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When her granddaughter, Marissa, enrolled in Junior Kindergarten at Hawthorn School for Girls last year, Rosa De Filippo didn't expect to be so involved in the school.

There was the Christmas concert, says Rosa, numbering off the events, then a dance, a violin recital at which Marissa, four and just beginning to play, performed the first half of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And then, best of all, she and her husband, Frank, got invitations to the Grandparents' Day tea.

"We were not going to miss that!" says Rosa. Marissa was the little hostess with both sets of her grandparents at the table. "It was so good," says Rosa.

"The school is very family-focused," says Marissa's mother, Mariella. "It's a nice feeling."

The grandparents' tea, a featured event at a number of schools, is one of those special times when schools make room for families. Sprinkled through the year, they are occasions when parents, grandparents and friends are welcome to enjoy activities that range from grand traditional dates, like Lakefield College School's end-of-year regatta (shades of England's Henley Regatta), to the unusual, like Toronto Waldorf School's Grade 5 Greek Olympics tied in to the students' studies of ancient Greece.

At Montcrest School on the edge of Toronto's Don Valley, fun, tradition, family togetherness and even the environment come together in the annual May Kite Day. "It's been a tradition for years," says Sue Maxwell, director of admissions. The students make kites in art classes, learn about kites and balloons, then, with parents and grandparents and alumni watching, parade from assembly (after viewing the French movie The Red Balloon last year) down the hill to Riverdale Park, their airy creations held aloft.

"We've really focused on sustainability," says Sue. But the real meaning of Kite Day, she says, is to provide an informal occasion when students and family can relax and have fun.

At Toronto French School, the Grade 3s always mark International Day, when students, who come from many parts of the world, dress up in traditional costumes and bring in their regional foods. "It's a celebration of our different cultures," says junior school principal Mirna Hafez. In Grade 4, the big event is a medieval day, tied in with social studies.

But these are more than dress-up occasions. "It's important in any school to have the parents involved," Hafez says. "What we (at the school) and the parents have in common is the child. They see what we are doing and they are interested and support us. We tell them it's their school."

—Frank Jones
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