Caught somewhere between childhood and emerging adolescence is the best way to describe the later elementary years. This age group is often ready for greater academic challenges and wider social experiences. At the same time, they may have concerns about fitting into their peer group. These are years of exploring and defining who they are as individuals.
Jennifer Stevenson moved her son Michael out of the public system after he completed Grade 5 and enrolled him the following year at Rotherglen School in Oakville, Ontario. "I moved him for Grade 6 because I found the classes were too large," Jennifer says. "I think boys are different than girls and my son just wasn't as engaged at school."
"I also had an accountability issue with the school. I just didn't think he was getting what he needed at that school. I think we're more demanding than our parents were."
Rotherglen's small classrooms and more structured environment attracted her, Jennifer says. Having completed Grade 8 in June, Michael will be attending a Catholic separate school in September. "I think he has really benefited from attending a private school in these years before high school," Jennifer says. "The structured learning environment was great. The kids were held accountable and the school was also accountable for what it was teaching."
"His marks remained consistent at As and Bs, as they were at his former school. But I think he received a better quality of education," Jennifer explains. "Academically, I think he will be very well prepared. His time there laid a strong foundation for his future education. He will have a leg up."
Concerns for her eldest child led Anita Robertson to send all three of her children to a private school. Eldest son Taylor was entering Grade 4, younger son Clark was in Grade 2 and daughter Laura was in Kindergarten when Anita moved her children from their local public school in Niagara-on-the-Lake to the small private school a 25-minute drive away in St. Catharines, Ontario.
"I wasn't happy with the whole school experience. There didn't seem to be a clear direction in the curriculum and then came the teachers' strike and, for me, it was just the last straw," Anita says. "You want to provide the best education for your children that your family has access to."
She says the change of schools was like night and day. "There was more discipline. I had more of a sense that they were learning strong basic skills. I was paying for my child's education and I felt I heard more from the school. I felt I had more input."
When Taylor was set to graduate from the private elementary school, Anita decided she wanted to keep him in a private middle school. So, she enrolled Taylor in Grade 7 as a day student at Ridley College, in St. Catherines, and his younger brother went with him to start Grade 5.
"I found Ridley was kind of like a family in middle school. It's a really good community. The classes are small and students are assigned an advisor who supports them through all aspects of school life."
Her two older children are now at the high school level at Ridley and she is confident they are being well prepared for university life. "They are independent learners. They have a full life at school with many extracurricular and community activities and they must be disciplined to balance all this with their studies."