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Mills College Children's School (Oakland, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Mills College Children's School

Preschool Info
Dec 2014

I just wanted to give a current review of the Children's School at Mills College. Our daughter started out in the preschool when she was 3 and she is now in the 2nd grade in the Elementary School. We couldn't be happier with school, teachers, community and her education at Mills. We also love that the student population at MCCS is incredibly diverse. It is such a wonderful community and nurturing place. We had only intended for her to do Kinder and then switch to public but we loved it so much that we've stayed. Each child receives focused attention in and out of the classroom. The curriculum is both challenging and inspiring to my daughter. As a lab school, they employ some really innovative learning techniques (such as a Japanese Math program). My non-math lover has really excelled with math this year! With the small class size and the addition of student teachers there is a great student/ teacher ratio. My daughter loves going to school every day and I know she is getting the best education possible being at Mills. There are also many great enrichment programs both within the school day and after (Spanish, Art, Music, Drama, Chess, Hip-hop, Cooking). Not only do we love the Elementary School, but we are huge fans of the preschool. Our younger daughter will be starting there this next year and we know she will love it as much as her big sister. Happy Mills Mom

Nov 2014

RE: Progressive school with black students/teachers?

I'm not sure if you're inquiry was for public or private schools, if you're considering private independent schools I would encourage you to take a tour of the Mills College Children's School. The school is based in a progressive, constructivist, inquiry-based school that is student-centered. Yes, there are black students, and black families that are actively involved in our small community. The racial diversity of the school overall is quite diverse without a clear majority of any particular ethnicity. As for faculty, the Head of School is an African-American woman, and several teachers are also African-American. Check out the Facebook feed to see more- Happy African-American Parent at MCCS

Oct 2014

Re: Seeking Mixed-Grade School for advanced kindergartener

Mills College Children's School also has mixed grade classes, K-5, and it's a wonderful school! Marie S

Sept 2014

Re: Feeder preschools for Head Royce, Bentley, other private schools?

I'm also new to the area so am curious to see what kind of responses you receive. My child is in the wonderful preschool program at Mills College Children's School, and I believe they offer priority admission for preschoolers to continue on to their elementary school. If our experience in the preschool classroom is any indication, we'd be excited to have our son continue in their elementary program. The classes are small and the community is wonderful. The elementary school ends at grade 5, but you can view a list of schools their graduates have gone on to on their website. mom to a preschooler, too

Mills College Children's School leadership?

May 2014

We'd love to hear from current MCCS parents about the school's overall environment and leadership. Our child may be starting there this Fall, and we would like to be prepared. How is the Head of School? Are the students kind and respectful with each other? We plan on contacting the school directly to get specific questions answered, but we'd also like to hear from parents who have experienced it. -concerned prospective parent

I could not be more pleased with the leadership at MCCS. The Head of School, Miss Brown, is outstanding. She's out on the school yard every morning, observing the kids. She's sat in to assist substitutes within the classroom. She meets with kids who are having trouble during the school day. She makes time for concerned parents to meet with her and she proactively contacts parents when bigger issues come up during the school year.

The students at MCCS definitely form a community and I have been consistently impressed with the way the older kids in particular interact with the younger children (my kids are in the K class currently) in a caring and respectful way.

The teachers, too, are quite capable leaders in their own right, and I can tell they feel supported by the administration as a whole.

Are there any specific concerns you have about MCCS? I'd be happy to give my impressions. Lori S.

My daughter attended the geranium classroom it's a mixed age preschool class. Mills is amazing! I'm working on my BA in child development and deciding where to send my daughter left me feeling very picky. I'm not sure what grade your child will be in but the staff is amazing. Not just the teachers and awesome student teachers but the people who work in the office too. They teach with a constructivist theory which was what drew me in. They really go above and beyond to care for the kids and the children and parents are wonderful! We just had our ice cream social and it was so fun to get the pre school classes and upper grades together. And I can really attest to the student teachers! I had the pleasure of taking classes with my daughters student teachers so it made me feel better knowing directly the education they were getting. We left for financial reasons and even then the school did whatever they could to try and help us. I would be happy to chat more with you. Becca
My child has been at Mills College Children's School since age 2 and she's graduating from 5th grade this year. Although we've had different leadership across that time, it's always been good leadership. Both of the Head of Schools that I have dealt with have had real sincere interest in the needs of all of the children, so much so that the children feel very at ease and comfortable. Our current director is approachable and willing to listen to parents. Children are given skills to handle conflict and I have not seen a lot of issues arise on the playground, but if something does, it is always dealt with quickly. Basically everybody at the school--parents, head teachers, and student teachers--have the same common goal and we are in unison with the type of atmosphere that we want to keep here at Mills. Tamra
May 2014

I'm writing to recommend Mills College Children's School. My daughter has attended the Elementary School for the past three years (full disclosure, I also work for the college) and has been very happy there. If you're looking for a school where children are engaged with hands-on learning, challenged academically, but supported socially and emotionally, you owe it to yourself to check out MCCS. The teaching staff is stellar and I can not be more pleased with their knowledge, warmth and dedication to our children. It is a small, warm community. For more info, Please do not hesitate to email me for more information. I am also on campus a lot so I can easily meet at Mills. Nancy

Mills College Children's School - Geranium class

March 2014

We are considering enrolling our son in preschool at Mills College Children's School and would love any thoughts about recent experiences. I have read the reviews on BPN. Would love any and all thoughts, but am especially interested in hearing about 1) the Geranium classroom specifically; 2) the experience of young kids of color - racial/ethnic/economic diversity among kids/teachers, are the teachers conscious about dynamics that might affect a kid's perception of his color/differences, celebrating - honestly and in a natural and integrated way - diversity; and 3) whether/how the preschool curriculum builds empathy and the foundation for a social responsibility/justice lens. Thank you, BPN community! Never thought preschool would be a process!

I was glad to see this question, and would love to correspond with the author. I am also a parent of a biracial child just accepted to Mills-geranium class. I have been having similar questions. Besides the director, it's an all white staff, and although it seems like a great program- and they have diversity goals for students - it's hard to tell how truly multicultural it really is. I am also concerned that although Geranium Class goes on walks- the outdoor play area is small, less green, and offers no good play structures, compared with other schools I have toured. I too would love to hear what others think. Thanks! We have to choose soon! Allistarr
Hey there, yes the preschool admission process can be quite daunting. I'm excited to see you're considering MCCS for your child. I have a child in the preschool at the Mills College Children's School. While my child is not in the Geranium room specifically, I can share that there are many similarities with the other preschool classrooms. The classrooms are well equipped with many open-ended, age-appropriate materials, manipulatives, and art supplies. There is plenty time during the day for open and free play, and project-based thematic units. Additionally, the Mills campus is an extension of the classroom, the students almost daily take walks throughout campus to the meadows, the pond, the bell tower, the walking trails, etc. I would suggest you take a look at the MCCS Children's School Facebook feed. The timeline features pictures and descriptions of the children at play and provides an illustrative detail to what's regularly happening in the preschool and elementary classrooms. I think you'll be pleased to see the curriculum in action.

As for the experience of young kids of color, I can say that my child is well aware of her brown skin and and her kinky curly hair. I have had conversations with her teachers and student teachers about her developing awareness of difference of skin color and ethnic differences. Without being cliche, she has been encouraged to talk about what she observes, as all the children are. There is nothing that the teachers and student teachers aren't prepared to talk about in meaningful ways. While we know children are keenly aware of difference, at MCCS you see children playing together across gender and racial differences. I believe that is a testament to the quality of the experienced teachers and the awareness of the student teachers. My child (a child of color) is incredibly happy in her classroom.

As for empathy-building and being social justice minded, I believe this is happening in a very age appropriate way. Through my daughter's experience at school I see her learning many skills that are setting a solid foundation of empathy and being social justice minded. She is aware of fairness, being kind, learning to listen to others, having others hear her voice and thoughts, working and collaborating in with another classmate or with a small group. Not only are these skills preparing her for elementary school, it's setting her up to have self-regulation, a sense of worth, and developing her leadership skills. I know her presence is valued in the classroom, and even more importantly, she knows she is valued and loved by her teachers and student teachers. The teacher and student teachers are incredibly adept at building connections and making relationships with the children. This is no ordinary preschool. MCCS is a stellar lab school. Best practices of theory and research are always at play each and every day in the preschool. The teachers and student teachers understand and appreciate early childhood education as a field of study and bring that same enthusiasm into culture of the classroom. The emergent curriculum is indeed thoughtful, meaningful, engaging, and relevant to the child's experience and real world realities.

Our community at MCCS is small, we are friendly, we have coffee circles on Friday mornings, we get to know each other's names, and we wave to each other's children. There is something very special about getting to know students and parents from across the entire school, while the preschool classrooms are across from the elementary school, this in no way separates the student body. I hope you decide to join the MCCS family, it's a wonderful school. I'm happy to converse more with you about my experiences in the preschool, feel free to reach out. Carli

If you would like to speak directly to parents in the Geranium preschool classroom, I would be happy to put you in touch with some families. Please feel free to contact me directly for more information at 510-430-2053 or Whitney Walker, Admissions Director
Jan 2014

I am a current parent with two children at Mills College Children's School (one in their elementary school and one in their preschool). I am writing to share a little about our family's experience at MCCS. We have found it to be an extraordinary learning environment for our entire family. It is small and wonderfully diverse. The quality of the school both in terms of learning environment and community sense is absolutely great. We had a good experience in berkeley public schools prior to moving on to MCCS. We chose to try MCCS and are incredibly happy with the addition it has been to our family. I highly recommend MCCS for families who are interested in small learning communities that value diversity in many many respects and community based learning experiences. Natashia

Oct 2013

I chose to bring my children to Mills College Children's School because of the small class size, the individualized learning in a mixed age environment, and most importantly, the thoughtful and intentional teaching that helped my children to love learning. The experience my family have had at Children's School is in direct contrast with the experience we had at a public school.

My oldest child spent a year in a public school during the time when districts are forced to reduce their administrative support and do away with class size reduction. It was simply chaotic. My child is an introvert and quietly went through the school year without drawing any attention and learned nothing. For her sake, I looked into private school for a more suitable learning environment.

When we visited the Mills College Children's School, we were in awe. We entered a classroom environment where children literally lived in the subject of their learning. The visuals and the conversations spoke of the children's exploration and the wonder they held with what they were learning. In addition, when my child visited the classroom, the other children opened their arms and welcomed her. They were the most friendly, sensitive, and wonderful hosts that any anxious parent like myself could ask for. My child loved the school from the beginning and she continues to love it today.

The logical side of me finds appeal in the fact that Children's School is a laboratory school nested within the Mills College School of Education. The teachers and administrators are educational leaders in the Oakland community and are held accountable for their teaching responsibilities and teaching ethics by the School of Education. There is always someone watching them, taking note of what they do. All the teachers are master teachers training student teachers in their classrooms. They have to explain their actions not only to the administrator and the parents, but also to the student teachers, college researchers, and college administration.

In a small private school where there is a lot of scrutiny, it is hard for anything to go by unnoticed. There are always different perspectives to every incident. From my family's perspective, we love Mills College Children's School. My children love their teachers--including the PE teacher-- and continue to love learning. They are thriving in the environment provided by the Children's School. That's what matters to me. a satisfied parent

Mills College Children's School Toddler Experience

Sept 2013

Hello, I am curious to know if anyone has had any experience sending their infants/toddlers to the MCCS. Our 2 year old just got in and wanted to know what your experience has been and what their reputation has been like? She is also not yet potty trained and as a first time mom, not too familiar with the day care programs in this area. thank you! -Appreciative Tot Mom

My daughter was at Mills for the first 3.5 years of her life and it was the best childcare/preschool experience I have ever had (I am a former preschool teacher). The Infant/Toddler room has about 12 children with 2 head teachers & student teachers (who are generally graduate early childhood education majors). The ratio is, at most, 1:3. The children are very well-attended and the babies are not forced into schedule, which I appreciated, though, of course, there was a general routine to the day. The parts I loved the most was how empathy and compassion were brought into the classroom--for example--whenever a child would fall or something, all the rest of the children would run over to see if s/he was okay and help to calm her/him down. It was really amazing to see. I also love that each classroom has their own outdoor space, which the children have access to at almost any time in the day. The downside is that it is expensive, has shorter days, closures throughout the year (especially Dec-Jan and in the summer), and that student teachers are not usually there for more than a year. However, even with all of these downsides, we truly loved Mills Children's Schoo and highly recommend it. Happy former MCCS parent
Dec 2012

Our son is in his first year at MCCS as a Kindergartener and we are so pleased with the school in every aspect. We love the small, multi-grade class with 17 students of Kindergarten and 1st graders. There is such an amazing diversity within the school. One of the important aspects of the school is feeling a sense of community. Our family has felt that since the first day of school. The students and teachers are there to help and support one another, no matter what grade or age. The teacher's doors are ''always open'' and will always take time out to talk to the parents. Our son started school just 3 months ago, and we are amazed with his academic achievements. He has always been very social, and continues to be at MCCS. The campus is beautiful, the staff very warm and welcoming and teachers are wonderful. He is also part of the SAC (after-school) program and absolutely loves it. The gentleman who runs the program, Gyasi, is amazing with each student. There are always many activities for the students to chose to participate in after school, and during lunch and recess. We feel so fortunate to be a part of the MCCS community and hope to be for years to come. MCCS parent

Nov 2012

I highly recommend the Mills College Children's School for a number of reasons. As a mother and educator myself, I have been consistently impressed with the quality of the academic and social-emotional curriculum my sons have received, and the level of care they have received in both the academic day and in the after school program. The small school environment lends itself to a great sense of connection and community amongst all of the students and families. As the mother of two boys of color, I have been so grateful for the diversity in the students and families who make up the school, and the incorporation of concepts of equity and diversity in the learning in the classroom. Unlike my older son's experience in a reputable preschool, at MCCS his sense of pride and comfort in his identity as a person of color definitely blossomed beginning in his kindergarten year. The students at MCCS are also very fortunate to consistently benefit from at least one student teacher in the classroom from the reputable Mills School of Education all year long, which allows for each student in the already small class size to receive more individualized attention and instruction. There are also a wide variety of enrichment classes offered in both the academic and after school programs. I am very grateful for the quality of education, care, and support both of my sons are experiencing at the MCCS. Happy MCCS Parent

Nov 2012

I want to take the time to recommend Mills College Children's School to families that are looking for a small, nurturing, challenging, and truly diverse learning environment for their child. My daughter came to MCCS in 1st grade and is thriving at MCCC. Mills offers a wonderful alternative for families who are looking for well-trained, devoted teachers in a small school environment with multi-age classrooms that is more affordable than most private schools in the Bay Area. The class sizes are small so each student receives individual attention and instruction. Each classroom benefits from having a student teacher in the class and thus, the students benefit from 2 adults in the class. For more information or a tour of the school please contact the Admissions Director, Whitney Walker @ 510.430.2053 or go to the A happy MCCC parent

Nov 2012

Are you looking for smaller class sizes for your 3rd, 4th or 5th grader? Mills College Children's School has caring and talented teachers, a strong curriculum, and a beautiful campus! Check it out... MCCS parent

Nov 2011

I want to recommend Mills College Children's School to any family that is looking for a small, nurturing, challenging, and truly diverse learning environment for their child. My son has attended MCCS since Kindergarten (he is currently a 2nd grader) and he is thriving both academically and socially. There are many wonderful things I can say about the school, but I want to emphasize the amazing diversity (ethnically, culturally, socio-economically) that the school has committed itself to maintaining. My son's class of 14 students is a mix of African-American, Asian, Persian, Caucasian, and Hispanic. Private schools have the luxury of hand picking their student body and MCCS has worked extremely hard to create a unique place where there are no ''tokens'', where all the children of one race don't play only with one another at recess, where teachers speak to children with respect no matter what they look like, and where every child is expected to excel and all parents are expected to participate in their child's education. For more information or a tour of the school please contact the Admissions Director, Whitney Walker @ 510.430.2053 or go to the website kristi

Oct 2011

Re: Homeschooling Community w/African-American Boys
Hi, Sorry your son is having this experience. We too had a similar experience with both of our children (multi-ethnic- Af. American and Latino) at two different public schools and chose to withdraw them for similar reasons. We transferred to the Mills College Children's School (pre-K-5 grade), where our children had attended pre-school and I have to say that it was definitely the right choice in both cases. Mills is wonderfully diverse- truly amazing for a private school. There are many families of color (it actually feels like the majority) and good socio-economic diversity as well. It is really a gift to see our children thrive in a diverse community.It is also just a progressive, more student centered/project based environment, and the staff (leadership, teachers, and after school staff) are gifted educators. The curriculum is really designed to build on student interests and based on an assessment of individual strengths and needs. Unlike many public schools, Mills is a school where parents really do have a voice- if there is an issue, there is really an open door policy. The school is always looking for opportunities to be responsive. I strongly recommend that you check out Mills. The number is 430-2053. Best of Luck to You Happy Mills Family of Color

June 2011

I will be returning to work when my baby is around 7 months old. I'm considering the Mills College Infant Program because it is close to work and I'd still be able to breastfeed. I wondered if anyone had any recent experience with the program that they could share, as well as what the adult to infant ratio is. Thanks in advance! DC

My daughter was in the Infant-Toddler class from the time she was 6 mos to 3 years old. She graduated from the classroom last summer. There were 2 other head teachers there while we were there (one left when she had a baby and the other left to teach special ed), but one of the current head teachers, Janelle, was a long-term teacher while she completed her MA program, and is absolutely wonderful.

The level of care is beyond anything I've seen at any other center. It is a lab school, which means that there are student teachers, both graduate and undergraduate, however, they create a consistent schedule and do everything they can to have teachers in the classroom for multiple semesters. Each child has a primary caregiver and I believe that ratio is 3 to 1 for all children in the classroom (I believe the class-size max is 12). So, your child would have experiences with all the teachers, his/her needs would be primarily taken care of by one person. One thing I always appreciated was how well documented everything was--I knew when & how long she napped, when she was fed, diaper details, etc. The teachers were very communicative and work on a flexible schedule based on the child's routine, rather than pushing their own schedule. I also came in and nursed during the day and had a great experience with that.

The thing that I loved above all else is the level of compassion that is created between the children. If one child fell down, it was not unusual for other children to go over to soothe her/him, bring the child his/her lovey, etc. They were very close-knit, and if there were any problems between them, the teachers would guide them to work things out, without any harshness or shaming (that I have seen in other centers).

The one thing I will say is that in looking at many centers, you get what you pay for and the Children's School is fairly expensive. And while the care is terrific, there are many days when they are closed throughout the year. That is something to consider if finances are an issue. It was for us, but we were felt it was worth it for the level of care our baby received. former Happy MCCS mama

Nov 2010

Went to an open house at Mills. Program looks great. BUT it appears the K/1 class is full, 2/3 is not full, and 4 has only 8 kids. I would love to hear from parents of children who have or had children in this program. Why did you leave? How are the academics? I have heard from a few sources that the program does do well with kids who have learning troubles. How about for kids who don't? Whats up with small class size!

This is our fourth year at the Mills College Children's School. We have a 3rd grader and a Kindergartener there who absolutely love their school. There is no single answer to the small class size, but keep in mind that if each grade has 10 students (due to mixed grade model) even a small drop in enrollment will have big effects on the school. There are no fifth graders this year because the head of school decided enrollment was too low last year to have a 4/5. Why small #s? Multiple reasons--the economy, a bad teacher hire (who has since been replaced), and for some families not enough boys, although that seems to have balanced out this year. As a current family we can reassure you and anyone else considering Mills that the teachers are amazing, the philosophy sound, the families kind and committed. If you are looking for a small school with a commitment to the best approaches in learning, both academic and social-emotional, take a second look at Mills. happy Mills family
Mills is a small school and we love it that way. There are three mixed-grade classrooms with a max of 20 each, so just 60 kids max in the Elementary School. It's true that simple attrition can cause smaller classes in the upper grades, but I see that as a bonus. As children get older and academics become more challenging, Mills students get more attention in the classroom, instead of competing with 32-35 students in the upper grades at other schools. In a small school, kids form strong bonds with each other and feel safe to take academic risks. Plus, head teachers have more time to devote to all types of learners. I would not say that they specialize in students with learning difficulties, but since it's a lab school, they do try to get a balance of learning styles in the classrooms. There are lots of pros to being at a small school, but it has to be the right fit for your family. Mills parent
I'm a parent to a 3rd grader at MCCS, and my son has been through 5 years of their program (with preschool included). I can understand your question, and it's a good one to address. First of all, let me share my story with you, then I'll answer your questions. My goals when selecting a school were to have my son get a quality education, learn to love learning, and have a rich social and community life at school. These have all been met ten-fold and even a few more: academic success, for one. For example my son has been reading above grade level since kindergarten. And recently a visiting science teacher exclaimed, ''he would make a great scientist -- he asks such great questions!''. And socially, a small school means the kids play more with a variety of ages. This has benefits of its own. Now when we visit my friends with younger kids, parents say, ''your son is SO good with the little ones'' and ''he can come over anytime''. His social calendar is full with requests for sleep overs on the weekends, more than we can accommodate. And I say this to address the notion that some might see this school and think it is too small (my child will not have enough social opportunities.)

The program and the community are top notch and everyone in my family feels this way, including my son. Case in point: when people say things to my son like, ''I bet your glad it's vacation - no school and no homework!'', he doesn't even get where they are coming from. He loves his school! The point about reduced enrollment in the upper grades is due to circumstantial issues from two years ago, all of which have since been resolved. I was a board member at the time so got lots of inside scoop about the contributing factors, and would be happy to talk with you in detail. The most important thing to share is that all of the contributing factors were out of the current Mill's Administration's control; Mills has since hired a new Director. This is NOT to say the last Director was no good, she was there for 20 years and responsible for creating this amazing program! With regards to small classes, there is one important point to remember: we have mixed age classes/combo classes, which means a maximum of 10 students in any 1 grade (i.e. the K/1 has 20 kids and 9 of them are Ks). When there is any attrition with a grade level of this size it appears that the class is so small, when really we are starting with small #s to begin with. Due to the recession, I believe all private schools have experienced unusual attrition in the last two years. I personally feel thrilled to have found this small mostly undiscovered gem of a school, and expect the classes will be full again soon due to a number of reasons that I can't list here but can talk about if you want to call. I love talking about this school - it's been fantastic for us - so don't hesitate to email me if you'd like more information. Kim

Oct 2010

Re: Oakland elementary that values creativity, peace, fun, learning
Check out Mills College Children's school--a little-known gem of a school on the campus of Mills College. It has many of the features you describe. happy MCCS family

June 2010

Re: Looking for an affordable K-4 private school
It's worth looking into Mills College Children's School, which has always been on the lower side of the tuition range. Most people know about their preschool, but not their elementary program... Small size, stellar staff, great facilities. MCCS parent

May 2010

Wanted to offer up a more recent review of Mills College Children's School (MCCS), which still has K-5 openings for the 2010-11 school year. We have been very happy there for the last three years. It's a very small school, just three combined classes with a maximum class size of 20 each, while many public schools now have close to 30 kids in even the youngest grades. Because they can focus more attention on each child's individual needs, the teachers at MCCS have been wonderfully supportive of my son, making him feel safe and comfortable in a positive learning environment. Especially for shy or anxious kids, like mine, the small, family-like atmosphere at MCCS helps kids to develop close relationships with peers and teachers, which fosters a love of learning and, from what I've seen, prepares 5th graders for the academic and social challenges of middle school. Whitney

May 2009

The 4/5 class for next year has openings! It is a great choice if you are concerned about the larger class sizes in the public school as the tuition is much more reasonable than most private schools. The kids at Mills are enthusiastic about math, love to read, are in a safe family-like atmosphere on a gem of a campus. The kids get tons of individual attention, and thier social-emotional growth is nurtured. The 5th graders who leave Mills are well prepared for the academic and social challenges of the best middle schools in the East Bay. Check it out! happy parent

March 2009

Next year will be my daughter's last year at MCCS. There has been turnover of staff in her past 5 years, but her education has NEVER been compromised. My daughter has received a top notch education, and has benefited from the small environment; everyone not only knows each other across the grades and among the staff, but are extremely supportive of each other. The curriculum is challenging and rewarding. This year (4th grade) my daughter wrote a 6,000 word novel, and is doing algebra! The school has recently implemented a Japanese lesson study for math, and the results are through the roof. The kids are doing advanced math, and understanding it inside and out. The campus is another benefit: it is beautifully landscaped, has a school garden, and terrific outdoor equipment. The school has openings across the grades; so please inquire. The tuition is much more manageable than most private schools in the area, and I think the education is as good if not better. Polly

Feb 2009

Re: Mills preschool vs. UCB preschool
I can only speak about the Mills College Children's School, as I have no experience with UCB. The program at Mills is an absolutely phenomenal program. Their curriculum is based on the children, and will vary with each year. The philosophy, though, remains similar. They engage in a week to two on each topic, either picked by the student teachers for their project, or by observing the interests of the children. Each unit includes a lot of creative art (no craft projects designed for the parents, this is free exploration art, with supplies and materials somewhat guided by the unit), literature, songs, games, and other tasks designed around that unit.

The head teachers have been a part of the school for many years, and are wonderful. The student teachers may change each semester, but they come in with enthusiasm and are all highly capable even before they start.

The spaces each year vary, and it can be difficult to get into the program (priority is given to parents who are students at the school). But it's definitely worth an application, even with no guarantee. The program is nurturing for every child, allowing for growth at their level, along with space for much creative play. MCCS parent

Feb 2009

Noticed that the most recent review of MCCS is from last year, so I'd like to provide a positive report about all the changes this year. We had practically a full staff turnover in the elementary school: a new director, and 2 out of 3 new head teachers, because one teacher from last year ended up returning; they have all been wonderful. Our new director, Debra Brown, is truly committed to giving the kids the best learning experience possible, and to improving all aspects of the school. There is also an exciting new curriculum--the Mills College School of Ed works hard to develop the most innovative teaching practices-- which kids and teachers seem to love. Mills is a very small school--just three combined classrooms (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5), which is really good for my child, and is located on a beautiful college campus that the teachers take full advantage of. It is also one of the more ethnically diverse private schools you'll find in the Bay Area. There seems to be an impression out there that it's just as difficult to get into the elementary school as it is to get into the preschool, but with the changes and the economy, enrollment is down at the moment, so come and check it out!

April 2008

Mills Children's School is undergoing many changes this year (2007-2008). They are currently looking for a new director, a new k/1 teacher, a new 2/3 teacher and the 4/5 teacher will be new. This year's k/1 teacher was new (and excellent), but she is leaving at the end of the year for personal reasons. This year's head 2/3 teacher, who began working 3 days a week midway through the fall 07 semester for personal reasons, replaced the previous 2/3 teacher (who left for personal reasons) last spring. The permanent substitute who began in January is excellent, but will not be continuing in the Fall 08. The 4/5 teacher was new this year. We were very happy for our first two years at the school. Less so, our third. anonymous

November 2007

Any recent reviews on Mills K-5? I'm considering it for my 2008 Kindergartener... anon

My son started kindergarten this fall, and we chose Mills College Children's School (after the same lengthy search that many go through). I am more than pleased with his experience--it's a wonderful school, and the best of what I wanted for him. He is nurtured and loved by the wonderful K/1 teacher, and he's growing and learning daily. I would be glad to answer specific questions by email if you would like. Heather
My daughter is currently in the 1st grade at Mills and my son attends the Geranium pre-school there. My daughter also attended pre-school there, went to a public school in Oakland for K and returned this year. WE LOVE IT!!! THe K-1 Teacher is incredible, offering a student-centered and inquiry-based program that emphasizes social-emotional learning, problem solving, literacy development, developing mathematic literacy and conceptual knowledge of math. She offers a good balance of structure, with opportunities for students to learn through play, make choices, as well as engage in small group and whole group learning activities. We left a good public school in Oakland b/c we did not agree with the educational philosophy (i.e. too much Open Court, too many worksheets). Our daughter is absolutely thriving at Mills and progressing socially and academically in a way we didn't observe at the public school. Another added bonus, Mills is very diverse- as a multi-ethnic family this is important to us. In her class, about half of the students are students of color or mixed ethnicity. The staff is wonderful, as are the other families. If you care about pedagogy and social emotional learning, I cannot recommend Mills more highly. Brightstar
I looked at over 20 schools, public and private, and Mills stood out as 1) practicing what they preach (you can really see the philosophy in action), 2) having incredibly well-trained, thoughtful, and skilled teachers (if you have to teach children and supervise student teachers you need to be at the top of your game), 3) a wonderfully small and nurturing community, 4) a beautiful school site and campus. We are thrilled with our choice for our kindergartener and feel so grateful this gem of a school exists. happy K-1 parent
We just started at Mills this year and we're very happy. The new K1 teacher, Theresa Lozac'h, is truly wonderful and the entire staff seems committed to not only helping the children learn academics in a creative way at their own pace, but also to developing friendships and a sense of community. Our son is having so much fun, he doesn't realize how much he's learning. Feel free to email me offline if you have more questions. Best of luck! Whitney
Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
How about Mills College Children's School? I think there are openings in 2nd (it's a 2/3 classroom), but my son is in K so I'm not sure--you could call to find out. It's a racially diverse school in every class, not to mention being a great school in many other ways. We love it there! Happy MCCS parent

October 2005

There are no posting on the website about Mills' elementary program. Looking for any and all comments about what the school is like and how it would be for a 'spirited' (intense but basically happy) child. Mills?

I have heard fabulous things about Mills Elementary School, but it is extremeley competetive to get in! Kristen
My experience with the Mills Elementary School is slightly dated, but here it is: About three years ago, there was a very polarizing crisis at the School (initiated after the arrest of a former student teacher there--some of this was in the newspapers). We were among the 1/3 of the families who were so unhappy with what subesequently happened, that we decided not to return our children after that academic year. Best as I could tell, roughly another third were unhappy about how the administration handled the situation, but decided to stay anyway (various reasons I think: the difficulty of changing schools, the relatively low tuition, etc., etc.), and the rest basically decided not to get that involved, or were fine with the admin's decisions.

As far as I know, the administration of the school has not changed (though I hope they learned some lessons from this crisis). Also, FYI we had been generally happy with the teachers prior to this issue, but disappointed in them after. The school may still be under enrolled, so depending on how you look at it, your child will either get a good deal of attention from teachers or will have an inadequate variety/number of peers.

Another fact you might want to consider is that the school is a laboratory school pretty much controlled by the education department at Mills. As parents there, you will find that you do not have much power or say. We got the feeling that the main 'clients' were the graduate students in the education department, who are student teachers at the school, and who bring in considerable revenue to the college. In key decisions, the politics climb the ladder all the way up the education department and further up to top level college administration.

Another personal observation is that the theories of education there are practiced in a very rigid and inflexible way, again due to the connection with faculty at the education department. Though there are facets of the theory that I appreciated, you do get a sense that they have the 'bible' on education and they don't want to hear anything to the contrary. This may or may not become an issue for you depending on your child.

Anyway, hope this helps. I know there have been other posts on BPN about the School that you apparently missed finding (both positive and negative). anon

We loved the Mills College preschool, where our children started as infants, but the elementary school has been beset by many troubles. The adult-child ratio is phenomenal, given the many (wonderful) student teachers, but is SO small -- 4-5th graders are in a shared classroom of often only 12 students. Children learn in mixed classrooms (K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) which is stimulating the first year, but then I think it is not good for the second. There is significant student attrition as children get older, and so the school, needing to fill seats, often ends up admitting "troubled" students in 4-5th grade who have been in and out of many other schools. It is a laboratory school and the clear priority is the education department's ability to provide learning for their students. Anon


Feb 2007

Mills College Childrens School is great for very young infant/toddlers. The ratio is 2:1, the college students are wonderful with the babies, and your baby can be held in someone's arms for extended periods of time if that's what's required/desired by your baby. No sitting around in dirty diapers, crying, or being left alone.

But, the older preschool classroom isn't as academic as I'd like. My child is very ready to start reading at 4 1/2, but the kids just play all day, or do crafts. Most importantly, as the prices increase the diversity that used to exist is no longer. No socialeconomic diversity, which in turns limits ethnic diversity. Also, school's out for 2-3 months in the summer, and an entire month in the winter (with no offer of supplemental childcare). This was very stressful for our family (again, a message that seems to undermine the working mother). Additionally, the hours are very limited, with the latest pickup time at 5:15p, which is an odd time being that most people get off of work at 5pm. Summary: infant/toddler program = great; older preschool = overly expensive supervised play. Sam

We are in our second year at Mills' preschool and are truly happy with our decision to send our sons here. We have found a very warm & loving community, amazing classrooms, and incredible teachers. The parents' community is active, supportive and continuing to develop its role. The student teachers are excited and energetic in their teaching. The classrooms are well balanced in terms of gender, family identity, & diversity.

I appreciate that I can spend time in the classrooms or join the circle at the end of the day. Parents are allowed to come in to share a special skill - spanish, gardening - with the children. Daily, we receive information and feeback from the teachers about our child's day & activities. Photographs are taken regularly and shown to families during parent-teacher conferences, in meetings or in the classrooms. Parents are expected to volunteer a certain number of hours per year, but there are many many different opportunities from time in the classroom to admin. tasks to shopping for food/snacks. The school is play based, child led. The topics that are developed in the classroom are determined by the children. This year the 4-5yr. class delved into space, the human body, pets & trains. The student teachers also bring projects to the classroom - a study of topics of their choosing but which is reflected in the play they find in the children such as butterflies, fantasy play, competition, oceans and more. Mary

As the parent of two children who have attended and thrived at the Mills College Children's School pre-school, I wholeheartedly recommend it for families who are looking for a developmental and play-based program. If you are looking for an academic pre-school, Mills is not a good fit. The teachers create wonderful opportunities for children to play and explore- this is not just supervised play. They offer a hands on and engaging curriculum that I could never come up with on my own. The child-teacher ratio is excellent, the teachers and leadership have been very responsive to any concerns, and the physical environment is wonderful. Children benefit from indoor and outdoor classrooms, as well as access to the entire Mills campus. We are a multi-ethnic family and in contrast to the other poster, we have witnessed a recent growth in the the ethnic diversity of the school (it is more diverse than most pre-schools of its caliber). And, even with its recent increase in tuition, its pricing is very competitive with other high quality pre-schools in the area. I have experienced it to be a wonderful parent/family community, where everyone greats each other and is involved in the education of their children. As a working mother, I am thankful that other parents (and they are not the majority)have significant time to contribute to the school because they do not work. Without their efforts, Mills would not be the wonderful place it is for our children. Brightstar
My husband and I both work full-time so preschool was a necessity. We visited numerous schools when my daughter was ready for preschool and then kindergarten. We wanted diversity, developmentally appropriate academic instruction, social emotional development and a secure environment. We found all of those things at the Mills College Children's School. My daughter started preschool in the Geranium mixed aged classroom. It was a difficult transition for her but the teachers were extremely nurturing and consistent and eased her through the separation. The self-directed learning facilitated in the classroom allowed my daughter's interests to guide her learning helping her to become confident and excited about learning in the school setting. This year my daughter is a kindergartner in the K1 classroom at the elementary school and my son is the younger preschool classroom. We all love both settings. There is diversity in both classrooms and a strong school culture of inclusion. The facility is beautiful. The student teacher ratio is amazing. My daughter is learning to read and is actively engaged in music, art, theater, science and math. This year Spanish was added to the afterschool curriculum which thrilled us as Latinos. We looked at a wide range of schools but none compared with the Mills Children's School. Josefina
This is our son's second wonderful year in the morning preschool program at the Mills College Children's School (MCCS). It's a laboratory school, so there is always one head teacher in the classroom, along with several graduate-student teachers. The student teachers change each semester after completing their investigations. These transitions are addressed openly in class and have not been a problem for our son. The school is developmental/play-based, but it is hardly a supervised-play situation without structure. Group discussions and activities draw from the children's interests and issues that arise each day. Children are encouraged to pursue their interests and take them as far as they can in the classroom. My son comes away energized about his time at school and feeling really validated. There is circle time, clean-up time, gardening, time to explore the Mills campus in small groups, and more. My son's class is diverse, and the school follows an anti-bias curriculum. They work on ''decentering,'' so children consider what's good for the group, not just for themselves. There is a committed attentiveness to and validation of the children's emotional states and needs, and an inspiring emphasis on group problem-solving. I have found the MCCS community to be inclusive and supportive, and I have noticed a common respect among parents whose lives may differ greatly from one another. A huge thumbs up for the MCCS morning preschool. Very Satisfied MCCS Mom
After reading the last parent review of the Preschool at Mills, I felt compelled to share our very positive experience with the preschool at Mills. We have three children (the youngest is still too young for preschool) and my son is now in kindergarten and was in both the Blue Room and Green Room at Mills. My daughter is four and is currently in the Green Room (Older preschool). My children have very different temperaments and interests and both have had a fabulous experience at Mills. When evaluating preschools, I visited over 20 preschools looking for the right setting for my son and saw a wide range of environments. I was primarily looking for a setting that would allow my children to develop socially and to gain the confidence that they would need to thrive in kindergarten. I was also looking for an environment that would be stimulating and would foster a life long love of learning. Mills has provided this and much more. My son is thriving academically and socially and I attribute much of his success in kindergarten to his time at Mills. The kids spend a great deal of their time playing and are able to make choices about how to spend their time. They have several circle times throughout the day and also have a more focused work time early in the day. The teachers create a rich and varied environment that offers many opportunities for the children to build their literacy skills, explore, create, learn and think. I feel that the approach to literacy is both age appropriate and fun and also encourages creativity. For example, a favorite activity has been story telling, where children create stories (both individually and in groups) these are sometimes brought home as homemade books and at other times are acted out at circle time. When my son started in the Blue Room, I was a SAHM and loved having lunch with the other families that picked their children up at noon. I found the group to be inclusive of all members of the community and not in the least judgmental. For the last year and a half I have been working and have a part-time nanny who covers the holidays and picks my daughter up at 3:30pm. The other mothers have been wonderful in including her in their play dates after school and I have felt supported by the Mills parent community in my decision to return to work. There is no question, that the Mills schedule does require working families to plan for the long breaks and the many holidays. Many of us who work have additional childcare to accommodate for the extended breaks in the schedule – a number of the families have hired former student teachers whose breaks coincide nicely with those of the children. Diversity was also an important variable for our family and of the schools we considered, Mills was the most diverse. We are a mixed race adoptive family and are pleased to be part of a community that includes parents and children of various ethnicities, gay and lesbian parents, international families and families formed through adoption. A happy parent!
To share a different experience about the older preschool at Mills Children's School regarding the parent review on Feb 19th. I am not sure how academic one expects children at 4 1/2 to be. Our boy who entered the older classroom fully capable of reading chapter books. Still his intellectual development has been greatly stimulated by the program not only academically (if being academic means being able to read and write--yes, from answering the sign-in questions he has learned to write rather well) but more so by being inspired to explore the world. In the past months he has studied topics including space, pets, human body, dinosaurs, and many others, and has gained vocabularies and knowledge about the topics but more so great interests in learning, as he now defines school by what they're studying (even though he plays A LOT with friends). We feel that more precious than the ability to read and write is the intellectual curiosity, and certainly the program is doing wonderful things to stimulate our boy. When I went to the program to participate a celebration of Chinese New Year, I noticed that the teacher set up a worktable for the children to try different formulas to ''shine'' old pennies to go with the red envelopes. Not only the children were learning about a different culture but also were having a chemistry lab. I am not sure I would call the program supervised play, as learning comes in more than one form. Mills mom
My son has attended Mills since Kindergarten and he is now finishing up the 1st grade. I have to say our experience has been more than wonderful! My son's ability to make real life applications of his academic learnings is amazing. At many schools children are learning by rote, pure memorization without real life application of problem solving skills in mathematics, reading, science, and in social relationships. But with the Mills philosophy and curriculum, my son considers the world around him and applies his skills on a global scale. The class sizes are small and the attention given to enhance and maximize each child's learning is excellent. They offer Spanish twice a week, Music, P.E., Art, and Theatre Arts taught by professors who also teach college students on the Mills campus (top notch teaching). And these are all addtions to their academic curriculum. I have found my communication with the Director, the head teachers and teachers assistants have been very open and welcoming. My son attends the after school program, that he always asks to stay later when I pick him up. The after school program is small in size an so the peer relationships the children are able to build, and the availability of the teachers to be attentive to really meet the children's academic and ''fun'' needs is priceless. My son loves the Elementary School and so do we! The number to the office is 510.430.2118. gerri
The children's school on the Mills campus has ben an incredible experience for my daughter who is mid-way through second grade now. She started there in kindergarten, and we couldn't be happier. Her weekly curriculum, in addition to literacy and math, includes science in an outdoor classroom, music, art, and PE. The setting allows for the children to know each other well from kindergarten through 5th grade; they not only socialize together when opportunity allows, but they really take care of each other. The 5th graders are great role models for the smaller kids. MCS is a lab school whose curriculum is based upon the constructivist model; meaning that it focuses on the many ways that children learn in a socialized setting. To me and my daughter it means that there is a joy of learning, as well as a joy in teaching visible in the teachers. It builds confidence and pleasure in becoming a lifelong learner for both the kids and the terrific educators. I can't say enough good things about this gem of a school! Polly
For all who read the 2/12/07 posting: Our I/T Program maintains a 3:1 (not 2:1), ratio for children aged 5 to 27 months. Information sessions/tours cover the tenets of our philosophy, examples of our play-based curriculum, calendar challenges and many other aspects of our programs. (It is great deal of information to take in all at once, remember, and then be comfortable with once the daily routine is in full swing.) Our unique lab school/teacher training facility enables us to maintain exceptional ratios of children to adults (5:1 PS). Being an integral part of the Mills School of Education we adhere to the academic calendar of the college. Following the academic year, we have consistently offered four three-week PS sessions in summer. Ultimately there are 2-3 weeks (not 2-3 months), of summer when child care is not available. The college’s Winter Break can be a challenging time for families. Among many things, parents are urged to consider if the hours of our programs and our calendar fit their needs, and to decide if they are comfortable with our philosophy before making enrollment decisions. We stress the importance of choosing a program that not only meets the child's needs for the many aspects of growth, but that also meets the family's needs around personal philosophy, daily flexibility and psychological comfort. Even a cursory walk through our lobby offers a substantial view of the literacy-rich environment of our classrooms. Gale
I highly recommend Mills College Childrens School which has a fantastic preschool and elementary school. My children are there/went there and absolutely loved it - the teachers and administrators are memorable, knowledgeable, and dedicated. The facilities are top-notch. The curriculum is broad and fulfilling. In the morning, my kids can't wait to go to school. My younger sister who is a college senior had done some summer jobs in childhood education and had interviewed at several places - she commented that Mills just stood apart - clean, bright play space, thoughtful activities and variety, fun play space outside for each classroom, great teacher/child ratios. Many parents have heard of it and some think that it's impossible to get in and don't apply. We are non-college affiliated - and thought let's just apply and see if it works...and it did! Email me if you have any questions! cassindy
Jan 2006

I would love to read a recent review of Mills College preschool and infant program. I am considering Mills for my 3 year old and 1 year old. The most recent posting is from 2003 and mentions administrative issues. John

This post is a bit of overkill since I'll confess to my comments being in the most recent archive, but now I speak from the position of actually attending a different school. We left Mills after being accepted into another school closer to home. The new school has an outstanding reputation, and it was based on the belief that we would be in a comparable environment that we reluctantly changed. Sadly my instincts have been confirmed -- nothing can compare to Mills. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted, your child will have such an advantage over his peers. Sure, most schools will prepare your child academically for kindergarten and beyond, but in my experience it is very rare to find a place that puts as much emphasis on developing your child's emotional side. I can't say enough that IMO there is no better preparation for life. Susannah
March 2005

I just went to a tour for the Mills College preschool program. Has anyone been or currently has there child there? Please give me any feedback. Shelly

I cannot begin to say enough good things about the preschool at Mills. There are very few preschools in the East Bay that offer the same education. I speak from the experience of having done thorough Oakland research 3 years ago, as well as a recent exhasutive tour of Berkeley Schools prompted by a move. We have decided it's well worth the drive to stay at Mills.

Our 2-1/2 year old son has been in the infant toddler since September and has blossomed. (As parents we've learned a lot too). Of course there are the obvious advantages like great child teacher ratios, moderate tuition and a beautiful facility. But what I didn't realize until we started is that what they are teaching goes way beyond the usual ''play-based developmental curriculum''

The emphasis (at least in infant/toddler room) is on coping skills. My son is learning how to identify emotions, experience them, and then find a way to move on to a better place. He is also learning to empathize with other children's feelings and come up with ways to help them feel better. They are teaching children how to interact, respect one another, and look for solutions to disputes on their own. I can think of no better preparation for Kindergarten (not to mention the rest of his life).

If you're concerned about the student teachers leaving after a semester, our experience was not a big deal. The new teachers are on their way to becoming just as well loved and the originasl are still nearby in other classrooms .

My only complaints (apart from the new commute) would be there isn't the strongest of parent communities and next year there will be two 3 week breaks, one in Auguest and the other around the holidays.

INSIDERS TIP: Im sure by the time you read this your application will be long gone, but if you have a 3 year old boy, your best bet is to apply for the downstairs preschool. I know that there are enough sibling boys coming in the fall that those of us in the infant toddler program were told are chance are limited for our sons to get in to Geranium.

Good luck and feel free to email if you have any other questions Susannah

We had our son in the Mills College Children's School (preschool) last year and have the following observations/experiences.

This is not an academic environment, but rather a "play- based" setting. However, the grounds of the college and the playgrounds of the school are beautiful and children are taken for walks around campus regularly. Incidents of aggression are not handled appropriately. We had a parent approach us angrily because apparently our son had screamed loudly when her daughter took a toy away from him. The parent told us that our son had screamed in her daughter's ear "for no reason" and we needed to apologize. Upon further investigation, it was clear that her daughter was the aggressor. In another instance, we observed our son being attacked by another boy with a shovel in the sandbox. We clearly saw the attack, our son crying, but were prevented from going to comfort our son by the head teacher who said patronizingly, "now let us handle this." Later we found our son had a large cut on his head. We also were told that they have never, ever asked a child to leave the school due to aggressive behavior because "all the children are part of our community."
If you decide to enroll your child, be aware that "preschool" includes children well over 5 years old and similar age lags are present in all the grades, so be sure to get your child in the age-appropriate class. Be warned that in these multiple age classrooms, you really want to be sure your child is not the youngest, unless your child is exceptionally advanced, big and strong. There is no specific snack time, children are supposed to eat when they are hungry. For snack they offer a few crackers, or you can bring a snack from home for your child. The student-teachers are very temporary- lasting a semester each. Anon

I know that no school is right for everyone, but the observations detailed in previous posts are so radically different from our experience as the parents of a shy child in the infant toddler program, that we have to respond:

Our son entered the Mill's program with tremendous anxiety about leaving his parents. He was very dependent on having an adult nearby and not particularly physical. If it were up to him, he'd have spent the entire day on his teacher's lap. At any other school that is probably what would have happened, until everyone was exhausted and forced him to buck up and get over it. No one would have talked to him about he was feeling, and not only let him know it was okay, but also teach him how to cope with these emotions and move on to the next place.

In just the six months we've been at Mills, he has thrived. He can come into the classroom, get settled and with a kiss and hug goodbye runs off to find things to play and often invites others to join him. There are still days when it's hard to go to class, and when that happens his teacher is there not only to hold him and talk about missing his parents, but also to guide him beyond the sadness and start thinking about having a good day.

The lack of structure doesn't work for everyone (parents and children alike) but all of the teachers are really good at helping the children find activities to keep them entertained and learning.

As far as the outdoors is concerned, I haven't met a child who doesn't look forward to the walks around campus and to the outdoor classroom by the creek. When a child wants to be inside there are lots of comfortable areas set up for napping, quiet time and play. However, if as a parent you're not okay with your child being outside and getting wet and dirty, read no further. This isn't the school for you.

Yes, it's play based, a curriculum that's not for everyone, but it is effective. We know children who have gone through the entire program at Mills (preschool -5th grade) and emerged as some of the most creative, engaging people I've ever met. One girl is now at the top of her class at a public middle school. Play based works, especially when it is combined with Mills' emphasis on teaching coping skills.

At Mills they are teaching children how to interact, respect one another, and look for solutions to disputes on their own. I can think of no better preparation for Kindergarten (not to mention the rest of his life). If he's got this stuff figured out, learning to read will be a breeze.

Also, from painting to play dough there is always something crafty to do EVERYDAY. Its not organized and there often isn't anything to take home, but it's always something my son looks forward to. The preschooler's art work is also used by older children as an introduction to abstract expressionism.

In our son's class there are two years olds who reason articulately with very persuasive verbal arguments and others who hardly utter an intelligible word. Each is embraced and encouraged. My son is the only one in his peer group who isn't toilet trained, is not very physically coordinated, cries a lot, and took a very long time to be able to sit at the table. We haven't had any complaints.

In the infant toddler room (the older classes have an organzied snack time) here the teacher /child ratio is nearly 2:1. Each child has a specific caregiver who is responsible for helping a child with all their transitions during the day (in other words student teachers are intentionally assigned particular children to mentor. Children are free to hang out with anyone they please, but naturally there is a bond with a particular caregiver. While this may be perceived as ''playing favorites'' it's actually the way the program is designed.

I know for us, it has been really important for our shy son to know he has someone looking out for him, His caregiver has helped him blossom from a clingy boy filled with separation anxiety, into an outgoing and friendly kid who loves to play without an adult and invite others to join him.

What the teacher's lack in experience they more than make up with creativity and enthusiasm. Their investigations are provoking an interest in science through explorations of dirt, worms and the creek, and an appreciation of literacy through reading and teaching letter writing and story telling.

My understanding of the philosophy here is that children won't really learn to deal with conflict if an adult is always intervening and punishing. Instead children are shown how to deal with issues and encouraged to sort things out on their own using language. The teachers are constantly modeling correct behavior and helping guide children through an incident and often help them find ways to play together.

Also I want to stress that in our experience, hitting and biting are not tolerated at all, and the agressor in this instance will not only know that the behavior is unacceptable, but also be required to care for the victim.

In the infant toddler room there is no formal snack time. This has helped our picky eater learn to identify when he 's hungry and be able to tell someone about it, which has really helped this mom Children often decide to eat tat the same time, and the whole group can sit happily together at the table and clear their plates when they are through.

At minimum snack has been crackers AND cheese, and is often bagels and cream cheese, fruit, pasta or cereal with milk.

In the older preschool snack is formal and often made by the children. In the last week they had french toast, ants on a log and cornbread.

The fact that the student-teachers are very temporary- lasting a semester each. can be really hard and is a definite flaw in the program. This results in a lack of continuity and it is a shame for those children who formed a bond with a particular student-teacher.

My boy has been there for 3 years. He is currently in the older pre-school class. It is a play-based setting and does not a formal curriculum. But your child will be learning a lot of things. Most of the kids leave reading at least simple text if not reading, period. And can do some simple adding and subtraction. But more importantly, the kids leave ready for kindergarten. They are ready for kindergarten not just because of 123's and abc's but because of their social development.

Art is offered everyday. I know because I do the "drop off". The kids are not forced to do art. The playground is just about always available unless it is pouring rain. The kids get a chance to pick what they want to do. My son tends to spend more time indoors than outdoors.

The children often make their own snacks. The snack is posted everyday in a log for the parents. Fresh fruit is served most everyday. In fact, each family takes turn bringing in fresh fruit every week. Sometimes, they bake muffins or breads. They make quesadillas, pizza, etc. My boy loves cooking which is where he learned how to add and subtract.

The school is racially diverse. If you look at the class picture and/or the names under the pictures, you will see the diversity.

My boy came into the school with a major speech delay. We never felt labeled as "not normal". We were informed about this issue. The teachers helped us greatly with this issue. They went far beyond the call of duty. Due to the speech delay, his social development was delayed. In fact, it's something we are still working on.

The student-teachers, overall, are great. Some have no experience. Some have a lot of experience. But nearly all of them are excited to be in the classroom. It is not a case of the student-teachers having "favorite children" It is a case of the kids having a favorite student-teacher. During snack time, circle time, reading times, from my observations, kids are always asked to come and join in. When the student-teachers leave after their semester, the kids are sad but the relationship does not end. We still exchange emails with student-teachers from our first year. My son will even drop notes and drawings into their boxes. This goes along with one of their songs about making new friends and keeping the old ones.

My son is definitely not big, strong, tall nor athletic. He will be turning 5 in a month and he is 37 lbs. and 42 in. tall. Yes, there are conflicts and he has learned how to handle them. The teachers do a great job in this area. He knows that he should not use physical action and to use words first. He does it most of the time. Most of the kids in his class (the older preschool) are between 4 and 5 years old. I do not know of any 6 years old kids in the class and I know nearly all the Families.

Overall, this is a wonderful pre-school. It's hard getting admitted due to the large number of applicants. But if you are fortunate enough to get in, you and your child will have a wonderful experience plus he/she will be ready for kindergarten.

July 2002

Re: Preschools that use the Reggio Emilia approach
Mills College Preschool & their other school, the Geranium Cottage, use the Reggio Emilia approach. It's fairly competitive to get a spot there, as they give priority to staff and students, and then fill out the remaining spots using demographic criteria. When I asked them about other schools in the area using their philosophy, they told me that the Association of Children's Services pre-school (I believe it's in or near the Fruitvale district of Oakland) was started by Mills grads and uses the same philosophy. I never visited A.O.C.S. because the schedule was way too full time or long of days or something for our family, but I did talk to a director on the phone. My sister's degree is in Early Childhood Ed, and she says that she thinks R.E. is the most kid-adaptive and developmentally respectful approach. Unfortunately, it's hard to come by around here! Good luck. -- Ilana

June 2002

Does anyone have a young toddler who attends the Mills College lab preschool? There is an old posting recommending it, but I'm wondering if anyone has had recent experiences with it. Thanks! Christine

I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the Mills College Children's School. My daughter has been in the preschool for the last two years since she was 2 yrs. 4 mos, and will be there for her 3rd year this fall. The teachers are remarkably committed, and children there benefit greatly from the Reggio Milia educational philosophy, learning about the world around them and also learning through their own emotional development, which is very much supported by the school.

There's a downside, which could also be viewed as an upside depending on your child's temperament. Because it's a lab school there's a great student-teacher to student ratio -- usually the head teacher is working with 4 or 5 student teachers, one of whom is there every day, and 16 children.

But those student teachers change with each new semester. If your child has bonded strongly with one student teacher, it may be difficult when that teacher moves on. My daughter handled it fairly well, but there have been a couple of very special teachers whom she still talks about and whom she missed greatly when they were no longer in the classroom with her. All in all, though ,it's a great school Lauren

January 2002

I'm interested in hearing from anyone with recent experience with the Mills College Preschool, especially with the infant program. I'm thinking of placing my son there this fall, when his is about 15 months old. Thanks, Megan.

About the Mills College Children's School: It is still as fabulous as the 1999 description on the UCB website. My daughter, now almost 3, has been in the infant-toddler room since she was 4 months old. I can't imagine better, more imaginative, more consistent and loving care. But -- big caveat for the person who's planning to enroll her child next fall -- each year there are only a very few openings in that room, and people who work at Mills get priority. I think enrollment for next fall is taking place just about now. Good luck! Sarah
October 1999

I do not know about the pre-schools in Montclair itself, but I have two wonderful pre-schools to recommend. The Mills College Children's School, located in the Mills College Campus (a short drive from Montclair) is fabulous. It is a lab school staffed by a Head Teacher and student teachers from the education department. The curriculum is play based and child centered, giving children many opportunities to "help" their teachers design the program. The teachers use the whole campus as a resource and enrich the curriculum by taking small groups of children on nature walks, trips to the library, the post office, the Greek theater, the music building, the soccer field, the many small ponds on the campus, etc... In addition to the lab classrooms, you can also inquire about Geranium Cottage, a pre-school classroom that offers more flexibility in their schedule. The Mills College Children school also has a wonderful primary school, that goes from Kindergarten through third grade. The school is moving to a great new building, and is adding a fourth and fifth grades next year. I know they are having several open houses so call them and inquire about their programs: 430-2118. Thomas

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