Reflections on finding a school for our sons

The search for the right school was a long process

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Selecting a school is like getting married. We look for certain qualities. We have specific, mostly unspoken, expectations. And of course, we are counting on the relationship to last. Sometimes, though, divorce happens--but so does remarriage.

Living in a rural area outside of Vancouver, we were quite limited in the number of potential suitors. When we found a school nearby, we signed up our oldest son. He seemed happy there and was doing well, but as our two younger children started at the same school, cracks began to appear in the relationship.

The younger children had specific academic needs I thought could be accommodated in the classroom. The school disagreed. My middle son is gifted, but like many gifted children, he struggled with some aspects of learning. The school felt my youngest son could not keep up academically. Then, in the last week of school, we were told our middle son would have to repeat Grade 1. The relationship became intolerable and we knew we had to go.

We started scrambling for other options. Public school was out of the question and home-schooling was an unpopular possibility. At the time, we felt our only choice was to send our boys to three different schools to suit each of their needs. So, we chose the schools, paid the first tuition installments and began to look for a new house central to all three schools.

Luckily, my husband heard about Greybrook Academy, which had opened a year earlier. I was deeply skeptical, but went to visit. As soon as I walked through the doors, I could feel something different and special. Greybrook has no school bells; instead, the transition from one class to another is quiet and natural. Students begin their day together in the auditorium by singing songs from around the world, just one way the children learn they are citizens of a larger world. The school accepts that children learn at different rates and that those who struggle in some subjects may be strong in others. There is no homework, so that when our sons come home, all we have to work on is being a family.

To other parents looking to make and maintain a good school marriage, I'd say: Re-evaluate the school and your priorities regularly, but particularly as more children come into the family. Will it be a good fit for your next child? Is it important for your children to be together in one school?

Most importantly, if you are unhappy with the situation, your child most likely is miserable. A child's involvement at school is possibly the most meaningful relationship outside of the family. It warrants our constant scrutiny and re-evaluation.

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