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School of the Madeleine (Berkeley, CA)
I wanted to add another view on the Madeleine for atheists. There are many families who are not actively religious (possibly atheists or agnostics, but they may not advertise it) and I don't think it is a problem for them. In my experience, most adopt a Christian humanist approach - that Jesus was an important historical figure that stressed the importance of caring for the poor and that he wanted all people to be happy and respected. When my kids asked tough questions, I answered them honestly -- that some people believe that he was more than that and others don't, but that what he tried to teach people was important to learn (since they will be learning it anyway). It's not full of bible-belt Fox News Christians. And for a true agnostic (god is unknown/unknowable), I don't think it's a problem. There will be some explaining, but non-Catholics are warmly embraced here. For a hardcore atheist (the type that ridicules faith), it might be tough. On the balance, I think that the values that the school embraces (be good to one another) and the importance of that value in the school's culture makes it worthwhile. A MAD Parent
Re: Catholic school for atheist family?
School of the Madeleine is diverse - a welcoming community of intelligent people from a variety of backgrounds, races and religions. Yes, religion is taught in all grades, the student body attends mass once a month, and many positives aspects of the Catholic faith are emphasized (caring for those less fortunate and the planet, empathy, leading a moral life, etc). If you can be supportive of that (and even grateful that your child is getting a first-rate education ), then you should take a school tour, ask more questions, and see how the community feels to you. MAD Community Member
I'm looking for current parents recommendations of School of the Madeleine. Specifically I'd love to get some candid information regarding: 1. How academically rigorous is the curriculum? 2. How much time do the kindergarteners/ primary grade kids really spend looking at text books or doing worksheets? Or do they use real books? 3. Is there enough time devoted to hands-on math learning? 4. How well do the kids learn Spanish going twice a week? Is the language ever incorporated into the regular classroom? 5. What is the experience like for a child who may be 'gifted', but at the very least is a very quick learner and extremely inquisitive? What does differentiation look like?
We know the school culture is lovely. We really like all who we've met so far, but we're concerned that the school might not be the most engaging intellectually for our child due to the large class sizes and reliance on canned curriculums like Open Court. -Hoping for lots of positive answers
1. I found The Madeleine program rigorous enough. The children are exposed to math, science, language, technology and language. They learn through books, practice some concepts with worksheet as well as engage in some hands-on activities and math games. The MARE program through the Lawrence Hall of Science is a weeklong exposure to hands-on science that the whole school engages in, learning various habitats. The children learn about different cultures on Heritage Day and parent volunteers always enhance the experience.
2. Spanish and Music are part of the program. The Spanish program is not intended to have them speaking fluently. Rather it is an exposure to the language and the children learn the basics of the language. The children do say prayers in Spanish, and engage in some Spanish festivities.
3. The class size is usually 36 children. However, for most classes and especially for Kindergarten they are divided up into 2 groups of 17 children in a class. Help is always available individually if a child has some difficulty. Children are also very good at learning from one another. I believe this spirit of helping another engages them, makes things clear to them and builds their character.
4. There is a uniform. I have always found this the easiest thing in the world for myself and the child- they wake up and donC",E!t even have to think about what to wear! The uniform is modest and comfortable enough to wear all day.
5. Regarding providing a challenge- I think if your child is inquisitive, the exposure to all of the material and instruction will provide a wealth of motivation to delve further. My oldest son is currently at UC Berkeley's computer science program and has remained inquisitive about everything he learns. He was an extremely quick learner. I always wondered if he would get bored. However, the teachers always encouraged him to explore further in areas they studied in class. He would sometimes do a more in-depth paper on a subject. He thrived on this flexibility. Of course there were some teachers more willing to do this. At Berkeley High he was able to navigate the school of 3,500 without a problem, was on the Chess team (he got his start at the Madeleine), on the Berkeley High Quiz Bowl team (that placed 17th in the country) and on the Volley Ball team. Currently he is one of the main players playing Quidditch for Cal at the World Cup. Not particularly a star athlete player, he developed his love for sports at the Madeleine as have all my other children.
6. Music program is another lovely exposure to music. The students currently learn to play the recorder in 4th grade, the ukulele in 7th and 8th grade, can play in the MAD band after school or take private music instruction. My 6th grade daughter loves band so much, she practiced hard, auditioned and now plays with a high school band as well.
If your son gets in at the Madeleine, you can always give it a shot. He will learn discipline, teamwork, good study habits, lifelong moral values, and above all be part of an involved and close community. These I believe are what in the end make us happy. Happy Parent
I am looking for some current info on the School of the Madeleine. My child is currently in private kindergarten, but due to financial circumstances, I am concerned about our ability to continue as tuition at this school is very steep, particular for 2 kids. We live in Berkeley and are considering moving our child to public school but feel guilty that the enrichment parts of the current curriculum (extensive music, art, Spanish, etc.) are not present in public school (or present to the same extent).
Our family does not practice any religion and my husband and I are more agnostic than atheistic in practice. I know the school is tolerant of other faiths, but how do they feel about accepting people who don't really practice any religion? We are okay with the christian dogma as I think it is manifested at this school, i.e. treat others with kindness and respect. Also, I appreciate the charity/social justice-equity message that the website indicates is part of the philosophy.
So, question 1, what can current parents tell me about whether we would be offered admission given our non-practicing ways.
Question 2 - in an old post, one member indicated dismay that the new principal (circa 2006 or so) wasn't allowing boys with long hair and girls with fingernail polish at school. This concerns me. I wouldn't send my kids to a school that doesn't let kids have any individuality. How strict is the uniform/dress code policy? And should I be concerned about strict discipline policy at this school? Thanks for any input you can provide anon
As far as the attire of the kids, the reason they have uniforms is to have everyone look the same so they can focus on learning. If you want your kids to be able to express their individuality-they won't be able to do it Monday thru Friday while attending the Madeleine. (although they do occasionally have 'dress down' days when kids can wear their own clothes) former Madeleine parent
Any feedback on the School of the Madeleine, from environment, academics, community etc-thinking of starting my son there..also any parents making a commute from the El Sobrante/San Pablo or Pinole areas to attend here? If so, how is the commute -Anonymous
Re: Which Catholic school in the East Bay?
The School of the Madeleine in Berkeley is a great catholic school featuring a wonderful close knit community as well as good academic standards. We have 4 kids and have spent 11 years there and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Avril
We're moving to Berkeley in 2 weeks (from UK) and are considering
this school for our kindergarten-age daughter. I would really
like to hear from parents with kids at the school. In particular,
what's the news on the new principal? My husband is very keen on
the discipline that Catholic schools provide, but I'm more
worried that our very happy, imaginative but
about-to-be-transplanted daughter should be in a caring
environment that encourages her love of learning. Grateful for
Natural born worrier
I read the posting about the lack of dicipline but I don't see it. There is nothing in the parent handbook about long hair vs. short, only about clean and neat. I also think that the children are very respectful and polite.
There is always going to be a lot of turnover in teachers in a small private school. I am excited to see the change in staff in the junior high, the teachers that were there had been there a long time and I think that it will be good for the school to see something new.
Enrollment is at an all-time high, so I think that speaks to the success of the current administration. I would be happy to talk to anyone about the school. Joan B
Hi - We are trying to decide between St. Jerome and The School of the Madeleine. We like them both. Our daughter will be entering Kindergarten in Fall 2008. Does anyone have experience at both schools? Or current Kindergarten and 1st Grade experience at either school? Seeking Info
Editor Note: reviews were also received for St. Jerome's
Re: Comparing Catholic Schools
Hi- I can only speak from my own experience, but my son is a 3rd grader at the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. He has been there since Kindergarten and we could not be happier. The school is a warm and supportive community for both the students and families. The principal and teachers are top-notch. The academic standards are high without feeling overly pressured. Simply put, I love the school and am looking forward to my other 2 sons attending there, my secong son begins next year. I also looked at St. Jerome's but personally liked the feel at the school of the Madeleine better for the sense of community. It felt somehow more orderly without feeling overly strict. I know families at Corpus Christi who are also very happy. We are Episcopalian and not Catholic and feel very welcome at the Madeleine. There are of course many Catholic and parish familes at the school, but my experience is that families from other faiths (Protestant, Jewish, Muslim) feel equally good about being at the school. The school promotes academic, social and moral development and teaches students to give and care for those in their school and to their wider community. It is a very special school with a solid academic track record. Laura
Does anyone know if the School of the Madeleine welcomes gay and lesbian families? We understand it's a Catholic school, we know it's very Berkeley, but just how Berkeley? anon
The Madeleine is an excellent school, a warm community with a talented staff and engaged parents, and I feel so thankful to have my family be a part of such a wonderful place. Laura
I went to Catholic school for 12 years and my husband (who is not Catholic) went to public school and we both think that the school is terrific. An extra bonus is that the community is warm and welcoming. We have made many friends and feel that other parents are also watching out for our children. The school teaches the children that they are part of a bigger community and they can make a positive impact every day. We have two younger children that I intend to send to the School of the Madeleine. Joan
Do any parents of current or former students have anything to add to the discussions of St. Jerome School and the School of the Madeleine? We are parents of a 4-year-old who will start kindergarten this fall, and we are interested in both schools. Both seem to have unique strengths. We are Catholic, but not particularly active in our church. While we feel that our daughter would probably find the curriculum more interesting and challenging at the Madeleine, both seem like good schools with dedicated teachers and staff and a warm welcoming atmosphere. St. Jerome is located nearer to our geographic neighborhood and the BART station (I commute to SF), which we find very appealing, but we're not sure how much weight to give to that. We would like to get as much information as we can, and hear as many personal experiences as possible, before making this difficult choice. Any and all advice welcome. concerned parents
We have been very happy with our choice. We have loved our son's teachers for both years and the principal, Mitch Calegari is exceptional. He was at Thousand Oaks years ago and is very experienced as an educator. The teachers at the school seem to feel very supported by him and like working for him. We think the school, teachers, curriculum and extended care program are outstanding and we could not be happier with the school.
Good luck with your decision. They are both good schools. Laura
The thing that tipped the balance for me was the building. The building at the School of the Madeleine has a lot of light and is airy (not to mention the view from the upstairs!) That appealed to me. We went to the open houses of both schools several years in a row and I just liked the ambience at the Madeleine better, the Kindergarten in particular. I loved that the Kindergarten at the Madeleine had two rooms and a kitchen. The kids actually get to cook. That sold me!
But, you know what, now that I've had children in school for several years I realize that there are so many things that go into making a school right or wrong for a child that we as parents cannot possibly anticipate them all. So, make the best decision you can with the information you have and go with it. Then take a deep breath and relax. It all works out in the end one way or another. Good luck! Anon
We are interested in hearing information about The School of the Madeleine in North Berkeley. We have set up visits already but would like to hear from currently/recently enrolled families about things the school won't tell you.
catholic family looking for the best place to send our kids
An extremely happy Kindergarten parent
Hi - I'm wondering if there are parents of kids attending School of the Madeline in Berkeley, who would be willing to share some of their experiences of the school. In particular, we are not Catholic. Is it crazy to even contemplate attending SOM? What percentage of the families at SOM are actually non-Catholic? Are students ever accepted for higher grades (3,4), or just K? How are the academics? The spiritual studies? Is it strictly ''Bible teachings'', or the larger values/ethics of treating ourselves and each other well? Is the school accepting of other kinds of diversity ~ ethnic, sexual orientation, family structure, etc. etc.? What high schools do SOM kids ''typically'' attend (public, private?) Any and all comments warmly appreciated. Thanks, Pondering a change of schools in Berkeley
I attended School of the Madeleine for 9 years and my
sister and brother did as well. There is one more sister
still there. I had a very good experience there and would
like to let others who are interested in the school know
that it offers many great things. It is a Catholic school,
but there is not an overwhelming emphasis that makes
students of other faiths uncomfortable. There were many
non-Catholics in my class and there were never any issues
related to faith preference. The integration of moral and
ethical education and discussion was definitely interesting
and a great learning experience. I must say that overall,
my time there was great! The upper division teachers are
great resources and prepared me well for high school. The
Madeleine stresses the importance of community which can be
hard to find in other places. I got along very well with
my class of 36 (the class sizes are a smaller now) and made
many great friends. I think that the idea of educating
the ''whole person'' was what made all the difference. I
have many happy memories from my time there.
A Madeleine alum
To the parent who requested information on the School of the Madeleine:
The Madeleine is a Catholic school, the parish school of St. Mary Magdalen Church. Most of the students are Catholic but there are a number of non-Catholics (I'd guess about 20%).
My daughter is a 3rd grader at the Madeleine, her fourth year at the school, and we feel very fortunate to have her there. We've been happy with the teachers all and all, we really like the principal, and we really appreciate the feeling of community among the school families. There's also an excellent extended care program. The only drawback I can think of is class size - up to 36 kids per class. Debby
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