Wondering what a split-grade means for your child?

Some readers may find it disturbing that when Gina Brak’s son, Jake, was entering grade three, she registered him in a combined senior kindergarten to grade-three class at the local public school. Voluntarily. The Belleville, Ont., mom figured it would boost Jake’s teamwork skills and independence if he shared a teacher with 26 other kids who’d celebrated anywhere from five to nine birthdays. “When I tell other parents about his class, they’re horrified,” she says. “They say, ‘How can he learn anything in there?!’”

But children in split-grade classes (also called combined or blended classrooms) do learn. And due to limited budgets and fluctuating enrolments, you’ll find these classrooms across the country. Research shows that compared to children in straight-grade classes, children in split-grades make the same gains academically — and do even better socially. Yet, some of us still regard them with the same enthusiasm as we do head lice.

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