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Our Kids School Reviews



Private school reviews

We offer Our Take on private schools from across Canada, reviewing their curricula, programs, facilities and overall reputation. Below, you'll find a wide range of private education options, including boarding schools, Montessori, special needs schools and all other types of schools from across Canada. These reviews are intended as another important guide to help you learn the best options for your child.

School Name

  • The Abelard School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Historically, a liberal arts curriculum comprised a course of study required by citizens in order to take an active part in civic life. It included not just what a person would need to know, but how they would need to be, including an understanding that the cultivation of intellect is a worthy goal unto itself. The Abelard School was created to reflect those kinds of goals. In 1997, a group of seasoned teachers founded the school in order to deliver the basics of a secondary education—the knowledge and the skills required to move on to university life—as well as to impart a love of learning and to encourage creative engagement across the academic spectrum. Those ideals, and indeed those teachers, remain today. The school is small—there is a total enrolment of just 50—and whatever it may lack in terms of a breadth of programming it gains in depth and individual attention.  

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  • Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School   (Kelowna, British Columbia)

    The campus is pretty much universally described as stunning, and that’s because, frankly, it is. The school was established in 2006, and the entire infrastructure is new, and was designed with the Aberdeen Hall program in mind. And, um, it’s stunning. This in the way that only BC schools can be: there’s a view, the weather, and the community. The campus is on a 40-acre parcel of BC’s finest, though is also next-door to UBC’s Okanagan campus. Really, everywhere you look you find another strength. If you were to build a school from scratch, this is what you’d want it to be. The ideal student is one who is looking for a challenging yet supportive school environment. 

     

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  • Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    The PACE program was developed with gifted students in mind, based in an understanding of what they share—overall ability—as well as what they don't, such as specific talents, interests, and curiosities. The term of art is differentiated programming, though it's a term that can easily lend itself to misunderstanding. It doesn't mean that different students proceed through the curricula at different rates or are each given separate tasks based on their individual abilities. Rather, within a differentiated program all students proceed at the same pace through the material, while instructors provide multiple entry points that address the needs of individual students within the class. The ideal student is one who has been identified as gifted, and who requires challenge in order to succeed in academic work.  

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  • Alexander von Humboldt German International School   (Baie d'Urfé, Montreal, Quebec)

    The program at Alexander von Humboldt is unique in Canada, principally because it admits students for whom either English, French, or German is the language spoken at home. Students need to use those languages not just to interact with the coursework, but also to make themselves understood to their peers, something which creates a particularly rich academic environment. Students arrive speaking different languages, with different life experiences, yet all share the experience of difference, and are faced each day with the social and linguistic challenges of making themselves understood to others. While they learn languages, they also have a more authentic experience of language than students have in the more typical immersion programs found in Canada. Likewise, the atmosphere is particularly conducive to the development social competencies, including empathy and cooperation, as well as an authentic global perspective through which the core curriculum is taught. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, diverse academic and social environment.  

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  • Alive Montessori & Private School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Julia Simon founded Alive Montessori in 2001, and she remains very much the head and hands of the school today. She established the school as a means of delivering the Montessori principles, prime among them being the provision of a family-like atmosphere in which to learn. Families who enroll here are drawn to the small size of the school, allowing students to gain a heightened sense of their place within the life of the school. Instruction is personal, with pacing cues taken from the individual students, and a close attention to the talents, perspectives, and interests that they bring with them to the school each day. Students are encouraged to have a voice, and to use it in their daily lives. Numeracy and literacy are important, though passion is, too, something that Simon has rightly built the Alive program around.    

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  • Appleby College   (Oakville, Ontario)


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    While boarding isn't as much of a focus as it once was—the day students now outnumber the boarders, as they have done for some time—Appleby's stance is nevertheless predicated on the benefits that boarding can afford: independence, self-discipline, and responsibility. The school prides itself on a reputation for academic innovation, one that it has rightly earned. The program is designed to prepare students for the world that they will move into after graduation, and indeed it is a leader in that regard. Diversity is seen as a core strength, and the school has instituted a range of programs intended maintain a diverse academic, cultural, and economic student population. The ideal student is one who is forthright, active, confident, and self-directed.  

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  • Army and Navy Academy   (Carlsbad, California)

    Army and Navy Academy is a military academy cast in the mold of like schools throughout the US, including West Point. They have a long history, to be sure, and they represent a rich educational tradition, one that Army and Navy is rightly very proud to take part within. Founded in 1910, students are attracted to Army and Navy by those traditions, and throughout their time at the school they remain cognizant of their place within something much larger than themselves. The life of the school is structured and highly organized and that, too, is a primary draw. The ideal student is one who thrives within a very organized community, one with clear expectations and equally clear outcomes. Character and ethical leadership are the key foci of the program, whether or not students are looking forward to a career in the military.  

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  • Arrowsmith School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Arrowsmith School was founded in 1980 by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young to provide support for struggling learners. The school has been an object of interest ever since, due to the concept that Arrowsmith-Young built her program around. "If we look at a lot of special education programs, the majority assume the learner is fixed," she said. "What my program is saying is that we can change the learner so they can learn." While there are many things that set the school apart, that sense of what is possible, is prime among them. The Arrowsmith School works closely with students to develop their strengths, address weaknesses, and to build academic, social, and vocational competence. That the method works may be evidence of neuroplasticity, and science may yet underscore that. In the meantime, daring to dream, as well as creating a supportive, caring, understanding environment, can itself provide what many students need in order to succeed. It certainly couldn't hurt.  

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  • Arrowsmith School Peterborough   (Peterborough, Ontario)

    The Arrowsmith School was founded in 1980 by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young to provide support for struggling learners. The school has been an object of interest ever since, due to the concept that Arrowsmith-Young built her program around. "If we look at a lot of special education programs, the majority assume the learner is fixed," she said. "What my program is saying is that we can change the learner so they can learn." While there are many things that set the school apart, that sense of what is possible, is prime among them. The Arrowsmith School works closely with students to develop their strengths, address weaknesses, and to build academic, social, and vocational competence. That the method works may be evidence of neuroplasticity, and science may yet underscore that. In the meantime, daring to dream, as well as creating a supportive, caring, understanding environment, can itself provide what many students need in order to succeed. It certainly couldn't hurt.  

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  • Ashbury College   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Ashbury celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016, making it one of the oldest schools in the nation. Of that class, it’s also one of the larger schools, with an annual enrollment in the 800 range. There are benefits to size, and Ashbury displays them, with a wealth of extra-curricular activities and co-curricular programs. The school was founded by a graduate of Oxford, Canon George Penrose Woollcombe, who cast the school within the academic tradition that Oxford was, and is, an example of. That said, times change, and certainly Ashbury did as well. The school was an early adopter of global education, most obviously with the addition of the IB program in 1976. Girls were enrolled in 1982, and while the boys still marginally outnumber the girls, the school continues to move toward gender parity. The list of alumni is impressive, including a prime minister, John Turner, and a Nobel laureate, Douglass North. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and who can function well in a very active curricular and extracurricular environments.

     

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  • Athol Murray College of Notre Dame   (Wilcox, Saskatchewan)

    The school began its life in 1920 as a convent school, though came into its own—and gained the present name—after Father Athol Murray arrived in 1927. Murray is one those great Canadians that we all should know more about. Charity was a guiding principle, and he believed that quality education was to be offered to all, if they wanted it, whether they could pay for it or not. Indeed, many students he admitted couldn’t, and he took them anyway. It was on that basis that he was invested into the Order of Canada.
     
    Still, Murray is more remembered today due to his influence in regional and professional hockey. He once said, “I love God, Canada and hockey—not always in that order.” He built the Notre Dame Hounds into a force, and in time the program attracted students for that reason, many of who went on to professional careers. Olympic medalist Delaney Collins is an alum, as is Wendell Clark and of course many others. That said, there is far more to the school than hockey. The program is based in the Catholic tradition, and attention to values is a particular attraction, both for students who share that tradition as well as those who don’t. Character is important, too, and while we tend to look first at the hockey program, the list of notable alumni would be impressive even without the NHL players. The ideal student is one looking for a strong foundation for their careers at university and beyond.  

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  • Avante School   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    The Avante school was founded in 2009 in the understanding that some students aren’t well served within a traditional or typical academic environment. The school is small, which is a foundation for the program’s strengths. Instruction is student led, responsive to their specific needs and pacing as they move through the curriculum. It’s also cross-curricular in ways that most schools simply don’t have the opportunity to be, again this being a function of size. Field trips, guest speakers, group work—all find a place within the delivery of the curriculum. It’s not for everyone, but for the students that enroll, the experience of working closely in a responsive, peer-based environment can be transformative.  

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  • Banbury Crossroads School   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Diane Swiatek founded Banbury Crossroads in 1980, and she remains the head of the school today. She has said that “parenting and mentoring children is a matter of choosing philosophy and principles, and acting so as to live out those principles.” Indeed, since its inception, Banbury has been an expression of that ideal. The academics are demonstrably strong, though the attention to values, including responsibility and character development, is a particular draw for the families that enroll here. So too is an academic approach founded in the curiosity and the interests that students bring with them to the classroom. We learn best when we learn for ourselves, rather than for external reward, and the Banbury environment has been created with that in mind.   

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  • Bannockburn   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Bannockburn is founded in Montessori, and hews close to the spirit of the method and its fundamental principles. There is an abiding attention to creating a supportive, student-centric environment, one that can stimulate and build on children’s curiosity. That said, there are a few welcome adaptations as well, such as lower teacher/student ratio that one might expect to see within a Montessori classroom. The school is very much an expression of the surrounding community—it was begun in 1993 by local parents and educators, and retains very close ties to the surrounding community today. The life of the school is informed by an active and robust parents’ association, with meetings held on the first Monday of each month. Given the location of the school, the fact that it sits on a five-acre property is an added plus, one that both adds to the atmosphere of the school, and allows for the programming, as appropriate, to spread beyond the interior instructional spaces. So, yes, the school has a strong Montessori program, though there is also a clear Bannockburn identity, one that nicely reflects the community that it serves.     

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  • Bayview Glen - Whole Child. Whole Life. Whole World.   (Toronto, Ontario)

    It's a big world out there, with lots of big ideas in it, and Bayview Glen prides itself on offering students an introduction to all its breadth and complexity. The school is part of the Round Square network of schools, which reflects that ambition; the program includes cross-curricular links to concepts of community, self-reliance, and entrepreneurialism. For some students, it can be a lot, perhaps especially for those within the younger grades—the school admits students from preschool through to grade 12. A broad range of curricular and extracurricular activities back up the school's promise to deliver the world: Mandarin classes, a model United Nations program, as well as a range of arts and athletics. While learner support is provided, the ideal student is one who is able to thrive in an intellectually diverse, academically challenging environment.  

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  • The Bishop Strachan School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Bishop Strachan has a long and impressive history of excellence, and has consistently provided leadership in education and beyond. The ideal BSS student is one who has demonstrated an ability to direct their learning, and who will make demands of faculty even before the faculty makes demands of them. While there is a strong arts program, the school emphasizes STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—in part because women remain underrepresented in those professions. It's true that not all students will go on to a career in science or leadership, though the school environment at Bishop Strachan reflects the skills and the personality of the kind of girl who will. For students who tend to hang back a bit—or who don't thrive on the kind of competition that a brisk academic culture can engender—the BSS environment can risk feeling overwhelming.  

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  • Bishop's College School   (Sherbrooke, Quebec)

    Bishop's was founded in 1836, becoming co-ed in 1972 through an amalgamation with King's Hall Compton. That long history is apparent in the traditions that remain at the school, including Chapel every morning (now non-denominational) the social organization of the school into houses, and a thriving cadet corps. More prosaically, the names of the 128 alumni who gave their lives in the WWI, WWII, and the Korean War are read out each Remembrance Day during a school-wide assembly. Throughout its life, Bishop's remained a redoubt, grounded in a set of clear values and traditions, while the tides of North American history rose and fell all around it, something that continues today. We live in noisy world, and the ideal student is one who can benefit from a bit of conceptual and geographic distance from it. It's not about isolation, but about having the freedom and the opportunity to direct attention rather than being lead by distraction. The school has been a member of Round Square since 1986, something which provides a foundation for the diversity of the student population, one that includes students from a dozen countries despite an annual enrollment of just 220 students.  

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  • Blyth Academy Barrie   (Barrie, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

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  • Blyth Academy Burlington   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

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  • Blyth Academy Downsview Park   (North York, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Lawrence Park   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

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  • Blyth Academy London   (London, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Mississauga   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Online School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Ottawa   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Thornhill   (Thornhill, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Waterloo   (Kitchener, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Whitby   (Whitby, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

    View school profile.

  • Blyth Academy Yorkville   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Whereas some schools are just that, schools, Blyth represents a range of programs at a range of locations. It was founded by Sam Blyth in 1977, and quickly established itself as a leader in global education with the creation of a Canadian high school in France, as well as an accredited program at Oxford University. Those global education programs provided a unique addition to the Canadian educational landscape.

    With the creation of the first brick-and-mortar school here at home in 2002, Blyth applied the same concept to domestic education. In the intervening decades, the program has grown exponentially, now including 11 campuses which, together, represent the largest single private school student population in Canada. Still, the program continued to grow, today including a campus in Washington DC. A majority host summer programs, night and weekend classes, intended to provide challenge or support for students of the school, or those interested only in specific courses. And on it goes … there are further international programs, year-long study abroad program under the Blyth Global High School banner, as well as online/distance course offerings. There are even March break courses, both here and abroad.

    Again, it's a lot, with a range of programs to support a wide range of students and academic goals. Again, for anyone who thinks of school in a traditional way—a building with classes—Blyth can be a lot to get your head around. Given the historical strength of the programs, however, it's very much worth the effort.  

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  • Bond Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Begun in 1978, Bond has grown to include a wealth of programs, including those beyond the prospectus of the academy. Because of the association with them, the Academy is proximate to a full range of physical resources and a rich athletics program. Boarding supports international students, including a language centre offering ESL classes and tutorial in addition to core curriculum, as well as provisions for foreign credit equivalency. With AP courses and independent study options, the ideal student is one who is preparing for university enrollment.  

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  • Braemar House School   (Brantford, Ontario)

    Breamar House was founded in 1996 by a group of parents looking for a school for their children centred around their shared values and beliefs. That’s great of course, as are the specific values that they had in mind: citizenship, stewardship, and community. When we think of education, we think of academics, though those initial families were aware that academics, while important, are only one part of the bigger picture. The school has grown and formalized since then, as with the creation of the Citizenship Program in 2005, the Roots of Empathy, and the Virtues Project to provide a foundation for character building initiatives within the delivery of the core curriculum. There is of course an abiding attention to delivering a strong academic program—there has been a significant attention to developing 21st century literacies—though it’s the attention to values that remains, rightly, an important draw. The ideal student is one operating at the top of his or her peer group, able to thrive in a vibrant educational atmosphere.   

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  • Branksome Hall   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Clans and tartans, prefects and polo shirts—the initial gestalt is very traditional. Some of the buildings on campus are heritage buildings, which adds to the luster, though they pre-date the founding of the school. Still, the spirit of the school is strikingly modern. The IB program starts early, as does the view to globalism. Branksome has a sister campus in South Korea, offering a hint of the dedication to an international gaze. Lists of notable alumni don't always reflect the work of the school—princes, for example, appear on those lists no matter what they achieve at school or afterward—though Branksome might prove the exception, in part because of the consistency of the achievement it demonstrates. Arts, letters, philanthropy, and leadership are all well represented in the list of notable alumni, just as they are within the school itself. Branksome Hall sets its sights very high, to be sure, and the ideal student is one who shares the core vision and is able to function in a very diverse, challenging, expansive environment.  

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  • Brentwood College School   (Mill Bay, British Columbia)


    Read the full feature review

    Brentwood was the first all-boys' boarding school in Canada to begin admitting girls, something that remains emblematic of the school's forward-looking approach. In the 1990s, it became one of the first schools in the country to make a substantial commitment to sustainable energy, building a performing arts centre that includes a geothermal loop for heating and cooling. The new dining hall and service centre, completed in 2010, continues that commitment, also providing an example to the student population. Arts and athletics are emphasized—the school is distinguished by a rowing program that has produced a long list of olympians—though academics remain the central focus of the Brentwood program. The ideal student is one with sights firmly set on university and is inclined to leadership roles in student life and beyond.  

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  • Brighton School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Brighton program begins from the understanding that not all students are able to adapt themselves to the curriculum; rather, in order to reach their potentials, they require an academic environment that adapts itself to them. That can take many forms, and Brighton offers the full range, from small, student-centred groups, to a balanced daily schedule, to a staff with the tools and supports—and the time—to really work individually with each of the students. There are lots of challenges out there, and Brighton has a history of helping their students meet all of them, no matter what form they might take. The service programs, spirit days, and extracurricular programs all extend and enhance the strength of the core program.  

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  • Brookes Shawnigan Lake   (Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia)

    For some students, life at the Brookes Shawnigan Lake could risk feeling like drinking from a fire hose. There is a lot going on. Learning is collaborative, project based, and rigorous. The campus reaches out the world, including virtual classrooms that link up with those at sister schools in Cambridge UK, Seoul Korea, and Silicon Valley California. The school’s vision is as broad as its reach, intending to produce leaders who will not only engage with the world, but seek a role in shaping it. While instruction is supportive and attentive, the ideal student is one prepared and willing to meet the demands that will be placed upon her. It’s perhaps not for everyone, but for the right student, the school can provide all of the social and intellectual activity that they crave.  

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  • Buffalo Seminary   (Buffalo, New York)

    SEM was founded in 1851 as The Buffalo Female Academy, and it’s had an impressive history ever since. Times have changed of course, and so has the school, yet the initial intent for the school remains pretty much what it was at the beginning: to provide an exceptional education for young women, preparing them for productive roles in academics, society, and life. The name “seminary” can be misleading, in that the school doesn’t actually prepare students for ordination. Some of the traditions of the school reflect those of the Christian church—the school gathers each day in chapel, where they sing “Jerusalem,” the school’s anthem—though the daily life of the school is secular, reflective and supportive of the diversity within the student body. The location and the buildings of the campus are a strength, and the programming of the school rightly capitalizes on it. The long-held traditions of the school provide a unique and very welcome sense of place, as does the dedication to creative engagement between students, both in and out of the classroom. The ideal student is one preparing for post-secondary education, and who will thrive in a very active academic environment.   

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  • Calgary French & International School   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Language is a window onto the world, and CFIS is a school that has designed its program to make the most of that benefit. Yes, being bilingual in the Canadian marketplace is a benefit, though even beyond that, language provides a lens through which a student can learn about her place within her community and the wider world. Not all immersion programs are created the same—it’s not just about instruction, but also about how languages are used to build out the programming and the life of the school, including the values that it seeks to express. At CFIS it functions very much in that way, providing a foundation for the entire curriculum, something that it’s been doing for decades, beginning even before the immersion programs within the public system that Canadians, since, have become familiar with. The size of the school allows for a very full offering of extracurriculars, including programs, such as international travel, that extend the lessons undertake within the school walls.  

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  • Canadian International Hockey Academy   (Rockland, Ontario)

    The CIH program is about pursuing academic excellence as well as athletic excellence. Though it’s also more than that. Yes, some students will attend in order to gain intensive coaching and competition with an eye to a career in professional hockey. That said, not all will, and likewise, not all intend to. For any student, participation within an environment that reflects their passions and interests, and populated by like-minded peers, can be transformative. For all students who enroll at CIH, that’s exactly what the school offers. Classes are intensive, though the instructional day is organized in sympathy with coaching and competition. Which means that the students never miss a class to attend a game, nor do they have to rush between school and the arena. It’s also an environment in which that passion is understood and shared. Again, it can be transformative, augmenting academic success as much it does success on the ice. Some students may to on to become pros, though the sense of participation and belonging, as well as the intensive athletics, can be—and often is—a springboard to success in other fields as well.  

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  • Caribbean International Academy -St. Maarten   (Cupecoy, St. Maarten)

    Suffice it to say, CIA is exceptionally unique. Most obviously, it’s a boarding school in St. Maarten that offers the Ontario high school graduation diploma. In that regard, it’s the only one of its kind. That said, it’s also a very small, very student-oriented school. The experience is exceptionally personal, in a setting that is exceptionally international. All of the benefits of boarding apply, though the school offers a view of globalism that, too, is unequalled. It isn’t for everyone, to be sure, but for some students, it can provide an inspiring, expansive academic experience.  

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  • Centennial Academy   (Montreal, Quebec)

    While there is no formal link, Centennial is very much in the tradition of the Gow School in New York State. Founded in the 1920s, Gow pioneered a concept that, thankfully, is more common today than it was all those years ago: that not all learners are created equally, and that intelligence and an ability to succeed in school are two very different things. That understanding alone accounts for much of the value that Centennial can offer. The typical student arrives after struggling within a traditional academic setting. Most often, that struggle is a result of linguistic disruption—dyslexia, dysgraphia—or executive functioning issues, as common in children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders. For them, the approach taken at the school can feel like a breath of fresh air. Instruction is empathetic, using strategies appropriate to the students' unique needs. An environment in which students find themselves as part of a majority, rather than an academic or social minority, can also create unique opportunities for the development of a positive self concept than might previously been available to them.  

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  • Central Montessori Schools - Sheppard Campus   (North York, Ontario)

    Since it was founded in 1995, CMS has grown to include five locations in the GTA. The program is founded on the core ideals that Maria Montessori promoted in her work, those of respect, community, purposeful engagement, and self-directed learning. That said, Montessori didn't create her program as a museum piece, but rather as a starting point, and that's a spirit that CMS upholds as well. Dr. Montessori, as has been said, "adjusted and adapted her educational system to better serve children's needs, and well-functioning Montessori classrooms typically share many features reflecting those adjustments." One of which was, of course, a willingness to adjust and adapt. As such, the CMS program includes, as at the Maplehurst location, a computer lab, a library, and a music room. In all, the focus is very clearly on the child, and supporting child development, which is just as it should be.  

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  • Central Montessori Schools - York Mills   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Since it was founded in 1995, CMS has grown to include five locations in the GTA. The program is founded on the core ideals that Maria Montessori promoted in her work, those of respect, community, purposeful engagement, and self-directed learning. That said, Montessori didn't create her program as a museum piece, but rather as a starting point, and that's a spirit that CMS upholds as well. Dr. Montessori, as has been said, "adjusted and adapted her educational system to better serve children's needs, and well-functioning Montessori classrooms typically share many features reflecting those adjustments." One of which was, of course, a willingness to adjust and adapt. As such, the CMS program includes, as at the Maplehurst location, a computer lab, a library, and a music room. In all, the focus is very clearly on the child, and supporting child development, which is just as it should be.  

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  • Chamberlain International School   (Middleboro, Massachusetts)

    Chamberlain offers a lot, to be sure, though it’s perhaps easy to understate the value of an understanding, inclusive environment. Educator Mary MacCracken wrote that “children can’t begin to learn until they feel safe, and they can’t feel safe until they are honestly and completely accepted.” For many if not all of the students that enroll at Chamberlain, that’s huge. The school supports, diagnostically and academically, learners with a wide range of academic and emotional challenges. What they all share, however, is a lived experience of exceptionality—the world can be a hard place, and these children, whether they articulate it or not, know that better than most. At Chamberlain they find a place which addresses their capabilities, is cognizant of their potentials, and where instruction is based in a very close understanding of their specific needs. Many will go on to post-secondary education, though the principle aim is to allow students to grow into a better understanding of themselves, their place in the world, and to build on their personal strengths.  

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  • Children's Garden Nursery School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Since Children’s Garden was established in 1986, there has been a nice consistency of approach and leadership through the directorship of Pauline Foulkes. When she began there were just two students, though enrolment grew quickly to the 100 student mark, where the enrolment remains today. Throughout, Foulkes has maintained a very hands-on, involved role within all aspects of care and instruction. Location and size are important, though the quality of the programming, of course, is too, and there are few instances of nursery schools with as long a record of providing such unwavering service. The school is housed, now as from the start, in the Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury, though the program isn’t affiliated with the church and is non-denominational.  

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  • Chisholm Academy   (Oakville, Ontario)

    Chisholm was created to address the needs of the kinds of learners who are prone to falling through the cracks of a traditional education. Special needs is the term we might use, though the definition used at Chisholm admits a broader understanding than we typically grant, including students from across the entire academic spectrum. What they share is a need for a more structured academic experience. The school is headed by Dr. Howard Bernstein and Dr. Shirley Bryntwick, both clinical psychologists. The ideal student is one who requires more than they are able to get from a traditional academic setting, and who benefits from a very structured, personal, planned approach to their education. A robust interface between parents and the school is encouraged, and close communication is ongoing throughout the academic year.  

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  • City Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    All schools are unique, though that’s particularly true of City Academy. It was founded in 1999 by Sheila Dever, and her pedigree for teaching is simply unequalled. She brought a long experience in the public school sector and within the education faculty at York University. She created the program at City Academy to be intensive and challenging, and it is. Small classes and the four semester format focus student attention in unique ways, while allowing instructors to take cues from the students, adapting to their individual strengths and needs. There really is nothing like it. The ideal student is one intending to proceed to post-secondary education, and is looking to build the personal and academic skills that will be required for success in that context.  

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  • Clanmore Montessori School   (Oakville, Ontario)

    “Let’s talk this out under the magnolia tree,” is the Clanmore version of, “we need to have a talk.” How great is that? Certainly, from the magnolia tree on up, there’s a lot to love here. The Clanmore building, as well as the context it sits within, is gorgeous. The home was built in 1904, and the school bought it in 1998 from decedents of the original owner. Which, frankly, just feels right for some reason. Atmosphere, is an important aspect of Montessori education, and all of the additions and adjustments to the structure have been undertaken with that in mind. It sits on the edge of the Joshua’s Creek Conservation area, and the school rightly makes use of that location within its programming. The curriculum hews to a close reading of Maria Montessori’s intentions, the attention to student-guided instruction prime among them.  

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  • Class Afloat - West Island College International   (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia)

    In the world of unique educational options, Class Afloat takes the prize. It’s exactly what it looks like: students board a tall ship and sail off to see the world. While they do that, they take classes, earning credits toward completion of their high school diploma. Unreal. But, there it is.

    The program was begun in 1984, inspired by that year being designated by the United Nations as International Youth Year. The founder of Montreal’s West Island College, Terry Davies, chose to mark the year and its main themes—development, participation, peace—through an extended sailing trip with students that were already enrolled at WIC. Because of the success of that trip, the Class Afloat program has continued to operate ever since. To date the program has gained 1500 alumni, and has sailed more than 700 000 nautical miles, roughly equivalent to travelling to the moon and back, or four circumnavigations of the globe.

    The ship provides, as you might imagine, a focal point, though it does so in ways that you may not initially think. Living and working aboard a tall ship can be challenging—students need to live in close quarters, and work with their peers in order to achieve certain goals. For some, that experience itself can provide some of the best, and most lasting lessons. It’s not for the faint of heart, and is only for students who choose this option themselves and are keen to make the most of it.

     

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  • Collège François-Delaplace   (Waterville, Quebec)

    Every school offers something unique to itself, and Collège François-Delaplace is a great example of that. It’s the largest girls’ boarding school in Quebec, though that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. It also offers instruction only in French, creating a truly authentic immersive environment for students intending to learn the language. Within that is an overt attention to culture, and the place that language has within the life of a culture. Students arriving at François-Delaplace will find themselves immersed within a specific linguistic context, though they’ll also find themselves immersed in a specific cultural context, that both of the school itself as well as the community beyond its walls. The attention to language and culture is given from a distinctly unique perspective, one that upends what you find elsewhere in North America. For example, the school runs cultural and language exchanges with other areas of the country—in the past the trips have taken students to BC, Alberta, Ontario, in addition to travel within the Eastern Townships (there are opportunities for service and cultural exchanges overseas as well). While it may be somewhat subtle, the foundational belief is that we all have language, we all have culture, and we all express those things in a variety of ways. Collège François-Delaplace teaches through the values of the Anglican Church, something which is a draw for many families, whether or not they are members of the Anglican faith. Academics are strong, though it’s those other things—the all girls’ environment, the attention to language and culture, the global perspective, the values that underwrite the programs—that families also look to the school for. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and seeking a community of shared interest, curiosity, and energy.  

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  • Collège Rivier   (Coaticook, Quebec)

    Collège Rivier is nearly as old as Canada, and it has a history of quietly, consistently offering a quality education. The school was founded in the values of the Catholic faith, and is named after Marie Rivier. The school has grown over the years, perhaps inevitably, though enrollment has been managed to ensure the strength and cohesiveness of the school community. Across the curricular and extra-curricular areas students are challenged to extend themselves a bit, and to reach for more than they might if left to their own devices. The size of the school ensures individual attention, something that Collège Rivier rightly prides itself on. Families look to the school for all of that: experience, support, culture, and values. For those arriving from outside Quebec, the school provides a unique, authentic immersion in the French language and the culture of the region. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and who will thrive within a close-knit community of peers.  

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  • College Prep International   (Montreal, Quebec)

    With more than 25 languages spoken within a student body of just 120, the school certainly comes by its name honestly. The primary language of instruction is English, though many students arrive for whom English is a second language; a majority are international students, though certainly that's not a requirement. The ideal student is one destined for post-secondary education, who will thrive in a linguistically and culturally diverse environment, and who can perceive the unique opportunities and perspective that such an environment can provide.  

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  • Columbia International College   (Hamilton, Ontario)

    While some schools pride themselves on being small, Columbia finds its strength in being large—with a student population in excess of 1800, it is easily the largest boarding school in Canada. What Columbia might lack in intimacy it gains in the ability to provide a wealth of supports and programs that smaller schools simply can't. The school maintains extensive liaison offices, a dedicated guidance staff, and even its own medical clinic. The faculty, through size and experience, is remarkably adept at providing a quality, well-rounded education with an eye to success in postsecondary education. The school provides ESL to students who need it, and liaises directly with universities in Canada and beyond in order to facilitate the transition to postsecondary education. In all, the school excels at doing what it was created to do: to support the university-bound international learner who is living away from home within a culture, and at times a language, that is unfamiliar.  

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  • The Country Day School   (King, Ontario)

    The Country Day School (CDS) began, literally, over a dinner one evening in 1971. The region was in the process of amalgamating schools, which meant that students who had been attending local schools would be bussed to larger, more suburban ones. That didn’t sit well, in part because of the bussing involved, but also because of the sense of community that students had and, presumably, would lose by going to schools further afield. Seven families decided to do something about it, to take things into their own hands, and to build a school that would continue what had been developed in the rural, country schools that their children had been attending. (The name refers to that, as well as to the country day school movement that had been developing in the US since the late 19th century, with a period of renewed growth in the 1960s and 70s.) They didn’t have any experience building a school, but they turned to those who did, including Dick Howard, then head of Upper Canada College. “You’ve got to get a feel for the community,” was Howard’s advice, “who’s in it and how they perceive education.” And, for the next two years, that’s exactly what they did, speaking with families, and building a conceptual outline for what the school could be.
     
    When CDS opened its doors in 1972, it was, in every way, an expression of the community that created it. The school has grown since then—enrollment has grown from 49 in that first year to over 700 today—and the community it sits within has grown and changed, too. Nevertheless, the school remains very much an expression of the families that turn to it. The size of the school allows for a very rich, robust extra-curricular program, and students are gently required to experience all aspects of it. The physical plant of the school has been significantly augmented through a recent and very sizable capital campaign. The core program continues to be underwritten by the values that the founding families intended to express, namely a sense of belonging, empathy, inclusion, and respect. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a vibrant, diverse, student-centred environment.  

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  • Cousteau, The French International School of Vancouver   (North Vancouver, British Columbia)

    When schools describe themselves as international they can mean different things, from recruiting an international student population, to delivering curriculum through a global lens. In the case of Cousteau, however, it’s principally a reference to the curriculum: the school adopts both the BC curriculum as well as that of the French Ministry of Education, in partnership with the AEFE. That’s of interest to French nationals, for example, who intend to return to France at some point. It’s also of interest to families of children who may be moving elsewhere at some point and wish to enroll in another AEFE school. That said, most families have more general reasons for enrolling at Cousteau, including the quality of the immersion program and the focus of the curriculum, one centred on the values of multiculturalism and environmental stewardship. (The name was changed in 2013, from The French International School of Vancouver, in order to highlight formal ecological outcomes added to the school curriculum as well as a partnership with Cousteau Foundation and the Aquarium of Vancouver.)  The ideal student is one operating at the top of his or her peer group, and looking to be challenged within an environment of true peers.  

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  • Crescent School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    One of the chief benefits of a gender specific school is the provision of opportunities for students to resist the stereotypes that they would encounter in co-ed schools. Crescent, of course, addresses the specific needs of boys around learning and development, though that experiential piece is equally important: to maintain an environment in which boy’s attention and curiosity can be actively engaged, and where they can participate in all curricular areas outside of any need to impress others or gain status across gender lines. Crescent begins, as they say, from the understanding that "when you remove girls from the classroom, some remarkable things can happen." And they’re right to. They also have a long tradition of doing just that. The ideal student is one who is academically curious, has broad potential, and could benefit from increased opportunity to express both their curiosity and their potential.  

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  • Crestwood Preparatory College   (Toronto, Ontario)

    There is a rich program of extra-curriculars, though the focus is on academics, including the development of sound study and test-taking skills. The Maximizing Academic Performance Program (MAPP) begins in the lower school, and augments a traditional approach to education, one that is didactic and where assessment is objective. The ideal students are those who have their sights set clearly on success within a university career, are motivated toward that goal, and are seeking to augment or improve their academic prospects.  

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  • Crestwood School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The school was founded in 1980 with an eye to providing a strong, focused academic program for the lower grades. In the intervening decades it has very much kept with the times, including an early adoption of e-learning tools and texts, at times in partnership with national publishers. Student success is gauged through mastery of the course material, and the ideal student is one who is able to thrive within a supportive yet academically challenging environment. In 2001 the program was extended into the upper grades with the creation of the Crestwood Preparatory College.  

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  • Crofton House School   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Crofton House was established in 1898 by two sisters, Miss Jessie Gordon and Miss Mary Gordon. If that doesn’t sound quaint enough, how about this: they started with just four students. In time Emily Carr would teach here. Improbably, Crofton House is also the alma mater to Dolores Claman, the composer of the theme song to Hockey Night in Canada.

    Of course, the school has grown and changed over the years. If it wasn’t a vital aspect of the educational landscape of Vancouver in 1898, it certainly is now. Arts and athletics are strengths, as is an individual attention to each girls’ specific needs. The most important thing that girls leave with, however, is a sense of confidence and capability. Those are the things that the best girls’ schools offer, and Crofton is undeniably one of them. Girls leave with a clear sense of themselves, and an impressive introduction to civic life. The ideal student is a girl who intends to head to university and, in time, to grow into a position of leadership in her community, be it the city, the world, or anything in between.  

     

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  • Dalton School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Dalton is a dual-language school, so it doesn't use the language immersion model that most Canadians are familiar with. Dual immersion programs admit children for whom either instructional language is the language spoken at home, and Dalton has both Spanish and Mandarin programs, with parents enrolling their children in one or the other. They then learn in a school environment that uses both instructional languages--either Mandarin/English or Spanish/English equally. There isn't as much direct language instruction as many might expect, though, given the age of the children, the results can nevertheless be remarkable. Indeed, visiting the school can be, and often is, a striking experience. Most Canadians, truly, have never experienced an academic environment quite like it, with very young children functioning easily, casually in two languages. The school is still quite young, though it's already demonstrating the value of the program. Dalton has a very close, community feel, and parents are welcome to be involved in the life of the school.  

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  • De La Salle College   (Toronto, Ontario)

    De La Salle College is a Lasallian school, part of an association of schools in more than 80 countries worldwide. The schools are affiliated with a Roman Catholic teaching order founded by Saint Jean-Baptist de La Salle in France in 1679. Canonized in 1900, La Salle was later proclaimed by the Vatican as the patron saint of teachers. So, in all, the College has quite a pedigree. It is committed to a Catholic Education, and religious observance is a daily component of student life. The academic program is rigorous, and augmented by an equally rigorous dedication to the development of ethical leadership, self-confidence, and social responsibility. The ideal student is one intending to advance to university.  

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  • Dearcroft Montessori School   (Oakville, Ontario)

    Approaching its 50th anniversary, Dearcroft is one of the older Montessori schools in the country, founded in 1968 by Peter and Barbara Phippen. It also has very consistent history, now being directed by Gordon Phippen, son of the founders. All of that, while not essential to the delivery of a quality Montessori program, nevertheless underscores what parents and students value in the approach, namely a clear sense of community, family, cross-generational interaction, and a sense of tradition. The program hews very closely to Maria Montessori’s model, and also brings the community—both local and beyond—into the classroom. The student body is on the larger end for a dedicated Montessori school, and the benefits of size are apparent in the range of programs offered.  

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  • Delta West Academy   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Delta West was established in 1993 in order to provide families with something different, something new, within Calgary’s educational landscape. First located downtown, the school moved to its current location in 1998 in order to build programming and to accommodate a growing student body. Typically, when schools talk about bringing something new to the table, they often are thinking of all the things that fall under the umbrella of 21st century literacies: facility with technology, collaborative learning, student-driven inquiry, a focus on rhetoric and logic over rote learning. Delta West addresses all those things, though the focus, too, has been to consider the physical aspects of learning—the value of active learning, both within athletic and classroom settings. The classroom furniture is an indication of how the school approaches the learner in that regard; students can choose, for example, movement chairs, standing desks, or more traditional furniture. For many students, that’s a big deal. Movement, even very subtle movement, can help stimulate engagement and keep students on task. Again, that’s just one aspect of the school, but it’s an instructive one; Delta West has a history of working with students to increase engagement with the curriculum and with peers, and therein lies the school’s success. The ideal student is one looking for something different, and who will thrive in a very interactive, diverse, and stimulating environment.  

     

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  • Don Valley Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Don Valley is one of those little gems within the city that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves. It’s a small school, and the size is one of its strengths. Students choose Don Valley because they are looking for something different, something more personal, where they can exercise their talents and abilities in the ways they choose to exercise them. It requires a certain amount of responsibility, of course, though the program rewards those that arrive with it. This isn’t the school for a student looking for a full complement of intramurals, for example, but instead is looking for a respectful, quiet, challenging academic environment peopled by students and faculty that are true peers. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, is operating at the top of his or her peer group, and is able to make the most of a flexible learning environment.  

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  • The Dragon Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Dragon Academy was founded in 2000 to appeal to a very specific kind of learner, one who is intellectually omnivorous, creative, and academically gifted. The school began with just 12 students in its first year, and it remains very close-knit and intimate. Instruction is discussion-based, hands-on, and it makes the most of the wealth of learning resources that are nearby, including the A.G.O., the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, and the ROM. It has a lot to offer, though, again, for a very specific kind of learner. The right student will find the Dragon Academy to be a home, arriving within a community that contrasts with their prior school experience in some very significant ways. The focus is on engagement and curiosity. While the program is progressive, at least from a modern perspective, it's also in some ways exceedingly traditional, with a focus on the classics and Socratic investigation. The Dragon Academy is truly a school like none other. It's not every student's cup of tea, though of course no school ever is. For the students who attend, the program can be transformational and supportive in all the right ways.  

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  • The Dunblaine School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Dunblaine was founded in 1969 by concerned parents of children with needs that weren’t being met within the public school system. They wanted a safe environment, run by staff that understood, clearly, the needs of the students; one that offered an opportunity for them to grow academic skills, life skills, confidence, respect, and self-advocacy. And, for almost 50 years, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. The current location is also the one that best represents what Dunblaine is all about: it’s a house in a quiet residential neighbourhood. The faculty maintain close communication with parents on all aspects of the students’ experience within the school. The staff represents the full range of all the right expertise, instructional and therapeutic. Frankly, this is what it’s all about. It’s a great school as well as a great example of what education should be about. If you have a chance to speak with a parent of a student of the school, by all means, do it. If you don’t, ask the staff to put you in touch. It will be the best introduction to the school, and its successes, you could hope to have.  

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  • Edge School   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Edge School was founded in 1999 with just 7 students in its inaugural year. Within a decade it grew to over 300, where it remains today. In 2009 the school moved to its current location, a 170,000 sq ft school and athletics centre purpose built to house the Edge program. You don’t have to demonstrate your athleticism to apply, though athletics and physical activity is the school’s reason for being. The vision for the school is to be a leader in student-athlete development, and athletics are present, in some way, in every aspect of the life of the school. The Spanish teacher, for example, is a certified personal trainer; the social studies teacher is a national ringette champion. No, it’s not necessary to be athletic to be a good language teacher, but the school has been crafted as a place where students will work and learn with others who share their passion and their interests, and that alone can be transformative. They’ll find themselves among peers in the truest sense of the word, and live a daily schedule that is built to support their training. It’s not for everyone, but of course no school ever is. For the right student, Edge School is unequalled.  

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  • The Element High School   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    The Element is that rare bird of secondary education: a Montessori high school. The Element grew out of a primary program at OMS Montessori, building into the intermediate grades and, ultimately, through the high school grades. In 2012, The Element became distinct unto its own, offering a consistent program from grades 7 to 12. Then, in 2015, it moved into its own space, becoming physically distinct as well. Nevertheless, the foundational principle remains across all grades, providing learning that is self-referential and student directed. The ideal student is one who thrives within a very hands-on environment, who is guided by their curiosity, and is able to make the most a greater range of academic independence.  

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  • Elmwood School   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Elmwood was founded in 1915 by Theodora Philpot and, in addition to having a great name, was well ahead of her time in the world of education. Like Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and others at the time, she felt that traditional education wasn’t meeting the needs of students, both academically and personally. She wanted to offer an alternative, one that was student-centric, and that would stimulate a love of learning rather than the rote memorization of facts. She felt that there should be a bit of poetry in the course of daily life, and a bit of joy, too. She began that first year with just four students, all of whom were boys. Despite the obvious differences—it’s now home to nearly 400 hundred students, all of whom are girls—the spirit of the school nevertheless is reflective of Philpot’s vision. The school is one very much centred on possibility, creating opportunities for students to explore their world and to find their place within it. The ideal student is a girl looking for a vibrant, challenging, community-oriented academic environment.   

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  • Emerson Academy   (Whitby, Ontario)

    Emerson is a great reminder that there’s more to a great education than the core curriculum. Their program includes language immersion, a Montessori approach, and a robust physical education program. Of course, engaging with students is important too, and families who turn to Emerson do so with all of that in mind. The ancillary programs—including summer camp sessions and before/after school care—are benefits as well, allowing for a consistency in the life of the students in their days and their years. There is a strong sense of community, one that includes parents and family members within the life of the school.    

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  • Emmanuel Christian School   (Montreal, Quebec)

    Emmanuel began more than 40 years ago, and with just 38 students in its founding year. It’s grown considerably, building out the program to include the early years, growing enrolment, and moving its current home. The school also inaugurated at French-language stream to mirror the English one, something that benefits all students by augmenting an authentic program of language immersion. That’s a lot, though families are also drawn by the attention given to values, something that underwrites instruction in all areas of the curriculum. The school is very much a community of peers, a group that is formed around shared interests, values, and goals. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a vibrant, globally oriented setting, and looking forward to post-secondary education.
     

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  • Fairview Glen Montessori   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Families look to Fairview Glen because it is trusted and established, and presents a robust academic program that hews closely to Maria Montessori’s intentions, including multi-aged classrooms and a bright, comforting classroom atmosphere. Fairview is perhaps a bit larger than the average Montessori in Halton, something that allows for a nice breadth and depth of programming. That includes before- and after-school options, which allow for consistency from the preschool years into the elementary grades. A full range of arts programming, including distinct music and visual arts instruction, as well as a proven preschool immersion program, is also a draw.  

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  • Fern Hill School - Burlington   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Each year Fern Hill mounts a theatrical presentation that includes all the students from grade 4 up. No, it's not a theatre school, but the strength of the production, and the enthusiasm with which it's mounted, is as good an introduction to the school as any. Academics are important, just as they should be at any school, but culture is important too, including a desire to capitalize on the individual strengths of the staff. Cross-curricular links are a focus of the field studies program, which also takes advantage of the location of the campus within the Ontario Greenbelt. Field studies are used as an entre to the development of confidence, skill development, and team building. The ideal student is one who can benefit from a bit more support, a bit more encouragement than they might find elsewhere in order to reach their full potential.  

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  • Fern Hill School - Ottawa   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Families typically cite academics as an important driver when considering a school, and certainly they should be. That said, in the best school settings, a strong academic program is simply the baseline for what the program offers, and Fern Hill is a great example of that. Yes, numeracy and literacy are the core components, though confidence and self-esteem are too. Students are encouraged to grow in all literacies, including those of the arts and music and social interaction. The French language program has been augmented in recent years, driven principally by the needs of students and desire of parents. Administration has worked to create an environment of discovery across all curricular areas, and they’ve succeeded in that. Yes, academics are strong, though, rightly, that’s just the beginning of what Fern Hill is able to offer. It's perhaps the things over and above that which truly give strength to the overall program and distinguish the school.    

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  • Fieldstone School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The aim of Fieldstone is to provide an inclusive, supportive, 360-degree student experience, and both curricular and extra-curricular programs have been created with that goal in mind. Class sizes are kept small, and the relationships between instructors, administrators, and students is close. The feel is nurturing, yet the academic gaze is wide. The intention is to educate students to positions of informed leadership, both locally and globally. A rich language program is a hint of that, including a one-on-one reciprocal English-Chinese mentorship, pairing native speakers of both languages. The ideal student is one with sights firmly set on university.  

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  • Foothills Academy   (Calgary, Alberta)

    “Everybody is like me here.” That’s what one student said when asked why he liked going to Foothills. Indeed, while the academics are exceptional, as is the staff, it’s that relatability that is a draw for families, and which sits at the very core of the school’s success. We all do better in environments that we can relate to, and which in turn can relate to us. For the students that attend, Foothills is precisely that environment. If you have a chance, by all means, speak to a parent of a student, and remember to bring some tissues. The school rightly prides itself in making a difference in the lives of the children that attend, and they have, and they do, often in very moving ways. The students arrive having struggled in other settings, often lagging behind their peers in significant ways. That changes, often from the first day. It’s telling that at least one of the teachers—there may be more—is a graduate of the school. Not only has she achieved things that, perhaps, she at one point she may not have expected of herself, she also translates that experience to the students that she teaches today. In her, and in the school as a whole, students are encouraged to see the possibility within themselves. And, oftentimes, that makes all the difference.  

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  • Forest Hill Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    One of the Montessori ideals is to provide a stimulating learning environment, though it's the learning tasks and the mentorship that are meant to be stimulating, not the washrooms. The school environment, on the whole, should be comforting, familiar, friendly, and supportive environment, and Forest Hill Montessori, frankly, provides a study in all of those things. The continuity of the school is also impressive. Isabelle Kunicki-Carter and Sandra Bosnar-Dale founded the school in 1996, and they've provided consistent leadership ever since.  

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  • Fork Union Military Academy   (Fork Union, Virginia)

    Military schools are particularly good at imparting a sense of purpose, of participating in something larger than ourselves. And of those, FUMA is a particularly good example. It was founded in 1898 as Fork Union Academy, and initially was co-ed. It adopted a military model in 1902, and in 1913 it was formalized in the name and limiting enrolment to boys. That year it also began a relationship with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, which continues today. The school has adopted the organizational model of the US military, though it doesn’t have a formal relationship with the military, which is telling. It’s more about citizens than soldiers. The model is used because of the values, and the structure, and the honor system rather than to provide the basis for ongoing military training. In keeping, FUMA graduates have entered all aspects of American life, from sports, to politics, to the arts. Alumni include congressmen, scores of NFL players, educators, and even Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a very ordered environment, one where expectations are clear, and where physical activity is an important aspect of student life.  

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  • Foxcroft Academy   (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine)

    When it began, Foxcroft served a local community, reflecting the founders’ ideals that education is essential to citizenship and ethical community leadership. Both boys and girls were admitted, and Foxcroft is rightly proud at having graduated Mary Chandler Lowell in 1881, who went on to be the first woman in the world to earn a trifecta of impressive degrees: Doctor of Medicine, Bachelor of Law, and Doctor of Jurisprudence. Initially the students were predominantly children of pioneer families, and the school became a model that others throughout the region would soon follow. Like the world around it, the school has changed over the years—it’s been nearly two centuries, after all—though a dedication to the core values has remained. Today Foxcroft welcomes students from around the world, something which provides an international perspective in the life of the school. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and preparing to enter post-secondary education.  

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  • Fulford Academy   (Brockville, Ontario)

    International education can mean different things in different contexts. Some educate students to adopt a global view. Others, as with Fulford Academy, it’s the student population that brings the international flavor, arriving from around the world, often with the intention of staying in Canada to complete their high school and post-secondary careers. The school communicates with families in 11 languages, something which is very key, and very welcome, for many of them. Cultural literacy is a focus, as is proficiency in English. For some, Fulford is a stepping stone other schools, though students are of course welcome to stay through the completion of their high school degrees, as indeed many do. The ideal student is a one intending to pursue post-secondary education in Canada, and who is also looking for a smaller, more personalized setting in which to get up to speed with the various fluencies they will need in order to achieve success.  

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  • German International School Toronto   (Toronto, Ontario)

    If the German embassy operated a school, it would look pretty much exactly like The German International School Toronto. The school bases instruction on the curriculum developed in Thringen, a state at the geographic and cultural heart of Germany. It's also inspected regularly by officials from that region who come in order to ensure that GIST meets the standards set out within the curriculum, something it does for all of the 140 German schools around the globe. They were formed to offer education to German expats, though their popularity grew in response to local demand. The schools offered a quality, a unique pedagogical approach, and a sense of globalism that was hard to find in other institutions. The school provides dual-immersion, admitting students for whom either of the instructional languages are mother tongues. The ideal student is one who is intellectually curious, keen to learn languages, and who is excited by the prospect of learning and living within a rich, diverse, and uniquely authentic cultural environment.  

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  • The Giles School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Giles School provides an enriched language immersion program from preschool through the middle grades. The French program starts in preschool, and a Mandarin program begins in grade 1 with a period a day spent in an immersive Mandarin environment. It's perhaps safe to say, in terms of language learning—both in terms of when immersion is introduced, as well as providing multilingual immersion—the program is the only one of its kind in Canada. Classes are small, and academics are rigorous, covering the entire core curriculum and then some. The ideal student is one who can benefit from enrichment and who will thrive within a play-based, curiosity-driven environment.  

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  • Glenburnie School   (Oakville, Ontario)

    If you didn't know otherwise, you'd perhaps be given to thinking that Glenburnie is a prep school, operating at the high school level with an eye to preparing students for success at university. There is a dedication to 21st century skills, fostering leadership and independence, and developing communication and analytical skills. There is overt attention to preparing students for the challenges that they will face in a changing world. All of which can jar a bit given that those goals are applied to an early-education, junior, and intermediate program, one that enrolls students from pre-kindergarten to grade 8. Still, there is a method here, one that Linda Sweet established when she founded the school in 1985. She felt that education was lagging behind, addressing the needs of the industrial age rather than the nascent digital one. In creating Glenburnie, Sweet became one of the first school administrators in the region to actively adjust instruction away from a model that was designed, implicitly, to serve a predominantly vocational workplace. Despite the kinds of pedagogical language used to describe the school, Glenburnie creates space for kids to be kids, applying the core academic concepts in an age-appropriate way. The ideal student is one that is functioning above their peers, and who is able to make the most of an enriched, creative, and at times intense educational environment.  

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  • Glenmore Christian Academy   (Calgary, Alberta)

    The initial draw for families considering Glenmore is the values piece: a full curriculum taught through the Christian lens. Certainly, that’s something which distinguishes the school within the region, and often is the first point of contact. What families find in the school, however, is both that and whole lot more. Given the size of the school, Glenmore is also able to offer a very rich, diverse range of programming, something that understandably is also very attractive. There is a full program of intramurals, and the breadth of the music program—including options for individual lessons—is something that also distinguishes the school. A mission program at the grade 9 level offers an international experience earlier than in a majority of programs, and can provide a very nice punctuation to a student's experience at Glenmore. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a vibrant, challenging, community-centered learning environment.  

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  • The Gow School   (South Wales, New York)

    The Gow School was founded in the 1920s, though from the outset has based instruction in a very modern understanding, namely that not all learners are created equally, and that intelligence and an ability to succeed in school are two very different things. It's an idea that remains as fresh today (perhaps a little bit disheartningly) as it was when Peter Gow Jr. founded the school all those years ago. He believed that small class sizes and an open mind, when it comes to instruction, can make all the difference, especially for those who are at risk of falling through the cracks of a traditional approach to academics. The students at the top of his mind were those with some form of linguistic disruption—students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia or issues with central auditory processing. Gow believed that success for these students was a function of teaching, and for decades the school has been proving his point. All students—typically they are kids who have been struggling in a traditional setting—are aiming for college and university, and the school has a history of delivering them there. The program has changed over the years, though the spirit of investigation, of finding better ways to support learners, remains.  

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  • Halton Waldorf School   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Any school is more than the buildings or the setting, though perhaps especially with Waldorf programs, setting is an important piece. Halton’s program is established and proven, having been founded in 1984, and the facilities are notable as well, providing, in many ways, the ideal environment for the Waldorf approach. The buildings aren’t small, though they really confer a nice sense of place, some that is beautifully extended by the school’s proximity to green space. Waldorf intends to set students apart a bit from the bustle of daily live, and all the distractions that might be found there, and refocus students’ attention, and awaken a perception and appreciation of children’s talents and their place in the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a learning environment that better expresses and supports those goals. It’s idyllic, and matches the strength of the academic program and the experience of the staff.

     

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  • Hampshire Country School   (Rindge, New Hampshire)

    Hampshire Country School began in the 1930s, in a sense at least, when a family brought their son to Henry and Adelaide Patey, begging for help. Henry was a prominent psychologist, and Adelaide was a teacher of languages and music. The boy was given to mood swings and outbursts and, at least given the perspectives available at the time, was seen as a candidate for institutionalization. That’s not the approach we’d take today, thankfully, and that’s not the approach the Pateys offered then. They took him in as a boarder and, between them, proceeded to give the boy, very literally, a new lease on life. There are lots of details about the story that we’ll never know, but nevertheless we know the boy went on to live a full and seemingly very rewarding life; he enrolled at boarding school to complete his high school degree, served in WWII, studied at university, became an engineer and had a family.

    

Understandably, the success the Pateys had, even early on, attracted the attention of parents with similar children—those who have clear intellectual gifts coupled with significant social and interpersonal difficulties. They arrived and, in 1947, the school was founded. The following year it was moved to the house that occupies Hampshire Country School today.

    

One of the reasons for the success of the school was that, perhaps without having a word for it, the school was based in a very student-centred approach. The students required a personal approach, and that’s what they found at the school. Temple Grandin’s experience at the school is telling. When she was expelled from school—she recalls her time in grade school as the worst period of her life—her mother enrolled her at Hampshire (it was co-ed at that time) and she began to excel in ways that some might not have thought possible. She was mentored by William Carlock, a science teacher who had worked for NASA, who helped grow her interest in science and build her sense of worth and self-confidence at the same time. Grandin, of course, went on to an inspiring career in science, and is professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

    Both Grandin and Carlock are emblematic of the work of the school, both then and now. Even today, electronics are used sparingly, and instruction is based on a very close personal interaction between peers and instructors. All students sit in the front row, so to speak, in classes that are very small, typically between 3 and 6 students. Students are addressed directly in a mentoring relationship. Interruptions are accepted as simply part of the day and if classes need to pause, they do.

    

Likewise, the school itself, on the more macro level, has also been responsive to whatever needs are demanded of it. The rural location, as well as a very home-like atmosphere, are intentional, and seen as key aspects to the ongoing success of the school. The student population has, at points in the school’s history, been as large as 100. Today the student population is typically less than 30 in any given year and, while girls have been admitted at times in the past, Hampshire is now run as a boys school.

    

The school has a great story. And, admittedly, it can be a bit hard to get your head around, given that the school is so different in so many ways from what we’ve come to expect of boarding schools. It’s not like any other school. Likewise, the students that it serves aren’t like any others students. And that's what makes it so impressive. Hampshire began from the impulse to provide care, and that impulse remains undiminished. For the families that enroll their boys here, that's exactly what they need.  

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  • Hatch House Montessori School   (Whitby, Ontario)

    The most striking thing about Hatch House, at least initially, is that, yup, it’s a castle. It was built in 1874 by industrialist Nelson Gilbert Reynolds after he sold his previous home, Trafalgar Castle (which, in time, also became home to a prominent private school, Trafalgar Castle School). The name, Hatch House, comes from a later owner, industrialist Frederick Hatch who lived there from 1904 to 1969.

    The best use for the building, by far, is the one it has now: housing Hatch House Montessori. The building adds a nice spark to the identity of the school, and the interior spaces are charming and include many updates to suit the needs of the academic program—the most recent being “The Hatch,” a discovery room opened just this year. A strong academic program is augmented by an impressive language program that includes French and Spanish instruction. Principal Zsuzsanna Vigh says that “education is a journey, not a race.” She’s right, of course, and that perspective informs all areas of student life.  

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  • Havergal College   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Founded in 1894, Havergal is one of the oldest girls' schools in Canada, and it shares a tradition with those of its vintage. The school was formed with a strong tie to a religious community though, even then, was looking beyond tradition, charting new territory, as it were, for girls to occupy. As such, the school was disruptive, educating girls to take new, more robust roles within society. Famously the first principal, Mary Ellen Knox, asked her students "What are you going to do?" She meant it very much in the way we'd think of that question today: you've got an opportunity to do something, to play a role, what is it going to be? Knox was emblematic of the kinds of women who were leading schools at the time. In turn, they played a larger role in the development of education in Canada than their male counterparts did. All of this is important in that it really does underwrite the goals of the school today: to challenge girls, and to be socially disruptive in the best sense of that term. It's easy for us to look back and see that girls' schools were necessary all those years ago. What Havergal continues to demonstrate—as other schools that operate with the same goals and intentions—is that they remain necessary today.  

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  • Hawthorn School for Girls   (Toronto, Ontario)

    It's the only all-girls' Catholic private school in Toronto, if not the entire country. As such, Hawthorn provides a unique and very specific program, one that focusses on the needs of girls while providing instruction through a Catholic lens. It was founded relatively recently—it celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014—through the instigation of a group of parents who wanted the kind of academic specificity that the school continues to promote today. And, truly, there's no other school like it: girls are challenged to pursue passions in the full range of academic pursuit, STEM primary among them. Character, too, is a primary focus, including an expression of self. The ideal student is one who thrives within a supportive yet academically challenging environment.  

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  • Heritage   (Provo, Utah)

    “I remembered the defining moments in my life,” says Heritage founder Jerry Spanos, “I remembered what worked for me were relationships, simple and plain. … people cared about me, they were honest with me, they held me accountable, they asked for commitments, and I formed a trust with them. And as a result, it changed my life.” That approach is what has defined the Heritage program since it was begun in 1984. Certainly, it’s an approach that is shared with the most successful therapeutic academies in the nation: There are many supports in place, just as there should be, but program is guided by an unwavering sense of possibility, in finding students’ strengths and then building on them through close, caring mentorship. The environment is one of possibility, which, itself, can be transformative for the students that enroll. Spanos has said that, in creating the school, he wanted to pay forward the caring support that he had as a student. For more than three decades, Heritage has been doing precisely that.   

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  • Heritage Academy of Learning Excellence   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Schools are founded for a range of reasons, though a few are founded out of a very acute need, and that’s the case with Heritage. Louise Brazeau-Ward’s son had dyslexia, and she had watched him struggle in traditional academic settings, something which inspired her to make a difference in his life and the lives of others like him. Today she’s a world renowned expert in dyslexia, and a proponent of the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approach to instruction which she then adapted. All of that forms the foundation of Heritage Academy, the school that Brazeau-Ward created in 1989. Today the school is run by her daughter, and the program, though having grown over the years, remains consistent. The school provides support for students with dyslexia as well as other challenges. The environment itself—one that is created to address the needs of the students—can itself be transformative. For many students, that’s what Heritage principally offers.  

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  • High Park Day School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Amanda Dervaitis, one of the founders of High Park Day School, is a champion of the micro school, and she created the school in light of the benefits a small school can offer. The program is, in a sense, the reinvention of the one-room schoolhouse with mixed age classrooms and very close student-teacher relationships. Likewise, the programming is very responsive to the needs of the students, and adaptable to a wider range of resources, including those within the neighbouring community—while the student body may be small, the classroom extends well beyond the walls of the school, including regular interaction with local businesses and services. It’s perhaps not a typical model, though for many families, it’s rightly a very attractive one. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a flexible, vibrant learning environment.  

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  • High Park Oxford Learning Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Oxford Learning Academy was established in 1984 to provide supplemental tutoring, and while it still offers part-time learning, it has also developed a full-time program. But, even in the part-time offerings, the tutorial method isn’t something ancillary to traditional instruction, but is very much a alternative approach that, for many children, is more beneficial than typical classroom learning. Certainly, there are schools in Canada—Kells in Montreal, and Kenneth Gordon Maplewood in Vancouver are two prime examples—that were founded as full-time schools, yet use the tutorial method in the delivery of the curriculum. It’s beneficial because it is student-centred, student-paced, and requires more of individual learners than typical classroom instruction. Oxford Learning Academy, of course, has long lead the charge in this regard, and continues to provide an alternative that, for many learners, is transformational, allowing them to achieve their full potential in ways that other instructional approaches, and other instructional environments, simply don’t.  

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  • The Hill Academy   (Vaughan, Ontario)

    It’s perhaps easy to wonder why Hill Academy isn’t more widely known, though perhaps for those involved in high school sports in Canada and the US, it is. Which, frankly, is appropriate. It’s a high school program based in the values, dedication, and energy associated with sport, with the daily schedule organized in order to allow students to excel in both academics and athletics. The lessons overlap, and students compete in math contests as successfully as they do sporting events. The ideal student is one looking to grow in both areas, and to do it alongside peers of a like mind, approach, and ability. The school’s success is evident in the careers—again, both academic and athletic—of its alumni, who operate at the top of their fields not only on Ontario, but throughout North America.    

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  • Hillfield Strathallan College   (Hamilton, Ontario)

    The school began its life in 1901 as the Highfield School for Boys, though it has grown, amalgamated, moved, and changed its name a few times since then. All of that is reflected in the physical plan of the school, one that bears no outward signs of the school's age. Certainly, the development path from 1901 has been anything but linear, including associations and amalgamations between Highfield, Hillcrest, and Strathallan schools and colleges, their names combining to form the one under which it is known today. So, too, to some extent are the programs that the school presents. Montessori is offered at the preschool and kindergarten programs, though the method isn't reflected beyond that, something that is perhaps emblematic of the programming overall. The feel is that of a mosaic of academic traditions rather than an expression of a single, consistent tradition. A robust philanthropy program has resulted in a strong infrastructure. A strategic plan initiative begun in 2013 will culminate in 2020. While the program remains strong, the plan provides a timely opportunity to bring clarity and direction to the continued development of the school and the programs offered there.  

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  • Holy Trinity School   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    The school was founded in a church basement in 1981 which, together with its name, suggests a religious focus. And, yes, there is one, though not perhaps in the way that we might initially assume. The school seeks to promote values over belief, building from the concepts—respect for self and others, strength of character, encouragement, and insight—that are expressed by the Anglican tradition. Chapel is an important part of student life, though used as a spring-board to a development of those values rather than a strict religious observance. It's perhaps a fine line, though one that the school navigates well, as reflected in a culturally and religiously diverse student body. It's a point of pride—as indeed it should be—that the current campus was officially opened in 1985 by two important cultural leaders, one secular and the other religious: the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, and L. S. Garnsworthy, then Archbishop of Toronto. (Alexander was the first black member of parliament and first black federal cabinet minister, throughout his long career providing profound political and cultural leadership. Garnsworthy championed the ordination of women within the Anglican church, gay clergy, inclusion of the LGBT community in all aspects of church life, and insisted in 1987, despite challenges, that the church provide pastoral care to those suffering with AIDS.) That both men were chosen to open the campus is telling of the intentions for the school at the time of its creation, as well as those that continue to inform the life of the school today. The ideal student is one who will thrive within an academically challenging environment, as well as one that is intellectually, culturally, and philosophically diverse.  

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  • Home Sweet Home Montessori Academy   (Caledon, Ontario)

    Different students require different things in order to reach their potential, and the founder of Home Sweet Home, Ashley Volpe, is herself an example of that. It was her experience as a student—both good and bad—which brought her to Montessori, and which encouraged her to found the school. It’s telling that she doesn’t cite only the academic benefits that the method provided her, but also the personal ones: confidence, independence, self-worth. The name is telling, too—this is a school meant to build those things from a place of care, respect, and support. The school has grown at quite a brisk pace since it was founded in 2010, and that’s because families, understandably, were attracted to the care and support that the environment was quite obviously providing.  

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  • Howlett Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Jan Howlett was a force in the world of education, and her desire to establish a school was due to frustrations with the public system. She pulled her two sons out of it when they were in grades 4 and 6, choosing to educate them at home. Seeing her dedication and skill, parents were soon calling to ask if she would accept their children as well. She did, and Howlett Academy was born. The school isn’t for the faint of heart. Howlett used terms like “mastery” long after they had gone out of fashion in the public system. The strengths of the Howlett program are a clear, well-organized curriculum, attentive supervision, and a clear set of academic goals and expectations. Students are encouraged to reach for excellence, and the school maintains an impressive track record of achievement.  

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  • Hudson College   (Toronto, Ontario)


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    There are many reasons parents choose to enroll their children at a private school, from family tradition to elite sports. Parents who choose Hudson College, however, are less interested in the extremes at the edges of the private education market, and more interested in the foundational elements of a strong academic program and a positive learning experience: consistent social support, a sense of community, the agility to address student interests, and a consistent approach to curricular development. Jeff Bavington founded the school "to be a place where students with all different interests can come and feel part of a larger community, feel at home, and where students themselves can help create" the school environment. And it is.  

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  • Island Pacific School   (West Vancouver-Bowen Island, British Columbia)

    Island Pacific School is unique in some key ways, the most obvious perhaps being that it is limited to the middle school years. It’s intentionally that way, of course, based in a belief that the experiences gained during that time in a child’s development are crucial to success in high school and beyond. Character, stewardship, and responsibility are emphasized, and very noticeably so in the Masterworks program, one that is emblematic of the approach of the school. It’s a research project that grade 9 students complete, and one that builds on what they’ve learned at the school in equal measure to their personal interests and growing sense of self. That program, as all the others offered at Island Pacific, require a lot of the students, not the least of which being the need to present themselves very overtly to the school community through a culminating presentation. The fact that the topic is chosen by the students is validating of their own interests and ideas, something that perhaps doesn't happen enough in the middle years. It has the potential to be a very empowering experience, and indeed, that’s exactly what the Island Pacific program has been created to offer. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and able to thrive within a tight-knit community of peers who are looking for the same.  

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  • J. Addison School   (Markham, Ontario)

    J. Addison School was founded in 2002 to serve both local and international students. The facilities are modern and extensive, including boarding and support programs designed with the needs of international students specifically in mind. The school is lead by alumni of York University, and the partnership between the institutions has grown over the years, including unique scholarships and internships. That relationship will presumably continue to grow with the completion of the York University-Markham Centre Campus. Lee Vendetti, principal at J. Addison has said, “This partnership offers all the key players in both institutions an opportunity to share expertise and resources that will make the transition to university and the working world a smoother and more meaningful experience.” The ideal student is one who will thrive in a challenging, academically oriented, international environment, and who is intending to continue to post-secondary education in Canada.  

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  • Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Joan of Arc was founded by the Congregation of the Sisters of Joan of Arc in 1954, the intention being to provide support for girls living away from home. The school, quite obviously, has changed considerably over the years, bringing the focus to education, and moving to an ecumenical curriculum. Many of the changes were driven by parents of the school, including a revisioning of the core mandate in 1991. The school moved to its current location in 2002, and has continued to grow its programs and enrolment since then. Academics are taught through the lens of bilingualism and global education. The girls-only environment helps build a foundation of empowerment, something that graduates take with them into their high school careers and beyond. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, diverse, community-based educational environment.  

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  • The Junior Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Dianne Johnson founded the Junior Academy in 1988 in the belief that small is better, and indeed the school has remained small, with an annual enrolment of just 100 students. Johnson still leads the school, lending a continuity to the program and keeping the focus clearly on the quality of the students' learning experience, and maintaining, above all, an atmosphere of care and support. While not all students arrive from the immediate area, the school prizes its position within the community, and encourages active parental involvement within the life of the school.  

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  • Kells Academy   (Montreal, Quebec)

    Irene Woods began her career as an educator within the public system, and while there noted that often the after-school tutorial sessions were more productive, and more time efficient, than the teaching done in the classroom. The obvious question—at least it was obvious to her—was, why don’t we just teach this way all the time? Which, in time, is exactly what she did, applying the tutorial model—small group, student-led instruction—to the entire curriculum. Kells was founded in 1978, and Woods has been an instructor and director there ever since. Those aspects of the tutorial model—individual attention, and a creative approach to instruction—are what continue to define the program today. The school has grown considerably over the years, including the creation of a boarding program, though the division between the elementary and high school programs helps to keep the focus small-group instruction.  

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  • Kendellhurst Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Private schools, of course, intend to offer an alternative, and Kendellhurst is a great example of that. The program is founded in an approach to ECE that borrows the best from Montessori and other alternative approaches, yet does it in a very tailored, intentional way in order to best address the needs of the students that attend. It's less about doctrine than meeting the specific needs of student population. There are three locations, though all feel a piece of the communities that they sit within, something that the Streetsville location is a particularly good example of. The educational context is local, small, and integrated with the needs of the families that enroll here. The feel is homey, comfortable, and supportive, and camp sessions allow families to extend that experience into the summer months, providing an opportunity for continuity between school terms. Organic meals and after school programs are included with tuition, something that can provide a welcome support to the daily management of family life.  

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  • Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School   (North Vancouver, British Columbia)

    When Anne Rushforth’s son, Kenneth Gordon, was in grade 5, she overheard his teacher introducing him to another parent as "one of her slow students.” Rushforth bristled, knowing that “he just needed a school to teach him in the way that he learned.” She said, “I decided that there needs to be a school for these children, where they’re understood.” So, in 1973, she built it, naming it after her son, and parents have been thankful to her ever since. She had been a tutor, and noted that, in that setting, often struggling students bloomed. Rushforth then applied the tutorial model to the entire breadth of the curriculum. It included multi-sensory instruction, later the Orton-Gillingham approach, and as digital tools became available, it used those, too. Students would arrive with a poor self concept, having struggled in other settings, and proceed to grow into a new sense of themselves and their capabilities. That’s what the school continues to offer today.  

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  • King's-Edgehill School   (Windsor, Nova Scotia)

    King's-Edgehill School is the oldest independent school in Canada, and was founded as King's Collegiate by United Empire Loyalists in 1788. It was given royal assent by King George III the following year, the first instance that honour was bestowed outside Britain. The initial goal of the school was to prevent young men from traveling abroad to receive an education, men that would be needed to stay to administer and defend the colonies. While the school remained small, its alumni took prominent roles in military, legal, religious, and political life (including two fathers of Confederation).

    So, yes, there’s an impressive history here, in all kinds of ways. That said, the school has changed considerably over the years. The historic buildings have been augmented by recent, and very sympathetic, development, all set on a 65-acre campus. It’s, frankly, beautiful. The academic program is as rigorous as it is supportive, and the school attracts students from around the world, creating a diverse, vibrant, exceedingly modern student population.  

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  • Kingsley Primary School   (Etobicoke, Ontario)

    When parents are considering a school, they’re right to ask about instructional styles, teaching, programs, assessment. Those are important. Though when we pick up our kids from school each day, we’re not thinking about those things. Instead, we ask: “How was your day?” Maybe we ask it reflexively, but when it comes to how children learn, that’s actually where the rubber really meets the road. Kids learn best in a consistent, supportive, personal, safe, and community-focused environment. Providing that kind of environment is what forms a basis for all of the work at Kingsley. When they say “thrive” they mean it in the broad sense—gaining a strong academic foundation—but also in the sense of having fun, gaining confidence, and finding a voice within a community of peers. The programs are strong, the teaching staff seasoned, and the school has had consistent success for more than three decades. For the families that enroll here, all of that is important. Likewise, the strength and focus of the learning environment is often, quite rightly, a principle draw. After all, a child's ability to thrive in life begins in having a good day, today.    

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  • Kingsway College School   (Etobicoke, Ontario)

    Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, "imagine how different the world would be, if, in fact, that were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.'" Kingsway College School poses the same question, and has worked to augment a strong academic program with a cross-curricular attention to values. It can risk sounding a bit grand, as when Derek Logan, the head of school, notes that a goal is to teach students to "lead with vision and humility." These are little kids, after all, given that the program ends at Grade 8. Nonetheless, the attention to values, and providing opportunities for social development, in addition to a sense of mastery with core skills, is a strength of the school. The ideal student is one who is able to thrive in an active, academically challenging environment.  

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  • Kohai Educational Centre   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Kohai began in 1973 as a summer camp for children with emotional, intellectual, and behavioural disorders. Parents were the driver, encouraging the founders to build out the programming based on the success that the summer program was having. It was formalized as a school in 1976 around the approach that had been adopted in the camp setting, one focused on small-group learning and student-directed instruction. Kohai addresses itself specifically to the needs of children who, simply, learn differently, and who require a setting that offers the kinds of supports that they need. The foremost, often, is an environment that is built with them in mind, and which sees their potential, first, rather than their limitations. Which is exactly what Kohai has been offering—impressively, beautifully, skillfully—for more than 40 years.  

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  • Kuper Academy   (Kirkland, Quebec)

    Kuper was founded in 1986 as a means of providing an intensive, imaginative program for the early grades. The school has grown since then to include the upper grades, and housed within modern facilities, with physical expansion completed in 2008. The attention to an intensive curriculum remains, one that seeks to straddle the goals of a traditional liberal arts education with a range of 21st century literacies. While not expressly intended as a gifted program, the ideal student is one who is able to thrive within a traditional, challenging, yet diverse learning environment inclusive of a relatively large student body.  

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  • La Citadelle International Academy of Arts and Science   (Toronto, Ontario)

    La Citadelle was established in 2000 with just 5 students and operating out of a church basement. The program has grown considerably since then, with an annual enrolment of 200 students spanning prep-K to Grade 12. Further, in 2015 the school moved into a new space, doubling the size of the physcial plan and providing an opportunity to grow the student population and its programs significantly. Despite that growth, the approach to instruction remains true to the original intentions. Since its inception La Citadelle has been progressive, and while achievement is one of the six core values, so are compassion and harmony. There is a high level of individual support, in part a function of a low teacher/student ratio. The ideal student is one that is operating ahead of her peers, able to thrive within a challenging, varied, and multilingual teaching environment.   

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  • Lakefield College School   (Lakefield, Ontario)

    The first thing that people typically know about Lakefield is that Prince Andrew and the King of Spain both studied here. And, truth be known, they did. That said, the reality of the school isn't perhaps of the sort that that we might feel would attract a royal gaze. Lakefield is set in a rural setting, and while academics are strong, there is also a focus on physical activity and outdoor education as a vehicle for the development of interpersonal and leadership skills. As a result, students are more likely to be found on the ropes course or at the hockey rink than in quiet contemplation at tea time. Academics are rigorous, though lifestyle is, too, often creating a heightened level of engagement. Alumni, including the royals, conspicuously retain a very personal connection to the ongoing life of the school.  

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  • Landmark East School   (Wolfville, Nova Scotia)

    Landmark’s motto is “changing lives since 1979” and that’s not something they state lightly. The fact is, they really have. The core of the Landmark program is a belief that all students can learn, something that they share with the very best, and most innovative schools in the country, intended for learners with various academic challenges. As with the Arrowsmith schools, Landmark East begins with empowerment: the knowledge that these students can achieve great things, and that attention, support, and a belief in possibility is the key to allowing them to reach their potentials. When students arrive they find a place that doesn’t see them as lacking anything at all, or as exceptional. Here, they are students within an environment designed for them, and populated with peers and teachers who know exactly where they are coming from. That can be, and most often is, entirely transformational in how students perceive themselves and their abilities. Truly, that’s huge.   

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  • Liberty Prep School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    We might typically think of a prep school as a high school that intends to prepare students for university. Clearly, Liberty uses the term in a slightly different sense, and intends to provide a strong foundation in the early years, preparing students for success when they move on to the middle and high school years. Attention is given, of course, to core academics, though likewise to building confidence and creating independent, engaged learners. As per the Montessori approach, instruction is inquiry based, seeking to build on the children’s talents and interests. The attention to the atmosphere of the school is clear, and the spaces are beautifully appointed to provide an environment conducive to learning together, and which also reflects the character and diversity of the surrounding neighbourhoods.    

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  • Linbrook School   (Oakville, Ontario)

    There has been a Linbrook School at this site in Oakville for more than 80 years—prior to 2010, it was the site of a public school with that name. The current Linbrook school keeps the name, as the founders liked the continuity it provided within the community, including the educational tradition that the school represented. That said, the current Linbrook shares little more than a name with that school. It’s the only boys’ school in Oakville, and the approach is based in providing a diversity of activity, and physical movement, both within the classroom and without. Students learn in a dynamic, group environment. Classrooms are large to promote small group facilitation. The facilities were entirely updated for the school's opening, and incorporate a full range of instructional technology. The grounds, including green space and play fields, also recommend the school.  

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  • The Linden School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    All schools, to some extent, defy the various stereotypes that the general population might have about private education. Still, the Linden School is a particularly stark example of that. Founded by Diane Goudie and Eleanor Moore in 1993, the school was intended as a needed and necessary alternative to what was happening in public schools, as well as other private institutions. Goudie had butt heads with other educators by demanding that education be based in a sense of equity, especially as girls and women are concerned. The Linden School is the result, and today it does exactly what Goudie and Moore hoped it would: provide an example of a school for girls that will make a difference in the students' lives and, in turn, encourage them to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The goal, as Moore said at an address at York University, is to educate each student to "to speak with courage [to] be credible, find a community, listen for all voices, change structures, be a leader and above all make a difference." Since they founded the school, Goudie and Moore have lead by example, earning honorary doctorate of law degrees from York University in recognition of their leadership in the field of education. On receiving the doctorate, Goudie addressed the convocation saying "Ask yourselves the tough questions: What do you want to achieve beyond your paycheque? What are you prepared to risk in order to make a difference in your communities or in the global community?" Those are, of course, very tough questions, and the Linden School is structured around them. For the wrong student, it could be overwhelming. For the right student, it can provide a very strong foundation for a lifetime of engagement, leadership, and success.  

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  • Lower Canada College   (Montreal, Quebec)

    Created in 1909, LCC has historical roots that date back to the 1860s. As such, it’s one of the oldest schools in the country, and it has a reputation to match. As well all schools of age, LCC has changed over the years, though, within that, the operating principle has been one of no sudden movements—all adaptations have been considered and orderly. A bilingual program was adopted in the early 1990s, and girls admitted to all levels of instruction in 1995. The International Baccalaureate program, too, is relatively new, with its initial introduction in 2013. The list of alumni includes some shining lights of Canadian arts and letters, such as Hugh MacLennan and Stuart McLean, as well as politicians and academics. Families are attracted to the traditions of the school, one of them being academic excellence. LCC has long been one of best schools in the country, and no doubt it will remain one  for many years to come.

     

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  • Luther College High School   (Regina, Saskatchewan)

    Luther College High School was established in 1913 as a boys’ boarding school, and with just 32 students that inagural year. Girls were first admitted in 1920, and over the years there have been other changes, too. Today the population is predominantly day students, though there is still a sizable boarding program. Luther College has just completed a huge capital campaign focused on developing the school’s physical plan. Completed in 2015, it added over 40,000 square feet of space, including a new gymnasium, common spaces, and media labs. The curriculum is taught through a Christian lens, and annual events highlight the Lutheran tradition, including the candlelight services that mark Advent. The ideal student is one who can thrive in an active, diverse school community, and who is intending to proceed to post-secondary studies after graduation.  

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  • Lycée Claudel   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    In really any way you care to look at it, there is a lot going on at the Lycée Claudel. It was founded as the Cours Claudel in 1962 in order to provide a school for the children of Francophone diplomats wishing to have their children educated in French, and following the French national curriculum. When the first students graduated the program in 1974, the school became known as Lycée Claudel. The school continued to grow, and move, ultimately moving in 1988 into the buildings vacated by the University of Ottawa’s secondary school.

    Lycée Claudel is an international school in two important ways, both of which are somewhat unique to the school. First, its student population includes students from nearly 50 different countries, which is surprising, at least initially, given that it’s a day school and doesn’t have a boarding program. Of course, the reason is because the school is in Ottawa, and therefore enrolls many children of diplomats. Second, the school continues to offer the French curriculum, as it has from day one. It’s also a member of AEFE, an accrediting body to assure that schools comply with the French curriculum, something of particular interest to French nationals living abroad who intend to return to France. There are only four schools that are fully accredited by the AEFE in Canada, and Lycée Claudel is one of just two that are located outside Quebec, and the only one in Ontario.

    Many families choose the school because they are French nationals, while others choose it because the instructional language is French, rather than the model used in French immersion classrooms. Others choose the school because if the quality of instruction, and the international focus. Of course, the profile of the school is high, given the range of students that attend and the long list of notable alumni, which includes Justin Trudeau.

    In all those ways, Lycée Claudel is remarkably unique. Again, there is a lot going on, and all of it impressive. The ideal student is one who thrives in a large, diverse, and challenging educational and social setting.  

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  • Lycée Français de Toronto   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Not all immersion programs are created equally, and Lycée Francais is an example of that. The school was founded in 1995 with support from the French consulate to offer a French education to the children of French nationals living in Toronto (a portion of the faculty, then as now, are themselves French nationals). The program is based on the curriculum used in France, as developed by the French Ministry of Education. That said, the most substantive difference is that the program is dual, admitting students with either English or French as a first language, with French as the primary language of instruction from pre-school on up. Immersion often gets lumped in with gifted programs, though it's not at all just for high flyers. That said, the LFT program is challenging and very much intended, especially in the upper grades, for students preparing to enroll at university.  

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  • Lycée Louis Pasteur   (Calgary, Alberta)

    In Canada, “lycée” most typically references a relationship with the French ministry of education, and that’s true of Lycée Louis Pasteur. That’s of interest to French nationals, perhaps particularly, or to families expecting to move outside of Canada—say to France, for example—prior to the end of a student’s secondary career. Indeed, when the school was established in 1966, that’s exactly the community it was intending to address, and enrolment was reserved for the children of French nationals. Times have changed, and today most families that enroll at Lycée Louis Pasteur don’t fall into that narrow category. Rather, they are looking for a strong language program, one that is more robust than those found in public schools. They are also looking for a curriculum that is delivered through a different lens, one that is more cognizant of the diversity of the global community, and more reflective of a student’s place within that wider world. Certainly, Lycée Louis Pasteur provides all of that. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge and to learn within a diverse community of peers.  

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  • Lynn-Rose Heights Private School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    The school doesn't promote itself as one operating necessarily with the gifted student in mind, though parents need to be aware that the program is nevertheless challenging and accelerated, especially at the junior and intermediate levels. The math and literacy programs have students working a grade ahead of their peers in the public system, with further acceleration offered to students able to function at that level. That's great, of course, for students who are able to manage the workload, giving them a head start when they enter high school. They also will be well-placed to take advantage of the full range of programming offered in addition to core instruction. For others, and despite the small class sizes and focus on individualized learning, the environment has the potential to become alienating. The ideal student is one who is able to thrive within a challenging, intellectually diverse instructional environment.  

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  • The Mabin School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    When Geraldine Mabin founded the Mabin School in 1980 it was considered strikingly experimental. Children were taught in open environments, followed their curiosity, and learned more through guided experience than direct instruction. A teacher at the school once commented that "Our pattern is to have no pattern." Today, despite the changing educational landscape in Canada during the intervening decades, the school remains at the vanguard of alternative education. While Mabin left the school in the 1998, it still reflects the ideals on which it was based, and she remains involved with the school today. "Time in the classroom for actual learning as opposed to teaching is shrinking," Mabin said in 2011. "There's a very high expectation on academics and testing. A lot of time is spent on drumming in lessons and worrying about kids who haven't made it. Children should be given time to learn things, to not be pushed." The instruction is strong, and supported through extensive cross-curricular programming. Parental involvement in the life of the school is encouraged. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a rich, vibrant, and varied learning environment.  

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  • MacLachlan College   (Oakville, Ontario)

    “MacLachlan prides itself on being at the cutting edge of innovation in teaching and learning theory,” says Michael Piening, head of school. “This generation of learner, and the world they are growing up in, is very engaged, social and interactive. We looked internally at how we could best respond and adapt to enhance student exploration, creativity and knowledge.” That’s quite a mouthful, to be sure, but it’s a good one nevertheless. Schools are challenged to adapt their programs to the needs of students, and there are a lot of red herrings out there, such as an over-emphasis on digital literacy, for example. To be a 21st century learner can mean many things, though at McLachlan it means engagement with ideas, peers, and community. The annual Word Fest is a great example of that, in that case using the language arts program as a starting point for an engagement with issues and topics that require students to think creatively, empathize, and communicate their ideas. Earlier this year the grade one classes took part in a workshop with the Hamilton Children’s museum, roll-playing a shipwreck, stuck on coral in the midst of a storm. That, and indeed many programs at MacLachlan, can rightly turn heads. They provide telling examples of how the school expresses its dedication to engagement, exploration, and social interactivity, all of it as charming as it is impressive. The ideal student is one who can thrive in a diverse, active, and challenging academic environment.   

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  • Magnificent Minds   (North York, Ontario)

    The mantra of private education is “fit”—finding the right environment for your child’s specific learning needs. Magnificent Minds is a great example of that concept, to be sure. While there are psychoeducational services and support in place for students who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the school’s approach can benefit a range of learning needs; most often children arrive here coming from environments that, for whatever reason, were unable to provide the supports they needed. The school is small, and for the families that enroll here, that is one of its great benefits. Instruction is student-centred, adapting to the needs of each individual. There is an emphasis on play, and an awareness of the benefits of growing a positive sense of self within a close community of peers. The context of possibility, of celebrating and building upon a child’s unique talents and ability, for many students has been transformational.  

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  • Maria Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Not all Montessori programs are created the same, and one of the ways they vary is in their adherence to the core principles as outlined by Maria Montessori during her life as an educator. The school name, in this case, was chosen to distinguish the program as one that hews very closely to her ideals. From multi-age classrooms, to an emphasis on group work, to a keen awareness of developmental stages—in all of that and more, Maria Montessori School presents the very letter of the Montessori approach. The size of the school is also a very comfortable one—big enough to allow for a nice breadth of programming while also maintaining a close, community learning atmosphere.  

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  • Meadowridge School   (Maple Ridge, British Columbia)

    Meadowridge is a school that intends to inspire and teach through direct, personal involvement. They don't just teach art, for example, they immerse students within it, including an on-site collection of works from an a-list of Canadian artists, including Tom Thomson, Kenojuak Ashevak, and Lawren Harris. The campus includes a forest, so the links between art and the environment are profound. Likewise, gardens and greenhouses provide an entrée to ecology and biology, and a design lab provides an entrée into technology and engineering. Those, and other examples, provide a unique balance between traditional learning and experiential learning. The buildings, the 27-acre campus, the proximity to Vancouver as well as a range of natural environments—all of it would rightly be the envy of any school. The ideal student is one who is curious, engaging, and prone to make use of the range of programs and opportunities that Meadowridge provides.  

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  • Mentor College   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Mentor College and the TEAM schools are closely associated, something that brings unique strengths to all. They are overseen by a single administrative body, and they share some facilities, services, and extracurricular programs. The benefits are in a shared infrastructure and organizational efficiency. The facilities are modern and robust, as are student services and transportation. There is a robust, rich program of extra-curricular activity, something that, again, is a benefit of not only the school's size, but also the intra-school associations and programs. That said, the division of the campuses gives each—high school, intermediate, and primary—its own sense of propriety and identity. It's a unique model, one that gains both the benefits of a large student population, as well as those of smaller communities of students. In numbers, this is one of the largest schools in Canada, though the lived experience of the families that attend doesn't bear that out. Frequent and casual communication between parents and teachers, as well, underscores a personal, student and family-centered approach.  

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  • Metropolitan Preparatory Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Metro Prep, in once sense at least, is very much what you might think a preparatory academy is for: the program is intended to prepare students for post-secondary education, particularly university. From there, however, all bets are off, and the school adopts none of the clichs or the stances that are hallmarks of the traditional, stereotypical prep school. The students don't wear uniforms, for one, the intention being to encourage individuality rather than conformity. Likewise, while the school intends student success, it's not defined in test scores, but by a creative engagement with the curricular content, and the world. Confidence over bravado; critical thinking over rote learningin so many ways, this isn't your grandfathers' prep school. The ideal student is one who can thrive in a very active, engaging student environment, and intending to continue their studies at university.  

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  • Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School   (Westmount, Quebec)

    The names are authentic—Maud Edgar and Mary Cramp founded the school in 1909—though any whiff of association to Dickens' novels ends there. Maud was the daughter of Matilda Ridout Edgar, a prominent patriot, historian, and feminist in the very earliest days of Canadian suffragism. Her ideals and her indomitable spirit rubbed off on her daughter and, in turn, were reflected in the school. The curriculum then, as now, was very much rooted in the liberal arts with an eye to leadership and philanthropy. On the school's site is a video that includes a clip where Michelle Obama notes that "the world is big. And it's full of challenges. And we need strong, smart, confident young women to stand up and take the reins." The ideal student is one who shares that vision, and who has the interest and the drive to play an active role in a changing world.  

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  • Montcrest School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    For most families who consider private schooling, it’s the values piece that really tips the balance, and Montcrest is a great example of that. Yes, it’s got a strong, demonstrated history of academic excellence and innovation, including close attention to individual learning styles. In addition, though, it has demonstrated a keen and ongoing attention to the development of values, character, and community. The Peacemakers program is one example, and indeed a particularly good one. Students within it are trained in peer mediation and conflict resolution, which they then very visibly promote throughout the school environment. That kind of attention contributes to the development of leadership skills based in collaboration. The community garden, quite delightfully, is where all of those values are poignantly expressed. The location of the school on the edge of one of the city’s storied ravines is also a plus, something that the school rightly makes much use of.

     

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  • Montessori Learning Centre of Pickering   (Pickering, Ontario)

    Often what attracts parents to Montessori education is the close, community feel that many schools are able to provide, and that’s very true of MLCP. The school began in 1984 with 25 students, and growth has been less of a concern for its administrators than quality. The student population today is just 200, this in a program that spans preschool through Grade 8. Yes, there are all of the things we expect of the Montessori approach, though that’s coupled with a very close attention to the needs of individuals, both students and parents combined. Before and after care is available, and while it’s not included in tuition, the rates are very reasonable. Likewise, those programs are entirely flexible—parents pay only for what they use. In that, and in other ways, this is a school that really operates with the needs of its families foremost in mind.  

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  • Neuchâtel Junior College   (Neuchâtel, Ontario)

    Neuchâtel was founded in 1956 and, from then to now, there’s been nothing else quite like it when it comes to options for Canadian students. It’s so unique that, in some ways, it’s hard to believe that it exists at all: a school, offering the Ontario curriculum, nestled within the natural and political environments of Europe. The views are inspiring, as is the proximity to international organizations, including the UN in Geneva. Skiing in Zermatt, studying art in Venice … it goes on and on. The instruction is strong, and classes are intimate. The majority of students arrive from Ontario, though there is some diversity within the student population. The ideal student is one who is inclined to make the most of the vast range of opportunities that the school provides. Likewise, for students interested in international relations and development, Neuchâtel can provide a unique and singular learning experience.

     

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  • New Mexico Military Institute   (Roswell, New Mexico)

    There are often misconceptions about military schools, and a look at the alumni of NMMI is a good indication of that. You’d expect to find military leaders, and there are indeed those. That said, there are others, too, including actor Owen Wilson, journalist Sam Donaldson, the NBA’s Lewis Lloyd, and policy analyst William Polk. There are lots of others too, representing the full range of American professional life.
     
    The lesson is that military school is for lots of students, not just those intending a career in the military. NMMI offers a structured academic experience, and the values piece is an important draw as well. Students live and learn in an environment that prizes honor, respect, ethical leadership, and inclusive of a robust program of physical fitness. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge, and who thrives in a setting where expectations are clear, and success rewarded.  

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  • Newton’s Grove School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Newton’s Grove began its life in 1977 as the first private school in Mississauga, known then as Mississauga Private School. It soon moved to Etobicoke, though returned to Mississauga in 2015, moving into its permanent location in 2017. The moves are symptomatic of the school’s growth, based in a growing reputation for its academics coupled with a robust athletic program. Values, too, are a draw, with a dedication to promoting respect and responsibility throughout the curricular areas. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, vibrant, socially oriented environment.  

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  • Niagara Christian Collegiate   (Fort Erie, Ontario)

    Niagara Christian Collegiate can be a bit deceiving, at least at first glance. The setting is rural, with the nearest community of size being Niagara Falls to the north. The Niagara Parkway—the route through which NCC is accessed—is a sleepy, scenic drive along the eastern edge of the Niagara peninsula. The campus, for anyone driving by, can seem sympathetically sleepy, a world away from the hustle of urban life. Which, to some extent, it is. What you don’t see—and perhaps what even locals don’t accurately grasp—is the breadth and the diversity of the academic programs as well as the school’s student population. Half are international students, arriving from as close as the US to as far afield as Japan and Tunisia. The curriculum has a similar breadth, and the goal of the school is to deliver a comprehensive, international education through the lens of Christian values. The ideal student is one who is interested in all of that: growing within their faith and gaining a sense of their place in the world alongside peers of a like mind.  

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  • North Broward Preparatory School   (Coconut Creek, Florida)

    North Broward Prep was founded in 1957, though it’s grown considerably since then, including a significant growth in its boarding program. The school has moved as well, and currently sits on a campus that is as close to a college campus that you can likely get outside of the post-secondary market. For people that come from away, the Florida environment is certainly a draw, though the size of the student population and the correlating size and breadth of the programs offered tops the list. There is a lot going on, and while the student population is on the larger end of the spectrum, the faculty is sizable as well, this to allow for a very individualized, supported approach to instruction. There’s nothing quite like North Broward, which is exactly why families turn to the school. It offers a vibrant, diverse, globally minded atmosphere within a setting constructed to prepare students academically and personally to succeed at college and university. The ideal student is one looking for a challenge with an eye to post-secondary success.  

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  • North Point School For Boys   (Calgary, Alberta)

    North Point was founded in 2014 in order to address boys who are kinesthetic learners. That is, boys who are academically capable, yet learn best through tactile learning—hands on—and through physical activity, rather than sitting still and listening quietly. Not all boys are kinesthetic learners, of course, though certainly many are, and as such can be prone to not reaching their full academic potential in more traditional, passive educational settings. North Point has structured its program for them. North Point also groups students, for some portions of the day and for some programs, with boys of varying ages, not limited to those within their particular grade. The intention is to allow for mentorship/leadership relationships to develop, something that, for some boys, can be transformative. The ideal student is a boy who will thrive in a very active, close-knit setting, one in which physical activity, including athletics and physical competition, is a significant aspect of school life.  

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  • Northmount School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Headmaster emeritus Glenn Domina quotes Theodore Roosevelt's "Citizen in a Republic" speech—" The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and blood"—to underscore his guarantee that at Northmount "your son will not get his sister's education." No, that's not the cornerstone of the school, but Domina's statements highlight the values that inform the life of the school, values that are also very firmly centred in the Catholic traditions on which the school's program is based. The school is very strong, both socially and academically, and including a rich extracurricular program, particularly when viewed in light of the school's size.. That said, faith is central to the approach. The ideal student is one who shares the values that the school promotes and is personally inspired by them.  

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  • Olivet School   (Etobicoke, Ontario)

    Olivet was established in 1893, though through moves and development, the school doesn’t reflect its age. Nevertheless, there is a continuity which, if less overt, remains within the life of the school.  The academic program is strong, though families most typically turn to Olivet due an appreciation of the context that the school provides, including an attention to spiritual and personal growth. The aim of the school is to provide a foundation for life, and for learning after the children go on to other schools after grade 5. The property accesses green space, and it provides the classroom, in a sense, to learn about the environment and environmental stewardship. Parental involvement in all aspects of the life of the school is very high, a function perhaps of the school’s size. All of that combines to create a community atmosphere that extends beyond the classroom, and beyond the walls of the school. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a challenging, close-knit academic environment.  

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  • OMS Montessori   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Established in 1966, OMS is one of the older dedicated Montessori schools in the country. It’s also one of the larger Montessori environments, something that is in part a function of the school’s long success. Size is certainly not a bad thing, and the principal benefits are diversity within the student population and the breath of program offerings. That said, with a student population divided between two schools, OMS is able to have the best of both worlds, with each location feeling very close-knit in all the ways that we imagine Montessori programs to be. OMS grew from offering instruction in the primary years into the middle and high school years. In 2015, the high school grades became The Element, a school of its own. So, while the locations may be separate, the continuity across all grade levels is understandably attractive to the families that enroll at OMS.  

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  • Oxford Learning Academy (Private School)   (Milton, Ontario)

    Oxford Learning Academy was established in 1984 to provide supplemental tutoring, and while it still offers part-time learning, it has also developed a full-time program. But, even in the part-time offerings, the tutorial method isn’t something ancillary to traditional instruction, but is very much a alternative approach that, for many children, is more beneficial than typical classroom learning. Certainly, there are schools in Canada—Kells in Montreal, and Kenneth Gordon Maplewood in Vancouver are two prime examples—that were founded as full-time schools, yet use the tutorial method in the delivery of the curriculum. It’s beneficial because it is student-centred, student-paced, and requires more of individual learners than typical classroom instruction. Oxford, of course, has long lead the charge in this regard, and continues to provide an alternative that, for many learners, is transformational, allowing them to achieve their full potential in ways that other instructional approaches simply don’t.  

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  • Pear Tree Elementary   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Pear Tree is young, and has all the attributes of youth: energetic, engaging, fun. The day program grew out of the Pear Tree education programs, and launched in 2016. So, it’s fresh, and indeed that’s an attraction. The feel is a great one, and that’s not to be underestimated—creating the right environment, the right feel, is important. With Pear Tree, it’s that vibrant feel that creates the first impression. The program is the definition of progressive, with small classes, hands-on instruction, and built around links across areas of the curriculum. Students are required to work collaboratively, solving problems together, and to engage creatively with each other and with technology. Activity is important, as is nutrition, which is just as it should be. The ideal learner is one who will thrive in an active, creative, small-group oriented environment.  

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  • Pickering College   (Newmarket, Ontario)

    Pickering College was founded as the West Lake Seminary by Quakers in 1842 and, as you might expect, has had a long and interesting history since. Canada became a dominion, the school amalgamated, some buildings burned down, others were built up. It began as a girls' school in 1841, though the school dates its establishment from the the following year, one that saw the opening of the boys' residence and the start of co-ed instruction. That alone was unique at the time, and provided an expression of the Quaker ideal that both sexes should be educated equally. It was also the first school in North America to offer a course in typewriting. Times of course have changed, though certainly many of the values that the school upholds today reflect those with which it was founded, including a desire to embrace new ideas and to support a diversity of interest. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a supportive yet challenging academic environment.  

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  • Prairie Christian Academy   (Three Hills, Alberta)

    Prairie Christian Academy began its life in 1938, founded by J. Fergus Kirk to provide education reflective of the values of the Prairie Bible Institute with which the school was associated. Since then the school has grown considerably. In 2003 it joined the Golden Hills School District, a division within the provincial public school system—called charter schools in Alberta—and has been publicly funded ever since. As such, it’s one of a very few boarding schools in Canada that falls within the purview of the public system, and perhaps the only one that delivers the curriculum through a Christian lens. Students from Alberta pay no tuition to attend. The setting is rural, creating a nice space in which to learn and grow, set somewhat apart from the noise and bustle of urban life.  

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  • Primary Prep Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Literacy and numeracy are key, just as they should be, though they of course are only one portion of a good educational foundation. Parents who turn to Primary Prep are drawn to the early years program, one that provides a seamless transition into the primary grades. Instructors take pacing cues from individual students, tailoring the delivery of the curriculum to their growing mastery of the course material. The school community, too, is a plus—small class sizes enhance personal attention and the experience belonging and participation within all aspects of the life of the school.  

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  • Prince Edward Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Prince Edward was founded in 1995, and has since grown to incorporate two campuses. The program at both extends from the early years through grade 1, providing a seamless transition into the elementary curriculum. Literacy and numeracy are at the forefront of the program, just as they should be, though the development of interpersonal skills and physical education are as well. All of those are draws for the parents to who enroll at Prince Edward. The summer camp offerings are a draw as well, providing some opportunities for a consistency of care throughout the year.  

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  • The Priory School   (Montreal, Quebec)

    The Priory was founded in 1947 with 25 students, though it grew quite quickly in the early years. When the school moved to its current location in 1961, it was officially opened by Governor General Georges Vanier, giving an indication of the profile the school had grown to achieve. The founders, Frances E. Ballantyne and Alphonsine Howlett, believed that children “learn by doing,” something that was revolutionary for the time. Howlett said of The Priory that “it is a school for the children. We are opposed to the idea of ‘children for the school.’ We had seen evidence around us that children had too little interest in their studies and we wanted a school where pupils would want to learn and would enjoy learning.” While the school has grown over the years, it has remained true to those initial ambitions. The school’s most robust capital campaign, begun in 2010, added to the instructional spaces, including provisions for 21st century literacies. A strong sense of community within the school is also a notable draw.  

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  • Queen Margaret's School   (Duncan, British Columbia)

    Vancouver Island has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautiful, excellent schools, and certainly Queen Margaret’s is one of them. It was founded in 1921 by Norah Creina Denny and Dorothy Rachel Geoghegan, who dedicated themselves to providing what was, for the time, something unique: a robust educational experience for all, including women “capable of realizing ourselves as complete individuals.” Certainly, that’s what they did, and it’s a tradition that the school maintains today. The riding program is distinguishing, as is the strength of the academic programs. A strategic plan begun in 2014, to complete at the school’s centenary, will reaffirm the commitment of the founders to excellence as well as their committment to adapting to the changing needs of students.  

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  • Randolph-Macon Academy   (Front Royal, Virginia)

    Randolph-Macon Academy is remarkable in all kinds of ways, the most apparent, perhaps, being that it is the only school in North America to house its own aviation program. That, understandably, is a draw for many students, especially those intending to participate within the school’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. That said, military academies, or military-inflected programs, aren’t only for those arriving with such specific career aspirations. The academics at Randolph-Macon are demonstrably strong, though so are the values that provide the lens through which the core curriculum is taught. The academic environment is organized around a clear sense of purpose and excellence in all areas of life, and that itself, for many students, can be transformational, providing a clear foundation within a community of like-minded peers and mentors. The ideal student is one looking for a purposeful environment, one with a clear set of expectations and outcomes.   

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  • Richland Academy   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    Richland is a Reggio Emilia inspired school, though the administration historically hasn’t been afraid to innovate and put their own spin on things. One example is the house system around which the community of the school is organized. It’s emblematic of the culture of care, and the house names—Suzuki, Fox, and Keilburger—are emblematic as well. Those things hint at an undercurrent of service and engagement that runs through the culture of the school. The instructional programs are strong, but often it’s that culture/values piece that is also a primary draw.    

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  • Ridley College   (St. Catharines, Ontario)

    Ridley expresses so many of the great traditions of private school, and it comes by all of them absolutely honestly. The school was founded in 1889, making it one of the oldest schools in the country. It began life as an Anglican boys’ school—it was named after an Anglican Bishop—but is non-denominational today, and has been co-ed since 1973. That said, many of the traditions that inform the life of the school today date to the founding, including chapel meetings that serve to bring the school together around shared events and shared values. The school maintains a cadet corps, the largest of its kind in Canada. The chapel, and indeed all of the buildings that comprise the campus, are, frankly, gorgeous. It’s easily one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. The strategic plan, implemented in 2014, provided an opportunity to take stock of the school at the time of its 125th anniversary, including a dedication to maintaining a global perspective across the breadth of the curriculum. Throughout its long history Ridley has maintained a reputation as one of the best schools in Canada, one that no doubt will remain for very many years to come. The ideal student is one who arrives predisposed to make the most of the wide range of academic and extra-curricular opportunities that will be made available to them.   

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  • River Valley School   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Author and educator Mary MacCracken once wrote that “children can’t begin to learn until they feel safe.” When discussing schools we often talk about curriculum, or resources, or instructional approaches, and while all of those things are important, so is the presence of a supportive, safe, familiar, and consistent learning environment. And, rightly, that’s where the program at River Valley School begins. The school describes itself as a community, and the description is apt. A safe environment, of course, is one in which a child feels a sense of belonging, and within which she is valued, able to play a role and have a voice. Instruction at River Valley is student-centred, with streams based in the Arrowsmith and Montessori methods, though all informed with that same intention to build upon students’ individual strengths and interests. There is a comfortable enrollment level, one that allows for a nice breath of programming while also maintaining that sense of place and belonging, something which is further augmented by the division of the program between two campuses. Families look to River Valley to create a strong beginning to their children’s education as well as their social lives, and indeed that’s exactly what they find.     

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  • Robbins Hebrew Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The three Rs are important, though who we are, how we grow, and how we build a sense of belonging within our communities are important too. Certainly, that’s the principal that has guided the school since it was founded in 1957. The academics are strong, and RHA has long demonstrated a willingness to look forward, adapting programs to the needs of the students—including the adoption of many of the practices that fall within the category we might think of as 21st century literacies. Identity is a focus, too, and is a foundation of the Robbins program across all of the curricular areas. The ideal student is one looking to learn and grow into a sense of themselves as learners and members of the communities they are a part of.    

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  • Robert Land Academy   (Wellandport, Ontario)

    Some students thrive in environments where they have lots of latitude to be independent and self-motivating. Others thrive in the opposite: an environment that is it structured and ordered, with very clear limits and recognizable boundaries. Robert Land, truly, is for them. The daily routine is regimented, and discipline is enforced. The results, often, are astonishing. This is a school that prides itself on its ability to turn lives around, and that pride is well placed. Robert Land isn't for every student, but, of course, no school is. For students who require structure in order to succeed, the school can make a remarkable difference in a very short period of time.  

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  • Rockway Mennonite Collegiate   (Kitchener, Ontario)

    In some ways, Rockway was born out of a pacifist impulse, established by Swiss Mennonites who were concerned about the military tenor that seeped into the public school system leading up to and during WWII. Times of course have changed, though the foundational principles remain, as well as the values that lay behind them: compassion, understanding, and an open mind to the experiences and perspectives of others. If all you knew about the school was its name, a closer look would reveal a lot of surprises. The school has a robust international program, welcoming students from around the world as well as an extensive exchange program. The curriculum is taught through a Mennonite lens, while also partnering with a local Muslim school, and creating regular opportunities for students to interact with local Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh communities. It’s a unique school, to be sure, which is exactly why families, both within and without the Mennonite community, enroll their children here.  

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  • The Rosedale Day School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Rosedale is proximate to a wealth of physical resources that wouldn't be available to schools of a similar size located elsewhere. The student body is small, with just 120 students, though the school partners with the University of Toronto, the AGO, and the ROM, all of which are located within a short distance of the school. The school very happily makes use of all of those resources, including the athletic facilities at U of T. The school adopts a range of progressive practices, including a promotion of cross-curricular instruction and cooperative learning. In all, it's a very nice mix, combining the intimacy of a small student body with a lot of resources and facilities close to hand. While perhaps not a gifted school, per se, the ideal learner is one who can benefit from an enriched curriculum.  

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  • Rosseau Lake College   (Rosseau, Ontario)

    Rosseau Lake is a small school—the student body, including both boarding and day students, sits at just shy of 100 students. Located on a lake in Muskoka, for many students, there is a lot to get excited about. It’s intimate, active, and the physical plan is stunning. The school is using this, its 50th anniversary year, to renew its commitment to providing a very personalized, forward looking educational experience. The ideal student is an active one, as the setting is used to great advantage to promote, in addition to academics, an active, outdoor lifestyle.  

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  • Rothesay Netherwood School   (Rothesay, New Brunswick)

    The school dates to 1874 when the brilliantly named Ezekiel Stone Wiggins founded Thompson's School, a coed day school. It teetered a bit in the early years, with changes in ownership, and direction, though in time found ultimately found both its academic and financial footings. A long-standing association with Netherwood, a school for girls founded in 1894, resulted in an amalgamation between the two in 1984. The school remains true to a tradition of academic excellence, and the campus is rich with reminders of its long history. The school has also has benefited from robust development, the product of a number of capital campaigns over recent decades. Between the long tradition and extensive recent development, there's frankly a lot here to love. Notably among the school's alumni is John Peters Humphrey, primary author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

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  • Royal Cachet Montessori School   (Markham, Ontario)

    Montessori can mean different things to different people, and programs and facilities can vary between schools. That said, if you knew very little about what Montessori is, Royal Cachet may well reflect the image that you would have in your mind. The school operates out of a dedicated building, purpose built to house the Royal Cachet program. That's a plus. Within it the administration seeks to provide a setting and a model of instruction that remains very close to the intentions and techniques outlined by Maria Montessori. This is very much the school for those looking for a very traditional, dedicated, consistent application of the Montessori method. The ideal student is one who thrives in a play-based, constructivist learning environment.  

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  • Royal Crown Academic School   (North York, Ontario)

    Royal Crown is an international school, as reflected both in its programs as well as the student population. Students arriving from overseas can choose to stay within the Royal Crown residence, or homestay with a local family. Supports, such as ESL instruction and levelling are available to those who need it, as well as counselling around visa and travel requirements. There are also extracurricular programs developed with the overseas student very much in mind. Likewise, class sizes are kept small in order to provide opportunities to build instruction around the students’ specific strengths. The ideal student is one looking for a supportive, vibrant international educational experience.  

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  • Royal St. George's College   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Royal St. George’s College began as an Anglican choir school, and that tradition remains, in various ways, to this day. The entire school meets every Thursday for evensong, for example, and the houses are Canterbury, Westminster, Winchester, and York. The Royal designation was bestowed by the Queen herself at about the time of the school’s 25th anniversary. In that, and much else, this is a very traditional school, which can at times seem untouched by time and the pace of history.

    Despite that, and the age of some of the buildings, the school isn’t as old as you might expect, having been founded in the heart of downtown Toronto’s Annex district in 1961. It also isn’t as stodgy or as insular, and boasts an impressive list of alumni that includes prominent journalists, philanthropists, scientists, and two members of a rock band with a name that can’t be printed here without the use of a lot of asterisks. In all, it’s an interesting mix, and a very successful one as well. The choral program remains very strong, though is part of a broad range of extracurricular programs. The school very rightly makes good use of all the cultural centres nearby, including U of T, the ROM, the AGO, and the reference library. Values, too, remain important, and are a draw for many parents who enroll their boys here, whether or not they live within the Anglican tradition.

     

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  • Rundle College   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Rundle College offers preschool through Grade 12, though is divided across three campuses: one for each of the primary, elementary, and high school programs. As such, the school is able to provide a very broad range of programming while, at the same time, delivering a close, intimate student experience. Parents who look to Rundle are often looking for precisely that: an engaging, personalized, and supportive learning environment. And, certainly, that’s what they find.  

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  • The Sacred Heart School of Montreal   (Montreal, Quebec)

    The Sacred Heart School of Montreal was founded in 1861, and built around the principles that were at the core of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which was begun by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat in 1800. Among those principles was to educate girls to take part in society beyond the home or the church. Barat sought to encourage girls to take a transformative role in their communities, something that, it perhaps goes without say, was a unique perspective for the time. Sacred Heart continues to follow that ideal, expressing it within modern curricular and extracurricular programing, including the integration of 21st century literacies and online tutoring. An international gaze, too, is used to inform the program, seen specifically in service trips and international exchanges. The school was unique when it was formed, and it remains at the cutting edge of education today.  

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  • Selwyn House School   (Westmount, Quebec)

    Many schools have changed considerably over their lives, and of course that's particularly true of the older schools. Selwyn House was begun in 1908 by Captain Algernon Lucas, a graduate of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge. He was just 29 at that time, and he arrived in Canada in the same year that he graduated from Cambridge. He was, frankly, looking for a job. In Montreal, he found one, namely teaching seven boys. To say that the school has come a long way since it was founded is as much an understatement as you could ever hope to find. A visitor to Selwyn House today is impressed in all sorts of ways, and rightly so. The school is home to an exceptional academic program, and despite having begun its life in Lucas' apartment, is now housed in the kind of buildings that Lucas could only have dreamed of. The school participates in the full range of traditions, and has in turn gained notice well beyond the city of Montreal. (It even plays a role in two classics of Canadian literature, Mordecai Richler's Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang and Barney's Version.) The alumni of Selwyn House include, literally, titans of industry, including the Bronfmans and the Molsons, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and the philosopher Charles Taylor, among many other notable Canadians, past and present.  

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  • Shawnigan Lake School   (Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia)

    Shawnigan was founded in 1916 with just six students and cast in the mold of the leading English grammar schools. Its direct model was Westminster School, whose history stretches back to 1179. As such, it provides, aesthetically at least, a contrast to Brentwood, which neighbours the school. Both, as well as Brookes to the south, have some of the most stunning campuses that you could hope to find. The setting of Vancouver Island simply adds to the luster. The founders of Shawnigan Lake felt that all of those things—buildings, vistas, space—were important aspects of learning, and that a school’s setting should be inspiriting. And, certainly, it is. What the campus might lose in terms of warm and cuddly, it gains in a sense of tradition, organization, and consistency. The centennial celebration included school founder C. W. Lonsdale’s 1932 Packard convertible, adding a touch of the Great Gatsby. Still, there is a nice mix of modernity as well, perhaps most obviously in Genius Hour, a program developed by Wendy Milne, assistant head of academics. It’s a cross-grade, cross-curricular program in which students are challenged with creating their own project and seeing it through to completion. The only provisos are that each project involve collaboration, have a clear guiding question, and involve research. All of that—cross-curricular, cross-grade, hands-on, collaborative—are hallmarks of the Shawnigan approach. And, in Genius Hour and beyond, the results are impressive. The student who will do best is one who is a self-starter, operating at the top of his or her peer group, and able to dive in, making the most of the breadth of opportunity provided.

     

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  • Sherwood Heights School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Sherwood Heights intends to give students a strong foundation for further study, granted through a traditional, content-based academic program. Expectations are clear and explicit, including a demonstrable facility with the core curriculum and the development of watertight study habits. For many families that culture—one in which social currency is gained through academics—is a primary draw. Extra-curricular programs augment the core areas of instruction. The ideal student is one who is academically inclined, operating at the top of their peer group, and looking for an environment that prizes all of that.    

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  • Shoore Centre for Learning   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Shoore Centre was founded in order to provide academic support to students with a range of learning challenges. Class sizes are small, as is the school itself. What the setting lacks in social outlets and extra-curricular activities it gains in a personal, dedicated attention to the specific needs of the students. While there have been innovations undertaken to enhance opportunities for social development, the core program accentuates literacy, numeracy, and life skills. The ideal student is one who is struggling academically and socially, and who could better reach his or her potential without the distractions and the demands of a traditional high-school environment.  

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  • Southridge School   (Surrey, British Columbia)

    Southridge was founded in 1993 in part due to the teachers’ strike that year. Local families had been looking for an alternative to the public system, as well as perhaps some stability around program delivery. After an inspirational address from Alan Brown, then headmaster at St. George’s School, a plan to create Southridge was put into action. It was a nice, empowering moment, and there have been others along the way as well, such as the Great Trek in 1995 when the entire school population walked from the temporary home of the school to its permanent location. Truly, the Southridge story is a great one. The school was a very real expression of the community that it serves, something that it very actively and aggressively maintains today. The student population grew quickly, in part a result of expansions in the program. It’s a policy of the school, one that began with Brown, that only children who clearly want to attend are admitted. Brown also wrote the motto, “let every spirit soar.” Southridge is a wonderful example of a community coming forward and working toward a cause they believe in. Yes, time marches on, though that spirit created a legacy that the school works diligently to uphold. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a vibrant, diverse, and challenging academic environment.  

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  • St. Andrew's College   (Aurora, Ontario)

    While there are a few schools that retain their cadet corps, St. Andrew's is the one that has retained it entirely intact, with military ranks, pipes and drums, kilts and sporrans all firmly still in place. The ironies abound of course, given that the traditions remain so staunchly Anglo-Saxon despite a student population that is strikingly international. To be fair, the program offered here has long been distinguished by a high rate of success, with the list of notable alumni providing an abbreviated who's who of Canadian arts, letters, politics, and entrepreneurship. That said, a school's success can be a double-edged sword, at times conferring privilege and honour by association rather than accomplishment. The ideal student is one who is prone to make the most of what the school can offer.  

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  • St. Clement's School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Located in the heart of midtown Toronto, St. Clement's School offers a well-rounded, balanced, and supportive learning environment founded on academic excellence. Mentorship is prized, and the school is committed to delivering on a mission to develop exceptional women who are compassionate, curious thinkers and open to new experiences. Girls are guided on their own paths of discovery with the support of a strong school community. That approach is coupled with a progressive 21st century curriculum and lessons reinforced by lived experience. An inclusive, energetic dynamic is the product of a mixture of small classes sizes and interconnected grade levels.  

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  • St. Francis High School   (Hamburg, New York)

    St. Francis was established in 1926, and understandably it has grown and evolved in response to the needs of students ever since. A substantial capital campaign was undertaken in 2003 to coincide with the school’s 75th anniversary; improvements to the campus included development of a science complex and the athletic program. Membership within the Catholic faith is not required, and the student body is diverse. Likewise, the faculty includes both religious and lay men and women. The values that underscore the life of the school are those of the Franciscan order, and religious understanding is an important aspect of the life of the school. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a community of like-minded peers, and is preparing for post-secondary education.  

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  • St. George's School of Montreal   (Montreal, Quebec)

    St. George's was founded in 1930 by a group of parents who wanted something different for their children, namely an education that was less based in rote learning and more based in experience and respect for the individual learners. Then, as now, the students didn't wear uniforms, and lessons were learned experientially, through hands-on lived experience. Students take part in projects and programs with students throughout the school, not only their immediate age mates. Students are encouraged to follow the paths of their curiosity, and then given the latitude and the resources in order to do so. That said, there is a structure, too, and the academic program has, throughout the life of the school, proved itself through real, observable results.   

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  • St. John's-Kilmarnock School   (Waterloo Region (Breslau), Ontario)

    SJK presents as a very traditional school, an impression granted by the name, the uniforms, the size of the campus. In fact, the school is both younger and more progressive than it might initially seem. Founded in 1972, it has taken all of the more modern educational concepts to heart: small class sizes, student-directed instruction, before- and after-school care from JK to Grade 6, an extensive busing program. The cafeteria menu is even built around locally sourced, non-GMO food. Academically, the program is intended to challenge learners who need to be challenged, and includes IB programs from JK through Grade 12. The intention is to address the whole child, providing strong academic and social support. The school has grown over the years, and is also in the midst of a 5-year development plan, to complete in 2020. While the physical plan is still quite new—it was completed in 1990—the current development is around community and instruction (rather than buildings and infrastructure) including an ongoing dedication to experiential learning, values-based instruction, and 20th century literacies. The ideal student is one operating at the top of their peer group, and who can benefit from a vibrant, diverse educational and social environment.   

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  • St. John's-Ravenscourt School   (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

    SJR was founded in 1820 principally to serve the children of the Selkirk settlers. By 1834 there were forty students, evenly split between boys and girls. The school has inevitably grown and changed over the years since, though it’s success throughout has been unimpeachable. SJR has graduated 18 Rhodes scholars, for example, and the Queen granted patronage and established a scholarship in her name in 1981. Today the programs are as strong as the school’s reputation. A strong academic program is paired with an equally strong attention to the values of stewardship, ethical leadership, and excellence in all areas of academic, social, and athletic life. A strategic plan to culminate in 2020, the school’s bi-centennial, is intended to further develop the school’s campus and programs; it's intended not as a revolution, says the head of school, Jim Keefe, but as the impetus for further evolution of what the school has been providing. The ideal student in one with sights set on post-secondary studies, and able to thrive in a challenging, expansive academic environment.    

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  • St. Margaret's School   (Victoria, British Columbia)

    St. Margaret's isn't for the faint of heart. The focus of the school is on traditional academics paired with outdoor adventure in order to encourage teamwork, confidence, and grit. The ideal student is a girl who is self-motivated, active, and who has already developed a clear set of goals. Athletics and wellness, service, connection to nature, the arts, public speaking and self-directed study are intended to build character and strength. It's a great mix for girls who thrive on independence and challenge, including the kind of competitiveness that can, at times, be a product of it.  

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  • St. Michael's College School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    It's one of the oldest schools in Canada, and is steeped in legend, having descended directly from a secret school founded in the mountains of central France during the French Revolution. Today, it's the only independent Catholic boys' school in Ontario, and one of only a few in Canada. A dedication to teaching the core curriculum though a Catholic lens remains, as does a commitment to strong academics across the board. An extensive program of modernization completed in 2002 brought the school firmly into the 21st century. That said, the school is best known in the popular imagination because of it's storied athletic program. The school has produced more than 180 professional hockey players, a raft of hall-of-famers among them. The school is large, and the academic program is rigorous. The ideal student is self-directed, able to thrive in a demanding, rigorous, and at times competitive environment.  

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  • St. Michaels University School   (Victoria, British Columbia)

    The academic atmosphere at St. Michaels is supportive and progressive, beginning with a Reggio Emilia program that sets a tone of curiosity and collaboration that is carried through the upper grades. That said, the boarding program sets the foundation for the school, establishing a community of service, involvement, and excellence not only in students’ academic life, but in their social lives and physical health as well. The program of pastoral care is broad and robust, something that derives in part from the context that the boarding program provides. The motto of one of the two founding schools is retained today: “nothing is great unless it is good.” That’s telling. Care and support are considered to be as important as challenge and excellence, and students are encouraged to engage with the entire spectrum of curricular and extra-curricular programs. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a rich, challenging, diverse academic and social atmosphere.  

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  • St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School   (Oakville, Ontario)

    The school has a long history, having been founded in Toronto 1891. After a move to Oakville, it later paired with a school guided by Ruth Lightbourn, a renowned teacher who founded a school almost by default—she began as a tutor for the children of John Guest, then headmaster of Appleby College, and her success was of the kind we associate with Nanny McPhee. She became the go-to tutor, and in time founded her own school. That and St. Mildred's formally joined in 1969, combining the traditions and the drive of both under one umbrella. More than anything, the intention is to provide girls with the skills, experience, and esteem that will carry over into academic and professional success. Ample opportunities are provided for students to discover their passions, wherever they may lie, as well as the encouragement to grow within those areas of interest.  

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  • St. Peter's ACHS College School   (Harrow, Ontario)

    St. Peter’s was founded in order to address a very specific kind of learner: active boys. There’s a hockey player in the school logo, though the athletic program is certainly not limited to that, nor is St. Peter’s intended as a hockey school. That program is strong, though the athletics here range in ways that you’d not typically expect in a school of this size. The focus is on physical health, and modelling a physically active lifestyle. Those programs, too, are intended to create a space in which boys are more apt to apply themselves to core academics, and the success of the school for the parents who enroll their children here is based there. It’s an atmosphere in which boys, often, will achieve a higher success in academics than they would in a more traditional educational setting. The school was founded in 1990, and has had a few locations since then, though in 2014 moved into its current facility. Values, too, are promoted, and the curriculum is taught through the lens of Catholic faith. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a very active, challenging, and team-oriented academic environment.  

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  • Stanstead College   (Stanstead, Quebec)

    Stanstead College will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2022 (which, despite how that number looks on paper, is less than 5 years away). In any case, Stanstead’s history is long and varied, apparent in the buildings as well as the traditions that continue at the school today. It was founded in 1872 by the Wesleyan Conference as a co-educational school, though both of those things have fluctuated over the years: it became a property of the Methodist Church, became a boys’ school, became a property of the United Church of Canada, welcomed girls again in 1979, and then ended its denominational affiliation. All of that history very present and celebrated, and it imparts to students a sense of permanency and of belonging to something greater than themselves. The student population is relatively small, at 200, and the community is very strong and centralized, something the school rightly sees as a strength. The academics, as you’d expect, are very strong, but the culture of the school is a primary draw, especially for families looking at the boarding program. Stanstead accepts both boarding and day students, though the school is structured around boarding and maintains a very global perspective across the curricular areas.    

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  • Star Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    In the world of Montessori education, Star Academy distinguishes itself by not having that term—Montessori—within the name of the school. That’s telling. The school doesn’t intend to wear the association on its sleeve, foregoing branding in favour of approach. The school has built its program around a close reading of the kinds of things that Maria Montessori hoped to encourage in the students that she taught: respect, curiosity, collaborative learning, and active engagement. That said, the school is also keen to adapt to the realities of its student population, and families that enroll often do so in light of the things that are unique to the school, including a more intensive commitment to physical education, an 11-month instructional year, and a lower teacher-student ratio.  

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  • The Sterling Hall School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Boys' schools often state that they know boys, or are boy-friendly, though too often those statements aren't qualified. Sterling, thankfully, defines what they mean: energy, curiosity, and exploration. Certainly, boys from K to 8 typically have those in abundance, and the program at Sterling is intended to focus things a bit, channeling those natural attributes toward higher order growth and understanding. Confidence, resilience, motivation, goals—we think that boys naturally have these, but they don't. That Sterling places those kinds of values out front is telling of the overall instructional approach. The ideal student is one who can thrive in a structured, challenging, collaborative, and close-knit learning environment. Parent involvement in the life the of the school is both welcome and encouraged.  

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  • Stratford Hall   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Stratford Hall has grown phenomenally in its 15 years of life, from 40 students in its inaugural year to more than 500 today. It was begun by parents looking for a better option for their children, one that offered challenging academics as well as the full IB program, and those remain hallmarks of the school today. The IB program also provides the foundation for the physical plan, with three buildings housing the three aspects of the program, realized in 2014 with completion of the Middle Years building. Stratford Hall presents as modern, progressive, urban, and indeed, that’s precisely the intention—the architecture is inviting, while also referencing the surrouding neighbourhood. Jason McBride was appointed head of school in 2015, arriving from a like position at GEMS World Academy in Dubai, and underscoring the international perspective promoted across the curricular areas. The ideal student is one that will thrive in a vibrant, challenging, and intellectually active academic environment.  

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  • Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School   (Okotoks, Alberta)

    Strathcona-Tweedsmuir became a school, in that name, in 1971, though it’s history stretches back more than a century. It is essentially an amalgamation of three schools that excelled in different ways: St. Hilda’s School for Girls, Strathcona School for Boys, and Tweedsmuir, a girls’ school. The current school motto, Nil Nisi Optimum, “nothing but the best,” was originally used by Tweedsmuir, as was the black watch uniforms—in that and other traditions that remain in place reflect the founding schools long, shared histories.
     
    The amalgamation came at a time of economic growth due to a boom in oil and gas exploration in the region. Each school was outgrowing its footprint, and so looked to combining forces. The world, too, was changing, and the move to a co-ed academic atmosphere was equally emblematic of the time. The newly minted Strathcona-Tweedsmuir also moved to a sizable parcel of land, where the school remains today.
     
    In time, the school would continue to grow its curricular offerings, including advance placement courses, adoption of Round Square, and the growth of the International Baccalaureate program. STS was also an early adopter of digital technologies in the classroom. Those things are an expression of perhaps the most important tradition that STS expresses, namely that of looking ahead, being flexible, and working to adapt the program to student need. The ideal student is one who will thrive in large, vibrant, and challenging academic environment.  

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  • The Study   (Westmount, Quebec)

    The name sounds generic, and, historically at least, it was. In 1915 Margaret Gascoigne began her school—there were just six students that year—in the study of her home. Remarkably, the school remained at that same location until it moved to its present one in 1960. (The whole story is told and illustrated in the aptly titled, No Ordinary School: The Study 1915-2015, published to mark the school’s centennial.)

    In a sense, Gascoigne provided the same thing then that the school does now: a bilingual education for girls. Though, yes, that alone doesn’t present the half of it. Through the years The Study sought to chart its own path, while at the same time creating a path for the girls that attended. They weren’t being educated to be shrinking violets, but rather to find their voices and, to some extent, transcend the times and circumstances that they were living within. And, they did, with alumni prominent in fields that run the breadth of Canadian life. That tradition of forthright leaders and students certainly remains today. Part of the charm of the school is that tradition, one that is apparent throughout the school. The school may be a century old, but the program remains at the cutting edge of education. The ideal student is one who can rise to the challenges that the school presents.  

     

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  • Sunnybrook School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Sunnybrook School was founded in 1952, becoming one of the very first preschools in Canada. It was exotic for the time, both for being a nursery school, as well as being founded by an Austrian educator, Irmingard Hoff. From opening day the school was at the leading edge of education at the time, and it has worked to remain there ever since. Sunnybrook was the first school in the country to adopt the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. It's since dedicated itself to development of 21st century literacies, an international curriculum, and the adoption of Singapore Math. Which sounds like a lot, and it is. The ideal student is one who is operating at the top of her peer group, and who is able to make the most of the range of programming on offer.  

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  • Taddle Creek Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Fred Rogers wrote that children have an inner timetable, and will learn new things when they’re ready. It’s not a universal—we do need to provide opportunities for them to learn and grow—but the underlying point is a good one, namely that children often learn best when we take our cues from them. Maria Montessori perhaps didn’t express that concept in quite the same way, but in schools like Taddle Creek, it’s an important aspect of the program. And for many parents, it’s comforting that Taddle Creek brings patient support to the fore, stressing the importance of allowing a child’s growth to unfold naturally, and at their own pace. Taddle Creek is one of three sister schools under the Mildenhall Montessori umbrella. Matt Smith is the principal, and while it’s not essential, it’s interesting that he travelled to Bergamo, Italy, to complete his Montessori training. It’s the international home of Montessori education. Also a plus is the fact that he was staff and ultimately director at Camp Hurontario. Certainly, of the kinds of credentials a parent might be looking for in a Montessori educator, those—unequivocal dedication, specialized instruction, and experience—will top the list.  

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  • Tall Pines School   (Brampton, Ontario)

    Tall Pines isn’t your typical Montessori school, in part because it sees the Montessori approach not as an end in itself, but rather as a starting point. There are lots of things here that Maria Montessori wouldn’t recognize, from school uniforms to 21st century literacies; from a robust athletics program, to a larger, more diverse student body. All of those things are very intentional, and Tall Pines has built its program to be innovative, offering the best of both Montessori and progressive instructional approaches. Administration is aware that they have options, and therefore the students do as well.  

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  • TEAM School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Mentor College and the TEAM schools (Tutorial and Educational Assistance in Mississauga) are closely associated. They are overseen by a single administrative body, and they share some facilities, services, and extracurricular programs. The most obvious difference between them is focus: where Mentor College provides a program for students proceeding within the academic stream, and the TEAM providing a program for those proceeding within the applied stream. That said, it's the other differences—including style of instruction, class size, and individual attention—that ultimately distinguish the schools. Many students arrive at TEAM after struggling to meet their true academic potential within a more traditional academic setting. The ideal student is one who will benefit from the added support and attention, with particular attention to numeracy, literacy, and the development of sound learning skills. Due in part to the association with Mentor College and TSS, the facilities are modern and robust, as are student services and transportation.  

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  • TFS - Canada's International School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The school celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2012, marking the end of an astonishing period of growth and development. The school really did start in a basement, moving from there into a range of branches throughout Toronto, in time consolidating onto the two campuses that the school occupies today. Schools don't grow that much, or that quickly, if they aren't servicing a specific need, and certainly that's true of TFS. The acronym stands for Toronto French School, which is the name that the school was founded with, though in time it was offering a lot more than the name suggested. Language remains an important part of the curriculum, though the culture of the school reaches beyond language. The environment is rich, varied, and supportive. The student body is culturally and academically diverse, all of which is encouraged through a robust bursary program.  

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  • THINK Global School   (New York, New York)

    THINK Global was founded in 2010 by Joann McPike, a travel photographer initially from New Zealand. She left at age 18 and quickly became a true citizen of the world, travelling constantly for her work. In 2008 she collected her photographs in a book titled THINK, and within that, as well as the fact that she was now travelling with her son, the idea for a true international school took root. There are of course a range of things that schools mean when they describe themselves as international, though THINK Global School, perhaps more than any other, embodies all of them: students enroll from around the world, they travel throughout the school year, and they learn the core academic curriculum through a global lens. It’s not for everyone, though, for some students at least, it’s literally a dream come true. THINK Global prizes learning through doing, though also learning through living. Travel is managed to create opportunities not only to experience global history and geography, but also—and more importantly—to grow an awareness of global community, empathy, and stewardship.  

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  • TMS   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    TMS was founded in 1961 Helma Trass, who learned the instructional approach from Maria Montessori herself. Trass was at the leading edge of Montessori education in Canada, and the school is, today, home to one of the longest running programs of its kind in the country. The elementary program that she began remains vital today, and it retains her dedication to the core ideals of the Montessori method. With the addition of middle and high-school programs, the school grew to become one of the largest Montessori programs in North America. The rebranding, from the initial Toronto Montessori Schools, to the acronym TMS, was adopted along with the growth of the school into the upper Grades. While the program is continuous, it is divided between two campuses, with preschool through Grade 6 taught at the Bayview campus, and Grades 7 through 12 at the Elgin Mills campus, which was opened in 2009. That campus is also home to the IB program, one that further extends an already impressive breadth of instruction.  

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  • Toronto French Montessori   (Toronto, Ontario)

    TFMS is unique in that it provides language immersion beginning in the early years, and that it does so within a Montessori setting. What makes the program even more unique is that it does all of that through a Christian lens, bringing spiritual awareness and growth into the core of the program. The community of the school is small and close-knit, and parental involvement is welcome, something which is also an important draw for the families that enroll here. Ultimately, TFMS has a lot to offer, and it’s the combination of those offerings that make the school so unique. Yes, academics are important, just as they should be, but TFMS intends to deliver students into their high school years confident in their ability, their relationships with others, and their place in the world.  

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  • Toronto International Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    There are many ways of defining success, though the one that TIA has built its program around is this: university acceptance. Many students arrive from overseas, and part of the goal of the school is to acclimate them to life in Canada. For all students, local or international, the program is designed to build academic strength and confidence as well as the study skills that will help them achieve their academic potential once in university. What the school may lack in extended extracurricular programs it gains in close attention and support. The ideal student is one intending to enter a Canadian university confident in their academic abilities and study skills.    

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  • Toronto Prep School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    As the name suggests, Toronto Prep School is very much a preparatory academy intending to prepare students for university. The ideal student is one who arrives at the school with a clear sense of where they are going and is able to effectively manage their time and their schedule. The environment is rigorous, and the school operates very much with the demands of a teen lifestyle in mind. Classes start late in order to align with teens sleep patterns; a partnership with GoodLife Fitness, located within the same building as the school, provides an opportunity to maintain physical fitness. Those kinds of things are beneficial to students who are prone to making the most of them.  

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  • Toronto Waldorf School   (Thornhill, Ontario)

    Not all Waldorf programs are created the same, and the Toronto Waldorf School is a great example of that. The program extends through grade 12 which, for some, may be surprising given that the method is so firmly associated with the ECE years. As such, it calls into question what Waldorf is, and what it can mean in the life of a child. For TWS, it means a commitment to active learning, process over product, and cross-curricular, collaborative learning. Families that enroll typically are also attracted by an overt attention to ethics, environmental stewardship, interpersonal values, and the encouragement of individual expression. While the curriculum is strong, it’s often that values peice that tips the balance. The ideal student is one who will thrive in an interactive learning environment that builds from the students shared curiosity.

     

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  • Town Centre Private Schools   (Markham, Ontario)

    When most people think of Montessori, they think of small, early childhood environments. Given that, approaching Town Centre Montessori can provide some disruption in that thinking. The program runs from pre-school through Grade 12, and the student body is on the large end of the private school spectrum, certainly much larger than the vast majority of Montessori schools. All of that provides a lot of room for the school to develop the curricular and extra-curricular programs. For the families that look to TCMPS, those are the things that really catch their eye: dedicated teaching, a broad range of programming, and a clear demonstration of academic strength and innovation. For families enrolling in the earlier years, the fact that the school offers before- and after-care, included in tuition, is certainly also a plus. Throughout, TCMPS provides a truly unique program—there’s no other school quite like it—one based in an attention to learner-based instruction and collaborative learning, and a vibrant student environment.

     

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  • Trafalgar Castle School   (Whitby, Ontario)

    It really is a castle, and the interiors are as striking as the exterior: turrets, arches, wood and stone. The school is also genuinely old, having been founded in 1874, though the building pre-dates the school. Yet, as ever, appearances can be deceiving, or at least can risk being made too much of. Trafalgar administration has, throughout its long history, consistently revised the curriculum and programs with an intention of providing, in a very literal, sense, the best the world has to offer. That includes the adoption of the Singapore math and science curricula; Mandarin instruction; the "i-Think" integrated problem solving initiative developed the Rotman School of Business; and writing instruction based on the program developed at the University of Chicago. Trafalgar offers an up-to-date, creative, and intentional program for girls preparing for university.  

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  • Trinity College School   (Port Hope, Ontario)

    Trinity is one of the oldest boarding schools in Canada and, having been founded two years prior to confederation, is indeed older than the country itself. While it looks entirely different than it did when it was founded—there are no original buildings, nor does it sit at the same site as it did in 1865—the core values remain: quality academics with an eye to educating students into positions of social, professional, and political leadership. The ideal student is one who responds well to challenge.  

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  • Turnbull School   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Turnbull was founded by Mary Ann Turnbull in 1992, though its history in a sense dates back to Turnbull Learning Centre, which Turnbull established in 1981. The Centre offered academic services, and Turnbull’s success there lead to the creation of the school. The setting is idyllic since 1996 Turnbull School has occupied a parcel of 5.5 acres in the Central Experimental Farm area of Ottawa. The location is within Ottawa, yet retains a rural community feel, which itself is a draw for many families. The space also allows for a focus on environmental education, something that has distinguished the school somewhat and gained recognition in 2007 by the SEEDS Foundation. The school has grown over the years, and is a good size today, allowing for a nice breadth of programming, while at the same time retaining a personal, community feel. Per the initial intentions for the school, values—cooperation, character, and reasoned reflection—inform all the activities of the school. Parental involvement in the life of the school is welcomed, as is consistent, informal communication between families and school administration.  

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  • University of Toronto Schools   (Toronto, Ontario)

    UTS began its life in 1910 as a laboratory school within the University of Toronto department of education. Then, as now, it shared a building with that faculty. When it was founded the intention was that there would ultimately be more than one school, including a girls' school, as the initial enrollment was just boys. Despite the name which still uses the plural "schools" there has only ever been one. It's remarkable for all kinds of reasons, including an alumni that includes 2 Nobel Laureates, twenty Rhodes Scholars, eleven Olympians, and three ambassadors. In the century since it was founded, UTS weathered some interesting times, including student protests in the 1960s. At one point a student presented the headmaster with a blank sheet of paper saying "this is a list of our demands." It might sound a bit silly now, but the school was at the centre of the debates that would, in time, bring some important advances to public schooling in Canada, including the abolition of matriculation exams and a 4-year secondary school program (rather than 5). Those changes, and many others, are symbolic of the school's excellence, and it remains one of the foremost schools in the country. While not a gifted school, at least in name, the ideal student is one who thrives within a challenging, brisk academic environment.   

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  • Upper Canada College   (Toronto, Ontario)

    UCC is one of the oldest and most storied schools in Canada. Its alumni include a who's who of Canadian political, business, and cultural life. Its history is, in many ways, the history of independent schooling itself; to attend is to become a part of a Canadian cultural tradition, one that retains a prominent place in Canadian education. The school leads in the provision of financial assistance, with a robust program of scholarships and bursaries intended to attract the brightest students in Canada and from around the world.  

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  • Vancouver Waldorf School   (North Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Waldorf education can be a bit tricky to get your head around at times, and that’s because different schools may express various aspects of what they feel Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the method, had in mind. That said, the best are those that VWS expresses within its curriculum, one that extends from the earlier years through Grade 12. The learning environment is one built around a shared sense of community and community values. The goal is to create students who have fluency with the core concepts, but also are able to work creatively and respectfully with others.

     

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  • Venta Preparatory School   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Venta was established in 1981 by Dr. Agatha Sidlauskas who, at 103, remains the figurehead of the school. She was born in Lithuania in 1914, and had a front row seat for more history than she perhaps cared to see. Truly, she has lived an amazing life. As a child she was curious, nature oriented, and forthright—all things that didn’t bode well in Eastern European schools of the time. Later, working in the Italian Embassy in Vilnius, she was accused, at gunpoint, by the KGB of being a spy. She studied child psychology, with a specific attention to school success—why some students did well while others didn’t, and worked with children on local pediatric psychiatric wards.
     
    Her life in Canada began the moment she disembarked at Pier 21 in 1948, a refugee with a trunk full of books and little else. She worked as a domestic in Montreal, later becoming a nurse’s aid in the pediatric wards of General Hospital in Ottawa. "I connected with the children and found some success,” she said. “There were children who were bright but suffering. They had no joie de vivre. Something had to be done."
     
    That was the nut from which Venta Preparatory Academy has grown. All of her experiences, in varying degrees, were entered into the mix, and her imprint remains today. The school rightly prides itself on providing individual attention to each student, and entrance exams are less about ranking proficiency as they are a means of getting a good, objective handle on each student’s specific strengths and needs. The program is built around appreciating each student’s talents, their curiosity, and in nurturing positive, respectful interpersonal relationships.

    Sidlauskas has commented that, today in Canada "It is freedom without guidance. [Children] are healthy, well off, have physical well-being. So they emulate hockey or rock stars." The school intends to teach as much through example as instruction, to ultimately provide a broader sense of success and of possibility.  

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  • Venture Academy Troubled Teens Program (BC)   (Kelowna, British Columbia)

    Venture Academy was founded in 2000 by Gordon Hay in order to provide support for students who, for a range of reasons, weren’t thriving within traditional academic settings. Hay had worked with teens in outpatient and resident treatment settings, as well as within corrections programs. He is the first to say that so many of the stories he has heard over the years are heartbreaking, and the impact of so many of those stories has been profound. That said, while he perhaps doesn’t use the term, he created Venture as an atmosphere of hope—a place of understanding, including the understanding that positive change can be made. It’s about working with the individual, but it’s also about working with families—communication is open, and support is provided. It’s an impressive model, evident in the success that Venture has had over the years. There are now locations in Kelowna, BC, Red Deer, Alberta, and Barrie, Ontario, though Venture extends well beyond the bricks and mortar, and operates today as an umbrella organization, bringing together expertise, parents, and teens. The goal isn’t to silo teens, but rather to provide the kind of care, support, and understanding needed to help overcome the challenges they face.    

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  • Venture Academy Troubled Teens Program (ON)   (Barrie Area, Ontario)

    Venture Academy was founded in 2000 by Gordon Hay in order to provide support for students who, for a range of reasons, weren’t thriving within traditional academic settings. Hay had worked with teens in outpatient and resident treatment settings, as well as within corrections programs. He is the first to say that so many of the stories he has heard over the years are heartbreaking, and the impact of so many of those stories has been profound. That said, while he perhaps doesn’t use the term, he created Venture as an atmosphere of hope—a place of understanding, including the understanding that positive change can be made. It’s about working with the individual, but it’s also about working with families—communication is open, and support is provided. It’s an impressive model, evident in the success that Venture has had over the years. There are now locations in Kelowna, BC, Red Deer, Alberta, and Barrie, Ontario, though Venture extends well beyond the bricks and mortar, and operates today as an umbrella organization, bringing together expertise, parents, and teens. The goal isn’t to silo teens, but rather to provide the kind of care, support, and understanding needed to help overcome the challenges they face.    

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  • Villa Maria   (Montreal, Quebec)

    Villa Maria is both one of the oldest and largest private schools in Canada, with a current enrollment just shy of 1400 students. Founded in 1854, the school has a long history, remaining a focal point of Anglophone society well into the 20th century, hosting an impressive roster of dignitaries, including King Edward VII, King George V, and Queen Mary. Academically, the school has continually adapted to the changing times, adopting programs and practices to meet the needs of the student population. One of the most notable came in September of 2016 when boys were admitted for the first time in the school's 161-year history. Today, the program is at the leading edge of academic innovation, including an active use of technology in the classroom and a dedication to global awareness. Both Francophone and Anglophone students are enrolled, and the school is divided into to teaching sectors, one French and one English (though competency in both languages is posited as a goal for all students). The ideal student is one who with thrive in a rich, busy, academically challenging environment.  

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  • Villanova College   (King City, Ontario)

    Villanova was founded in 1999 on property that is home to the Mary Lake Augustinian Monastery. Today the school operates independent of the order, in terms of finances and leadership, though shares the values of service and charity. While the school is understandably a draw for families looking for a school delivering the curriculum through a Catholic lens, it also attracts those from surrounding communities who, apart from religious observance, share those foundational values. The school is relatively young, though has established a strong academic and athletic reputation in a short time. The school also has set standards for online communication, and the use of technology in instruction and assessment. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, active student environment.  

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  • Voice Integrative School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Marie Lardino, the founder of VIS, began her teaching career within the public system in Ontario. As such, she witnessed first-hand the impacts that the province-wide reforms begun in 1998—in particular standardized testing—had on her students. Grades, she felt, became a regrettable focus, increasing student stress and anxiety. That was the impetus that lead her to found the VIS in 2000. It builds from the strength of having a common curriculum, though presenting it in a more personal, supportive, student-centred environment. To date, the success of the school has been remarkable, gaining the attention of professional educators, and providing an example that many have chosen to emulate. Lardino, who remains head of school, believes that students learn best in environments where “belonging and safety are acknowledged, practiced, and celebrated.” The academic program is rigorous, though student success is a product of the empowerment that they feel each day when they arrive at school.  

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  • Walden International School   (Brampton, Ontario)

    The work of Walden, as suggested by the school’s name, is informed by the work of Henry David Thoreau, specifically the idea that working within a natural setting, allowing curiosity to guide you, is the basis to working with others and knowing your place in the world. The offering of the IB program underscores that world view, as does an emphasis on getting into nature. It’s a noisy world. Kids need quiet, and Walden rightly makes that a priority. Instruction is student driven, seeking to inspire curiosity, while also capitalizing on the interests that students bring into the classroom. While academics are strong, it’s the values that the school promotes that is a particular draw to the families that enroll here.  

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  • Waldorf Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    We often consider the ideal student for a certain educational setting, though with Waldorf schools, it's important to also consider the ideal parent. Instruction is play-based, student directed; benchmarks are less important than engagement. Multiple intelligences, multiple-sensory learning, cross-curricular instruction, visual learning--it's perhaps the epitome of what we think of as alternative education: constructivist rather than didactic. Waldorf Academy is one of the first of its kind in Canada, and was created when a group of parents decided to come together to create the kind of school that they wanted for their children. It's grown since then, and the organization and infrastructure has been formalized as well, including the creation of a purpose-built learning environment. Nevertheless, the core concept remains. The successful student is one who thrives in a play-based setting. The ideal parent is one who sees the value in a constructivist approach, narrative-based assessment (letter grades are given only in grades 7 and 8) and who supports the maintenance of a media-free learning environment.  

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  • West Island College   (Calgary, Alberta)

    West Island College was founded in Montreal by Terry Davies in 1974, and was intended to provide a strong bilingual option for families living on Montreal’s West Island. Davies felt that the future was upon us, and that schooling needed to respond if it was going to create the kind of creative, collaborative leaders that would be required, and that’s vision that also provided a foundation for West Island College in Calgary when it was established in 1982. Today, while there are two other schools in Canada that share the West Island College name, the school operates independently. As such, it’s free to build at grow to meet the needs of its students, and it certainly has. Today, the international programs are robust, as are the language programs, all of which contribute to the overall culture of the school. It’s a very interactive, engaging school, one that requires a lot of the students who attend, while also providing the support they need to succeed. The ideal student is one who shares the school’s foundational values and can thrive in a very active and engaging student environment.  

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  • Westside Montessori Academy   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Maria Montessori believed, rightly, that education was about a lot more than learning to read or manipulate numbers. Rather, she felt that education was the process through which a child came to know themselves, their value, and their place in their community. Westside takes all of that very much to heart, which is why, when speaking of expectations, they are as likely to talk about respect for oneself and others, empathy, curiosity, and involvement as they are the more concrete curricular benchmarks. Yes, literacy and numeracy are important, but so is the development of time management skills and maintaining an active lifestyle. The Westside aftercare program is a draw as well, allowing families to efficiently manage their time together.  

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  • Westside Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    There are various aspects to the Montessori model of instruction, though Westside nicely addresses not only what Montessori is, but also what it can mean in the longer-term. Maria Montessori didn’t think small—her classrooms, she felt, could be a doorway to many things, including world peace. That’s a very big thought of course, but within it is that idea of the longer-term, the belief that education is about the future of a society through addressing the future of each child. At Westside, that’s very much the intention: to give young students the basis for success in their education, and ultimately, success in life. The vibrancy of the surrounding Kensington Market community finds its way, very happily, into the classroom as well. Core literacy and numeracy are important, though there is also an attention to esteem, executive functioning, and social interaction. Rightly, families look to Westside, often principally, because of the program’s attention to those foundations.     

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  • The Westside School   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    For many parents, the attraction to Westside is Graham Baldwin, president and CEO of Westside since 2013. He immigrated from the UK in 1983 to take a leadership role at Brentwood College, and in the meantime has cut a swath of excellence through the world of independent schooling in BC. At events and expos, he can gather a crowd, and his credentials are as long as his arm and then some. Likewise, he gathers staff to his programs, again, because of an appreciation of what he’s done, and a desire to play a role in what he continues to do. Most impressive, perhaps, is his desire to always look ahead, to see how things might be done better and then to make it so. At any point he could have stopped and just, you know, coasted a bit. But he hasn’t. The Westside program, as well as the Westside Miniversity, are great examples of that. Even that term—Miniversity to refer to the 10-12 senior program—signals that there is something different here. And there is. The school prides itself, rightly, on being engaged with students, and supporting them with an eye to post-secondary programs and beyond. And, indeed, that’s exactly what it does.  

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  • Wheatley School   (St. Catharines, Ontario)

    Wheatley was founded in 1986 by Eda Varalli, who remains as the principal of the school today. Her inspiration was, truly, the best there ever is—to create a school that just did things better than they were being done. She took the Montessori method as a starting point, particularly in its focus on the individual, the belief that instruction is best when it takes the curiosity and the spirit of the learner as its starting point. The school has grown over the years, including notably in 2001 with the move into the school’s current facility. The community that the school describes includes parents and extended family, and annual events underscore that, such as a grandparent’s day every April; during Family Literacy Week, parents and grandparents are invited to come into the school to read with students. In all, there’s a nice little spark throughout the life of the school, evident in things like the parent open house titled, beautifully, “Come See What I Can Do Day,” or the standing invitation for parents to have coffee with the principal. Sometimes there is a lot of power in the details, as well as in consistent leadership, and Wheatley serves as a lovely example of that.   

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  • Wildwood Academy   (Oakville, Ontario)

    Wildwood was founded in 2002 in order to serve primary and middle-grade learners who require more support than they would find within a traditional classroom. The environment—both physically and pedagogically—was designed to address the needs of students with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, dyslexia, and autism Spectrum Disorder. In some senses, that describes quite a range of students and abilities, including those who may function both above and below their peers. While the classroom setting and extra-curricular activities provide opportunities for social development, the pace of instruction is individualized. The intention is to prepare students for high school, developing a personalized suite of strategies and skills necessary for them to make the most of academic life once they leave Wildwood after grade 8.  

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  • WillowWood School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    By any measure, there’s a lot to love about WillowWood. That said, for the families that enroll here, it’s that they say this: “all students have a right to learn with dignity.” Truly they mean it, precisely because they rub up against that concept in every class they teach, every day of the school year. The work of the school is dedicated to supporting learners who, for a range of reasons, need something different, and who, for whatever reason, aren’t adequately supported in other academic environments. Their personal needs are assessed, as are their strengths and interests, and instruction begins from that point, seeking to build on their abilities in order to grow engaged learners equipped with the confidence and the skills to establish a place in the community of the school and beyond.    

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  • Woodland Christian High School   (Breslau, Ontario)

    John van Pelt, the principal at Woodland, is a graduate of the school, and that’s telling. Community is an important aspect of Woodland, and van Pelt, having experienced it both as student and staff, offers a nice continuity to the life of the school. Community, of course, extends to the faith community, including service opportunities within local churches, something that is a primary draw for the families that enroll here. The student population is just north of 300, which is a nice place to be, one that allows a rich program of extra-curricular programming, while also maintaining a small-school, inclusive feel.  

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  • The YMCA Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The very heart of private education is providing options for parents looking to support their learner, and YMCA Academy sits at the very heart of that concept. It was founded and developed to support learners with needs that may not be adequately met within other settings. Likewise, it comprises an academic environment in which those students aren’t constantly reminded of their exceptionality. Here, they participate in a community that is supportive, sympathetic, and socially oriented around their personal needs. That, in itself—irrespective of the programs or the curriculum—can be transformational. This isn’t a school for others, making a concession for them. Rather, it is a school for them. That’s huge.  

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  • York House School   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    York House was founded in 1932 by seven women looking to provide a better educational experience for girls. There were just 17 students that year, though the school has grown considerably over the years, all the while adapting the program to the immediate needs of the student population. The current senior school building was opened in 2013, and it’s stunning pretty much in every way. The building provides a good sense of the culture of the school, one that is based in community, both local and beyond. The design was intended to inspire learners, and it certainly does, in all kinds of ways. One of them is the list of thousands of famous women printed on the glass barriers throughout the central atrium. Each was selected by students, and together they are a demonstration, one that students pass every day, of the extensive community of visionary women that they, too, will join. York House has a lot to offer, and that kind of positive reinforcement, and that constant restatement of possibility, is certainly high on the list.  

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  • The York School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The York School was founded in 1965 as a pre-school and it has continued to grow since then, all the while reflecting the changing cultural and academic ideals of the age. The 60s saw a rise in hands-on, inquiry-based preschool instruction, as well as a greater attention to the realities of life and community than Dick and Jane could provide. For York, that approach to pre-school instruction was a starting point. With the creation of the lower school in 1978 and the upper school in 1998, York provided an ongoing education based on the initial analogue. Like the surrounding city, the school prizes diversity and an international perspective, something that arises naturally from a diverse student population. York is housed in adapted office buildings in the heart of the city, providing a focal point for the urban, integrated culture of the school. The ideal student is one who can make the most of a challenging, diverse, and vibrant learning environment.  

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