Our school was established in 2005 in response to a deep need from a group of parents seeking an educational option that respects the individual needs and talents of each child but also provides the necessary ingredients for children to build a strong foundation of inner belief and confidence to meet the complicated world we live in. The educational approach had to address the following needs a caring school environment that fosters the love of learning. This approach assists a child's natural growth and development in hands-on learning in engaging both mind and body. In this learning environment, the well-being of a child is thoroughly considered teachers who are flexible, versatile and passionate about education, family involvement where parents are active participants in their children's education, where children are respected and listened to, and their unique potential is recognized, where children can think for themselves and be confident as members of a more extensive community network.
The B.E.N. School-House came into being an independent, alternative school in Toronto and a new opportunity for children to have a natural, bright start in life. The teachers strive to keep the natural, innate love of learning open and seed useful, natural life lessons and experiences that help children grow and become independent-minded teenagers and adults.
The B.E.N.'s enhanced curriculum covers the required Ontario Curriculum in conjunction with the core ingredients of the Golden Education Template (G.E.T.) educational method incorporating Lump Learning™, Generating Options™ and specific age-appropriate values (called vitamins) which are at the core of our value-based curriculum. The G.E.T. educational approach was established in Israel in 1990's and has now extended to several schools and educational services in the U.S.A., England, Holland, and Canada.
The B.E.N. School-House is located in Toronto in a converted house in a residential community. It provides a small and intimate classroom environment. For young children, this is an ideal circumstance for warmth, safety, and enjoyable learning. We are located across the street from a park and within walking distance to other parks and recreational facilities. Also, we have a large yard with an inviting and intriguing landscape that curious minds and bodies love to explore.
Children grow up knowing that they are part of the community they live and go to school in. This offers children the experiences to meet the neighbors, explore different aspects of our neighborhood, observe, and even participate in what happens daily in our surroundings.
One of our main aims at the B.E.N. is for each child to fall in love with learning so that the "channels of learning" stay open. To do this, we apply two methods: Generating Options™, which is designed to provide a variety of experiences for the children to learn through, and Lump-Learning™, which involves immersion in a subject and engages all senses.
Based on the understanding that more extended, slower, more continuous processes are best for retention and comprehension, subjects are studied in segments of two weeks or longer, offering many opportunities for a full soaking in a territory through as many media as possible. This process creates an in-depth understanding of what is being taught. Children are immersed in a subject, such as studying water or learning about a country in 2-3 week concentrated segments. They experience as many aspects of the subject as possible through drama, literature, play, stories, math, science, pictures, the arts, practical life skills, and field trips. Learning is enlivened, and results are stored in the child's memory through rich experience, where the interconnections between things are naturally presented. Lessons are vibrant and practical and cause deep-rooted connections of understanding.
For example, a math lesson may be taught through story and active participation (such as preparing snacks), where the children begin to experience numbers and quantities. In other activities, children 'become' letters for the day as they explore the alphabet, sounds, and words. Working with stones, sticks, sand, and snow, learning to spell is an adventure. Teachers help to stimulate the children's natural desire to learn.
Many experiences are provided for the child, from sewing, crafts, various art activities to imaginative play, field trips, dance, theatre, and music. Our methods of Generating Options™ enhance the child's ability to make choices based on their ever-growing foundation of knowledge, feelings, and self considerations gained by having a variety of experiences to learn through and absorb. Our classes incorporate carefully chosen tools, specific activities and invite specialists to help children enrich the magical process of learning about themselves and the world around them.
At the B.E.N., the children develop close relationships with their teachers, who carefully follow each individual's growth and how they process, feel, and assimilate learning of all kinds. The teachers also encourage a close working relationship with the child's family. The social and emotional growth encouraged in each child individually during these years is based on value and respect for oneself, others, and the environment in which we live and learn.
This program uses a curriculum specifically designed for pre-school children. Early enjoyable, age-appropriate academics and "life lessons" are blended within natural values and behavioral skills. At this age, children are ready to increase their awareness network and ability to do. This is a time when children can work with invaluable seeds that will serve them well into their futures. As the children grow, so can the skills, social behaviors, and values grow with them. These days are spent in the wonder and awe of nature, in discovery, in stories to help them get on better, in creative arts, dance, and music.
The Grades One, Two, and Three Program focuses on active learning and strives to keep children physically, mentally, and emotionally involved in learning tasks. The program combines the Ontario Curriculum with the Vitamins and Lump Learning Curriculum throughout the school year. Literacy in language and mathematics are critical components of the program. They are incorporated into hands-on activities such as gardening or producing a CD of the children's musical creations. Each child is given the support, encouragement, and guidance they need to succeed in learning tasks. Classroom activities vary to accommodate the learning styles and abilities of each child.
From large to small, the children explore the universe at the beginning of the year and finish the year studying the small insects that live in the backyard's garden. Along the way, the children have lump learning blocks that, for example, explore the earth, animals, plants, the countries and cultures of our world, our city, and our community; the program promotes behavior that encourages listening to all voices, peaceful resolutions to conflict, and respecting ourselves and others.
A simple example of a multi-layered learning task the children encounter at the beginning of the year is learning Cardinal directions through the dance "The Hustle" (a dance which turns 90 degrees to face a different direction with each repetition of steps). The children actively engage in learning North, South, East, and West as they call them out with each direction change. When first encountered, this task is an intellectual and physical challenge; it is not easy to stay on the beat, remember where your feet go, and remember what direction is coming up next. The children practice written language skills by writing out the directions' names to pin on the appropriate walls. They practice math skills through learning rhythm, pattern, and spatial sense. They are emotionally involved in working as a team and learn to work together to resolve conflicts to create an outstanding performance that they (and others!) can enjoy.