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Keystone Montessori (El Cerrito, CA)
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Our 18-month-old is starting at Keystone soon, and we're optimistic and excited as it seems like an awesome place. Two ''anxious mama needing some reassurance'' questions: 1) Has anyone seen any asthma or breathing problems in their kids related to the fact that the outdoor play areas are adjacent to somewhat busy streets? 2) Do you feel that the school communicates well with parents about negative incidents, or brushes things under the rug? Many thanks
I can't speak highly enough of Keystone. My son has attended this wonderful school since he was 20 months. They are extremely caring and kind, and we are always incredibly impressed with the quality of instruction. Our son has been reading and doing basic math for a while now, and he never felt pushed to learn. They use concrete strategies that make the learning fun. We plan to send our daughter there soon. Hannah
If you are looking for a preschool in the El Cerrito area I highly recommend Keystone Montessori School! I am an early childhood educator and speech-language pathologist, director of Word Works in Oakland. I have worked with children at many different schools throughout the East Bay and was thrilled to find Keystone for my son who is 27 months old. He made a quick transition to full days at school, including nap time! The teachers at Keystone are experienced, loving, and attentive to every child's needs. Activities are exciting and keep the children's attention for long periods as they become engrossed in learning and engaging with peers. My son is so excited to go to school every day and loves his friends and teachers. The Montessori environment allows for independence, exploration, respect for the environment and for others. Keystone has classrooms full of enriching work activities to build fine motor skills, develop a love of art and music, and many math and pre-reading learning tasks. The outside space is great as well with large climbing structure, bikes, swings, sandboxes, etc. The children have plenty of outside time as well. They feel safe and loved and are so happy! We are thrilled to be a family at Keystone. I encourage you to go visit! Feel free to email me if you have questions. Tamara
I felt a little bit nervous when my 4.5 year old daughter
started keystone because she was a shy girl and she didn't
know much English. During the initial period, my daughter
was always around teachers and didn't dare to play with
other kids. Teachers were very patient with her and let her
progress at her own pace. After a few week, I was amazed to
find out that my daughter started making friends. Her
friends list started from one, two to ten. I am so happy
that my daughter can make progress in social because I know
it is a big challenge for her. She is still a shy girl now
but it doesn't prevent her from enjoying the social life.
When her dad picks her from keystone, she doesn't want to
leave and stays until the last minute. Sometime we pass by
keystone in weekend, she would point to the house and say ''
That is Keystone. I love Keystone''. I feel so lucky to have
found a right place for my daughter and would like recommend
Keystone to anyone who is looking for schools.
As we are preparing to leave Keystone Montessori in El
Cerrito, I wanted to put the highest recommendation out
there for the place. Our 4-year old daughter was first in
Dawn's sandpiper class (love her, as well as Juana), and
then in Joe's blue Heron class, and now in Jackie's Snowy
Egrets. I wasn't initially even looking for a montessori
school, but our daughter has thrived there, and i am
amazed at how much she has learned every day. She has been
taken care of intellectually, socially, emotionally,
culturally and environmentally. I would wholeheartedly
recommend this school.
Great Experience at Keystone Montessori: Our daughter spent her last year of preschool at Keystone Montessori. She had been attending a much smaller preschool but since she is a bit shy, we decided a larger school with more same age peers would help better prepare her for Kindergarten. Keystone surpassed our expectations. The teachers are nurturing and warm and gave our daughter a great deal of special attention particularly during the first several months. Even though it is a large preschool, all of the teachers greeted our daughter every day and after a few months, our daughter knew all of the teachers in the school. I am a special education teacher and I am impressed with how the children's individual needs are met. The school is a wonderful blend of Montessori philosophy and curriculum with the underlying principles of special education -allowing each child to progress and grow at his or her own pace while providing activities that are age appropriate, fun and challenging. I can't say enough good things about my daughter's year at Keystone. Our only regret is that she did not start earlier. Here are the main reasons why we love Keystone Montessori:
-Clean, well organized, spacious classrooms -A well-rounded preschool curriculum that is effective, creative and prepares the children for Kindergarten -Experienced lead teachers who are professional, warm and friendly -Well trained staff who enjoy working with children -Management that is very responsive to individual family's needs and situationsHere is the contact info: Keystone Montessori School 6639 Blake Street El Cerrito, CA 94530 Office: 510-236-7479 www.keystonemontessori.org
Re: Summer preschool for entering kindergartener
I suggest that you check out Keystone Montessori. We have been an active family in the school for the last 5 years. They are a preschool but are doing something unique and fun over the summer called Camp Keystone. While still using the Montessori method and maintaining the structure that has made them a fantastic preschool, they have planned weekly themes to keep the kids engaged and excited. Each week will include hands on activities, field trips and an opportunity to learn interesting things about a particular topic. Keystone also will continue its tradition of walking the kids to swim lessons at El Cerrito Pool and to the library for stories and to check out books each week throughout the summer. My older son, now a 1st grader, has fond memories of these outings and my younger son, a very happy 4.5 year old in the Snowy Egrets classroom, asks daily whether camp starts tomorrow and when he'll get to start walking to swim class and the library. Check out their website: www.keystonemontessori.org and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. Good luck! Kelly
Re: Preschools in Albany area that potty train students
I have been very happy with the preschool my older son is an alumni of and where my younger is currently a student, Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito. The teachers there are amazingly engaged and patient and were integral in supporting the potty training of my boys. They have a fantastic combination of routine and flexibility to help kids learn the good times to go potty but also allowing to them to go as needed. My boys have had fantastic overall experiences there and have grown academically, emotionally and socially. The amount of independence given to the children results in a level of confidence that shows itself in all aspects of their day and certainly is key to successful potty training. I would highly recommend contacting the school and touring it to see if they are a good fit. Their website is: www.keystonemontessori.org and their phone number is: (510) 236-7479. Also feel free to contact me with any specific questions. Between my two boys, we have been a happy Keystone family for the past 5 years. Kelly
Re: Program for 4 yr-old not quite ready for K?
I think my son's preschool, Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito, would be a great fit for your daughter. We have decided to send my son to private school and he misses their birthdate cutoff by just a few weeks. On top of that, we think he would benefit from being more socially mature so we are keeping him at his preschool for another year. The beauty of a Montessori classroom is that it is designed to be mixed age but the school has also developed some unique materials and activities specifically for the group of kindergarten age kids whose parents choose for them to stay there either for kindergarten or as a bridge- K. This group gets special lessons and work that is fun yet challenging. There is great friendships built based on the amount of work the children do together and this group of older kids really blossom as they are looked towards by the younger ones in the classroom as role models and leaders. You can check out their website at: www.keystonemontessori.org. Best of luck with your search. Happy Keystone Parent
Our son has been attending Keystone for nearly 2 years since he was 2 years old, and we have found many positive things about the school, particularly as compared to other schools that we have been enrolled in or have visited. One of the most important things is how comfortable our child feels at the school. The teachers are genuinely caring and warm toward the children, holding a child or directing the child to a fun activity to ease a potentially teary dropoff. It's also no problem if your child isn't potty-trained, uses a pacifier at naps, or has a special lovey; other preschools we visited were not nearly so tolerant, and we feel like Keystone understands a child's need to feel secure.
The school puts a great deal of thought into how the classrooms are run. The school is conscientious about the environment: they grow an organic vegetable garden and teach the children to use green waste bins in the classrooms. The classrooms are spacious and filled with interesting toys, books, or learning tools for the kids. The outdoor playspace is fantastic, including a tricyle area, a large playstructure, sandbox area, swing area, and play house. There are also regular events to bring families together, from school pizza nights to a summer pool party and the annual holiday performance. The school offers are a number of extra classes for a fee, such as dance, music, Mandarin and Spanish classes; furthermore, older children can elect summer swimming classes at the El Cerrito Pool, which has been very convenient for our schedule. Finally, we love the school's ethnic diversity among both the teachers and students; this diversity really enriches our child's learning environment.
Communication with the school administration and logistics are generally well-managed. While every parent may have different concerns about their child or the way the school is run, we have found the Director Linda to be open to those concerns and wiling to work with parents to find solutions. They provide multiple methods to facilitate parent communication, including parent mailboxes, teacher-parent books, e-mail announcements, monthly newsletters, and in-person meetings. You can choose a variety of schedules, and if needed, you can request extra hours or changes in schedule easily; this flexibility has been a tremendous help for us, and is definitely not the case at other preschools. The Secretary Kim is also very friendly, which is a real plus (we've dealt with our share of prickly bookkeepers or office managers!)
The downsides are the number of vacation days per year that the school is closed, including sometimes when they are closed for 2 weeks at a time. With two working parents and no grandparents living locally, the vacations are difficult for us to manage, particularly when considering that the tuition and annual fees are on the high end. In fact, when we made our initial list of potential preschools, Keystone was nearly at the bottom of our list for these reasons and because we were more interested in a play-based school. But after we visited the school, we were impressed enough to take a shot at making it work. The school may not be for everyone, but if you're interested in a Montessori school, make sure to at least take a look. A Satisfied Parent
We have been part of the Keystone family since my oldest son started in the toddler room in 2005. Now my younger son just moved to the Snowy Egrets classroom, a move he had been dreaming of and anxiously awaiting. While both of my kids had sort of a rough transition, the loving, caring, nurturing teachers helped them both get through the separation anxiety, get involved in the classroom and ultimately develop friendships that we hope will last beyond their preschool years. My boys have very different personalities and while I believe no school is perfect for every child, Keystone has come through for both my very outgoing son as well as my very reserved one. They have both grown in their social and academic skills, blossomed into confident children and generally have become avid learners. While the number of vacation days is very challenging, I honestly believe that the teachers deserve to get time off and refuel. Over the 4 years that we have been at Keystone, I have seen Linda, the director, try to engage the parent community more and more, whether it be trying to setup a babysitting co-op over spring break to take some of the burden off of working parents or organize social activites such as a schoolwide pool party at the end of summer, because she recognizes that more and more families want to feel a greater sense of community. It's hard for working families to find the time to get to know other school families but if everybody puts in the effort, I know the community will continue to grow stronger. Our closest friends now are families we met when my older son was at Keystone. While no school is perfect, we feel very lucky to have found Keystone and would recommend it to anybody looking for an academically challenging, socially engaging and generally fun school with flexible hours, great teachers and amazing families. Kelly
We love Keystone! Our daughter just graduated and will attend Kindergarten this fall while our son is beginning his second year there. The teachers are engaging, loving and challenge each child to achieve his/her best. There is a strong emphasis on academics, wrapped in the ''work is fun'' philosophy which, I believe, sets the groundwork for a lifelong love of learning. Along with music, Spanish, Mandarin and dance classes (which you can add for a fee) there are great field trips (ie: Chabot Space and Science Center) which supplement what the kids are learning in class. Teachers focus on a new theme each month and parents can be as involved (or not) as they want. The director Linda is very professional with the parents and loving with the students. The teachers are treated well (no burn-outs!) and seem genuinely happy to be there. Whenever I have had questions about my kids and how they were doing she has always made the time to discuss them and came prepared (a full page of notes on a legal pad) having observed them. Another thing I love about Keystone is its HUGE emphasis on multiculturalism. Rather than rolling a bunch of holidays into one - or worse not celebrating anything - Keystone takes the opposite approach. If there's a culture or country having a holiday, Keystone celebrates it. From Persian and Chinese New Years to Hannakuh, Christmas, Kwanzaa, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween, Keystone kids celebrate with food, games, music and costumes. In short, this place rocks! We looked at 4 or 5 other Montessori schools before we found this jewel. Lizette
We have two boys at Keystone Montessori and are extremely happy with the school and its teachers. The Montessori curriculum and philosophy offers the children a structured environment in which to grow and learn. From a very young age they learn to choose their own activities, clean up after themselves, and work together to achieve goals. Many of the teachers have been at the school for 10 or even 20 years. These are true professionals who obviously love what they do. It is very reassuring to leave our children in their care. In the past Keystone has been noted for having too many vacation days, but recently that has changed, and its schedule is now in-line with most other preschools. Ken
Re: Daughter will be ready for K, but is too young
Have you looked at any Montessori preschools near you? Not sure where you live but I have one child currently enrolled at Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito and because of the mixed age environment, there are plenty of kids who are 5. Some are there because they miss the cut-off and others actually choose to stay for kindergarten. The school is well established, has fantastic caring teachers and a great program. My first went there as well and was well prepared for kindergarten. Most importantly, we learned that being ready for kindergarten meant emotional and social readiness more than academic readiness and I think Keystone does a great job in that area. Good luck with your search and if El Cerrito is doable, I'd highly recomment checking Keystone Montessori out. Happy Keystone Parent
Re: El Cerrito/Albany/Berk. Preschools
First, definitely go visit these and notice how the children act to one another and in general. I can only speak to Keystone, but have one child there now and an older child who went, also. We love it!
Things we love-- after being at an earlier preschool that suffered from a lot of teacher turnover, we really appreciate the low teacher turnover. My child's teacher has been there 15 years, another longer than that. I think that says a lot about how a school is run and how the teachers feel about being there.
--It's diverse and interesting. So many of the teachers, and quite a few of the kids, are bilingual and regularly travel to other countries that my kids started to assume all adults were bilingual. It piques their interest in other places and how people in other places live.
--Respect. The kids are taught to respect each other, each other's ''work,'' the teachers, and it's genuine, not a half-hearted ''sorry'' after some negative act.
--My kids are excited about learning. My child was really ahead in Kindergarten, and it wasn't learned with flashcards, but in an engaging way that was never boring. That's worth so much! Linda--It's not corporate-owned, she owns it and runs it. She's been doing it a long time and seems to really know what she's doing. I don't know how receptive she would be if someone wanted to change things, but we have been pleased with how things are run.
Drawbacks--It's a lot of $$!!! For us it's worth it for a great foundation, but maybe half the kids go on to private school and it was a bummer for my kid to not to go with them. For public school, most go on to Madera, it seems.
--Maybe because it's expensive, it's many 2 parent working families that you only see for a harried minute at 5 pm. It doesn't have the same parent community you would get at, say, a co-op.
--You don't get detailed feedback about what your kid is doing. For us, this was a minor problem, because we decided as long as our children are happy in school, occasional communication is OK.You can always talk to a teacher and they have 2x a year conferences. Again, we had a preschool that gave daily written info, and we found that it wasn't nearly as worthwhile as you would think (noone ever says your kid is unhappy and learning negative behavior here! or learning nothing!)as long as your kid is happy and engaged.
Overall, we are very happy with Keystone and recommend it highly! Happy Keystone Parent
We are considering Keystone Montessori for our 2 year old son for next fall (he will be almost 3 at that time). I can't seem to get over the fact that everytime I call the school to ask questions, the front desk woman does not seem very friendly. I don't want to make a decision because of this initial impression and am hoping current parents whose children attend/or have attended Key Montessori can provide some recent feedback on the school - good or bad. EC Mom
My child attends Keystone Montessori. He was in Joe's class last year and now he is in Nori/Carmelitta's class. I really love this school.
Whenever I have had an issue - I have taken it straight to Linda and she has addressed it immediately... whether it is about my bill or a behaviorial concern. I like that whenver my child gets hurt (which is often) that I get an accident report in my mailbox telling me what happened, who, if anyone was involved and what they did to soothe him.
I think that the teachers and Linda have great insight... once I called because my son was falling down alot and we were beginning to get frustrated. Linda asked Joe about him. He said that my child didn't fall any more than anyother child and that when he does that they tell him to take a breather. So, I started doing this at home. One day I found him sitting on the stairs - I asked what he was doing -- he said he was taking a breather. I loved that he was self-monitoring his own behavior. About a month into school - he started getting anxiety - they suggested that he bring something to share with the class - he brought bubble wrap 3 different days - and was so busy cutting it up and handing it out that he forgot to cry when I left. It was brillant.
When we were touring preschools - I found Keystone to be the calmest of all of the schools that I visited. And, this is what I wanted for my child. And, we could tell that he felt immediately comfortable there. In fact, the first time we walked into Joe's class he sat down in the circle with the rest of the kids. It was amazing for us to watch - especially in comparison to our experiences at the other schools we visited. Also, when I was still visiting other schools - Linda asked us if we wanted to come for a few morning visits. We did. And, when we finally chose Keystone - she invited us back several more times over the summer - at no charge to us. It was a great way to introduce our child to school.
I also like that you can be as involved as you want. There is a sign up sheet - so it's at the parent's convenience. And, many parents participate in the classroom to teach about their cultures/holidays. Also, each year I have had a parent/teacher conference where they have told me the areas he is doing well and the areas he needs to focus on.
I read on BPN about a parent at Keystone concerned about two teachers bringing their babies to school. I personally love this and I love when I have come to pick him up - and have found him holding a baby in his arms. so precious. And, isn't this what ''practical life'' is all about? Also, a new study came out about the benefit to your child's IQ if they are communicating with both adults and their younger sibling.
To address your concern about the person that answers the phone. My opinion - she is just shy... and I wouldn't let her influence your decision in any way.
Anyway, I have been very happy with the school and the teachers and it was a great fit for our child. Good luck with your search. Elizabeth
I am looking for feedback on Keystone Montessori Preschool in El Cerrito. I have read the comments on the website, but they are 2-5 years old and I would like to know if anyone has anything new (either positive or negative) to add. Thanks. Anne
Though we are still new to Keystone, it feels like a really well- run school and that they are not lacking funds. Most of the teachers have been there for a long, long time and to me, that is always a good sign. My daughter's current teacher, Joe, must have taught there for at least 14+ years because he taught my nephew who is now 16!
Recently they restructured the 2 older classrooms so it's structured more like a traditional Montessori classroom. That is, instead of having one class for ages 2.5 to 4 and the other for ages 4 to 6, they have the whole range of ages in each classroom so all the kids can learn from each other. Happy Momma
Interested in hearing opinions on this school in El Cerrito. Mayra
I am wondering if anyone has any experiences they can share about Keystone Montessori Preschool in El Cerrito. I have visited it and yet have never heard anything about it from other parents. Much appreciate any positive or less than positive reviews on their program, teachers, reputation, etc. Thanks. Joanna
However, we really wanted him to retain his Spanish-English bilingualism and had been on the Cento VIDA waiting list for about 18 months when...we moved him. It was agonizing to take our son out of Keystone. We had alot of confidence in the teachers and director (more about that in a minute).
Now, after 18 months at Centro VIDA, we have just moved our son back to Keystone. Although Centro VIDA is a wonderful preschool with loving teachers and fabulous meals --it wasn't a good fit for our son. The funny thing about picking school/childcare is that seems to be all about "fit"--for your child.
I'm being hustled off to dinner so I can only say a couple of things:
1. The director. Linda is my idea of an "educator". She really knows ALL of the kids. I was not surprised that Linda knows every child by name but I was surprised on more than one occasion at her insights regarding my son's developmental stage. She also seemed to know him as an individual. She is not only the director but (with her husband) the owner thus a very stable staff person.
2. The head teacher for the introductory class. Shawn is one of the best teachers I have ever seen. She not only loves kids, she likes them. My son blossomed intellectually as well as socially in her class. Her ability to help kid's "use their words" and empathize with each other is awe-inspiring. My son adored her and hogged her lap at the end-of-day storytime. It gladdened my heart to come for him at the end of a long day and have him pat the spot next to him to signal me to wait while he enjoyed Shawn's lap and the rest of the story.
3. They are well organized and do not ask parents to volunteer hours.
4. It is expensive. There is a $400 annual fee in addition to the monthly tuition.
5. There isn't much of a parent-community but we do have some particular friends among the parents.
6. It is a VERY diverse community but it is quietly diverse. There are more languages spoken by kids at Keystone than among any student population at any preschool we looked at.
Good Luck. Sojeila
To Christine looking for summer day care for a 3 year old - if you are interested in El Cerrito (near Del Norte Bart Station), there is a good Montessori pre-school which has a summer program, full time. My daughter goes there, and will be there through August, after that its Kindergarden. The name of the school is Keystone Montessori, they have a new facility with 3 classrooms, and take kids from 18 mo - 6 years, have a large outdoor play area, and generally kind good teachers. I am impressed with the quality of the educational aspects of the school. Their phone number is 236-7479. Good luck!
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