Structuring Youth Aikido Programs
For the past several years our dojo has maintained a fairly large youth program. We have approximately 30 students, and offered 5 classes per week: two for ages 6-10; two for ages 11-16; and one all-ages class.
Unfortunately, several of our instructors unexpectedly resigned recently. Our short-term solution was to cancel one class, and make all classes open to all ages. This is working, but only because attendance is typically low during the summer months. We are unsure how to restructure the program when the school year resumes and attendance increases.
We've researched the programs offered at other dojos for ideas, and see that many dojos offer youth classes for students aged 6 (some times younger) to 12, and that older students practice with the adults. This one option under consideration for our dojo, but not a particularly popular one. Instructors and students of all ages liked having pre-teen and teen classes.
We currently move teens into the adult program in a fairly arbitrary manner: we consider age, rank, and maturity, but there are no predefined criteria. We've had students as young as 13 practicing with the adults, and students as old as 17 practicing with the teens.
How do others out there structure their youth programs? At what age do your teenage students begin practicing with the adults? I'd greatly appreciate some comments and insights.
Thanks in advance.