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Beacon Early Childhood Program (Oakland, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Beacon Early Childhood Program (Oakland, CA)


Information for the preschool program:
May 2011

Our son was in the Early Childhood development program at Beacon Day School for 9 months. It was OK. The teachers are kind and loving. We trusted them with him during the day. There were lots of activities, but it's less art centered than we thought initially as advertised. Our son learned manners, please and thank you, how to line up with other kids and some other basic social skills like sitting and eating his lunch, kind of some conservative stuff but so what he was 4. He also learned some of the letters of his name. I really appreciated them as a trusting place to leave my son during the day and have fun. But at the same time, he started wanting to learn who he was and what he was capable of doing in terms of the world around him rather than just learning to stand in line. And we wanted him to explore science and math and gardening and art and his place in all those ideas. And since he wasn't ready for a kindergarten program yet, but had outgrown this type of preschool environment, we opted for a Bridge K program closer to us in Berkeley. We also didn't really fit into the East Oakland / Alameda mind set. It's a little more conservative than we are so we never really fit in to the culture there. We'd expected to send him there through August and then BOOM found out that we had fallen behind on our monthly payments and couldn't get caught up so we got kicked out. Moving on and getting kicked out happened all at once probably for a reason. We were still struggling from the Recession and we were already paying for school for the next year too; we couldn't handle it all. But we worked it out with them amicably to pay our bill for the year and also move on at the same time. At least they let us go to the beginning of the summer.


Oct 2010

Hi, I'm looking into several preschools for my daughter this fall--to start sometime next year, and am thinking about the Beacon Day preschool as one of them. One thing that I am really looking for is a setting that will challenge her academically, but that will also provide a great balance of music and art--she's very quick and already knows her letters and sounds, but she loves music and art, so I don't want to narrow her focus. There aren't many recent reviews of Beacon Preschool, but I'm wondering if it's too academically-based...any experience or recommendations of preschools for the Downtown Oakland/Lake Merritt area would be much appreciated. Starting to stress!


After reading another opinion, I can see how two families can have two very different experiences. Our child blossomed in Beacon Day School's ethnically diverse, arts-focused Early Childhood Program. Every Friday, my daughter's art folder was chock full of completed artwork - not just the letter of the week but self portraits, crafts, jewelry and pictures - using many different media: beads, feathers, glitter, beans, bottle caps, stones, buttons and paint, just to name a few. My child's teacher has been a Beacon teacher for many years, and is the consummate professional. She is confident in her abilities and provides the right amount of structure to the classroom. The three parent-teacher conferences were helpful, but I took the initiative to check in with my daughter's teacher daily, and she always made time for me. We constantly collaborated on the best plan for my child and because Beacon's teachers believe that every child is different, even with structure, there is flexibility. Yes, the front office staff, flex teachers and music teacher, are warm, welcoming and friendly, but I have found that all the ECP teachers and staff are warm and welcoming. Each day, my child's teacher and I would embrace and my daughter would run to the teacher for a hug. My child had a special relationship with all of the ECP teachers and staff. I could just feel the love!

My daughter, now a proud Kindergartner at Beacon Day School, told me yesterday, ''You know, I am an artist.'' I can't think of her expressing something so confidently had it not been for the fabulous foundation given to her in Beacon's Early Childhood Program. Not only has she developed a love for the arts and dramatic play, she is a problem solver. She takes pride in expressing her ideas.

Finally, it's true that there is one less class of ECP students at the moment. However, given the state of the economy, I'd say the staff at Beacon school was fiscally responsible in consolidating the ECP classes. Beacon is one of very few schools that accept rolling admissions, so as the school year progresses, they expect (and will have the availability to accommodate) new students. (Last year, it wasn't until January that ECP reached 100% enrollment.) With public schools losing classrooms and many closing, clearly Beacon's ECP consolidation is a reflection of the overall downturn - not of the quality of the teachers, staff, size of classrooms or currency of equipment. I HEART BEACON


Oct 2010

Re: Preschool openings for two 3 yr old girls?
Check out Beacon Day School's early childhood program! I know they have had several sets of twins go through that program and they will work with you to ensure that your children transition into a school setting with other kids.

The preschool day starts at 7:30 and goes until 6PM, and they are a year-round school.

The playground is okay. It has many play structures and I have always felt that my child was safe. It is a separate playground from K-8. Like I said, it's not unsafe, but it isn't the strongest part of the school, and the parents association is always looking at ways to make it better but if you are looking for safety as a priority, you will get it.

The classes have a max of 12 students, but there is a staff of flex teachers who assist. We never had any problems with that.

They do offer scholarships and sibling discounts and they accept kids throughout the year as long as they are age three.

I think they announced there would be open house coming up soon, so check it out http://beaconschools.org/ Beacon parent


Sept 2010

I cannot recommend Beacon Day School Early Childhood Program. While the school is ethnically diverse, it did not provide a focus on creativity and innovative ideas for our child. The classrooms are small and the classroom equipment is old. In addition, the school recently closed one of its classrooms due to lack of enrollment.

My child's teacher, who has been there for many years, offered the same art project each week - the letter of the week. They used a specific medium which the teacher did not deviate from. The school has a beautiful garden that the class rarely visited. Also, the class rarely explored music, cooking, gardening or dramatic play.

The program was standard, rote and regimented. When we suggested new and different activities, the teacher did not incorporate these ideas. We were not warmly welcomed each morning when we arrived to the classroom. While there were three scheduled parent-teacher conferences throughout the year, daily communication from the teacher was lacking.

I was impressed with the front office staff, who were always warm and welcoming, as well as the part-time teachers, who seemed genuinely interested in the children. I also enjoyed the music teacher, but that was limited to 1/2 hour a week. (The one day my child came home singing). Disappointed parent


Nov 2007

Re: Preschools with Male Teachers
Hi, Beacon Day School has a great preschool (they call it early childhood program). The long-time director is male and one of the three teachers is male. They are both lovely, kind men and would fit the bill. My son is in the elementary school and has had male teachers two of his three years, and I am very happy about that. They have been excellent role models for him and are great people. The only downside is that I believe the preschool is full time only, but it still might be worth checking out. Beacon emphasizes a very safe, family-like, nurturing atmosphere so that might be helpful to your daughter as well. Good luck to you and your daughter. mom


September 2006

I am considering sending my 3 1/2 year old boy to Beacon Preschool. Last review I saw about it was in 2004. Anyone have any recent experience if they like it/ don't like it? Any infomation would be much appreciated. I already made one poor preschool choice. Don't want to make another. Thanks very much!
mom of an active preschool boy


My son has been attending Beacon Day School's early childhood program for over a year and a half -- he started in January just before his third birthday. He has been really happy there, and we plan to send our daughter there as well when she is old enough to attend. There are several things that we really like about Beacon that caused us to choose it over other preschools.

The preschool (as well as the elementary and middle schools) has a strong arts focus (music, dance, art), which was very important to us. While other preschools have kids sitting for long periods of time learning the alphabet and numbers by rote, Beacon students work on projects in small pace-driven groups, so the younger kids can be inspired by what's happening at the next table, while the older kids can feel a sense of accomplishment in their more advanced skills. Kids aren't pushed to perform skills beyond their developmental capabilites, but are provided with a lot of support with a high teacher-student ratio. Beacon understands that students have different strengths and ways of learning, and provides them with opportunites to learn in different ways, supporting numbers skills with learning to count beats in music, for example. They're given a solid foundation to become inquisitive learners.

The social aspect of Beacon also really struck us as unique. It has a truly diverse staff and student population. In preschool in particular, learning basic social skills is so incredibly important -- and sometimes challenging! -- and any issues we've had with our son's behavior both in and out of school have been handled by the staff very well. The staff communicate problems (as well as successes) quickly to parents and believe in working as a team with the parents to reinforce good socialization. Bullying is taken seriously and not ignored as it is in too many preschools; similarly, wallflowers are not left to sit alone on the playground. Each student is made to feel competent and special. The children are given ample time to run around and play. Before looking into Beacon, we walked away from an acceptance at another preschool that promised our son would be doing basic multiplication by kindergarten. We came to feel their program was highly rigid, and driven more by parent expectations than by what's best for kids' development. We prefer that our children get there when they're ready to really understand what they're doing -- fourth grade or so, for multiplication, would be just fine. We like, too, Beacon's year-round program and the lack of homework (for the kids in K-8), which are really helpful for working parents' schedules. Most importantly, again, our son is really happy there, and loves to go to school each day. good luck in your search!
Deirdre


I cannot recommend Beacon Preschool. My response is based on a half-year of my 3 year old daughter's attendance in their preschool program in 2003. We enrolled her in the program solely because her brother was attending the elementary school, and it was convenient. She was very unhappy there. The preschool did not seem to be developmental, i.e., play-based, although the kids could occasionally play in the classroom. It was a much more traditional, sit down and listen to the teacher or you will get a timeout kind of program. In fact, my three year old, who is extremely quiet and well behaved (almost to a fault) got time-outs from her teacher for apparently not looking at her when she was reading to the class. Much of her time in this class was spent quietly listening to the teacher, which seemed hard for kids that age to do. The classroom was too small and had some toys, but they were not on the level with Montessori educational toys, and the kids were expected to play with them for only certain alloted times. The teacher my child had was given to raising her voice at the kids as well. While we were aware that tsome of the preschool teachers at Beacon seemed warmer and more qualified, it was not our luck to get one. The playground was mediocre at best. The only part of the program worth recommending was the music teacher. Unless you live near the school or in Alameda, the drive to and from Beacon is not worth it either.
Berkeley mom
Our extremely active son began attending Beacon Day School when he was 4 years old ... after we made a previous poor preschool choice too! We are thrilled with Beacon and can't imagine him attending school anywhere else (he's in a K/1 class at Beacon now.)

Our son had a great preschool year and made lots of friends. He woke up every morning wanting to go to school -- as opposed to crying and asking us not to leave him at the previous preschool. He adored all the pre-school teachers and developed great social and emotional skills along with language arts and math skills.

Don't let anyone tell you the play ground is lacking .. the children have a great time outside! Our son loved flying paper airplanes, riding the bikes and simply running around ... besides there's a new climbing structure as well!
A Family Happy to Have Found Beacon Day School


Re: Pre-K Progams for December Birthday (Oct 2005)
Beacon Day School located on the Oakland waterfront addresses the needs of those children with late fall birthdays by assessing them and placing them either in a Junior Kindergarten (as part of our Early Childhood Program) or a K/1 class. Beacon's founding premise is to educate children for life in today's knowledge-based world, by providing the tools, skills and approach that establish the independent learner. Please call Admissions at (510) 437-2311 to schedule a tour in October or to attend an open house. ab
July 2003

My husband and I have recently relocated to the East Bay and are considering enrolling our 4.5 year old boy in the Beacon School preschool program. We would be very interested in hearing from others about their experience with the preschool. C. A.


Beacon is great! My son has been in the preschool program for 2 years and is now headed to their kindergarten. He has thrived in their program and loves it. They have great teachers with very low turnover, a truly child-centered curriculum, and a fabulous community.

What I love most: the music program and teacher; REAL diversity (kids of all colors and backgrounds, single-parents, same-sex parents, multi-racial families, and diverse economic backgrounds); the school founder and director who really understands kids and parenting and modern families and is available. Year-round program, I don't have to find summer ''camp'' every year, but they're flexible if you do want to take time for camp. For the future, I completely buy into the ''no homework'' until 5th grade policy. There's probably much more...

What could improve: the playground really needs an update. They use tire mulch (which is awful stuff, I was cleaning it out of my kid's ears this morning), but the kids don't care and it has plenty of room and is safe. More nutritious daily snacks (mostly crackers).


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