, but How Do You Do It?
Whenever I have two children in high school at the same time, I have them take as many classes together as will work. High schoolers can learn together. Most classes don’t need to be taken in a specific order, except for math classes and you do need to finish algebra before tackling chemistry.
Here is an example:
Year 1: Everyone can take earth science, American history, American literature and research, Spanish I, and tennis together, with each sibling doing their own math course.
Year 2: You could do biology, world history, western literature, Spanish II, formal logic, and bowling together.
What about age-integrated learning outside of home? Will it work in a co-op setting? Our homeschool co-op includes toddlers all the way to high school seniors. We make sure to have one or two classes that are completely age-integrated. Other classes are comprised of several grade levels together. Last year we all studied American History together. I lectured with powerpoints and then we had activities with music, art, and crafts all together. This year, we are divided up into three groups for studying: younger, older, and oldest. Each group reads a different textbook, but we aligned the chapters so that we learn about the same body system every week. Human Anatomy Lab is age-integrated. We do experiments, play games, and create models of body parts together. The groups work well together with older teens helping the younger children in a natural way.
When I watch children learning together in age-integrated groups, I see the older children helping and explaining things to younger children. I see younger children look up to the more mature kids as heroes. Best of all, I watch friendships form that are not bound by age.
Now it’s your turn! Share with us ways you integrate your kids’ learning. Leave a comment below!
Meredith Curtis, pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of five amazing children, has been married to her college sweetheart for 30 years. She loves Jesus, leads worship, homeschools, writes, mentors ladies, and sometimes even cooks dinner! She is the author of Joyful and Successful Homeschooling, Unlocking the Mysteries of Homeschooling High School (with Laura Nolette), Beauty Secrets (with Sarah Jeffords), and several high school classes. Meredith wants to encourage homeschooling families to be joyful and successful in their homeschool adventures, all the way to high school graduation.