Our families experience at the BEN has been spectacular. The community spirit of the school is very welcoming and the staff's energy is positive with both students and parents. My daughter loves all the outdoor time she receives there and her love of learning is clearly being fostered as she is coming home and asking for me to create 'homework' like her work at school. She is eager to share what she has learned and able to apply it in a real world context already. As a parent the engagement of the teachers is beyond what I could have dreamed. There is always a teacher available to discuss your child's day if you have any questions and if something occurs later they are receptive to receiving and responding to email. The way they encourage older students to mentor and help the younger ones fosters a great dynamic and it shows in the respectful bevhaviours I have witnessed. All schools have flaws, though I'd really have to dig hard to find one here. We love it!
As a parent the engagement of the teachers is beyond what I could have dreamed. There is always a teacher available to discuss your child's day if you have any questions and if something occurs later they are receptive to receiving and responding to email. They really care a great deal about the feedback they receive. They are respectful and kind with the students whenever possible and consistent in the boundaries they set up. The language used by the leadership and teachers reflects what they ask of their students.
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.
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.
The BEN is small physically (the space) and from a student body perspective. This does pose a challenge when it comes to certain extracurricular's activities such as competitive sports. However they do their best to fill the plate of the students with extra learning opportunities. Science filed trips to High Park in Toronto, dinner theatre, music lessons, entering school music challenges. Growing plants from germination and sprouting. We are able to provide our daughter with exposure to sports and other physical activities outside of her school life.
What we love about the BEN is the children aren't "segregated" by age or grade which we see happen at a lot of schools. Where it's not welcome for younger kids to play and interact with the older kids and vice versa. Our daughter loves being able to help the younger children when the opportunity arises and she takes such pride when she earns the privilege to attend a class in one of the higher grades for a couple hours. The younger grades all bring a share fruit each day which helps foster a greater sense of community and in addition each day and the practice of gratitude each day before snack and lunch where the children sing a short rhyming song to say thank-you for the food that's grown and our daughter loves this so much that she leads us in the song at home before dinner.
Our daughter loves attending the BEN. She enjoys the freedom to follow her curiosity and imagination with the Go Stations. The BEN really embraces the arts and singing and little rhymes are often part of the learning. Our daughter has taught us many fun ways to remember how to draw her letters and numbers with song and rhymes. Our daughter is always bringing home drawings and interesting art projects. The art materials the children are exposed to is quite diverse. I think back to how I learned those things and wish I could go to the BEN and learn and learn how she is!! Our daughter enjoys the outdoor time at the BEN and they will go out side to explore nature She started at the BEN at 2 years old and she's 5 now. We tried Montessori for 1 year and our daughter did not thrive there the same as at the BEN. The lack of communication between the teachers and staff was frustrating to us and other parents we got to know. The feeling of the Montessori school was much more of an "institution" whereas the BEN really embraces everyone and it has a real community energy and warmth. Lots of communication.
Each year at the Annual BEN Pancake Fundraiser we get the opportunity to spend quality time with current BEN families and families whose children previous attended the BEN. It's clear to us, how well loved the BEN is by past families that they continue to support the BEN and share positive experience about their children time at the BEN. Past grads come help at the Pancake Breakfast with the kids games, face painting and magic show. There are bi-monthly Parent evenings where parents of current students, past students or friends are welcome to attend to continue widening their scope of learning around raising children. It's another great way the parents can get to know each other and learn about the BEN and the vitamin philosophy that underpins their curriculum. The school provides many opportunities for parents to be involved on class field trips and other school outings like the family skate, movie night, dinner theatre, solstice celebration, pancake fundraiser and in the classroom.
The school is located in a quiet family area with a nice sized park and splash pad within a 5 minute walk. It is relatively easily accessible by transit (bus), it is away from busy streets. Parking can sometimes be a small challenge when attending events at the school, though there is more than enough during drop off and pick up.