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Private school reviews

Every private school exists to meet the needs of a specific set of learners, which is something that on the whole differentiates private education from the public system. Where public schools strive for consistency across districts, boards, and provinces—each school offering the same thing as all the others—every private school is unique, with its own character, facilities, programming, culture, and reason for being. In these reviews, we offer Our Take on what each school offers, noting the foci, the strengths, the limitations, and the traditions that inform the life of each school.

Reviews are listed alphabetically. Use the search field at right to search for a specific school or to search keywords, including cities and school type.

School Name

  • ABC Montessori   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    There’s a lot to learn in the early years, one of them being a confidence to learn and to engage effectively with others. ABC, in keeping with the core tenets of the Montessori approach, was founded in 1995 to create a caring, supportive, family-centred environment, and that remains foremost in the school’s approach. An impressive roster of extracurricular activities is a draw, as is the attention to values. ABC’s reputation has been rightly gained through an individual attention to the needs of each student, and providing a solid foundation for their ongoing academic life.  

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  • 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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  • Académie de la Capitale   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    It’s a big world out there and for the students who enroll here, AcadeCap is a window onto all of it. The attention to global education is underscored by the adoption of the IB PYP and MYP programs, and things continue from there. Collaborative learning, among peers as well as intergenerational, is an important aspect of the delivery of the curriculum, as is the provision of authentic learning experiences. There is of course a vast array of resources available within the capital region, and AcadeCap rightly makes the most of them. Class sizes are small, and instructional support is personal and individualized. The school casts a very wide net, and models an approach to learning based in curiosity, empathy, and active engagement. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a diverse, challenging, vibrant and social learning environment.  

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  • Académie Marie-Claire   (Kirkland, Quebec)

    AMC sets its sights very high, and well it should. The academic program is strong, and overtly grounded in an empathetic world view, with an emphasis on providing reasoned leadership. Those three things are perhaps the principal draws for the families that enroll. AMC was founded by Marie-Claire Martin, the child of diplomats, and that international experience has been central to school’s development. After an initial period of growth, the school today hits what many feel is the sweet spot: large enough to be able to offer a full range of extracurriculars, while small enough to maintain a strong sense of place and community. The breadth of the language program, and the provision of an authentically bilingual environment, is also a draw.  

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  • Académie St-Laurent Academy   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    St Laurent is still fairly young, having been founded in 2005, though it certainly hit the ground running. Today it rightly has a strong reputation for the strength of its academic programs and the vibrancy of the school community. The program stretches from the early years through high school, and that’s a draw for families who would like to have a consistent school experience. There are two locations, one dedicated to augmenting the early years program. Neither location is smack dab in the centre of town, with a residential neighbourhood offering a welcome buffer and heightening the sense of place. There are of course very many resources on offer in the capital region, and instruction, rightly, reaches out to make good use of them. Also a draw is an active approach to emotional and social development, as is the attention to physical education and interpersonal and environmental empathy. The school was formed through a partnership with parents, and a very porous interface between faculty and families remains a strength of the school today.  

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  • Académie Vaudrin Academy   (Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec)

    Vaudrin has devoted itself to helping children reach their full potential, and within that casts a very wide net. A trilingual school, certificates of eligibility are not required for enrollment. The school bases instruction in creativity and interpersonal collaboration, and supports learners through a broad range of means, including those for struggling learners, including the rightly celebrated Arrowsmith approach. This is a school that doesn’t shy from reaching out, trying new things, and adapting to meet individual’s needs, and though still relatively young, Vaudrin has certainly charted its success in that regard. When Vaudrin says that they will help all learners reach their potential, they certainly take it to heart.  

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  • Académie Westboro Academy   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Westboro was established in 1993 by a group of parents who wanted a quality bilingual elementary education for their children. It began with a single Grade 1 class comprised of just 7 students. Needless to say, the school has grown, though—as at the beginning—growth has been an expression of need within the community. Further, the sense of community within the school is rightly encouraged and prized. The focus remains centred on providing an authentic, effective bilingual program within a setting that addresses academic and social development. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, active educational environment. As such, at Westboro those who enroll will join a student body of true peers, one in which social currency is gained through achievement in all levels of student life. For many, that experience alone can be transformational.  

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  • Academie Providence   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    All private and independent schools are unique — designed to a specific purpose and for a specific class of learner — and Academy Providence is a particularly good example of that. It was founded in 2002 as an expression of the work of the Antonine Sisters in Canada and the values of the Catholic church. The curriculum adopts a multicultural gaze, even in the earliest years, in part through a substantial attention to languages. Likewise, it adopts the hands-on, group inquiry approach of the Montessori method. That’s a lot, perhaps, but it works. Families that enroll here are drawn by the strength of the academic program as well as the values that inform the delivery of the curriculum. The school is an expression of a Catholic order, though one of the tenets of the Antonine Sisters is to provide education to all people, something that is reflected in the diversity of the student body.  

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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 Academy   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    In many ways, Alexander is very much an expression of its context, namely the cultural and social life of Vancouver. The approach is international, drawing students from a range of cultural backgrounds, though also teaching with an eye to global communication and issues. The school is very forward looking, adapting programs to address 21st century literacies, and providing support for individual student success, including flexible scheduling. Academics are front and centre, just as they should be, but there is an attention to student life within the walls of the school and beyond. The location is proximate to a range of resources, including galleries and museums, arts venues, and transportation. The ideal student is one preparing for university studies.  

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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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  • Alpine Academy   (Erda, Utah)

    Alpine was founded in 2001, though is an expression of the work that Utah Youth Village has been doing since 1969. The setting is stunning, and the sense of place, as well as the sense of purpose, is a great strength of the program. The school presents an opportunity for girls to start over, to reimagine who they are and what they might become. The program follows the Teaching-Family Model, what the APA describes as “one of the few evidence-based residential treatment programs for troubled children” and recognizing its successes in application. In contrast to programs that see behavioural issues as analogous to illness or mental deficit, the T-F model understands those issues as stemming rather from a lack, for various reasons, of positive interpersonal relationships. What Alpine provides, from the moment that girls arrive, is precisely that: a place within an empathetic, supportive, safe community. For some, that alone is transformative. The typical student is one who displays symptoms associated with depression, mood disorders, trauma, attention deficits, and lowered self-esteem. They also all have skills, talents, and academic abilities, because of those symptoms, that have gone unrecognized and unexpressed. Alpine intends to change that, working with students in a close-knit, family styled environment. Their success is evidence in the feel of life on campus—this doesn’t feel like a treatment centre—and the successes of their graduates. The goal of all private schools is to provide a support to a specific segment of the student population, allowing them to reach their potentials in school and in life. Alpine has demonstrated an ability to meet that goal in every way.  

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  • Appleby College   (Oakville, Ontario)


    Read the full feature review

    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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  • Applewood Academy for Progressive Learning   (Belleville, Ontario)

    Every private school exists to meet the needs of a specific set of learners, which is something that on the whole differentiates private education from the public system. And in that sense, you can’t find a better example than Applewood. It isn’t the right school for all students, but for a specific set of students—principally ones that require therapeutic support and individual learning programs—it is unequalled. When students arrive at Applewood they find themselves in an environment in which they are at the centre of the program, not somewhere ancillary to that. They also find a staff that is expert in their needs, and can envision their path to success. It’s a great school, and a great story. The ideal student is the one who is struggling elsewhere, and who can benefit from a dedicated, empathetic, specialized environment.  

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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 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, and that's what the Arrowsmith school principally addresses.   

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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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  • ArtsCalibre Academy   (Victoria, British Columbia)

    Too often when a public school board seeks to trim costs they look to arts programming. We like the three Rs, to be sure, and they’re important. But the division between those and the arts isn’t perhaps as clear as some might think. When the people, all those thousands of years ago, wanted to express themselves to others on the walls of the caves at Lascaux, they painted pictures and (presumably) told stories about them. They were communicating about hunting, or so it seems, and they did it through art. We do that too, of course. The arts—music, fine art, dance—are central to the way we express our thoughts, ideas, and our identities. As such, they are central to the way we understand the thoughts, ideas and identities of others. Which is the thinking that ArtsCalibre brings to the delivery of the curriculum. Rather than reducing and isolating the arts, they’ve decided to bring them forward. It’s not for everyone, perhaps, though for many students it’s an important means of engaging with the curricular content. The success that ArtsCalibre has had in the years since it was founded is certainly testament to that. The preschool and elementary programs are divided between two locations, giving each a sense of identity and, through proximity to the Cedar Hill Recreation facilities, an impressive range of resources, especially for a school of this size. Small classes, personal attention, a rich interface between faculty and families, and on it goes. In all, there’s a lot to love.  

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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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  • Aurora Montessori School   (Aurora, Ontario)

    AMS is a Montessori school, though in many ways it exceeds the expectations that parents might have of what a Montessori education offers. The programs are hands-on, community based, though the academic environment is large, both in terms of physical space and student population. As such the extra-curricular programs are robust, including sports as well as a fully development music program that includes group and individual instruction. Those things, in themselves, are a draw for many families. The grounds are extensive, with a porous interface between interior and outdoor learning spaces. The amphitheater is impressive, and likewise is a symbol of the school’s dedication to outdoor and environmental education. In all of that, the school’s name can risk being misleading. AMS isn’t your average Montessori school. It offers broad curricular and extracurricular programs, strong academics, and an overt attention to emotional and social development through the elementary grades.   

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  • Aurora Preparatory Academy   (Aurora, Ontario)

    We all want to go where everyone knows our name, and while there is a strong academic program at APA, that sense of place is one of the primary draws for the families that enroll here. Students are known throughout the school, and their successes are routinely recognized, shared, and celebrated. For many students, that in itself can provide a transformative learning experience. The community of the school actively includes the parents and siblings of the students who attend, something that brings a welcome warmth and familiarity to the lived experience of the school. The size of the school also allows for faculty to approach each student individually, providing appropriate challenge and support to ensure that all reach their academic and social potentials. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a close-knit, personal, challenging academic setting.  

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  • Avalon Children's Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Avalon began in 2000 with a single toddler room and one casa classroom and has happily grown ever since. The program today extends through Grade 8, offering a consistency for children through the primary and elementary grades. Likewise, the breadth allows for a greater interaction between generations than elsewhere, something that is rightly a cornerstone of the Montessori approach. The best Montessori schools are those that retain a fidelity to the core of the method while also meeting the needs of the community it serves, expressing their diversity and their values. Certainly, that’s a great strength of Avalon, and one of the reasons that families consistently turn to it. In the nearly two decades of the school’s life it has earned an impressive reputation for good work, professional development, and a strong delivery of the core curriculum. No doubt, it continues to provide all of that and then some.  

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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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  • Avenue Road Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Avenue Road was founded in 2010 by David Berger and Jason Ellenbogen, both of whom remain at the head of the school, continuing to guide it with a keen fidelity to their initial vision. They aren’t your typical educators which, again, is part of the draw. Berger is a long-time educator, and is also very integrated within the life the community that provides a context for the school, including a co-director of Spiritfest, an annual community arts festival. Ellenbogen, too, brings a unique set of skills and experience, including that of being a psychologist with clinical experience with teens and their families. They tailored the delivery of the curriculum based in a sense of best practices that they’d been growing in their professional lives. The faculty continues in kind. Chriasee Sen-Varma, an instructor and academic coordinator, is a physicist. Mindy Alexander, head of social studies, has taught art in prisons. And it continues from there. The feel is small, personal, and the approach builds from the talents and curiosity that the students bring with them into the classroom. The school was created out of a sense of doing things well, but differently, and with an added bit of spark. As such the school has attracted students and instructors of a like mind. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a diverse, close-knit, challenging while supportive learning environment.  

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  • École Montessori International de Montréal   (Montreal, Quebec)

    One the great attributes of Montreal private schools is the provision of a very rich linguistic environment, and É.M.i.M is an excellent example of that. Elsewhere in Canada, early childhood learning environments are, regrettably, uni-lingual. Montreal, of course, is the very definition of a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic environment, and É.M.i.M is an expression of that. Students learn within an environment that is authentically bilingual, with Spanish taught as a third language. The benefits of that kind environment, as research has shown, is profound, and not limited to language acquisition. That students can access it at such an early age is equally profound. Following on, the programs at É.M.i.M are personal, and situated within a vibrant community context.  

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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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  • Bearspaw Christian School   (Calgary, Alberta)

    BCS prides itself in being a leader of Christian education, and certainly it distinguishes itself in various ways. With a student body in excess of 700 students, it’s easily one of the larger schools of its kind in the country. As such, it reflects the benefits of its size, including a broad range and variety of programming. BCS also distinguishes itself in the way Christian values are woven through the curriculum. Rather than simply delivering the core curriculum through a Christian lens, BCS seeks to promote the lived experience of a life based in faith. Service programs are an expression of that, as is the emphasis on discipleship in all aspects of student life. The facilities are sparkling, and despite the size, the feel remains very personal and community oriented. The ideal student is one who shares the approach of the school, and who will thrive within a dedicated educational and social environment.  

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  • Beyond Montessori School   (St. Catharines, Ontario)

    There is of course a great range within the world of Montessori education, from schools with a high fidelity to the approach as Maria Montessori expressed it, to those who use it as a starting point for their own unique program. As the name suggests, Beyond Montessori in some senses is within the latter end of that spectrum, seeking to create a program that is responsive to the needs of the community it serves as well as the passions of the faculty. There is a very faithful adoption of the core of the Montessori method, though the school has developed its own personality as well. Families are drawn to BMS for its empathetic approach to instruction, one that seeks to build interpersonal awareness and a sense of environmental stewardship.  

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  • Bishop Hamilton Montessori School   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Every school is unique, and BHMS is a particularly good example of that. It’s a Montessori program, and a faith-based school, though in both of those areas it charts its own unique approach. The school rightly prizes the relationship it has with the families that enroll, bringing them into the life of the school. Parents are drawn by the values that inform the delivery of the curriculum, as well as a focus on empathy and an appreciation of diversity within the school and beyond. While a smaller school, BHMS nevertheless offers a good breadth of extracurricular activities, which is also a principal draw.    

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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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  • Blaisdale Montessori School - Ajax   (Ajax, Ontario)

    While the Montessori Method of instruction has been around for over a century, the earliest schools in Canada were founded in the 1960s, with TMS in Richmond Hill being perhaps the first in 1961. Blaisdale was founded in 1969, so it’s within that first cohort, and like them, has a high level of fidelity with the approach that Maria Montessori described in her writing and her work with children. It has grown considerably over the decades, though has chosen to establish sister schools—there are now 8 locations—rather than grow a single location. There are lots of benefits to that, and Blaisdale is party to all of them, including a breadth of resources also maintaining a small, close-knit family feel in all of its environments. Families are drawn by the reputation that the school has rightly gained through the decades of its life. They are looking for a program that is values based, on that reflects the surrounding community, and which remains true to the core of the Montessori approach. And that’s, very happily, exactly what they find.  

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  • Blaisdale Montessori School - Bowmanville   (Bowmanville, Ontario)

    While the Montessori Method of instruction has been around for over a century, the earliest schools in Canada were founded in the 1960s, with TMS in Richmond Hill being perhaps the first in 1961. Blaisdale was founded in 1969, so it’s within that first cohort, and like them, has a high level of fidelity with the approach that Maria Montessori described in her writing and her work with children. It has grown considerably over the decades, though has chosen to establish sister schools—there are now 8 locations—rather than grow a single location. There are lots of benefits to that, and Blaisdale is party to all of them, including a breadth of resources also maintaining a small, close-knit family feel in all of its environments. Families are drawn by the reputation that the school has rightly gained through the decades of its life. They are looking for a program that is values based, on that reflects the surrounding community, and which remains true to the core of the Montessori approach. And that’s, very happily, exactly what they find.  

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  • Blaisdale Montessori School - Oshawa   (Oshawa, Ontario)

    While the Montessori Method of instruction has been around for over a century, the earliest schools in Canada were founded in the 1960s, with TMS in Richmond Hill being perhaps the first in 1961. Blaisdale was founded in 1969, so it’s within that first cohort, and like them, has a high level of fidelity with the approach that Maria Montessori described in her writing and her work with children. It has grown considerably over the decades, though has chosen to establish sister schools—there are now 8 locations—rather than grow a single location. There are lots of benefits to that, and Blaisdale is party to all of them, including a breadth of resources also maintaining a small, close-knit family feel in all of its environments. Families are drawn by the reputation that the school has rightly gained through the decades of its life. They are looking for a program that is values based, on that reflects the surrounding community, and which remains true to the core of the Montessori approach. And that’s, very happily, exactly what they find.  

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  • Blaisdale Montessori School - Pickering   (Pickering, Ontario)

    While the Montessori Method of instruction has been around for over a century, the earliest schools in Canada were founded in the 1960s, with TMS in Richmond Hill being perhaps the first in 1961. Blaisdale was founded in 1969, so it’s within that first cohort, and like them, has a high level of fidelity with the approach that Maria Montessori described in her writing and her work with children. It has grown considerably over the decades, though has chosen to establish sister schools—there are now 8 locations—rather than grow a single location. There are lots of benefits to that, and Blaisdale is party to all of them, including a breadth of resources also maintaining a small, close-knit family feel in all of its environments. Families are drawn by the reputation that the school has rightly gained through the decades of its life. They are looking for a program that is values based, on that reflects the surrounding community, and which remains true to the core of the Montessori approach. And that’s, very happily, exactly what they find.  

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  • Blaisdale Montessori School - Scarborough   (Scarborough, Ontario)

    While the Montessori Method of instruction has been around for over a century, the earliest schools in Canada were founded in the 1960s, with TMS in Richmond Hill being perhaps the first in 1961. Blaisdale was founded in 1969, so it’s within that first cohort, and like them, has a high level of fidelity with the approach that Maria Montessori described in her writing and her work with children. It has grown considerably over the decades, though has chosen to establish sister schools—there are now 8 locations—rather than grow a single location. There are lots of benefits to that, and Blaisdale is party to all of them, including a breadth of resources also maintaining a small, close-knit family feel in all of its environments. Families are drawn by the reputation that the school has rightly gained through the decades of its life. They are looking for a program that is values based, on that reflects the surrounding community, and which remains true to the core of the Montessori approach. And that’s, very happily, exactly what they find.  

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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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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.  

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  • 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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  • Bodwell High School   (North Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Bodwell began in 1991 with just six students, and has grown exponentially since then. It’s now one of the largest international boarding schools in the country. Throughout, the school has been developed to support learners arriving in Canada from overseas, including counsellors who can provide guidance on travel and visa requirements, and international credit equivalencies. The atmosphere in many ways in an expression of the surrounding city. Like Vancouver, the school is diverse, positioned to grant a global perspective. Graduates are encouraged to grow a sense of who they are in that wider world, both of the pacific rim and beyond. The ideal student is one preparing for university and, afterward, a professional engagement within an international context.  

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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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  • Brampton Christian School   (Caledon, Ontario)

    BCS was founded in 1977 by the Kennedy Road Tabernacle and was initially known as KRT Christian School. It’s grown since, and the name was changed to reflect the school’s non-denominational perspective, though the school is now, just as it has always been, a part of the KRT ministry. Bob Boshart became principal in 1982 and over the next 26 years he consistently lead the development of the programs, accreditation, and the expansion into the upper grades. That said, the development has been very much guided by the school community, and the involvement of the families who have enrolled past and present is a great source of strength for the school. A fairly recent and substantial capital campaign has brought the school to where it is today, with a renewed infrastructure and a full complement of up-to-date instructional resources. Families are drawn to the reputation that the school has gained over its life, as well as a program based in the values of the Christian faith.  

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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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  • Bright Start Academy   (North York, Ontario)

    Thankfully, not all children are created the same, and, just as thankfully, not all schools are either. Bright Start is dedicated to providing support for some learners who, for a range of reasons, aren’t rising to their potential within other learning environments. At Bright Start, they find a community of peers, something that in itself can be transformative. They also find a faculty that is empathetic, experienced, and dedicated to their success. Academics are important, though confidence is, too. For many kids, that awareness of personal ability, and a knowledge of what they can bring to their interactions with others, is what makes all the difference. And it’s at that point—an awareness of ability, rather than deficit—that Bright Start begins.  

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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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  • Brockton School   (North Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Families rightly turn to Brockton for strong academics, and it certainly has that, undergirded by the IB program. But families turn to private school for other reasons as well, prime among them an environment in which students enter a community of peers of a like mind, and who are academically inclined, and Brocton offers that as well. Even more importantly though is an aspect of the school that perhaps parents don’t think to first, though they should, and that’s the opportunity to have authentic experience with a range of endeavor that they wouldn’t otherwise. The community of the Brockton School is close-knit, while the course and extracurricular program is broad. No, it’s not always easy to try new things, and the school is cognizant of the barriers to participation, anticipates them, and seeks to provide a sympathetic introduction. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a vibrant, active, supportive yet challenging academic environment.  

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  • Bronte College   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Any way you look at it, there’s a lot going on at Bronte College. The student population is predominantly boarding, which in turn provides a foundation for the life of the school. Students arrive each year from more than 30 countries from around the world, and the instruction adopts an international gaze as well. AP, IB—the academic programs are focused intently on the progression to university, and to ensure success in post-secondary life. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a very diverse, challenging, globally minded academic environment.  

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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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  • Burlington Christian Academy   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Founded in 1975, parents, understandably, have turned to BCA first because it is one of the few private school options in the Burlington area where the elementary curriculum is taught through a Christian lens. And, to be sure, that’s one of the schools prime offerings. That said, the program has other strengths as well, including very broad arts and athletic programs that are unique to schools of this size. The variety and attention is a plus, though so is access—in a school of 140 students, and with this level of programming, all students are able to experience and participate in organized sports, leadership training, music, and theatre. The school has also dedicated itself to higher order athletics, with a level of coaching and training that, again, is atypical within schools of this size. So, while the values piece is certainly a draw, the school has a lot to offer in addition, including a proven academics, a rich extra-curricular programming, housed within a close, community atmosphere.  

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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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  • Cambridge International Academy   (Ajax, Ontario)

    Cambridge International Academy is positioned to address a diversity of learners, including those who arrive domestically and those arriving from overseas. Families are drawn to the small class sizes and the individual instruction they allow, as well as the international gaze afforded through working and learning with students from a range of cultural backgrounds and experiences. English language learning and homestay programs support international students. While the academic program is strong, families are also drawn to the focus on interpersonal, emotional, and social development. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a close-knit, challenging environment, and who is preparing for success at university.  

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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, Other)

    Suffice it to say, CIA is 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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  • Caronport High School (Briercrest)   (Caronport, Saskatchewan)

    Caronport was established in 1946, and at a property that was dedicated as the new location of the Briercrest Bible Institute on Canada Day of that year. The school remains in partnership with Briercrest College and Briercrest Seminary, with all contributing to the same foundational goals of offering leadership in Christian education. Throughout the school’s history, the program has remained innovative and forward looking, something which it retains today. The student population is small and close-knit, and the school reaps the benefits of its size, namely a very focused learning environment, a clear sense of belonging and engagement, and a high level of individual attention. The boarding program supports international learners through guidance and ESL. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging yet supportive academic environment.  

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  • Cedar Ridge High School   (Kanata, Ontario)

    Cedar Ridge High School is a relatively new school, but was created to extend and build upon the success of the primary and elementary program over the past four decades. The program has been designed to support learners seeking university acceptance, and to be successful once they arrive there. The environment is small and close-knit, though very much a part of the larger community that includes Kanata Montessori. On enrollment students enter an environment of true peers, namely those who which to excel academically, and who thrive within a creative, cooperative, and challenging learning environment. A hallmark of the Cedar Ridge program is the intention to develop students’ facility with the core material, as well as confidence in an ability to communicate it and work effectively with others, encouraging them to take leadership roles within the school and beyond.  

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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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  • Century Private School   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    Century began its life in 1994 when Sybil Taylor founded the Montessori school. The program has grown considerably since then, and in a variety of ways, most notably with the development of the high school program. The school is housed within a heritage building that provides a welcome sense of place and purpose. While the middle and high school programs perhaps venture away from the core of the Montessori method, they nevertheless retain a sense of community, hands-on learning, and peer support. The ideal student is one that can thrive within a challenging academic environment, and who is preparing for success at university.    

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

    CGS was founded in 1986 by Marie Bates, who remains as the principal at the school today. As that suggests, the school has remained very true to the founders’ initial intentions, namely to create a place that provides a strong academic foundation in a caring, open, and supportive environment. While reading, writing, and numeracy are key—just as they should be—so is the development of creativity and social engagement. Bates believes that children learn as much in music class as they do in math class, and she’s right of course. As such, the program promotes links across the curriculum, allowing children to see those connections while also broadening their horizons of interest. The strength of the program is reflected by the reputation that CGS has earned over the thirty-plus years of its life.  

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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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  • Claren Academy   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Technology is increasingly providing a way into the core curriculum, certainly in ways that it couldn’t 50 or even 20 years ago. Claren was founded in with that in mind, principally using technology as the spark that will create and inspire children to engage with the curriculum and with their peers. There is an awareness of the skills that children will need in their adult lives, though they include working together, organizing their interest around projects, and employing a range of tools to communicate their ideas, and to develop them. The ideal student is one able to thrive in an active, diverse learning environment, and whose interests tend toward a hands-on engagement with technology.  

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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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  • Coast Mountain Academy   (Squamish, British Columbia)

    As the name of the school suggests, place is an important aspect of the life of CMA. One of the founders, Toran Savjord, had served on the executive of Quest University, and the impetus for CMA is an expression of the same goals, namely to create a school that is an expression of the community and environment of the region. Outdoor education is understandably a part of that, though so is the approach, one based in cross-curricular instruction, making connections between the arts, sciences, and the culture of the sea-to-sky corridor. The founders have aimed high, and the school, though still young, has attracted students of a similar mindset. The ideal student is one who is looking for a different approach to learning, and who will thrive in a creative, active, cooperative learning environment.  

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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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  • Cornerstone Montessori Prep School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The total student population is perhaps on the larger side for Montessori schools in the area, though residing on two campuses. As such Cornerstone reflects the benefits of size, namely in a broader access to resources, while maintaining a very close-knit feel within the classroom. Families are drawn to the Christian values which provide a foundation for the program, and augment the interpersonal aspects of the Montessori method. The teaching methods and the educational philosophy follow those developed by Maria Montessori, and then grow out from there, giving the school its unique character. The program stretches from preschool through Grade 12, allowing students to learn and grow in a consistent environment. The goal is to graduate students who have a good sense of themselves, their place in the world and what they can bring to it, and prepared to provide empathetic leadership within their community. The school has grown into a reputation for providing exactly that, with consistent, caring faculty in a family-oriented setting. The program is challenging, and includes a rich language program, intended to support students in reach their full academic and social potentials.  

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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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  • Country Garden Montessori Academy   (Newmarket, Ontario)

    When Maria Montessori began designing the method that would eventually bear her name, she was charting some very new and controversial territory. In contrast to rote learning, or treating children like miniature adults, she felt that children were people too, with their own lives to live. Today those ideas aren’t at all controversial, and indeed much of the things that Montessori was doing then have found their way into all early childhood learning environments, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They include the right to play, to follow their curiosity, to grow and develop in a healthy way with kind, caring support. Not all environments deliver those things equally, with some doing it much better than others, and CGMA is certainly one of them. The school site itself is a great strength of the school, with green space offering a buffer from the world around, and allowing for a very clear understanding of place. When children arrive, they find themselves in a familiar, caring, vibrant, and entirely sympathetic environment. That’s important, as Maria Montessori knew, then, and which we know even better today. The programs are progressive, with lots of intergenerational interaction, something furthered by the scope of the school from preschool through Grade 12. There is a great fidelity to the hallmarks of the Montessori method, which is a draw for many families, the most important being a sense of respect, and for accepting children for the people that they are, and allowing them to grow and develop comfortably into a sense of themselves and the place they hold in the world.  

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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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  • Delano Academy   (Vaughan, Ontario)

    Delano was founded in 2014 with the mandate of providing a very forward looking approach to the early and elementary years. The focus is on collaboration, 21st century literacies, and allowing students grow into an international, empathetic understanding of the world and their place within it. The core competencies are delivered, as is a sense of how they relate to who we are and what we’re able to achieve. The fact that the school also has an active cadet corps underscores the uniqueness of the offering. The ideal student is one operating toward the top of his or her peer group, and able to thrive in vibrant, active, socially engaging learning environment.  

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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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  • Downtown Montessori   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Downtown Montessori was founded in 1976 by Liz Ferguson, who remains director today. As such it’s one of the older Montessori schools in the city, and with a notably consistent leadership and fidelity to its founding principles. Over the course of four decades the school has built a reputation for offering a program that is solidly based in the core philosophy and techniques of the instructional method while also growing its unique character. It has also grown in size to include four locations throughout the city. At all, the environment is rich, welcoming, and ordered. Yoga, a rich arts program, and cultural awareness are draws for the families that enroll, as is the lunch program that sources locally while also providing students an introduction to international cuisine. There, as across the curriculum, students are introduced to countries and cultures as means of learning more about their communities and their place within them. And on it goes. Across the Downtown Montessori programs, there’s a lot to love.  

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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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  • Duke Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Duke was founded in 2013 in order to offer an international program that is also very personalized. The academics are strong, and the curriculum challenging, and students who enroll are preparing for admittance and success at university. It’s very much a boutique school, in a sense, and the school rightly seeks to make the most of the resources available to them which, in Toronto, are varied and vast. The school enrolls students from around the world, and provides the full range of necessary supports for international learners. For those enrolling locally, the school provides a unique and intense learning experience, inclusive of the challenges and benefits of living and learning in a culturally and linguistically diverse student population.  

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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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  • Dundas Valley Montessori School / Strata Montessori Adolescent School   (Ancaster, Ontario)

    The program at DVMS hews very closely to the principles as founded by Maria Montessori. That said, that’s true not just in the ways lessons are taught or classrooms are organized, but in the spirit of the approach as well. The goal is to get kids working together, solving problems through manipulation of things, or numbers, or ideas, in creative and innovative ways. The creativity that the staff of the school bring to the lessons is also one of the things that distinguishes the school. Yes, the fidelity to the method is clear, though DVMS is unique in lots of ways as well. Strata, a sister school, continues the DVMS program, and the spirit of the program, through the middle school grades. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a vibrant, diverse, stimulating and social learning environment.  

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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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  • Ellington Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Since it was founded in 1990, Ellington has grown its reputation on providing a solid, comprehensive academic experience. The school has developed its program, on one hand, with the needs of parents foremost in mind—before and after care, meals, and beginning in early childhood. Likewise, they’ve developed summer programs which allow for children to stay within a familiar setting throughout the year. From the child’s perspective, the community is very close-knit and personal, true to the foundational concepts of the Montessori method. It’s very much a home away from home, delivering students confident and prepared to succeed at secondary school.

     

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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   (Dollard des Ormeaux, 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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  • Enquiring Minds Montessori Casa   (Scarborough, Ontario)

    In Maria Montessori’s day, the most obviously remarkable thing about her approach to education was how she chose to adapt the learning space. It was open, diverse, organized yet amorphous, with common areas that weren’t dedicated to any specific learning task. That was revolutionary both for what it was, as for the way it positioned the learner. Montessori wanted to build from a child’s curiosity and engagement with the world, and her learning spaces were organized with that in mind. In kind, those are the ideals that Enquiring Minds expresses so well. To have that kind of conceptual space you need physical space—space to move around in, to move through—and the openness and extent of the EM environment is one of its great assets. Likewise, there is an attention to ranging across the curriculum, rather than siloing each separate from the others; the arts program isn’t ancillary to the other curricular areas, for example, but instead is a foundational aspect of learning across them. The attention to values—respect for the space as well as those within it—is also a primary draw for the families who enroll. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a diverse, hands-on, and challenging yet supportive social and academic environment.    

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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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  • Fraser Academy   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    The very best private schools are those that support a specific set of learner, and do it exceptionally well. Within the boundaries of that definition, Fraser Academy is certainly one of the best. The faculty are here because of their experiences with language-based learning differences—they know what they are, and they know how to address them effectively in the classroom. Students arrive here because they need that level of expertise, and moreover because they choose not to be defined by their learning differences, but to work through them. Here, they are understood, they are supported within a community of peers. That’s the baseline, and the program builds from there, celebrating each student’s abilities, passions, and successes. For the students that enroll, the experience is transformative, in part because they can be special in the ways that they want to be, and not because of how they learn.  

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  • French 4 Tots   (Pickering, Ontario)

    The French immersion programs that Canadians are most familiar with were born out of the multicultural movement of the 1970s, and to some extent, they continue to reflect their age. The public school immersion programs begin, most typically, with Grade 1. Which is strange, given what we know about language acquisition, including uptake as well as the overall academic benefits of leering a second language. French 4 Tots offers a rich program that addresses precisely that, providing an early and authentically immersive French-language program. Given what we know about what learning languages can do for cognition, confidence, and just general academic engagement, the question isn’t “should we enroll in immersion?” but “why not?” The French 4 Tots program has a lot to offer, including a strong basis for children to advance to immersion programs in the primary years. Class sizes are small, allow for a high level of student-teacher engagement. The summer camp programs offer a nice opportunity for students to continue in a familiar environment outside the standard academic year.  

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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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  • Fulford Preparatory College   (Merrickville, Ontario)

    Fulford is a particular draw for students arriving in Canada looking for an authentic experience of the life and culture of the country. It’s located in Merrickville, a smaller town that is nevertheless proximate to some of nation’s most prominent urban centres and a wealth of notable post-secondary institutions. The school is positioned to support the needs specific to students arriving from overseas, including ESL support and university placement services. The academic program is firmly focused on preparing students for success at university in North America. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a small, close-knit, yet internationally diverse academic environment.  

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  • German International School Toronto   (Toronto, Ontario)

    GIST bases instruction on the curriculum developed in Thüringen, 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 the school 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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  • Glenn Arbour Academy   (Burlington, Ontario)

    Glenn Arbour positions its approach to instruction within a sense of possibility, building from a student’s sense of what they’re capable of and then extending it. Students feel that they are at baseline and building from there, rather than feeling that they are below baseline and reaching up to achieve it. Perhaps it’s a fine point, but the lived experience, for many students, can be transformational. The goal is academic excellence and personal confidence, and Glenn Arbour has built its reputation on delivering students into their high school careers with both of those. Families are also drawn to an impressive roster of extracurricular activities, one that is somewhat remarkable for a school of this size. As such, students not only have access to the activities of their choice, they are also challenged to try others that they may not consider in other environments.  

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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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  • Gradale Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    When public boards seek to trim funding, they typically first look at the arts and outdoor education. Yes, the three Rs are important, but so is the way we interact with them, with others, and understand our place in the natural world, including stewardship. Gradale, very happily, begins at that point, having developed a program that delivers the core and then some. The Brick Works property is one of two that the school operates, and supports the core of Gradale program. It’s in the heart of the city, though abuts an impressive bit of green space, allowing the school maintain a very active and porous interface with nature—they don’t travel to it, but rather live, learn, and play within it every day. The benefits are profound, and increasingly demonstrated and apparent. The student body is small, vibrant, and parental involvement is nicely apparent and welcome in a wide range of school life.    

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  • Great Lakes Christian High School   (Beamsville, Ontario)

    Families look to Great Lakes based on its reputation for offering a strong academic program combined with the opportunity to grow spiritually within a community of shared interest. Due to the boarding program, the student population is diverse, bringing an international perspective to coursework and social life. The values piece is, of course, important, though equally so is the place that it occupies both within instruction and within the life of the school. The curriculum is delivered through a Christian lens, with a specific attention to empathetic service, both locally and internationally. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a close-knit community of shared values and interest, and where social currency is gained through academic and personal achievement. For the right student, the experience of Great Lakes can be as transformative as it is empowering.  

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  • Guiding Light Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    One of the reasons that private school is attractive is because there is no assumption that one size fits all, and Guiding Light is a great example of that. It presents both traditional and Montessori instruction in consort with the values and lessons of the Catholic church. It’s not for everyone, though for some, it provides a strikingly tailored fit. The ideal family is one that is active within the Catholic faith and looking for a school that will support that spiritual life. Families who enroll are drawn by the strength of the academic program, as well as by the breadth of extra-curricular offerings, all offered within a very close-knit school community. There is no other school like it, and for the families that enrol, that's perhaps Guiding Light's greatest strength.   

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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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  • Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts   (Dundas, Ontario)

    All people, given an opportunity, would prefer to live and work within an environment that supports their sense of themselves, and which is populated by others who share their interests. That’s one of the primary benefits of enrolling in the HAPA: students enter an environment that affirms their sense of themselves, their values, and their passions. Likewise, the school day is organized to allow them to maximize their potential, with 3 hours of performing arts training each day. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a close-knit, challenging, and arts-focused academic and social environment.  

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  • Hamilton District Christian High   (Ancaster, Ontario)

    HDCH was founded in 1956, and has been doing great and impressively consistent work ever since. It has a good size, with 470 annually, and a good breadth of curricular and extracurricular offerings to match. Instruction is project-based, allowing students to work together around authentic tasks which build and support a facility with the core curriculum. Families are also drawn by the values which undergird the academic program. The school rightly reaches out to resources and organizations within the local community, using those interactions to build an empathetic world view, and a genuine appreciation of diversity. Certainly, there’s a lot to love.  

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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   (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 Gardens Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    There are perhaps many impulses to maintain a school, though High Park Gardens is a demonstration of two of the best: need and appreciation. It began in 1978 when founders Brent Lisowski and Brenda Hebert's daughter, Anne, began attending High Park Gardens and they were inspired to build on the program, bringing it to a wider community of learners. Today there are three Mildenhall Schools: High Park Gardens, Taddle Creek, and The Mildenhall School. The latter is headed by Anne, adding a nice continuity to the Mildenhall story. Both locations have a high fidelity to the core Montessori approach, while also housed within bright, homey, friendly settings, another keystone to the approach. Both schools serve the needs of parents looking for a strong academic program and a strong sense of community within the school. The earned reputation of the schools is, rightly, also a principal draw.  

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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. 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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  • Hitherfield School   (Milton-Campbellville, Ontario)

    Ann Scott founded Hitherfield in 1991 after a career within the Halton school board, and she remains at the head of the school today, giving a nice continuity to the development of the programs. The intention throughout has been to offer something that wasn’t offered in the public board, principally a more individualized, caring approach to learning. The school is small, and the size is one of its strengths. While it’s not a country school in name, the feel is comparable to schools that situate themselves within that movement—namely a learning environment that very much reflects the community that supports it. Parents are important to the life of the school, and are encouraged to take a role that will express their skills and interests. The ideal student is one looking for something more personal approach, one more attentive to the abilities, experience, and passion that students bring into the classroom.  

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  • Holy Name of Mary College School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    HNMCS began in 1964 as Holy Name of Mary School, and it has grown and changed in the decades since. For a time the school was publicly funded, and while it operated continually through the years, it reopened in 2008 with a new name—the current one—and as a fully independent school for girls. Today, as in 1964, HNMCS is supported by the Felician Sisters, and is also supported by the Basilian Fathers of St. Michael’s College School, who co-founded the independent school. The vision of the school has also remained through the years, though was rededicated in 2009. Families who turn to HNMCS are looking for strong academics and values, and indeed they find them both. The values piece is drawn from the Catholic tradition, and with an emphasis on empathy, justice, and excellence. The ideal student is one who shares those core values, will thrive within a challenging academic atmosphere, and is preparing for post-secondary education.  

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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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  • Humberside Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Humberside was founded in 1987 by Felix Bednarski Molly Galle, and they remain as directors of the school today. As such, there has been a long and consistent attention to the initial intentions for the school, one of those being a fidelity to the core of the Montessori program as described by Maria Montessori through her work. That fidelity to the core of the approach is a particular draw for the families that enroll here, as is the demonstrated attention to maintaining AMI standards in classroom resources and faculty development. Parental involvement in the life of the school is welcome and encouraged, allowing a sense of community that extends nicely beyond the walls of the school proper.  

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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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  • John Knox Christian School - Brampton   (Brampton, Ontario)

    There is of course a great range of approaches across Christian private schools, from those that reflect only the values of the Christian church, to those that use those values in consort with Biblical teaching to inform all aspects of the curriculum and its delivery. John Knox is very much the latter, rightly placing pride in the school’s ability to grow a student’s sense of their faith. The school is non-denominational, and the faculty is comprised of accredited Christian instructors. For the families that enroll here, that is a principal draw. The school is smaller than the national mean, affording a very personal, community feel, as well as extensive opportunities for individual instruction. The ideal student in one able to thrive in a challenging yet supportive academic environment.  

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  • John Knox Christian School - Oakville   (Oakville, Ontario)

    There is perhaps more of a range in Christian education than some might be aware. Some schools use Christianity as a foundation for a values based program, while others are more expressly crafted to meet the needs of Christian families. John Knox is very much the latter—the families that enroll here are drawn principally by the attention to Christian values as well as a life within the church. JKCS promotes a Christian worldview across all curricular areas. The academic program is strong, as demonstrated over the long life of the school. The ideal student is one intending to grow further in their faith, will thrive in a challenging academic environment, and intending to advance to university.
     

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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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  • Kaban Montessori School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Despite what many might perhaps naturally assume, not all Montessori schools are created equally, even within the class of schools that hue very closely to the core of the model. As Maria Montessori would herself have approved, each school takes on a unique character through the passions and personalities of those that work and learn within it, and Kaban is a good example of that. The name, Kaban, is a Mayan word meaning “earth,” and was chosen to represent the unique cast of the program, one that seeks to highlight stewardship to the environment both within the school and outside in the natural world. It’s a nice touch, and one that brings forward some of the core elements of the method that perhaps get short shrift. Yes, manipulatives are a part of it, though they are tools toward achieving the goal of mastery of the concepts and, in working with peers, a confidence in who we are and how we relate to others. Kaban nicely focuses its efforts very clearly around those concepts, both within its physical space as well as in the delivery of the curriculum. The size of the school is big enough to allow for diversity in programming while also allowing all of the students to feel that they are known and have a role and responsibilities in the life of the school. Instruction is student-centered and individualized, something that is an important draw for the families that enroll within the school. In all of that, and more, there’s a lot to love.  

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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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  • Kelowna Christian School   (Kelowna, British Columbia)

    Kelowna was founded in a broad evangelical tradition, created to express a set of ideals rather than those of a specific congregation. The academic tradition is strong, and that constitutes a significant draw for the families that enroll. Of course, values do too, including the delivery of the curriculum through the lens of Christian belief. The scriptures and biblical truths form the foundation of the life of the school and the lessons taught here. Students are encouraged to apply their learning through leadership and stewardship within the school community and beyond. The goal, no matter what career path is followed, is to live in service. The ideal student is one who shares the values of the school and who chooses to live through them, and who is able to thrive in a challenging yet eminently rewarding academic atmosphere.  

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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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  • Kidz Kare Inc.   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Kidz Kare was founded in 2003 by Jennifer Roselli, a parent who wanted to create an environment that was more responsive to the needs of parents, including herself. Care, a family focus, a modern setting—that was the baseline, though the intention was also to include an appropriate education piece, one aimed not only at better preparing children for entry into the primary grades, but also at exciting curiosity and intellectual engagement in the short term.  Moreover, the intention was to provide a balance between those two things—care and learning—in an awareness that, typically, early childhood care providers either focus on one or the other, rather than both equally. The company has grown and now includes a range of ancillary services, including home care and tutoring, all of which have the needs of urban parents firmly in mind. It’s a unique approach, and one that rightly has found favour with families looking for childcare that hits all those sweet spots: care, learning, social development, and service.  

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  • King Heights Academy   (Woodbridge, Ontario)

    Parents are drawn to King Heights principally by its reputation for delivering high-quality academics. Not all schools perhaps have the same working definition for quality, though King Heights, in many ways, presents the most sound: challenging, collaborative, creative, and active. While not all students are required to enroll within it, the IB program provides a foundation for the life of the school that is inclusive of the values of global, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Also notable is a willingness to continually evaluate best practices, combining elements of traditional curriculum delivery with innovative tools and approaches. The culture of the school is one based in an empathetic world view, with parents and extended family welcome to participate actively in the school community.  

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  • King's Christian Collegiate   (Oakville, Ontario)

    KCC is impressive, beginning with a sparkling campus inclusive of a broad range of cutting edge facilities. It’s a larger school, and demonstrates all the benefits of size, including extensive in-class resources and extra-curricular programming. There’s a lot to do here, and the students who attend are typically keen to make the most of it. The faculty are required to take part in ongoing professional development, and are given lots of latitude to be creative in the delivery of the curriculum. And on it goes. The athletics facilities are extensive and absolutely up to date, the arts programming diverse and dedicated, and the cafeteria exemplary. The ideal student is one who is operating at the top of his or her peer group and looking to learn and grow within a values-based environment populated by those of a similar mindset.  

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  • King's College School: International Schools for Bright and Gifted Children   (Caledon, Ontario)

    The King’s program was designed to meet the needs of students who are, academically, at the very top of their peer group. It’s challenging, though it also doesn’t shirk from some of the basics that get short shrift elsewhere, such as mental math, grammar, and vocabulary. Those things may sound old and dusty to some, but, in the workplace, they are the equivalent of a coat and tie—without them, you’re not really dressed for success. Explicit attention is also given to higher order skills and attributes, such as interpersonal relations, communication, self-reflection, confidence, and leadership. The intention is to graduate students who aren’t simply primed to succeed at university, but to excel there, blazing a trail through to a satisfying and fulfilled professional life. The students that King’s addresses have many gifts, though they need support, too, including a sense of belonging within a context that recognizes and values their interests and abilities. For the right student, the experience can be transformative.  

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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 physical 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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  • La Villa Montessori School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    La Villa rightly prides itself in offering a very authentic presentation of the Montessori method, and for many families that is a primary draw. As such, students are engaged in an active, hands-on, cooperative environment, where the core curriculum is delivered in consort with a growing understanding of their place in the community of the school and beyond. Close attention is given to the acquisition of skills as well as interpersonal, physical, and emotional development.  

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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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  • Lakeview Montessori School   (Tecumseh, Ontario)

    Lakeview was founded in 1978 by Janice Mayhew and had just 15 students in that first year. It’s grown considerably in the intervening years, and the school has built a reputation on providing an inclusive, supportive, and forward looking approach to education. The school maintains a commitment to the whole child, while also providing supports to address a range of learning styles, including the fairly recent adoption of the Arrowsmith program.  Small class sizes also contribute to ensure a personal, student-centred approach to instruction. The philosophy and techniques of the Montessori method provide a foundation, though the school builds from there, including a dedication to 21st century literacies and Mandarin instruction. Extra-curriculars, such as the after school music program, are also a draw.    

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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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  • Little Feet Little Faces   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Parents are perhaps first drawn to Little Feet Little Faces through the school’s reputation for quality of care. That said, the academic program is what the school’s reputation is truly based upon. Care is a baseline at this level (or should be), and while we don’t often concentrate on academics as much as we would for a high school program, we should. Preschool is a stepping stone to everything beyond, and a strong entry into the primary grades is, rightly, a priority at LFLF. The program is small, allowing for a very personal, intimate feel, one that will grow a children’s social and academic esteem. The classroom appointments are also a plus, and while the school has moved between locations over its life, it has been in operation approaching 50 years. That level of experience is evident in the programs offered.  

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  • Little Owl Preschool Elementary   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The student body at Little Owl reflects the diversity of the surrounding community, and the school uses that as a foundation to encourage and celebrate a multicultural perspective. Little Owl is small, which is a draw for the families that enroll, as is the program that runs from preschool through the primary and elementary years. There is a close, family feel, with an individual attention to the needs of the students. Likewise, there is an attention to building students’ emotional and social esteem within a values-based environment. The ideal student is one looking for something different, and who will thrive in a hands-on, community based academic environment.  

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  • London International Academy   (London, Ontario)

    London International Academy was founded in 2002 with an explicit attention to preparing students for success at university in North America. In the years since the student population has grown considerably, as has the school’s mandate. Today annual enrollment is 350 students who arrive from around the world. The school has developed a full palette of services with the international student in mind, including language instruction, university guidance, cultural exchange programs and a challenging curriculum. The ideal student is one with an eye to succeeding in post-secondary studies in Canada.  

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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 inaugural 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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  • Macdonald-Cartier Academy   (Ottawa, Ontario)

    Macdonald-Cartier was formed in 1990 to offer a challenging, academic, bilingual program, and it’s been happily and successfully been doing it ever since. The student body is small, with just 60 students annually, which translates into a very responsive, student-centered approach to curriculum delivery. The intention is somewhat unique, namely to give students a strong preparation for high school with an eye to university admission. The feel, as the name implies, is very rooted in a sense of place, and in that the school is an expression of the cultural and historical life of the national capital region. Likewise, there are a wealth of resources located locally, and Macdonald-Cartier rightly makes very good use of them.  

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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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  • Madrona School Society   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Madrona was founded in 1993 to address the specific needs of learners operating at the top of their peer group. Instruction is based in delivering the fundaments of literacy and numeracy, though it also builds out considerably from there. The school isn’t tiny, with an annual student body of 100, but the feel is very personal and individualistic given a low student-teacher ratio. Students are encouraged to follow their interests and grow into an understanding of a sense of responsibility and active participation in their education. At the moment the school offers the primary and elementary grades, though the intention is to continue building the program through the high school grades relatively soon. That’s something that enrolling families, given the strength of the program, are keen to see realized. A strong school community, one that welcomes parental involvement in the life of the school, is a primary draw. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a challenging, hands-on, collaborative learning 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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  • Maple Leaf Collegiate   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Maple Leaf was founded in 2014 in order to provide a strong entry for international students into the Canadian educational system, with specific eye to achieving admission to and success at university in North America. The program has been engineered with that goal very firmly in mind, including all the supports necessary for the international student arriving in Canada, ESL courses and assessment, a full menu of AP offering, and travel and university guidance. Maple Leaf is smaller than some of the other international schools in the region, which is a draw for families looking for a more personal approach to curriculum delivery and student life. On arrival, students enter an environment that is student centered and populated by peers of a like mind and facing the same challenges, specifically around university preparation. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, goal-oriented, and diverse academic environment.  

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  • The Maples Academy   (Amaranth, Ontario)

    The Maples was founded in 1989 in order to provide a strong core program in the junior and elementary grades, and that remains the draw for parents today. The school is small, with an annual enrollment of 100 students, allowing for a very personal, individual approach to instruction. It was purchased in 2014 by the owner of St. Jude’s and Oakwood, and benefits through the association, including becoming an IB candidate school. Parents are drawn by the strength of the academic program as well as that of the arts offerings, including a robust instrumental music program. Parents are welcome to be involved in the life of the school, and communication between parents and faculty is direct and frequent. The school was founded to provide a welcome alternative to the public offerings in the area, and it’s been happily living up to that mandate for nearly three decades.  

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  • Maranatha Christian Academy   (Brampton, Ontario)

    Not all Christian private schools are expressly associated with a specific denomination, or a specific church, but MCA is both: it was founded by the North Park Worship Centre as a means of furthering their work and addressing the needs of their community and congregation. The school retains a fidelity to a close reading of the gospels, something that informs instruction across all curricular areas. The school is close-knit and family oriented, and what it might lack in extracurriculars it gains in a very individual approach to education. Enrollment is open to all, and not limited to the church community, and is particularly attractive to families looking for a school that provides the core curriculum as informed by Christian values.  

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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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  • McDonald International Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    McDonald was founded in 1994 to deliver a quality university preparation for students in Canada as well as those arriving from around the world. Ever since, it’s been doing exactly that. The school maintains a small, almost exclusive feel, especially when compared with some of the larger international schools found in Ontario and beyond. The two campuses augment that feel, and students enter a close-knit academic and social community. All of the important supports are in place to appeal to the international learner, from language support, to assistance with daily life, to university counselling. The downtown campus, perhaps especially, is proximate to a rich range of resources, including the nearby University of Toronto campus. The school prides itself on offering a strong academic basis for university entry, as well as a rich and rewarding social experience. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a very vibrant, diverse, challenging and urban academic context.  

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  • Meadow Green Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Georganne MacKenzie founded Meadow Green in order to offer an academic program that was both rigorous and inclusive of Christian values. The approach is as consistent as it is committed to addressing the specific needs of each learner, both academic and social. In crafting the curriculum MacKenzie wanted to reflect the academic traditions of strong core language, numeracy, and assessment, while also bringing in modern best practices. The ideal student is one operating at the upper end of his or her peer group, and who is able to thrive in a challenging, diverse, and cooperative learning environment.  

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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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  • Merit College   (Markham, Ontario)

    Since it was founded, Merit College has served primarily the Chinese Canadian community, with homestay available for students arriving from overseas. The focus at Merit College is very firmly placed on academics, leadership, and communication skills, and it has gained its reputation through preparing students to thrive within a North American university setting. The school community is small, personal and close-knit, and while the school may lack some of the bells and whistles of larger schools—such as breadth of extra-curricular or athletic offerings—the students that enroll here are looking for a challenge, and to gain academic confidence and language skills with an eye to gaining acceptance at leading universities in Canada and the US.    

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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 cliches 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 learning – in 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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  • Mississauga Christian Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    While some Christian schools offer only a Christian-inflected education, MCA was established in 1977 to provide a program that actively promotes the values and lessons of the church across all the curricular areas. It’s also unique in that it’s one of the few schools in the region that are formally affiliated with a church, Meadowvale Bible Baptist. Class sizes are small, and the annual enrollment of 140 students allows for individual instruction and a close-knit community feel within the school. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, collaborative academic environment, and is looking to grow into their faith within a community of true peers.  

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  • Mississauga Christian French School (MCFS)   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    MCFS was founded in 2008 with a very unique constellation of offering, prime among them being a values-based program for the ECE and elementary years. Added to that is a progressive approach to instruction following on from the Reggio Emilia program, and the provision of an authentic French-language learning environment. It's a nice mix. Families are welcome and encouraged to participate in the life of the school, something which defines the culture found there, as does a small student population and a low student to teacher ratio. A goal of the administration is for each student to be known and celebrated, something which imparts a clear sense of belonging and, in turn, the confidence to participate actively in the programs offered. The ideal student is one able to thrive within a challenging yet eminently supportive academic environment.  

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  • Momentum Montessori   (Toronto, Ontario)

    There are many aspects to the Montessori method, though the primary one is approaching children with a sense of respect. That was revolutionary when Maria Montessori was first describing the method, a time when children were seen as smaller, less complete, less facile adults. Momentum is a modern school, of course, though it retains a fidelity to the core of the Montessori approach, namely that provision of respect, and that desire to allow children to be seen as whole people, rather than incomplete adults. The environment has been created to be one of implicit caring and support, on one hand, while also providing lots of opportunity to make new discoveries and to try new things. The adoption of new techniques and technologies has been done in a sympathetic way in order to enhance engagement with the core program and the core values, rather than disrupt them. The inclusion of the Suzuki Method is admirable, allowing children to experience music in a more authentic way then they may find elsewhere. Families rightly turn to Momentum for all of that, both the adherence to the core of the method, and willingness to allow it to grow naturally as appropriate to the needs of community that it serves.    

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  • Monkey See Monkey Do Montessori   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Academics are perhaps what we think of first whenever we think of education, though education is also about learning to work, interact, and relate well with others. The Montessori method truly takes that to heart, as does Laurie Mossop, who founded Monkey See Monkey Do in 2007 and remains the school’s director today. She created the environment to allow for authentic significant interaction between students throughout the instructional day, providing a foundation for building empathy and respectful engagement. That’s important, of course, and the school graduates students with the academic and interpersonal skills they’ll need to succeed in elementary school. Also a plus is the involvement of parents within the community of the school, something that families rightly welcome.  

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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 Alberta   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Montessori Alberta is a program hews closely to the method and techniques as outlined by Maria Montessori, something that is a significant draw for the families that enroll at the school. The school is centrally located, and the program is flexible, offering half-day sessions throughout the school year. The curriculum is structured to allow students to explore their interests, naturally, with authentic opportunities to learn through doing and working closely with others. The intention is to deliver the core curriculum while fostering creativity and critical thinking. The offering of Spanish is also a unique and welcome aspect of program.    

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  • The Montessori Country School - Milton Campus   (Milton, Ontario)

    The country school tradition is based in creating learning spaces that are inflected with some rural ideals—quiet, collaborative, community based, and including an interface with nature—that are reflected well within the MCS setting. Families are drawn to the community of the school, one that is small enough to allow students to know each other, and for parents to know each other as well. MCS also faithfully reflects the core of the Montessori tradition, including learning through hands-on manipulation and multi-age classrooms. In all of that, there’s a lot to like, including well-appointed classrooms and outdoor learning spaces.  

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  • The Montessori Country School - Nobleton Campus   (Nobleton, Ontario)

    The country school tradition is based in creating learning spaces that are inflected with some rural ideals—quiet, collaborative, community based, and including an interface with nature—that are reflected well within the MCS setting. Families are drawn to the community of the school, one that is small enough to allow students to know each other, and for parents to know each other as well. MCS also faithfully reflects the core of the Montessori tradition, including learning through hands-on manipulation and multi-age classrooms. In all of that, there’s a lot to like, including well-appointed classrooms and outdoor learning spaces.  

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  • Montessori For Children   (Toronto, Ontario)

    MFC was founded in 1995, and uniquely has sister schools in Hong Kong and Singapore. Accreditation with AMI ensures a high fidelity to the core method, and the program offered builds out from there. All that said, the best Montessori schools reflect the context of the surrounding community, and MFC achieves that nicely, the building itself foregrounding a very family-oriented, personal approach. Proximity to the TTC is a plus, as are the interior appointments, which are as enchanting and comforting, a world away from the bustle of the city. There’s a nice attention to global awareness, which again reflects the context of the school. The introduction to other cultures and countries is used as a means of helping students understand their community in relation to the wider world. MFC offers a very solid program administered with a close attention and care.  

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  • Montessori House of Children   (Brantford, Ontario)

    Established in 1974, Montessori House of Children is within the first cohort of schools offering the method in Canada, with the first schools starting up in the late 60s. Then as now the intention was to provide a strong, values-based foundation with an eye to the skills and abilities that children will need to be successful in the primary and elementary grades. The program intends to offer a family-oriented approach in a comfortable, familiar environment, as supported by the building itself. Also true to its original mandate, MHC hews closely to the philosophy and methods developed by Maria Montessori, something that is a draw for the families that enroll here. A range of learning differences are supported, and small class sizes ensure a high level of individual attention.  

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  • Montessori Jewish Day School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Community is a primary component of any quality independent school, whether it’s a community of interest, identity, or, even better, both. Parents who look to MJDS rightly are attracted to the sense of community that the environment there can instill. It’s about heritage, but it’s also about lots of other intangibles which inform a child’s understanding of her place in the world. Families are always keen to learn about the academic program of a school, though place and community, truly, are equally important, or arguably more so. The Montessori approach starts there as well, bringing mutual respect to the fore within the classroom setting. The administrative leadership is strong, as is the teaching, with a close attention to accreditation and development. In all, MJDS presents a very nice constellation of attributes.  

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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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  • Montessori School of Wellington   (Guelph, Ontario)

    The size of MSW is a draw, as is the CCMA accreditation. The program retains a high fidelity to the philosophy and methods that Maria Montessori developed—the founder was instructed by Maria Montessori’s granddaughter—and builds out from there, as with the inclusion of yoga and daily immersive French within the curriculum. Before and after school care is a plus, as is a high level of individual, student-guided instructional attention. The school is located in a residential neighbourhood, creating a good sense of place, something that is a cornerstone of the method. The feel is family-based, and building from the students’ natural interests and curiosities. The values of respect, empathy, and stewardship are nicely built into all aspects of the instructional day.  

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  • Mulgrave School   (West Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Mulgrave was founded in 1993 on the grounds of the West Vancouver Montessori School, and has grown exponentially since then due to the strength of the program and the school’s earned reputation. Today Mulgrave is home to just over 900 students from pre-school through grade 12, housed within a 150,000 sq. ft. building that includes substantial upgrades completed with the senior school expansion in 2015. A new capital and development campaign will be complete in 2019, further augmenting the campus and the programs provided there. The school operates a centre for educational innovation, a clear expression of the administration’s desire to be a model to others, and to continue to evaluate and grow the programs the school offers. So, there's a lot going on, largely driven, as it was at the start, by the members of the community the school serves. The school rightly prides itself on maintaining a close, community feel throughout, while offering a strong academic foundation, through the programs of the International Baccalaureate, and an overall dedication to delivering the curriculum through a global lens. The ideal student is one who will thrive in a vibrant, challenging yet supportive academic environment.  

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  • Neuchâtel Junior College   (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

    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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  • North Star Academy   (Laval, Quebec)

    In some senses, North Star is the very definition of a liberal arts education, namely one that intends not to educate students to the vocations, but to educate them to engage creatively, thoughtfully, and respectfully with the world around them. While not tiny, North Star is on the smaller end of the school spectrum, and it benefits from its size through an ability to provide an individualized approach to the delivery of the curriculum. Likewise, the students enter a community that is close-knit and personal, where they are known and celebrated for what they bring to the environment. Development is important, including the adoption of new classroom techniques and tools, and values are as well, including an appreciation of diversity, and allowing both a local and international perspective on the course material. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, vibrant, and values-based learning environment.    

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  • North Toronto Christian School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The program at NTCS has been developed to extend the lived experience of Christianity of home and church into an academic setting. The values expressed there, as well as Biblical teaching, provide a foundation for the delivery of the curriculum across all instructional areas. For the families that enroll, that’s a primary draw, as is the opportunity for the learner to enter a student population of true peers in terms of academic ability and worldview. The extracurricular offerings are broad, and supported by the size of the student body, which is 400 annually. An emphasis on athletics and active lifestyles is also a draw. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging yet supportive setting, and preparing for university studies.  

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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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  • Northstar Montessori Private School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Northstar isn’t your average Montessori school, in part because of its size—with an annual student population of 300, it’s a fair bit larger than the average—as well as its resources. The school was founded in 1996, though has grown its programs considerably in the intervening decades. There are some things that understandably stand out, such as the training pool that is a recent addition (!), though they only underscore a more general awareness of the broad range of programming and facilities throughout the school. There are lots of bells and whistles, all of them welcome, though the core program is here too, with a fidelity to the Montessori method as demonstrated through CCMA accreditation. The program is offered from preschool through Grade 8, allowing families a consistency of approach and experience through the primary and elementary years.  

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  • Oakville Christian School (OCS)   (Oakville, Ontario)

    OCS was founded in 1982 to serve a need principally for a quality school that taught the Ontario curriculum through a Christian lens. Since, the school has built its reputation on precisely that: offering a Christian perspective on the core Ontario curriculum. The school has a strong community feel, a product to some extent of its size, though leadership has given close attention to developing instruction and extra-curriculars, including the development of a strong athletic program. The school continues to reflect its original mandate while also remaining agile, adopting new programs and practices to meet the needs of students in a changing world.   

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  • Oakwood Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Not all students are created equally, and Oakwood was created, more than anything else, with that idea firmly in mind. It was founded by Trillian Taylor and Michele Power, who remain directors at the school today. The school is intentionally small, allowing for a very individual attention to the unique needs of each student, including an overt attention to social and emotional development. Families who enroll here do so knowing that their learners are capable of a lot, while in the awareness that they would benefit from a different approach than is found elsewhere. Students entering Oakwood join a community of true peers, something which in itself can be transformative to their learning experience and academic success.
     

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  • OAT - Ontario Academy of Technology   (Toronto, Ontario)

    In a general sense, OAT is a specialty school in the way that, say, a ballet school is a specialty school—it brings together students who share a passion, and builds the curriculum around their engagement with that curriculum. And, like a ballet school, or a hockey school, it’s not for everyone. But, for the students that it’s for, the experience can be transformative. At OAT students work and learn alongside true peers, those who share an abiding interest in technology. The core curriculum is the provincial one, though delivered in a technology intensive learning environment.  

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  • Odyssey Heights School for Girls   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Every private or independent school has its own identity, and its own profile, and Odyssey Heights is great reminder of that.  It offers opportunities for girls to focus on equestrian studies or dance. Every day begins with yoga, the students grow and sell organic produce, there’s a no-homework policy in part to ensure that girls get requisite sleep. And on it goes, all of it fantastic. Whether girls choose one of those streams or, alternatively, to enter the core curricular stream, the main goal is to empower girls to engage with others, to take a role, and to fill it. And they do. It’s not your typical school, which is precisely the source of Odyssey Heights’ strength.  

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  • Odyssey Montessori School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Odyssey was founded in 2006 by Mary Tomazos who was inspired by the experience her children had within a Montessori setting. The program began with a single classroom, though has grown in the intervening years, including an expansion to a second location. The classroom appointments are sparkling, providing a clean, clear, beautifully organized learning spaces. The offering of full, extended, and half day classes, as well as before and after school programs, allows for families to manage the school day around their needs as well as the developmental needs of their children. Parents are encouraged to play a range of roles within the life of the school, and are invited to attend workshop, in class observation, and parent-teacher conferences throughout the academic year.    

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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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  • Pattison High School   (Vancouver, British Columbia)

    Pattison was founded in 2003 to support a diversity of learners intending to advance to post-secondary studies in North America. The focus isn’t exclusively on international students, thought there are a wealth of programs in place to support students from away, including a multi-lingual staff and advisors able to address custodianship, medical coverage, and housing. For those arriving from overseas, the school is an entrée into both Canadian academics and Canadian life. For domestic students, the school provides an authentic introduction to the skills necessary for working and living effectively within a global context. Since 2005, Pattison has been located in the heart of the downtown, adjacent to the Wall Centre and proximate to a wealth of resources, including galleries, shops, transportation and the bustle of urban life. The ideal student is one able to thrive within an vibrant, diverse learning environment, and is preparing for success in post-secondary studies in Canada.  

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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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  • Peel Montessori Private School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Maria Montessori opened her first school in 1907, so the Montessori method has been with us, fully formed, for more than a century. The ideas that Montessori brought to the table have found their way into mainstream education in a variety of ways. That said, the whole is truly greater than the sum of any of the parts, and it’s the sum that Peel Montessori offers. Parents who turn to Peel are looking for fidelity to the core program as initially described: the community feel, the organization, and the individualized approach that makes the method so successful with young people. Children have fun, though the school rightly brings leadership and responsibility into the classroom as well. The goal is for students to gain not just with the skills and knowledge necessary for success, but also the confidence to excel.  

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  • Peoples Christian Academy (PCA)   (Markham, Ontario)

    There is a great range of approach within Christian education, from those that have chapel in the morning and little more, to those that weave Christian teaching and principles throughout the curriculum and the life of the school. PCA is very much the latter, a place where Christianity informs the entire school experience, and the delivery and the content of the curriculum. This is the school for students for whom the veracity of their faith is tantamount to who they are and the way the wish to learn; faith and fidelity to scripture are at the fore within PCA. The strength of the academic program is evident through decades of academic success. The school is on the larger side of the mean in Canada, and the benefits of that size are seen in the breadth of curricular and extracurricular programs that are on offer. The ideal student is one who is able to thrive in a challenging environment, and who is preparing to advance to university.  

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  • Philopateer Christian College   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Philopateer was founded in 1999 with 40 students, and it has grown considerably over the intervening years. The annual population is now at 360 students, and the focus is less on growth than building out the programming, as demonstrated with the appointment of Dr. Mary Ashun as principal in 2012. The school is non-denominational, and families turn to Philopateer for academic excellence as well as a clear basis, across the curriculum, in the values of the Christian church. The culture of the school is very diverse, with students arriving each year from around the world, offering an international feel to the school community. The athletic program is also strong, especially in the areas of gymnastics and swimming, with some students advancing to international competition. The ideal student is one operating at the top of his or her peer group, is looking for a community of shared interest, and is preparing for success at university.  

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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 co-ed school, something unique at the time, and as such 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, symbolic of the school's desire to encorporate new ideas and technologies, and to educate students with an eye to the world they would enter upon graduation. 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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  • Prestige School - Richmond Hill Campus   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    Prestige sets a high bar for its students, academically as well as socially and ethically. The program is designed and delivered to meet the needs of students functioning at the top of their peer groups. There is a close-knit feel within the student body, and an ongoing attention to the needs and development of each student as he or she progresses through the curriculum. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging yet supportive environment and looking to learn within a peer group that consists of like-minded and similarly abled students.  

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  • Prestige School - Toronto Campus   (Toronto, Ontario)

    Prestige sets a high bar for its students, academically as well as socially and ethically. The program is designed and delivered to meet the needs of students functioning at the top of their peer groups. There is a close-knit feel within the student body, and an ongoing attention to the needs and development of each student as he or she progresses through the curriculum. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging yet supportive environment and looking to learn within a peer group that consists of like-minded and similarly abled students.  

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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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  • Progressive Academy   (Edmonton, Alberta)

    Progressive Academy hits a lot of the sweet spots that parents are looking for when considering private education. The size of the student body is smaller than the mean for schools across Canada, and affords a more individual, personal approach to instruction. The students are known by faculty, staff, and peers, and therefore quickly gain a sense of place and belonging. That said, the school is large enough to provide a good range of curricular programs and extracurricular activities. Students have the opportunity to try activities that they perhaps wouldn't attempt in larger, more competitive settings. A strong academic program is delivered in consort with an attention to interpersonal skills and social and emotional development. The school is a particular draw for families looking for a balanced program, one that builds from the students’ interests and creativity, yet supports them to reach a bit beyond their immediate comfort zones.   

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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 commitment to adapting to the changing needs of students.  

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  • Quetico College School   (Atikokan, Ontario)

    Michael Heaton founded Quetico College School in 2013 with the intention of providing something unique within the world of private education and, by any measure, he’s done precisely that. The concept is a bold one, namely to create an environment in which students can focus intently on their studies, build strong interpersonal skills, and engage authentically with the natural environment as relevant to the curriculum as well as recreation. The location was first developed in 1957 and served for many years as a training facility for mining and community care operations in the area. The site has been augmented and updated consistently since and, as a result, doesn’t reflect its age, including up to date living, fitness, and administration facilities. The ideal student is one looking for a unique high school experience, and who will thrive in a very active, close-knit, rural educational community.  

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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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  • Richmond Hill Montessori & Elementary Private School   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    RHMS was established in 1986, and has grown considerably over the years to where it sits now with an annual student population of 600. That’s big in the world of private schooling, particularly given that the program only covers preschool through Grade 8. Size can be a strength, to be sure, and Richmond Hill is a prime example of that. The program is broad and deep, with extensive curricular and extracurricular offerings. The campus has been developed throughout the life of the school, and today is an example, in every way, of how good a facility school can be, both aesthetically and practically. Classroom appointments are up to date throughout, including in-class technology that incorporates a full range of instructional devices and applications. All resources are applied in sympathy with the core program of the school and the values that undergird it. And, despite the size of the student population as a whole, the segmentation of the primary and elementary programs, in consort with the low student to teacher ratios, the lived experience of the school is quite close-knit and personal. Over the past three decades plus RHMS has done a lot, and in all the right ways, and the school certainly lives up to its reputation.  

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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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  • Roots and Wings Montessori School   (Langley, British Columbia)

    It’s wrong to think that all Montessori programs are the same, and Roots and Wings is a great reminder of that. The program starts with the foundational aspects of the Montessori method but then builds out from there, specifically with a very modern take on environmental awareness. Nature is important of course, and for all sorts of reasons, but so is a student’s understanding of their relationship to it, their place within in it, and their responsibility for it. Too often students see it as something they travel to, rather than live in, and Roots and Wings works hard to soften that interface. Yes, there are trips, but students also experience the outdoors—as play space, classroom—on a daily basis; nature plays a primary role in developing a sense of resiliency and the contours of an active lifestyle. The program nicely extends through the middle school grades, which perhaps is atypical of Montessori schools, despite the obvious benefit of keeping students in place, without disruption, through their elementary years.  

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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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  • Rotherglen School - Mississauga   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    Rotherglen School was founded in 1979 by Marie Laningan at the Erin Mills campus. The school has grown in the intervening years to include four locations, all of which share the same approach. Were all the students housed at one campus, Rotherglen would be one of the largest independent schools in the area, home to 1000 students annually. The various locations, however, afford a unique sense of community within each, with small class sizes, and a close-knit feel. While aesthetics don’t mean everything, they nevertheless do mean something, and the school is physically beautiful, with dedicated, consistent learning spaces.
     

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  • Rotherglen School - Oakville   (Oakville, Ontario)

    Rotherglen School was founded in 1979 by Marie Laningan at the Erin Mills campus. The school has grown in the intervening years to include four locations, all of which share the same approach. Were all the students housed at one campus, Rotherglen would be one of the largest independent schools in the area, home to 1000 students annually. The various locations, however, afford a unique sense of community within each, with small class sizes, and a close-knit feel. While aesthetics don’t mean everything, they nevertheless do mean something, and the school is physically beautiful, with dedicated, consistent learning spaces.
     

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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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  • Rowntree Montessori Schools (RMS)   (Brampton, Ontario)

    RMS was founded in 1969, placing it within the first cohort of Montessori schools in the country. As with those of its vintage, RMS has a long reputation for providing a quality program, one that has a high fidelity with the core aspects of the method. The school has grown to comprise four campuses, allowing for a nice range of resources while also maintaining a close-knit community environment at each location. RMS has also grown into its own identity, one based in adopting new methods and approaches, as appropriate and when sympathetic to the school’s mandate to educate with an eye to achievement and leadership. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a close-knit, challenging, active, and social learning environment.  

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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 Kindergarten 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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  • Shepherd Montessori Private Catholic School   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    When Edgerton Ryerson established a national, public education system, he highlighted the need for consistency: every school should be the same, offer the same things, from coast to coast. Sadly, that conception of what schools should be, and what they should provide, remains doggedly with us today. Thankfully, schools like Shepherd Montessori step away from that model, choosing rather to offer something as unique as the community they are formed to serve. Shepherd is a school using the Montessori method to deliver a program that is also based in the values of the Catholic church. In that, it’s happily one of a kind. Further, the student population is small, allowing a heightened level of individual attention, something that is also a primary draw. The community of the school is diverse, and while not all families are active within the Catholic church, all nevertheless appreciate the school’s attention to developing the students’ understanding of their spiritual selves. The approach in the classroom is child-centered, child-directed, and project oriented. The ideal student is one able to thrive with a close-knit learning environment.  

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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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  • Shining Light Montessori School   (Maple, Ontario)

    Maria Montessori placed a lot of trust in the power of place and how it informs our sense of ourselves and our place in the world. Certainly, one of primary strengths of the Shining Light program is exactly that; the school is an expression of the surrounding community, though is also a community unto itself. It is small, and it the benefits of the size is a principal draw, allowing learners to participate in an environment that is close, familiar, and in which they can grow an authentic sense of belonging and, its reciprocal, a responsibility to others. A fidelity to the methods and techniques of the Montessori method is also a draw.  

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  • Shoore Academics   (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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  • Sidney Ledson Institute   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The school was founded in 1982 in order to create a program that reflected the work of Sidney Ledson, an author and expert on topics relating to teaching technology and motivation. His methods gained traction internationally, at the core of which is the idea that we needn’t wait to introduce children to new skill areas (specifically around language and numeracy) and the sooner we start, the better. His books on reading expanded the concept and application of phonics, and his work remains a foundation for the language arts programs at the institute today. There, and elsewhere, the approach intends to challenge students to reach further, to expand and improve their abilities in order to reach their fullest academic potentials. The ideal student is one operating at the top of his or her peer group, and, in the later grades, is preparing for success within university studies.  

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  • Signet Christian School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    SCS was formed in 1974 as an expression of the surrounding community, and created by a group of parents who wanted a school that would offer a strong academic program within a values-based environment. The name has changed, and enrollment has grown, though that focus remains. The school isn’t affiliated with a specific denomination, and attracts students from any and all, as well as those that don’t belong to a specific faith tradition. There are many ways that schools express Christian ideals, and in the case of SCS it’s very much those of inclusion, service, and ethical behavior. The school has a very close, community feel, and what it might lack in terms of extra-curriculars it gains in individual attention and a sense of belonging within the school community.    

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  • Somerset Academy   (Markham, Ontario)

    Somerset has established its reputation in offering a challenging, supportive academic program to prepare students for success in high school and beyond. The school is small, something that is a primary draw for families looking for a more personal approach to instruction. The core curriculum is augmented by an overt attention to fostering communication and interpersonal engagement. The offering of French and Mandarin language instruction is also a notable draw. The ideal student is one operating toward the top of his or her peer group, who will thrive in a very close-knit, community oriented educational environment, and is able to work effectively through an accelerated curriculum.  

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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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  • Southwestern Academy   (San Marino, California)

    Southwestern was founded in 1924 by Maurice Veronda, and his son, Kenneth Veronda, is the current director, something that reflects the continuity of the programs here as well as maintenance of the core academic vision. As ever, a dedication remains to providing a close-knit student experience, small class sizes, and a heightened attention to the individual needs of each student. Students arrive from around the world, and a range of supports are in place with them specifically in mind, including ESL support. The diversity of the student body is broad, something that particularly remarkable given a student body of 200. The curriculum is taught through the international lens that the students naturally bring to the environment. That said, the campus is very much an expression of place, and includes heritage buildings as well as newer facilities that are exceptionally sympathetic to the cultural and environmental heritage of the region. There’s no school like it, which is one of Southwestern’s strengths. It’s been quietly doing great work supporting students, giving them a true community of peers to work within, for the better part of a century.  

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

    The program at St. Andrew’s 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. While Dr. Bruce Macdonald left the headmastership in 1935, the culture of the school, even today, remains very much an expression of his vision. This in part due to the fact that in a lot of ways he was well ahead of his time. For example, he was the first boys-school headmaster in Canada to hire a female instructor, something he did in 1905. Macdonald wanted the school to develop “the complete man, the well-rounded citizen”—athletics and arts, in addition to academics, were vigorously promoted. What’s interesting is that, even with those sorts of very progressive ideals, Macdonald was also very keen on tradition, something that he used to give students a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. 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. St. Andrews completed a substantial capital campaign in 2015 which included the creation of athletics facilities as well as the Wirth Theatre. All of that, as well all the development over the century of the school’s life, has created a school that is strikingly modern, while retaining a sense of participation in tradition. It’s a nice mix. The ideal student is one given to making the most of the varied programs on offer.  

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

    St. Clement’s was founded in 1955, and has been doing great work with young children ever since. The approach is based in creating a caring community of learners, with small class sizes and a close-knit student body. It’s telling that the school tends to express its size in terms of families; they say that they are able to serve up to 200 families. Indeed, there is a real sense of partnership and involvement with families, as wholes, rather than simply a group of children. It’s that approach that informs the reputation of the school. The facilities nicely reflect St. Clement’s age and pedigree, while the interiors and appointments are at the cutting edge of early childhood instruction.  

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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 his or her 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. Jude's Academy   (Mississauga, Ontario)

    St. Jude’s is, notably, an IB world school offering the entire continuum, from the primary years through the high school grades. That’s an important draw for the families that enroll here, principally because of the strength of the academic program and the international focus that it allows. The IB was developed to educate toward a facility with the core curriculum—language and numeracy—as well as interpersonal communication, creative engagement with others, and an empathetic view toward the diversity within the global setting. St. Jude’s does all of that, including the values piece, which often isn’t perhaps stressed as much whenever people discuss the IB. The school promotes an understanding of our place in the world, as citizens, in the awareness that other people, of course, are citizens, too, just like us. The culture of the school is very close-knit, with small class sizes and an very safe, family feeling throughout. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a diverse, challenging, socially engaged academic atmosphere.  

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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 is 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 surrounding 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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  • Summit West Independent School   (Foothills, Alberta)

    Some students thrive in very controlled, regimented settings, while others require a bit of space to branch out and follow their curiosity. Summit West was designed to appeal to the latter. A facility with the rudiments is of course the goal, though the route to that point is more varied and more active than you’d find in a more traditional learning environment. The approach allows children to begin learning about their role in their education, prepping them to be active, engaged, and responsible learners, both in terms of content as well as time and project management skills. The ideal student is one who is more active and who will thrive in a less-structured, more personally engaging learning environment.  

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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 its 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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  • The Mildenhall School   (Etobicoke, Ontario)

    There are perhaps many impulses to create a school, though The Mildenhall School is a demonstration of two of the best: need and appreciation. It began in 1978 when founders Brent Lisowski and Brenda Hebert's daughter, Anne, began attending High Park Gardens Montessori School and they were inspired to build on the program, bringing it to a wider community of learners. Today there are three Mildenhall Schools: High Park Gardens, Taddle Creek, and The Mildenhall School. The latter is headed by Anne, adding a nice continuity to the Mildenhall story. Both locations have a high fidelity to the core Montessori approach, while also housed within bright, homey, friendly settings, another keystone to the approach. Both schools serve the needs of parents looking for a strong academic program and a strong sense of community within the school. The earned reputation of the schools is, rightly, also a principal draw.  

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  • The Nature School   (Vaughan, Ontario)

    No two private schools are alike, and The Nature School is certainly a demonstration of that. Held within the Kortright Centre, the school has access to over 550 acres of wetland and forest, field and farm. There is an apiary, wind and solar power generation, an organic farm—in terms of resources, it’s an embarrassment of riches, and the program makes use of all of it. Instruction is hands-on, inter-generational, offering a delivery of the curriculum that, in so many ways, is founded within a direct and authentic engagement with the core concepts. The school is new, but the goals are clear, as is the expertise guiding the programming. Adrian O'Driscoll, the head of school, brings two decades of experience in working with children in through outdoor education. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, active, vibrant, and very social learning environment. It’s perhaps not for everyone, though for many students, the program is quite literally a dream come true.  

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  • The Oakville Academy for the Arts   (Oakville, Ontario)

    Finland, famously, has one of the strongest educational systems in the world, and there are perhaps many reasons for that. One of them, however, is the integration of the arts. The belief is that children are never too young to begin a relationship with music, dance, and the fine arts, and that all are components of how we engage with the world around us and communicate our ideas to others. In North America, we tend to compartmentalize and, worse, to present the arts too often within a context of performance. The Oakville Academy, by contrast, is a little bit of Finland: students are encouraged to experience the whole range of the arts, and to do so across the curriculum, rather than focus in a particular area. It’s less about expertise than it is exposure and an engagement with hands-on work, using it as a point of engagement with the course content and interaction with others. They students do learn about art, of course, including various techniques and media, though the interface between that and the core curriculum is porous and varied. Instruction is student-centred, and the community of the school is close-knit and family-oriented. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a very active, diverse, and social learning environment.  

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  • The Toronto Heschel School   (Toronto, Ontario)

    The Toronto Heschel School was founded in 1996 in part as an expression of the work and values of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leader who championed empathy, justice, and wonder. Among many other things in his life, Heschel participated in the civil rights movement and marched alongside Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama. He later commented that, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” It’s that spirit that the Toronto Heschel school continues to embrace today. The community of the school is diverse, with families drawn to the provision of a strong, challenging academic program within the context of social justice and the values of caring and respect for others. When students arrive they enter a community that expresses those values in all aspects of the life of the school, and are inspired to actively participate within them.  

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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 District Christian High School   (Woodbridge, Ontario)

    TDChristian was founded in 1960, and the school has grown considerably over the years. Throughout has been an abiding attention to stewardship within the school community and beyond. Service trips are a cornerstone of the curriculum, and that tone is set from the first week in Grade 9, with all students spending two days working with organizations supporting the city’s homeless population—TDChristian has partnerships with the Yonge Street Mission, Scott Mission, Habitat for Humanity, Church of the Redeemer, Good Shepherd Centre, St. Francis’ Table, and the Salvation Army. Of course that’s just one aspect of the program, though it’s telling of the approach taken within the school. The families that turn to the school often do so in an awareness of the character learning that is woven throughout the curricular and extracurricular programs. Despite the age of the school, all the facilities have been recently updated, including the integration of technology in the classroom. That process is continuing with a capital and development campaign that is currently underway. The ideal student is one who will thrive in an active, diverse, values-based learning environment.  

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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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  • Trafalgar School For Girls   (Montreal, Quebec)

    Trafalgar was founded in 1871, and as many girls' schools from that time, the intention was very forward thinking: to provide opportunities for girls. There weren’t any universities yet admitting girls, yet, even so, Donald Ross, a businessman, gave a substantial piece of his estate to house the school. Other supporters of a like mind quickly followed. Times, happily, have changed, though a need to empower and inspire girls remains, something that Traf continues to do. The leadership of today’s school is notably consistent, as is the commitment to developing programs to meet the needs of today’s students. But the tradition is important too, and for many girls, the knowledge that they sit in the same space, conceptually, as so many young women before them, can itself be empowering and motivating. The ideal student is on able to thrive in a challenging, diverse learning environment, and preparing for post-secondary education.  

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  • Trillium School   (Markham, Ontario)

    Trillium, in some senses, hits the sweet spot in terms of size: it’s small enough to maintain an intimate, student-centred feel, yet large enough to have a robust program of extra-curricular activities. The Montessori focus in the early years carries over somewhat into the middle and upper grades, most evident in the attention to community and a sense of belonging within the school family. While the academic program is proven, the community of the school is also an important draw. Instruction is challenging, yet supportive, and cast within a global lens, perhaps most evident within the language programs offered. The ideal student is one looking for something different, able to thrive in a diverse academic atmosphere, and preparing to enter 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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  • Trinity Montessori School   (Markham, Ontario)

    Founded in 1999, TMS has developed a reputation for offering a strong academic program that maintains a high fidelity to the core of the Montessori approach as demonstrated by CCMA accreditation. The program is regularly assessed through certification and EQAO testing, and families are drawn by the keen attention to the development of core numeracy, literacy, and early exposure to French. The size of the school hits a bit of a sweet spot, allowing for a full range of curricular and extracurricular programming, while also maintaining a close, personal, community-oriented feel. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a hands-on, social, challenging yet supportive academic environment.  

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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 she 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 it 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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  • Unionville Montessori Private Schools   (Unionville, Ontario)

    Unionville offers everything you would rightly expect from a Montessori education, including casa classrooms and group arts and music instruction, which provide opportunities for hands-on learning and the development of natural peer and mentor relationships. The program also builds from that foundation, including a significant and enthusiastic adoption of in-class technology. That aspect of the school is integrated nicely within with more traditional aspects of the method, becoming a natural extension of the approach that Maria Montessori described a century ago. The school is larger than we might initially expect of a Montessori program, though the benefits of size include a breadth of curricular and extra-curricular programming. Families that enroll here are those that prize the Montessori approach, though are also looking for something more. Indeed, that’s exactly what they find.
     

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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. Hence the plural "schools" in the name, though there has only ever been one. UTS is 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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  • Urban Academy   (New Westminster, British Columbia)

    Urban Academy was founded in 2001 with the intention of creating a school that was creative, engaging, and which delivered the core curriculum in a hands-on, cooperative, interactive way. The success of the program is evident in its growth—it is now housed within two campuses—and in its reputation. Families are drawn, rightly, to the academic program, though they are also drawn by the community that the school has described, one that approaches the arts, sciences, social studies equally, and building instruction around points there those fields intersect. The facilities are also one of the school’s strengths. The ideal student is one able to thrive in varied, challenging, creative, and very social learning environment.
     

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  • V.I.K. Academy Ltd   (Calgary, Alberta)

    Most parents believe that public and private kindergarten programs will prepare their children for Grade 1, though the fact is that not all do. VIK was created to ensure that students arrive at elementary school as confident learners, able to read, work with numbers, and positioned for success in French-language immersion. The school is small, and the benefits of size are a draw for the families that enroll here: small class sizes, high teacher-student ratio, individual attention and support. The atmosphere is close-knit, and the family of the school naturally includes the students' extended families. That’s a lot, and the school has understandably gained a reputation for the quality of its offering.   

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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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  • Vaughan College Private School   (Vaughan, Ontario)

    Vaughn College was founded in 2009 in order to provide a vibrant, robust preparation for success and post-secondary studies. The core academics are key, as they should be, though so is an attention to facility in their application, within specific disciplines and as applied across the curriculum. The student body is smaller than the mean, allowing a very close-knit learning environment with a high level of teacher-student engagement. The atmosphere itself is a draw, one in which social currency is gained in part through academic achievement—all students arrive academically oriented, and therefore enter a community of learners that are all of a like mind. The program seeks to develop values as well as a global perspective, which is also a draw. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging learning environment, and able to grow into a sense of responsibility for their learning.    

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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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  • Virtual High School   (Bayfield, Ontario)

    Stephen Baker began developing the concept of the Virtual High School in 1995, and it gained accreditation in 2002. So the concept has been in place for some time, and has proven itself over the past 15 years. Baker is clear that the intent is not to replace the high school experience wholesale, or to suggest that there aren’t significant benefits to attention a brick and mortar institution, including social interaction, events, and belonging within a shared community. That said, he’s also aware that the need for an online school is indicated, and he’s happy to pioneering a means of servicing that need. Certainly there are some students who require structure and routine in order to thrive and succeed in their course work, and the Virtual High School is, in some very real senses, for the opposite type of student, one that is self-starting, and prone to managing their time efficiently and effectively. Courses can be started at any point, and students are able to work through the material at their own pace. That doesn’t mean that they are unsupervised, of course, and teachers invigilate the students throughout, providing clear guidance and support. Likewise, there are opportunities for interaction and collaboration with other students. Counter to that, there are of course very many things that VHS can offer that other schools simply can’t, including distance learning and remediation, and in providing an accredited high school program online taught by accredited instructors. At the end of the day, it’s a unique approach, and it has proven itself with a range of learners to a range of academic purposes. We’ll perhaps be seeing other like programs in the coming years, and certainly they’ll be looking to VHS as a model.  

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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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  • Wesley Christian Academy   (Markham, Ontario)

    Not all Christian schools are created the same, and Wesley is one that builds from the values of the Christian faith, using them to inform the delivery of the curriculum and the lived experience of the school. The school began as a pre-school program in 1988 and has grown since then, including a move into an expanded facility in 2004. Today the size of the school is at the mean for Canada, with approximately 350 students. It’s small enough to maintain a close, connected feel throughout the school, while large enough to allow for a full spectrum of curricular and extra-curricular programming. Families who enroll here are drawn by the strength of the academic offering, the breadth of programming, and the attention to personal and interpersonal development.  

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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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  • Westminster Classical Christian Academy   (Toronto, Ontario)

    WCCA was founded to reflect the very letter of a liberal arts education, one that doesn’t teach to the vocations, but rather to provide the tools necessary for informed citizenship. The focus is on thinking and knowledge, a strong facility with numeracy and literacy, and a working knowledge of the sciences and social sciences. It’s admirable, particularly in a world that prizes the new over the old, and perhaps too often goes rushing off to embrace the new fad, something that’s as true in education as it is in any other field. The ideal student is one who will thrive within a challenging yet supportive environment. In addition to its sound, reasoned and proven instructional approach, families are also drawn by a program that is based in Christian values.  

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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. 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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  • Wishing Well Schools   (Markham, Ontario)

    Founded in 1978, Wishing Well is one of the older Montessori programs in the region, as well as the country, so has had a lot of time to develop its programs. Today it provides the foundational elements of the method, including a strong sense of place, as well as a wealth of opportunity to peer interaction. The Casa classrooms are of a size that the work well, allowing for mentorship relationships to develop naturally among the students. In addition, the administration has demonstrated a keen desire to develop the program with an eye to the kinds of things that students need when they advance to grade 9 and beyond, including a keen interest in developing 21st century literacies, including digital literacy and a robust science curricula. The extended care option, included in tuition, is understandably a very welcome feature for the families that enroll; it’s also a sign of the school’s attention to the needs of the parent community.  The school has built a reputation on providing a strong, varied program based firmly in the ethos of the Montessori method, with an eye to educating students to be creative, confident, and social learners.  

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  • Woodbridge Montessori School   (Woodbridge, Ontario)

    One of the key aspects of the Montessori method as initially described is place: to create a space that is organized, familiar, friendly, and which allows for children to work actively with one another at a range of hands-on tasks. Achievement in the core curriculum is important, though so is emotional, ethical, and social development, all things that have been at the leading edge of the Woodbridge program since it was founded in 2003. Size is important too, and Woodbridge has grown to a student population that allows for a very active classroom setting. The extension of the program up to grade 8 allows for mentor relationships to grow between the older and the younger students, while also allowing them to stay in a consistent setting through the preschool, primary, and elementary years. Before and after care are, understandably, very welcome to the families that enroll.    

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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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  • York Montessori School   (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

    Parents look to York Montessori for a program that demonstrates a high fidelity to the Montessori method, and which is delivered by accredited, experienced staff. And, certainly, that’s precisely what they find. Families are actively involved within the life of the school through annual events as well as, uniquely, information sessions, workshops, and in-class observation held at key points throughout the academic year. The schools is larger than most Montessori environments, especially given those which, as here, limit their scope to the early years. That said, the efforts around involving parents lends a familiar, family-oriented cast to the culture of the school. Following on, the size of the student body has its benefits, especially around the breadth of the program offerings, the resources available, and allows for coverage before and after the school day.  

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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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