a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Jan, 2015

Welcome to a new patron: Joan of Arc Academy! (Subtitled: Parenting philosophies and exploring options in education)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Fishbowl patrons|parenting

I’ve had cause to think a lot about Our Central Tenets of Parenting lately. I should have a list of Central Tenets written down somewhere, but since I don’t, I will mention two for now:

1) We encourage our children to try new things.
2) We encourage our children to explore their options.

Number one is a bit of a no-brainer. By encouraging our children to try new things we make their world a little bigger and help them become better little people. The new thing in question might be as small as trying a new food, jumping off the diving board at the swimming pool, or signing up for an intramural team at school. Those small things aren’t really small things, are they? They’re big things. That new food, or the big leap into the pool, or a slam dunk can kindle a fire in their little hearts we didn’t even know they had. Those things make them grow.

Number two, on the other hand, can be a little more challenging because once they hit a certain age, (ahem, like, five), they start to think they know Everything There is to Know. But when you really think about it, number two is just as important as number one. Teaching our children to explore their options is just as important as encouraging them to try new things.

Our youngest is moving to a new school next year and was asked to weigh her options in terms of which school she should attend. Several of her teachers petitioned for a move to Canterbury, the local arts high school. The other option was our neighbourhood high school. She was interested in trying out for Canterbury – either visual arts or literary arts – but her heart was already set on the local school. Her decision was made.

It would have been easy for us to NOT attend the open house at either school, after all, it’s like, minus THIRTY HUNDRED out there and I’d rather be eating toast and watching Netflix, but we put on our Good Parent Hats and braved the awful weather and checked them both out. And you know what? Even though her decision didn’t change, at least we now had a clear idea. Ultimately, our visits helped make her decision a more informed one, and we all felt good about having done due diligence.

To summarize, here’s the life lesson we are trying to convey here:

The best decision is an informed one, and it comes after having weighed all the options.

This is where I introduce a new Fishbowl patron, Ottawa’s Joan of Arc Academy. I went to JOA on a tour recently and had the pleasure of meeting some of the teachers as well as the JOA Headmistress, Pierrette Poliquin and Assistant Head Derek Rhodenizer. I went there, with no idea that JOA is Ottawa’s only private elementary bilingual girls school, and has been since 1954. And for the first time ever, they’re offering full scholarships of up to 100% of tuition fees, awarded to suitable candidate(s) as decided by the Scholarship Panel.

ALSO, this is the school that’s right near Funhaven, set back a bit from the Queensway. It’s only a few minutes from our home in Westboro. I’ve always wondered what school that was. Now I know!

ALSO, this school has its roots in Westboro. I know some people reading this may have even attended Maison Jeanne D’arc on Kenwood Avenue.

The school knocked my socks off, and I spent a lot of time with Derek Rhodenizer talking about the joy of learning and the wonderful things that happen when girls are in an environment in which they are supported, encouraged, and challenged.

In some ways it was like other schools I’ve visited. The hallways are decorated with children’s art, the gym is very much like a gym, and the coats and snowsuits are hung in neat cubbies in the kindergarten room, but there are differences.

Joan of Arc Academy

Joan of Arc Academy

Joan of Arc Academy

Joan of Arc Academy

A peek inside a classroom, at Joan of Arc Academy

Joan of Arc Academy

The students I met seemed thrilled to be there. The girls wear uniforms. The class sizes are smaller, which means teachers can spend more time with each student. The classrooms themselves are happy and sunny. It’s an educational environment that fosters academic excellence. The students are motivated, high achievers in academics, art, music, and sports.

I’m also interested in the all girl setting, and I had a lot of questions about it. What does it mean to be a student in an all girl school from K-8? Personally, I think it lets the students be themselves, with less distraction and peer pressure drawing away from their educational and social experiences. Here’s an interesting example. Derek told me that everybody – even the the older girls – wear snow pants at recess, because they all want to have fun in the snow. I don’t know of any eighth grade girls who wears snow pants at public school, do you? Many are also too cool to wear a touque. Sigh.

So when we talk about weighing our options in terms of education, I would venture to say that this is one that should definitely be considered, especially given the new scholarship program. There’s an open house on January 28 and parents of children in any grade can attend. RSVP right here. And here’s something neat: If you have a question about Joan of Arc Academy, you can ask JOA parents, right on the website.

In the meantime, I do encourage you to check out their Facebook and Twitter pages to get the inside scoop.

Click to learn more about Joan of Arc Academy

5 Responses to "Welcome to a new patron: Joan of Arc Academy! (Subtitled: Parenting philosophies and exploring options in education)"

1 | KJT

January 20th, 2015 at 3:44 pm


Andrea, does part of you wish that Sarah wanted to go there?

2 | andrea tomkins

January 20th, 2015 at 4:09 pm


Definitely! I would have loved for both girls to go there!

3 | Robyn Osgood

January 21st, 2015 at 1:13 pm


Great piece, Andrea. Both of our girls went to Joan of Arc, and loved it. Being an all-girls school, it was OK to be smart, to make mistakes, to be a leader, to love science — all those things that I think are not always considered cool when there are boys around (at least, for older girls.)

4 | andrea tomkins

January 22nd, 2015 at 9:27 am


Thank you for sharing your experience Robyn! I totally agree with everything you said. It is OK to be smart. It’s more than OK! :)

5 | Jocelyn

February 15th, 2015 at 8:34 am


My daughter currently attends JoA. We are so glad we moved her there. The teachers are wonderful and caring. I love how it is a family. It really was the best choice in our case.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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