Our son started at Astolot in grade 2 and is graduating this year. As a person with dual exceptionalities (gifted/ADHD), he was ill suited to the local public school's French immersion program. That all changed at Astolot. My child was given the freedom to accelerate his learning where he was capable of doing so, and given support in those areas (e.g. social skills) where he needed it. He learned to manage his emotions; to take responsibility for his actions; and, to direct his own learning. In his last year, the school also helped him in his transition to university. In fact, he got A+ in his first 2 university courses! Most importantly, however, the school nurtured his emotional and social growth. I will miss this school!
Both the principal (Jennifer Cowan) and the teachers impress upon the children the importance of community and responsibility. They provide clear direction to parents and students about expectations through the school handbook, and rules are reinforced with students on a daily basis. Social skills training is provided to students who can benefit from it (e.g. those with Aspergers). When students break rules, they are aware there will be consequences. The consequences depend on severity (e.g., time outs, suspensions). All students at Astolot are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which is respectful to self and others at all times.
The teachers at Astolot are incredibly devoted to the welfare of their students. They go out of their way to tailor the curriculum to the needs of each child. For instance, my child was given an opportunity to accelerate his learning where he was clearly capable of doing so, and given special instruction (social skills training) where he needed it. The school gave him an opportunity to start high school early and to take advanced courses online through the Virtual High school in his area of interest (computer science). He was also given an opportunity to lead others in his area of interest. For instance, he led a Robotics class and led a coding camp over the summer. He was also given an opportunity to put his skills into action in everyday activities at the school.
This school celebrates the unique needs of each child, and tailors the curriculum to meet these needs. The expectations are clear but the children are given support to meet these defined goals. Like many students at Astolot, my son has dual exceptionalities (gifted/ADHD). Where this was a problem in the public school, it was embraced at Astolot. My son has become an independent learner who is aware of his strengths and weaknesses and how to navigate to address his needs. Because they nurtured his self-sufficiency and self awareness, he became adept at managing his time to complete his assignments and other homework without intervention. This independence has served him well in his transition to university, where students are expected to manage their own time. Although he is 16, he has done well in his university courses.
Astolot is a small school so there are no competitive athletic teams that I'm aware of and no gymnasium. This is not a school that prioritizes a defined athletic program. That being said, the children exercise at a beautiful local park and go on regular excursions (such as skating on the Rideau Canal) in the broader community. As well, there are a wide-range of clubs in place to round out the students' education: robotics, skiing, knitting, piano (free lessons!), karate to name a few.
The student body is small, inclusive and diverse. My child has told me it feels like a family. The school is divided into elementary and secondary schools, but the classes are multi-age and multi-level. The children's unique talents are celebrated and nurtured. A child who is gifted musically, for instance, will be given responsibilities and opportunities to share this gift with the others. For instance, I know of one child who provided all the music for student assemblies. My son, who loves computers, was given the responsibility of maintaining all the school's computers. He is the defacto IT help desk for both the students and teachers. As he is graduating this year, he is mentoring a like-minded student to assume these responsibilities after he graduates. Many of the children have exceptionalities, often more than one (e.g., dyslexia or giftedness). The students and teachers support each other. It's a nurturing environment.
My child loved this school from the first day. He went from being a very unhappy child enrolled in a local public school's French immersion program to a child who looked forward to attending school each day. Rather than seeing his dual exceptionalities as an insurmountable problem, Astolot nurtured him and provided him with guidance and direction to thrive. His teachers supported him and nurtured his emotional and social growth each and every day. The school body is small and the student body diverse but this diversity is celebrated. In short, Astolot is an inclusive and supportive environment for children who dislike large classes and thrive in supportive, calm environments. There is no tolerance for bullying here.
As I've mentioned before, this school feels like a family. Each year there are breakfasts and potluck dinners where the parents contribute food. Parents are also encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and field trips as well. For instance, one parent opened up her laboratory at a local university so students could visit and see her research firsthand. However, the school has no formal parent council because the school is so small. Personally, I liked this--because I had little time to be involved in the everyday operations of the school. I knew that if something was needed from me, the principal or teachers would reach out to me for assistance. I never felt pressured to complete tasks for the school. Knowing my child was in good hands was all that I cared about, and I appreciated that little was asked of my time as I'm a busy professional.
This school is centrally located in Old Ottawa South. It is easily accessible by bus routes and walkable for those in the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Old Ottawa East (Main Street). It is co-located in a business complex on Bank Street. The school uses the broader community (public library, public park, Rideau Canal) to broaden the experience of the students each day. The children go to a beautiful local park each day for exercise.
My child will graduate with his high school diploma this month. He is 16. The school helped him consider his future interests, explore the academic programs available to him, complete his application and enroll as a special student in his last year of high school (since he was too young to enroll as a full time student). Because he is so young, the school also supported his transition to university by providing him with mentoring and other guidance during his first semester. To make the transition less jarring, he remained at Astolot during his first semester and the school tailored a program to his needs. With this foundation, my son found the transition to university seamless, and did very well. In fact, in his first 2 courses, he received A+!