Alternative private schools

Find a list of the top alternative private schools in Canada

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Written by Lisa Evans Read more


List of alternative schools

 
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Sunnybrook School


Toronto, Ontario
Merton St/Mt Pleasant
 
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"Sunnybrook School offers the IB Primary Years Program for all students in JK - Grade 6. We have a fully integrated co-ed and 1:1 iPad program for all the grades. Our inquiry approach leads to global citizens.

  1. 71 years
  2. IB PYP World School
  3. JK to Gr 6, coed
  4. 1:1 iPads, JK - Gr 6

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 6 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $32,700
 
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Sunnybrook School 32700 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed

St. John's-Kilmarnock School


Waterloo Region (Breslau), Ontario
 
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"SJK offers an enriched environment of exploration and experiential learning. Through its IB curriculum, SJK provides exciting experiences and guides students to discover their talents and passions. Go beyond at SJK.

  1. Accredited IB World Continuum School
  2. Experienced, passionate, professional teachers
  3. Project-based, design-thinking experiential learning
  4. Extensive co-curricular programs in athletics, arts, leadership and community service

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $21,290 to $78,800
 
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St. John's-Kilmarnock School 21290 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed

The York School


Toronto, Ontario
Yonge St./St. Clair Ave.
 
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"The York School is a JK-Grade 12 gender inclusive IB World School in midtown Toronto. Our mission is to nurture curious learners to become globally minded leaders with integrity and purpose.

  1. International Baccalaureate World School (JK - Grade 12)
  2. 100% university placement rate
  3. Gender inclusive learning environment
  4. Focus on social-emotional and experiential learning

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $40,350
 
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The York School 40350 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed

Upper Canada College


Toronto, Ontario
St Clair Ave W/Avenue Rd
 
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"Located in the heart of Toronto, UCC provides transformational learning experiences in a supportive, caring environment. Our highly sought-after graduates are awarded OSSD and International Baccalaureate diplomas.

  1. High-achieving, all-round students
  2. Challenging but rewarding IB program
  3. First rate academics, athletics and arts
  4. 19 different sports and 80+ clubs

—From the school

  • Gr. SK to 12 (Boys)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $38,600 to $75,200
 
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Upper Canada College 38600 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Boys

Branksome Hall


Toronto, Ontario
Bloor Street East/Mount Pleasant Road
 
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"Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only leading International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for girls in JK-Grade 12, developing the leaders of tomorrow through the nurturing of curiosity and critical thinking at every age.

  1. 13-acre downtown campus
  2. Athletics and Wellness Centre
  3. IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  4. Leadership opportunities

—From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Girls)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $40,940 to $82,290
 
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Branksome Hall 40940 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
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"GNS is an independent JK-12 International Baccalaureate boarding and day school in Victoria, BC, that empowers and supports each of our students to do their best through truth and courage in learning and in life." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $10,975 to $82,575
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Glenlyon Norfolk School 10975 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Homestay Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Davenport Rd/Spadina Rd
 
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"Waldorf education is 'schooling with heart'. Students and parents love our smaller class sizes, strong teacher relationships, incredible curriculum, unique opportunities and arts-infused academics!" —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $21,700 to $24,700
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Waldorf Academy 21700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Bayview/Hwy 407
 
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"Lauremont School is a leading, accredited independent school that offers a unique design of Montessori and International Baccalaureate programmes. Our students thrive in academics while building a foundation for life." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $21,690 to $38,255
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Lauremont School 21690 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
Erin Mills Parkway/Argentia Rd
 
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"There’s a different energy at SJA. As a leading IB World School and university prep school, SJA creates an atmosphere of acceptance that allows us to challenge students to take ownership of their own success." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $12,440 to $18,640
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St. Jude's Academy 12440 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Oakville, Ontario
Winston Churchill/Lakeshore Road East
 
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"Clanmore is one of the few schools offering authentic Montessori programming from Toddler - Middle School. Our culture is warm and inviting and our philosophy empowers us to support each child as a unique individual." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $10,250 to $21,000
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Clanmore Montessori School 10250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Buena Vista Road/Springfield Road
 
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"Elmwood School is Ottawa's pre-eminent school for girls from PreK to Gr. 12. Our high academic standards, small class sizes and safe, supportive environment ensure that each girl is inspired to reach her full potential." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $17,500 to $34,276
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Elmwood School 17500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
Brampton, Ontario
Sunforest Drive/Bovaird Drive E
 
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"RMS is an award-winning progressive private school. We focus on excellence, participation, leadership, and inclusivity while developing each child’s academic strengths, both in traditional and 21st Century skills." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $16,785 to $17,320
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Rowntree Montessori Schools (RMS) 16785 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Oakville, Ontario
Trafalgar Road/Dundas
 
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"TRMS uniquely provides enriched French as a second language (FSL) instruction for all levels from Preschool to Elementary. We give students a head start in their educational journey, instilling a "Love of Learning!"" —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 3 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $15,695 to $17,375
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Trafalgar Ridge Montessori School 15695 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Spadina Ave/College Street
 
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"Authentic, CCMA accredited Montessori Schools located in downtown Toronto, offering programs for Toddlers, Casa, Elementary and Adolescent children in beautiful settings with large and expansive natural playgrounds." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $21,500 to $23,900
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Westside Montessori School 21500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
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"Lynn-Rose's philosophy is to create an environment that is challenging and rewarding; focusing on social, intellectual and emotional aspects of the students development through IB and AP programme offerings." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $17,000 to $22,000
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Lynn-Rose School 17000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Highway 417/Greenbank
 
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"Acadecap International School (Académie de la Capitale), an IB World School, offers bilingual and/or English programmes from JK to Grade 12. Students thrive in a growth mindset environment and a culture of excellence." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $20,983 to $26,978
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Académie de la Capitale 20983 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Scarborough, Ontario
Kennedy Road/Progress Avenue
 
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"Enquiring Minds Montessori is a one-of-a-kind Montessori Art School. We have created a unique learning experience that fosters academic and artistic excellence in a nurturing environment while challenging young minds." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $11,158 to $17,500
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Enquiring Minds Montessori 11158 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Yonge Street/Silverwood Ave.
 
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"Century Private School is located in Richmond Hill, and our campus occupies 12 acres of land. Our programs runs from preschool to grade twelve, with small class ratio to ensure best learning for our students." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Montessori
  • $18,500 to $28,500
  • Day school
  • 250 students
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Century Private School 18500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Richmond Hill, Ontario
 
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"Richland Academy is a progressive, innovative Reggio-inspired and International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP Authorized and MYP Candidate School for children from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $24,000
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Richland Academy 24000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
 
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"Humberside Montessori School is internationally recognized and accredited by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). Our AMI certified teachers provide an authentic Montessori experience for our students." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $5,386 to $22,000
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Humberside Montessori School 5386 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
 
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"At Central Montessori School (CMS), young minds are inspired to be creative, innovative, and inquisitive. We cultivate bright, young leaders and strong communicators ready for the 21st century." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $9,400 to $21,200
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Central Montessori Schools 9400 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Day Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
Glen Erin/Dundas
 
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"Kaban Montessori School is a CCMA accredited school in the west area of Mississauga . Our environments foster each child's interests and abilities while supporting them to achieve their full potential." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $17,000 to $18,000
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Kaban Montessori School 17000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
 
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"Rotherglen School - MISSISSAUGA is a montessori school that offers programs from JK to grade eight. The average class size is 18 students." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; Montessori
  • $15,850 to $20,315
  • Day school
  • 400 students
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Rotherglen School - Mississauga 15850 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Pickering, Ontario
whites/kingston road
 
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"Montessori Learning Centre is a non denominational, inclusive school in operation for 40 years. We acknowledge religious and cultural events supporting our whole life philosophy education." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; Montessori
  • $12,000 to $14,000
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Montessori Learning Centre of Pickering 12000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Brantford, Ontario
Charlotte St/Chatham St
 
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"Located in Brantford, Ontario, Montessori House of Children (MHC) provides excellent programs for grades Nursery to 3 and helps young children reach their learning potential with both independent and self-directed learning. MHC also offers support for students with learning differences." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to SK (Coed)
  • Montessori approach
  • $12,000 to $13,000
  • Day school
  • 41 students
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Montessori House of Children 12000 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
Vancouver, British Columbia
 
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"Stratford Hall takes learning beyond IB with its IDEA Lab, OEE and partner schools, where students strive to develop harmony between the urban and natural world through activities like camping, music, and orienteering." —From the school

  • Gr. K to 12 (Coed)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $28,220 to $32,970
  • Day school
  • 545 students
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Stratford Hall 28220 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Burlington, Ontario
Appleby Line/Upper Middle Road
 
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"Halton Waldorf School offers an education that fosters confidence, independence and intelligence. Located on five forested acres, the school has been uniquely designed to support the goals of Waldorf education. Est 1984" —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $14,360 to $19,360
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Halton Waldorf School 14360 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Baseline Rd./Woodroffe Ave.
 
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"Bishop Hamilton Montessori School, a not-for-profit independent school in Ottawa, provides an authentic Christian Montessori approach for children 3 months to 14 years." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $6,183 to $22,970
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Bishop Hamilton Montessori School 6183 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Oakville, Ontario
Lakeshore Road East/Bel Air Drive
 
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"Offering Montessori programs from Toddler to Grade 8, Dearcroft is accredited by CCMA and staffed by dedicated teachers. We have three campuses in Oakville, delivering exceptional Montessori Programs." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $10,600 to $27,800
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Dearcroft Montessori School 10600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
Tomken Rd./Eglinton Ave. E
 
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"Northstar Montessori offers an accredited Montessori curriculum from Toddler age to Grade 8. Our goal is to develop strong character and contributing citizens who understand that their involvement makes a difference." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $11,100 to $17,400
  • Day school
  • 300 students
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Northstar Montessori Private School 11100 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Whitchurch-stouffville, Ontario
Ninth Line/Main Street
 
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"Toronto French Montessori offers French and English programs from pre-school to grade 8 in North York, and Toddler programs in Stouffville. Its average class size is 15 students." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $7,620 to $16,350
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Toronto French Montessori 7620 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
Hurontario/Queensway
 
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"Shepherd Montessori Private Catholic School in Mississauga offers Casa Montessori programs for children a ged 2.5 to 6. Before- and after-school care and summer camps also available." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to SK (Coed)
  • Montessori approach
  • $7,800 to $12,800
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Shepherd Montessori Private Catholic School 7800 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Lawrence Ave./Bathurst St.
 
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"The Clover School's innovative curriculum combines Montessori essentials with heart-centred learning practices designed to nurture the ​mind​, heart, health, and soul of each child." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $25,312 to $26,290
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The Clover School 25312 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Newmarket, Ontario
 
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"LMMH was established in 2003, the school offers a unique French Immersion Program as well as an English Program for children from 2 ½ to 13 years of age. Our students also learn to ski, golf, play tennis and more." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $13,500 to $15,500
  • Day school
  • 120 students
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La Maison Montessori House 13500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Oakville, Ontario
QEW/Ford Drive / Ninth Line
 
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"La Villa Montessori is an AMI recognized school that adheres to Dr. Montessori's principles. We provide a nurturing environment that fulfills the child's emotional, social, physical and intellectual needs." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $6,000 to $18,500
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La Villa Montessori School 6000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Queen Street East/Glen Manor Drive
 
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"Our objective is to guide children with respect and understanding, developing in them a love of learning. Our aim is to create a nurturing environment full of intellectual, social and moral learning and development." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $8,240 to $24,000
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Avalon Children's Montessori School 8240 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Markham, Ontario
14th Ave/Kennedy
 
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"Trillium School is a private school that offers programs from pre-school to grade twelve in Markham with Montessori-based kindergarten." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 12 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Montessori
  • $9,200 to $41,500
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Trillium School 9200 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Boarding Coed
Markham, Ontario
Woodbine Ave/Major Mackenzie Dr E
 
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"Royal Cachet has authentic Montessori programs for infants to grade 6 in our healthy and safe environments. We focus on the Language & Math areas of the Montessori Curriculum & encourage our students to grow and succeed." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $9,200 to $15,500
  • Day school
  • 400 students
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Royal Cachet Montessori and Private Schools 9200 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
St. Catharines, Ontario
Edinburgh Dr/Scott Street
 
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"We provide students with opportunities to explore real-world concepts and issues, broadening their sense of responsibility, develop their critical thinking skills, and empower them to take action in a global community." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $7,300 to $15,200
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Wheatley School 7300 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Markham, Ontario
Woodbine/HWY 7
 
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"Wishing Well Schools offers an enriched, academically advanced program spanning from 18 months to Grade 8." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $17,500 to $17,700
  • Day school
  • 427 students
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Wishing Well Schools 17500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Day Coed
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
240th Street/Dewdney Trunk Road
 
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"Our practices in teaching and learning are exemplified by our outstanding academic results and are achieved through the active engagement of the head, heart, and hands." —From the school

  • Gr. JK to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $28,400 to $38,400
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Meadowridge School 28400 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Thornhill, Ontario
Bathurst St/Rutherford Rd
 
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"Toronto Waldorf School offers a curriculum that integrates academics, arts and movement while addressing the intellectual, physical, emotional and social aspects of child development from preschool to gr. 12." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 12 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $18,000 to $24,000
  • Day school
  • 360 students
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Toronto Waldorf School 18000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Prince Edward Dr N/Bloor Street West
 
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"Prince Edward Montessori School offers programs for various grades in Toronto. Its average class size is ten to 16 students. " —From the school

  • Gr. NS to SK (Coed)
  • Montessori approach
  • $7,325 to $14,934
  • Day school
  • 100 students
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Prince Edward Montessori School 7325 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
North Vancouver, British Columbia
Keith Rd/Lynnmouth Ave
 
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"Collaborative and engaging, North Star's programs put students at the center of their learning and quest for knowledge." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 7 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $5,800 to $15,840
  • Day school
  • 110 students
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North Star Montessori Elementary School 5800 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Bathurst St./Eglinton Ave. West
 
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"WITH LICENSED DAYCARE! Bring your child for a free trial to let him or her experience the difference. Don't be surprised if he or she doesn't want to go home at the end of the day! SUMMER CAMP PROGRAMS AVAILABLE!" —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum; Waldorf
  • $15,500 to $17,500
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Alive Montessori & Private School 15500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Rothesay, New Brunswick
Rothesay Rd/College Hill Rd
 
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"Our unique, daily Advisor Program ensures every student is surrounded by a strong network of highly qualified, dedicated faculty and staff whose mission is to provide academic, emotional, and social guidance and support." —From the school

  • Gr. 6 to 12 (Coed)
  • Liberal Arts curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $26,390 to $76,140
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Rothesay Netherwood School 26390 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
Aurora, Ontario
St. John Sideroad/Yonge St.
 
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"Aurora Montessori offers an enriched Montessori program for students, Toddler to Grade 8, with an option of an OSSD credit in Grade 9 Math. A unique Mindfulness and Technology program develops key 21st-century skills!" —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $18,464 to $23,936
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Aurora Montessori School 18464 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Bank Street/Marché Way
 
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"Our programs find the interaction of youth’s developmental characteristics, the Ontario curriculum, and the requirements of the adult world to create the focussed engagement that naturally leads to personal excellence." —From the school

  • Gr. 7 to 12 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; Montessori
  • $20,748 to $24,156
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The Element High School 20748 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Whitby, Ontario
Brock Street South/Dundas Streer West
 
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"The Hatch House Montessori School is a very child centered school where each student is respected for their uniqueness and is guided through learning accordingly. Ask about our unique, fully bilingual elementary program." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $12,250 to $15,750
  • Day school
  • 0 students
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Hatch House Montessori School 12250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Mississauga, Ontario
Hurontario St/Matheson Blvd E
 
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"ABC Montessori is one of Mississauga's premier private schools. We offers both Montessori and traditional school programs from preschool to Grade 5 with an emphasis on developing literacy, numeracy, sciences, and arts." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 5 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Montessori
  • $5,260 to $11,500
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ABC Montessori 5260 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Day Coed
North York, Ontario
 
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"Bannockburn provides a strong, academic foundation anchored in the principles of the Montessori philosophy that supports your child’s intellectual, moral, social, and emotional development in a nurturing environment." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $18,515 to $28,120
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Bannockburn 18515 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Dufferin St/Lawrence Ave W
 
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"LDVA provides foundational education and challenges students to develop to their full potential. Officially recognized by the Italian Government, our unique curriculum incorporates Italian language and culture." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 8 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Montessori
  • $10,500 to $18,300
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Leonardo Da Vinci Academy of Arts & Sciences 10500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Ottawa, Ontario
Alta Vista Drive/Industrial Road
 
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"OMS Montessori is a non for profit, independent school offering separate French and English programs within a world class Montessori environment." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum
  • $9,763 to $17,524
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OMS Montessori 9763 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Oakville, Ontario
 
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"Rotherglen School - OAKVILLE offers programs for students age 4 to grade eight. The average class size is 18 students." —From the school

  • Gr. K to 8 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum; Montessori
  • $16,530 to $28,120
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Rotherglen School - Oakville 16530 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed

While dissatisfaction with traditional primary and secondary education models has led some parents to turn to private schools offering specialized programs in music, sports, or the arts; others have opted for an altogether different approach – alternative schools. “Alternative” refers to any educational institution that offers a curriculum, learning environment, or education philosophy that differs from the mainstream.

With a plethora of alternative schools to choose from, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Here, we’ve explored four popular models to help you determine whether an alternative school is right for your child.

Montessori: Learning through self-exploration

Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, opened the first Montessori school in 1907. While a range of practices now exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) prescribes to the idea that optimal development is achieved when children have the liberty to act freely within their environment. Schools that follow this philosophy believe students learn best through self-exploration. The teacher acts as a guide, presenting children with a selection of activities to choose from. “Children [become] self-initiated. They’re intrinsically motivated. They’re very comfortable meeting challenges. They’re able to self-correct their work and they’re extremely self-disciplined,” says Sandra Girlato, Director of Training at the Foundation for Montessori Education. In her work as an adult educator, Girlato says students who attended Montessori schools or preschools as children tend to be more self-motivated and are more comfortable receiving feedback and asking for help when they need it.

While a Montessori education can benefit every child, Girlato says it might not be well suited to every family. “Sometimes parents want their child to read as early as possible, but some children are early readers and some don’t read until they’re five, six, or seven,” says Girlato. The Montessori model that allows children to develop at their own pace may not be comfortable for these parents.

Reggio Emilia: Fostering imagination and ideas

Developed in preschools in the Northern Italian town of the same name in 1963, the Reggio Emilia approach recognizes children as intelligent, resourceful, and capable of having good ideas. While a traditional classroom is led by teacher instruction and structured in time (9:15 for arts and crafts, 11:00 for literacy, for example), a Reggio Emilia classroom is structured in space with the room divided into various workstations and is built on the idea that children can self-regulate, using their will to make and execute a plan. “Where it really differs from a traditional classroom is in letting children be creative, letting them design things and letting them have ideas and theorize about the world,” says York University Professor Carol Ann Wien, author of Emergent Curriculum in the Primary Classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia Approach in Schools.

The overarching theme of the Reggio Emilia approach is to honour children’s intellectual capacities and intense curiosities. “Children have amazing ideas and thinking capacity far beyond what [we] originally thought four, five and six-year-olds could do,” says Wien. The organization of the physical environment is a crucial component of the Reggio Emilia approach. Classrooms are filled with indoor plants, have large windows to welcome natural light, and are open to a centre piazza.

While the Reggio Emilia approach is most often seen in preschool and primary levels, some private schools such as Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Ontario, are attempting to incorporate Reggio-inspired education all the way up to high school.

Waldorf: The slow and steady approach

Developed on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the first Waldorf school opened in 1919. Waldorf pedagogy first focuses on developing children’s physical bodies, focusing on practical, hands-on activities and encouraging creative play. “We know that the more their body is moving the more neurons and synapses are firing in their brains,” says Ryan Lindsay, Board President of the Waldorf School Association of Ontario. The Waldorf slogan “the right thing at the right time” is based on the understanding that the brain changes as children age. While the traditional education system takes the same approach to learning in the early years as in the later years, the Waldorf approach distinguishes between stages in child development. “We have a start slow, finish fast approach,” says Lindsay.

While education in the primary years involves multiple periods of extended free play to develop children’s imagination and capacity to move and think, the elementary level engages their connection to the world through emotions, focusing on artistic expression and social capacities. Secondary education emphasizes core academics and focuses on developing a student’s critical mind. “By that time, they’re really ready to excel with technology, math, and science,” says Lindsay.

The Waldorf model of “slow and steady wins the race” can be challenging for parents who lack patience and who engage in comparisons between their child and others in traditional educational systems. Elementary students tend to score lower on standardized testing than public schools, but by eighth grade, Waldorf students excel far above average. “If parents stick with it, by high school they’re pretty confident in their decision,” says Lindsay.

Arrowsmith: Tackling learning challenges by changing the brain

If your child is being held back by learning difficulties, you may want to look into the Arrowsmith program. Designed by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, this program is based on the principle of neuroplasticity; the belief that the brain can be modified through targeted stimulation. While most special education programs accept that we are all born with a certain intellect and focus on changing the environment or the learning materials to accommodate students’ special needs, the Arrowsmith approach argues that the learner’s brain can be modified by identifying and strengthening cognitive capacities.

With a low student-to-teacher ratio (10:1), Arrowsmith instructors deliver intensive and graduated cognitive exercises designed to target specific areas of learning difficulties. Once the deficient area is improved, the student’s ability to perform academic tasks increases.

While students in traditional resource classrooms typically make gains representing half a school year, Tara Anchel, Assistant Director of the Arrowsmith School, a learning disabilities school, in Toronto, Ontario, says their students can make one to three school year gains after only one year in the program and can successfully integrate into a full academic program at a public or private school after two to four years of study at Arrowsmith.

Which alternative school is right for your child?

There’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to enrol your child in an alternative school, but finding a model that fits with your own educational philosophy and your child’s personality is key. Follow these tips to determine which alternative school model is right for your child:

Observe: Spend the day observing what’s happening in the classroom. Watch how children interact with each other and with the instructor and ask yourself whether you can picture your child fitting into this environment.

Ask questions: Ask current and former students and parents what they think about the school and how it helped prepare students for the next stages of their lives or education.

Consider the level of involvement: Some alternative schools require a higher level of parental engagement than others. The Waldorf model, for example, places great importance on parent participation, so much so, that Lindsay says this may play as much a role in a student’s application as the student’s aptitude.

Common questions to ask a prospective school:

Child-specific advice on school choice
For child-specific insights on choosing a school, read our guide. We explore how school choices crucially depend on kids' unique traits, such as their mental and academic focussocial tendenciesactivity level, academic interests (such as art and STEM), and other attributes (such as giftednessspecial needslearning disabilities, and social issues).

To customize over 350 school profiles with insights unique to your child's traits, create a child profile through your user account.

Related Resources

Montessori Society of Canada -https://www.montessorisocietycanada.org/schools.html
Association Montessori Internationale - https://www.montessori-ami.org/
Waldorf Canada - https://www.waldorf.ca/
Arrowsmith School - https://www.arrowsmithschool.org/
Ontario Reggio Association - https://www.ontarioreggioassociation.ca/

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