When our team founded Guidepost Montessori, we set out to elevate early education by taking a pedagogically informed approach to child development. In particular, we wanted communities everywhere to have access to Maria Montessori’s 150-year-old methodology, which we believe was designed to support the entire scope of each individual child’s developmental needs.
As we have pursued our mission and expanded our reach to thousands of families, we’ve seen countless examples of the ways in which Montessori serves the varied, uniquely singular needs of each individual child. One of the places this has been most evident is in the way that Montessori supports the development of twins and multiples.
More families than ever feature same-aged siblings. Recent decades have seen a sharp increase in the number of families with twins, triplets, multiples. Not surprisingly, as this demographic has grown, there has been a proliferation of books, podcasts, parenting groups, tools, and resources to help parents navigate their situations. From the ubiquity of the double stroller to the increasingly formal school placement protocol, which has even drawn legislative efforts, significant thought is going into the best ways to serve same-aged siblings.
And there is a lot to think about. Both the immense value and the practical challenges of sibling dynamics are more pronounced when siblings share the same birth date. Parents must work hard to personalize attention, and children must learn faster to accommodate other demands on parental attention. At the same time, there are more opportunities to learn through practice, to engage in cooperative behavior, and to navigate rivalries and jealousies. The process of identity formation is heightened—it is both more complex and yet richer for being so.
From the perspective of education, same-aged siblings raise interesting pedagogical questions. What are the fundamental needs of twins and multiples at different points of development? What, if any, unique accommodations are helpful? What approach is best suited to families with same-aged siblings?
We believe that the Montessori approach is ideal for same-aged siblings. Montessori pedagogy is optimized for self-direction and self-creation, and as such, it is the pedagogical environment that meets the fundamental needs of twins and multiples. Further, it does so in a way that is inherent in the core approach itself, without much need for special accommodations. This is evident in the way Montessori has long been a favored approach for siblings of different ages. Where one would typically see challenges like rivalries, dominant personalities, or undifferentiated adult assumptions between siblings close in age, these challenges regularly disappear in a Montessori environment.
In a Montessori classroom, every child moves at her own pace. Comparative performance is wholly de-emphasized, and children do not constantly have their attention drawn to stack-ranked outcomes. Montessori classrooms also allow for varied roles—learner, leader, host, observer—in an ever-shifting mix of small group cohorts.
These dynamic communal experiences are supported by each child’s direct, highly personalized relationship with her guide (educator), whose core mandate is to observe and serve every individual child in all her uniqueness. Each sibling receives individualized lessons based on her actual, observed need; each experiences the same opportunity to adapt regularly, to embrace the ebb and flow of evolving communities, and to allow the developing self to experiment, observe, and learn through practice.
In Montessori school programs, this level of support exists whether parents choose to place their siblings in the same classroom or in different classrooms. In either scenario, each child’s self-creation and personal agency remain at the center of the experience. Montessori pedagogy in its basic design is inherently the optimal environment for siblings.
Montessori educators feel a deep, urgent need to treat children as whole, capable individuals. This essence of the Montessori approach is generally as relevant as ever, as we are still culturally up against outdated, one-size-fits-all barriers in mainstream education. Arguably, it is even more crucial for twins and multiples who, from the moment of birth, face additional hurdles in not only forming identities distinct from their mother or father, but also from one another.
If you are a parent of two or more children of the same age, learn more about the Montessori method as it applies to parenting and education, visit a Montessori school, and offer each of your children the opportunity to become fully their own irreplaceably unique best selves.
Guidepost Montessori is a a global network of schools serving 3,500+ families with early education programs, including Emergency Care for Essential Workers (ECEW) during the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for more free content? Download Guidepost Parent from the App Store for personalized Montessori inspiration and activities.