Mixed age groups naturally lend themselves to a different sort of learning experience. On this specific day, the boys had a discussion about what it means to be an only child or the oldest child and how this may impact their participation in the group. This chat, which I was lucky enough to be included in, was instigated by them, without any intervention on my part. They empathised with each other on the role each boy had within his own family, chatted about 'real' moms vs birth parents, and had some pretty incredible insights, which are really not mine to share here.
This sort of group dynamic is what we are working to establish at Small Acres, and once it is in place, it will give each child a tremendous feeling of support and community and a safe place for learning to take place. A mixed age group is such a great community for learning!
All the discussions in and out of the Morning Meetings led to this development of common ground and empathy. This is our aim. We don't want to impose fairness on them by insisting on taking turns, sharing equally or drawing names from a hat. We want them to begin to consider that the needs of every other person are as important as their own needs. In other words, we want them to begin to develop empathy, and not rely on extrinsic, imposed rules, rewards or punishment. It isn't, for example, about taking turns leading the meeting, it is about having regard for each person's right to meet his or her needs within the context of the group. Isn't that democracy? So, it is not important that each person get a turn to lead or read aloud or pick the game, rather it is about, as one five year old said, "Just wanting everyone to be happy".