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Gifted curriculum alternatives

How language immersion, IB, AP, and Montessori programs work for gifted kids

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Some students with advanced learning abilities are best suited to a gifted school or program, in Toronto, Ontario, or elsewhere. Others are better off in a regular classroom, one where the gifted curriculum is tailored to their unique learning needs.

These aren't the only options, though. Sometimes gifted students are best served in alternative learning environments. Certain alternative curricula are associated with gifted education, including language immersion, the IB program, AP courses, and Montessori schools (which are unique in that they have mixed-age classrooms).

It’s a good idea to look into these alternative options for your gifted child. While each of them have benefits for gifted children, they also have some potential drawbacks.

Language immersion programs

A language immersion program offers a dual-track curriculum where students learn to speak two or more languages. In language immersion programs, most or all subjects are taught in the second language, beginning as early as preschool and continuing to the end of high school. For example, in Toronto, children can enrol in a French immersion program beginning in kindergarten.

Language immersion programs can enrich a student’s education. Learning some or all one’s subjects in a second language provides the right kind of challenge for many students, including some gifted students. It can keep gifted students interested in school, while also enabling them to develop another skill: fluency in a second language.

On the other hand, language immersion programs aren’t always the right choice for gifted students. As Matthews and Foster point out, for children whose main strengths are reasoning and the ability to master complex concepts, it can be years before their competency in a second language is strong enough to support their advanced learning abilities. Until students achieve enough competency in the second language, they’ll struggle to have high-level, meaningful discussions with teachers and peers. For the first few years, then, these programs can be frustrating for some gifted learners.

Gifted students typically prefer high-level instruction. But when most or all one’s subjects are taught in a foreign language, the level of sophistication is usually much lower for core subjects than would otherwise be the case (in the early years, especially). For many gifted students, Matthews and Foster claim, the best option is to separate second-language instruction from core instruction, at least until second-language proficiency improves. This is particularly true for students who lack a strong interest in second languages.

International Baccalaureate programs

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a program offered in many elementary, middle, and high schools. In high school, it offers a wide-ranging curriculum, where students enrol in six subject areas and fulfill a variety of community service and extracurricular requirements. Students also write an extended essay or dissertation at this level.

IB curricula tend to be more challenging than regular high school curricula. Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded credits which can be transferred to first-year university. Because the curriculum is so rigorous, IB programs often attract highly motivated and intelligent students with strong academic track records. Thus the IB diploma is highly regarded by universities around the world.

The IB program can be a good option for gifted students: it offers them a demanding education.

Many gifted students enrol in IB programs, and some do so at an earlier age than their peers to accelerate their studies even further. The IB can indeed be a good option for some gifted students: it offers them a more demanding education.

On the other hand, IB programs are likely not a good option for students who resist a traditional curriculum. Since most IB programs follow standard course syllabi and use standard evaluation schemes, they leave little room for the level of flexibility some gifted students want. Students who tend to “march to the beat of their own drums” are thus usually not a good fit.

For similar reasons, many gifted students who want to explore non-core subjects that interest them, pursue independent projects, or follow their passions, find that the strict curriculum of IB programs is not for them. Moreover, research indicates that some IB courses, especially in math and science, aim more for breadth than depth, and may not be rigorous enough for some gifted students.

That said, this is mostly only true of the high school IB program. In the primary and elementary programs, there tends to be far more curricular flexibility. While certain topics do need to be covered in these programs, there’s lots of variation in how they’re covered. Even gifted students who resist a traditional curriculum, then, may be a good fit for primary and middle school IB programs.

Advanced Placement courses

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are university-level courses offered by some high schools in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. By taking an AP course, students can both earn a university credit and help prepare for the advanced level of university. Many gifted students enrol in AP courses late in high school, and some enrol in them earlier to accelerate their studies.

AP courses are more challenging than typical high school courses. Moreover, since AP courses mainly contain highly motivated and intelligent students, they can be very stimulating. Often, they provide the right kind of challenge for gifted students, one that meets a wide range of their learning needs.

On the other hand, AP courses likely aren’t a good option for those who lack a strong work ethic, self-confidence, or intrinsic motivation. They’re also not a great option for those who aren’t high achievers. Finally, they tend to be a poor fit for “unconventional” students who resist a traditional curriculum, whether these students are gifted or not. AP courses follow a standard curriculum, taught at a prescribed pace, with strict standards of evaluation. They thus leave little room for flexibility on the part of teachers.

That said, there’s much variance among and within schools in the way AP courses are taught. Some teachers have the ability to modify teaching to meet the learning needs of gifted students. Other teachers lack the expertise to make the necessary adjustments to enable some gifted students to realize their full potential in an AP classroom.

Montessori schools

There’s lots of variation among Montessori schools in terms of specific policies and practices, in Toronto, Ontario, and elsewhere. While many of these schools provide an ideal learning environment for gifted students, some don’t. Below, we outline the main benefits and drawbacks of a Montessori education for gifted students.

Benefits

Drawbacks

  • Most Montessori schools offer mixed-age classrooms, with toddler classes from birth to age 3, primary classes for ages 3–6, elementary classes for ages 6–9 and 10–12, as well as middle and high schools. This environment offers gifted students the opportunity to work with and learn from older classmates, which research has shown to be highly beneficial.
     
  • Montessori schools provide a good environment for gifted children to accelerate their studies. They give kids lots of leeway to determine the focus and pace of their learning. They can often move quickly through their work in this setting, allowing them to stay engaged and stave off boredom.
     
  • Montessori preschools (from birth to age six) can be an especially good option for many young gifted children. They tend to be more academic oriented than traditional preschools. Also, their focus on concrete learning over imaginative play helps to hone the reasoning and problem-solving abilities of young kids. In fact, they have a reputation for churning out “little engineers.”
  • Gifted children who need external standards of evaluation often aren’t a good fit, since most Montessori schools don’t have tests or assignments that are graded. On the other hand, Montessori schools can be a great fit for gifted children who are intrinsically motivated and enjoy learning for its own sake.
     
  • Some Montessori schools are reluctant to move kids too quickly through the curriculum, or to move them to a higher age-level class. These particular schools may be a poor fit for some gifted students—especially those who are highly gifted (who are higher than the 98th percentile in terms of learning abilities).
     
  • Most Montessori schools restrict pretend play (though they nurture creativity in other ways), in favour of concrete learning. If your child is mostly gifted in the creative arts, they may find these schools less engaging than progressive, arts-focused schools.

In some ways, Montessori schools are similar to other schooling options for gifted children. If they’re willing and able to meet the learning needs of gifted kids, through special programs or adaptations, they can be a great fit. If they’re not able to do this, they’re unlikely to be a good fit. It’s thus very important to look at the specific policies and practices of any Montessori school, to see whether it’s able to meet the special learning needs of your gifted child.

Series: Gifted Programs

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List of gifted schools and programs

 
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Type
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  School Name Type Cost

Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E. (est. 1993)  

  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (340 students)
Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E. is a private school for intellectually gifted students in Richmond Hill, Ontario, from grades 1 to 12. Tuition is $13,500. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$13,500


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 13500

Fieldstone School (est. 1997)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • Day school (76 students)
Fieldstone prepares students to be future global leaders. As Canada's Cambridge School, we offer a stimulating curriculum in the context of a small and nurturing environment. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$17,750 to $24,120


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 17750

Delano Academy (est. 2014)  

  • Vaughan, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (140 students)
D.A. is a K-12 university prep, coed IB candidate 21st Century school. Enriched and rigorous curriculum. Balanced academics, arts, athletics & character development. We value best practices & evidenced based approaches. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$16,995 to $19,995

User
reviews (2)

• User reviews (2)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 16995

Bishop's College School (est. 1836)  

  • Sherbrooke, Quebec
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (214 students)
  • Day school (46 students)
Bishop's College School is an English boarding and day school for students in grades 7 through 12. Small in size and culturally diverse, BCS is a member of RoundSquare and offers an ESL program and AP courses. [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
$24,000 to $55,500


MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 24000

Académie de la Capitale (est. 1998)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (65 students)
Académie de la Capitale, an IB World School in Ottawa, offers programmes in both English and French, from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12. Students thrive in a culture of academic excellence and real-life learning. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$11,760 to $18,128


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 11760

Aurora Montessori School (est. 1989)  

  • Aurora, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (370 students)
Aurora Montessori School offers a comprehensive, nurturing and enriched program for Toddler to Grade 8. Our enrolment of 375 day students has an average class size of 15 to 24. [View profile]
  • Montessori
  • Reggio Emilia
$10,500 to $16,200


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 10500

OAT - Ontario Academy of Technology (est. 2013)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 11 to 12 Coed
  • Homestay school (15 students)
  • Day school (15 students)
OAT is a high school in Toronto specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Full credit courses, Booster programs and Reach Ahead programs designed to give students the support they need to excel. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$500 to $13,995


Homestay Day Coed 500

King's View Academy   

  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (30 students)
  • Day school (30 students)
King's View Academy offers students the opportunity to study grades 7 through 12, including Advanced Placement courses, in a self-directed, self-paced, flexibly-scheduled and well-supported academic environment. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
$10,500 to $19,125


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Coed 10500

St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (est. 1891)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • Day school (550 students)
Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Graduating Year since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$17,000 to $27,600


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 17000

London International Academy (est. 2002)  

  • London, Ontario
  • 9 to 12 Boys/Coed/Girls
  • Boarding school (175 students)
  • Day school (5 students)
  • Boarding school (175 students)
A Canadian Private Secondary Co-ed Boarding school, located in downtown London, Ontario. LIA offers academic courses from Grades 9-12 and is authorized to grant the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). [View profile]
  • Traditional
$9,200 to $41,900


HighSchools Boarding Day Boarding Boys Coed Girls 9200

Rutherford Private School & Daycare   

  • Vaughan, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (100 students)
  • Boarding school (50 students)
Rutherford Private School creates an atmosphere of academic excellence, and develops students with a love of learning that provides sound preparation for higher education. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
$9,900 to $29,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 9900

Hampshire Country School (est. 1948)  

  • Rindge, New Hampshire
  • 3 to 12 Boys
  • Boarding school (25 students)
A friendly, active boarding school for bright boys who have good intentions but who may be too impulsive, intense, or bothersome for other schools and whose intellectual interests may separate them from their peers. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
US $60,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Boys 60000

North Broward Preparatory School (est. 1957)  

  • Coconut Creek, Florida
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Day school (1296 students)
  • Boarding school (325 students)
North Broward Preparatory School is a K-12 co-educational day and boarding school located in S. Florida located minutes from the beach with IB, AP, and LD classes set on 80 acres with year round hockey. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
US $24,200 to US $59,950


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 24200

Sherwood Heights School (est. 1989)  

  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (650 students)
Sherwood Heights School offers Enriched Academic Programmes from Kindergarten to Grade 12, in Mississauga. The Programmes are Enriched and Comprehensive, delivered with Extra Attention and Care. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$11,410 to $15,000


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 11410

Avante School (est. 2009)  

  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • 2 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (25 students)
Avante School provides a custom tailored learning experience for accelerated success and much less stress. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$8,500 to $13,500


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 8500

Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc (est. 1954)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • JK to 8 Girls
  • Day school
In our all-girls environment, academic achievement in both official languages is the norm. A Joan of Arc Academy bilingual education prepares the women leaders for the challenges of tomorrow. Come and see the difference. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$15,750


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls 15750

Dearcroft Montessori School (est. 1968)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (170 students)
Offering Montessori programs from Toddler to Grade 8, Dearcroft is accredited by CCMA and staffed by dedicated teachers. [View profile]
  • Montessori
$8,800 to $21,250


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 8800

Prestige School - Toronto Campus (est. 2003)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (250 students)
Prestige School offers programs from junior kindergarten to grade 12 in Toronto. Its average class size is 10 to 18 students. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$10,750 to $15,500


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 10750

Progressive Academy (est. 1983)  

  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (200 students)
Progressive Academy's programs inspire students from preschool to grade 12 in Edmonton, Alberta. Wonderful faculty, wide range of experiential opportunities and high expectations ignite a desire to learn. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$8,550 to $9,750


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 8550

The Abelard School (est. 1997)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (50 students)
Founded in 1997, the Abelard School is a small independent school for grades 7 though 12, located in downtown Toronto. It offers small class sizes and an enriched, integrated curriculum to bright, motivated students. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$20,000 to $25,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 20000

Glenburnie School (est. 1985)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (180 students)
Glenburnie School, Oakville, offers enriched, child-centred, responsive, academic programs from Pre-K through Grade 8. Class sizes range from 8 to 18 students depending on grade level. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$9,050 to $18,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 9050

Xyna International School (est. 2010)  

  • Brampton, Ontario
  • 6 to 12 Girls/Coed
  • Day school (50 students)
  • Day school (50 students)
  • Homestay school (10 students)
Xyna International School offers programs from Gr 9 - 12 in Brampton(Co-ed) and 6-12 in Woodbridge(Girls only). At Xyna students have many opportunities to develop teamwork, communication and leadership skills. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$7,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Homestay Girls Coed 7000

Wheatley School (est. 1986)  

  • St. Catharines, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (160 students)
Wheatley School offers programs from nursery to grade eight in St. Catharines. Its average class size is 15 students. [View profile]
  • Montessori
  • International Baccalaureate
$5,900 to $13,500


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 5900

Unionville Montessori Private Schools (est. 1987)  

  • Unionville, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (900 students)
Unionville Montessori School offers programs from pre-school to grade eight. Its average class size is 18 to 22 students. [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • Montessori
$8,100 to $14,250


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 8100

Madrona School Society (est. 1993)  

  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • K to 9 Coed
  • Day school (80 students)
Madrona School Society is a gifted school in Vancouver. It offers programs for kindergarten to grade nine with an average class size of six to 14 students. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$20,000


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 20000

Astolot Educational Centre (est. 1997)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (40 students)
  • Homestay school (Varies)
Astolot Educational Centre is a day school with grades 1 to 12 in Ottawa, Ontario. Classroom teacher-student ratios are 1 to 10. Students have the ability to reach their full potential with Astolot programming. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$13,800 to $15,800


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Homestay Coed 13800

UWC Canada (est. 1974)  

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (200 students)
The UWC National Committee of Canada and Pearson College UWC represent the United World Colleges in Canada. We are seeking daring young Canadians who aspire to make the world a better place. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
58,000

User
reviews (5)

• User reviews (5)
Boarding Coed 58000

Webtree International School of Excellence (W.I.S.E.) (est. 2016)  

  • North York, Ontario
  • 9 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (30 students)
W.I.S.E offers programs from Grade 9 to Grade 12. Its average class size is 3 to 5 students. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$16,000 to $18,000


HighSchools Day Coed 16000

Prestige School - Richmond Hill Campus (est. 2003)  

  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • Day school
The Prestige School offers programs from pre-school to grade eight in Richmond Hill. Its average class size is ten students. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$10,000 to $15,500


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 10000

Académie Vaudrin Academy (est. 2005)  

  • Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec
  • PS to 6 Coed
  • Day school (100 students)
Vaudrin Academy offers innovative and trilingual education based on neuroscience which is unique in the world. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
  • Montessori
$5,568 to $11,832


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 5568

Odyssey Heights School for Girls (est. 2017)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Girls
  • Homestay school (2 students)
  • Day school (50 students)
Odyssey Heights School: starts at 9:55am with dance, yoga, or outdoor fitness; 25-35 Overnight OE3 trips are included in tuition, there's a "No Homework Ever!" policy; Equestrian curriculum, small group French, 1:1 iPads [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
$25,950 to $54,875


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Girls 25950

Oak Learners (est. 2016)  

  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • JK to 6 Coed
  • Day school (18 students)
Oak Learners offers a creative learning atmosphere, working with your child’s unique learning style to inspire their strengths and interests. [View profile]
  • Reggio Emilia
$3,485 to $17,100

User
reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 3485

AVRO Academy (est. 2010)  

  • North York, Ontario
  • 9 to 12 Coed
  • Day school
AVRO Academy is an alternative high school in Toronto for grades 9 to 12. Students earn credits while developing skills that best prepares them for post secondary education. We focus on student strength! [View profile]
  • Progressive
$15,175


HighSchools Day Coed 15175

Robbins Hebrew Academy (est. 1957)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (380 students)
Robbins Hebrew Academy (RHA) teaches students to think critically and globally, in a community that builds self-esteem and life-long character. RHA is Toronto’s first Jewish school to be CAIS accredited. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$13,050 to $17,790


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 13050

College Bourget   

  • Rigaud, Quebec
  • PS to 11 Coed
  • Day school (1450 students)
  • Boarding school (100 students)
Collège Bourget is a day & boarding school situated between Montreal & Ottawa, that exceeds Quebec curriculum guidelines & ensures our students grow through different spheres: arts, sports, community service & science. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$4,700 to $35,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed 4700

Dewey Institute   

  • Bracebridge, Ontario
  • 1 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (130 students)
We uphold and pursue a pragmatic, balanced education with an emphasis on art, sports and music to cultivate talents to lead the new century. [View profile]
  • Traditional
$20,000 to $35,000


Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Coed 20000

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