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Mustard Seed Preschool (Berkeley, CA)
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I'm looking into preschools for my daughter for next fall, and I'm wondering about Mustardseed. How religious is it? How much does the hosting church's beliefs affect the curriculum? Is it just about learning some bible stories, or is there a proselytizing undercurrent. Do they seem to respect non-traditional families? I've heard good things about the school, but I'm concerned about possible conservative religious overtones. liberal mama
Re: Toddler-to-Preschool program for 18-month old
Sorry missed the original post so not sure where you're looking geographically, but the Mustard Seed Preschool in Berkeley (near Monterey Market) takes kids starting at 18 months old, and my son has thrived there for the last year. It's a program with both structure and play, teachers are wonderfully caring and very involved, and facilities are great. It's not a small school (about 50 kids total) but the youngest class has no more than 10 kids (usually 8) and 2 teachers which is a good ratio. We have been very happy with our experience there. Mustard Seed fan
Our daughter has been at Mustard Seed Preschool on Hopkins for a year now and we love this school. The teachers are amazing and do very creative songs and crafts. They are exceptionally good at communicating with the parents. There is a nice harmony with the church it is connected with such as church members sponsoring seasonal events for the families of the school like the Fall Festival (complete with face painting, a cake walk and lots of games). It is nice that Mustard Seed doesn't expect your child to be potty trained before entrance, as well. We have been very pleased with our experience at Mustard Seed. Krista
I'd like to recommend Mustardseed Preschool in North Berkeley. I've had two children go through Mustardseed and I would do it all over again if I had a third! It is a play-based preschool that provides just the right amount of structure and incorporates academics in fun and engaging ways. There is very little teacher turnover, and the teachers are caring, thoughtful, and knowledgeable. Rina Woodfin, the director, is passionate about early childhood education and clearly loves what she does. There is a wonderful sense of community in the school that our family will miss very much when my son graduates this June. The school holds family events throughout the year that are particularly fun for the entire family and help provide a sense of connectedness among the school community. My son and my daughter loved going to Mustardseed, and were well prepared for kindergarten during their years there. Happy Preschool Mom
I was hoping to get some current feedback on Mustard Seed Preschool (the most recent archived info is from early 2007). We are considering sending our child there next year. Thanks in advance! Anon
Note, the preschool is associated with a Korean Christian church, but that makes very little impact on their curriculum (saying grace before meals, celebrating Christmas and Easter, that's about it). We are neither Korean nor Christian and have no problem with this aspect. Also, I can only speak personally to the quality of the 2-year-old class, but I have observed older kids and found them to be well adjusted and playing nicely; can't say much about academic preparation since we're not at that stage yet. Overall, great experience and highly recommended! Happy Mustard Seed Mom.
Does anyone have any current experience with Mustard Seed Preschool that they would be willing to share? I am particularly interested in the toddler classroom, since my daughter will be 2.6 in the fall, but also very interested in the preschool classrooms as well. Susan
The drawbacks include the fact that there are not a lot of bells and whistles at Mustard Seed. The manipulatives and toys are pretty basic and are not changed throughout the year. The rooms are also very small and a bit crowded. This can be difficult for a child who needs a lot of stimulus or space to express him or herself. Also, it is a Christian school. Your family has to be comfortable with talk of God, the resurrection of Jesus and religious songs. All and all, we have been very pleased with our Mustard Seed experience. The commitment and kindness of the teachers has far outweighed any reservations we might have. anon
Our son is in K now after going to Mustard Seed for 3 years. Our son was very happy there as were my husband & I. It's a wonderful school w/just the right mix of play & structure. The 2 older classrooms start preparing kids for K w/various age- appropriate academics but not pushed on the kids. We felt our son was very ready for K. Our son had some problems but the teachers worked w/us & did a great job of helping him. We had daily communication w/the teachers. They always let us know any problems, how they were handled & also wanted to know how we dealt w/problems at home so they could be consistent. The teachers are very loving, warm & dedicated. The teacher turn- over rate is very low. The classrooms are filled w/lots of fun & imaginitive toys & centers to keep the kids stimulated & engaged. There is a slight religious aspect to the cirriculum but not fire & brimstone! Mostly, it's the thought of being kind to one another & treating peole as you want to be treated. They upgraded the play yard adding new climbing structures & enlarging the area for ball play, chalk art & bike riding. They also have a big sandbox full of toys as well as a 'house' for the kids to play in. We felt this was a great school & are anxious to send our 20 month old son there in another year so he can have the same wonderful experience. Kelly
I'm looking for some more discussion on Mustard Seed preschool. There are a few posts from 2003/2004. Are there any parents out there with current students enrolled willing to be contacted about their experiences? My first visit was very positive, though I'm reluctant to risk 1/2 of one months tuition to get on their list, without some more input.
At Mustard Seed the preschool-age program is much more defined (I cannot speak to the younger -age classrooms), and maintaining that program takes precedence over meeting the child care needs of families. In that way it is much more like grade school than child care -- in other words, if the child is not able to adapt to the demands of the curriculum, then the child needs to adjust, and if the child does not then the child cannot stay in ! the program.
This is not a criticism -- it's just one of those things that I
think families should be aware of before relying on this school
for care. I think most kids at age 3 are probably able to adapt -
- for whatever reasons our child was challenged and the
placement simply didn't work well for our family.
currently enrolled elsewhere
Re: Nurturing Preschool for 3 year olds
I highly recommend Mustard Seed Preschool (527-6627) on Hopkins Street in North Berkeley, ask to talk to the director Cathy Squires. She is amazingly devoted to the cause of providing quality education to all children regardless of economics, etc.... Mustard Seed has extremely low teacher turn-over. The teachers are very devoted to the children. Plus they are very loving, affectionate, and playful with them. It is a playbased p! rogram and yet fairly structured with a balance of projects, learning centers, stories, singing, outdoor play. There are 5 classes starting with 18months-2yr olds, 2-3 yr. olds, 3-4 and so on. so the kids are in small groups with kids their own age. It is a Christian Preschool - but I call it Christian light. There are some lessons about a loving God and Jesus (fair warning) the student body is very diverse in both race, religion, economics, there are same sex couples etc... It is a very excepting and loving atmosphere. We started there when we move to east bay and lived down the street and I loved the warmth of it so much that I continued to drive my kids from our new house in oakland. I recently had to withdraw because of my job situation (distance) and I am broken hearted about it. I would gladly tell you more if you need more. alison
My wife and I have sent our daughter, who is 4 years old, to Mustard Seed since 2001. Before choosing Mustard Seed, we visited Beth El, First Presbyterian, University Village, Ducks Nest and the Univesity sponsored care on campus. We got accepted to each one we applied to. I loved aspects of each of these schools, but it ''felt'' right at Mustard Seed.
What does ''feel right'' mean and should you use it as a basis for deciding about preschools. Yes! But make sure you have done some homework, too. Cathy Squires, the director of Mustard Seed, is one of the most competent and compassionate educators I have ever met. She's lived around the world, studied and trained in Berkeley, and knows her way around ''fashionable'' theories and fads. Her teachers are pedagogues and more importantly at this stage, members of ours and our daughter's extended family. The facilities are very appropriate and well-kept. The church where the school is housed seems to do good work. Everyone at Mustard Seed is thoughtful, open and grounded in their practice.
Without making assumptions about my readers, if you are like me, dogma at this stage of your child's development is not what you're looking for in a preschool. I am part Jewish and went to public schools all my life. My wife is from Hungary, and has a healthy distain for state- sponsored dogma. She was raised Catholic and was fortunate to attend great public non-religious schools in her home town. I mention these facts/disclaimers, so you can get a better picture of how mixed our ''values'' are. If, like us, you have mixed values, come from a national and international perspective on education, and care about being at a school with lots of languages and laughter, then Mustard Seed is for you.
After this personal experience with early childhood education, I am starting to believe that it is the love that excites the learning. But the love is more complicated than many would have so believe. There are ''habits of love'' which our daughter has garnered from the school. She many times has to remind my wife and I to ''use our words'' and ''let the other person be''. She has brought home projects and play--but most importantly, Mustard Seed has taught her to bring love and respect into the world.
Figure out what your family wants in a school and you'll know when it's right. Brent
Mustard Seed Preschool is almost always full (but do check it out, you never know. Now's a good time to look around for next year). They don't advertise, it's all word of mouth. There are approximately 70 students total, and up to 50 at any one time. Of course, they don't all use the play yard at the same time, but I think their license says they must have enough outdoor space as if they were going to have everyone outside together. I like that there are a lot of adults & teachers around - part of the reason we picked this over a tiny school. Until just recently they were in the midst of a long-term construction project. They tore down the little house (adorable & sweet, but old, small & becoming unsafe.) Now their two new classrooms (for the 3 & 4 yr.-olds) are complete & in use. They are lovely - light, airy, safe, etc. They even have itty bitty flush pottys - a big hit with the kids! The two classrooms for the 2 & 3 yr.- olds are in the same old spaces, with some improvements here & there. It's a non-denominational Christian school, partly subsidized by the church next door. That's why it's very reasonably priced (in comparison with comparable schools...) I also really like their payment schedule. It's more flexible for parents with odd work schedules than most, I think, and fair to the school also (for example, every month is the same, regardless of the number of school days/holidays. The Director has said she likes to keep it as simple as possible, "so we can all get on with life!" I agree.) The available hours now are 8-6, with the regular classes meeeting from 9-1. The rest is "extended care." I've very much liked all of our son's teachers, and he has made some terrific friends. When we started there, a friend told me she had never once in her long experience of the school seen any adult be less than patient with a child. Their attitudes and perspectives are pragmatic, knowledgable, honest, and above all, loving. Good luck finding a wonderful school!
It's small and family-style. My daughter's classroom was not an actual classroom but composed of several little rooms in a house. There are many asian kids (the director is asian herself), and some staff members speaking Chinese (I think). It's a non-denominational Christian school, so they learn stuff about God creating the world and some songs on the theme "I love you, you love me, Jesus loves us all", and that influences the teachers' attitude towards the kids in ways which I really like -- s.a. truly respecting each child's individuality. On the practical side, the hours can be 9-5 if needed, and it's fairly cheap.
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