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Welcome to Our Kids

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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Toronto, Ontario — Branksome Hall is Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. View School Profile.


  • 13-acre downtown campus
  • Athletics and Wellness Centre
  • IB programs: JK to Grade 12
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Tennis courts, playing fields, saltwater pools
Grades:
JK to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$34,650 to $69,850
Living:
Boarding/Day
Enrollment:
964
Avg. Class:
12 to 22
Branksome Hall 34650 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Girls
 
 

Waterloo Region (Breslau), Ontario — St. John's-Kilmarnock School offers enriched educational programming for students from Junior Kindergarten – Grade 12 through its accredited International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Discover the possibilities. View School Profile.


  • Accredited IB World Continuum School
  • Beautiful 36-acre natural campus
  • Extensive co-curricular opportunities
  • Tech-free dining builds community in Founders' Hall
  • Outdoor experiential learning from Junior Kindergarten onwards
Grades:
JK to 12 (Coed)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$18,094 to $68,275
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
400
Avg. Class:
10 to 16
St. John's-Kilmarnock School 18094 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — Located in the heart of Toronto, Upper Canada College is the oldest independent boys' school in Ontario. Our IB graduates are highly regarded by top universities and post-secondary institutions worldwide. View School Profile.


  • High-achieving, all-round boys
  • Challenging but rewarding IB program
  • First rate academics, athletics and arts
  • 19 different sports and 65+ clubs
  • Boutique urban boarding program
Grades:
SK to 12 (Boys)
Type:
Liberal Arts, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$34,135 to $66,835
Living:
Day/Boarding
Enrollment:
1170
Avg. Class:
20 to 25
Upper Canada College 34135 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Boys
 
 

Toronto, Ontario — The York School is a JK to Grade 12 International Baccalaureate school in midtown Toronto. Our mission is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are engaged citizens of the world. View School Profile.


  • International Baccalaureate World School (JK - Grade 12)
  • 100% university placement rate
  • Co-educational learning environment
  • Progressive, contemporary approach
  • International community
Grades:
JK to 12 (Coed)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$30,000 to $33,000
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
730
Avg. Class:
16 to 22
The York School 30000 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
 
 

Ottawa, Ontario — 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. View School Profile.


  • Recognized for academic excellence
  • Welcoming, inclusive and diverse community
  • International Baccalaureate World School (PYP, MYP, DP)
  • Round Square and Apple Distinguished school
  • Merit- and need-based scholarships available
Grades:
PS to 12 (Girls)
Type:
Progressive, International Baccalaureate
Tuition:
$14,800 to $28,300
Living:
Day
Enrollment:
370
Avg. Class:
15 to 17
Elmwood School 14800 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls
  • Markham, Ontario
    Woodbine Ave/Major Mackenzie Dr E
  • NS to 3 Coed
  • $6,800 to $12,900

Royal Cachet has authentic Montessori programs from infants to grade 3 in our healthy & safe environments. We focus on the Language & Math areas of the Montessori Curriculum & encourage our students to grow and succeed.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Royal Cachet Montessori School 6800 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Oakville, Ontario
    Winston Churchill/Lakeshore Road East
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $9,250 to $19,500

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Clanmore Montessori School 9250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Merton St/Mt Pleasant
  • JK to 6 Coed
  • $27,200

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.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Sunnybrook School 27200 Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $19,700 to $21,900

An authentic, CCMA accredited Montessori School located in downtown Toronto, offering programs for Toddlers, Casa and Elementary children.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Westside Montessori School 19700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed

TMS  

  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
    Bayview/Hwy 407
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $17,485 to $31,350

TMS 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 of Significance.

  • Day
  • Montessori
  • International Baccalaureate
TMS 17485 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Davenport Rd/Spadina Rd
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $5,040 to $19,950

Small class sizes combine with a vast classical education to create a diversity of understanding that leads students to build the confidence they need to comfortably go out into the world in their own unique way.

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Waldorf Academy 5040 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Erin Mills Parkway/Argentia Rd
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $9,365 to $13,795

St. Jude's Academy is an IB World School that offers programs from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Mississauga. A university preparatory school with a focus on student life, average class size is 16 to 18 students.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
St. Jude's Academy 9365 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Maple Ridge, British Columbia
    240th Street/Dewdney Trunk Road
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $23,500 to $33,500

Meadowridge is an IB Continuum World School that supports the development of the whole child in a safe, supportive and challenging environment.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Meadowridge School 23500 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Brampton, Ontario
    Torbram/Clark
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $14,970 to $19,970

Tall Pines School in Brampton provides enhanced Montessori and traditional classes from Infant to Grade Eight, is the longest accredited CCMA Montessori school in Canada, and is a leader in 21st Century education.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Tall Pines School 14970 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $15,470 to $20,600

Lynn-Rose Heights Private School offers challenging academic programming from three years old to grade twelve in Mississauga. Lynn-Rose Heights school is an official International Baccalaureate World School.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Lynn-Rose Schools 15470 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Alta Vista Drive/Industrial Road
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $12,864 to $21,384

OMS Montessori is a non for profit, independent school offering separate French and English programs within a world class Montessori environment.

  • Day
  • Montessori
OMS Montessori 12864 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $19,000 to $19,500

Richland Academy is a progressive, innovative Reggio inspired and International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for children from 2.8-years to Grade 8. Voted #1 Private School in Richmond Hill 4 years in a row.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Richland Academy 19000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Highway 417/Greenbank
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $16,628 to $18,128

Acadecap International School ( Académie de la Capitale), an IB school, offers bilingual and/or English programmes from Pre-K to Grade 12. Students thrive in a culture of academic excellence and real-life learning.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Académie de la Capitale 16628 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
    Yonge Street/Silverwood Ave.
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $16,550 to $27,000

Century Private School in Richmond Hill runs from preschool to grade twelve, with small class ratio to ensure best learning for our students.

  • Day
  • Montessori
  • International Baccalaureate
Century Private School 16550 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Brampton, Ontario
    Sunforest Drive/Bovaird Drive E
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $8,100 to $15,000

RMS is an award-winning progressive private school. Our structured enriched programme cultivates character, leadership, respect and cultural diversity while developing each child’s 21st century skills and a STEM mindset.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
Rowntree Montessori Schools (RMS) 8100 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Bank Street/Marché Way
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • $17,208 to $18,840

The Element nurtures focused, engaged and internally motivated students who strive to do their best. The Element High School provides conditions that will put youth ‘in their element,’ in school and beyond.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
The Element High School 17208 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $16,700 to $26,250

Bannockburn School leads in Montessori education by offering an exceptional, enriched Montessori curriculum in a nurturing environment carefully prepared to meet the needs of children in the formative years of childhood.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Bannockburn 16700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $7,800 to $17,900

Rotherglen School - MISSISSAUGA is a montessori school that offers programs from pre-school to grade eight. The average class size is 18 students.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
Rotherglen School - Mississauga 7800 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Pickering, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $9,000 to $13,000

Montessori Learning Centre of Pickering is a non denominational, inclusive school that offers programs from Pre-school to Grade eight. We acknowledge and celebrate religious and cultural events as part of our cultural program.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Montessori Learning Centre of Pickering 9000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • St. Catharines, Ontario
    Edinburgh Dr/Scott Street
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $6,550 to $14,050

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
  • International Baccalaureate
Wheatley School 6550 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Lawrence Ave./Bathurst St.
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $22,500 to $23,380

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
The Clover School 22500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Markham, Ontario
    14th Ave/Kennedy
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $7,600 to $41,500

Trillium School is a private school that offers programs from pre-school to grade twelve in Markham with Montessori-based kindergarten.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Traditional
  • Montessori
Trillium School 7600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Boarding Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Eglinton Ave E/Laird Dr
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $7,000 to $16,000

Maria Montessori School is one of the longest established AMI accredited Montessori school's in Canada. We offer accredited programs for children 18 months to 12 years and hire only AMI certified teaching staff.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Maria Montessori School 7000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Nobleton, Ontario
    15th Sideroad/Hwy 27
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $9,000 to $18,000

For 38 years, Montessori Country School has provided a top rated CCMA accredited curriculum for students 15 months through grade 6 on two sprawling campuses, and an integrated virtual classroom for elementary students.

  • Day/eSchool
  • Montessori
The Montessori Country School 9000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day eSchool Coed
  • Whitby, Ontario
    Brock Street South/Dundas Streer West
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $9,950 to $14,000

The Hatch House Montessori School is a very child centered school where each student is respected for his/her uniqueness and is taught accordingly. Ask about our unique, fully bilingual elementary program.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Hatch House Montessori School 9950 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $18,165 to $51,775

GNS is an independent JK-12 International Baccalaureate day-school in Victoria, BC, that challenges and supports each of our students to do their best through truth and courage in learning and in life.

  • Homestay/Day
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Glenlyon Norfolk School 18165 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    QEW/Trafalgar Road
  • NS to K Coed
  • $9,000 to $16,350

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
La Villa Montessori School 9000 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • NS to 5 Coed
  • $6,600 to $10,500

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.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Montessori
ABC Montessori 6600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Day Coed
  • Rothesay, New Brunswick
    Rothesay Rd/College Hill Rd
  • 6 to 12 Coed
  • $23,920 to $65,810

Rothesay Netherwood School offers programs for grades 6 to 12 in Rothesay, New Brunswick. Its average class size is 16 students and it is an outstanding engaged and supportive community -'It's our Nature to Nurture'.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Liberal Arts
  • International Baccalaureate
Rothesay Netherwood School 23920 MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Bathurst St./Eglinton Ave. West
  • PS to 6 Coed
  • $10,000 to $16,500

NOW 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!

  • Day
  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
Alive Montessori & Private School 10000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Queen Street East/Glen Manor Drive
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $7,115 to $22,275

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Avalon Children's Montessori School 7115 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Bathurst/Sheppard
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $8,875 to $18,400

MJDS inspires a lifetime love for learning in a nurturing environment that fosters respect for oneself, the community and the world, guided by the shared values of Judaism and Montessori education.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Montessori Jewish Day School 8875 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Ottawa, Ontario
    Baseline Rd./Woodroffe Ave.
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $12,705 to $20,620

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Bishop Hamilton Montessori School 12705 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Glen Erin/Dundas
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $15,250 to $15,750

Kaban Montessori School in west Mississauga/Erin Mills is a CCMA accredited school for children aged 6 months to 12 years. Come for a tour, you'll love it!

  • Day
  • Montessori
Kaban Montessori School 15250 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Oakville, Ontario
    Lakeshore Road East/Bel Air Drive
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $9,900 to $23,900

Offering Montessori programs from Toddler to Grade 8, Dearcroft is accredited by CCMA and staffed by dedicated teachers.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Dearcroft Montessori School 9900 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Stouffville, Ontario
    Ninth Line/Main Street
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $7,782 to $15,396

Toronto French Montessori offers French and English programs from pre-school to grade 8 in York Region. Its average class size is 15 students.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Toronto French Montessori 7782 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Day Coed
  • North York, Ontario
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $8,750 to $17,950

CMS' aim is to prepare all children to reach their full potential (academically, artistically, & physically) and to play a responsible role in protecting the global environment and fostering peace and harmony.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Central Montessori School – Maplehurst Campus 8750 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Aurora, Ontario
    St. John Sideroad/Yonge St.
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $10,900 to $18,350

Aurora Montessori offers an extensive, enriched program for day students to Grade 8 including an Outdoor Ed. Program, an option of an OSSD credit in Grade 9 Academic Math and a bridge to elite private high schools.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Aurora Montessori School 10900 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • not provided

CMS' aim is to prepare all children to reach their full potential (academically, artistically, & physically) and to play a responsible role in protecting the global environment and fostering peace and harmony.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Central Montessori Schools 9999999999 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Newmarket, Ontario
    Bayview Ave/Newpark Blvd
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • $7,800 to $25,900

Situated on seven acres of rolling parkland and gardens, Country Garden Montessori Academy in Newmarket is a co-ed private day school for students in grades PS-12. The school provides a family atmosphere and is committed the intellectual growth and emotional well-being of students.

  • Day/Homestay
  • Montessori
Country Garden Montessori Academy 7800 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Homestay Coed
  • Oakville, Ontario
  • K to 8 Coed
  • $14,700 to $24,000

Rotherglen School - OAKVILLE offers programs for students age 4 to grade eight. The average class size is 18 students.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Montessori
Rotherglen School - Oakville 14700 Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Tomken Rd./Eglinton Ave. E
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • $9,800 to $15,400

Northstar Montessori offers an authentic Montessori curriculum for Toddler age to Grade 8. Our goal is to develop strong character and contributing citizens who understand that their involvement makes a difference.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Northstar Montessori Private School 9800 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Thornhill, Ontario
    Bathurst St/Rutherford Rd
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $12,470 to $23,400

Toronto Waldorf School offers a curriculum that integrates academics,arts & movement, and addresses the intellectual, physical, emotional & social aspects of child development. Preschool to gr. 12.

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Toronto Waldorf School 12470 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Burlington, Ontario
    Appleby Line/Upper Middle Road
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $9,520 to $16,000

Halton Waldorf school offers an education that fosters confidence, independence and intelligence. Our school is located on five forested acres and has been uniquely designed to support the goals of Waldorf education.

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Halton Waldorf School 9520 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Brantford, Ontario
    Charlotte St/Chatham St
  • NS to SK Coed
  • $10,000 to $12,000

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Montessori House of Children 10000 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
  • Mississauga, Ontario
    Hurontario/Queensway
  • NS to SK Coed
  • $7,070 to $11,960

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.

  • Day
  • Montessori
Shepherd Montessori Private Catholic School 7070 Preschool Kindergarten Day Coed
  • Woodbridge, Ontario
    Weston Road/Rutherford Road
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $15,598 to $15,998

With 2 Campuses located in Vaughan, King Heights Academy provides a unique educational experience for toddlers to grade 12 which includes the IB Program. Our new Thornhill Campus offers a Sports Program from grades 1-12

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • International Baccalaureate
King Heights Academy 15598 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed

While dissatisfaction with traditional primary and secondary education models have 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.

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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 exist under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) prescribe 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 in natural light and 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 body, 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 students’ 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 averages. “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 principal 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 leaning 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 on 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 - http://www.montessorisocietycanada.org/schools.html

Association Montessori Internationale - http://www.montessori-ami.org/

Waldorf Canada - http://www.waldorf.ca/

Arrowsmith School - http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/

Ontario Reggio Association - http://www.ontarioreggioassociation.ca/

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