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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
|$17,750 to $24,120
||Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||17750|
Delano Academy (est. 2014)
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]
|$16,995 to $19,995
|Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||16995|
||Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||13500|
Académie de la Capitale (est. 1998)
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]
|$11,760 to $18,128
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||11760|
Bishop's College School (est. 1836)
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 an IB World School offering the IB DP and course certificates. [View profile]
|$24,000 to $55,500
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed||24000|
Astolot Educational Centre (est. 1997)
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]
|$13,800 to $15,800
||Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Coed||13800|
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]
|$4,700 to $35,000
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed||4700|
|$3,485 to $17,100
|Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed||3485|
Sherwood Heights School (est. 1989)
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]
|$11,410 to $15,000
||Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||11410|
|$5,900 to $13,500
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||5900|
Ontario Virtual School (est. 2010)
Ontario Virtual School an Ontario Government approved credit granting institution offers high school level courses for Grades 9-12 in an e-learning, interactive online format. Students can start anytime with 24/7 access. [View profile]
|$399 to $499 /course
|HighSchools eSchool Coed||399|
Webtree offers individualized education programs which fully supports a student’s academic needs, and helps them achieve educational and personal goals. Small class sizes are designed to inspire and engage students. [View profile]
|$16,000 to $18,000
||HighSchools Day Coed||16000|
|$10,500 to $16,200
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||10500|
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]
|$9,900 to $29,000
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed||9900|
The Abelard School (est. 1997)
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]
|$20,000 to $25,000
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||20000|
North Broward Preparatory School (est. 1957)
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]
|US $24,200 to US $59,950
||Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed||24200|
|$8,100 to $14,250
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||8100|
Xyna International School (est. 2010)
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]
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Homestay Girls Coed||7000|
Progressive Academy (est. 1983)
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]
|$8,550 to $9,750
||Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||8550|
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]
|$10,500 to $19,125
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Day Coed||10500|
|$9,050 to $18,000
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||9050|
|$10,750 to $15,500
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||10750|
||Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||20000|
London International Academy (est. 2002)
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]
|$9,200 to $41,900
||HighSchools Day Boarding Boarding Coed Boys Girls||9200|
Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc (est. 1954)
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]
||Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Girls||15750|
Robbins Hebrew Academy (est. 1957)
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]
|$13,050 to $17,790
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||13050|
|$8,800 to $21,250
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed||8800|
|$20,000 to $35,000
||Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Coed||20000|
||HighSchools Day Coed||15175|
Hampshire Country School (est. 1948)
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]
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Boys||60000|
|$10,000 to $15,500
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||10000|
St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (est. 1891)
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]
|$17,000 to $27,600
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls||17000|
|$8,500 to $13,500
||MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed||8500|
|$5,568 to $11,832
||Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed||5568|
Odyssey Heights School for Girls (est. 2018)
Odyssey Heights School starts at 10:30am; 1 month Overnight Outdoor Ecological Experiential Ed trips & Equestrian Program are included in tuition, plus French Ministry of Education FSL curriculum, and "No Homework Ever!" [View profile]
|$20,981 to $27,825
|MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Girls||20981|
OAT - Ontario Academy of Technology (est. 2013)
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]
|$500 to $13,995
||Day Homestay Coed||500|