It starts every morning when I drop my children (grades 7 &2) off at school in the morning. They run into the school (and not because of the cold!). They both love going to school. They have tremendous bonds with their friends and peers and very strong relationships with their teachers. They feel that the school is a family. Our children are made to feel like they matter, that the staff care about them and are interested in their lives. Of course they wouldn't use the word "empowered" but that is how I would describe their overall feeling. They feel confident to try new things, not afraid to fail (although it does suck!) and rewarded for achieving.
It starts at the top. The leadership of the school through to the teaching staff and admin team are invested in my children. They know their names, their habits, their strengths and certainly their weaknesses. They know our children and respond proactively to situations across the spectrum of issues - academics, behavior, peer relationships, mental and physical health and general well being. The dynamics of any young pre-teen and primary student can perilous (ours included) and the entire Hudson team looks upon each child as an individual and with tremendous empathy. Their teachers and the leadership respond quickly and positively when we call or email. In turn, they reach out frequently with updates, information and any concerns they may have. There are many touch points that give us not only a very clear picture of what and how our children are doing while still being very responsive to feed back.
There have been times that I have remarked "I would love to go back to the 7th grade!" The teachers, while certainly adhering to the curriculum make learning fun, an adventure and give it real world applications and relevance. We have never had our kids say "why am I learning this?" Not that they don't complain - the do! About homework, tests etc. If they didn't, I would be concerned. Whether it is teaching the real world complexities of geo politics by creating a universe of planets that makes trade, immigration and defense issues interesting to music where the choir is learning a top 40 hit - the teachers are continually looking to find ways of keeping the students engaged. Our kids are challenged. Rewarded with success and encouraged to not give up when they fail.
The academic program is challenging (for our kids anyway). They work hard for the marks they get. Strong academic performance is not the sole domain of the "mathletes" or nerdy kids. The students view being smart as cool as being a great athlete or musician. The math program is particularly vigorous and demanding. The music and art program expose our kids to new worlds on a continual basis. More importantly, so many doors are being opened that will prepare our kids, and arm them to make the next stage decisions with confidence and optimism. The class size is large enough to be dynamic but small enough that the teachers are very involved in every students progress and challenges.
Robotics, cooking, chess, languages - essentially if there is an interest in the club - the school will create it. The school sports teams compete (and are competitive) against other small independent schools. Skiing, basketball, skating, martial arts, volleyball etc all are offered. If you are looking for your child to be exposed to a wide range of sports and activities this school is ideal. If you have an elite athlete than these teams are not the place. Participation, athleticism, sportsmanship and skills are equally emphasized - with a healthy dose for the desire to win.
What is really unique about Hudson as a private school is the complete lack of any sense of elitism or overt displays of wealth or privilege. It is an inclusive school that is reflective of the make up our our community where many of the parents have made a decision to send their child to a private school for the education and the Hudson experience. We find that Hudson students have a demonstrated level of respect for each other, their peers, staff and the world around them.
Our children love going to Hudson. Their friends who live across the city and come from around the country and across the globe give our children a world view that is preparing them to be engaged and invested in their future. Spend some time in the class rooms, play ground and hallways. Listen to the kind of conversations, the debates and the laughter. Watch how the kids, teachers and staff interact with each other. Let what you see, hear and feel influence whether or not this is the kind of place you trust with helping shape and form your child.
The staff and teachers have been incredibly welcoming and responsive to any concerns. Hudson does not have an active parent or structured social network for parents. The good thing is you are not being bombarded with events and continually asked to raise funds. The downside is we don't have much interaction other that with our children's friends parents.
The location is great for us. We discourage our children to leave the school grounds as there is very little reason to leave the property. The physical plant isn't very impressive - it is an old TDSB school that Hudson is doing their best to make a community. On the other hand, you aren't paying for ivy walls.
The process is simple, straightforward and significantly less onerous than other private schools. Ask questions - there isn't anything the staff, teachers or certainly the students won't answer. Not every school is right for every student or family. Hudson is the right school for our children and our family. The only way you will know is to go in with an open and inquisitive mind.