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Re: Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?
I'm not sure if there are still spaces, but I think our preschool fits your bill.
Heart's Leap North, housed in but not affliated with All Souls Episcopal on Cedar between Oxford and Spruce, offers 4 and 5 day programs from 8:30am to your choice of pick-up times - 12:30 (younger kids only), 2:30, 4 or 5:30. Tuition varies by pick-up time, but seems comparable to or less than other schools in the area. The school uses Reggio-Emilia/Emergent curricula, meaning the students are offered lots of choice, and the teachers bring new materials into the classroom on an ongoing basis, in accordance with the students changing interests. The days are fairly structured in terms of a dependable routine, but within that routine, there's lots of room for play. The school has 2 classrooms - one for 2s and early 3s, and one for late 3s and 4s. Some of the kids in the older room will be turning five in the fall, and other kids that were in the older class last year but aren't ready for K will be transferring to the Heart's Leap South campus, where there is a wonderful Bridge-K program.
The teachers are phenomenal - really engaged and interested in the children, really creative and committed to creating a good environment for the kids. The school offers movement classes (last year there was dance, yoga, and gymnastics), and will be offering music next year. There's also often some instruction in Spanish and ASL. The teachers also lead small group activities based on current interests, like a Super Hero Group that culminated in making costumes (including capes) and filming a Super Hero Movie starring all the kids.
The children are very friendly and loving towards each other - it's really emphasized by the teachers, and I've noticed my son's friends tend to have better social skills that some kiddos I know at other schools.
All in all, we've been very happy there. Check it out! While the school is not in regular session right now, there is a ''Summer Camp'' going on that you can visit.
Good luck! Happy to be starting our 3rd year at HLN
For families navigating the world of Berkeley preschools, I'd like to recommend Hearts Leap North, the 2-year-old sister campus to the Hearts Leap School at Julia Morgan Center. Our oldest son is starting his third year at Hearts Leap, and our youngest will start in the 2-year-old class in this fall. The teachers are warm, loving and very tuned in to the kids, and the Reggio-inspired ''emergent'' curriculum has really allowed our son's imagination and curiosity about the world to thrive there. Hearts Leap's approach emphasizes imaginative play, community and respect for each other. Communication with the teachers and director is open and welcoming, and the community of parents and kids there has been amazing for our son and our whole family. The rooms are warm and inviting, and the outdoor space is great with lots of green, including a garden the kids help plant and nurture. We couldn't be happier to be part of the Hearts Leap family. JW
My son is finishing his second year at Hearts Leap North (HLN). We have been extremely happy with our experience at the school. It is a relatively new school, but I find it to be very well run and organized, with an incredible teaching staff. We have gotten to know all of the teachers (in both classrooms) and they are all top notch--very warm, loving and supportive, with their own unique personality and style. The school uses an emergent curriculum approach to learning--which follows the childrens' interests and passions, while providing some structure. This year in the 3-4 year old class (Sequoia room), the teachers have developed a number of ''interest-based'' groups for smaller groups of children to explore subjects like pretend-play, cooking, writing, science, sports, superheroes, messy/tactical play, etc. In addition, the school currently has weekly gymnastics, dance, and yoga classes (though I understand that exact lineup may change next year). The children who attend the school come from diverse backgrounds and families, and there is a wide range of personalities, energy-levels and temperament amongst the children, all of whom seem to thrive at HLN. The classrooms and outside space at HLN are fantastic and provide a very rich and stimulating learning environment for children. The teachers and the director also do a great job of communicating with parents about things that are going on in the class--there are daily summaries posted on the bulletin board outside the classroom, periodic e- mail bulletins with additional summaries and background regarding certain activities or events, and parent-teacher conferences twice a year (with additional follow up if necessary). School-provided snacks are healthy and often organic. There is a weekly pizza day on Fridays for lunch (participation is voluntary), which the school uses for fundraising purposes as well as to give parents a break from providing lunch everyday. Overall, we have been incredibly pleased with the approach, curriculum, and day- to-day management of the school. My son has grown tremendously in this environment and he looks forward to coming to school everyday.
And if that weren't enough, Hearts Leap North also fosters a strong community amongst the children and their families outside of school. The school regularly hosts parent breakfasts (generally coinciding with holidays and other special occasions like Mother's Day and Father's Day) and there are frequent birthday parties on weekends and other outside playdates/gatherings that allow families to socialize outside of school. Families also are very generous and supportive with each other--helping out with babysitting, carpooling, and/or meals when there are childcare gaps, illnesses and family additions. We moved to Berkeley (from San Francisco) shortly before starting at Hearts Leap North, and we have felt right at home in large part due to the many friends we have made through Hearts Leap North. We are very happy to be part of this wonderful community and feel fortunate to have found such a great school for our son. Happy HLN Parent
Are there any parents out there willing to share (recent) experiences Re. either of the Hearts Leap campuses or the preschool/nursery in Alameda? I have heard from one or two parents about ICRI but their kids moved on long ago. We're looking for 2009 or '10 comments. Thank you--anonymous-- preschooler-to-be parents
First, this is not a good school for active boys (or girls, for that matter). They have long meetings in the mornings in which the kids have to sit still for long periods. Much of the play is based on quiet, controlled experiences or curriculum that tends to serve (stereotypically) girls - drama, cooking, etc. All great in and of themselves, but not very friendly/open to what many preschool boys are interested in - superheros, etc. Rather than dealing realistically with the often boy interest in ''violence'' or gun play, it is shunned rather than redirected/discussed.
They are very rigid in their rules, times for parents to drop-off, etc. to the point that if your child is ''late'', they have to sit outside the classroom until the morning meeting is over. Parents can't come into the classroom to pick up their kids. They also have quirky rules around the types of shoes kids can wear. While I fully support boundaries and routines for kids, it is to the point that my free loving, tree climbing toddler became attached and obsessed with rules. Very sad.
The teaching is extremely inconsistent. At our school, two years ago, there was a fabulous director and lead teacher who left, so this past year there was a huge vacuum of experience. The director was not involved or communicative with parents. On many occasions I witnessed one teacher in particular not engaging with my daughter and other children in the classroom. This teacher would also not even say "hello" to us or other parents. Another teacher was very nice but did not have experience teaching when hired. However, an exception is the lead teacher who has been often absent this spring to help ICRI open yet another preschool (franchise). Unfortunately, I have often observed the substitute teacher that usually comes to replace this effective lead teacher, speak harshly to my and other children. She has yelled at my child repeatedly.
We have had experience with a wide range of preschools here and in another state. This is by far a very disappointing experience. Overall communication with what's happening in the classroom was quite good although staff provided poor communication to us about our child's developmental issues. Teacher/parent conferences this past year or attempts to talk to the teacher assigned to my child have been met with one word answers.
The upsides? They offer dance, gymnastics and yoga classes (the yoga teacher is particularly spectacular and wonderful). The art curriculum is overall good. My sense is that the main HL campus on College Ave. might be better and is certainly in high demand, but it pays to find out who the teachers are. anon
The "friends" have learned a wonderful capacity for valuing each other, using friendly words to express their feelings and conflict is resolved in a non-punitive and respectful manner that still makes the point of a lesson learned from the interaction. Their snacks are organic, the space is wonderful and fun, and the play yard is just the right size that the teachers can have a watchful eye on everyone. Friends are taught to make choices, take responsibility, plan their time and (*gasp*) even clean up after themselves.
We have always felt very connected to the teachers and the community of families that has formed around our kids and many deep friendships have been formed through this connection. When my child became very ill, it was this community that became our core support; parents and teachers that we had known for barely a year came together for us in a way I will be forever grateful for, and taught my child and the other friends an amazing lesson in what it truly means to be part of a caring community. This has been true for any child or family that has needed community support.
This is starting to sound like a commercial, but I cannot say enough wonderful things about ICRI and Hearts Leap. It has been a joy to see my child grow and thrive in their care. Happy Mama
Re: Cozy, fun preschool for 2-year-old
We've been very happy with Heart's Leap North, on Cedar Street between Oxford and Spruce, in Berkeley. Our son, now 3.5, started when this new campus opened in Fall 2008. The school is cozy - only two classrooms, each with 18-22 students, depending on the ages, with 3 teachers in each room. The days are very playful, fun, and exciting. The teachers are wonderful professionals, very warm, and highly skilled in encouraging the children's interests and teaching important social skills, like how to enter into play with others, and how to speak kindly to each other. The children and teachers all refer to each other as ''friends'', and it really is true. Our shy son has made wonderful friends there. The school is open 8:30am-5:30pm, but there are a variety of options for pick-up times (12:30 for 2-year-olds only, 2:30pm, 4pm, or 5:30pm), an option for 2 emergency early drop-offs a month at an additional charge, and 4 days a week is also an option. The school provides healthy snacks, and parents provide lunches. Naptime is well managed - my son who refuses naps at home still naps at school almost every day. If you have other questions, feel free to contact me. There are just a couple of spots left, in the younger classroom. Good luck with your search. daria
We are interested in placing our will be two year old into the Heart's Leap North preschool program. Does anyone have any thoughts/reviews of the school under the new director's management? -Anon
After about 3 weeks of school we received a call asking us to pick him up right away because he was acting out. We talked briefly with his teacher as it was nap time and made an appointment with the teacher and the director for the next evening. The next day we received another call to pick him up within an hour after dropping him off. At the meeting that evening we were told not to bring him back to school, that he was not "developmentally ready" for HL. They would not work with us on trying to find a solution and correct the bad behavior. They just plain gave up on a 2 year old kid who was having a hard time adjusting to school and was acting up. We had no notice before that anything was amiss and had gotten positive feedback.
3 weeks later, our son started in a different preschool with a similar teacher/student ratio, and daily schedule and activities. He's been doing great since and loves school. I can't help wonder why HL couldn't deal with him while his new school has no problems. Anonymous
Does anyone have input on the new Heart's Leap North preschool? Teachers, classrooms, community etc. etc. Any feedback very much appreciated! Anon
I'd love to hear from parents who know about Hearts Leap Preschool's new branch, Hearts Leap North in North Berkeley. How's the space? Are the teachers experienced? Appreciate any info. sally
Advantages: -Emergent Curriculum -Enrichment classes - yoga, movement and hopefully soon music -Focus on outdoors (but see disadvantage) -Social skills - conflict resolution is based on non-violent communication Disadvantages: -strict about when you can pick up and not pickup - because it is a large classroom, you can't show up at any time to pick up your kid or go into ''their'' space -outdoor space - they're trying to improve it but not enough dirt... -expensive - not ideal for part-time. even for full-time, on the high end.This year, teaching quality is high but check to see who will be teaching next year. Good luck. The preschool search is no fun! preschool'ed out mama
The previous poster had questioned whether the staff will be continuing next year - while I do not know about the older room (4 year olds next fall), the younger room will have all the same, great teachers. I also don't know how many spaces there will be - the 4-year-old room will only have space if families leave, and the 3-year-old room will have only 5 spaces for next fall (plus any attrition). All in all, we've been very happy. Good luck in your search! Leaping Heart
Greetings! I am wondering if any of you Hearts Leap parents could give me insight into how you like the Julia Morgan campus. We are hoping to send our 3 year old there next fall (if we get a spot) but I'd love to know more about your experience. Our impression is that it is lovely and warm and gives the children a nice amount of structure without being too overbearing. Is it too structured? We are trying to decide between this school and a more play-based school and wanted to get some thoughts from parents with kids there. Thanks so much. preschool mommy
I would love to hear from parents who have some recent experiences with Hearts Leap (on College), Little Elephant Preschool or the Model School. My husband and I are considering those schools for our little girl starting at age 2.5. Because we are considering starting her so young, I would love to hear from parents whose child began in the twos program as well as parents whose child started later. What were your experiences with the schools? Anything negative that I should keep in mind? Our daughter is kind, sweet and a bit sensitive to chaotic situations and can get overwhelmed by lots of noise or active boys running around. We are looking for a place where the teachers provide lots of love for the kids and also help foster their independence. We'd like conflicts to be resolved without scolding, lecturing, blaming, or shaming. Thank you in advance for your responses. Nervous Mom
Our daughter has been in the school since she was two and a half and she loved the two year old room so much that she often asked to stay longer. The school generously allowed one teacher, Victoria, to advance each year with our daughter's class and so she will have had one teacher the entire time she was at the school.
We will be leaving the school when my daughter goes to kindergarten in the fall and we will be very sad to leave the excellent staff and awesome families. The sense of community at Heart's Leap is incredible. Rebecca
I see recent comments Re HLNorth, plus some older ones Re original (South) Bridge-K program from 3 years ago but am wanting to find out about the regular 2-4 yr-old rooms and the outside play area. We went on tour@ HLS, found out the staff had seen some recent major turnover; we learned abt Emergent Curriculum, saw kids having fun. But we are most interested in finding out from others whether it's proved to be a good fit for really active boys--we have two, a 2 yr-old and an almost 4 yr-old and are getting ready to go up the next step, from family daycare to (expensive) pre- school placements. So we're currently @the research stage and would greatly appreciate any helpful comments Re. HLS. --future preschoolers' parents
Our son is in the 2-3 year old room at Hearts Leap Julia Morgan campus. We have only positive feedback. His teachers are fantastic- smart, nurturing and seem to understand and embrace each child's individuality. They emphasize emotional growth and work closely with the class on communication and age-appropriate conflict resolution. There is some structure to the day however within that structure the kids are pretty much able to follow their bliss. Activities offered are varied on a day-to-day basis and there is enough variety to appeal to the more ''physical'' and/or ''bookish'' child. And I've really enjoyed our parent community. Feel free to contact me for further questions. sue
Our son has been at Hearts Leap School for 18 months now. We are really happy with the devoted staff at the school and the progress he has made. They really try hard to work with the child on mastering a challenging skill. They have three teachers assigned to a class which seems to work really well. I think the program gives children a solid foundation to transition to kindergarten.Our son loves going to school everyday. I would highly recommend it! Apparently they are opening Hearts Leap North this September in North Berkeley. The school can be reached at 510 549 1422. Happy Parents
We are looking at preschools for my 2 year old daughter. I would love any feedback about Heart's Leap School. Thanks! lg
I have heard nothing but great things about these preschool programs (Gay Austin vs Ducks Nest (Brkly) vs Hearts Leap) and am not sure how to go about comparing them. Is anyone familiar enough with these three programs to be able to identify their relative strengths/weaknesses? I am looking for a program for a two year old. Thank you.
Any current parents of Heart's Leap kids out there, who want to tell us what you think about the place? Most of the extant reviews are from before the change in ownership. Contact me directly if you want. Thanks-- Heidi
We are considering an extra year of preschool for our 4 1/2 yr. old son. He has speech and fine motor delays w/ senory related issues. We are considering the bridge K program at Hearts Leap. The reviews on the network are mostly older and we were wondering if anyone could chime in on their current experience with the porgram. We did have a brief 'tour'. But the school does not allow parents to observe at any other time. We are wondering about the curiculum. quality of the teaching, small classroom - really anything you'd like to share would be helpful. Melissa
My son attended the Bridge K program (Oak Room) at Hearts Leap School last year and we fell in love with the school. The teachers are warm and attentive; the community is strong, supportive, and welcoming; and the administrator (Ellie) is responsive, organized, and diligent. The school is really out-of-the-way for us since live in Upper Rockridge. After visiting other schools, however, I couldn't imagine sending my younger one anywhere else. Since she started in September, my daughter's language skills have exploded, her social skills have grown significantly, and her love of music, dance and yoga (yes, yoga!), have been nurtured. I feel very lucky to be part of the Hearts Leap Community. Happy Parent
I asked for feedback on Heart's Leap's Bridge K program a couple months ago, and didn't hear back from anyone currently in it or with a recently graduated child. I'd love some updated comments from what's archived on BPN. Any thoughts on pluses and minuses for a late-fall-birthday boy would be great. My understanding is that the management of the school was recently taken over by ICRI. How has that changed things for the good or better? Thanks for any thoughts and info you have . . . Holly
Does anyone have recent feedback on the Heart's Leap Bridge K program? My son currently attends another preschool, which we love, but if I decide to wait a year on kindergarten (he has a late September birthday), I'd like to find a new environment for him for that ''extra'' year. If you have specific feedback about teachers, play space, and classroom activities, I'd love to hear it. My son is quite bright but is somewhat shy and slow to warm to new situations, so if you can comment on teachers' ability to handle this kind of kid, that would be great too. Plus, what is the current tuition like and how much does it tend to go up each year? Thanks very much for sharing! Holly
Does anyone have experience with a fairly new program at Heart's Leap for kids that just miss the age cut off for public school kindergarten? I think they call it their transition program or developmental kindergarten program. Thank you! Parent
Frankly, the program has not been all I had hoped. One of the things I'm least happy about is the physical facility. The classroom is small, and far from the play-yard. And the play-yard itself is very small for an active bunch of 5 yr olds... no room to play ball or run. I knew this in advance, but decided to ignore it. I think it is a problem for my son.
I'm somewhat disappointed with the classroom teachers. My son and a friend of his have been having some interpersonal problems with another child, and the communication between the classroom teachers and the parents has been too little, too late, and somewhat critical of us. I can go into more detail off the list.
Nevertheless, I still think it was a good decision to wait a year for kindergarten. The school offers a good selection of enrichment programs, like movement, Spanish, and frequent field trips. I consider these a necessity, given the meager facility of the school. Lynn
We are contemplating sending our very active 3 year old son to Hearts Leap Preschool. We are concerned that the outdoor area might be too small and juvenile for our child who loves large slides and climbing structures. We liked the teachers, the student teacher ratio and the indoor space. I am also concerned that the program might be too unstructured for him. He would be in after school program until 5:30 on most days and we don't know if only a few kids stay. The last posting was in the fall 2002. Does anyone have recent experience who could answer my questions? Thanks
You mentioned that you're concerned about the lack of structure but that's not something I've felt about the program and I always tend to lean towards more structure. The classes have a pretty clear schedule of activities (reading, circle time, outdoor play, creative play indoors, snack time, nap time, etc.) When you look at the whole schedule for the entire day it ends up being quite a lot. The afternoon program doesn't have as many set activities because it just gets really exhausting for the kids who are there all day long. I know my kids are pretty tired by the end of the day. Feel free to send me an email if you have any more questions. Cameron
I must recommend(highly) Chris and Carlotta at Hearts Leap school (2638 College and Derby in the Julia Morgan Center). They made my son feel very special, loved and cared for everyday with lots of hugs, a calm voice and caring hands. Call Eli the director for openings at 549-1422. Maya
Re: Preschools that use the Reggio Emilia approach
You might want to talk to Ellie (director) or Jackie (teacher) at Hearts Leap Preschool on College in Berkeley. They are not fully Reggio Emilia, but they incorporate a lot of the Reggio Emilia practices into their program. Jackie has lots of great ideas and is very excited about the Reggio program. Sara
I would like any feedback about Heart's Leap preschool in the Julia Morgan theater building, especially people who currently have kids there. I know the school just went through a big transition and I'd like to hear an inside report on how things are going. I'm thinking of putting my 2-year-old there starting in September (he'll be 2y9mos). He'd be in the 3-year-old room with Chris. I want to find a school where he can stay till kindergarten, so I'm interested in the classes for older kids too. THANKS. Looking Before Leaping
We are considering Giggles (Oakland) and Heart's Leap (Berkeley) preschools for our child. There is some information listed in the archives, but Heart's Leap recently changed ownership and I only found one comment on Giggles. Any recent experiences that you can share, either positive or negative, regarding either school would be greatly appreciated. Anonymous replies okay. Laurie I can heartily and happily recommend Hearts Leap presechool. My 3 yr old son is there and I've seen him learn and blossom wonderfully. There have been a lot of changes there this year - new ownership, some staff turnover (only in his class), but the head teacher in his class has provided real stability for the kids as well as a stimulating, play-based, gently-structured environment. The building is beautiful - the 3 upstairs classrooms have high high ceilings and wood floors, the yard is good (if a little shady)- and the new folks running the school (International Childrens Resource Institute: icri.org) are great. I'm happy to share more specifics if you want to email me. Jill
To the parent seeking a preschool for her 2-yr.-old next fall: check out Hearts Leap School, in the Julia Morgan Center on College Avenue in Berkeley. They have a "2's" class for kids who are 2 by Sept. 1 (actually, this year, there are two 2's classes--one for older 2's and one for younger 2's). Potty training is not a requirement. Pam 2001
Admittedly, the school appears to be a bit organizationally challenged ... but amidst the flurry of paperwork and at times less-then-ideal planning is a warm, receptive, stimulating, and loving environment. My son LOVES going to school and comes home every day singing a new song, telling favorite passages or phrases from a new book, excited about in-class projects, eager to see his friends, etc, etc. The teachers are extremely attentive, and give me lots of feedback /anecdotes about my son's time spent there. Overall, I'd say we're really very happy with the school, and also with the other families we've met. Sooz
Though I say this with some hesitation, I could not recommend Heartsleap. I think there are several problems there. The director has many good ideas, but I don't think they are that well carried out. There is a lot of disorganization. The building is not ideally set up--entry and exit through the one cluttered and narrow hallway always made me nervous about how they would evacuate in any emergency.
But most telling, many of the warmest and most imaginative teachers have recently left. I want my kids to be cuddled and played with. The teachers I saw in action were responsible and competent but not particularly warm. Of course, the children and families I encountered there were very nice. Perhaps others will want to share a different perspective. Anon
On Hearts Leap . . . I have two sons, ages 4 (almost) and 6. My six year
old went to Hearts Leap for two and one half years and my 4 year old is
his second year there. Hearts Leap offers an incredible program for
preschoolers as well as pre-kindergartners and the community of families
there is icing on the cake! The enrichment programs are wonderful, and
the emerging curriculum produces a dynamic learning environment that the
kids really get into, ponder and explore. I think my older son's experience
was better than my younger son's -- a combination of a number of things,
teachers, class size, his temperment, etc. I believe Lois Cotrell is
teaching kindergarten next year. If so, you are in luck--she is fantastic.
If you want more information, send me your phone number and I will call
My daughter went to Hearts Leap for two years, when she was between 3 and 5 (the two years before she started kindergarten). She is now eight so it's been several years since she went to Hearts Leap.
She started preschool at Ducks Nest down on 4th St. because Hearts Leap was full the first year we applied. But her second year of preschool, we were offered a place at Hearts Leap and gladly took it.
I thought the program at Hearts Leap was absolutely wonderful. I feel that the director, Judy Jones, really knows her stuff when it comes to children. She hires excellent staff and creates wonderful physical environments for the children. My daughter started at the Talbot St. site, which was a house. It was wonderful, and though we were disappointed by the move to the Julia Morgan Center, it turned out that Judy was so creative in using the space there (at the JMC), that she turned large rooms with high ceilings into lots of cozy little child-sized areas.
Last year I saw one of the teachers, Linda, who was there the year my daughter was 3. She was one of my favorite teachers (I think she's in the 2's room now). Kathryn, my daughter, just loved her, and seeing Linda brought back all of those warm feelings that I had for her and for Hearts Leap.
The one sort of down side of the school was that the business end of the school was not Judy's strong point. Parents who were looking at the school were often frustrated because she didn't return their phone calls in a timely matter, and for awhile she had no office help. I don't know whether she has improved her operation on that score.
I am to this day, still impressed by Judy's "vision" for the school. Though vision is an overused word these days, I have come to realize the value of the director having a "vision" for his/her school and being able to implement it. Judy has that vision and at least when we were there implemented it though the curriculum, physical space, and staff that she hired.
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