REVIEW OF Braemar House School BY parent, Laura Maddison
- Date of Review
May 03, 2021
Gr. 1 - 8
(5) Student Experience
I have two children at BHS. My youngest joined the school and had selective mutism, he had not spoken directly to a teacher through his kindergarten experience and preschool was not much better. He joined BHS in Grade 1 and in that first year he chose to join the talent show. I have no idea what it was that, for the first time in his young life, he felt safe enough, secure enough, to not only start to speak with adults and participate in class but to put himself on stage in front of the entire school. Clearly the environment was amazing and supportive. And the talent show was amazing! My oldest joined in Grade 5, after a year of anxiety that seemingly came out of nowhere. He gained confidence, security, a sense of belonging, and teachers who took an interest in the individual, not just a student number. He has done exceptionally well throughout his time at BHS and is set to graduate this year. He was comfortable enough to try every sport offered, take part in the school productions, and become a different person from when he started. I credit BHS with encouraging a caring, safe, environment where students are allowed to be themselves, make mistakes (and correct them) and where they are taught to own their actions. I believe that both of my children feel supported, not a number but not under a magnifying glass either. They have the space and freedom to make choices and are encouraged on a regular basis.
(5) School Leadership
The teaches, leaders, and board are extremely accessible and open in their communication. When there has been the odd issue with one of my children, or their peers as a whole, I have appreciated the openness with which it is dealt with and the fact that it is taken care of in-school. Parents are not called in to take accountability for their children. The children are held responsible in a firm, but caring, manner and are taught valuable life lessons in making mistakes and learning from them. Values are instilled in them from a young age and they are expected to life up to them. These values are not just words, they are lived by all of those in leadership at the school. There is no hypocrisy in the actions and words of the BHS environment.
The teachers at BHS are there because they love their work and they care immensely about the children, of that I am certain. The teachers, due to smaller class sizes, are able to adapt to each student's needs and are supportive of each child's learning process. When kids are good at something, they are given the opportunity to go further and excel in that subject. Likewise, if the subject are is a little more difficult, they are helped and encouraged. No one is given a direct pass but the kids are offered support, guidance, and opportunities to make it up. The communication has always been very open, honest and constructive! If my son is not doing his best, his teachers will let him know that he can do more, he can do better, and then it is up to him to take that or leave it. If he opts to leave it, he is reminded again of his abilities but there is never a free pass. The teachers take the time to teach the kids about not only the subject matter but real life as well, and my kids love to see how those two worlds meet.
I believe that the programs and the way they are presented will provide both of my children with what they need for next steps, yes. My eldest, not having profited from as many years at BHS, knows what he is responsible for, that it is his, and his alone, to manage and get done. I cannot do a direct comparison but I can say that I believe the academic program is more advanced than at regular schools. When my eldest joined in Grade 5 he had some catching up to do in subject matters such as English, science, and history. He was given the space, time, and support to catch up and hasn't looked back since. My youngest, who is 9, has participated in worldwide math competitions and knows his times tables up to 12. Not being a math person, to me this is impressive! He knows where he needs to work harder, grammar, but due to smaller class sizes, the learning can be paced differently so that each child can work at their own rhythm and not get bored, or left behind.
There is music, theatre, sports, and fun. Sadly, due to the pandemic, all of this has been curtailed and my oldest son is going to miss some wonderful opportunities that would have provided wonderful memories. This said, the teachers at BHS have continued to encourage additional activities outside of the academic environment throughout online schooling. Lots of fun ideas for outside, including family challenges to get everyone involved. Virtual experiences for those who are interested and suggestions for fun things to do.
The huge advantage of BHS is the class sizes, the small student body, and the close knit feel of community. When allowed, pre-covid, older kids interacted with younger children, they played and spent time together - there was no real distinct separation between the grades. The feel is one of a huge group of siblings, which comes with its natural ups and downs. New students are accepted easily and are immediately part of the class and student body, despite many of their classmates having been together all of the educational lives. At least that was the experience for my oldest son, who joined in Grade 5, he was in like he had been there all of his life. Starting in Grade 1, my youngest was welcomed into the class and, that particular year, there were a few starting together and they all just blended it. The students are good kids, that is really the feel that I get. This doesn't mean there aren't problems that come up between individuals or grades, but when they do come up, the teachers allow the students enough space to sort things out and step in when needed. They really are learning how to manage different types of personalities.
(5) School Life
When I dropped my children off, pre-covid, I left with a smile because I know they are safe and cared for. I have (had) also had some laughs with teachers, leaders, and other parents on my way in and out. I have missed this enormously throughout the pandemic, despite keeping in touch with the school through other means, it's just not the same. My children do love going there and I cannot see them having done as well as they have, both academically or personally, had they been elsewhere. I went to a private school through most of my schooling and I often felt like I was in a fishbowl where everyone knew everything about me and I found it intrusive. At BHS, a lot is known about the children and their families (by leadership and teachers) but there is a certain distance and discretion that is respected, which allows the kids to simply be themselves and not have to love up to any higher standard.
The BHS community is caring and welcoming. Right from the start there is a family BBQ where parents and students, and other family members, have the opportunity to catch up or get to know one another. Grandparents are welcome, and known! Coming in with one child partially through elementary could have been awkward or uncomfortable but the teachers, parents, and board make you feel like part of the family right away. I believe that the parents are given an appropriate role to play, that of supporting role. The opportunities are there to support the school, the classes, and other aspects if you are interested but the leadership and the teachers are the ones that should be in the starring role and allowing too much parental input could damage that balance. Personally, I feel that the balance is right and I can be involved as much, or little as I like depending on what else is going on in my life.
(5) School Location
The school is right smackdab in the middle of a residential area with other schools. There are no fences, no gates, no stay away signs. It integrates nicely to the area and has no pretention about it. I'm not sure the neighbours love the cars, all students walk or are dropped as there are no buses, but I believe that the school community is respectful of those living around the school and don't cause any problems for them. There are playgrounds and a large park just beside the school and, honestly, I don't know where the delimitations are. It feels like part of the school and is treated as such, with respect and care.