REVIEW OF Oak Learners BY parent, Jana Machan
- Date of Review
June 13, 2019
Gr. 4 - Gr. 4
(5) Student Experience
Our son loves the varied and fun activities at Oak Learners, which challenge him educationally while making him feel secure and that his efforts are appreciated. The staff is kind, loving and attentive to his needs. They have a knack for connecting with children and their challenges and adjusting both the curriculum and the approach to fit each child's needs in a unique and flexible manner. Unlike other private schools where our son's experience was much more rigid, Oak Learner's takes pains to understand and empathize with his perspective, and by joining him in his worldview, they are able to build a strong emotional connection that is the foundation of academic learning. Instead of being anxious about going to school, our son is now excited and knows his voice will be heard and his feelings respected even as his mind is challenged.
(5) School Leadership
The school leadership is the most responsive we have ever seen. They are open to frequent communication, and willing to spend the time beyond just the regular parent/teacher meetings. They are very receptive to utilizing specific individual behavioural management techniques that have been proven effective at home and adopting them wholeheartedly in the school environment. When discipline issues arise, they are fair and thoughtful in their reactions and ensure that our son knows that he is valued and loved and that the staff will work with him to help him better manage his behaviour in future. The leadership /principal takes great care in the quality of the staff she hires to ensure that everyone is well aligned to this firm but kind philosophy.
I am very satisfied with the degree of individual instruction that our son receives, with a tailored IEP and approach to the curriculum. The teachers take pains to adapt the material to his learning style and needs and he has progressed significantly in his skills since joining. The report card we just received is the CLEAREST one we have ever read, written in non-bureacratic language that gives a clear sense of our son's achievements and gaps and identifies strategies being used to help him make continued academic progress. The teachers are very dedicated to ensuring that they connect the students with the material, but equally importantly they are all deeply vested in connecting with the students - with their learning styles, interests and challenges. This makes for an extraordinary learning environment.
The school's approach to academics reaches the whole child and that is the program's greatest strength. The 3Rs are implemented in a way that the children can actually thrive rather than be beaten into the ground with challenges on material they may not be ready to understand. Significant learning takes place through projects, which touch many topics to give a multi-dimensional view of the subject - for example, in self-directed learning about the Taj Mahal, our son learned about history, architecture, a husband's love for his wife, and square roots ! The science curriculum is wonderful and interesting and fun ! Lots of hands-on experience is ensured by having a specialized teach this topic in many novel and interesting ways. Our son's math skills have improved drastically because he is taught in a way that works for him. The staff are also patient and motivating with his struggles with reading, but nothing is dumbed down, instead the children are lifted up. The amount of outside time that the children get daily actually improves their ability to learn significantly. The reason we value the school is that it is not a "box" and they don't try to fit our son into a box - teaching is organic but not in a ungrounded, impractical way. Yoga is part of the curriculum which helps calms the children's minds so they are more able to learn.
Oak Learners offers cool field trips, regular outings in the neighbourhood and lots of daily time in nature. Extracurriculars are built into the curriculum. Staff allow free play and also organize games with the kids - for example playing baseball at the baseball diamond in the park. They teach the rules, but also ensure the kids have fun and build social skills all at the same time.
Oak Learners is a small school, with children aged 3-10 and growing. Most of the children are special needs to some degree and all have flourished in ways that parents report being out of reach at previous private schools. The general atmosphere is loving, welcoming and gentle. No harsh words, no meanness - instead gentleness, kindness and respect are the watchwords and role modelled for the children by the staff daily. Every member of the staff is a loving and gentle adult who wants nothing but to help each child thrive. Even when their peers experience learning or behavioural challenges, the children are empathetic and try to think of ways to help each other. They enjoy each others' victories and work hard to build each other up based on the staff's example.
(5) School Life
Oak Learners is our son's "happy place". From dreading school at his old school, he now looks forward to the school week and talks excitedly about his teachers and his projects. The school is a place of learning, and play and connection for him and he is once again starting to make academic and social progress. He is well aware of how different this experience is compared to previous school environments and values Oak Learner's unique approach and amazing staff very highly. Although the location is small and may not seem to have all the amenities that larger schools have, it has the most important things: dedication to learning, a commitment to meeting the children where they are, and a deep respect for a family's intimate knowledge of their child and his/her needs.
The principal of Oak Learners if part of the local community and is adamant that her school's presence be a part of that community. She herself organized the 2019 Tulip Festival and the children loved being engaged in that process with her. Parents are asked to volunteer on occasion which we happily do. We had an extraordinary experience bonding with other parents at a recent birthday party (that the school helped organize by allowing exchange of emails, which many schools won't allow). We were both fascinated and horrified to learn that all the other children whose parents we spoke to had had essentially the same previous school experience, where the children were shamed for their behaviours by "special educators" who had no clue what they were dealing with. We all congratulated each other on having found this amazing school for our children !
(5) School Location
The school is deeply connected to the neighbourhood, and the children venture forth daily or even twice daily to local parks, the library, the waterfront, etc. Our son likes the ready access to the local parks as he feels strongly connected to nature there and walking through the vibrant neighborhood provides insight into everyday city life. There is constant activity of all kinds, and the children feel safe and engaged in the real world.