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Re: Affordable, Academic, Diversity Preschool for 4yr
You may want to check out Smiles Day School in Montclair. It's semi structured, where there's free play time and some academics, in preparation for kindergarten, such as writing. I don't know how much diversity you are looking for but there is diversity in its students and particularly with its staff. Each week, the students learn a theme such as learning about a country or shapes or agriculture, etc. It's got a lot of students there (50 students on a given day in one program) and yet there's a lot of individualized attention. I never felt my son was lost in the fray and the staff are quite responsive. It's about $924/month for full time care from 7:30-6pm but the rates go down if you are looking for less than full time care. Hope that helps! Lisa
Re: Montclair preschools, play-based and also structured
My daughter is about to graduate from smiles and it has been a wonderful experience. It is play based but has great structure so she is well prepared for kindergarten. It is a bigger school so she has learned great social skills too. Smiles also has flexible hours and is very reasonably priced. melissa
Currently looking for recent feedback on Smiles Day School on Thornhill Avenue in Oakland (Montclair District). My son is currently in a 2 year old program since Smiles accepts kids at the age of 2-9. I am interested in Smiles given the location, neighbor recommendation, and cost. I would like something more play based, but not certain if the size of the program would offer this. My son is very energetic (not overly) but is currently getting time outs for excessive hugging of classmates and climbing in the classroom. Thanks in advance for the feedback.
There aren't many recent reviews of Smiles Day School so I thought I would just say that our experience with Smiles has been truly great. The teachers were very patient with my son during his transition (which wasn't easy initially) and now he's anxious to get there in the morning. He often tells me he needs to hurry up and go to school because, ''his friends are waiting.'' The children are loving and kind which I think reflects back to the teachers. I checked out many other preschools that were far more expensive, and still cannot figure out how Smiles provides everything and more with their very reasonable tuition fees. They truly do a great job - they are firm with high expectations but also loving and kind. We are very happy there and look forward to our daughter attending. Melissa
Re: Full-time preschools for less than $1000/month?
We were in the same situation as you. The only preschool I found that was structured and under $1000 and worked with our hours was Smiles in Montclair. It is not much under $1000 (860), but every bit counts. Meredith
Hello, We're considering Smile's Day School in Montclair as a potential place for our 2 yr old daughter since we feel she is ready for more stimulation and interaction than what her current daycare provides (she has been there since 3 months!). Looks like the reviews are kind of outdated. I'm curious if anyone can offer some insight on how they like/dislike Smile's? Give me the good, the bad and the ugly :) Thanks. Laura
I checked the archives and didn't see any messages about the house site of Smiles Day School. I think that the church site and the house site are very similar, but I'd really appreciate hearing about recent experiences at the house site of this school. Thanks!!!
My family and I are moving to Oakland in 3 months and there is an opening for our 3 year old son at Smiles Day School. Does anyone have any experience with this preschool?
We've been pretty happy with the church site. It's a very clean, bright space with many rooms and a nice layout. The director, Iona, is great. The children's day is very organized. In the morning they are all together for circle time, where they check the weather, sing songs, count the boys and girls, talk about what day and date it is, etc. Then, they are divided into groups of about 10 kids each that are roughly the same age. The children do not have one teacher, but rotate around throughout the day so they have art with one teacher, ''concept'' with another teacher (each week there is a concept that they work on every day -- this year some of the concepts they've done are water, space, safety, manners, Africa, and families), outside time with another teacher, etc. The teachers rotate too, each week, each taking a different concept, etc. The kids therefore know all 6 of the teachers very well as they spend a good amount of time with each of them every day -- it's also nice because not all the teachers are created equal and no child has to spend all day with one that isn't quite as great as the others. (There are two, in particular, who I perceive as ''going through the motions'' and not very into the kids - one, in fact, I'd call mean. The others are very warm and seem to really enjoy the children. My son, however, likes all of them, even the ones I don't.)
They have outside time in a large outside space, which is all concrete (no grass, play structure, or sandbox, unfortunately). But part of the patio is covered so that the kids can play outside even when it's raining, which is nice, and they have all sorts of outside toys for the kids to use on the patio -- trikes, tunnels, tents, building toys, balls (there's a basketball hoop)-- and then they usually set up trains, legos, etc. on the outside tables for the kids who want to sit more quietly rather than run around. They all eat lunch together and in the afternoon, the kids take a nap and then the rest of the day is less structured. The kids are still in groups that rotate around, but not necessarily with their same group that they do the morning activities with. The kids can basically choose if they want to play in a certain room, or do the afternoon art project, or play outside, with some input from the teachers as they like to keep each group of kids roughly the same size.
The school provides very hearty snacks in the morning and in the afternoon (cheese, crackers, fresh fruit, raisins, turkey, tuna, bagels/cream cheese, that kind of thing) and you can purchase a decent lunch very cheaply (there's a printed menu so you know what they're offering every day, although they seem to vary from the menu fairly regularly which is annoying). You can pay extra for computer and fitness classes, which are pretty good and happen once a week. The older kids do pre-k activities during one of the morning chunks of time, like learning phone numbers, addresses, how to spell first and last name, patterns, that kind of thing.
The biggest negatives for me about the school are (1) it is quite a big school and this year they added 10 kids and an extra teacher without notifying the parents in advance, so it is even bigger now (somewhere between 50 and 60 kids) and parking for dropoffs and pickups can be a pain (they share the small parking lot with the house site and another preschool). I also think that the staff isn't quite as clued in to each individual child as I would like. If my son complains to me about something and I talk to the director she is very responsive, but it's always on me to raise the issue -- they rarely let me know that something's bothered my son, etc. Also, they are pretty strict -- there are certain times when they teach the kids to stay quiet, like during lunch, and I've heard them telling the kids to use nice singing voices during ''singing circle'' time (where some of the kids might be yelling the song or being goofy) -- I can understand the need to have some control over that many kids and to teach them that there are times to be loud and times to be quiet, etc., but it always bothers me a bit to see any squelching of enthusiasm. Again, this bothers me more than it bothers my son, who doesn't seem bothered at all, and I think he's actually benefitted quite a bit from the structure and learning to follow rules. Finally, while the snacks and lunch are fairly healthy, on special occasions they let the kids eat quite a bit of junk (on birthdays people usually bring cakes or cookies, and on Halloween and Valentines Day, they give each kid a goody bag filled with candy -- it's nice that they give the kids treats but I'd like them to be healthier ones).
Sorry for the long post but I figured I'd give as much info as I could.
I've already read the information on the website about Smiles Preschool in Montclair and would appreciate any updated input (positive or negative). My daughter will be 3 in the Fall and we are considering their part-time program. Had an on-site visit and I liked the diversity and the teaching staff. Things that made me pause though were how quiet it was (were the kids having fun?), the fact that groups of kids cycled through several teachers a day instead of having one main teacher, and maybe a slight sterile/cold feeling about the rooms. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!
We've been very pleased with Smiles. It is true that there is structure but this appealed to me. Children are busy doing arts and crafts, reading, playing. There are some projects the kids have to do, the rest is free choice.
The groups rotate through different rooms (each with its own toys and activities). They change teachers but I think that is good. All the teachers get to know all the children. I think both teachers and children welcome the variation. The teachers have different abilities and hobbies: some are art oriented, some are more letters and numbers oriented, some work in the garden with the children. It's better than being stuck with a teacher that maybe is not your favorite.
The children have fun, they dance to the music, they listen to stories or they just play together. Indoors they have to keep an "indoor" voice so maybe that's what gives the impression of quietness and subdued note. But they still run and laugh and squeak.
I also like the cleaniness. I visited lots (over 12) of daycares before and there were a lot with peeling paint, kind of dirty, dirty old toys, stale air, darker, some were cold. I like to see a clean bright environment, you would want to see in a school the same environment you created at home, wouldn't you ?
My daugthers went to other daycares and although we liked the school and the teachers, we felt that they were very business oriented: charging you extra for providing care during their weeks of vacation (on top of the full monthly fee), tough cancellation policy (are you ready to lose the last month tuition-$900 if you pull out before scholl ends?), supply fees, enrollment fees every year etc.
Smiles has always been very accomodating: no penalty schedule changes, drop off occasions, very short vacation time (1 week in spring, 1 week between Christmas and NY). I've never felt that they were trying to milk as much money as possible from us as I felt other places.
And as a last note: believe me, when you try to rush out the door in the morning you will be thankful that you don't have to pack lunch and that your child will get a good, nutritious, warm lunch on site. I am a full time working mom and that made a difference for me. Hope this helps, Simona
We are considering sending our son to Smiles Preschool (house site) and would like to hear from people regarding the school (pros and cons) and the lack of a play structure. The director said they have no plans for one in the future yet I have heard they had one a year ago. Chris
The church site provides nutritious hot lunches for an additional fee(like $17/month) which is a great relief for full time working moms always rushing out the door. I'm talking from my own experience. The teachers are very responsible, if you ask them something to do or not to do for your child they do not forget and always comply with your wishes. The director Iona is wonderful. They do not have a play structure at the church site either but they always take out toys, blocks, play tents, bycicles, balls and hoops so the children have enough to do. They offer ballet, computer and fitness classes for additional fees. Overall my children and I are very happy with Smiles. They are thriving, even my shy one. I looked at about 12 daycares before choosing their first daycare(which closed) and an additional 7 before deciding for Smiles and I am trully very happy with my decision. Good luck. Simona
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