Parents’ extracurricular options run the gamut

From school to community sports leagues midtown offers up plenty

PHOTO COURTESY EMMA TOTTEN DIGGIN’ IT: Students from Royal St. George’s College’s Environment Club work in one of the three gardens built by them for the club.
DIGGIN’ IT: Students from Royal St. George’s College’s Environment Club work in one of the three gardens built by them for the club.

The summer’s over, and you’re looking for something to occupy your intrepid offspring during school and post-school hours now that they’re back to haunting the halls.

And there’s no need to scratch your head. Keep a keen eye on what your children are interested in and take a quick boo at the options around you.

Whether your child is a natural athlete, gifted impresario, academic juggernaut or a green thumb the Town Crier checks these off your list of possible extracurriculars your child will appreciate.

Name That Tune

With its roots cemented in Rosedale, Mooredale Concerts brings a touch of Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven to inquiring minds through its Music and Truffles program.

For ages 5-11, the program introduces youngsters to string and brass ensembles for five Sundays.

General Manager, Christina Cavanagh, admits the event, held at Walter Hall on the University of Toronto campus, is a great launching pad for students wanting to learn how to play an instrument.

“It’s a great introduction to classical music for young people,” she says. “We also invite unaccompanied adults to come too.”

At the end of every performance, including sibling violinists Nikki and Timothy Chooi this November, children and adults are all given a wrapped Lindt chocolate, hence the name.

And it’s not uncommon for the kids who attended the shows to eventually join the youth orchestra after earning at least a Grade 2 music level in their chosen instrument.

A Helping Hand

Travel to the heart of Forest Hill Village and you’ll find a tutoring service that also has a deep community sentiment.

Forest Hill Tutoring started out of director Susan Feindel’s home in 1990. Once Bishop Strachan School and Upper Canada College found out about the former teacher’s business they started sending their students to her.

“Suddenly we had a house full of kids and tutors. I used to make them homemade meals, it was really quite fun,” she admits. “I had no idea it would become a place where I’d hire 200 tutors, which is what we do now, and really thousands of children.”

She moved shop to its current location at Spadina and Lonsdale in 1999 and they’ve been open 13 hours a day, seven days a week.

They have three core programs: Back to Basics, Tutoring and Academy as well as Credit Courses.

They’ll help anyone from kindergarten to university, and all the courses therein.

It’s not just for the kids struggling academically, Feindel assures.

“We have A-plus students coming here, and they maybe want to get a 95 rather than a 90,” she says.

Back to Basics has been borne out of the “general dissatisfaction that the basics aren’t being taught”. English, math and French are the anchors of the service.

Most tutoring is one-on-one with a few pairings.

As for the home-cooked meals, they’ve manifested themselves into pizza and cookies.

“We always have treats here,” Feindel says, with a laugh.

Hoop Dreams

Children have a lot of energy to burn, and if you don’t want them fully digitizing their brains via smartphones or video games, Chris Easton, president of the North Toronto Basketball Association says shooting hoops is the court parents should seek council in.

“I think having the opportunity, and the regularity of physical activity is there,” he says. “And it’s important, as well, working and teaming with others. There are life skills as well.”

The NTBA boasts 900 kids in houseleague basketball from ages 8-18 with an additional 250 rep players. One third of those are part of the girls’ league. Houseleague runs for 15 weeks, starting in September. Registration is ongoing, as it started in the spring.

With the Toronto Raptors winning their division two years going, Easton admitted there’s been a small boost to their numbers.

“There’s probably a link to that, but how strong it is, is probably anecdotal,” he shares.

Easton chuffs when asked about the association’s strong sense of community.

“Everyone is doing this for a reason. It might be that you have a child in the game. It might be that you’re providing good opportunities for today’s youth and it might be a bit of giving back,” he says. “For me it’s all of those. My daughters did go through the program but I’m still active involved in that aspect of the community give back.

“My family and I benefitted from being a part of the organization, so to carry on and do what you can to further it, I think, is important.”

Green-thumbing It

It’s not uncommon for a school to have and Environment Club, but three teachers at Royal St. George’s College have a dream that could yield a lot more practical skills for their student body.

Emma Totten, Julie Girvan and Michelle Bader-Shaw have grown interest in the club thanks to the high schoolers building three gardens a year ago.

Initially meant to grow garlic, the students planted squash and onions in the spring too, and look to harvest the goods over the next few months.

The goal is to expand the garden to eight individual plots, and even loftier pursuits of buying a farm or working in concert with one has been bandied about in brainstorming sessions.

Beyond the senior grade, Grades 3s and 7s have also joined in on the fun.

“It’s created an outdoor space as well,” Totten says. “We’ve put a picnic table out there. It’s actually gaining momentum, so then the students can take it over completely.”

The group has even brought together other parts of the school, including the cook, and Totten’s other initiative: outreach.

“I also look after the community service at the school, and there was an interest from that side for the need for food in Toronto,” she says.

Though the time for garlic has come and gone — parents came in to harvest that patch — the onions will be ready upon a new school year, followed by the squash in October.

“I think when they do it in September, that’s when they’ll be really excited.”

Though these are only four of the many opportunities for extra-curriculars, parents should know all their bases are covered from sports to academia to gardening to the classics.

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