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Re: Preschool for 18-month old
Both of my children (now 3 and 5) started attending Grand Lake Montessori shortly after they turned 2. However, they take 18 month olds and I would've gladly put them in there had the timing been right (and space had been available). I love the school -- it's an incredibly nurturning environment and my children have both thrived there. They've learned to be such independent and compassionate children, with such great manners and habits. My daughter was very tentative in starting preschool, but quickly felt at home in the toddler class. The teachers are extraordinary at GLM: I've had great respect for all of the ones my children have had and still have, and most of them have been at the school for many years. The parent community is also wonderful and very welcoming. I feel very lucky that my children have had this experience and although paying for preschool is no fun, GLM has been worth every single penny when I think about how well-spent my childrens' time has been there. Huge Fan of GLM.
We love Grand Lake Montessori and are keeping our daughter there for kindergarten. The school is a delightful example of how Montessori methods support the whole child as she/he explores the world in multiple dimensions. I knew nothing about Montessori when we started there and am constantly moved by how much our daughter loves her teachers and the environment. She has grown as an independent thinker and a creative person while there. It is a nurturing environment both in its flexible, caring approach and with its very strong and consistent staff. (We like it so much it inspired my family to join the effort to start a public Montessori elementary school for 2012!) susieb
Our daughter entered the toddler program at Grand Lake Montessori and moved later to a primary class. We were extremely happy with her years there. This is what we have observed.
CURRICULUM: I am not a Montessori expert but what this school has showed me is that the program is not about treating children as "quasi people" that need to be bossed around, but about treating them with mutual respect. The child perceives that and responds accordingly with responsibility and free learning. This school exemplifies this in the flexibility and balance between the pace that is right for each child and fulfilling their potential. Our daughter is learning to channel her extremely strong-willed personality into social interaction, a sense of order, respect of other kids, expression her feelings, discipline, and curiosity about things. Obviously, she is not a perfect child, but I feel that GLM offers her the tools to grow and to us a guidance for parenting more wisely. Kids are exposed to what every parent wants in terms of movement, music, singing, art, learning about the environment, the sciences, the world, cultures, and nature. They have extra teachers for gymnastics and music. The children eat healthy snacks that many times they prepare with their teachers. They have lots of yard space, play structures and bike yard, and space for gardening.
TEACHERS: I don't know of a single teacher that we have disliked, and I consider myself pretty perceptive about people. The teachers are warm, patient and very professional. Watching them in action has helped us model our behavior as parents. Parents are free to attend meetings where they can see teachers enacting the way they solve problems with kids. Teachers are available to help parents. The children are free to use the activities in the class according to their developmental stage, and in the primary classes they benefit from being with kids of different ages.
COMMUNICATION: School - parents: The school issues a weekly newsletter where parents can read about class news as well as upcoming events and announcements. Email updates, class boards, parent/teacher folder and google calendar keep the parents updated with what is going on at school and at the child's class. Parents - school: Having a daughter with asthma I was always able to communicate with teachers about her needs, as well as get updates on other issues if needed. Being on the safety freak side, a couple of times I contacted the administration and my concerns were addressed promptly and satisfactorily; I saw changes happening or our needs met.
COMMUNITY: The cultural and ethnic background is as varied as you can get in the Bay Area both in the student and teacher body, but also there is variety in the economic spectrum. My daughter, being half Spanish, has been exposed to people from China, Tanzania, Russia, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, India, Pakistan... If parents want, there are many opportunities for families to participate, have fun, get to know other families, attend extremely helpful parenting classes and receive financial aid. There is a sense of community and closeness.
ADMINISTRATION: We interacted mostly with four people in the staff, including the director, all of them were always prompt to answer my questions, process stuff, make up for our parent distractions. The director is tuned to the student/teacher ratio depending on the needs of the class. They are very good at recruiting good teachers. The school has been running since 1978 but it is not anchored in the past. I have seen them innovating to simplify parent life: electronic payments, fundraising made simple, web-site sign ups. You won't see fancy looking buildings, but the classes are neat, clean and the money seems to go where it is most important: good teachers, enough teachers, safety requirements, materials, financial aid, keeping up a spacious campus. Especially convenient is the possibility of extended hours, an extensive child care calendar to accommodate parents' work schedules, affordable and healthy school lunches.
I don't work at GLM, but since we are leaving the school this summer to move out of the area, I hope that the detailed information here can help parents to make a good decision, as we had to make. GLM has been a great ally in learning how to deal with a fiery, strong-willed child. We cannot be happier with the Montessori program and the way this school implements it. M.V.
I haven't seen a review of GLM in a while. I can't say enough good things about this pre-school. My daughter attended for three years (ages 3-5). We love the teachers, community, parents and kids. The quality and dedication of the teachers is impressive. It is a (large-ish) pre-school with several classes, a nice campus and tons of outdoor space. Though you wouldn't know this unless you toured the school, because you can't tell how nice it is from the street. The student teacher ratio is quite good. There is commitment to providing financial aid and there is significant diversity among teachers and student body. Our daughter has thrived here and, though she is grown enough to move on this year, we are definitely sad to leave this place. Feel free to contact me, I am happy to discuss our very positive experience at Grand Lake Montessori. cheryl
Our children (5 yr old boy, 3 yr old girl) have flourished academically, socially and emotionally at Grand Lake Montessori. The school is committed to diversity of its students (gender, ethnic, socio-economic) as well as staff (gender, ethnic, age). Some of the biggest rewards are that our children are developing their love of learning; taking ownership of their actions; continue to be curious about everything; are developing empathy; and are having great fun. Our children have very different learning styles and the teachers at GLM have responded appropriately. The teachers are patient enough to help our children through challenges and skilled enough to empower our children to be confident and problem-solvers. Additionally, the teachers have helped improve our parenting by helping us better understand our children and their stage of development. When we have challenges at home (ie, kid not putting shoes on, tantrums), we have worked with the teachers to use a common language so that messages are reinforced at home and at school. GLM also sponsors parenting workshops that have been invaluable. Send an e-mail if you want to discuss more. f.
My husband and I both work full-time outside the home and moved to Piedmont this past year. We are planning to place our boy/girl twins in preschool in the fall (they will be 3 and 1/2 then) but the co-ops in Piedmont with PT schedules are not an option for us. Their primary childcare to date when we are working has been in our home with my mom and/or a nanny. We need something convenient in terms of location in order to pick up and drop-off timely with our work schedules. Any input, positive or negative, on any other schools I may be missing that are less than 3 miles from ''lower'' Piedmont would be much appreciated!! Thanks! -Piedmont Mom of Almost-Preschooler Twins
In any event, we found what's now GrandLake Montessori. While I'm sure you'll get more recent feedback than my positive feedback would be (and I understand many of those same great teachers are still there), I'd point out that its location was great for us. My spouse was working in DT Oakland and I was in SF, and we alternated driving the kids. I'd either buzz to SF via casual carpool from downtown Piedmont, or I'd drive and park near the GL Montessori, and then walk over to casual carpool at the farmer's market area. A bit of exercise, ability to work on the bus, and we alternated organizing life to get back to the kids and house at a reasonable hour. My oldest was in 1st grade and he relied on SchoolMates. Maureen
Re: Preschools with Alfie Kohn Approach
I don't think you are going to find a preschool where no one says ''Good job'' but I think you should look into Montessori schools. Near you is Grand Lake Montessori, where my child goes. People are always saying ''Nice work'' and stuff like that but the Montessori method has no rewards or incentives for doing work and the children choose their own work. Grand Lake Montessori has at least one classroom with a Spanish speaking teacher. However, if you want your child to start this fall you kind of need to hurry! anon
Re: Seeking Oakland preschool for 3-year-old who is not potty trained
You will love Grand Lake Montessori! www.grandlakemontessori.com GLM parent
Re: Any openings at your kid's great preschool?
Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland might still have a few spots as a few students moved away during the summer. My daughter just started there, and I was very nervous about preschool and very unhappy with the choices (I checked out more than a dozen highly-regarded, difficult-to-get-into schools). I am very impressed by the school so far, especially the personal attention my child and I receive from the teacher. Almost all the teachers have been there 5+ years and have masters degrees. Check it out. Happy Parent
Re: Seeking preschool with working mom's hours!
Grand Lake Montessori has extended hours--I think it's from 7 am to 6 or 7 pm. The basic school day is from 8:30 to 3:00 but many children stay later and it is an ''all day Montessori'' program, not just ''after care''. anon
I am moving to the East Bay and am thinking about sending my son to Grand Lake Montessori. Any recent opinions/experiences from parents that have a preschooler there would be appreciated.
Re: Thinking of switching our 7-year-old to a Montessori school
My son is now in preschool at Grand Lake Montessori, and we are extremely happy there. I know that the school intends to expand its elementary program over the next several years, so you may have some flexibility with application dates and deadlines. We are now considering the many possibilities for him, whether to keep him at GLM, transfer to another private school after the kindergarten year, or move to an area with good public schools. I would feel quite confident about keeping him at GLM for elementary, even though I had not seriously considered Montessori schools for elementary when he started.
Happy GLM parent
My daughter is starting at Grand Lake Montessori in the fall. She'll be on the very young side of the pre-schoolers in Ms. Leck's class. I'm wondering if parents of other children who are either in that class now or will be in it in the fall would be interested in meeting so our children can get to know each other before school starts and feel more comfortable already knowing a few other kids in the class. rachel
Would like to get any feedback/firsthand experiences about Grand Lake Montessori (aka Casa dei Bambini). Most of the reviews are a couple of years old. We have only started looking at preschools and realize there is a range of styles with regard to the Montessori approach -- so we will definitely visit more. How would you describe GLM's approach and culture? Any issues with staff turnover? If you were interested in a specific teacher/classroom, did the school take your preferences into consideration?
As far as the school environment, I think they take the best of Montessori, without overdoing it. They don't freak out if you let your kid watch Blue's Clues at home, for example. Also, they really do let kids work at their own pace, gently encouraging them to take on new ''work''. I know that's the whole idea behind Montessori, but it is nice to see it in action.
Okay. I swear I don't work for them. But I also have to say that they are very diverse, both in the staff and the student body.
To me, the downside is their aftercare. I have found it to be mostly custodial. Much less nurturing and organized than the rest of the day. (School day ends at 2:45.) As a result, I have tried to get my kids at 2:45 or have a babysitter get them at that time.
One more nice thing if you live in Oakland is that you can stay for Kindergarten if you haven't negotiated a good setup for elementary yet. For that matter, you can stay for elementary, though the program seemed somewhat small and limited to me. Feel free to e-mail me with any more questions.
In primary, you would be amazed to see a room full of 3 to 5 year olds quietly doing ''work'' which they select themselves from materials accessible throughout the classroom, and respecting each other's space. The teachers somehow create this scene with quiet prompting and gentle re-direction as needed. They are very skillful with the kids. Although there is, of course, some turn-over in the staff, the school is very careful to explain when a change (of any kind) to the kids' routine is coming so that they are not surprised/upset.
The teachers are nuturing and really get to know the kids well. There is great tenure there amongst them - they come to the school and they stay. They invest a lot of their time to make the school a fun place for the kids to be.
As for the classrooms, I know kids in all of them and can't say that one is better than others. I am impressed by the scope of activities available to the kids - and the level of schoolwork that is presented, in addition to more fun, free time (art, music, etc.)
We've been thrilled with our son's development at Casa - he started out going 3 mornings til noon and now goes five days until 3pm, because he loves it there. The attention he receives is truly individual and yet, he has made lots of friends within this warm environment.
Hope this is helpful! Jill
I am looking for any recent advice or reviews from parents with children who are currently in the program or who have recently started. How old was your child when they started? What was there child care situation prior to entering pre-school? Thanks! Stephanie
They do have before and after care. I'm a working parent so I drop my daughter off as early as 7am and pick her up around 6pm. From what I've noticed about my daughter, she is very happy and the teachers are very committed to the children. My daughter looks forward to going to school every day; she's made lots of new friends and is learning something new everyday. I looked at a lot of schools and was very impressed with this school and I visited the school twice. Sometimes other opinions help, but the bottom line is you should visit the school yourself to decide if this is the type of program you want for your child. Good Luck. Cheryl
I have seen the previous comments on the school Grand Lake Montessori aka Casa Dei Bambini. Does anyone have any current opinions of the school, staff, parent participation etc.? I have a two year old son and am considering enrolling him.
Our ambivalence stems from several factors. The school could do better at communicating basic information to parents. Stuff like telling you that if your child wants to have a drink at lunch, you need to provide a cup. Or that our child's spare set of clothes is ''missing.''
However, parents get constant reminders about fundraising and parent participation ''opportunities.'' Sometimes the focus of the school seems to be more about fundraising than the children.
On balance, we are satisfied and our child loves GLM.
We are thinking of sending our 2-year-old daughter to Casa Dei Bambini/Grand Lake Montessori in the fall and have seen both highly enthusiastic and critical reviews on the website. Any recent experiences that folks would like to share? Thanks in advance for your insights.
My son has been attending Casa dei Bambini this past year, and we love it! My three-year old has Miss Leck, Miss Owens and Mr. Tien, all of whom are very talented, patient, loving and encouraging teachers and very special people. In particular, Miss Leck (the lead teacher in that class) provides a rich learning environment, while addressing the emotional needs of the kids and being very open to discuss issues with their parents. She teaches the kids to do things for themselves, which encourages self-esteem and exploration. She encourages parents to participate in the classroom, which occurs often (I have done cooking and art projects, and will read the story of Purim in a few days). I chose her specifically, after sitting in each classroom and watching the teachers. Now that I have been there for a while, I have also become very impressed with the other teachers, although it would be better to hear from someone whose kid is in their classes to know details. Suzanne
We have enjoyed our experience with Casa (also called Grand Lake Montessori now) -- our son has attended since 4/98, starting in the Toddler program at 2 yrs 4 mo. He transitioned to the 3-5 yr old Primary class that Summer. We have seen tremendous growth in him -- verbally, socially, and intellectually. While our nanny of 3.5 yrs speaks English acceptably as a second language, our son's language / reasoning / questioning / logic, we've been told, are quite developed -- attributable in large part to Casa and the joy of learning & investigation they encourage. Starting him at Casa was a hard transition from 2 days a week in a co-op, (probably harder for me than him), but after a few weeks he was very comfortable with his 5 day 8:30 - 12:30 schedule there. Our daughter jumped right in this May 2000 in the Toddler class and we have experienced considerable growth in language and sharing even since then. We love the classrooms, the teachers (especially Miss Allen, Miss Church, & Miss Leck), and organization & apparent simplicity of the materials -- now understanding further how the learning grows with more advanced use of the same materials -- we find it a great complement to our less organized, less simple, less structured home environment. The diversity of staff & students is the best I've come across in the more than dozen pre-schools we looked at, and while not inexpensive, appears to be somewhat in line with many other schools. We've especially enjoyed the flexibility of schedule (childcare avail 7am - 6pm if needed), on the rare occasions needed, and have really appreciated meeting & getting to know the parents -- many of whom are good friends now. Good luck. Happy to chat off-line.
Probably the biggest challenge for us was the responsibility of understanding the Montessori approach to a child's learning. We had only a passing understanding of Montessori and chose the school because we were impressed by a number of impressions: observing the children in the classroom - totally engaged in their activities; the teachers moving around the classroom from child to child answering questions and giving direction; the responsiveness of the school administrators to questions and concerns; and the seemingly welcome involvement of parents. All the interactions we observed or participated in were carried out with respect for the other and open interest and involvement.
The school supplied us with good reading material and recommended
on Montessori as well. We are invited regularly to participate in school
activities, including educational, social and fundraising events.
Hope this helps.
We like the Montessori focus on learning to do things on one's own (get dressed, wash your dish, wipe the table..) Also, the multi-age groupings and the great learning materials. I also REALLY appreciate the school's ethnic diversity (among kids AND teachers). The grounds of the school are pretty, with separate playground for the toddler class (which I wanted).
On the downside, it is not cheap (667/month for fulltime toddler), there is
no 4 day option (either 3 or 5). I also wished for more clear
from the school to parents about certain things. There is not a cozy and
cohesive community of parents at the school, though I have found parents
accessible if I called or approached
them with questions. We now exchange childcare and play dates with
families. I would not recommend the school to parents who are
with Montessori philosophy ('cause it's definitely Montessori, which we
but it's not for everybody)
Aaron actually did quite well there. It worked for us as in interim solution. But he is an extremely easy and adaptable child. But I never sensed the emergence of the absolute passion he has for his current center. The teachers and the program at Casa made it very clear that they liked Aaron and they thought he made a positive contribution. They wanted us to continue.
But the center didn't do anything for me. I just had uncomfortable vibes about it the whole time. I didn't like that the kids addressed the teachers formally (Ms. X). While I found some parents I really enjoyed talking to, there did not seem to be much of a community around the center. They kept having to cancel field trips because they could not find parents to drive. The time I offered to drive I showed up on a day that I had not been planning to bring Aaron and found out the field trip was cancelled. No one had called to tell me this. It is VERY expensive and has very long before and aftercare hours. I got the feeling that the long hours were a plus for some parents (understandable, they were for me), but it may have translated into just not having a critical mass of parents able to take time off work to be involved. Also, I suspect the price dampened community spirit too - that people felt "I pay all this money, and then they want MORE time/money/energy..." And there was definitely not the feeling that it would be OK just to hang out there. They seem to take what they are doing VERY seriously. Too seriously for my taste.
And some things I just found odd. For example, they do a dance class for the 3-6 set. But when I was there once and had the opportunity to observe, only about half the class was participating, mostly the girls. I just couldn't figure out why. Aaron wasn't participating. But he participates in his dance class at his new preschool.... Another thing that I now recognize is they didn't do a fraction of the amount of art projects Aaron does now.
But, they do have absolutely AWESOME materials. The stuff they have for the kids to mess with is just incredible. The facilities are very nice. And the environment is way more calm and orderly than where Aaron is now. I could see how it could be exactly the right place for a child who likes beauty and serenity, who is oriented to cognitive development, but not quite ready to get thoroughly in the mix in a situation with larger group size, high focus on getting in the mix socially of a more typical social/developmental preschool.
But, then, I remember observing an amazingly cruel thing on the playground
I take it back, I'm not sure it would be more socially safe for a more
introverted child. Sometimes they have several classrooms of the 3-6 all
the playground at once. I saw this boy grab the hat of this smaller boy,
about it, and pass it off to a friend. A very clear assertion of dominance.
always sees kids get into fights over toys, but this situation shocked me
the boy was deliberately trying to make the other child feel bad. The
not see it. But when the boy without his hat began to cry, the teacher did
to help resolve the situation.
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