So we have narrowed down our selection of which school to send our first born son (age 4.5) to...but we are really having a hard time deciding which one! I have tried to talk to other parents but I keep finding that each person's experience is so, well, personal, and I am finding it hard to generalize to my child (though 90% of what I have heard of both these schools is positive). I was hoping I could get you smart mamas to help me decide or share your thoughts.
Just a bit about my son - I don't have any concerns with him in a traditional public school - he has very little anxiety, sits well, good attention, independent, friendly, very curious, calm and happy personality. Teachers seem to love him. He is currently in a montessori preschool and they have said he is doing really well (esp in "math"). He can be a bit sensitive and quick to find his tears but I see this as a good thing. :)
OK here are our two choices.
1. A very small, independent, holistic school that is more child-directed, with a heavy focus on social and emotional skills. Lots of flexibility and outside play. Teacher is very calm and mindful. Start each morning with a bit of yoga and meditation etc... Not too much structure or strong academic push, though follows the province's curriculum with a lot of flexibility. Class size is small (about 14 kids in K/Gr.1 split). I think the make up of the school is a mix between parents who are drawn to it's philosophy, and parents who have concerns with child not a good fit for public schooling. No school on Fridays. Costs some money but not going to break the bank. I think we would send him here for maybe 2-3 years only, then move to local english school - the higher grades really thin out.
2. We got a coveted spot in our local French Immersion school - supposed to be great. Children are totally immersed in french until grade 3 and then start to take a few english classes. Part of public school system which means larger classes, less resources, but parents kind of self-select to go there so a lot of parent support. I know this can be a challenge for some kids but I think sometimes you don't know until you try it. Free of course.
Both seem to be a great opportunity, but in very different ways. Both equidistant from our house (five min drive).
There seems to be so many knowledgable people on this forum, would love any thoughts!
My instinct, because I feel quite strongly about the value of learning French in Canada, would be to go with the FI school. If it turns out not to be a good fit, moving into the holistic independent school after a year or so would probably be quite simple.
If on the other hand you went with the independent school and it turned out not to be so great, he would probably struggle with entering FI after KG. Obviously middle or late immersion might be possibilities down the road, but I think you'd have already missed the one opportunity for early immersion in a neighbourhood school.
Also, school isn't the whole answer to a child's education. So I would ask myself, since each school provides some things exceptionally well but misses out on part of what the other school offers, which of the "lacking" facets I would more realistically be able to provide at home. Could I provide second language learning out of school? Or could I provide for the social/emotional, child-directed learning, naturalistic learning, mindfulness and so on? Personally I have far more ability to provide an environment for my child's holistic personal growth than I do to provide a rich environment for learning French. So I would tend to go for the school that can provide what I can't do well at home.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I agree with Miranda. What a gift to give your child a second language! Also, I lean toward schools with a slightly larger population. My daughter, an introvert, struggled a little socially in a small preschool (only four other girls in her class). She just didn't "click" with any of them. She's thriving socially in a larger kindergarten class, where there are lots of kids and personalities to pick from. Not what I would have expected at all.
Best of luck,
Momma to 8 y.o. DS and 5 y.o. DD. Married to a Maker!
Another vote for immersion. If I could have done immersion for my kids, I would have jumped at the chance. There's good research to support the benefits of language immersion schools, and the Canadian schools, by and large, do a good job of it.
I'm not sure either one of my children would have thrived the kind of private school you're describing. What happens if your son doesn't fit? What happens if he loves it but half his friends leave because it's so small. Some kids thrive in that environment. Others do not. Also, what else could you do with the money? If you were in love with this other school and knew that it was absolutely the best place for your child, that would be one thing. But it sounds like you've got an easy-going kid who's going to thrive in a lot of environments.
The thing that would sway me the most is that if you go to the French Immersion school and it turns out to be a bad fit and your child isn't thriving, you can pull him out and try a different kind of environment. If you try the other school and find that it isn't meeting your needs, you can't enroll your son in the French immersion school because it will be too late.
I'd do immersion in a heartbeat if it was a option for us. I'll second what Lynn suggested about the schools, if Immersion doesn't work out for your child then look someplace else. Often creative schools like what you are describing will take children later because families move on. We attend a small, crunchy private school ourselves.
I personally like the first one myself. I like how the academics aren't overly stressed at a young age...that is a huge problem in many American schools...although of course you're in a different country. If there was a school like the first one near me I'd send my kids in a heartbeat.
Happy to be a mommy and teacher to D , born 1-17-06 via and A , born 10-6-08 with a
I'd vote for French Immersion.
Don't forget it would be easier to move from the FI school to the other one (if necessary) than the other way around. If you started with the Holistic school and moved to the FI school there would be the language issue, but also it might be very very difficult to get a spot later on since the grade 1 class would be filled with kids moving up from K.
Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010