Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Cornerstone Montessori Prep School (2021)
Cornerstone Montessori Prep School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Leah, Safa had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Leah — current parent
Leah has two sons that currently attend Polaris School and Centre. One of her sons is in Grade 1, and the other is in Kindergarten. She originally chose the school because she felt it was an environment that approached learning not just from an academic perspective, but from a creative and physical perspective, to create well-rounded and curious students. Leah believes that the small classes and play-based teaching style at Polaris School and Centre have helped her son be more present, and has helped lower his anxiety about academic expectations.
- “We met with the teacher and understood right away that this is an environment that was going to approach our son learning not just from his academic growth, but his spiritual, creative, and physical growth, and encourage him into his body.”
- “[Polaris School and Centre] encourages the interactive, play-based learning that [my son] so desperately needed as a little boy who is naturally in his head, and encouraged him into his body. [He is encouraged to] play games, skip, climb and be fully present in what he's doing, without interruption or need for framing, or explaining his experience and what he's doing. We've been so pleased to see how that has released some of that stress that he was feeling initially at school, and helped him develop in ways that we really value: his ability to do things physically, his ability to engage socially, and have healthy dynamics with other kids, and to not feel the stress of needing to perform in particular ways.”
- “We have two little boys at [Polaris School and Centre] now, and both of them engage with the world in such unique ways. [With my oldest son], the impact [of Polaris School and Centre] that we've seen is his willingness to trust himself physically. [My son is] encouraged by his teachers [at Polaris School and Centre], who are so attentive to his unique journey, and noticed right away that what he needed was to climb, and swing, and skip, through the encouragement of his peers, helping him develop those skills.”
- “[My son] entered [Polaris School and Centre], and was allowed by his lovingly attentive teacher to fully immerse himself in his drawing, in his building, in observing flowers and birds, in singing very loudly. By not being interrupted in that play by a teacher who understands that his presence with his learning is what's teaching him, his language has substantially improved.”
- “Not that we had a standard set for [our son], but that just he naturally, by being able to learn the way he learns, has developed the skills he needs to communicate with his friends. We wanted an environment where he could be accepted in his journey, and that is absolutely what [Polaris School and Centre] stands for.”
- “I think because the class sizes [at Polaris School and Centre] are so small, [my sons have] been able to build these really tender, intimate relationships with their friends. They speak often of that. Or they'll set up a chair and say, ‘[my friend] is sitting here,’ kind of conjuring their friends into other areas of their life, which to me, is demonstrating how deeply known they feel when they're here, that they want to bring it all with them. They talk a lot about the play, the games, and the things that they do that are meaningful to them.”
- “Sometimes [my sons] talk about and they bring home some challenging things that were said [at school] or an experience that they want to work out. I think it's a good sign that they feel comfortable doing that because it means that whatever they experienced at school leaves enough space for them to do that inner work, that processing. At the end of the day, what [my sons] say about [Polaris School and Centre] is that they love it. They like going there, they love their teachers, they love their friends, and are excited about what they're doing.”
- “I do feel that [Polaris School and Centre], in a way, is personified in our lives as this guide, or this kind of safe hug; I think I would say ‘present’ is one of the key traits of this person—very present and attentive with a kind of peaceful presence. [Polaris School and Centre is also] playful. That's so central, the whimsy of the colour and the textures. It's so playful, and then has a little bit of mystery, like a little mysterious kind of ephemeral that creates in you a sense of wonder and of curiosity.”
- “[Polaris School and Centre are] not flashy. It doesn't have perfect branding, but it's because the focus is on the heart. You'll see that in the website copy. You see the language, the intentionality behind the language of each individual journey being a high priority. That's the value that drew us [to the school] because we wanted our children to feel that their unique spirits were being honoured, not just formed. Personally, as an adult, I have been looking my whole life for a community that has the capacity to hold the nuance, and hold an equitable space for all to feel fully seen, and be able to contribute in a way that is meaningful to them.”
- “[Polaris School and Centre] recognizes that in order for the kids to flourish, they need to be within a community that is flourishing. The culture that we're building is what frees them to learn. If they don't feel safe, and they don't feel contained in a healthy way, it's so hard to learn.”
- “I think it's noteworthy what an incredible group of families we have at [Polaris School and Centre]. ... These are people that I love, and that's not easily achieved. … For a parent who is considering the school, if a core value of theirs is to have meaningful relationships, this is a place that has the capacity for that.”
Safa — current parent
Safa has one daughter that currently attends Polaris School and Centre as a kindergarten student. As an immigrant that has no extended family in Canada, Safa appreciates that the school has been a safe and nurturing environment for her and her daughter. She feels that the school has a focus on allowing children to play and express themselves creatively. This allows for students to feel comfortable and learn to communicate organically with their peers.
- “While I was thinking about kindergarten for [my daughter], I was really looking for spaces that not only emphasize or appreciate play but also raise the status of play as the most important thing children should be doing. There's a difference between saying we do play-based instruction and saying we let children play. There's a very big difference between these two things. It was very clear to me in my first encounter with [Polaris School and Centre], and coming into the kindergarten classroom, that play is the most important thing. I appreciate the preservation of that in our time. … It's a state of being, it's a right and it's a need, and it deserves this level of preservation. That's why I chose [Polaris School and Centre].”
- “As an immigrant family, we don't have a natural network of people. My child doesn't have grandparents and aunts or uncles, so school becomes so much more significant in my child's perception of who takes care of her. … So the teachers become a lot more significant in her life. For [my daughter], the biggest impact [of Polaris School and Centre] was the sense of community that she has been able to benefit from in the first part of the year, in the fall, through winter, and then experiencing that really difficult winter shut down. Then when she returned, what I saw was a real deep sense of security building up in her and this idea of that community existence for me to return to.”
- “To me, the most profound thing is that [Polaris School and Centre] feels like home [to my daughter]. I think she also in her young years of life understands how unique that is. She may not have had experiences in other schools or whatever, but I think she hears other children in her neighbourhood, and so on, talk about school. And she's like, ‘that's not how I feel about school.’ She's beginning to make that connection [that not everyone loves school].”
- “[My daughter] feels so seen and heard [at Polaris School and Centre]. … I think that's an experience of many parents. Oftentimes you receive your child at the end of the day, and ultimately, the way they feel is that they didn't get enough attention. You can't put that into words, but as a parent, you know it. You feel that heaviness and I've never felt that ever with [my daughter]. No matter whether it was a challenging day, or a tiring day, [my daughter] is completely seen, heard, and tended to [at Polaris School and Centre]. There may be more processing to do. There may be rest that's needed. It may have been a naturally hard day, but that was acknowledged and given support.”
- “I feel there's a lot of intentionality in everything that's being done [at Polaris School and Centre], from its inception, from its envisioning, to the smallest of decisions. I would say that [if Polaris School and Centre were a person], the person would be wise. I feel that there's a lot of wisdom in the teachers, in the parent community, our core administrator, and that people bring all of their different kinds of wisdom into the school.”
- “There's a newness to Polaris [School and Centre], and there's an earnest effort to build a new culture. We're not simply trying to start a school that is aiming to represent a certain something to the outside world. You'll even see that reflected in the priorities of how our school is built. When you come to the school, we may not be immediately noticeable, but our classrooms are these amazing nests, an oasis. I feel that they're reflective of how the school works from the inside out.”