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Hi parents, We are wondering your thoughts on Spanish preschool education versus a play-based program like Montessori. We're trying to raise our daughter bilingually with Spanish, but both parents are native English speakers who are a little rusty, so we need the reinforcement of her daycare/preschool providers to help (our former nanny spoke Spanish, so our 18-month old has a firm foundation in the language). We always thought we'd do a Montessori school, but there are no Spanish Montessoris in Berkeley, where we live and work (so Renaissance is out of the question for us). Both K.I.S.S. and BAHIA seem more academic than play-based (plus, we're way down on the BAHIA waiting list), while Mi Escuelita seems more like a traditional daycare than a Montessori. Any advice from other parents who've prioritized a bilingual experience? Thank you in advance for your thoughts!
Hi! I am looking at EBI for pre-primary for my daughter, and I had a couple of questions in looking at EBI for both pre-primary and possibly elementary if it was a good fit:
1. How does EBI do with kids who have a slow-to-warm up temperment (i.e. do very well when transitioned, but aren't fast to warm up to new situations)? Anyone have a kid like this in EBI's pre-primary? Are any of the EBI pre-primary teachers especially good with these types of kids?
2. Does anyone have a kid in EBI's elementary program who is working above grade level (i.e. is EBI capable of indivualizing/accelerating curriculum for kids who are capable of moving through material quickly or like to look at things in unusual depth)? Does EBI do well with very bright kids?
3. For elementary: Do you feel EBI is good about making sure that the kids are working at at least grade level by state standards in the absence of standardized testing?
Thank you! checking out EBI
1) The teachers have experience with all types of children, including slow-to-warm up kids. We found that the teachers made a point of connecting with each of the kids in my daughter's class from the very first day and regularly updated parents on how the kids were transitioning. At the start of the school year, there is a "meet the teachers" morning when the kids visit the classroom with their parents. Before that morning our daughter had been apprehensive about starting at a new school. During that classroom visit, one of the teachers sat down with her, and they made a butterfly drawing together. That butterfly changed everything for our daughter. She proudly showed it to us and was suddenly happy to give her new school a try. It has been smooth sailing since then. The classroom is well-organized, with a rhythm and routine that my daughter finds to be comfortable, interesting, and fun. We could not be happier with our experience this year.
2) Since my daughter will be in kindergarten next year we have been paying particular attention to the elementary school program. In kinder and above, the teachers work each day with students in small groups, clustered by skill level, on reading, writing, and math. This approach allows students at all levels to be appropriately challenged, including those who are working above grade level.
3) EBI is an International Baccalaureate (IB) authorized World School. The IB program is recognized internationally for its academic strength. EBI's curriculum follows the IB guidelines and is quite thorough in scope and sequence, meeting and surpassing state standards. Happy EBI Mama
What we found with EBI was no less than amazing. The pre-primary teachers (who are bilingual) are experienced, professional, paired well and offer a range of support to the children. When emotional issues require it, the teachers revert to the native language of the child to ensure understanding - though this happened a lot less that we anticipated. Our daughter thrived, picked up Spanish like a sponge, learned social skills and had her developing sense of wonder about the world nourished and supported.
Now in her fourth year at EBI, she is in first grade. I am happy to say that both of her first pre-primary (as well as her second year pre-primary and Kindergarten) teachers are still at EBI, and I canC",E!t say enough about them. Initially we came to EBI for the Spanish immersion, but equally vital to the school and consequently our daughterC",E!s growth is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years program that provides the academic structure for the school. It is inquiry-based, gives attention to the academic, social, and physical well-being of the children while fostering a love of learning. We were told that with second language immersion programs that English reading and acquisition could be slightly behind until 3rd grade or so. This is not the case for our daughter. With the support of a fantastic kindergarten English program (even at 1 hour a day) she was reading well beyond her grade level even at the end of last year. The children are often organized in small groups relative to their levels of acquisition, specifically for reading and mathematics, so their progress is well tracked and they are appropriately challenged.
Although the admissions, curriculum director and head of school are best to answer these types of questions, it is my understanding that state law requires for schools to adhere to state standards for each grade level. Our 4 year experience (2 years in elementary) dictates that EBI classrooms not only meet but likely surpass these. Come to an information session for more specific answers Cb you won't be disappointed. A happy EBI parent
Re: Spanish language preschool recommendations
EBI! (Escuela Bilingue Internacional) It is a WONDERFUL school. Our 2 boys have been there from the age of three (they're in Kindergarten and 2 grade now). They are both fluent and can read & write in Spanish and English. I love everything about the school - the warm and huggy teachers, the thoughful education my boys are receiving, the fabulous head of the school, and the amazing parents & kids who make up the community. It is the best. We could not be happier. Una mama de dos muCJune 2008ecos
Although our daughter has only been there a short while, she is already starting to say some words in Spanish and sing some Spanish songs. We're very happy with our choice, and I would highly recommend EBI to others. Feel free to email me if you want any more information. Peter
I recently toured EBI on Alcatraz as a potential pre-school for our daughter. I love the idea of Spanish Immersion, but the facilities are not as idyllic as many of the local preschools. Also, the parent who lead our tour kept pointing out how all of the children were quiet and ''doing what they were supposed to be doing'' which I am not sure I want for pre-school. I would love input directly related to pre-school at EBI. Was there enough play during the day, was it a warm environment, etc. on the fence
Largely, I've seen a school that was very flexible and smart about figuring out what works with each child and how to solve problems. I often hear teachers commenting about a kid's preferences -- who they play with, which types of games/activities they gravitate toward.
Within a few weeks of starting, my boy THREW DIRT at a teacher. Twice. I was pretty nervous -- I know of pre-schools that put kids on probation for that kind of thing. They are very calm and smart about misbehavior (although, obviously, it's not tolerated).
I really like the size. It's big enough that there's a good selection of kids to make friends with (I've known kids at smaller preschools who didn't have enough kids of their age, gender, interests). Yet, every teacher/administrator knows every kid.
I also like that there's plenty of outside play time. They bring out new things to mix it up a little and when it's wet or cold, they play in the gym. anne
My son has learning differences and is now in 1st grade, and I can't imagine a more supportive, warm environment for him - kids are encouraged to be collaborative, to take risks, to have integrity....and it's actually part of the curriculum from Pre-K up vs just a poster on the wall. Since day one, I have felt like each of our teachers has truly known my son, and truly loved him - there is no doubt in my mind, and the ready hugs and endearments illustrate it.
My 4 year old, btw, has VERY high energy and needs lots of room for it, and totally enjoys her day. If you ask her what she did all day, she tell you played. And played. And played. I can't recommend this school enough - it's an incredible community, and a place where I know my children will feel loved and valued each and every day. A current EBI parent
I am a parent of a first time EBI student (pre-K), and my daughter has flourished at EBI. I wasn't expecting to see such profound changes in her, but I am beginning to see that is has a lot to do with the philosophy of the school, and the Spanish is just a bonus.
I think the thing my daughter is responding to so favorably is the fact that the teachers and administrators respect her. In that I mean that they assume she has smart, interesting, intuitive things to say, and the exercises in the classroom are designed to elicit her thoughts and musings. They negotiate with her and seek her input. And at the end of the day I think kids are ''well behaved'' at EBI, not because they are told what to do, but precisely because they are not told what to do.
Besides the stuff in the classroom, the entire school is supportive and active. I am delighted with the level of participation of parents and others.
I also think there is plenty of play time and free time. My daughter talks frequently of her friends and the time she spends playing with them.
Finally, she is so happy. She sings when she gets home, and she tells us about the things she is learning. She seems genuinely intrigued by what is going on at school.
I recommend EBI whole heartedly. Give it another try. Happy EBI Mom
I wanted to respond to your request for input relating to the pre-school at EBI. I read your post with a chuckle as I am a mother of 2 active boys who attend EBI, (one in Pre-School and the other now in K) neither of whom are quiet, nor are they predisposed to simply sit and 'do what they are supposed to be doing'. However, much to my relief and surprise, they are both capable of it when engaged by a positive and creative learning environment. And this is precisely why EBI is such a good fit for both of them.
We stumbled upon EBI when our oldest (now 5) was ready for pre-school and quickly came to realize what an incredible gift it was for him. The fact that he is now fluent in spanish is a bonus. We cannot imagine being anywhere else. He is a free spirit who was always the first to tire of circle time and ready to move to a new activity. His teachers knew this and simply worked with him. EBI has been a rewarding, nurturing and attentive environment for him. All the teachers are incredibly caring and equally determined to create a learning environment in which each child can flourish. One of the many remarkable characteristics of EBI is it's ability to cater to children with so many different temperaments, cultures and backgrounds.
As to your specific concerns about playtime: Yes there is a large period in the mid-morning when the children are able to play outdoors and explore, build, dig, ride tricycles and scooters, climb, run and garden. This is followed by lunch and then a rest/nap period. And while inside they are free to move between a wide variety of activities in different parts of the classroom.
I agree, as a visual person, that EBI's current campus at the old St Augustine's School does have it's challenges. But the dedicated parent and teacher group continues to make vast improvements and this is definitely a book and its cover scenario here. What the school's built environment may lack in aesthetics, its human experience more than compensates for with fun, openness, encouragement, warmth, creativity and support. I have come to know that how children are cared for in an environment is far more important to them than how it looks. My boys continue to remind me that laughter and play can happen anywhere regardless of the concrete to grass ratio.
Parent to parent, you cannot beat the parent community at this school!! The parents have become a such an important part of our lives and are an incredibly welcoming and caring group.
Clearly, I am an advocate for the International Baccalaureate program, EBI, its remarkable staff and school board, so that probably qualifies me as biased, or perhaps a more charitable way of putting it is that I am extremely confident in my choice of school. But, on a fundamental level, this is an incredible place for my two boys who are thriving and speaking spanish. (we speak only english at home - I have to get my game on and catch up) If they weren't having their needs met, they'd be somewhere else.
I do understand what it's like to be at that place where you are trying to determine where your child's pre-school experience will begin - wading through the options can be overwhelming when you are making such an important decision. I would be happy to contain my enthusiasm for EBI and talk with you about any of your concerns or answer any questions you have about how small fries spend their time during the school day at EBI.
Good luck with your preschool search for your little girl, I hope to meet you at the Pre-K coffee hour soon!! mom of 2 risk-taking inquirers at EBI
''Is it too rigid'' is part of your question. Learning at EBI at this age happens in many forms - some of it through play, music, and dance. Scheduled recess times (outside or in the gym for weather reasons) are incorporated into the daily schedule. Keep in mind though EBI is not a daycare -- the kids are really learning and they are learning amazing things. Many preschools do not have the same learning objectives that EBI does. EBI is preparing children to be life-long learners from an early age but certainly play, art, music, dance are intermixed and supportive of the learning objectives. The teachers are there to teach and so you witnessed a component of a class where children were either listening or following instructions to work on a project. This is a commendable example of how students want to learn and can focus at this age and how EBI teachers bring this out in the kids. Still, teachers customize content and lessons to each child's learning needs and differences as needed.
You also asked about ''warmth'' of teachers. I cannot say enough about the amazing teachers and staff. My husband and I both work full time and my son is at EBI for approx 10 hours most days. I know he receives love, hugs, close attention, interest, and warm care far superior to what I could imagine in any other school.
You also mentioned facilities. The EBI building may not be shiny and new but it is well maintained and updated. A huge plus from other preschools we visited early on is the large space for each classrooms. The EBI space is enormous really and children have access to space beyond their individual class for certain activities, including the library, the gym, a large cafeteria, and of course the playground.
I hope this helps you reconsider your opinion. I'd encourage you to come to an Open House and speak to more parents. Stacy
As for "quietly doing what they are told", I am very surprised your guide's comment, as EBI promotes questions, dialogue, and active - not passive - participation in all students. The warm, superb community of staff and families additionally gives students the safety and support to be fearless, motivated learners.
What do my children have to say? They love their school, their classmates, their teachers, and LOOK FORWARD to going to EBI every day (no kidding). Our 3.5 year-old doesn't even wave goodbye to me when she arrives in the morning. Sigh.
I invite you to please come again and take another tour, as I think you may see EBI differently. Anita
Re: Spanish or bilingual co-op preschool in Berkeley
Our daughter attended EBI in Oakland for preschool. We loved it so much, we enrolled her in Kindergarten. We were very impressed with the teachers; they are warm, creative and dedicated. And the new head of school is fantastic! He inately understands the needs of the kids, parents and staff and does a beautiful job balancing them while ensuring the school is delivering an excellent education in a loving environment. The community of parents is truly wonderful. Committed and energetic, we continue to make friends who will be friends for life. Our daughter is thriving, excited to go to school and is speaking (and reading) Spanish already. Thrilled with EBI
Our son will be 3 in October and is scheduled to start in Ms. Hyer's class at Grand Lake Montessori. We heard today that Escula Bilingue Internacional has a space for him. Please share your experiences and thoughts, especially: -how the schools ''feel'' -importance of ratio - EBI has a 1:6 ratio; GLM has a 1:9 ratio -sophistication and experience of teachers -how discipline is handled -concerns about EBI being new -concerns about ''communication'' at GLM. To the extent it depends on the kid: Our son has already had two big transitions this year (starting school last September and a new sister four months ago), so we don't want to move him again once we make this decision. We already know that he does well in a Montessori setting, but we had really wanted an immersion program (he has no Spanish at home, previously understood a fair amount of Spanish, but doesn't seem to understand much now). He is quick to warm up to teachers but is just beginning to engage with other children. His primary passion is music, and he is very focused when he gets involved in a task. He has very strong verbal skills but it takes attentive listening to understand as he doesn't do certain consonants. He is working on learning to express his feelings and to manage conflict (he tends to let others take things from him, is shy to ask to participate, etc). He is pretty easy going, easily redirected, and an infrequent tantrum thrower.
For me, the student to teacher ratios were crucial, because at that age they still need lots of help. He was not potty trained at all, even though we had tried, and was not reliable about eating lunch without encouragement, could not put on a jacket or shoes, or take them off, etc. But our teacher, Angela, is a very warm person and mom to two young boys and incredibly understanding. He has thrived in her classroom and has grown so much over this year. And yes, there are boys in his classroom with similar temperament to your son. My son is the one doing the grabbing and taking of toys, unfortunately- it seems like a kid is either a grabber or a yielder, and both types of kids have lessons to learn in a school setting. I have been pleased with the type of modeling, redirection and playacting that the teachers have used this year to deal with pushing, namecalling, new baby siblings, etc.
We also don't speak Spanish at home, and he was very hesitant at first to speak any Spanish to us. But in just the last month, his understanding and verbalization have gone through the roof, and what has helped him most of all is music. The music teacher, Jackie, sings with them accompanied by her guitar and other instruments. He is constantly singing Spanish songs about spiders, ducks, the sun, the seasons, and it is so awesome! He tries to explain now (he is translating, actually) to us what the song means. And he hears our accent when we speak a Spanish word and will say ''No mom, maracas'' with the Spanish rrr sound that comes out of his mouth like a native speaker.
Of course there are issues with any school, but any concern I have had this year has been promptly and respectfully addressed. i don't regret our decision for a minute and am glad that we took the risk as we have met so many other wonderful parents and kids who are excited to be part of this new school.
But, you guys know your son the best, and will have to go with your gut feeling after taking all of the pros and cons of each school into consideration. I am happy to answer more of your questions if you e-mail me. lou
Does anyone have feedback on Berta Ortega-Plate, she is the
newly hired preschool director at Escuela Bilingue Internacional. Berta is currently a master teacher at the
Harold Jones Child Study Center at UC
Berkeley. We are strongly considering EBI and know that the
director will make a huge impact on the school's direction, so
feedback is much appreciated.
Pre-School Decision Time
She is gentle, kind, insightful and kids really like her. She really pays attention to the kids' emotional, intellectual, social and physical development and has good advice for parents who are concerned about some aspect of their child's progress.
She plans really great activities for the kids. She really knows the field of child development. She knows the curriculum and creates all kinds of opportunities for kids to learn and grow.
I think EBI is really lucky to get her
A Berta Fan.
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