Toronto, ON | Grades NS - 6 | Shortlist
I cannot say enough good things about this school. I am so happy I discovered it 4 years ago for my daughter. Westside has been amazing to my daughter. I like how they work with her on her personal development as much as her academic achievements. Her teachers teach my daughter to focus, organize her thoughts and be a strong leader in the community. My daughter loves school. She misses it when she is on summer holidays and March Break. She complains when she is away. They have instilled in her a love for learning and she has made many friends. When I was struggling financially with the program, the admin worked with me to make sure that we were able to still have our daughter in the school. I am very grateful for the experience and education my daughter has received and recommend the school to anyone looking for a solid education for their children!
Communication is key. Teachers and admin send emails to the parents all the time about what is happening in the classroom and school. They also speak to the parents in the playground before and after school about your child and listen to our concerns. I have never had any serious problems with the school so I cannot speak for them being able to respond to problems effectively. That being said, my daughter had a problem with one of the children when she first started school. At first it took some time to get used to how they handled discipline and conflict. I was frustrated that things were not moving quickly but I now see that children are taught mediation & restitution skills that go beyond the classroom. My daughter and the 'problem child' are best friends now.
Nadia was my daughter's teacher for 3 years -- grades 1 to 3. I was very impressed with the education that my daughter received. Being Montessori, it is a bit of a challenge since there are no real grades to base your child's academics on. There are very thorough written reports and lots of meetings with the teacher to discuss any concerns and goals. When my daughter had her first 'testing' for the provincial wide testing required at the Grade 3 level, I was pleased to see that she was performing at Grade 4-7 level. Along with the other students. I think that was a real testament to see how much these kids are learning each day. As I said earlier, it is much more than academics for me. Nadia taught my child how to be herself and to be organized and self-discipline. I know for sure that she would have been lost in a non-Montessori setting and easily overlooked due to her sometimes hyper activity. Instead Westside worked carefully with my daughter to make sure she was getting the attention she needed and treated positively. I am very grateful for this.
It is hard to get a sense of how my daughter is doing academically since there are no grades or comparisons against how other students are doing in Montessori. That being said, when my daughter was tested in grade 3 for the Province wide testing, I was surprised to see that she was performing at a Grade 4-7 level for most subjects. She was not behind on anything that she was supposed to be learning at that grade. In fact, she was quite advanced compared to other schools. All of the other kids in her class had similar results. With Montessori education, children are encouraged to learn at their own pace and pick subjects that they want to do. At first I was concerned, because my daughter tends to pick art or drama over math but I know they are working with her to get a well-rounded education.
I was lucky enough to get my daughter in the school while they were building their elementary program so our family has the rare opportunity to dictate what extra curricular activities the school should offer and give input. They offer activities such as baking club, yoga, track and field and drama. Each year, they offer more and more activities. Every Thursday, the elementary children participate in The Pine Project which is an outside classroom program. The program teaches children the importance of playing outside and connecting to the natural environment. Rain or shine, the children are outside for 5 hours each week. Every school should do this! When she was younger, she would go to High Park for a similar program. She has learned so much about nature and animals. And it's good to get them outside of the classroom.
Westside is a small school. I believe they have less than 100 children in the entire school which really makes the students a small community. My daughter knows every kid's name including the toddlers in the pre-school program. She greets each child every morning which I love. Her class size has always been small because she was in the first year for elementary program. This was good because it meant she had more personal attention but I could see how it can be challenging for other students if they do not get along with each other. I look forward to seeing the program grow with more students and be well-rounded with the age groups. Currently there are only 2 students in grade 4 including my daughter which can sometimes be a challenge.
My daughter loves going to school. When she is on summer break or March Break, she counts down the days to when she returns. I know that she is getting a good education and building friendships. The only challenge that I have with the school is the small class size can be a challenge in terms of social learning for my daughter. My daughter only has a select amount of children in her class so she doesn't get a wide variety of friends. I put her in extra curricular activities and make sure she gets a well rounded social life outside of school to make up for this. I also wish there was a music program where the kids could learn to play instruments. However the school makes up for it in so many other ways so I don't feel my daughter is lacking.
Westside Montessori is a small school. Less than a 100 children so this means a close knit family of parents. I have always been busy working so regret that I have not been as involved in the school as much as I would have liked to as a parent but I know that the opportunities are there for parents who want to be involved. They have a parent council for each of the grades. They also have events in the evening for just the parents where they offer wine and coffee and the chance to mingle with other families. On weekends, they host playdates at the park which is really great for the younger children to get to know each other outside of the classroom setting and for parents to relax and get to know each other.
The school location is perfect. It is situated downtown in the trendy Kensington Market. It definitely adds to the strong sense of community that the school has. As part of the elementary program, the children are always venturing out into the neighbourhood whether its scavenger hunts in the community or going to the library. We transit to the school and its easy to access. It is tricky if you are driving since there is limited street parking and the parking police are very apparent. My only concern is that Bellevue is a one way street. I wish the community would place a crossing guard or cross walk at the corner for safety.