Freshly painted sky blue walls surround two of the four classrooms at the recently reopened Victoria School for Ideal Education on Belmont Street.
One of those spaces has already been nicknamed the “beach” room, as illustrated by a hand-coloured sign taped to the outside wall.
Visitors to the expanded building shouldn’t be surprised at the soothing colours chosen for this independent alternative school’s classroom environments. Daily meditation and yoga are integral parts of the learning experience.
“It’s very bright and children are generally able to relax when there’s more room,” said principal Ginny Lovick.
A teacher at the tiny school for all of its 25 years, Lovick is a big believer in “consciousness-based education,” the type of teaching used here.
The school adheres to the provincial curriculum, but adds elements of outdoor education and the inner work more often practised by adults seeking some form of relaxation or stress release.
As such, the students tend to be intensely present and open to new ideas and concepts of the world around them, Lovick says. “The children are very focused and understand things at a very deep level.”
Opening the day with meditation – younger students do a walking, silent version – helps create orderly function in the brain and provides a framework from which to grow, she adds.
“At the same time we’re expanding knowledge, we’re expanding the container of knowledge,” says Helen Foster-Grimmett, a former public high school teacher who is on the Victoria School for Ideal Education board.
Parent Mariann Peeke-Vout, whose precocious seven-year-old, Charlotte, is in Grade 2 at the school, said when she and her husband were looking to enrol their daughter three years ago, the key was finding someplace where Charlotte would be seen as an individual.
“It really clicked for us,” Peeke-Vout says. “She could express herself and be herself. She’s challenged here, but on her terms.”
Charlotte enthusiastically demonstrates the yoga positions she and her classmates run through daily before working on a craft project along with fellow student Isobel Olthof, 8, for a photo.
“Everyone’s really cheerful and nice here,” says Charlotte, whose favourite classes are social studies and science, where she enjoys learning about plants and doing experiments.
While class sizes are limited to 12, to ensure plenty of one-on-one time between teachers and students, the school is looking to expand its enrolment with the added space.
Currently, the 18 students at the K-7 school are in mixed classes, with children in early grades working side by side with older students. The aim is to have three full classes next year, Lovick says, and eventually top out at 48.
As a group 1 independent school, tuition is subsidized 50 per cent by government, Foster-Grimmett said. For more information on the Victoria School for Ideal Education, visit vsie.ca or call Lovick at 250-383-6654.