Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning logo
Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Gr. 6 TO Gr. 12 — Toronto, ON (Map)

Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning:

REVIEW OF Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning BY parent, Tara Turner

  • Date of Review
    July 03, 2024
  • Child 1
    Gr. 7 - Gr. 8 (Male, Current Day Student)

(5) Student Experience

For my son, Passages is his community. He enrolled in the Centre when he was 11, after being homeschooled his whole life. He is autistic and, for many years, busy social environments were overwhelming for him. When he visited Passages, which was small, extremely flexible and accommodating of many kinds of differences, he immediately felt a connection. At Passages, my son feels respected, understood and validated. He feels confident to share his thoughts and to try new things. He knows that if he needs to take a break or sit something out, his needs will be respected. He loves getting to talk to the learners and mentors every day, as well as having the freedom to explore the neighbourhood. He feels a strong connection to the Centre and deeply values his time there.

(5) School Leadership

What stands out about the school leadership is their commitment to fostering a respectful, flexible learning environment for the youth enrolled. Kristina and the mentors have made Passages a welcoming, inclusive space that helps both learners and their adults to understand self-directed learning and become part of a community. Kristina is friendly and kind and makes herself available to discuss issues or just chat. She has been excellent at alerting me to situations in the Centre that have affected my son, facilitating communication between him and other learners when differences arise, and sharing all the good things that happen at the Centre too. She and the mentors create a welcoming, warm and inclusive environment that operates with open and respectful communication.

(5) Teaching

Kristina and Ember are excellent listeners, facilitators, cheerleaders, and guides. They are present, patient and deeply involved in student life at the Centre. There actually seems to be little separation between "teachers" and "students". When I drop in, mentors and learners are all sitting together (with some learners off in other corners or on other business) chatting, playing a game or involved in an activity. Other mentors join the Centre on placements during the year and they are always wonderful additions to the community. My son LOVED this year's student placement mentors cannot possibly know EVERYTHING the youth want to know about, but they are fantastic at supporting interests, creating learning opportunities, and-- most importantly-- listening to ideas, thoughts and ramblings. The youth share and learn so much through the freedom to talk about whatever comes up/interests them and the mentors at Passages give them the warm, present attention they need to move their thoughts and ideas forward.

(4) Academics

Passages is not a traditional academic school. It is democratic, self-directed, unschooling. Students do not need to do any specific work at any specific time. Having said that, the Passages' Mentors are highly skilled in assisting learners with finding and facilitating their interests and seeking out paths for expression and skill-building. This might happen to be an "academic" interest, but it might also be something that falls outside of that classification. At Passages, it is all learning. I am confident that, between Passages and the work that my son does outside of the Centre, he will be prepared for life's next steps. I don't really know what those steps will be yet (he's 12), so we take things a little bit at a time based on his interests and what is going on in his life. I know that Passages is very responsive to their learners' educational goals so, when it becomes clear that my son wants and needs to pursue a specific goal, they will assist him with that.

(5) Extracurriculars

There are no traditional "extracurriculars" at Passages. Because the Centre is learner-centred, the youth determine the curriculum and so all interests are integrated into the regular school day. Last year, for example, my son ran a "Meme Club" which held regular, weekly meetings during school hours. A core group would meet to analyze, discuss and laugh about memes. The opportunity to lead this group based on his own area of interest was both a challenge and hugely rewarding for my son. So, that's an example of what a learner with a specific interest could do at Passages: not as an "extra" thing, but as a core learning experience that forms part of their self-directed school day. Passages offers lots of workshops, guest speakers and field trip opportunities throughout the year.

(5) Students

Passages has a small, diverse and exceptional student body. What immediately stands out to me about the students is the support that they offer one another. I have seen some incredible instances of peer support that are nothing like I ever experienced in a school environment. Because Passages prioritizes democratic principles, learners seem to be exceptionally good at listening, considering others' point of view and accepting differences. Many, if not most, learners are neurodivergent. My son is autistic and, despite having difficulty in a number of social settings, does really well at the Centre. Some older learners have taken him under their wing and he is thriving with their kindness and mature influence. There are clubs (LGBTQ+ Skittles club for example) where students gather around a similar identity/interest.

(5) School Life

My son loves attending Passages. He has the option to do his own thing at home every day but, every single school day, he wakes up and willingly goes to the Centre. Attending Passages makes my son feel independent, engaged and part of a larger community. He feels that he has important relationships and, even if he doesn't feel a connection with everyone, he loves the general atmosphere and freedom to be himself. He also feels a strong connection with Kristina and the other Mentors, so I know that he feels safe and supported there. The Centre seems to offer just the right amount of simulation coupled with support to be on your own and do your own thing. For my son, being able to manage this balance is critical to a successful school life.

(3.5) Community

Passages has monthly parent meetings to offer support and community to adults in the lives of learners. These are often virtual, but a few times per year there are special parent events. Last year, a sex ed workshop was offered by a mentor who had been giving sex ed workshops to youth. It was so fun and informative! However, because learners' families are located far and wide across the City, it can be challenging to meet in person. The calls are also not especially well-attended, although there is a core parent group who attends. I myself am in the parent group and volunteer on the fundraising committee because I love the Centre and the work Kristina does. If a parent was interested and committed, there is definitely the potential for an active, involved parent community.

(5) School Location

Passages is located on the Danforth, which not only offers amazing access to city life but also incredible access to nature: parks, the Don Valley and the Brickworks. It is a 3-minute walk from Chester subway station and the Eastminster Church building (in which it is located) is a bustling community hub and charming building. The learners have access to their gym and bowling alley!

(5) Admissions

Kristina offers a "Discovery Week" where youth can hang out and see if they like the experience. During my son's Discovery Week, I spent some time at Passages and Kristina made me feel very comfortable and welcome. Because Passages offers self-directed education, I would encourage parents of prospective learners to spend time really trying to understand this approach. It is radically different than the priorities and expectations of traditional education. Having a good understanding of the theory, talking with Kristina and the parent group, and observing your child's reactions to the space and the approach are super helpful in making the change from other kinds of schooling.


THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning

Next steps to continue your research:

 Add to shortlist

By logging in or creating an account, you agree to Our Kids' Terms and Conditions. Information presented on this page may be paid advertising provided by the advertisers [schools/camps/programs] and is not warranted or guaranteed by or its associated websites. By using this website, creating or logging into an Our Kids account, you agree to Our Kids' Terms and Conditions. Please also see our Privacy Policy. Our Kids ™ © 2023 All right reserved.