Ottawa, ON | Grades NS - 8 | Shortlist
Our daughter loves BHMS. She is challenged and engaged by the lessons and the activities, and interested in numerous aspects of school life. The experiential nature of the teaching approach is a huge asset for her. When your child looks forward to going to school because it's FUN, you know the school is doing a great job.
The school community of staff, students and parents is very close knit. Communications have greatly improved over the last few years.
Teachers at BHMS are masters at getting each child to reach his or her potential. They are passionate about what they teach, and bring out that passion in the kids on a regular basis. Pupils are encouraged to investigate and discover beyond the usual classroom setting, and it's not unusual for teachers to give additional work because the children have asked for more. The kids at BHMS develop a love of learning that follows them for the rest of their lives.
The science program is second to none and the curriculum is generally more advanced than provincial standards, so moving on to high school will not be a difficult transition. The older kids are encouraged to mentor the younger ones and know that setting the right example is an important responsibility, something they take very seriously.
The extra curricular program offered in late afternoon is fairly static and doesn't vary from semester to semester, and is mostly aimed at younger students. Having said that the program does provide kids with a variety of activities to have fun and learn at the same time, even if it's not in an academic context. From Aikido to arts & crafts, the kids get to try all kinds of stuff. Extra curricular sports activities with other schools present the kids with an opportunity to compete and test their mettle in a number of sports throughout the school year.
We are a very small school, but a big family. The children all know each other and the little ones really do look up to the big ones. The older kids are aware of their responsibility in setting an example for the younger ones, and they are also aware that they are in a position of care-giving and mentorship, which they take seriously. One thing that has always impressed me is how alumni consistently return to school to see what their former school mates are doing for MarketPlace or at the science fair, or to support them at the school plays and recitals. That kind of connection is rare and extremely valuable.
At the end of the summer our daughter couldn't wait to go back to school. She was looking forward to the canoe trip and couldn't wait to get started on the various projects she knew awaited her. She is happy there, and wishes it offered a high school program so she could stay on. The advantage of BHMS is that the curriculum molds itself to the child rather than the other way around, as in traditional schools. Your child can go as far as he or she wants to in a subject matter and they will be supported and encouraged.
Parents have a good measure of involvement at the school and community building activities are encouraged by the school.
Going out is part of the Montessori experience. The kids walk over to the grocery store to get what they need for their Friday cooking lesson, they walk over to the retirement home to give a hand with chores or to entertain the residents, they help shovel the neighbours' driveway in winter... BHMS is definitely not an island!
It was a long time ago now and things have changed substantially from the way they were done back then. I just remember visiting a traditional private school for girls first, where I was given the distinct impression that my child would be forced into a mould of their making, and then coming to BHMS where I was given the impression that my child would be given the chance to grow at her own speed - the decision made itself right there and then. The educational landscape in Ontario has changed a lot since then, what with full day kindergarten and many high schools now offering grades 7 to 12 instead of 9 to 12. I think parents who are considering the school should be invited to speak with current parents of the school, and not just in the level their children will attend, but also parents of older children. When you join BHMS the idea is that you will complete the cycle to grade 8, but a lot of people think that a Montessori education is only for the pre-school years. An opportunity to speak with those whose children have experienced the benefits of the full program, and/or an opportunity to speak to older children themselves would open their minds to all the wondrous possibilities of a BHMS education.