Multi-Aged Friendship Groups
Last year, I read a book about homeschooling by Ainsley Arment entitled Call of the wild and free.
No, this isn’t a post about homeschooling. These are just some thoughts that came to mind after reflecting on the book. Why was I reading a book about homeschooling? Well, I have no children nor any burning desire to have children in the near future so that is in fact, an excellent question! And one that I don’t know the answer to. Let’s just say that I read lots of random things.😅
Despite the fact that it had no direct relevance to my life, I found it extremely interesting. Several discussion points were raised and I’d like to focus on one today.
An issue with the modern-day school system
The author pointed out a problem with the modern-day school system that I had never really thought about. She criticised the way students are separated by age, into different grades. The effect is that:
The majority of learning happens in classrooms filled with same-aged peers
Children (mainly) stick with these familiar groups at playtime
As they grow into adulthood, the majority of their friends end up being around the same age.
The system was designed in this way to make it easier to accommodate large volumes of students. This makes a lot of sense to me. It's the logical solution; just file them into classrooms by age to make everything more organised. Any other arrangement seems impossible. A classroom with 3 year olds and 10 year olds learning and playing together sounds like chaos, right? How could a teacher possibly manage a multi-aged schoolroom?
Unfortunately, this arrangement causes the students to miss out on some valuable life lessons. Having a heterogenous, multi-aged learning environment has several advantages. Older children learn patience, kindness, leadership skills and tolerance when they interact with younger children. This can be both in a learning environment as well as on the playground. They are also given the opportunity to teach the younger students, which ends up being mutually beneficial.
The younger children learn social skills from the older children. They are given the chance to play and learn in more advanced ways than they would if surrounded by same-aged peers.
Does the same apply to adults?
I thought about this concept for adults as well. The majority of my friends and associates, seem to (mainly) have friends and associates of the same age group. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but wouldn’t life be richer, and more enhanced with multi-aged friend groups?
Personally, I tend to feel more comfortable with my older friends (at least a decade my senior). I feel like we just understand each other more. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t use social media and generally don’t keep up with trends. For this reason, I have several moments in conversations (with friends my age or younger) when I have ABSOLUTELY NO idea what they’re talking about. Even though these situations are mildly uncomfortable for me, I also think it’s a wonderful thing!
I've learned that I do, indeed, need to make some effort to keep up with the times. Not to ‘over-consume’ pop culture and trending topics, but to at least have an idea of what’s going on.
Making new friends
Recently, I’ve really diversified my conversation companions. I’m a telephone volunteer for some elderly folk to combat loneliness for them, and I love it! Most of the people I speak to are in their 90's and boy-oh-boy, I find them soooo interesting! I could listen for hours, they’re so lovely. They’ve lived a relatively long life and accumulated tons of stories; happy, sad, and everything in between. Listening to their experiences is fascinating and they always seem to have so much to tell.
Unfortunately, by virtue of their age, several of their friends would have died and their younger relatives are so ‘busy’ that no one gives them any time. They have so much to say but no one to listen to them.
I've found that having age-diverse friends and associates has made a big difference in my life. It has forced me to think and act in new ways. I've learned patience and empathy, and it gives me several opportunities everyday to show kindness. Just simple conversations foster multigenerational learning and friendships to be forged. I would highly recommend doing some introspection and seeing if there are ways you can diversify the people you speak to regularly. It’s not a must, but I think diversifying can truly be an enriching experience for humans of all ages. ✨