Our son's experience was the best we could have hoped for. Freshly immigrated to Canada from Belgium, we expected there would be some unique challenges, requiring a tailored approach. Our son jumped right into the final months of 9th grade and made it all the way to 12th grade. His experience at Kanata Montessori was phenomenal. He grew to be an optimistic and confident young adult, more than ready to take the next step, despite being younger than most because he skipped a year. This is in great part thanks to the environment the school provides to get the best out of every single individual, regardless of that individual's personal weaknesses or challenges. The relationship between him and his teachers was warm and cordial yet at the same time, he was academically challenged to reach his full potential. He loved it and is now enrolled in one of Canada's most competitive engineering programs.
The school's vision is to get the best out of each individual, respecting the individual's strengths and weaknesses. On a daily basis, the school leadership brings this vision into practice by offering a program tailored to the child's individual needs. Unique about the school is also how cordial the relationship between teachers and students is, yet at the same time expecting discipline and academic rigor. This created and positive atmosphere, greatly building the self-confidence of the students. The Montessori principles, emphasizing independence and viewing children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning, can be felt through the actions of the school leadership, but it is never felt as an oppressing dogma.
The teaching at the school, as we as parents experienced it, is quite different from what we have seen at our daughter's school and from our own experience as students. The teachers all (1) share great enthusiasm for their domain of expertise and (2) display an urge to share their enthusiasm with their students. In addition, teacher-parent feedback days were a unique experience. All our son's teachers were assembled at the meetings, as opposed to us as parents going from one teacher to the next. The result was that we got a very balanced view of how our son was performing in a collaborative discussion with all the teachers together. Notes were taken for later reference. We had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss ideas, which were unquestionably well received.
The school strongly advocates academic excellence, in line with the individual student's abilities. In accordance with the Montessori vision that children are naturally inclined to want to learn, they foster the natural academic interests of the student. Our son being an academically strong student and mostly interested in STEM, the school guided him in his course selection to accommodate his interests and strengths as well while balancing it in accordance with the Ontario curriculum requirements and other requirements to prepare him for later life. As a result, our son achieved outstanding results, securing him a place in one of Canada's most competitive engineering programs. The school has procured the necessary tools, such as a 3D printer, to support the STEM courses and make it compelling for the students.
The school offers a variety of extracurriculars, including international trips. They always offer various options, to accommodate for the individual's interest and financial abilities. In addition, the school participates in competitive tournaments with can be fun, academically interesting, or both, such as the build-your-cardboard-boat tournament. Our son had limited interest in extracurricular activities, so we don't have a deep insight into the extracurriculars. He did join the soccer team and loved it.
Having immigrated from Europe to Canada a few years ago, our son and us were not well acquainted with the university placement system in Canada, which is very different from the system in our home country. The school's principal was extraordinarily helpful and patient by granting us all the time we needed to be educated on this topic. We probably spent 5 hours with her in addition to many emails and phone calls in order to understand not only how university application and admission works but also what the best options were for our son. Our son was always contributing to the discussions so he could form his own opinion. Given his strong academic results, the school encouraged him to apply for one of the most competitive engineering programs in Canada. Despite our son's initial hesitance for risk of failure, he was accepted to the program and is now thriving there.
I can't talk intelligently about the student body because I didn't have any personal interactions with it. As for the dynamic between students in general, it seemed different from my own school back in the day and from my daughter's school. At Cedar Ridge, which is the name of the part of the upper years of Kanata Montessori, the students from different grades mix and mingle. It has more resemblances to a big family as to the traditional school hierarchy. The teachers too join into the games such as ping-pong and chess. Given the relaxed atmosphere and the relatively small group of the higher years (the Cedar Ridge part of the school), it seemed like issues were tackled efficiently without needing to go through formal processes.
Our son absolutely loved it at Kanata Montessori. The atmosphere has more resemblances to a big happy family than the traditional hierarchical school organization. Students and teachers mingle all the time. The teachers do, nevertheless, expect and receive respect from the students rather than being treated as equals. If I have to describe school life with one single word, it would be 'positivism': believing in a bright future, looking at problems in terms of solutions, very much a 'yes, I can' attitude (no reference to a former US president intended). No doubt fueled by the Montessori principles, the school, and its teachers look very much into what drives the individual student, what his innate strengths are, and help him build on his strengths to reach his full potential. For our son, it meant academic rigor and exact sciences. For other students, it means something else. The school was also stimulated our son to discover his talent in presentation and debate, a quality which before we had never seen, but which the school let him build and become good at.
It is important to note first that our son attended the Cedar Ridge section of the Kanata Montessori school, which encompasses the higher years and is organized, at the time of writing, in the building adjacent to the main school building. The school organizes a few events every year where parents are allowed. We participated in most of them and they were fun. The graduation parties take place at the Britannia Yacht Club in Ottawa, which is a unique and spectacular venue. There are yearly info sessions to inform about the options your kid has for next year, and a few more events. If the school would have organized more events or events that would have allowed us to bond more with other parents, then we would definitely have participated. I think most parents, including ourselves, would be happy to help organize these events.
The school is in a quiet area in Kanata South. It can be reached within 15min of most of Kanata South and 20 to 30 minutes from Kanata North and Stittsville. It is easily accessible from Highway 417, over the main North-South road through the area. The upper years are allowed to venture off the school grounds, including the nearby strip mall and its Starbucks coffee shop.
We were in a particular situation when applying: We were then living in Belgium and preparing our move to Canada. The application process happened over email and skype. The principal Michelle Skeen was extremely forthcoming in answering all our questions as there were a lot of them giving we didn't know anything about the Canadian school system. At every step in the process, we received clear answers on how the school would deal with issues that were specific to our situation, such as aligning the curriculum our son went through in Belgium with the specific requirements from Ontario. At no point did we get the impression that the school became impatient or didn't want to speed the time to answer all our questions and give us the comfort we were making the right choice.