New Beginnings

How To Prepare For A Provincial Demonstration School Experience

By: Sarah Pike - Student Ambassador for the Provincial Demonstration Schools

sarah pike imagesNew beginnings. New adventures to discover. It’s always exciting and thrilling at the thought, but can be so daunting to take the first steps. But have no fear the mother and daughter team are here to help you in your guide in how to get through the transition to moving and saying, “Good-bye” to your baby and “Hello to Opportunities”. But first let me introduce myself, my name is Sarah Pike and I used to be a former student of both Sagonaska and Trillium Demonstration Schools ten years ago. If you have been staying up-to-date with the fight to save our Provincial Demonstration schools then you probably have heard my name from time to time. I am the student ambassador representing all of these precious boarding schools. I am here to talk to you about some of my personal suggestions and methods that worked for me during both my transitions from moving away from the nest and into a boarding school with fifteen other girls, including with my sisters to leaving them all behind my second year and how I managed to stay at Trillium without getting home-sick. With that in mind, I asked my mom to shed some light on what it was like from a parents view and how it all worked in making sure that the three of us (my sisters and I) were ready for the big trip with luggage in hand and prepared for a smooth sailing experience of a life time.

So to make this a little easier, my mom and I created two list of ideas, thoughts and suggests so that you can print off if you like and use. First off, I’m going to start. So this is from a “Student Perspective” and what are some of the best recommendations that will help to mentally prepare your son or daughter.

Student Perspective

1.  Reminding yourself how important this opportunity is and how it outweighs the disadvantages- if your child is struggling with this one then that’s where you need to work on first. Suggestion: make a pro and con list.

2.  Visiting the school and interacting with the former students, teachers and councillors (looking at the classroom…showing them the ropes, letting the child have an hour or so to be with the former students, checking out residence and the cafeteria)

3.  The Demonstration Schools gave us a booklet of suggestions on things we can do while were at the Demonstration school and what to pick up (this helped with the transition).

4.  For other former students who attended with another sibling or friend will probably agree with me on this one, but knowing you’re not going there alone beings a lot of comfort.

5.  If you know someone who has gone there, invite them over and get them to share their experience with you and your child and where they are now thanks to the blessed opportunity they were given that put them on the right path to success.

6.  Knowing that you get to come home every Friday afternoon and get to see your family and friends every weekend helped.

7.  One of the biggest things that you can do to help is spending time one on one with your child and reminding them how awesome they are and how cool it’s going to be for them to have that college experience. One of my parents and their siblings went to a private boarding school in Halifax, Nova Scotia for seven years and the stories they shared with me and younger sisters just made us even more excited to pack our bags and head for the van.

8.  During the summer taking road trips to look at the campus to get more familiar and comfortable helped. Go out for dinner at one of the local restaurants and check out the shopping malls.

9.  Try to keep an open mind. Try to remember that this isn’t like your home board school, these are professionals who want to help you and work with you and see you achieve. You’re also coming into an environment where your roommates and classmates have the same or similar difficulties in learning. So you’re not going to be bullied for not being able to read or for working at a slow pace. These wonderful people are here to encourage and support you and if you’re just as lucky as I was, even become family.

10.  My last suggestion is this, when your there make the most out of this time and try everything you possibly can. Get out of your comfort zone and spread those wings! Try something new. Be that inner person you always wanted to be!

I hope this helps you in your beginning of a life time. One that you will never forget. However, I’m going to switch over and let my mom take over now.

Parent Perspective

Behind every great child is great parenting so please pat yourself on the back and remember you are an example for other parents who are struggling through our school system and need inspiration and guidance. And maybe one day you will writing this blog instead of me. Hello everyone, my name is Ann Pike. My husband and I struggled through the school system since all three (3) of our lovely daughters have a severe learning disability. It wasn’t easy trying to find the right kind of help and we needed a Child Advocate to help us navigate through the system. Some days seemed more daunting than others but it did get better. Our salvation came in the form of the Provincial Demonstration schools. So as a parent, here are few suggestions to prepare you to help your child to get ready for a residential Demonstration school. Remember these programs really do work and they do make all the difference! Congratulations for making it this far!!!

1. First of all, I kept my comments positive and my tone of voice reassuring by allowing all three of my children to express their comments openly in how they felt about going away to Sagonaska and Trillium. It is hard to let go but at the same time exciting for them to have a life changing experience waiting for them ahead. My children went for two years before it was reduced to one year. By giving them items like music or favourite blanket/pillow or teddy bear to pictures of the family to items that made them feel better when they are missing home and family.

2. Secondly, I helped them to focus on the benefits of what they would get to enjoy by living on residence for five days like swimming after school in an Olympic size pool, having school parties, dances and making friends who have similar learning disabilities like my daughters. Being able to meet and make lasting friendships can be one of the many amazing rewards that the Demonstration schools can help to enhance your child’s academics level since their friends are either in their class, in another class close by or even his/her roommate.

3. Thirdly, you can mention how incredible is the after school structured programming and free time that can really develop their social skills while they intermingle with boys and girls with similar social and school experiences. By giving children with learning disabilities an environment where they can share intimate and personal experiences with peers of their own age can be a life learning experience and chance to bond without the fear of being made fun of.

4. Fourthly, when your child comes home on weekends, he/she may have felt out of place because he/she is getting used to the new school environment and feeling awkward about their new experiences. Keep the communication lines open by showing love, empathy, and an open mind. Be patient and stay positive. It is quite a family adjustment but things will improve as your child does well in school!! Don’t be surprise how quickly your child’s reading levels improve!

5. Fifthly, whenever possible in your busy schedule participate in events at the Demonstration schools like special events like a swimming competition or hockey or basketball games. By showing your child that you are trying to stay connected is important for his or her self-esteem and to be informed on current events. And don’t forget that you can call each other at nights to help lessen the heartache!

6. Enclosing, join in on Facebook or other websites offered by the school and/or Parent Council so that as parents, you can share your own experiences with the school faculty and other parents through e-mails. Being an active participant can help you feel more involved in the Demonstration school experience. Remember this experience at the Demonstration school is like no other school experience your child has had, it is a life change encounter that will be memorable.

After reading this article, we hope that it has brought you some comfort and knowledge that you and your child(ren) will be sharing an amazing and wonderful school experience. The difference before and after the Demonstration school will speak for itself. Although some may view this time of preparation as nerve-racking, anxious and intimidating, just remember that the Demonstration schools will be one of the most unique and amazing academic and residential experience that you and your child(ren) can have. So set your mind at ease, and get ready to sail a different course by gazing ahead as you and your family head off into the sea of academic achievements. Don’t look back, the course has been set and there will be some rough waters ahead but with your great parenting skills, love, trust and persistence the adventure will bring happier and new opportunities as new doors open. Be proud of yourselves, you have made it this far and your family’s experience is just beginning! Bon voyage!