As stated above, the small group size and wholistic approach to curriculum and programming at The B.E.N. was one of the things that drew us to the school. The teachers have a respectful approach that supports the needs of each individual student, helping them to develop strengths and goals academically and socially/emotionally. The B.E.N. provides a supportive learning environment that truly considers their strengths, challenges, and goals of each child within the context of the whole school community. We have seen the power of providing students with this kind of environment, and engaging learning opportunities, and had the pleasure of watching students make incredible leaps and bounds in their level of focus and academic ability. We could always trust that our kids were engaged in programming that was both respectful and challenging.
The B.E.N embraces a whole child approach that supports encouraging children through areas of strength and moving with their interests to develop academic materials that reflect their interests and motivations. There was one period in time where our son developed a deep attachment to bunnies and insects and the teaching staff developed a long range art project connected to gardening and bunny making that engaged all of the students but also allowed my son's interests to be heard and validated. Our daughter deeply connected to the visual art aspects of the school and developed her self regulation and mindfulness skills through regular opportunities to express herself through visual arts. Both of our kids enjoyed the numeracy component of their time in the kindergarten program and developed very good number sense skills through creative and hands on approaches to mathematics instruction.
The B.E.N. does not cultivate a demanding academic culture. As is evident in their motto - they are looking to cultivate active learners who love to learn. It's not about the grade, it's about the effort and preparation that it takes to be successful, and fostering habits or ways of thinking that lead to success and happiness. My daughters left the B.E.N. and entered a Catholic school. My eldest finished grade 6 at the B.E.N. and we had to move them both because we couldn't do the travel logistics to get them to two separate schools. My younger daughter entered grade 2. Both of them made transitions into the public system in a way that was better than I had ever anticipated. They are both at the top of their classes now - and are involved in many extracurricular activities like Leadership groups, mental health groups, sports, etc. They both also had powerful reflections on the positive skills what they were able to take from the B.E.N., and how happy they were to go to school. This happiness translated into their next step in life, and let them take it with energy and excitement - both key to being successful.
One of the most powerful parts of the teaching philosophy at the BEN is the aspect of 'Vitamins'. They are, in short, human qualities or character traits such as, Honour, Adaptability, Manners, Concentration, Expansion (there are 28 in all). These are not necessarily curriculum related though we feel and see in the students there a movement towards greater self awareness and confidence. This helps the students with 'how' to be in the world and not just 'what' to know about it. Confident students are more likely to remain curious and interested in learning, willing to make mistakes and be resilient. Our daughter is 5 and is reading on her own now and we feel that the support to pursue her passions has led to this accelerated ability in this area.
I definitely feel the BEN has helped to prepare my son academically. I have no concerns in this regard, as the instruction is very high quality. The lesson plans are grounded in a highly rigorous pedagogy that nurtures each child's unique characteristics and strengths while ensuring the development of key skills and abilities that all children require to be in the world and at school in particular. In addition to the main school curriculum that is taught at the BEN, the children learn to follow the everyday routines and are taught to be respectful, helpful, kind to one another, good listeners, caring towards their friends, and curious about the world and all of its wonders. The ratio of children to teachers is consistently small, which allows for focused attention on each child.