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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
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.
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, http://www.mills.edu/childrensschool/. 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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 websitewww.mills.edu/childrensschool A happy MCCC parent
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
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 www.mills.edu/childrensschool kristi
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Any recent reviews on Mills K-5? I'm considering it for my 2008 Kindergartener... anon
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! http://www.mills.edu/campus_life/childrens_school/index.php Happy MCCS parent
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
This is not an academic environment, but rather a "play-
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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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