Why we chose a CAIS Junior School

We just signed our re-enrollment package for Ridley.  Although it was really somewhat of a non-decision, something about staring at that financial commitment number made me think about the value of an independent school.

When Kathleen was in public school, she came home every day with a behavior report.  It was a picture of a stop light and she got a checkmark next to the red light (if you were “bad”), green light (if you were “good”) or yellow light (which, quite frankly, I could never figure out.)  Needless to say, she got a green light every day.  And this made me cringe.  It got to the point that Kevin and I would joke that we would pay her five bucks to come home with a red light.  We wanted her to take a risk… or do something – anything! – that would snap her out of her natural tendency to please others… to be a good little girl.  I figured she already had that innately; she didn’t need that external praise for her good behavior.  Having said that, I doubt the parenting experts would have supported my encouragement of “bad” behavior either.

At the parent teacher interview, I asked the teacher if she could modify the daily behavior report. I asked if she could add some requirements to Kathleen’s report – could she be given a “green” if she if she asked a great question or if she helped someone without being asked.  But the teacher said no.  And for an entire year, Kathleen reported on who got green lights (mostly the girls) and who got the red lights (yup…mostly boys).  To this day, I cannot understand how this benefitted anyone.  Where was the personalized learning? Where was the influence of research?

So we went looking for a new school, and we chose Ridley College.  It was a big decision for us, but a few things put us over the top. 

1. We want a school that does more, that goes above and beyond provincial requirements to offer an academic program that will challenge and support kids daily. Kathleen tells me that the difference between public and private school is that she learns at Ridley.

2.  We want a school that considers the whole child.  Ridley has mandatory after-school sports and activities (including Cadets, which I love!), and the kids go to chapel on Fridays.  Daily physical activity is important and the bonus is that we don’t have to sign her up for evening activities so our evening time is family time.

3.  We want a school that truly partners with us in raising our kids. Kathleen’s teacher sends us a weekly newsletter with photos.  She is also her gymnastics coach and wrote us a beautiful email this winter when she saw Kathleen trying super hard to master a beam routine.  We celebrated her efforts together.

4. We love that we don’t need to make lunches.  Superficial but true.  We hated making lunches.  Kathleen eats healthy soup and loads up on veggies. She is not happy about Ridley’s dessert policy (once per week only) but I give that a green light.

5.  We want a school that commits to continuous whole school improvement.  In the past year, Ridley has introduced the IB program and Parent Coffee mornings, built a new hockey rink, and asked our opinion on strategic issues.  In short, Ridley demonstrates a passion for always striving for what’s next.  That is exactly what I want for my kids.

Naturally, because of my job, I am inclined toward a CAIS school.  I want a school that meets CAIS National Standards in all aspects of program and operation.  I want a school that requires professional development.  I want a school that commits to research.  And I want a school that is passionate about kids. 


I am going to hear Leonard Sax on Monday night at Lakefield College. I loved his book on boys: Boys Adrift and on girls: Girls on the Edge.


Here are the ten questions parents must ask when considering an independent school.

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