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Montessori Family School Preschool (Berkeley, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Montessori Family School Preschool (Berkeley, CA)


See also: Montessori Family School Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)
Aug 2014

Re: Preschool Recommends near Berkeley for 3 yr old
Our son is getting ready to start his second year of preschool at Montessori Family School. It's on the north side of UC Berkeley, handy to the downtown BART station. After looking at a number of play-based preschools, we changed course and went to MFS. As far as our son is concerned, he _is_ playing much of the day in welcoming, sunny classrooms or outside in a comfortable play yard with big garden. The directors at the play-based schools we looked at couldn't articulate how their programs worked and didn't instill confidence in me, as the mother, that he would be exposed to a wide range of experiences and ideas that would foster a love of learning. MFS' team, on the other hand, was more clear and more comfortable speaking as a grown-up to a grown-up. That, paired with the absolute love and care he receives from his teacher Kim makes us very pleased with our choice. I hope you are equally pleased wherever you land; you might give MFS a look before you make any final decisions (montessorifamily.com). Lauri


June 2014

My daughter has been going to Montessori Family School for the last year and we have found it to be an amazing experience. She has become so confident and initates the most interesting activities. She sets her dining table with all her vegetables, she makes beautiful pictures, and she has even made a carseat for her teddybear. My daughter is in Regina and Katy's class and she loves her teachers. Whenever she comes in to class, they welcome her and they make her feel like she can do anything. She feels so much pride in her work and she is happy to show me what she has worked on at school. We as parents feel very supported in the class as well as the teachers give us constructive advice about what we can do better as well. I would highly recommend Montessori Family School to anyone who is looking for a place for their child to soar! I came here from abroad and you don't just find a community for your children, you find a community for your family. I never used to understand Montessori before but now I love it! Anita


April 2014

Re: Comparing Montessori Schools in Oakland
In your review of area Montessori preschools, I would also consider the Montessori Family School in Berkeley. The preschool campus is right across the street from UC Berkeley. We toured many schools in the area before our 3-year-old daughter started at MFS last September. Of all the schools we toured, MFS was the most structured and carefully constructed Montessori environment we could find. They really take the Montessori method and materials seriously. It may be early for your daughter as MFS starts with 3-year-olds and your daughter will need to be potty trained when she starts. Definitely worth a look when the time is right. MFS Berkeley Parent


March 2014

Re: Bright Star (or other Montessori) for May
Hello, Our kids are attending the Montessori Family School which has 2 campuses: 1 in El Cerrito (from 5yrs - Middle School), and 1 in Berkeley (from 3-6years). So for your child the campus in Berkeley would fit perfectly. It is located on Hearst Avenue - opposite of UC Berkeley..and currently has spaces available.

We moved from Europe last year and can´t imagine a better Montessori school for our kids. The teachers at MFS do not only possess accredited Montessori certificates, but really live the philosophy of Maria Montessori: respect for the childrens' various levels of development, appreciation of individual traits, and aiming to help them to get independent in their actions. Moreover, the rooms are spacy and very well equipped with original Montessori materials for all stages. Shortly, our kids are thriving and we are very happy to see that they love to go to MFS.

Communication with the school admins, teachers, and other parents is really easy. Everybody had always an open ear for any concern or question that popped up. Just ask before or after classes, write a message, go to teacher conferences, or come to one of the school's many events. We appreciate that there are many opportunities for us as parents to participate in the school and see what's going on.

We love the MFS and hope that you find such a great preschool as well.


Jan 2013

Re: Need a full-time preschool near Rockridge
Hi there- I would strongly recommend a visit to Montessori Family School. The pre-school campus is on Scenic at Hearst in Berkeley. We have students who come from Oakland, Rockridge, and Elmwood. Montessori is ideal for a child who needs to make a strong connection with her teachers, as the children stay with the same teacher for 3 years. My daughter's teachers have almost become members of the family! They REALLY know my children, and how to serve them best. There are 2 certified teachers in every classroom- not one 1 teacher and one assistant, and an additional ''practical life'' teacher, which brings the ratio down to about 7 to 1, or even fewer, depending on the time of day(some younger children do a half day). Conflict resolution is integrated into the program, so children learn and practice the skills in a real way. Montessori also gives children the option to work with others, and learn how to work cooperatively. Spanish is taught at the school and I think you'll find many like-minded parents at MFS in regards to food and snacks. Good luck to you! AU


Jan 2013

Re: Montessori Preschools
My daughter attends preschool at Montessori Family School. If you are looking for a Montessori school with caring teachers and a diverse and friendly environment, you really don't need to look anywhere else. We are actually a two mom family and have felt totally at home at MFS.

We looked at a number of other schools, including The Berkeley School, but it really came down to where our daughter seemed the most comfortable. Every time we visited MFS, she didn't want to leave. And now that she's a student there, she is always so excited to go to school. It really is wonderful!

I know choosing a school is a difficult process, but one thing that also helped us decide on MFS was being able to see how our daughter interacted with the teachers during the open house and school visit. Not every school allowed this, and despite her tendency to be shy and slow to warm up, she was quickly engaged and enthralled. The teachers continue to be amazing at capturing her attention, and the school continues to be welcoming to parent involvement. We've been really happy with our decision. MFS mom


Jan 2013

We have a three year old at Montessori Family School and could not be happier. Both the teachers and the administration are devoted to their students. The level of commitment they have shown in welcoming my son, working to bring out the best in him, and helping him to work through challenges has been amazing. There is very little teacher turnover, the classrooms are of mixed age, and children therefore have the opportunity to bond deeply with their teachers and friends. The school is committed to the Montessori philosophy and this is apparent in everything from conflict resolution strategies, to age appropriate expectations for the kids, and the wonderful classroom materials. That said, there is nothing rigid or inflexible about the education - as some have suggested to me about Montessori. Instead, I have seen the teachers bend over backwards to introduce my son to new material through themes and subjects of the greatest interest to him. The school has inviting classrooms building, an engaging outdoor play space and lovely new landscaping with lots of herbs and citrus trees. Parent teacher communication - and teacher/admin communication - is excellent. Maria


Oct 2012

Re: Seeking Feedback on Montessori Family School
Although I can't speak as well for the upper school, our four-year old child is enrolled in the MFS preschool in Berkeley. His enrollment too has been our first experience with the Montessori method. After watching our child learn in this environment, I have no regrets and am instead extraordinarily happy with our choice. Moreover, I have not seen any signs of a rigidity or inflexibility in thinking at the school.

MFS is an authentic Montessori and they do follow the principles of Montessori teaching. This really sets up a structural and philosophical basis for the routines and methods such that the children can develop and learn on their own terms. The teachers are well educated in current scientific findings on child neurodevelopment and psychology, and apply that knowledge in the classroom as they work one-on-one with the children. The teachers are constantly available to help guide the child to works that will help advance their development; my son is getting exposed to a diverse number of concepts each day he is there. The curriculum can be very advanced. My son is enrolled in the after-school enrichment classes, which he loves, but I don't feel as though the day curriculum needed supplementation.

There is a genuine kindness and respect in the way that the teachers relate to the students that is grounded in the MFS philosophy. When a problem arises, the teachers will guide the student toward brainstorming better solutions or ways to handle the conflict, rather than telling them outright what to do.

The new Head of School, Henry Travers, has been extremely involved at both campuses. He knows all of the children by name and greets them with a friendly smile each morning. I'm not aware of any issues that his arrival has caused, and we are personally very fond of him as a Head of School.

At the Berkeley campus, there are a large number of parents who live in Berkeley, but we have also talked to parents from El Cerrito, Oakland, Richmond, and Albany. The school organizes a large number of social events, and requires a significant amount of volunteering from the parents, and I think most of the families have a strong sense of community because of those two things.

Wishing your luck in your decision making, A MFS Mom


We have two kids at Montessori Family School (MFS), one in first grade and one in preschool. This is our third year at the school; our oldest child started preschool at the Berkeley campus.

MFS has two sites - Berkeley for the preschool program, and El Cerrito for the elementary and middle school program. Your child can attend kindergarten at either site, however most new students entering kindergarten begin at the El Cerrito site. We love the Montessori philosophy of having student-led curriculum so that learning is tailored to each individual student's needs, interests, and readiness. Even though they have chosen their own paths in the classroom, it seems like our kids and their peers are thriving - academically, socially, and emotionally.

In addition to the day-to-day curriculum, there are enrichment programs during and after-school. My child loved the science program in particular, and there are also well-loved programs that teach music/movement, Spanish, art, and more. When I take my kids to places like Lawrence Hall of Science or Chabot Space and Science Center, the volunteers are always impressed by how well my 6-year old understands the concepts that are being taught in their own museum's hands-on projects. I often attribute this to the enrichment curriculum that my son gets from MFS.

While there are many traditional Montessori works in the classroom, the school is open to new ideas that don't compromise the basic tenets of Montessori education. However, I am not an expert on this, and it would be good for you to contact the admissions director for more information.

As with any student, the path to having our kids thrive at school was filled with a few speed bumps here and there. I was so impressed by the patience the teachers had with our children and their open communication with the parents. The teachers really want to see your child succeed in the classroom, and they don't judge any behaviors that they see.

MFS doesn't have a punitive approach toward discipline, but rather a way of engaging the child around identifying and resolving his or her own issues. The teachers are excellent about bringing the right people to the table to address behaviors. For something relatively benign, a teacher may work directly with a student or serve as an intermediary and coach in conflicts between students. For things on a larger scale, the teachers involve the parents in a collaborative and constructive way.

When I first heard of this approach, I was skeptical especially with students as young as 3 or 4 years old. But having seen this in action, I have been amazed at what even the youngest students can achieve in positively changing their own behaviors, managing conflict, practicing negotiation, and developing communication skills.

You had asked about the new head of school. So far we are off to a good start! While he stands on the shoulders of the legacy left by MFS's recently retired founder, he is also well on his way toward building his vision of community. He's professional, yet not out-of-touch. And his vision and experience combined with his passion for Montessori-based education give us great hope for the future of the school and its next generation of students.

The community has been wonderful. Our children have found many kids that they connect with, and the adults have a nice sense of community, too. It seems that most of the families are from Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, Kensington, Emeryville, and El Cerrito. But there are also many families from Rockridge/Oakland, and some families commute from as far as Marin, San Francisco, and even Benicia.

Again, I am speaking from my own personal experience as an MFS parent, so it would also be good to connect directly with the school for a better view of where the student body lives and how they adapt new findings in Montessori to traditional curriculum.

There are upcoming open houses, and you can schedule your own tour by calling the campus directly at 510.848.2322. Best of luck in your search no matter which school you choose! Happy Mom of 2 MFS Students


Sept 2012

Re: Reviews of El Cerrito Preschool Co-op?
I strongly encourage you to look into Montessori Family School. They have a Preschool campus in Berkeley and a K-8 in El Cerrito. The school excels in creating the wholesome environment you've described with a child-centered educational practice. The parent community is very vibrant and active. We have 2 children at the school that are both thriving, and love the mission - Preparation for Life, Education for Peace, A Community for Children. Give Yvette in the front office a call - she'll take great care of you. Best of luck during this exciting time as you consider schools for your son. R. P.


Sept 2012

For a true Montessori education, MFS is a wonderful learning environment. The teachers and administrative staff are warm and compassionate and the children are really connected with the 'work'. We have tried other Montessori schools and MFS is by far the best. The families are very welcoming and though we are a new family, we already feel a part of the community. Feel free to get my information from BPN for a longer conversation. Happy parent!


Feb 2012

Re: Affordable pre-school that's not a co-op?
For an absolutely amazing, affordable preschool, consider Montessori Family School on Hearst and Scenic in Berkeley. The head teachers have been in the field for 30 years, the ratios are really good and the individualized attention to each child is astounding. The school was originally founded in 1980 by a couple of single moms who needed an affordable place to send their kids for a truly excellent education in life and academic skills. So, by comparison to Bay Area standards, and given the quality, its a bargain. They also have an excellent scholarship program. Laura


Nov 2011

Re: Preschool for slow-to-warm child
Montessori Family School in Berkeley is a wonderful choice for a slow to warm child. We have been there for over a year, and the mix of ages in the preschool program has been great for my son. Now that he's 4 - he started at 3 and a half and was one of the younger kids when he first started - he's helping the younger kids settle in, with lots of love and support from his teachers. It's a really cool phenomenon, and MFS is dedicated to making sure that the mixed-age Montessori model really work for all the kids. Alegria


Oct 2011

My child is now in his second year at Montessori Family School attending the Kindergarten Transition (KT) program. This is a great program for children too old for preschool but not quite ready for Kindergaten. 4-6 years old. The KT teachers take time to understand the needs of the children. They take time with the parents and are very involved. The communication is tremendous and I always feel like I know what's going on with my child while he is in school. The class size is small for more individual attention when needed. There are two teachers for the KT class and a class this year of 12. They teach the traditional Montessori way which can be really fun for kids and promotes a love of learning. We've made friends at MFS and the staff is supportive and always available via email, too. The school day ends at about 2:30 -3PM and there is after care available until 6PM. For those households with working parent(s), it's great not to have to make off site arrangements for after care! Casey


Sept 2011

Re: Full day preschool that closes in the summer?
My daughter attends the Montessori Family School in Berkeley. They follow the ''academic'' year, from September to June, and then have summer session separately. What's great about how they run the summer program, aside from the wonderful topics they cover and how much fun they have (of course), is that you can register for each of the weeks individually, as opposed to having to register for the entire month or summer.

As a teacher, I'm sure you will love the way the school is child-centered. Children dictate much of what they do and when, and they can interact with students in the different classes. Also, the classes are mixed ages 3-6, so that siblings can be in the same classes together (those that aren't twins of course

I really can't say enough great things about the place. I believe they are having an open house coming up, maybe in November? The website is montessorifamily.com

I've toured many preschools in Berkeley, and this was unlike any other program I had ever seen! MFS mama


ADHD: Madera, Montessori Family or Crestmont?

Sept 2011

We have a boy who in 2012-2013 will be in the 2nd grade and who has some ADHD characteristics (not on medication). We are currently considering three schools: Madera Elementary (public), Montessori Family (private), and Crestmont (private). I was hoping to hear from families of ADHD kids about your experience with these schools.


My child who has ADHD characteristics, but has not been diagnosed as such, was accepted for admission at both Crestmont and Montessori Family School (MFS). We chose MFS because we thought the hands-on learning would be helpful to an active child. He attended kindergarten and first grade at MFS before we found it necessary to change to a different school as he did not have the level of self-control, self-discipline, and self-regulation that MFS requires.

I have found that nearly all private schools do not have the resources to meet the needs of a child that requires extra attention. I would suggest that you have a very specific discussion with the head of the schools you are considering and give them the most complete information that you have about your child as to his behavior, learning challenges, everything you can think of that would have an effect on his ability to perform in the classroom. Ask directly if your child can be accommodated. Private schools can be very selective about who they accept AND retain. If your child is accepted and proves to require more attention than they can give, you will likely be asked to withdraw.

My experience with MFS leads me to say that it is a wonderful school for children who are already very well self-controlled, very well self-regulated, and very self-disciplined or can become that way very quickly. The curriculum is very interesting, the activities are very stimulating, and a love of learning is definitely cultivated and encouraged. But if the child's behavior (hyperactivity, distractability, etc.) gets in the way of him being able to take full advantage of all that is offered, placement in this school will not work. Private schools seem to be made for students who can very quickly ''get with the program'' and not pose any behavioral or disciplinary obstacles. Most private schools won't put up with that.

I believe that the public schools may have more resources, but you would want to have your child assessed by the district school psychologist assigned to serve your home school. That person will test for ADHD or other issues that might qualify the child for special educational services. They would be able to tell you what help your child could receive in a public school.

We found a suitable school for our child. I could share more about this offline if you give me your contact information. A parent who understands


Sept 2011

Our daughter has been attending preschool at The Montessori Family School (MFS) since March of 2011, and I want to convey to other Berkeley parents how truly amazing it is. I apologize in advance for my verbosity, but you know what they say about lawyers...

Our daughter previously attended a preschool like program which was allegedly Montessori based, and we now realize that this couldn't be further from the truth. The prior preschool was rigid and highly structured, which we thought would be a good thing for our highly curious and energetic daughter. What happened, however, was that her teacher made comments suggesting that she perhaps had learning disadvantages because she had trouble listening and sitting still, and was sometimes nervous when she first arrived at school. She also commented about our daughter not having the same fine and gross motor skills as her classmates. In retrospect, we realized that literally all of the other children in her class had older siblings, and thus were actually advanced for their ages. Our daughter was simply a rambunctious and fun loving 2 year old. Thus, the prior experience left a bitter taste in our mouths, and I took almost 8 months of researching preschools in Berkeley until I found one I was satisfied with. In fact, I toured at least 15 different programs.

When I toured MFS, I immediately knew it was different. I literally never thought a program like this could exist. First of all, you get to sit in on each of the different classrooms and observe, prior to enrolling (this is in addition to your child attending for an observation at a later time). It was sort of humorous to think that the children were acting like I wasn't there when they were clearly wondering what a visibly pregnant woman was doing sitting in their classroom watching them and not talking to anyone.

The ''structure'' of the program is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Aside from certain periods of time for circle time and sharing and the like, children decide what they want to do and when. The activities they are engaging in, referred to as their work, are academically based and lay the foundation for mathematics, reading, and the like.

Imagine, your 3-6 year old walking from one room to another, so long as the room pass necklaces are available, preparing their own snack, pouring their own water, then using a dustpan or sponge to clean up their mess. The only complication, of course, is that once at home your 3 year old then attempts to prepare meals for themselves without anticipating any parental protestation. But its a good kind of shock to find your daughter helping herself to a snack from the refrigerator

I also greatly appreciate the interaction between the various classrooms. The children are constantly interacting with different children from the mixed ages 3-6. And, also important to our family, the school is quite diverse. Parents come from all sorts of interesting professional and ethnic backgrounds, and it is really quite a rich community. There are multiple opportunities to meet other parents and get involved with the school, which I think is really important, especially at the preschool level. It can be a scary thing dropping your ''baby'' off with different adults for the first time, and it helps to be able to socialize with other parents going through the same thing, or even to organize playdates or have friends at birthday parties.

Eventhough the activity choices are child led, its not a free for all like I have observed in some play based programs. Obviously every parent's preference is different, and there is some value to all methods, but I personally was not comfortable putting my child in an environment that I felt may not adequately prepare her for the intense requirements now followed in Kindergarten and beyond. MFS is academic, but it is fun too! My daughter comes home covered in paint or mud or sand on a daily basis.

The teachers are incredibly qualified, and also incredibly patient, kind, and loving to the children. They facilitate the learning in a child-driven way, according to the Montessori method of demonstrating and then letting the children do their thing. They are truly of the highest caliber.

In fact, when I first heard of MFS, I saw so many raving reviews about positive experiences, that I grew concerned there would not be any space left for my daughter when we tried to enroll.

We plan to enroll our other children at MFS when they are old enough, and I can't wait to see how much they love it. I can't get enough of the random conversations about tortoises and chinchillas (two of the class pets), or honeybees, or spaceships, or seeing my daughter cross her fingers for the first time. It is truly an amazing place. Delighted MFS Mama


March 2011

Re: Need rec's for bridge or pre-K for 2012
Our child is having a great year in the Kindergarten Transition/Bridge classroom at Montessori Family School in El Cerrito. The classroom accommodates children ages four to six. Our child is one of ten children in the KT classroom with two excellent teachers, one male and one female. This year our child is receiving incredible individual attention and is engaged academically and socially. He is developing a solid self-confidence, interacting with peers in the safety of his classroom as well as playing sports in the play yard with his classmates and older children as well. He is now ready to dive into the elementary classroom at MFS and go. Our experience in KT has been exceptional. Happy with Bridge-K at MFS


Feb 2011

I am proud to say my 3yr old daughter attends Montessori Family School.(Berkeley site) My daughter has been attending for a year now and she has been having a great experience.Even though the school is divided into three different sites, (Redwood,Aspen and Buckeye)the children are able to interact with each other in a peaceful and inviting environment. The teachers work together as a family to make sure each child reaches their full potential with patience and understanding. We love our Redwood teachers Mary and Laura. Not only do they encourage my daughter they offer support to me as a single mother. This is a great school and I feel very blessed that my daughter is able to attend Montessori Family School. sonja m


Feb 2011

Hi, I know it is tough to choose between play-based or structured preschools but after experiencing a montessori education for our son we could not be happier. We have a 3 1/2 year old very active son who attends Montessori Family School in Berkeley. The teachers and staff at MFS are very experienced and patient with children of all temperments. Our son has thrived with the curriculum and is always coming home discussing the new things he has learned. He has also matured in this environment and we have seen him more motivated and willing to clean up toys at home, be mindful of other children at the park, etc... He was recently very happy about participating in the Chinese New Year Parade! The campus is beautiful, old Oak trees, palm trees, sunny, roomy, in a beautiful neighborhood, peaceful and very conducive to learning. We toured many schools and it was a difficult decision deciding what type of program. Ultimately we have seen great benefits from a structured curriculum that lacks any opportunity for boredom and helps pre-K ages develop in a positive direction academically and socially. Vanessa


Feb 2011

I just wanted to write a little note about Montessori Family School(MFS). My daughter has just had a brilliant year and I felt as though I must share it. My daughter has always been very curious and playful about life.My daughter now has a curiosity about numbers and putting them together.She will ask to play games at home and when you ask her what she wants to play it's often the numbers game. We count,add and giggle a lot. I am so thankful to the staff for making math fun for my daughter. One Happy Parent


Feb 2011

I would just like to tell you about our experience at Montessori Family School (MFS). My three daughters have attended MFS and enjoyed the experience. The teachers allow the children to grow in a very nurturing environment. My older daughters have transferred into Berkeley Public schools where they have continued to excel on every level.My youngest daughter is still at MFS and is beginning to blossum. We don't live close by but have a very functional carpool set up. Very happy MFS dad.


Jan 2011

We are looking at Montessori Family School, and everything that we have seen during tours and visits is very impressive. My question is on the practical side--what about parking? There are a limited number of 10 minute loading-only spaces near the school, and I am wondering from current parents whether these spaces are sufficient. We would likely be dropping off our child around 8:15 in the morning and picking up at 5:30. I have driven by the school during those times, and given its proximity to the UCB campus, parking in the area is understandably at a premium. It may sound silly, but I am concerned that I would spend 15+ minutes circling the block or parking far away just to drop off/pick up my child.


No worries. The hours you are planning on dropping and picking up your child are extended care hours. So you will be able to park in the white ''box'' zones (and there will be space) and walk your child in or pick them up.

During drop-off and pick-up time for standard school hours (8:45-9:10am & 2:45-3:10), there is no parking in the white ''box'' zones, but the school teachers do an excellent job of escorting children to and from their parents' cars. It's very efficient and it's never taken us longer than 5 or 10 minutes to drop off. Our child actually loves going into school with the teachers. And, in fact, I've found it can be an easier separation if he's having a tough day than walking him into class - he gets to leave us; we aren't leaving him.

And there are often open spots along Scenic in the morning--even at 8:45.

Anyhow. Hope that's helpful. Don't steer away from MFS due to parking! MFS Mom


We have attended the Montessori Family School Berkeley site on 1815 Scenic Ave for 3-1/2 years, and there are several options for parking in the neighborhood. The 10-min school zones accommodate up to six cars at one time. When parents drop off and pick up before 8:45 and after 3, there are usually 10-min school spaces available, so not to worry. Before 8:30 and after 4, plenty of free 2 hour parking as well as meters across the street are also open. I don't think I've ever needed to use a meter and rarely walk more than half a block since there's usually a 10-min school space. The campus has only about 50 children total and a large proportion arrive during the teacher-assisted drop-off and pick-up times of 8:45-9:05 and 2:50-3:05. During these 15-20 min blocks of time, parents pull up to school in a line and do not even have to get out of cars. Teachers efficiently take each child in and out of the car seat and accompany him or her to and from the gate. Other teachers are inside the gate and make sure each child goes where he or she needs to go. It's all organized and works well. MFS is a really special place. Hope this information helps. A very happy MFS parent
Jan 2011

Re: Oakland/Berkeley Preschools with Caring Teachers
Montessori Family School located at 1850 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, on the north side of the Berkeley campus would definitely meet this need. The school has a wonderful staff of teachers who do care for each child and acknowledge their individuality. The program not only provides academic preparation, but also lots of music, art and cultural exposure. The students definitely feel that they are in a warm and loving environment where they can begin to develop their potential in a safe environment. Please give them a call at 510-848-2322. Satisfied parent


Jan 2011

Re: Preschools friendly for kids with nut allergies
Definitely Montessori Family School located at 1850 Scenic in Berkeley (near the north side of the UC Berkeley campus). The school is nut-free and takes this very seriously. They recognize the severity of this allergy and families who attend the school understand that they must abide by this policy. This policy is carried out at the campus located at 7075 Cutting Blvd. in El Cerrito where grades K through 8 attend. My child has been in the school at the El Cerrito site for three years and I have volunteered a lot at the school and have witnessed firsthand the teachers and staff faithfully ensuring that the nut-free policy is enforced. Lunches are checked to make sure that no nuts are included and there have been no problems in the three years our family has been part of the school. Pleased parent


Jan 2011

If you're seeking a nurturing pre-K program with a strong academic environment and an emphasis on individuality, then I strongly recommend Montessori Family School! My daughter is now in her second year there, and flourishing in myriad ways. I also can't speak highly enough about the community itself. It's located on the corner of Scenic and Hearst Avenues, just across from the Cal campus and a short walk from downtown Berkeley and the Gourmet Ghetto. I encourage you to see for yourself at the Open House on Sat, 22 Jan from 10:30am-noon. A Very Happy MFS Parent


Jan 2011

Re: Part-time Montessori in Oakland or Berkeley?
Yes! Montessori Family School in Berkeley (510-848-2322) offers part-time and full-time schedules. Your child can attend 2, 3, 4 or 5 days per week and there is a choice of short or longer days, or a mix. I started my youngest there with short days, then switched him to longer days when he started asking why he had to go home early! It's a fantastic place-- our family has loved it (sibling now enrolled). When researching schools some years back I visited 4 Montessori schools and this one jumped out as super special among some other very good programs. I believe they are having open houses, visits etc. now. Good luck in your search. Happy Montessori Parent


Dec 2010

I'd like to recommend Montessori Family School as an excellent preschool- kindergarten choice for families in and near Berkeley. Located next to UCB (north side), MFS is a vibrant, happy, invigorating school to 3, 4 and 5 year olds. I am a parent of three children-- one MFS ''lower site'' graduate (there is an ''upper site'' in El Cerritos for elementary and middle school), one currently enrolled preschooler and one child expectantly waiting her turn! Our family's experience at MFS has been wonderful-- in particular the teachers are inspiring in their intelligence, love for the kids, amazing curriculum and continuous care and attention to all details in the classrooms. This is a school with community among parents, staff and kids-- I felt it at my very first open house, filled with parents sharing about their happy kids and all the great learning (social/ emotional as well as ''academic'') happening there. One mom shared how the Montessori method met the needs of both her children -- one highly ahead in math and the other with severe learning disabilities. The curriculum includes so many ''extra's''-- music, dance, all kinds of art, cooking projects, field trips, sign language, science-- plus thoughtful and thorough introductions to reading, writing and math. All the ''regular'' and great preschool stuff is there-- trucks, sand box, play house and so on, but the kids are exposed to so much more. I just know that my kids love their days at school and that they are being beautifully cared for while at MFS. -Very Happy Parent


Nov 2010

Re: Wanted - Nurturing, high-quality preschool
I highly recommend Montessori Family School: MFS has a pre-school through Kindergarten campus in Berkeley and an elementary & middle school (K-8) in El Cerrito. When my older son (now 9) was 4 yrs old, I visited every single developmentally-oriented preschool in Berkeley, Albany & El Cerrito -- and after observing how the teachers interacted with the students, and the calm and peaceful ''hum'' of the classroom, I knew MFS was the best for us, .

My two sons who are now in the MFS elementary school attended the MFS preschool from when they were 3 until 6 years old, and they loved it. The school follows the Montessori approach of providing the child with a nurturing learning environment, in which the child's natural curiosity and inclinations are encouraged, with gentle guidance that deepens their connection, understanding of and sense of wonder with the world around them. I recall one of my boys at age 5 feeling sad on Fridays because it would be so long til he could be back on Monday with his beloved teachers and with the amazing learning materials that thrilled him.

The teachers have many years (some have decades) of experience and a thorough immersion in the Montessori method; the staff are professional and warm; and the parents and families that make up the MFS community are truly caring and generous. When we were first starting, one parent emphasized the ''FAMILY'' part of the MFS name, and that is indeed an accurate point, along with the phrase ''education for peace'' which is the school's ''slogan''. -MIE, a parent delighted with MFS


August 2010

Re: Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?
For an excellent school, consider Montessori Family School (MFS) near the north side of UC Berkeley campus. MFS has a flexible pre-school schedule-- children are able to attend three to five days per week if desired, and children may stay a half-day until 12:30 or a full day until 3:00. Before- and after- school are also available, and you can tailor the schedule to fit your family's needs. There is also a kindergarten transition/bridge classroom. It is worth contacting the Administration office in Berkeley to see if there is a September or January opening available for your child. Gisele or Jade may be reached at (510) 848-2322.

In the pre-school Montessori classroom, there are mixed-ages (ages 3-6). The children interact in small groups and also work individually, by choice, moving from one beautiful, hands-on material to another. Play and work are synonymous for children. In Montessori, the children "work" at an individual pace with guidance, and teachers are able to accommodate a variety of learning styles since teachers and students develop an understanding and close relationship with each other over the course of multiple years. It appears that this particular Montessori school gets the gears going in a good direction from day one, both emotionally/socially and academically.

One important aspect of Montessori that stands out from other programs is the early development of independent, confident, kind young people. With the parenting coaching we received as needed from the teachers at MFS, we knew we were off to a good start. This emotional/social focus has been truly eye-opening. We have seen our first child and his friends blossom in this environment and our second will begin pre-school at MFS next month.

MFS is a special school that continues up through elementary and middle school. The teachers and community are great. There will be several open houses in the fall and winter--date/times TBA. Come tour the classrooms and see what you think. Happy MFS Parents


August 2010

Re: Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?
Hi, Our son was very happy at Montessori Family School, which is on Scenic @ Hearst, right across from the UCB campus. Their number is 510-848-2322.

As far as I know, they have openings for the fall, and they do have a bridge/K transition class. That's the classroom my son was in. He is now ready to move on to the next stage. In fact, he'll be going to the MFS campus in El Cerrito, which is where their elementary school is located. - The teachers are superb, and my son thrived socially and academically.

I know that there were some postings recently from people who had some not-so-great experiences with particular Montessori schools, or with Montessori generally. I'd encourage everyone to check out this particular school (and more generally, to check out whatever specific school they are considering). There are *huge* differences between schools calling themselves ''Montessori'', and in the end, it really comes down to the teacher and the classroom climate. For my son at least, I feel that MFS was a great choice. MFS-parent


May 2010

Montessori philosophy believes in self-directed learning; the child chooses what s/he wants to learn, and the teacher guides the learning. At Montessori Family School (MFS), the administration and teachers both are committed to doing just that. My daughter is currently at the Early Chidhood Campus in Berkeley, where Kim, Ruth, Hilary, and Ina have guided her for one year now. We couldn't imagine her (or our!) life without their steadfast sensitivity, compassion, and thoughtfulness ... providing just the right balance of structure and freedom for each child (not just my own) to grow and flourish at their own pace. The community-at-large is also very warm and welcoming, making MFS, as many a parent on BPN before me has noted, truly a family school. We can not recommend Montessori Family School highly enough, and will be there for years to come! A Very Happy MFS Parent


Feb 2010

Re: Traditional vs. Montessori Preschool

I cannot praise the Montessori method or our school, Montessori Family School, enough for the happy years and learning foundation that it has given our children. We are in our 5th year there, with one child at the elementary school and one in the preschool. The teachers are incredible, loving, fun and extremely tuned to the needs and interests of each child. Our kids truly enjoy and take pride in the (self-directed) learning they do/did in the preschool. The program includes practical life, cooking projects, music & movement classes and ample time for free play outside each day which all together ensures a lot of fun in the daily mix. MFS cultivates an amazingly happy and confident bunch of kids. There is a preschool open house on February 27th at 10:30 am - I highly encourage you to check it out. best decision we've made so far


Dear Understandably Confused,

Searching for a pre-school is incredibly time consuming. I also did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that Montessori was a good choice for our child and fit with our personal beliefs about child development. After our first meeting with the teachers at Montessori Family School (MFS), I felt this school was our first choice and fortunately we were accepted.

It sounds like you have seen how a Montessori classroom operates. There is a certain "hum" that happens when a classroom full of young children is deep in concentration. There is a respect for routine with minimal interruption during the work period. Children interact in small groups and also work individually, by choice, moving from one beautiful, hands-on material to another. Play and work are synonymous for children. In Montessori, the children "work" at an individual pace and teachers are able to accommodate a variety of learning styles. It appears that Montessori gets the gears going from day one.

One aspect of Montessori that stands out is the early development of independence. Young children are way more capable than we realize. With the parenting coaching we received as needed from the teachers at MFS, I knew we were off to a good start. I can't tell you how eye-opening this emotional/social focus has been. I have seen our first child blossom in this environment and our second will begin pre-school in a few months.

MFS is an extraordinary school that continues up through elementary and middle school. The teachers are excellent and the community great. At MFS I see an important balance of strong academics and the social/emotional education that I think will prepare our children for interesting challenges of the 21st century.

I feel the differences between Montessori and Traditional education become even more apparent in kindergarten and above. The biggest difference I see is that Montessori learning is more vertical or deeper while Traditional education is more lateral. There are other differences too, such as time management skills built into Montessori, while in Traditional, the schedule is pre-determined. Montessori learning feels more natural and kinder and again seems to prepare children well for the rest of their lives without being either too structured and unstructured.

Please feel free to contact me with questions. There's an open house on Saturday, February 27th at the Early Education Campus at 1850 Scenic Avenue in Berkeley at 10:30 am. Come tour the classrooms and see what you think. Happy MFS Parent


My kids have attendended Montessori Family School (MFS) from their first year of preschool. They are now in first and third grade (1st year and 3rd year in The Lower Elementary classrooms). I have to admit that when I was researching preschools I was concerned that ''Montessori'' might not give my kids enough ''love'' if they fell down and hurt themselves or if they were just sad and having a bad day. I'm not even sure where I had heard that and became concerned with it. It is completely contrary to how MFS interacts with their students. During my initial observation of the classrooms I got to witness a child crying on the playground because they scraped their knee. It was amazing to watch all the teachers spot it right away and without using words to know who would address the child(maybe it was the closest one) sweep her up and start cuddling them. Over the years I have seen the teachers hold the children, hug them, cuddle them. They do this when a child is sad, or even when a child comes up to the teacher and just wants their contact for no special reason. It is my observation that the kids at MFS are confident and completely happy children. You mentioned in your post that you ''...loved that the kids seem so busy and capable....love that manners and self disciple are taught. But everyone--kids and teachers- - seem so serious...'' I think what you are observing is intense satisfaction in the work that the kids are doing. The work and their independence make them happy and proud to be doing it. A child can't be giggling and interacting with their peers all day long if they are working independently. That's no to say that they aren't enjoying what they are doing. It is quite amazing what my children have experienced at MFS. I wouldn't trade it in for anything. rw
Oct 2009

Montessori Family School is a TRUE Montessori program in Berkeley located across the street from the UC Berkeley Campus on the corner of Hearst and Scenic Avenues, at 1850 Scenic Avenue. It has a Preschool/Kindergarten Program for children 3-6 years. The preschool admissions director is Giselle and her phone number is (510) 848-2322. The Elementary and Middle School campus (Upper Site) is located at 7075 Cutting Blvd in El Cerrito, CA 94530. The upper site admissions director/assistant head of school is Nasi and she may be reached at (510) 236- 8802.

We are thrilled with the excellent quality of academics, social and emotional education. The teachers are Montessori credentialed and there is little teacher turnover because the environment is vital, happy and fulfilling. We chose the school based on thorough research and are grateful to have found this community of professors, educators, professionals, artists...real people and thinkers making a difference in the world.

Open houses this year (2009-10) for the Berkeley Preschool/Kindergarten site are the second Saturday mornings in December and January. The El Cerrito Kindergarten site open house is the first Saturday morning in December. Best to call for application instructions and then come tour this wonderful school! Please feel free to contact me with questions. -Sharon


August 2008

Hi, I am interested in hearing comments about the Montessori Family School in Berkeley (on Scenic Ave) as the reviews are a bit outdated. We are considering the Pre-K program at this school for our child and would like to hear from current parents who have children enrolled at this school to find out what your experience has been like. Thanks.


Both my girls went to Montessori Family School lower site and my youngest just finished kindergarten there. There are 3 classrooms: two preschool classrooms that take kids from late 2s on up through kindergarten and a ''kindergarten transition'' classroom that takes kids ages 4-6. Some of those kids also do their first grade year there, but most don't. Both my girls (starting age 4) spent two years each in the kindergarten transition classroom and both went to the summer program for 2 summers each, where all the preschool teachers rotate through, so we have had experience with all the teachers. All the teachers are absolutely awesome! You can't go wrong in any of the classrooms. My daughters both thrived and learned a lot even though their learning styles were very different. The head teachers, Mary, Regina and Kim are all nurturing, smart, very interested in teaching, and love kids. All have more than two decades of experience. Their students adore them and rightly so. The kindergarten class is especially great since it is smaller than the preschool classrooms ( 15 kids instead of 21), with two very experienced teachers. The non-head teacher, Laura, (who is qualified to be a head teacher) is very interested in drama and music, and wrote wonderful, developmentally appropriate, original plays and songs for the kids to do. She also has taken Orff/Schulwerk courses and does music with the kindergardeners throughout the year. The only slight downside to the Kindergarten class is that Mary, the head teacher, is there only 3 1/2 days a week; however, Laura is so good, it wasn't a problem at all. I cried when my younger one graduated from that class. My older one cried when she graduated. (She's 10 now).

If you want your kids to get a fabulous Montessori pre-K-K education, this place is it. madelyn


We have both of our kids at Montessori Family School (MFS), they started off in the pre-k program with Kim Brae, whom we absolutely adore. There are currently two pre-k classrooms, both of equal caliber and with great teachers who have both been with MFS for 15-20 years - if I am not mistaken. Both of our children thrived in the classroom. Our older child has moved onto the upper campus and although it's a bit of a commute to El Cerrito, we wouldn't think of sending her anywhere else. There is something about the school/community that is inexplicable. It's small enough that you get to know the entire community and large enough that when they graduate from the program they will be accustomed to being around a large group of kids. The name of the school does it justice; it truly is a "Family School" in every sense of the word. - MFS parent of two
I am a mother of two boys (7 and 4). My oldest is now a second year at the Montessori Family School's Lower Elementary program and went to their Pre school/Kindergarten for three years. My youngest is currently in his third year at the preschool/Kindergarten program. They both had Kim Brae as their teacher. I honestly can only say wonderful things about the school. I did a lot of searching for the preschools and as soon as I entered MFS I knew that this would be the best school for my kids.

Kim is an amazing woman who has been teaching her class for more than twenty years. She knows my kids better than I do at times and gives a fresh perspective in times of need of advise (re: behavior, learning, personality, etc). My oldest is somewhat of an athlete and exerts a lot of energy. My concern was that he wouldnmt be focused in the classroom or maybe disruptive in the class. Many other teachers might even think the same. Kim has only had positive and constructive comments towards her kids. For instance, she sees my son as la joy to have so much energy around. He can use that energy outside on the playground, but he also used the same kind of energy to help him stay focused in the classroomn. She talks about all of her kids, from years past with such sincerity. She remembers each of her kids she has had so well, it's amazing. She is incredibly insightful.

My kids love going to school there. My oldest that I mentioned, is not an emotional kid, yet when he said good-bye to his teachers on his last day of preschool/Kindergarten, his eyes welled with tears.

The other teachers in the other preschool/Kindergarten classrooms are just as amazing in their own ways. And if you choose to send your child to their elementary program, the teachers there are outstanding too.

Montessori is an incredible philosophy and may not be right for everyone. And all Montessori Schools are not alike. There are some misunderstandings, that there is no structure to the classroom, but that is not at all true. There is structure and the kids get to choose what they want to do throughout the day and week, but the teachers monitor their activity to make sure it is balanced. If a child likes trains and is consumed by them so much that they donmt want to learn math, the teacher might make a math work out of trains for them. They also plant seeds in their minds at such a young age, and you think, knowing the solar system must be too advanced for a preschooler, but these seeds they planted start to sprout in the elementary years as the curriculum builds. It's all connected and so wonderful to see as the child starts to grow and learn.

I love that after a "work" they are expected to put it back on the shelf were it belongs. I wish they would do it more at my house ;-) There is little to no chaos in the classroom. The kids are all focused on what they are doing because they are all interested in the activities. Its not a lDaycaren school where you drop the kids off and they play all day. They do play, but there is purpose to their play and the things they do throughout the day.

When I come into the classroom the teachers often have the kids sitting in their laps. When a child falls, a teacher will run up to embrace the child to make sure they are okay. Hugs are given round throughout the day.

The classrooms are set up in a way that there are 3 year olds with 4, 5 and 6 year olds. The older kids mentor the younger kids and as the younger ones get to be the older ones, they begin to mentor too.

My final comment is that Jane Wechsler (The Director and Head of School) is incredibly smart and a great visionary. She runs a great school.

If you want to ask me anymore specific questions, please feel free to contact me.

Good luck in your search, rw


July 2003

I most enthusiastically recommend Montessori Family School as an incredible pre-school. Regina and Kim are the best teachers, totally tuned into the individual needs of kids. The kids don't want to leave at the end of the day. And it's on Scenic and Hearst (across from campus), most convenient. Been there


Re: Preschool for 4-year-old who needs lots of support (July 2003)
I was working at Montessori Family School (they have a preschool site and a grade school site) Elementary, in Kensington. They allowed a special needs child to be set up with the child's own assistant to help this child integrate into the normal classroom routines. This child developed friendships with other students. The teacher herself spent a lot of time with this child and a couple of other children who had learning difficulties, tutoring them to develop in their own specific way. I spent a little bit of time at the Montessori Family School Preschool site as well and there were a few children there that were disadvantaged. I was impressed with how they were easily and knowledgably integrated into the normal classroom. I witnessed incredible patience on the part of the teachers and staff.

2001

Re: child with food allergy

My son ( who is five and a half now) started going to Montessori Family School when he was three. He like your child has a severe peanut allergy. The school has been wonderful , not only do they monitor school snacks with a lot care they also have a policy of not letting any child bring any peanut containing products in their lunch boxes from home. At the beginning of the school year they send out notices to parents, and do everything possible to prevent my child from being exposed. He has never had an episode at school . So, they have been really considerate about our needs. Also, it is a very good school , I am very happy with how well my son has done there and I think many more parents will say the same. MFS is at the intersection of Scenic Avenue and Hearst in Berkeley. This is the preschool and kindergarten campus. The rest of the school is in Kensington. Bipasha


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