We have two boys that attend Braemar House School, currently in grades 4 and 2. They both began at Braemar in the Montessori program. This was a new pedagogy for our family and it suited my active, inquisitive kids very well. They had the freedom to move through the activities but with a structure that showed them responsibility at a young age. There were many hands-on activities that promoted fine and gross motor skills, a favourite was the Roman Arch. Both boys learned how to read by the middle of Prep One (SK) which was an absolutely incredible thing to see develop as a parent. The friends they have made in their classes are the most important people in their world, and the small class sizes have given them a chance to bond closely with them. The smiles on their faces every day when they get to school and see their friends are reassuring and heartwarming. My son in Grade 4 is very excited this year to be learning about different civilizations, and especially proud of the gold sarcophagus that was part of the Ancient Egypt unit. My son in Grade 2 is proudly getting his story ready for a public speaking assignment. Both boys love their phys ed classes, especially when they can be outside. They like the equipment at the school- snowshoes, scooter boards- and going to the on site park to play.
My husband and I value communication and transparency, and the school leadership provides that. We can approach our principal, teachers, and administrator with any questions or concerns we have and they are always willing to listen and help. Thankfully we have not had any serious discipline issues, but there have been challenges as our children experience different social situations. All have been treated as a learning opportunity and we have had different strategies proposed to help. The leadership team knows both of our kids personally and are able to help them as best as they can based on their unique personalities. During the pandemic, the school leadership has been consistent and proactive. The students' safety is clearly a priority. The classrooms are equipped with air purifiers and the school also invested in a fogging machine for cleaning. We feel confident that we are sending our kids to a safe place.
The teachers at Braemar House School have been exceptional so far. We joined the school for JK/Montessori and found that our children thrived in that environment. These early grades laid a foundation of independent thinking and ownership of their learning. We find the communication from all of the teachers we have had so far to be excellent. Between emails, the school blog, the Remind app, and our kids' take-home agendas there are multiple channels to connect with the teachers and see what is happening day to day at the school. At the beginning of the school shutdowns in 2020 we felt that the teachers and administration made the students a priority and tried to minimize the impact of switching to home learning. There were a few issues around technology at the beginning but the teachers took all our feedback and adjusted their strategies. Now, because of that, any time we need to make a switch to online learning, whether individual or as a school, there is no downtime and my kids know what is expected from them.
We couldn't be happier with the school location! We moved into our home before having children, and decided to enroll our kids because we could walk to school and liked the model of a private school. Our boys love the location, too. The school is situated on a large open space that includes a huge park, playground equipment, a tennis/basketball pad, baseball diamond, and tarvia for days when the ground is a bit wet. There is an outdoor classroom space that the students use complete with awesome desks and chairs made from logs. There is also a teaching garden where the students plant, grow, harvest and prepare all the veggies grown by them! We appreciate that these spaces are used by the school for outdoor activities.
When we first joined Braemar House School we did not know many of the families. As we were able to meet new families we immediately felt a connection, and our kids felt the same about the students in their classes. Typically there are several social events held through the year that allow families to meet each other. The welcome back BBQ in the fall is always a favourite if my boys haven't seen some of their friends all summer. There is also a Bowling and Spaghetti dinner event for families, and a parents only fundraiser dinner that has a different theme each year. Parents are welcome to be on several committees or act as advisors for the leadership team. I feel that the school provides many opportunities for any families who want to become involved in school life.
I asked our children if they liked going to Braemar House School and they both immediately said "YES!". They have specifically told us that no matter what they want to stay at Braemar House, and the main reason is because they love their friends. Both boys have small class sizes. This has given them the chance to bond with all their classmates. Even the teachers have noted that the classes tend to have students who become very close, almost like brothers and sisters rather than classmates. In my youngest son's class if one of his friends is absent for the day the rest of the class suggests calling them on Zoom just to check in and say hi! Another advantage of a smaller class size is the amount of environmental stimulation my children experience. Both boys are sensitive to overstimulation from noise or the energy of other children. I feel that if they were in a large class they would be coming home drained and burnt out. Thankfully they come home happy and full of positive energy.
I believe that Braemar House School continues to proved as many safe opportunities for extracurricular activities for students. My boys are still too young to play on the sports teams, but they have been able to join in some of the many clubs such as Gems club, and the Green Team. They are looking forward to being involved in the Lego and Chess clubs as well. In non-COVID times there are many extracurricular opportunities offered at Braemar House School. We liked to stay after school to watch the basketball, volleyball and soccer held at the school. My oldest has also been able to travel for the cross country running team, which he loved!
In our experience the academic program at Braemar House school is excellent. Each year we are provided with a curriculum guide and there is a curriculum night for the parents to attend to get more details and ask questions. The curriculum guide is very detailed and provides information about subjects in each child's grade as well as their citizenship and leadership programs. Our favourite is the Virtues Project- this helps promote character by learning about virtues and they see examples of how they can show those in daily life. Students that demonstrate these are often announced at the monthly assemblies and my kids are very proud when they are called. We also feel that the small class sizes are critical for focused learning. This environment allows the teachers to concentrate on teaching rather than distractions. In the past year as we have had to do more learning from home, we feel fully supported in the academic program. From the beginning, the faculty and administration have been adaptive in how they deliver the work for each day, and in the technology used. The Google classroom and daily Zoom lectures seem to be just enough without being overwhelming, and the teachers are empathetic to those days when we need a break.
When people ask why we continue to choose private school the first thing that comes up is that the school definitely feels like a community. I remember when our oldest started going to Braemar House, and was in the Montessori class. The students in grade seven or eight would say hello and call him by name, and that made him feel very special. When the school could gather (pre-Covid) for assemblies, and parents were able to come as well, the best part is when the student body sings the Braemar Song! To see how excited and proud all the students are to sing their song is great! I just asked my youngest son what he thinks about Braemar, and he said "It is a great school!" and we agree!