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Families choosing independent schools share hopes, expectations

Written on November 9th, 2010

Thousands of families in Ontario choose to send their children to an independent school, and while each may have a different reason there are some reoccurring themes that top the list for new families enrolled at an Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) member school.

The OACS has more than 70 member schools, with 14,000 students across the province. In total, there are approximately 126,000 students enrolled in independent schools in Ontario.

Hamilton District Christian High director of recruitment and advancement Harry Meester said when presenting to a media advisory council a point that drew interest is there are 350 families paying $10,000 each at the school for something they could get for free.

In the City of Hamilton, he noted there are 3,000 that attend Christian schools every day.

“They’re your neighbours, they’re your friends, the people going down the street. You need to know more about them,” he said.

The Christian worldview is a large attractor for many families.

For Tara Hunter and her husband, choosing to send their daughters to a Christian school meant supporting and reinforcing the biblically based values that are central at their home.

The Hunter’s two daughters are attending Holland Marsh District Christian School in Newmarket. The family feels choosing a Christian school is important because the biblical perspective flows into the teaching of all subjects, said Hunter.

The “explicit instruction in what it truly means to live a Christian life” was a factor for Lisa Hickman’s decision to enrol her sons at Northumberland Christian School (NCS) in Cobourg, as well as the focus on character development.

“What they get (at NCS) is the essential life skills that they need in order to be productive members of society, and that they understand what it is to live life as a giving, honest, caring person,” said Hickman.

As part of the school’s commitment to character development there is a lot of interaction between younger and older children at the school. For example, the Grade 3 class spends the afternoon with the Grade 1 and 2 class.

“At NCS they have the benefit of having the smaller classes so they can focus one-on-one with every student working up to their potential,” Hickman said.

Yumi Bognar said she and her family have found there is something different about Halton Hills Christian School in Georgetown that they didn’t experience at another school.

She said in the one year her son has attended the school, she has observed a change in her child, and has a hope and belief he will develop into a confident, responsible and happy young man.

“He’s developed in terms of confidence,” she said. “He almost walks differently, carries himself differently.”

Bognar said she believes her son will continue developing in confidence largely because of the positive, caring environment that exists within the school.

“Starting with the principal, it seems like they are very much focused on providing a very nurturing environment, a very positive environment, and that makes my son feel very secure to go to school, and I think that really makes learning that much more fun.”

Bobbie-Jo Kinniburgh’s son is in kindergarten at Jarvis Community Christian School, and said one of the best things about the school is it feels like family.

She said she feels that she can be part of his education, which has “been a big thing.”

While she felt some initial reluctance about “sheltering” her child in a Christian independent school, she said is now convinced the school will in fact give him a strong foundation for his life.

Kinniburgh said she believes families should think seriously about choosing Christian independent schools, noting the financial investment in particular, which is often held up as a barrier, needs to be considered in a different light.

“I would say it’s all worth it. The future of our children is an investment,” she said.