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Cornerstone Children's Center (Berkeley, CA)
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Dear BPN Members, We are considering placing our child in either Cornerstone Children's Center or UC's ECEP Clark-Kerr program this summer. Our child will be 6 months old in June. We would appreciate if anyone could provide us with their recent/current experience with either program, especially with respect to infants and toddlers. Some questions we have are: What do you think of the caregivers, the quality of care/teaching, and the environment? What are your likes and dislikes and/or pros and cons? Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much for your assistance. Anon
For the 2+ group; however, we found the teachers to be less responsive to our concerns and to not really know how to handle our particularly active and persistent child. When our child ran in the classroom it was suggested that we not let our child run in the house (in the winter with a very active child this was not an option for us) rather that teach him that we do not run in the classroom. When our child went through a hitting phase we were repeatedly asked to work on it at home (which we did and he improved at home but not at school).
They also strongly suggested we have our child evaluated. Two specialists (one a therapist specializing in preschool children and another a developmental pediatrician) and a new school later, our child has no diagnosis and is a thriving happy child again. Similar issues are handled totally differently at our new school where the teachers are tolerant of differences in temperament and very able to talk with children about their emotions. We know people who are happy with the CCC preschool but in the end we are very happy we switched as we found a much better fit for our child and our family.
On another note, we also found the preschool to have less room for creativity than our new school. For example, each child's art project at CCC looked exactly the same while at our new school each project looks different. I once heard a teacher tell a child she needed to come back and finish putting the water on her picture of a fish.
I guess I would say, if you are ok with possibly moving your child after they reach 2 years, I would highly recommend the infant and toddler care at CCC. I do not regret choosing them initially but I do wish we had moved our child sooner. -anon
One and then both our children have been in Cornerstone since 2006, and we absolutely love it. The facility is great (spacious, lots of windows, nice play areas, nice playground). The care givers are wonderfully loving, there's not much turnover and they receive decent benefits. Some have said that the preschool class (Panda Bears) does not have as challenging a curriculum as they would like. Our son comes home with all kinds of information dealt with in school -- the lives of various animals, plant life, the days of the week, dealing with emotions, and more and more. True, there's no focus on formal reading and writing - so you'll be disappointed if that's what you're looking for. Instead, they play rhyming games, Bingo, etc. We value the excellent social skills that they emphasize. Their flexible hours are also very very useful and allows for continual adjustments. We feel fortunate to have a place like this, and people as loving as these providers, for our two kids. --- Clare (Cornerstone parent)
We are thinking about sending our preschooler to Cornerstone Children's Center in Berkeley in the fall. I was very impressed by the people, program, facilities and administration. However, I have one concern -- we are a non-religious family, and I'm worried there may be too much Christian instruction. We were told us that it is minimal -- mostly conveyed through occasional bible stories dealing with morality and right/wrong issues (we're totally open to this). Are there any non-religious families who can comment on their experiences with Cornerstone?
For us, the religious focus of the school is one of many qualities that make up the whole early childhood education program at Cornerstone. Other aspects of the whole program that appeal to us: there are plenty of supplies and toys and activities for the kids (there will be new classroom furniture and a new preschool playground this year); teachers are friendly to parents, seem to enjoy being with the kids, are compensated fairly, and have opportunities for further training; and we feel that the staff have been responsive to our questions and concerns.
Good luck with your decision.
non-religious and happy with Cornerstone
G_d our Father, G_d our Father, we Thank You for our many blessings and for our food, AMEN.
The older children will hear bible stories - I think all old testament. There might be some craft related to Christmas and Easter.
There are few religious symbols - maybe a picture of Jesus. Maybe a manger at Christmas.
The only time I ever heard my son speak of anything religious is when we went to a Thai restaurant and he pointed at a statue of a sleeping Buddha and said ''BABY JESUS.''
There has been amazing retention at this center. Many of the the teachers have been there as long as I have or longer. They just had someone retire after 16 years. I feel my children are safe there. The playground is a little lame, but there is an inside gym for the rainy days. It is clean, and the facility is well laid out and well maintained.
Some other things: There isn't a lot of drop off and pick up flexibility. Personally, a 3:30 or 4 pm pick up would work better for me. Does not exist. It is either 3 or 5:30.
One other thing to be aware of is the 4-5 year class is a play-based program not a pre-school. I think the activities presented were very creative and intriguing. BUT, with the kindergarten these days, they want the kids coming in knowing their letters and knowing how to cut well with scissors and writing their names. You may or may not get that at Cornerstone. So if you definitely want that pre-school experience, you might have to look elsewhere. anon
any current parents of cornerstone school kids pls tell me if you like their preschool program (is there one?) and any further info about this facility. we just moved to kensington and i'm still looking for school for my 3.5 y/o and 4.5 y/o stinkers. any info greatly appreciated!! (including cost?) thanks! Frannie
Re: Childcare: UC v Cornerstone v Woolly Mammoth
I am a parent of a 3.75 year old boy at Cornerstone. I don't have direct experience with U.C. or Wooly Mammoth but have thoughts about Cornerstone vs. U.C. because as a UC employee I am eligible for both. I originally chose Cornerstone for the flexibility of schedule they offer, which UC does not offer, I believe. I have definitely enjoyed knowing that I can cut back on hours if I need to or add hours. UC needs to be more rigid due to staff commitments. I am so glad that I chose Cornerstone. My child started at 18 months and has thrived throughout. He has great friends, a diverse parent community (not just UC folks), great social skills and he loves to go to school everyday. UC has great programs too but I would consider Cornerstone's as good, if not better. Cornerstone offers much greater flexibility to meet parents needs versus the UC's needs. Also, Cornerstone offers a parking lot for drop off and pickup! You will a good experience at any of these, most likely, but I, and my child, LOVE Cornerstone. Happy Cornerstone Mom
We just started Cornerstone in the Waddlers group. We LOVE it! My daughter was in a previous daycare center in Berkeley that we hated. At Cornerstone, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly. They communicate to me what my daughter does everyday. They have a good schedule for the kids: outside play, walks, nap time ... At the previous daycare, my daughter sat in a high chair or a swing and ate cheerios pretty much the entire time. There was very little interaction between the children and the teachers. At Cornerstone, it is quite different. I always see teachers reading to the kids or interacting with them on some level. We are very happy! I must say, I hate the parking lot, tho. beretranelletti
We have experienced teacher turnover, but they have a large staff, so I think to some degree that is to be expected. They have quite a few longterm teachers, and all the ones we have worked with have been great. Turnover hasn't been traumatic for our son.
What I like about CCC: 1- teachers seem to be treated like humans - they get paid sick leave and vacations, there is support for their training, there are enough backups that someone who is sick can stay home, they have health benefits. 2- the emergency preparedness is very well organized. 3- teachers are very caring, and they are supportive of breastfeeding. 4- they have a gym so kids can actually leave their classroom to play even on rainy days (this has been wonderful!). 5- they are very careful about safety and cleanliness. 6- they accept cloth diapers. 7- the diversity of the staff (and to a lesser extent, the kids) is great.
What I'm less thrilled about: 1- sometimes all the rules seem overly rigid, even though I know there are good reasons for them. 2- the religious education is an important part of the program. 3- I have the sense that for the oldest kids, the class is small and there isn't as much variety as there might be at other preschools (I worry they might get bored). But I only toured the oldest class briefly so this may not be accurate. - Enjoy!
My 14-month old daughter has attended Cornerstone Children's Center at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Berkeley since she was 4-months old. She attends 3 days a week and absolutely loves it. I was originally opposed to sending my daughter to a "center" because I was afraid she wouldn't get enough love and attention (she was an infant who didn't like to lie around but insisted on being carried) - but I quickly found CCC to be a wonderful, loving environment. The caregivers are attentive and warm (and there is not a lot of turnover). The infant area is in the same room (separated by a low gate) as the "waddler" and "toddler" area, which in retrospect was a huge plus - as my daughter got older she loved to watch the older kids and easily transitioned into the waddler program.
I've also found that CCC is flexible - I occasionally need to switch my work days, and although they require that you "buy" an extra day (rather than letting you switch), they've always been able to accommodate me. Although I still miss my daughter on the days I go to work, I am comforted by the fact that I know she is safe and having a LOT of fun at CCC. Their waiting list is long, so I recommend you go for a tour and, if you like it, get on their list soon. Also, I think it's easier to get in if your workdays are flexible. Good luck and feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want more info. Suzanne
As I said, when we started, there were 2 teachers that had been there for over 2 years - who looked terrific. She's now in a class where the same two teachers have been there for at least a year - and the whole time she's been there (since Feb.). IT seems very stable and she seems to like the program a lot - which is saying a lot, since it took her 2 months to get over her very strong separation anxiety. So - I don't know what to say, except maybe to talk with Katie about your feelings - and get her sense of whether things are going to settle down there - or not. I think, in general, Cornerstone does seem to have a very high quality staff - I've been very impressed with their teachers, compared to other schools for the pre-pre school set that I looked at. As I said, we actually chose it on the strength of the staff - so maybe a talk with Katie might calm some of your fears. OR - maybe you do need to look elsewhere, if it doesn't look like your child's particular classroom will get better in the near future. I don't know if any of this is helpful. Janice
Thanks to Maria (and I believe one other parent - I have forgotten your name) for the recommendation for Cornerstone Children's Center at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley - we could not be happier with the quality of care he is getting. The staff is knowledgeable, courteous, warm and conscientious. And best of all - it is only three blocks from campus, so it is a breeze to do pick-up at the end of the day as well as to drop in on my lunch hour if I choose. I highly recommend them. My husband and I are not church members, but they have quite a few children in their programs who are there because their parents are UC students or staff and who have no affiliation with the church. And for people who may be shy of the religious issues, I think that for an infant or toddler program, it would not have a tremendous influence at this point anyway. I agree with Maria that it just seems to translate into warmth and concern for the children.
For interested parents, just call the First Presbyterian Church at 848-6264.
(By the way, this is one of the few places I have ever heard of that takes infants from birth! Now that takes real dedication!)
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