As parents, we want the absolute best for our children. If not ‘the best’, then at least a little more than what we had growing up. For parents with new babies or young toddlers, the thought of searching out the best school may seem a bit premature, but it’s never to early to start researching your options.
Choosing your child’s education path is one of the biggest decisions a parent needs to make. There are different options available to parents, but not everyone knows or understands them all. Around the time baby starts walking and celebrates their first birthday, as parents, you need to start discussing and planning what type of education you want for your children. There are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing the best school for you and your children: understand your child, make a list of things that are important in a school, begin evaluating potential schools and visiting them and, if appropriate, involve your children in the decision making process.
Public or Catholic?
The first and most common option is whether to put your child into the public or Catholic school board. Now, both of these options begin the year your child turns four. So, if little Sadie was born anytime in 2008, she would be starting school this September for both the public and Catholic school boards. Little Sadie would be in a classroom with other students all of the same age and this would continue year to year. The Catholic board differs in that parents need to provide a baptism certificate for one of the parents and the child, and will have to fill out a form stating that their property taxes are directed to the Catholic board. Children may register for both school boards free of cost.
French Immersion or Francophone?
Within the two school boards mentioned above, there is also the option to register your child in a French Immersion school. This means that the students will learn to speak French and will be taught subjects in French. Correspondence in these schools between parents and teachers is commonly in English if the parents are English speaking. This program can start in Kindergarten but can also start in later years. There are also private French Immersion schools. Children enrolled in a Francophone program generally speak French or have at least one parent who does. Correspondence between parents and teachers is commonly done in French.
Another popular option for parents is to enroll their child in Montessori school. These schools are private and tuition needs to be paid. One benefit is that their programs begin at a much younger age, most taking children at 2 1⁄2 years. The Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits and respect for
a child’s natural psychological development as well as technological advancements in society. In the Montessori environment, classrooms have children of mixed ages, students choose their activities within a prescribed range of options, there are uninterrupted
blocks of work time with specialized educational materials and there is a Constructivist or discovery model where students learn concepts from working with the materials as opposed to learning through instruction.
A Waldorf education is another option for parents when deciding on what type of education they want for their child (again tuition needs to be paid for these schools). Learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic and conceptual elements. The Waldorf approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. The goals are to provide young people with a basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible and integrated individuals.
There are also various alternative type schools based on religion, talents, interests etc. Most of them are private but there are some options provided from the public school boards. Each alternative school is unique with its own approach to curriculum delivery and often requires a volunteer commitment from parents. Parents should research their options to find the right fit for their morals and philosophies.
And if none of these options are right for a family, there is also the option to home school. Parents take direct responsibility for their children’s education instead of sending them to a school. Parents do not need to be trained teachers and there are no legal avenues parents need to seek out. They just need to decide which approach they would like to take (although each parent’s approach can land anywhere on the spectrum). For example, there is a more structured approach in which the family follows a grade based curriculum using textbooks and worksheets. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is child-led learning which is less formal and is integrated into daily life.
So, while making a decision may seem daunting, talking about it, knowing what is important to you and researching your options early will make this decision a little less stressful. Some parents spend some time researching each schools EQUA results to find the ‘best’ school for their kids, but remember it is not always about the grades!
Photo Credit: www.teacherpop.org
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