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Note: The Berkeley School was known as Berkeley Montessori School prior to July 2009.
Re: Berkeley/Oakland private school recs
The Berkeley School meets all of your criteria. I'm a parent of a first grader at the school. We had our teacher conference yesterday and continue to be impressed by the dedication, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm of the teachers. They just seem to know our child so well and how to support him. I'm sure their positivity has a lot to do with the support the teachers get from the administration. The administrators are constantly and intentionally assessing how they can make the educational experience the best that it can be. My son is doing writing and math in first grade that is far beyond what I understood at his age. (And I'm impressed by the kids' understanding, as opposed to just rote learning of math concepts.) The foreign language is Spanish, and there is also a Spanish option as part of the after-school program. The extended day program has many other interesting choices including carpentry, capoeira, art, cooking, gardening, and knitting (there are new offerings each session). Regarding outside space, in addition to the areas you see when you visit the school (which the kids love), the classes utilize the grassy park across the street at the back of the school. They frequently go there with their "buddies" from the older classrooms to do games and activities. I've also been happy with the social-emotional curriculum and general sense of kindness that pervades at the school. And yes, the parent community is active and diverse. I highly recommend the school.
Re: Private School for Quirky Middle-High Schooler
Hi Concerned Mom! Saw your post and would like to recommend our son's school, The Berkeley School on University. We've been there since preschool and are pleased with how middle school is going thus far (my son is in 7th). What I really like about TBS' middle school program is that the classes are small and the attention from teachers is very individualized...my son has had more difficulty with language arts, and my husband and I have gotten very on-point feedback about this from his humanities teacher and practical suggestions for my son that he has actually taken and has improved (mostly participating in class, taking more time to clarify his thoughts about a particular book, etc). The school prioritizes a safe social environment...lots of discussion about bullying and why it's not helpful...and effective, gentle tracking of the kids' social interactions, as well as great parent support (I've attended at least one evening workshop on parenting kids in the digital age that was really helpful). TBS also places strong emphasis on different learning styles. Hope this helps. Kate
Re: Berkeley School or Redwood Day?
My son attended The Berkeley School (then Berkeley Montessori) from preschool through fifth grade, but thought when he was entering sixth grade that he'd like a larger social cohort, so we moved him to Redwood Day School. RDS is also an excellent school, but he wound up deciding to return to TBS for 7th and 8th grades, mostly because he found that he missed the sense of community and close friendships, particularly with his teachers. We were always really impressed by how well known each TBS child is by the faculty and staff at TBS, and how the teachers nurtured children's comfort with reaching out for academic or social help. I also feel that TBS has a stronger sense of community and diversity.
In response to the answer last week from an RDS parent, you should know that TBS does have a Differentiated Instruction Specialist who's doing amazing work with the teachers. It's also provisionally accredited by CAIS and NAIS, with permanent accreditation due soon. I'm not sure what the responder meant about land ownership, but TBS owns both its campuses.
Both schools are excellent; it's really all about the fit. I advise you to choose the school where your child and your family feel most at home. Alumni TBS Parent
Re: Schools that foster creativity?
My younger daughter, age 6 in grade 1, is in her second year at The Berkeley School (TBS) and sounds similar to your daughter: she loves art and particularly loves to write and illustrate her own stories. We enrolled her and her older sibling at TBS because my husband and I believe the school supports creativity and strong academics in many different ways. The Montessori-influenced and project-based curriculum encourages both independent and group work as well as students' exploration of their own interests. The curriculum allows children agency and choice in selecting activities and experimenting with different tools and methods to learn and master concepts within the major subject areas. There are two full-time teachers in the class to approximately 20 kids who spend a great deal of time evaluating and supporting students. TBS has two art teachers who are active artists themselves and who work with the K-5 and 6-8 grades, respectively, in small groups. TBS also employs teachers in its after-school program who are active artists. The school also attracts many families whose parents work in creative fields -- architecture, journalism, music, photography and film, to name a few. We have watched our child flourish in a warm, supportive environment where art is integrated into the classroom through various projects: this year it has been monthly self-portraits using different media; experiments with light and dark; and map making. Her teachers first noted our child's strong interest in the arts and encouraged our support of her interests when she was in K. They also noted that she has an artist's eye for design, that she is meticulous in her attention to detail in both her art and regular class work, and that she is a self-motivated and highly disciplined learner. In her K year, our child pursued her interests in writing and illustrating her own stories during her daily 20-minute siesta time after lunch and we were impressed by several formal, illustrated stories she wrote for class, particularly her grasp of narrative. This past spring/summer, she developed a keen interest in the textile arts -- specifically sewing and knitting -- that she is now combining with her writing and drawing. For example, this fall she has used her daily siesta time after lunch to work independently on a book in which each page has either a female character wearing differently patterned and decorated dresses and accessories or a male character who is more plainly dressed. She also drew several maps of the Earth to show which part of the world her characters came from. Each character is related to one another yet each character has its own story. (This is her own project, as she proudly calls it, and it is separate from the stories and other written assignments that are part of her regular class work). This example of independent project work is clearly tied to her personal interests in knitting, sewing and storytelling in general. Her interests are also supported in the after-school program, where she attends the TBS 'Fun with Yarn' class every week. In this class, she learned to knit using a circular loom and rapidly completed a hat with pom pom using four different types of yarns, and then knit a smaller hat for her favorite stuffed animal. She finished both hats in two weeks because she enjoyed working on this project at home as well as in after-school, and this work is in addition to the doll clothes, pillows, and purses she sews from felt and fabric at home on her own. Our daughter also enjoys other pursuits, such as singing in her weekly music class; making sugar skulls and learning about Dia de los Muertos as part of her art and Spanish classes; and cooking in the after-school program. This past spring 2012, the middle school put on ''The Lion King'' musical, and she and her big sib were so inspired by the school production that they learned all the songs by heart and sang it for months afterwards (I heard from several other K-3 parents that their children were similarly inspired). Overall, TBS' teacher support of students' personal interests; inspiring classes and after-school activities; wealth of materials and resources; integration of arts and crafts with everyday class work; and encouragement of independent projects have had a wonderful, liberating effect on our daughter's creativity. It's gratifying to see her excitement and motivation about school and learning reinforced in her regular school work as well. Take a look at the TBS Art Blog and class blogs on the school website to see what students are doing. If you are looking for a school that supports exploration and creativity combined with strong academics, I highly recommend that you visit and consider The Berkeley School. A Happy TBS Parent
Re: Good middle school for boys
My eldest son went to The Berkeley School and my youngest son is currently enrolled there in the middle school. I highly recommend this school. It's truly warm and caring with a diverse community of students from all backgrounds. My sons really thrived, both intellectually and emotionally, in the vibrant and supportive classes. The teachers are devoted to helping all their students learn to their full potential. Check it out -- they offer tours throughout the year so that you can visit and see if The Berkeley School is a good fit for your child. I know how difficult it can be to find the right school and I wish you the best in finding one for your son! Lillian
We are in the midst of the search for the right K and hopefully K-8 school! Both The Berkeley School and Prospect Sierra look amazing... I am wondering about people's experience with Kindergarten...I am looking for one that is not too hectic (I have noticed differences on the various tours), warm, flexible, able to follow children's interests, encourages family involvement, and does a good job balancing social-emotional & academics. I know what both schools preach but I'm wondering about parents' experiences?! Also I would love to find one that really honors the big transition that K is for many children (beginning of 5 day a week, full school day) and helps makes the transition as easy as possible with input from the child's family. Another question is...I see that TBS utilizes TERC math curriculum while PS uses Everyday Mathematics as well as Sunshine Math...I am looking for feedback about how either of these are working for your child throughout elementary? Last one...the yard/play area is so much bigger at PS, does TBS feel too small, especially as the children get older? Any parent feedback is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
The teachers are very interested in getting to know the kids and families and spend a lot of time doing so. There's always an open door for questions and discussion about any concerns parents have about their kids. They also dedicate a lot of extra time to making sure the class community stays connected. For example, this year, we took a long trip about a month into the school year and the teachers worked our destination into the geography curriculum and helped keep our daughter in touch with the class via e mail.
I cannot compare the math curricula, but will note that our daughter's teachers quickly identified math/number sense as a challenging area for her and looped us in. They and other faculty are providing additional learning support. In stark contrast, the feedback that we received from her interim school was that she was paying attention during math and that even when she was attentive, she was not trying. Because of the keen observational abilities of her current teachers, she is getting exactly what she needs.
As to your final question about the playspace, it seems to be working well. For us, what happens in the classroom is ultimately more important than the size of the physical space. I know that some of the older classrooms also go to the Berkely park that is just out the ''backdoor''. For the younger kids, there is a separate play area in the back that is temporarily closed while the City of Berkeley puts in a bike path, but it will hopefully reopen soon.
TBS is proving to be a fantastic school for our kids and a great community for us as well. Good luck with your decision. Happy TBS Family
PS is very pretty, but if you don't live close by the daily commute is a big drag. They are a more traditional model as schools go. While in the classroom we had excellent teachers, the amount of homework was more than advertised and it was typically busywork. The culture at the school is also very traditional.
While both schools espouse progressive values and driving tenets, The Berkeley School really walks their talk. The TBS teachers (and we have spent roughly equal time at both schools) are excellent and devoted to their programs. There is a great deal of mutuality in the connections at TBS; the school mission is much more about how to best serve the community they have created rather than cramming everyone to fit into a proscribed mold. There is a quality of warmth at TBS that doesn't exist at PS, and that permeates the entire culture of the TBS community.
Regarding your specific questions, my very visual child is excelling in math this year. While it wasn't an issue before, there is a notable change in both attitude and achievement so far. I suspect part of this is the inclusion of Montessori materials (beads, cubes, etc.)in addition to the TERC program. I LOVE the TBS approach to homework. My child recently finished an assignment and volunteered ''that was way more fun than the homework at PS''. I almost fell off my chair.
TBS has access to Strawberry Creek Park, right outside their back door. It's a big beautiful field and has plenty of room for all PE activities. The kids regularly use parks around Berkeley and I love that this makes them participants in their lovely urban home (that's why we live here, right?).
I am happy to answer other questions or expand on these answers if you would like to ask the moderator for my email. You can also contact Paula Farmer, the charming and accomplished Director of Admissions with any questions you may have at pfarmer (at) theberkeleyschool dot org.
Best of luck with your decision! Very happy with The Berkeley School!
Editor note: reviews were also received for Prospect Sierra
Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
I highly recommend The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. Our son is in 3rd grade and has been at TBS since Kindergarten and we absolutely love it. The teachers, administrators and community of families at this school are incredible. There is a lot of emphasis on reading and writing in the early years as well as hands-on experiences for science and math. There is virtually no homework, tests or sitting behind desks in the first few years. What we appreciate the most is that they teach the kids how to learn and why learning is empowering and important. To do this they give the kids the freedom and personalized guidance to build on their "gifts" and confront their "challenges."The school is located on University Avenue just a few blocks from I-80. Check out the website (http://www.theberkeleyschool.org/) for more information. -Arash Sara
Re: Montessori Family School Vs The Berkeley School
We found The Berkeley School (TBS) online before we came to the country. Our son started at the Early Childhood Campus (ECC) and is now in Kindergarten at the University Campus. The school has been amazing for all of us. It gave us a community to enter into when we arrived in the country and we found good friends amongst the other parents and the teachers. The ECC is wonderful, I can't recommend it highly enough, but since your question is about K I will concentrate on our experience so far. The school is a great place for our son, who is not an easy-going guy. He is comfortable and seems to have found a good place for himself. The school is not strictly Montessori - they follow some of the principles but are not strictly or only Montessori, which we prefer. So there is imaginative play and we don't get looked at disapprovingly for our kid's love of computers. So far the 'big' school is less intimate and holding than the ECC, but that's to be expected I think. The staff is amazing; really dedicated and passionate about what they do. Whenever we have an 'ouch' moment about the cost, we think about the parent-teacher evenings we've been to. The commitment of the staff to each child's development is honestly inspiring. I really recommend TBS; at least go on one of their tours and check it out. It's a small, educated, diverse, welcoming community. Natasha
Re: Seeking a Montessori school for 5 year old daughter
Have you considered looking at The Berkeley School (otherwise known as TBS) on University Avenue in Berkeley? http://theberkeleyschool.org/ They are deeply rooted in a traditional Montessori curriculum, but have incorporated symbiotic teaching methodologies such as Reggio Emilia's ''Follow the Child'' approach (observe what the child is naturally interested in and teach the curriculum concepts in that context). The name of the school recently changed from Berkeley Montessori School to The Berkeley School to reflect this more inclusive teaching philosophy. Being a long-ago graduate of a Montessori school, I was definitely looking for a Montessori education for my two children and have received it. The augmented philosophy, however, has been invaluable for my kids who have diametrically opposed learning styles. Both have flourished (both in the pre-school and now Kindergarten), and I am comfortable in saying that TBS will be able to provide a successful and engaging Montessori education to any type of child. It also happens to be a very fun and supportive community. - A Happy TBM Mom TBS Mom
Re: Private schools in Berkeley
My son has been attending the Berkeley School since he was 3 years old. He's now in the 4th grade. It is an amazing community and has been a thoroughly positive experience. The school is focused on all aspects of child developement--from academics, to social development, to being a conscientious and centered individual. The kids are confident and strong critical thinkers and the attention to my son's individual needs has been impressive throughout. We love the school! Carrie
Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
Dear Mom, You should definitely come see The Berkeley School, located on University Ave in the heart of Berkeley. (www.theberkeleyschool.org) My daughter is now in her second year here, in a truly mixed second and third grade classroom. The 23 students in her class (with two full teachers!) are work individually and in mixed-age groups throughout the day, depending on their needs, learning styles, and even interests. My daughter had been in a traditional K and 1st grade class, at another school, but likes this so much better. In addition to the academic benefits are, of course, the social benefits of making friends with older and younger students, and then, as they move into the next class, having the older kids truly welcome them into the new community of learners. I've loved seeing the way the friendships across the grades spill over onto the playground at recess and all-school activities. Feel free to email me directly if you want more information. Moira
Re: School for sensory seeking 1st grader
Look at The Berkeley School. It's on University Ave just a few blocks up from San Pablo. They are giving tours now. We like it a lot and I think you might like what you see there. JM
Re: Middle School for son with advanced math & science
My boys went to TBS from preschool through grade 8. The academics prepared them extremely well for any high school they wanted to attend, and the environment, which I treasured dearly, and believe is equally important, allowed them to remain safely inside of childhood for just a tiny bit longer -- avoiding the over-sexual-ized, over-consumer-ized and media-blitzed reality of life -- for just a couple more years.
One son graduated from The College Preparatory School and the other from Lick-Wilmderding High School (very much their choices). One just graduated from UCLA with his degree Chemical Engineering (just because it ''sounded interesting'') and was recruited by Google where he now works (nothing at all to do with ChemE, he's followed his passion for technology). Our other son is a bio-medical engineering major at UC Davis, where he has discovered philosophy and viticulture. Therefore, I'd say they were both well-prepared for whatever step came next in their lives. (Really, with very little help from us - two parents who are liberal arts graduates who can barely solve an algebraic equation). Both of them could have gone to private/very expensive Ivy League colleges, and both, with our encouragement, chose University of California campuses, for which our bank accounts shall be eternally grateful.
I look back on all the school choices for the boys and I have the most nostalgia for TBS and what a wonderful place it was for our kids and our family. It was a sweet time with so much learning, growing, and happiness.
What more could you want? One Lucky Mama
Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
Our son joined The Berkeley School last year for Kindergarten. He joined one of the K/1 mixed-age classrooms and is now in first grade. My son has well developed academic skills (i know all parents say that)and has benefited from the chance to work at his own pace for more rigorous topics like math and language and last year was able to work at the first grade level on these lessons. You didn't mention in what way your child is sensitive, but our student is socially shy and prefers observation and then carefully proceeding into group projects. There is an assortment of works and activities that can be independent and done in groups so children are able to select where and what is comfortable but still have access to all of the materials. We also appreciated how helpful teachers were in helping us all transition to the routine of school. They were patient and great with helping us with separation at the beginning of the year. Having the same teacher for 2 years in a row has also gone a long way (and one of the reasons we chose The Berkeley School) in helping our son gain confidence and independence in both his learning style and social interactions. Personally our family has made friends and enjoy the supportive, strong and fun parent community! Happy TBS parent of 1st Grade Boy
If you are considering The Berkeley School, I want to encourage you. We transferred 5 years ago and its been a great all round experience. Our daughter has flourished academically and socially in this progressive, relevant, hands on, diverse learning environment. She has learned to apply herself to her studies, to work well in teams and groups, and to take responsibility for her homework (which she has always has a very reasonable amount of, especially now compared to other middle schools). The teachers are the heart of the school. They are of exceptional caliber, forming a solid community. It helps that faculty are well supported in their professional development. TBS has built on the brilliant aspects of the Montessori method, updating with current research and methodology in education. The staff are all great to interact with, and our principal also provides a warmly supportive, humorous, yet clear, firm presence for the kids, as well as being an inspired educator and writer. I have been struck by the the active parent community, which includes many thoughtful, accomplished, creative people. I have had a couple of minor issues, for instance with grammar and spelling, but we are seeing really good essays and poetry. Overall, we are satisfied with the subjects in middle school, appreciating the vitality of PE, art, music, and drama programs. There is even a fresh, healthy school lunch program! Our daughter has surpassed all expectations in her learning and we will always be thankful. Only trouble is, its hard to be moving on... jen
Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
You should definitely take a look at The Berkeley School. I share your views on homework, and you will find that the teachers and administrators at TBS feel the same way. There is basically no homework prior to 4th grade, and very manageable amounts for 4th through 8th grades. More importantly, the homework that is sent home is always thoughtful, and builds on something being done during the school day/week rather than just being busy work. Our Head of School thinks that kids' homework should actually be ''the work of the home,'' as he calls it -- kids helping out, being with family, recharging their batteries. I am happy to talk to you personally about our experience at The Berkeley School if you would like. j.s
Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
I'd like to suggest considering The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). When my eldest son was in 6th grade, we had a similar experience as yours, trying to find the best Middle School for him. I know that this isn't an easy process! The Berkeley School is not rigorous in a traditional sense, but the small size of its Middle School allows the teachers to really understand the intellectual needs of each student. My eldest son who is quite academic found the Middle School to be truly supportive both of his academic intellect and of himself as a whole person. The teachers are sincerely passionate about teaching each individual child. There's a true welcoming and supportive environment at The Middle School and my son developed not only intellectually but socially as well. He learned not only intellectual concepts, but when to apply these concepts, how to explain it to others and how to work with other people. I wish you and your son the best in finding the right Middle School for him! Lillian
Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
I so emphathize with your dilemma and your search! Our daughter just transferred from Park Day to The Berkeley School (for 2nd grade), and while we loved aspects of Park Day, we didn't think it was the best fit for our daughter, who was often overwhelmed by the social energy of her peers at Park Day. We moved to The Berkeley School because we were so impressed with their commitment to a truly supportive social environment (the size and layout of the school support this, as well as the on-site school psychologist) within the context of what they call ''a rigorous progressive school.'' Rigor, in this context, doesn't mean testing, but allowing children to move within and across the double-grade classrooms with curriculum that really lets children learn at their own pace. In addition, if the two-year range isn't enough, I know of kids who are in the upper elementary classes for math, but in their own lower elementary class for everything else. This isn't weird or awkward (the way it was when I was in elementary school) but just part of the culture. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions. mrk
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I began learning about progressive educational philosophies when I was looking for a school as my son was getting ready to enter kindergarten. Ultimately, the school's educational philosophy became the most important factor in our decision. We are now in our third year at The Berkeley School with our two children (both also attended the school's Early Childhood Center). We have been very happy with our decision. The school cultivates self-directed as well as collaborative learning and fosters children's creativity and curiosity for learning. Most importantly our children know school as a place that is fun to go where they are appreciated for being themselves. The teachers are outstanding and there is a strong emphasis on professional development, which I feel contributes to the school being among the most progressive in the area.
As you come closer to looking at schools, I would encourage you to visit schools' classrooms more than once and to meet with the head of school/principal - that is what ultimately sealed our decision. catherine
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
My daughter attended The Berkeley School from preschool through eighth grade and is now a Freshman at The College Preparatory School. My son is in second grade and attended TBS' Early childhood Center as well. Here is a little insight into why we love TBS:
- Dedicated, energetic teachers who are deeply supported by their
administration, especially in professional development.
- Happy, friendly and diverse kids
- Consistency across classes and curriculum
- Active parent community (with a variety of ways to contribute)
Ultimately, my daughter is doing very well at College Prep. TBS helped build her confidence, developed her already great sense of humor, and prepared her intellectually and creatively to do pretty much whatever she wants to.
PS. we love the school lunch program run by Gregoire (parent and Berkeley restaurant guy)
PPS Feel free to visit our family blog (http://thederringdos.com) to get a sense of what one TBS family is like. Patrick
Re: Private Middle School with strong academics
You should absolutely take a look at The Berkeley School. It offers strong academics--including everything on your list-- Algebra, Geometry, Spanish, hands-on Science, Art, Music, Drama, and an emphasis on differentiated learning. While many schools emphasize skill building, the Berkeley School takes that as only one important part of helping students become strong, engaged learners. In addition to a solid curriculum that builds skills, students at The Berkeley School acquire an awareness of how and when to apply those skills --through project-based learning, and hands-on work-- as well as developing motivation to excel --by an emphasis on understanding their own gifts and challenges, and gaining an appreciation of their own style as learners. At TBS middle-school graduations, every child speaks about themselves as learners, challenges they have faced and overcome, and growth they have experienced. I have attended these graduations for years, and every year I am blown away by the level of self-possession self awareness and self confidence that each and every student demonstrates. They are simply amazing. Happy TBS mom
Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
I am not sure what you mean by ''not too academic,'' but I assume you mean that learning should be fun and should foster a love of learning rather than just concentrating on rote memorization and fact-gathering. If you are looking for a school that can foster inquiry and curiosity, as well as establish a solid foundation for your child to be able to formulate questions, understand and process information, and apply those skills to their daily living and long-term learning, then you may want to look at The Berkeley School. TBS offers a visionary education where each child is truly known, and can go on to succeed at the high school of their choice. For me personally, it's refreshing to be at one of the independent schools that teaches students the importance of how to think for themselves. Paula
Re: Diverse private school for Hispanic daughter
We have been very pleased with The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori) for the diversity of the students and their families and their support of adoptive families. Our two girls were adopted from Cambodia and both have felt the support of students, faculty and staff and the sense that their cultures are celebrated and honored. Throughout the years, the girls brought presentations of Cambodian culture and holidays and their adoption stories to the classroom.
While there is no bilingual program, Spanish is integrated at the Early Childhood Center and in all levels of elementary and middle school. There are TBS families whose first language is Spanish (among many languages represented in the school community). Finally, the flexibility of the progressive education at TBS gives teachers the opportunity to spend time exploring a particular culture and issues that develop around adoption and family. We have been very lucky to have a teacher for the past three years who is also an adoptee.
The Berkeley School is a respectful community where differences are celebrated - I hope you'll give them a look. Catherine
Re: East Bay Private K-4 Recommendation
I encourage you to check out The Berkeley School, which fits all of your criteria (except maybe cheap, though it's competitive or somewhat less than other independents...). Our child is a very happy first grader there.
It's hard to describe a school--really important to go and visit, get the feel, see if it's right for you and your kid. But here goes: At TBS our child is learning to be a self-motivated ''learner.'' Her intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm have been ignited, her confidence and creativity supported-- she's thriving in all respects. The influence of its Montessori past remains in the teachers' emphasis on truly knowing each student as an individual and guiding him/her in her development. That's possible, in part, because there are two full teachers (not student teachers or aids) in each classroom, making the ratio about 1:10. The teachers themselves participate in impressive amounts of on-going education, which keeps them fresh and engaged. The school encourages intellectual growth and rigor without pushing or placing undo pressure on kids. There's also a real sense of warmth and community that we've appreciated as a family.
Best of luck with your search. TBS Mom
Our kids attend The Berkeley School on University Avenue formerly known as Berkeley Montessori School). We have a 3rd grader and a Kindergardener, both of whom have been at the school for several years.
The school is in West Berkeley and has a wonderful program that emphasizes intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation as the basis for learning. They have an excellent faculty and staff and are very good at understanding and attending to the individual needs of children as they develop. There are 2 teachers in every classroom, for about 20 students, plus the ''special'' classes like art, music and Spanish which are taught to half the class (10 students or so) per session. The after school program is also fun for the kids with K-science, carpentry cooking, sports and free play, amongst other activities.
Here is a link to the elementary program. http://theberkeleyschool.org/curriculum-academics/elementary-school/#e
Call Paula Farmer, Director of Admissions at 510-665-880 X103.
Good luck! Willie
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
You should check out The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. It is the only school I found that clearly stated and embodied that it had ''no floor AND no ceiling'' in their classes. They will be responsive to your child's unique needs or, if they cannot meet them, they will not admit him/her. They are one of the only schools that do not just accept for as many spots as they have (or ''over accept'') -- they accept students/families that they can serve well and are a good fit for their program and community. I think you'll be pleased with what you see. TBS is far beyond your typical good progressive school. If your child is really gifted (sounds like s/he may be) then you may also want to check out http://www.baywoodlearningcenter.org/ and also http://nuevaschool.org/ Good luck! anon
Re: Looking for schools with "no homework" policy
My experience at Berkeley Montessori has been no homework until 4th grade, and not a ton of it then. Even better, when my kids were in first through third grades the teachers would talk to them about ''homework'' being the work you do at home, and encourage the kids to talk about the kinds of things they did at home as contributing members of their family. Setting the table, making their beds, helping with dishes, emptying the waste baskets...kids all had different things that they did that varied with their ages and their families, but I really liked how talking about it this way both set an expectation about kids helping out and honored their contributions. Ann
Re: Looking for Bridge K programs in the East Bay
We looked at pre K programs last year for our son who was turning 5 in December. We ended up at Berkeley Montessori and have been very happy with the school. You can check to see if they still have any spots for next year. It's a great school, and our son has thrived there. You can look online at http://www.bmsonline.org/index.php
Re: Differentiated Learning at Berkeley Montessori, the Academy and Park Day
The thing about Berkeley Montessori is that differentiated learning is basically their entire philosophy. they put a ton of energy into closely observing and working with your child, and then meeting the child at their level. Finding the window when they are ready to read, for example, recognizing that, and then jumping in at the right time. There are two teachers in each class, and while one is teaching, the other is often observing and taking notes. I am pleasantly surprised by what they know about my child (3 days last week he was interested in working with such and such math project). We have been at BMS for a few years now. I am constantly struck by the variety of children and learning styles/abilities that the school caters to. there are kids there who are geniuses, but just as many with learning disabilities. And many middle of the road. And its amazing how they handle it so well. One downside to this approach, to be fair, is that it sometimes seems like they are so ready to cater to the child and what their interests are, they they don't really push kids too much when they are not interested in something. I've heard of kids who were missing some basic skills and the parents only happened to find out on their own. The child had been excelling in other areas so their ''individualized curriculum'' sort of skipped a basic or two that the student should have learned. Maybe the school was just waiting till the child was interested. But in truth, most children excel there and most absolutely LOVE school. -anon
Having seen several classes of 8th graders graduate from BMS, I am perennially astounded by how self-possessed they are, and how self-aware they are about themselves as learners. At graduation last spring, some students expressed themselves through art or dance or puppetry, while another said with a smile, ''I thought about what I wild and creative thing I could do, but I realized that I am at core a linear thinker. I do my best expression in sentences and paragraphs,'' and then went on to give a very well articulated, logical talk. A parent of an elementary- aged child recently told me her son was pacing around the house, and when she asked him what he was doing, he said, ''I'm working on my homework. I'm a kinesthetic learner, and walking helps me think.'' After another minute or so he sat down and completed his writing assignment.
Teachers at BMS are constantly learning about strategies and methods to reach a range of students. There is a huge commitment to professional development which extends to best practices beyond the solid tools within Montessori. Just in the past year, all of my children's four teachers spent a week in the summer at Project Zero at Harvard. In addition, individually they have attended the Bioneers conference, the Asilomar Math conference, and workshops on Facing History and Ourselves, sustainability, respectful discipline, science education and more. Beyond the obvious benefit of bringing the best tested methods into the classroom, this commitment to ongoing education powerfully models for the children what it means to be a life-long learner, and be engaged in your work. I couldn't ask for a more committed, engaged, devoted set of teachers. I call them ''the dream team.'' BMS is an exceptional place for all kinds of learners to do all kinds of learning. afh
Our child happens to be an advanced reader, is in first grade doing 3rd grade spelling, better-than-first-grade math, writing, etc. And we find the teachers very attuned to the need for differentiated learning. We have not initiated any of the changes in level, the faculty have each time, often midstream as they realize she is ready for more challenge. There is no wait for ''testing'' or other more formal diagnoses.
There are some areas, particularly social-emotional, where she is definitively a first-grader, and we feel her gifts (strengths) are encouraged and nourished and her challeneges are worked on in a way that makes her feel powerful as a person and also realistic in terms of how she relates to the world. Pretty powerful stuff.
There are children in her class who experience challenges in reading or math, and those who are very gifted in particular areas. And the whole is a pretty terrific community. The class structure this coming school year will change to 2-year groupings (as opposed to the traditional Montessori 3-year groupings) to allow the teachers to better serve the wide range of learning styles and abilities of the students. We're big fans. lh
Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
Check out Berkeley Montessori School. It has been a wonderful education for my son, who started in kindergarten and is graduating this year from the 8th grade. The Head of School is dynamic and is a strong supporter of excellent teacher professional development (including sending 12 teachers every summer to Harvard Project Zero), which is directly improving an already great program for the kids. And the kindergarten will be at the elementary campus next year, instead of the preschool, as in the past. Their web site is http://www.bmsonline.org. Best of luck to you in a search for a good match for your child and your family! -Happy BMS parent
After switching to Berkeley Montessori, ''Sara'', a creatively gifted, "outside of the box" learner said, ''Mom, I miss my old friends, but learning is important and at the old school, if you could learn a subject easily it was fine, but that didnmt work for some of us. Now my teachers really know me, they actually TEACH ME! She has made strides academically, understanding her strengths and challenges. Children are guided to take a high level of responsibility for their learning program, and she handles homework gracefully now--a minor miracle! We appreciate balanced individual/group learning, Montessori math,great art room and chorus, well-organized debates, science lessons to live for, challenging poetry recitals, healthy kid-prepared snacks, responsiveness to parents. Our head, an inspired intellectual, and pragmatic leader, teaches at Harvard in the summer. The teaching faculty are outstanding: committed and caring, of a caliber I only dreamed of before (early childhood education minor). Same goes for the learning specialist and psychologist. Montessorims brilliant insight is integrated with contemporary research. They teach and assess for real understanding and thinking, rather than "coverage". I believe children are being equipped for the future, for jobs yet to be invented. The community works hard on diversity, Green issues and social responsibility. Although not as expansive, this campus is a jewel,with beautifully designed classrooms. jen
Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
Visit Berkeley Montessori School. Lots of different types of student thrive there. They educate the whole person, teach mutual respect and positive communication, as well as strong academics. It was a great place for my son to transition into young adulthood. I only wish our very highly regarded HS was half as good. anon mom
What's it really like at BMS? I'm wondering about the social environment. Clique-ish? Competitive? Friendly? I'm also wondering whether or not the teachers encourage balance in a child. I've got a bookish little brainiac, and I'd like him to be encouraged to grow the other side of his brain as well. Do the teachers at BMS truly value arts and creativity? Or are they kind of heady? Many thanks, Looking at Lower El.
The teachers are very loving, intelligent, balanced, and creative. The projects they come up with encompass a range of subject areas. For example, the lower el children recently celebrated 100 days of school with involved math projects. While the main focus is on math and problem solving, the parameters of the project were broad enough that they also became experiences in art making, writing, geography, history, science, and storytelling.
There is a misconception that Montessori schools are overly structured, cold, and lack imaginative play. In the several years we have been at BMS, I do not find this to be the case. In fact, imagination is strongly encouraged, intellectual development and individuality are celebrated. happy BMS parent
In terms of the social environment, I have not found the kids to be at all clique-ish or competitive. The parents I've met also seem nice; however, they have not been active in initiating extracurricular socializing. I wish there were a bit more of that, but maybe that's just the reality of today's over-busy society.
On a recent Sunday, my son said, ''I can't wait for school tomorrow!'' ''Why?'' I asked
him. ''Is there a special event?'' ''No,'' he shrugged. To me, the fact that he is eager
to go to school is more than enough proof that we have made the right choice for
Parent of a happy BMS elementary school child
Re: Math for gifted kids
I've looked at many private schools (and checked out the Piedmont public schools) since my older son is mathematically- inclined and the curriculum at the private school he attended until 2nd grade was dismal and not challenging at all for him.
In my opinion, there's no other school that can teach math as thoroughly as Berkeley Montessori School (where our kids have been enrolled for the past 6 years). While other schools teach children how to get the right answers (with schools boasting superior math curriculum teaching FASTER ways, often shortcuts, to the right answers), BMS teaches math in a way that gives students a really deep understanding -- the students truly internalize the math concepts (what's behind the concepts, how to expand on them, etc.). The challenging math curriculum and the superior teaching tools and method are the main reasons why we came to BMS (although, now that we're here, we realize that the amazing social curriculum is also a boon).
Re: First grader's teacher says he's "extremely advanced"
Our daughter is now an 8th grader at Berkeley Montessori School (BMS) in Berkeley. She's been there since Kindergarten; the program runs from preschool through 8th grade.
Through elementary, children are grouped in classes with three grade levels each: pre/K, 1st/2nd/3rd, & 4th/5th/6th. (Middle school is 7th & 8th.) Students are not always grouped strictly by grade level for each area of work, but are often grouped by their readiness for a particular topic. With this arrangement, teachers are working successfully with students having a range of abilities.
Care is also given to social development of each child, and children have a role -- they have a say, they have responsibilities -- in the social and physical functions of the classroom. I find that the mixed-aged classrooms help in this area, too.
This all stems from an approach that is captured by the expression ''follow the child''. The idea is that it is in the nature of kids to learn and grow; given a suitable environment, appropriate resources, and gentle guidance, learning is naturally self-driven.
There is a curriculum, of course, and there are milestones of academic achievement. At the same time, daily and weekly activities are not strictly bound to a script. One day in elementary school, several of my daughter's classmates found a praying mantis in the schoolyard, and caught it. I know that in the schools that I attended, the teachers would have just yelled at the kids to get the thing out of the class and get back to work. At BMS, the students who found the big bug were sent off to the library to research praying mantises and figure out how to care for the new class pet. They presented their findings to their classmates, and the students of the class took on the responsibilities of caring for their new bug friend.
Tuition isn't cheap. However, do not necessarily assume that you will not qualify for tuition assistance. We made this mistake -- when our daughter started BMS, we were recently out of school with our first real jobs; not making much in the big picture, but real salaries seemed like a fortune compared to student life. We didn't apply for assistance, but just pinched and stretched, the first line of our family budget always being the BMS tuition. Some years later, after our careers had seen some growth, we learned that we probably would have been ripe candidates for assistance. If you find yourself exploring independent schools, don't make the same mistake we did in this area.
I could go on... but what we know for sure is that it works for us -- that is to say, our daughter has had a fantastic experience, and continues to be challenged and to grow. Have a look at BMS, and see what you think!
Best of luck! -Greg
We are strongly considering moving my son to a private school for first grade. He hasn't done particularly well in his Oakland public school for Kindergarten (and he's actually begged me not to send him to first grade!). He's plenty bright, but has what is being called ''motor planning'' difficulties, with the result that he has a lot of difficulty writing, and unfortunately the curricula used in OUSD rely quite a bit on worksheets. The result is dislike of school in general, and self-esteem problems. We're considering both Berkeley Montessori and Aurora, although we've had strong recommendations both for and against each place for my son. He's a high-energy, social boy, who loves to be outside and to work with his hands. We've heard that Aurora may not be the best place for high-energy boys; we've heard that BMS may or may not allow much interaction abd working in groups, depending on the teacher. We'd really like to find a good match for my son, as he doesn't like transitions, and we would, if we changed schools, already be doing one more transition than I would have liked. If you have had a high-energy, social boy at one or the other of these schools, could you please tell us about your experience? In addition, if you think there is another school that might be suited to his needs, perhaps you could suggest it to us. Karen
We LOVE BMS! We live in Oakland and our school is Chabot which is considered one of the better Oakland Schools. We definitely struggled with the decision to use Chabot since financially it is much easier of course, or to attend BMS. After 3 years at BMS we have no regrets at all.
It is a wonderful school. The teachers are incredibly dedicated and are completely devoted to the work they do. The school bases their view of children on the model of ''Gifts and Challenges'' rather than ''skills and problems.'' Recently in a film made about the school the new head, Janet Stork said, and I quote, ''It isn't about how smart are you, but in what ways are you smart'' with the assumption everybody is smart. ''Difficulties'' such as the one you expressed your son has with ''motor planning'' would be labeled as a ''challenge'' not a ''problem.'' This is much more empowering I think for children and boosts their self-esteem in areas that might otherwise cause them to feel labeled or stigmatized.
As I said, BMS hired a new Head of School this year and she has already made many, many positive changes such as program enhancement, more transparency in communication, staff training opportunities and much more. She is unbelievably honest, a great listener and most importantly to us, she actually follows through on what she says!
I would say one of the greatest strength and unique characteristics of the Montessori environment, and absolutely true to BMS is that children spend most of their time working in groups of 2 or more. Work period is a time of profound interaction with children moving about the room, sitting together and talking about their work, teaming up on work etc. It is truly the complete opposite of a more traditional classroom setting where everybody works on the same thing at the same time, at their own assigned desk, working alone, BMS is nothing like that.
Have you visited the classrooms? I highly recommend seeing the classrooms and the school environment for yourself first hand because as least for us, that was the only way we made the right decision about where to send our children. You could also make an appointment to speak with Janet Stork the Head of School and/or Carol Clark the Admissions Director. Finally, in regards to your son having lots of energy, we feel one of the greatest parts of BMS is that kids don't just sit passively at their desks working on worksheets. The children are always engaged in purposeful activity and the children are always free to move about the room rather than staying confined to their desks. They are taking materials off the shelf, working with them, putting them away etc. They proceed at their own pace, rather than being rushed to meet the ''standard'' of what is expected and most importantly to us, as we have seen with both our children, they learn to make their own good choices, learn to manage their time and are able to conduct self-initiated/directed learning. The school has P.E. and also have yoga every week. Yoga is great because it calms even the most lively children in my daughters class. Happy BMS Family
Does anyone have anything to say about Berkleley Montessori School? I know they have a new Head and changes have been made. How is communication home to parents? Do kids have enough physical activity? How is the community? There is no space large enough to meet as a community. Is that a big loss? No assemblies? Are kids challenged enough? I heard in the past, some kids were leaveing lower elementary without basic math and writing skills. Has this been addressed? Thanks! Curious parent
One of the wonderful things about BMS is that there are a lot of great parents in the community with a lot of strong opinions. As you all probably know, this is a double-edged sword. One of the ways in which I feel we are all learning to be a healthier and more effective community, is by better achieving that elusive balance. We are learning to make skillful use of the talents and energies of parents, without this leading to the sense that we are chasing in a million directions at once, or that a small group of vocal parents are steering the ship.
The play-yard is not huge, but the school makes good use of Strawberry Creek Park, which is right across the street. There have also been improvements to the lay out of activities during ''outside time,'' so that kids have a range of choices to engage their energies. Our wonderful next door neighbors, Congregation Netivot Shalom, have made their community space open to us for use both during the school day and in the evenings as needed, so there are ample opportunities to have large gatherings.
My sense this year is that there is a consistent commitment in the lower elementary classrooms to basic skill levels being met. I know that this has been a concern in past years, and I think a combination of some new staff and better use of learning specialists has resulted in marked improvement. One of the challenges for parents who may be accustomed to a different style of education, is to understand that all Montessori teachers look at achievement over a three year time frame, as all students spend three years in each, mixed-age classroom. This allows for children to truly learn at their own pace. As a parent, I was thrilled when my first grader was doing third grade level math work. It was more challenging to be thrilled when that same child was struggling to read even toward the end of second grade. Good communication with his teachers assured me that he was working away, even though little progress was apparent, until suddenly, at the end of second grade, seemingly overnight, it all clicked for him. He is now a happy fourth grader, reading at the same level as his peers, and delightedly losing himself in reading for pleasure. Throughout this he was never stigmatized for being “too smart” in math or “not smart” in reading, and for this I will be forever grateful. I hope this helps. I am choosing anonymity out of respect for my kids’ privacy, but would be happy to talk more to anyone about BMS. It is a truly great school. Happy BMS mom
The new Head of School, Janet Stork, is fantastic: dynamic, bright, and absolutely passionate about progressive education and meeting the learning needs of every child. I think she is very good about communication and very accessible, and provides numerous opportunities every month for anyone to talk to her in person. She has also encouraged the professional development of every staff member, which has translated into an energized faculty, enriching even more what our kids experience. She has added weekly yoga classes to complement the weekly movement classes, so I feel my children get enough exercise, especially with recess and sports after school. The school can use the synagogue's multipurpose room next door for assemblies and all school events, although it would certainly be nice to have our own space.
My children have certainly learned *more* than they would have in a traditional school, including math and writing, and have been encouraged to pursue their academic interests. I think that is what is possible when experienced and skilled teachers provide the individualized education the Montessori approach fosters. There have been some staff changes at the lower elementary level, and the new Head has added a school psychologist and weekly child study reviews for the faculty, administrators, and learning specialists working with one child to discuss the special needs of that child. I know there are also plans to hire another learning specialist to assist children who have special needs, so I feel the concerns you mention have been addressed.
The community is vibrant and full of very bright parents, teachers, and staff members passionate about serving the children, but in the past they haven't always agreed on how best to do that. I think our new Head of school is a great leader who is harnessing the energy of the community and helping everyone pull in the same direction to make BMS an even better school. Her model of school as learning community, where everyone, teachers, administrators, parents, children, are learning, is a terrific vision for the future. -Happy parent
I have just returned to the U. S. and am trying to place my 5 year old in a good kindergarten in the Berkeley area. I am considering Ecole Bilingue and Berkeley Montessori, and would appreciate comments on these schools for this age, plus any other recommendations for excellent private schools. Thank you
Re: Thinking of switching our 7-year-old to a Montessori school
I believe that there may still be openings for the 2006-07 school year at Berkeley Montessori School for a 7 year old child, and I doubt that exposure to Spanish would be a factor in acceptance. The sooner you can make the switch the better, as it can be difficult for children to make the transition later on. Please call the BMS admissions director Carol Clark at 510-665-8800 ext. 103, or check out the web site at http://www.bmsonline.org. We have been very happy with the experience of our children at this exceptional school.
Berkeley Montessori parent
Re: Berkeley Montessori vs. Montessori Family
We had a hard time deciding between Berkeley Montessori and Montessori Family as well, but in the end, we thought that the classrooms at Berkeley Montessori were a little livelier in terms of collaboration between the children, and that ''felt'' better to us. I am a strong believer in gut instincts when choosing schools and other childcare for your children. We have been very happy with the tremendous teachers and vibrant community at Berkeley Montessori as my son has moved from the Early Childhood program through Lower El (1st-3rd) and now Upper El. But we may well have been happy at Montessori Family as well. I think we are blessed to have so many wonderful schools in the East Bay! Another Montessori Mom
Hi, I am hoping any parents whose children have attended Berkeley Montessori or Walden school in Berkeley can respond to this question. We are considering a bunch of different schools right now for next year and I am curious how these two schools graduates transition into a different school setting after completing the BMS or Walden school program? I am concerned about my child being ''behind'' when transferring to a public school setting in 9th grade (if that is what they end up doing). I have this ''feeling'', which is really based on nothing, that these two schools may allow so much freedom and independence that my child(ren) could end up doing more of what she wants and not enough of what she needs? I could be way off base here. I would love to hear any positive or negative feedback and am really looking for answers from children who have already attended these schools and how they are doing now in their current schools. Thanks for any information. Anon
Your concerns are valid, of course. but the questions you raise about being ''behind'' are totally the opposite of what I've experienced at BMS. In fact, many of my 9th grade friends at Albany High are struggling with algebra, and haven't gone nearly as in depth as we have with the books they study in English class. For example, this year we've spent three months reading and discussing ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' writing papers and doing projects based on the book. My friends at AHS said they dont't read classics like that until they are juniors. We're a mixed class of 7th and 8th graders so, in fact we're already far ahead! In 8th grade you take test prep and timed essay practice to help prepare you for HS. Besides the academics, the BMS teachers are awesome! I have great relationships with them and feel that if I don't understand something, I can go to any of them and explain what I don't understand and get help without feeling embarressed or intimidated. I feel this is very important to be able to do this with your teachers.
BMS is a great school with a tightly-knit community of nice kids and caring teachers! There is so much more I could tell you about BMS so free feel to contact me. I honestly know that I am very socially and academically prepared to enter high school. Antonia helen
Also, bear in mind that the Middle School at BMS is not a Montessori program but a bridging, transition program that helps kid prepare for a rigourous academic high school and college life after BMS. Hope this helps! Sima
I wanted to address some of the comments made about Berkeley Montessori School by an anonymous parent in the last Private School issue. One of the greatest strengths of the school is the amazing faculty, and the wonderful teacher:student ratio, with two teachers for each class of approximately 24 children. All of the Head Teachers at BMS are Montessori trained and highly experienced. After completing their Montessori credential, Head Teachers are required to have worked as an Assistant Teacher for at least 3 years before becoming a Head Teacher. All of the faculty and staff education and credentials are available on the BMS web site at http://www.bmsonline.org under ''Education'' ''About Faculty & Staff''. My son's teachers have been truly amazing.
In terms of grading, students at the Early Childhood Campus and Elementary school receive written reports rather than grades, but parents also have the opportunity to talk to teachers at two scheduled conferences during the school year, as well as any extra conferences requested by a parent or teacher during the school year. The teachers are trained in observing the children carefully and can tell a parent where their individual child falls in the continuum for any particular area of study. This observation and knowledge of each child by teachers is part of the beauty of the Montessori method.
The middle school graduates do go to excellent high schools, and the information about which schools they went to is also on the school's web site, under ''Students'' ''Graduates''.
In addition, the BMS test scores are on the web site, under ''Community'' ''Test Results'', and they are quite good. However, I would also like to point out, as has been done before, that test scores really reflect the socioeconomic status of the children, not necessarily the education that is going on in the school. BMS works very hard to achieve diversity, with an important Tuition Assistance program, and need-blind admissions. Not every private school does that.
Of course each family's experience at a school is individual, and each family needs to find a good fit for them. But I would be happy to talk to parents interested in BMS and answer any questions they might have about the school, speaking from my family's experiences. I think it is a very wonderful place to educate my children, and a wonderful community to be a part of. Sima
Hi - I've noticed the new Berkeley Montessori building going up, and it's made me curious. How do current parents feel about the school? (academics, socially, diversity, ''playground dynamics)? About the move? Is the newer building going to allow a larger enrollment? If you have transferred out of Berkeley Montessori, what led to that decision? And, if you decided to go, has it met your expectations? In general we hear very little about this school, so any pluses or minuses would be nice to know.
Our younger son had a less consistent experience in the lower elementary program (grades 1,2,3) at BMS, but in the upper program his teachers are excellent and he's now more academic than his brother ever was! I know he will be very happy at the middle school and I'm sure he'll have his pick of private high schools.
At BMS Middle School,there is a good amount of attention on math, a really good science prep with Lawrence Hall of Science program, and lots of work on writing, writing and more writing. BMS is a school, as my older one says, ''where you can be yourself'' and because it is small, the kids are protected from the big-middle-school/popular culture/peer pressure stuff for a little bit longer. I'm all for that during those tender years and found my older one all the stronger for that bit of extra childhood. There's sports at the middle school in a league with other east bay middle schools, and some terrific study/travel experiences to Wash. DC and the UK and Mexico. I'm into small schools and classrooms where there is time for the kids to develop meaningful relationships with their teachers, which BMS does with true excellence at many levels, especially Upper El(grades 4,5,6) and Middle School.
There's something to say for leadership too. BMS has an extraordinary head of school, Lee Davis, who sets a tone of excellence. She's spearheaded the purchase of the new site and it's development with remarkable strength and consistency. But more important, it's her leadership style, that I think is really great - fair, hardworking, and very joyful.
BMS Old Timer
The new Elem.-M.S.site is very exciting, and will be ready in February. The new school buildings are ''Green'', environmentally sensitive, and they have built in the idea of classroom as teacher about the environment.
The administration has done a great job of focusing efforts to purchase a new site and raise funds to build a new school. And the Parents Association has really blossomed over the past few years, building a sense of all school community and facilitating communication with the administration when parent concerns come up.
One weakness I see is the quality of some of the resource teaching, like music and physical education, as well as the summer program. Also, it is hard for our family to afford private school. But we feel that the cost has been well worth it for our son to be in such a wonderful, stimulating, loving environment where his learning knows no limits.
Happy Berkeley Montessori Parent
1. The Montessori curriculum can be difficult for some children to understand, especially if s/he has not gone to a Montessori preschool. Be sure you know how the classroom is structured; try to determine in advance whether your child can handle that kind of educational environment and curriculum.
2. While some of the teachers are excellent, others are not. If your child is assigned to one of the latter, you're stuck for 3 long years. To our knowledge, classroom assignments _cannot _ be changed. Be sure to check out the academic background and educational credentials of any head teachers to which your child might be assigned. Make sure those teachers have the background to teach your child what you want him or her to learn.
3. In our child's classroom, alot of time was spent on activities that we did not find germaine to the academic Montessori curriculum. For example, the class routinely played on the playground for 15-25 minutes extra before school started. There were also many day-long fieldtrips and other activities that had no discernible relationship to the academic studies. This is in sharp contrast with our child's current school, which starts promptly, and whose field trips and non-academic activities always have a direct link to the subjects being studied in class that week.
4. Individual teachers have alot of autonomy at BMS. If you have problems with your child's teacher, it can be hard to get the managing staff to intervene on your behalf. Again, no changes were allowed.
5. The grading system is very spongy... All the kids in each multi-grade classroom are evaluated on the same scale: not yet, in progress, and proficient. This makes it very hard for a parent to know exactly how their child is doing academically and where he or she might stand in comparison with his or her chronological peers. Moreover, the grades for our child's classroom didn't arrive until well after the school year was over--in mid July.
6. Although BMS says that its middle schoolers go on to excellent high schools, we would suggest checking that out. Most of the students who graduated last year did not, as we recall, go on to established or well-regarded high schools.
7. To determine how well BMS students master the ''standard'' academic skills, look closely at recent test scores for BMS students. The figures we have, for 1999, were in the mid-70th percentile, not nearly as high as those of many other private schools in this area.
Fantastic teachers, small relatively unknown middle school, definitely takes in students from other schools at 7th and 8th grade. Not a traditional Montessori environment - different from the Elementary School in that respect. Very academic but very supportive of a range of abilities. Teachers are very approachable.
Detailed report cards, exceptional math program, prepares students for high school at a strong level. Usually one or more short camping trips and one big spring trip - sometimes international per year. Sports teams, Spanish and Art electives are offered.
I expect with the new building next year, the school will have a much greater wave of ''fame''. The Middle School will also increase in size which will give more social opportunities. c
Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning! hope
We would like to hear any and all feedback on Berkeley Montessori School. We will be returning from a year in Paris and that may be the only school with an opening for our soon to be third grader. Thank you. Margaret
Outlining, grammar, sentence structure, the paragraph, writing literary criticism, and creating a bibliography were all taught at length in his 7th and 8th grade English classes. The enjoyment, memorization, rhyme and meter of poetry were well covered. In addition, through one of his teachers, Charley had the opportunity to take a special novels course each summer, which he greatly enjoyed.
My son's high level of academic preparedness is not just in English - he's finding that he is well prepared for all of his classes. The only weak spot at BMS is the Spanish program and this is not unique among most middle schools.
The English and Math teachers at BMS Middle School are extraordinary. I truly appreciate this now that my son is in a challenging high school environment. Debby
By way of background, both of my sons attended Berkeley Montessori School's preschool. Both were in Nancy's class, though I know Denise, and my children were with her in the summer program. We loved BMS preschool, and thought all the teachers were really great, Denise included. We adore Nancy and remain friends with her. The preschool is a warm nest of nuturing and learning. Both my kids went on at BMS and one will go to Lick-Wilmerding HS next fall, and the other is thriving as a fourth grader there. I believe that no school is perfect, indeed we supplement with outside music and sports, but on the whole we are very, very pleased with BMS. We especially valued that the preschool classroom/age mix led to a very special kindergarten third year. It builds confidence, competency, and kindness in the child. It also means that as a parent you avoid the hysteria of applying to kindergarten and putting your child through all that stress at age 5/6. A very good thing. Plus the mixed age group and extended materials and curriculum allow your child to explore and grow at her own pace. She can work on what she needs and wants most to learn, advance and solidify her skills, and feel completely comfortable at her own level. (This keeps going in Montessori, for example, my fourth grader is in the sixth grade math group where he learns the things he is hungry to know...) We feel that the BMS preschool gave our boys the foundation for their future education, a self directed learning style, and the confidence to be generous spirited, kind people. Debby
Regarding great middle schools: Berkeley Montessori School on Leroy Street has a wonderful middle school program. BMS added a 7th-8th grade program a couple of years and from all accounts is very successful. Call at 510-843-9374 and make an appointment for a tour. I think you will be impressed.
The BMS Middle School Program supports young adolescent students in their academic, social and emotional growth. The program promotes academic excellence, expands critical thinking skills and supports the development of each student's unique potential. The program is known for its solid support of students who are moving through the difficult social and emotional transitions of early adolescence. Middle School students are expected to assume leadership roles at the school. Many of our middle school graduates enter their freshman year at both public and private high schools at advanced academic levels.
My son attended Berkeley Montessori School for three years (kindergarten to second grade). The teachers are great! The teaching there gave him a wonderful start, especially in reading. I put him in public school (he goes to Cragmont) because as a single mother I couldn't afford it anymore. They do have scholarships but that didn't help me. Anyway, he loves Cragmont School (on the Franklin School site). Carol Lynn
My daughter is a second grader in Berkeley Montessori School. I am quite pleased with the curriculum and the caring, professional attitude of the teachers. There is a younger program 2.8 years to kindergarten at one site and an older program, first through eighth grade, located in the old Hillside School site on Leroy. The Montessori method is to put several age ranges together -- i.e., first, second and third grades; fourth, fifth and sixth grades; and seventh and eight grades. This seems to work out well. Children work at their own level so, for instance, if assignments are completed, a first grader might move on to do some second grade works, etc. The school fosters interaction and caring among the age groups, i.e., the older children help the younger ones with projects or read to them, etc.. The children are for the most part well behaved but lively and attentive. My daughter started at BMS when she was 4 2/3 yrs. and they had her reading in a matter of weeks. I was very impressed. The curriculum includes movement, music and language (Spanish and Japanese). There is an emphasis on math and science. The whole school is now participating in an innovative interdisciplinary oceanography curriculum presented by The Lawrence Hall of Science. For instance, this week is "Ocean Week" in my daughter's class and every thing they do will relate to oceanography - reading, writing, math, etc. There will be a field trip to the Berkeley Marina. The children are encouraged to bring objects from home (i.e., shell collections, pictures, personal experiences, etc.) and friends and family with knowledge of the sea are asked to participate by soming to the classroom and sharing their knowledge with the children. I think the school is great (mayby not perfect but what is) and encourage you to check it out for yourself.
Re: Seeking "happy medium" between structured and play-based
We moved to the East Bay from a small town on the Oregon coast. My daughter went to a wonderful Montessori-based preschool and I wanted to find something comparable for my son. After looking around at the school in this area, we found The Berkeley School off Shattuck Ave, in Berkeley.
This is our second year with the school, and we have found they foster a good balance between curiosity-led exploration and structure. They allow the children to set the curriculum, with some direction from the two instructors. Both group and individual works are encouraged, and children can use the materials on their own or with classmates. I feel the most important parts of a Montessori education is personal choice and taking responsibility for ones own learning, and these areas are emphasized in my son's classroom. There is some structure to the day. The children have a schedule for the day's activities, and work time, nap time, outside time and lunch occur at the same time every day. There are some special activities that break up the week, like music or art-project time. My son's teachers also organize presentations during the year. We got to watch a preschool-version production of the Nutcracker in the winter, and a Vivaldi-Spring show before summer. Dancing, playing, singing (and learning some languages - we get Chinese in our classroom) are part of every day.
You mentioned a large out-door area. The Berkeley School has a lovely out-door space with a huge sandbox, a train table, and monkey-bars. (There are many other things to explore, but these are what my son talks about the most!) The Berkeley School also has full-day, extended childcare, which is great for working families. I hope you check out this amazing preschool, because you won't have to look anywhere else! Good luck in your search. Megan
Re: Montessori Family School Vs The Berkeley School
Our son, now 3.5, has been at the Early Childhood Center (ECC) at the Berkeley School (TBS) since he was 2.9. In short, the school is phenomenal. It's a smorgasbord of kid-size intellectual challenges with equal attention paid to developing social skills and community participation. The outside space is beautiful and serene but also fun! The teachers could not be better - they're imaginative and dedicated in ways that continually surprise us. And, most important, they nurture and care for our son as if he were their own. They get excited about his achievements and are appropriately concerned when he needs a bit of extra help with something. Being connected to a larger K-8 school (campus on University) has also been cool. There are always ways to connect with other interesting families on the weekends and the whole TBS community has been welcoming and warm. Our son is actually disappointed when I tell him that it's Saturday, and he doesn't have school. ''When will it be Monday?'' he asks. To me, this says it all. sarah
Re: Non-''Play-Based'' Preschool Programs in Berkeley?
Both of my children have attended The Berkeley School's early childhood program. Formerly Berkeley Montessori, the school has a long and rich history of Montessori teaching. Several years ago they expanded to include other approaches, like Reggio Emilia, but the base and materials are still very Montessori.
Our daughter loved the structure of the day and activities. During 'work' time, the children are able to choose an activity and material, on their own or in a group, which can range from working with shapes and letters, preparing their own snacks, making art, to using beads and blocks to learn about numbers and math. With loving guidance from teachers, they tend to stay in an area (like shape puzzles) until they have mastered it, and then move on to increasingly more challenging works. It's so satisfying for them, and for us as parents, to see when they have figured something out and want to demonstrate.
Our son has a lot more energy and we were concerned he might not do as well in such a structured setting, but he is entering his third year there and absolutely thriving. It turns out that he loves the rhythm of the day, and is learning to sit longer with works and focus. He begs to stay in after school, so he can do more art and projects.
Both kids have learned to read, and were lucky to have teachers who are bilingual in Spanish and English. This gets rolled into their day in many ways -- from songs, counting and stories, to big celebrations on Dia de Muertos and 5 de Mayo. Other classrooms have teachers who speak other languages and similarly bring cultural traditions to daily learning.
To be sure, there is plenty of play time on the campus. There are four little houses, each with a classroom, and a big common play yard and garden. The outdoor environment is pretty magical! It is worth taking a tour to learn more, and talk to current parents. signy
Re: Any preschool openings or short wait lists?
Our daughter attended The Berkeley School, Early Childhood Center (ECC)/a which is located right off Shattuck Ave at Francisco (http://theberkeleyschool.org/curriculum-academics/early-childhood-center/). She'll be heading to Kindergarten next year and I can't say enough good things about the teachers, environment, and approach. There are four classrooms all with 2-3 teachers and a lovely, large play space. Our daughter really blossomed there and will truly miss the wonderful teachers and friends she made. We've decided to continue on to the main campus for K-8. I asked the Director at ECC this morning and they still have a few openings for next fall. Hope this helps. Best, Chad
Re: Berkeley preschool with openings for Fall 2012
There are a few openings remaining at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Campus. It is a Montessori-based preschool that is located in North Berkeley. All three of my children attended and had wonderful experiences. You can find more information at their website: www.theberkeleyschool.org TBS Parent
Re: Montessori for active, high energy boy?
I highly recommend looking at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Center (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). It is a Montessori inspired preschool which also includes elements of Reggio Emilia. All three of my high energy sons have thrived in this environment which seems to have a wonderful balance of indoor and outdoor play and keeping children engaged both in independent and collaborative play/work. All three of them also transitioned very well to this setting after having been at play-based preschools. TBS Parent
Re: Seeking excellent Pre K program with 2011 openings
The Berkeley School's pre-school, which is launching a 5 year old program this fall, might be a good fit for your daughter. My son (who will be 5 at the end of September) has been enrolled at TBS this past year. It has been a GREAT experience for him--both academically and socially. We really can't say enough good things about his teachers, who have taken our rather shy, somewhat anxiety prone little guy and somehow transformed him into a confident, socially capable being. He is excited about learning and asking questions. He knows how to negotiate conflict with his peers. He has many friends (not true at his previous school). He LOVES going to school. We would keep him at the pre-school next year even without the new 5 year old program, but I think this program will give him yet more opportunities to grow. grechtel
Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
The Berkeley School (http://theberkeleyschool.org/) is rolling out a bridge program next year at their Early Childhood Campus (ECC). The program is called ECC5 and is designed for kids that are hovering around kindergarten ready, that are ready in some areas but not others, or are ready in all areas but for whatever reason would benefit from a bridge program. The ECC has lots of experience in educating pre-schoolers and kindergarteners alike, so they will be ready, willing and able to tailor the ECC5 to the individual needs of the students. IC-m an ECC alum, my oldest (November birthday) is graduating from the ECC after three years this year, and IC-ll likely be sending my twins there year after next. We love it and could not recommend it more highly. Good luck! SLN
Re: Preschool in Berk/Oakland for shy 4.5 yo
I highly recommend taking a look at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Center. It is a progressive, Montessori-based preschool located in North Berkeley. My two older children attended the school and my youngest will be starting in the fall. My middle child, who is somewhat shy, acclimated well to the program and made many friends. It amazed me with both my children how quickly they became comfortable with the classroom and their teachers. The teachers are incredibly nurturing and attentive to each child's emotional needs. They also have a bridge K program which may be suitable for your child. Best of luck in your search and move to the Bay Area! catherine
Re: Preschool for 3 yr old in berkeley-oakland?
I would highly recommend The Berkeley School preschool, which I found after looking at many preschools in the area. The school provides a wonderfully balanced emphasis on social/emotional skills as well as cognitive development through a mix of fantasy play, movement, art, music, and learning - all in a beautiful setting. There are four classes, each opening to a large outdoor garden and play area. The school emphasizes the whole child, allowing children to pursue their own individual interests while at the same time involving them in many cooperative games and learning activities. In my son's class, there is daily dance, lots of music, art, play as well as wonderfully enriching activities such as the study of reptiles, fish and mammals, and culture through hands on learning. It is a great community of parents. The teachers are talented and attentive, and I can't recommend it more highly. K.
Re: Requesting Feedback on Model School
Although I am not familiar with The Model School, from what you are decribing The Berkeley School would be a wonderful fit for you and your child. My two older sons attended their Early Childhood Center and my youngest will be joining them in the fall. It is a developmentally based program which incorporates both Montessori and Reggio-Emilia practices. My two older children are very different but for both it was a wonderful combination of self-directed learning along with some structure. It is also an incredibly nurturing environment with wonderful teachers. Best of luck in your preschool search. catherine
Re: Nurturing preschool for very active son
It's not in Oakland, but you might want to consider The Berkeley School's preschool program. My son (who sounds a lot like your son) is in the elementary school there, and it's been terrific! Lots of play-based learning in the younger grades, lots of attention to social skills, and lots of activity. The teachers really pay attention to what each child needs. In the elementary school active kids are allowed to take a lap around the yard (in a non-punitive way), and I'm sure they have something similar in the preschool. Good luck! D
Re: Preschools friendly for kids with nut allergies
Katherine, I saw your post on Berkeley Parents Network and wanted to respond. For any child with severe food allergies, I highly recommend The Berkeley School http://theberkeleyschool.org). We picked the preschool specifically because it was the only one that we found that was prepared to deal with severe food allergies and had actual extensive experience doing so. The preschool campus has a no-nut/peanut policy.
My older daughter is four and has;a number of severe food allergies, including peanut and nut allergies. By severe, I mean that ingesting even a tiny amount is enough to trigger anaphylaxis. She has been at the school since Fall of 2008. I can't say enough about what a wonderful job her teachers have done in dealing with her allergies. There are several other kids in her class with overlapping allergies and they manage everyone's very well.
The school provides peanut- and nut-free snacks and the teachers and staff always make sure that each child only eats the snacks that are safe for them. All of the kids bring their own lunches and eat together under close supervision so the teachers can make sure there is no food sharing. The lunches are supposed to be nut and peanut free. On the rare (once or twice) occasions when a family has forgotten - reminders are sent out instantly. The teachers cook with the kids often and have adapted all of their recipes to ensure that no allergens are included (not easy, as some of the kids are allergic to wheat too!)
To give you a sense of how many foods they have had to screen, my daughter is also allergic to dairy, egg, fish, sesame, and strawberries; she was allergic to soy, garlic, beef, and pork, but has outgrown those allergies.
In addition to the food allergy issue, it is a terrific school - fabulous teachers and a really caring community. She has grown socially, emotionally, and intellectually in so many ways during her time at the school. We feel really lucky to have found a place where we our daughter is thriving and we don't have to worry about her all day. We are planning to start our younger daughter there in the fall - she also has peanut and nut allergies.
I know the school is not in the geographic area that you are looking, but it is definitely worth considering. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Regards, Carol
Re: Chaotic Preschool
My daughter attended a play based preschool which was not nearly as chaotic as you describe, but which did have a lot going on. After her three year old year we visited The Berkeley School (Berkeley Montessori at the time). I'll never forget how strikingly and visibly she relaxed in a calmer environment. Her whole little body changed. Ultimately I moved her there. She didn't feel academically ''pushed;'' she felt free and safe to explore. She also felt freer to interact socially in an environment where she didn't feel such sensory overload. There is a lot of space to play and run and imagine and be silly, and-- this is key--the environment allows kids to pace themselves and self-regulate with some quiet time to explore and investigate and discover. I wish I had realized sooner how stressful the high energy chaos was for her. TBS turned out, for her at least, to be a better place to work on the social skills and gain confidence as a learner. I think the program at the preschool now is even stronger- drawing from Montessori, and Reggio Emilia, and Teaching for Understanding. I suggest you visit- and pay attention to your daughter's body language when you do. I wish you well in finding a good fit for her. Happy mom of a happy girl
Re: 9 month long Preschool in Berkeley/Rockridge
I'd enthusiastically recommend The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. (http://theberkeleyschool.org/) My 3-year old son has been in the preschool at their Early Education Center (EEC) since September, and we couldn't be happier. The teachers are fabulous - compassionate, committed, extremely competent, knowledgeable and communicative - the campus is a beautiful mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces, and we feel our son is getting a great mixture of learning new skills and experiencing new situations in a stimulating and appropriate way. We also love the mixed-age classroom (generally 3-5) and the diversity of the students (and parents). Ask the moderator for my contact info if you'd like to hear more. happy tbs parent
Re: Searching for the right preschool
I am a parent of a 5 year old girl at ''The Berkeley School''. I was also afraid of the traditional lack of ''play and fantasy'' in a traditional Montessori school but TBS is not a ''traditional'' Montessori school. The emphasis is meeting each child's needs and not sticking to a traditional form or pedagogy. My daugher for example loves dolls and role play. When I saw that they have a separate doll/play room I knew TBS was not the traditional Montessori school. The school is full of love. The teachers and staff love being there, the kids are full of aliveness and joy and my daughter and all her friends love being there. The ECC campus is a magical kingdom with a very creative atmosphere. It has a separate art room with a fantastic art teacher, a wonderful music teacher that comes in once a week, an afterschool yoga teacher that comes in twice a week, and a great deal of fun and creativity within each classroom. The greater TBS has a fantastic community. Emotionally, intellectually, creatively, this school has the whole package. I am happy to continue the conversation or answer any questions for those who would like to email me. We also have two years experience in Waldolf preschools. Mitch
Hi - My son is almost 2 and 7 months old and very shy in a group setting. I have seen many times the teachers at my son's current daycare would just left him out of the activities that they were doing because he was sitting at the far corner and didn't want to participate. After seeing all the raves about the Berkeley School, I think it would be a great fit for my little boy. Do you know if it's really hard to get in the Berkeley School? Is there a long waiting list? Thank you Jillian
I can also say that our experience at TBS has been terrific for all of our children, one of whom, like your son, tends to hover at the periphery, to be a bit unsure of herself regarding ''entering the group'' and being a part of things. We found that teachers really know how to engage the children who might normally hang back, and that, while they have certainly been willing to ''rope'' our child in when she holds back, this also happens naturally because of the way that the lessons offer not only opportunities for kids to learn, but also to interact. We get the sense that when our child gets to school, learning and doing things with other kids occurs naturally, and her anxiety levels went way down from where they were at her previous school.
You should call the school and ask for Andrea Gordon. She is the director of the Early Childhood Campus; she's friendly and approachable and can answer all of your questions, I'm sure. The campus is amazing, and you'll be really impressed by the classrooms. It's a dream-come-true environment for kids: lots to learn and do in an environment that warm and inviting. Good luck to you! Happy Berkeley School Mom
Re: Need a kind Preschool for a 2.9 year old boy
My child is at The Berkeley School (used to be Berkeley Montessori) for his second year now and is quite happy there. The teachers and administrators are wonderfully loving, patient and kind with the kids. My own shy son had a hard time adjusting at first and his teachers were so helpful and understanding during what for him was a difficult transition time. Now he is thriving. And they do have some 2+ kids there. I couldn't recommend TBS more highly. Best of luck! Happy TBS Parent
Re: Preschools with Alfie Kohn Approach
Berkeley Montessori School is it! My husband and I also had a hard time really connecting with any of the preschools that we visited last year and then, quite by chance, attended the last open house at BMS before the application was due. It felt like home...and indeed is. Our daughter has been attending for 6 months and the environment is absolutely along the 'Unconditional Parenting' lines. In fact, the school sponsored a talk by Alfie Kohn last year. Our daughter is learning spanish in class - she actually can count better in Spanish than English and does not come from a bilingual household. Also, believe there is a very strong scholarship program. Pleased Parent
The teachers treat the children with respect and affection, without excessive praise. Our Head of School has worked with Alfie Kohn and brought him to speak in the East Bay a few years ago. BMS is also very serious about teacher education, and sends teachers every year to Harvard's Project Zero and last year sent several teachers to Reggio Emilia for a week of study. We can see the direct effect of this emphasis on professional development in the classrooms every day. It's a pretty terrific place. Call the admissions office at 665-8800 x103 to schedule a tour. Very happy BMS parent
Re: Piedmont Preschools
I would encourage you to check out Berkeley Montessori School for your child. Several families commute from Piedmont or even farther away to this school that provides a wonderful balance of fascinating learning opportunities, warmth and caring, and the joy of discovery. My children have thrived there. Their website is http://www.bmsonline.org. Happy parent
Re: Daughter will be ready for K, but is too young
I would suggest the Berkeley Montessori School for your daughter. They will be starting a blended K-1st grade class at their university campus in the fall. My daughter, a late September baby, is in her 3rd year at the Early childhood campus. We chose this school precisely because they didn't arbitrarily place children in grades according to their age. When touring many of the private schools we were often faced with the Sept.1st cut-off. BMS doesn't use this system and opts instead to blend children into age groups that are socially and academically beneficial. My daughter loves the school and is very excited to attend the Upper elementary campus next year. Give them a call to schedule a tour. Good Luck. Happy BMS parent
Re: Looking for a Montessori Preschool
My son went to Berkeley Montessori (near Shattuck and Hearst) some years back and absolutely loved it! He is now a 6th grader and a top A student. The teachers were so warm and caring and willing to allow him to explore his talents. He got fired up about reading and taught himself to read (with their help) in a couple weeks. I enjoyed the parents and community. My only caveat is that the principal changed near the end of our time there, so I would also look at a more recent review. kl
We are looking at preschools for my son, starting Sep 2008. One of the schools we applied to is Berkeley Montessori school. Their Early Childhood campus is walking distance from our place and looked pretty promising during the school tour. We have been asked to take our son to the school for a 'playdate' in early Feb from 9am-1pm where they will observe the kids and probably decide whether they are ready or not. Does anyone out there have any idea what happens during the playdate? We have no clue, so would love to hear from anyone who has had such an experience. Also, we would like to hear your comments regarding the school in general. Thanks in advance.
So this is what happens. You go to one of the classrooms where there will be lot of fun toys layed out for your child to play with. Ideally, your child will become engaged with one of the teachers playing with one of the toys together. Its best if you can make yourself scarce during this process so the teacher can get to know your child. But if your child doesn't feel comfortable ''separating'' then stay there with them. Just try to stay relaxed so your child doesn't pick up on your stress.
The playdate is also really good for you to see how interested you child is in the types of toys and other activities they have in the classroom. I had one child who, when he came for the observation, he just ran in and played with the teacher and had a great time. My other child had a much harder time separating from me, but enjoyed playing with all the fun toys. For both of them, being able to play in the classroom before the first day of school was a great plus. They both loved all the toys and couldn't wait to go back to school and play again.
The children will be in a classroom with several of the teachers -- to see how they interact with each other and with the materials, how well they separate from their parents (don't stress about this too much, most children entering have trouble separating!) and just generally whether they're ready for school.
My child, not typically one to separate easily, had a great time -- she was enthralled with all the new materials and really liked the teachers. We liked how well it was structured around the needs of the children -- several schools we were looking at did NOT structure their child visit around the visiting children, but rather around adult schedules and needs, which turned us off.
We've been extremely happy with our choice, and can't imagine a place where she'd be more nurtured or intellectually challenged. I'm happy to answer any other questions you have. Lisa
Re: Look for preschool w. good reading/language program
I saw the headline of your post about wanting strong reading and language, and I immediately thought of our school, Berkeley Montessori. Then I went down to the text of your message and saw that in your view Montesori was not strong on reading and language. Our experience could not have been more different! The children coming out of the pre-school and kindergarten are, as a group, very very strong in terms of reading and language. As they move to elementary school it gets even better. I would say that many kids at BMS are early readers, but, more importantly, early or late, they are happy readers. My son was a later reader than most, but now he loves reading and is the kind of kid who would stay up all night reading with a flashlight given the chance. My daughter, also a late reader, now generates pages of writing out of her own interest, and she loves to edit and rewrite. I would also say that the social learning is very strong and authentic. Before you write off Montessori, take a look at how they do it at Berkeley Montessori. Ann
Re: Preschool w/ an ''Unconditional Parenting'' approach
One hundred years ago Maria Montessori noticed some of the same things as Alfie Kohn, and most Montessori schools stress the importance of allowing children to do work for their own satisfaction, rather than to please teachers or parents. Berkeley Montessori School, where my children go, may have the environment you are looking for. Janet Stork is very knowledgeable about Alfie Kohn's work, and the teachers have a lot of experience treating children with respect and warmth while not excessively praising them. The result is children who love to learn. There is more info about Berkeley Montessori on the web at: http://www.bmsonline.org/ There is also a great article about the problems with praising children at: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/ in case you haven't already seen it. Happy BMS parent
BMS provides a time-tested Montessori environment that engages children's natural curiosity as the motor force for their learning. (I usually had a hard time getting my kids to come home after school.) The mixed-age classrooms, with the kindergartners providing a natural role model for the younger kids, are another way that learning happens without adults pressuring the children. BMS is also known for creating a warm, nuturing preschool social environment where children feel safe and respected. Both my kids, quite different from each other, have been going there since they were 3 years old, and have flourished in both the BMS Early Childhood and elementary programs.
By the way, BMS Head of School Janet Stork has worked with Alfie Kohn in the past, and has arranged for him to come out to the East Bay this spring and talk with teachers and parents. BMS and a couple of other Bay Area schools are co-sponsoring an event for parents in Berkeley (exact location announced soon), on March 18, 2008. Save the date! Dan J
Within days, they instituted a campus-wide ''no nut'' policy that has been posted at the pick-up and drop-off areas and sent home with parents on several occasions each year. They also have a rule in the classroom that students are not to share their food with one another, just in case. The parents who are responsible for purchasing the snacks that the school provides are informed, and while there has not yet been a single slip-up, the teachers in my daughter's classroom are well-versed in reading the small print on the back of all of the packages. Occasionally, a parent will bring to school a birthday treat that has been exposed to nuts. In every case, the teachers have provided my daughter with an alternate treat, sometimes taking the time to walk down the street to the bakery to buy it. In short, both the administration and the teachers have taken my daughter's special need seriously and have diligently kept her safe and well.
Finally, I would like to mention that before choosing Berkeley Montessori (at that time without a ''no nut'' policy), my daughter attended a preschool that had a pre-existing ''no nut'' policy in place. In spite of that policy, we found food containing nuts at every single special event held at that school (school play, Halloween celebration, etc.) The parents responsible for bringing refreshments to those events were not reminded, nor were the snacks checked once they arrived on site. Our confidence in the organization, responsibility, and care of the Berkeley Montessori staff and community was so strong, that we felt more comfortable trying out a new policy there than trying to stick with a school that had the policy we needed but lacked the organization to enforce it.'' Lisa
Re: Montessori Preschool near UC Berkeley
I would highly recommend Berkeley Montessori's preschool program, just off Shattuck on Francisco very close to downtown Berkeley. The program is very rich and stimulating, the teachers are nurturing and very caring, the children are happy and inquisitive. The school is online at www.bmsonline.org, or you can call 665-8800. Good luck, Happy BMS parent
I am considering sending my 4 yr old to Berkeley Montessori's Summer Program and then continuing for preschool and kindergarten. Any feedback on starting in the summer and on the school in general? Most recent comments are a year old. Thanks! Amy
Our two children attend Berkeley Montessori School and we really love it!
At the pre-school (aka early childhood center) we have spent four years with the full day program, a life saver for two working families and single parents. This program has a traditional Maria Montessori approach, uses four teachers for about 20 kids, two in the morning, two in the afternoon. We also happen to have ateacher with Chinese and Englsih-so our children are learning a great deal of chinese along the way. We have built a warm, family focused community here. The pre-school campus on Francisco, near Shattuck, features four classes, three part day and one full day. the yard and garden are wonderful, including small planting areas for each class to manage. An art room and music program are maintained.
The elementary campus is now housed on Leroy near Cedar is serviceable, the teachers are great and the whole thing is planning a move to a brand new campus next year. The new buildings are designed and ready to build as ''passive solar'' architecture designed by Pfau, SF. We are all very excited by the project, and the growing opportunites we see ahead.
I am a serious fan of this school, so if you have questions, please call. Theresa
I know that some Montessori schools I had visited felt a little more rigid and quiet than BMS. We chose BMS because we liked the looser (more talkative and collaborative) approach, more common in AMS (rather than AMI) schools.
The academics are superb, and each child can work at his or her own level. This requires great teachers who know the children very well and can allow them to work independently. My son's teachers also do a wonderful job fostering kindness, respect, and caring between the kids. The school really nurtures his innate love of learning, something I am especially thankful for.
Some weaknesses of the school: there is no foreign language enrichment in 1st-3rd grade, the tuition increases each year more than I wish, and my impression is that because the classroom communities are so strong, the sense of a whole school community is less than at schools where you switch teachers from year to year. But the Parents Association and administration are working hard on this last point.
The greatest strength of the school is the set of dedicated, talented, nurturing teachers.
It is a great gift to have our son in such a rich environment every day, even if it is a financial stretch for us. We are also very excited that the school will be moving to a brand new site next school year. My son is incredibly happy, so we are happy. I think BMS is a great school.
My son is currently 3. He is attending Berkeley Montessori School, and loves it there. At first, I thought it was too structured, fascist, and disciplined. However all the kids were happy, creative, polite, and the teachers were full of energy and good ideas. They have a music teacher that comes once a week. Kids also visit neighborhood parks weekly.
In my opinion, kids have a short attention span and need some guidance in accomplishing activities. The Montessori curricula helps kids focus on an activity from start to finish: they make choices among a set of activities and also pick up after themselves. There are always new activities, but also some that are a permanent part of the classroom. This allows kids to build confidence and demonstrate their abilities on old activities, but also explore new things.They also encourage older kids to explain things to younger students as a way to learn and socialize.
One teacher in the preK class teaches Mandarin during circle time, and offers saturaday class for interested kids over 4 at extra charge.
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