Age-Specific Curriculum: What It Really Means
The term “age-specific” is used very often in education and healthcare. It has a very definite meaning and is used to describe things that are prepared specifically for the age of the child it is targeting.
However, this term is often used more loosely, especially in the martial arts world, when referring to “age-specific classes.”
Many martial arts schools define their “age-specific” classes as children being divided up into classes by their age. And while this is very important, the actual curriculum being taught and the way it is taught is the same across the board. That is like teaching math the same way to a 5-year-old as you do to a 10-year-old. Doing this creates frustration for the student and the teacher.
Anything we teach should be done according to the child’s age and their stage of development.
To alleviate the dissatisfaction in children’s martial arts classes, the SKILLZ program was developed after years of research in the areas of child development, neuroscience, and psychology. American Family Martial Arts began using the SKILLZ program for it’s 3-6 year old program in 2014. Immediate results were noticed!
“Before we implemented SKILLZ in 2014, we had our 4, 5 & 6 year olds all in one class,” says Master Instructor Michael Tullier. “Once we began using SKILLZ and followed their age recommendations, everyone stopped crying. The kids and the instructors!”
The result, a child development course that uses martial arts as a vehicle for teaching. It is designed specifically for certain age groups based on the scientific facts that children of different ages have different motor skills and levels of intelligence. Intelligence in this sense is their general knowledge or educational level. Therefore, providing them with a curriculum that applies this information is ground-breaking.
The first step that SKILLZ took in the implementation of this was to separate classes by age group.
Once the research was complete, it was found that the children needed to be divided up in the following way: 3-4-year-olds, 5-6-year-olds, 7-9-year-olds, and 10-14-year-olds. These SKILLZ levels are broken down this way so that each age group can receive the best training based on their current abilities as well as areas they need to improve on. At American Family Martial Arts our programs are Tiny Tigers (ages 3-4); Little Ninjas (ages 5 -6); Core (ages 7-9); Extreme (ages 10-14) and our Traditional Program which includes teenagers and adults.
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The second step that was taken was to create a curriculum that teaches martial arts at a level that is challenging yet attainable for each age group. This was possible because a specific program was created for each level. In each of these levels, a set of 8 skills were formed that would challenge that particular age group while also building on the foundation that they already had. One of the challenges in education of any kind, is not making material so hard that that students are frustrated nor so easy they become bored.
Teaching martial arts within these levels helps children learn martial arts but at a level that makes goals attainable for them.
The last piece that was important in the development of the SKILLZ program was for the instructors to be trained to understand the stages of development so that they know what to expect and what not to expect from each age level.
In addition to this, the instructors are trained on the 8 Teaching SKILLZ and the 10 Laws of Instruction so that each student is receiving individual attention according to their specific needs as well as completing goals that were set for each age group.
A children’s martial arts program should be fun and engaging for both the student and the instructor. Creating classes that are truly age-specific is key in making this happen. When this takes place, the martial arts class becomes more of a child development course, which will provide more benefits to the child and will help them learn and retain the actual martial arts material better. When classes are developed this way, they become more powerful, fun, and easier than ever.
To learn more about the powerful Skillz childhood development program at American Family Martial Arts that uses martial arts as the vehicle for growth, or to get your child started, click the button below:
Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology and has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.