Why three families chose the Reggio Emilia approach for their children’s education

Why three families chose the Reggio Emilia approach for their children’s education

“We are consistently amazed by the speed at which he is learning to read, write and grasp math.”

Photo by Katherine Holland

When Nikki Seaton was thinking about sending her son Cohen to Hudson College, she took him for a visit day to test out the school and see how he liked it before enrolling.

“When Cohen came home, he said, ‘I want to go to this school,’” recalls Seaton, remembering how pleasantly surprised she was by her normally “very shy” kid’s instant affinity for this new environment. “At public school, he would tell us how bored he was, and he was getting into trouble, which is so not his personality,” she adds. “The community at that school was great, but there were a lot of challenges, like kids in the class who were physical with each other, and some of the teachers weren’t very strong. It was not going well.”

The transition to Hudson—a co-ed kindergarten-to-grade-12 private school located just off St. Clair West in Toronto—was a revelation. “Cohen is being pushed to where he can go,” says Seaton of her eldest, now in Grade 4. “They go really deep into the learning. When you only have 13 to 20 kids in a class, the teacher can do so much with them.” It was an easy decision to send their younger son Logan to Hudson as well. “He’s in SK now, and he’s such a ball of energy,” she says. “The teachers really are amazing. You can tell that they love their job.” As a teacher herself, Seaton is keenly aware of how much a difference that one-on-one attention can make to a child’s development. “In a classroom with 30+ kids, a kid like my son would have been lost in the shuffle,” she says. “When I see my quiet son really coming out of his shell, and feeling so comfortable because he’s in an environment that is safe, I really feel like this is a school that tailors so well to so many different types of kids. It’s not this robotic, stuffy private school.” 

It’s that same educational approach, rooted in the Reggio Emilia philosophy of inquiry-based learning, that drew Alanna Tedesco to Hudson for her son Leo. “Our son integrated well into the classroom,” she remembers, “and quickly became a much more independent child. We are consistently amazed by the speed at which he is learning to read, write and grasp math.” Reggio Emilia emphasizes close collaboration between teachers, students and parents, each reflecting and learning together continuously and guided by the child’s natural creativity and curiosity.  

This held true even with the unexpected switch to virtual learning due to the pandemic. Rebecca Hay’s son Joseph was in Senior Kindergarten at Hudson last year when the lockdown meant his bedroom was now also his classroom. “I don’t know if it’s just our child, or if it’s the school, but we’ve had such a positive experience of online learning,” Hay says. “My son has been so engaged, all day long. He’s asking the teacher questions, he’s excited. They’ve done an excellent job.” One recent highlight was a scavenger hunt organized by Joseph’s gym teacher. “He was running all over the house, grabbing a blue sock or a blue pen.” It’s these experiences that have made it a “no-brainer” for Hay and her husband to also enroll their daughter in Junior Kindergarten this September. 

And while the rigorous academics are a key selling point, all three families praise the extracurricular community around Hudson too. “I love the smaller school environment,” says Seaton. “The principal knows everyone’s name. I’m on WhatsApp together with other parents, where we ask each other things like, ‘Is it a dress down day tomorrow?’ Because it is so community-minded, you really do know everyone.” It’s a warm, close-knit school that Tedesco calls “refreshingly unpretentious,” especially for a private institution. The school has monthly Character Awards, and her son was proud to win the Compassion Award recently. “Hudson has taught him to be more conscientious of others, which is something he wasn’t consistently displaying before attending school,” she says.

“We would recommend Hudson to a prospective JK parent without hesitation,” she continues. “Hudson offers tremendous value for the high quality of education received.”