The small class 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 really support children's learning and growth in all areas of development throughout the early years and up into grade 6. They have a keen understanding of children's development and the ability to support the many different learning styles. Over the years, our family has watched students flourish under the instruction and daily guidance of the teaching staff - and have been thrilled with our children's transition into the public school system! Not only did The B.E.N. have them academically prepared, but they were also well-equipped with the social skills and incredible emotional literacy to handle any challenges that come their way.
Our kids both had excellent experiences with staff at the B.E.N. The B.E.N places a deep value on community building and sets up a variety of extra curricular events throughout the school year. This meant that on many occasions, staff were at the school late in the evenings or on weekends to help lead and facilitate activities. This over and above commitment to family learning and wellbeing is exceptional. They are an excellent team who work hard to connect with all of the students at the school. Report cards were always written in easy to understand language that left us feeling as though they deeply understood each of our unique kids and this always translated into very good parent teacher meetings. Staff were always available to dialogue with and happy to connect about strategies that could be put in place to develop student success.
The intent, as I came to see, of instruction at the B.E.N. was not necessarily to just convey information (which they did - my children got the Ontario curriculum) but to encourage curiosity. This was supported by clear instruction on basics, and then exploration of the subject matter. The emphasis was not on memorizing facts, but observing and understanding the reasons behind the facts. For example, my children grew plants from seeds (Biology - where they learned the basics of what a seed needs to sprout - water, sunshine, soil), planted a garden (Ecology - where they learned more about communities of plants and insects), collected earth worms (studied them and measured them, etc.), and created a worm composting unit. I found that my children weren't challenged in the sense that they had a lot of homework, or needed to achieve a certain mark. Rather, they were supported and encouraged to do their best in a kind and thoughtful way.
Very happy with the about the quality and focus of the pedagogy at the BEN School House. I like that teachers make agreements with children at the beginning of the year so that there are some clear expectations around actions and words, each child and the teacher sign the agreement so all are accountable. The teachers really take the time to get to know their students and due to the small class sizes are able to do so quite well. You can experience this in the responsibilities they challenge each student with and the language and energy with which they engage each student. The one thing that is consistent is the support offered when mistakes are made with the focus being on 'how we can positively moved forward from this when we are ready'. They also provide space for the child to do it themselves. Our daughter has recently learned to tie her shoes and was very proud. They came undone during recess and she became very frustrated when she couldn't get them back done up. The teacher approached and asked if she wanted help and the burst into tears and said no. The teacher said she believed in her and she was there if she decided she needed help. This approach shows confidence in the child's abilities and offers support at the same time.
The teachers at the BEN School-House are all amazing and provide extremely high quality instruction to the children. They are always very patient, positive, and caring with the children, and they help to foster the children's curiosity and creativity through different interesting and stimulating activities, play-based learning, reading, art, and outdoor field trips involving nature exploration. For example, the children explore their senses through an activity involving hiding objects in a bag and having the children touch/smell the objects and trying to guess what they were. The teachers helped my son deal with his challenges (e.g., having difficulty at drop-off time, not listening, occasionally hitting the other children, etc.) in a very positive and effective manner that allowed him to learn skills in self-regulation. The teachers are highly qualified teachers who are passionate about art, nature, science, and other topics.