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The Renaissance School (Oakland, CA)
The Renaissance School was formerly called A Child's World Montessori School
See also: The Renaissance School Preschool
I've searched the archives and there are many references to the Renaissance Int'l School, however none address the question of safety. For those families that have attended/do attend this school, are you concerned about the safety of your child(ren) given the location and the neighborhood? Is vandalism a problem for the school? We are admittedly not from the area, and after visiting are frankly quite concerned about this issue. Fruitvale BART (a crime mecca) is not far and the general neighborhood appears to be in crisis. Any comments or feedback would be greatly appreciated. -anon
The neighborhood you are ''frankly quite concerned about'' is the neighborhood my family, including two young children, have lived in for over a decade. We have many friends who live here too and are very happy. We all use the park (a stone's throw from the school you are considering) and the library regularly. We walk to our wonderful local public school and Farmer Joe's, get our hair cut on Fruitvale Ave, and eat at the taqueria just up the block from Renaissance. We enjoy all of the new public art that is being installed and we know our neighbors. There are many, many things to love about our neighborhood, but perhaps you have to live here to appreciate them. Dimond Mom
The Fruitvale BART station is over 2 miles away and is a pretty different type of area where the crime rate is higher. I would not use proximity to Fruitvale BART as a factor in your decision.
I agree overall that the crime rate in Oakland is very troublesome and if you are worried about that, you should not live/send your kids to school in Oakland. Our school has been locked down twice in recent months because of active criminal activity in the neighborhood (not on our campus.) It's a definite issue and I don't really think it's going to get better any time soon. I hope it does some day, because Oakland is a fantastic city with so many things to offer. Hoping for better days ahead
And seriously, Renaissance costs $25K+, if safety were a real deal issue, I'm guessing they'd find a new site. Resources are aplenty there. anon
But, I would like to speak to what I believe is your intended question. I am a Renaissance parent. Every school entrance has a keypad or combination lock, which requires a code to gain entry. There is also a faculty member posted in the main lobby during school hours for the sole purpose of observing comings and goings.
Parents are notified via email regarding any incidents occurring within the neighborhood or on campus, most recently a small fire that occurred down the street from the school and was quickly extinguished by the fire department. The administration is quite transparent in these matters, please ask questions and find that your concerns will be met with the respect they deserve.
Lastly, thank you to all the residents of Dimond who deal with the daily activity a school brings! TRIS Mom
There are many mornings at drop off where I see community volunteers picking up trash or participating in the street sales. The area is filled with parks and public art.
Oakland is a very urban area - even in the so called up scale neighborhoods crime is a problem. In the two years we have been at the school only one lock down has occurred. The school has many policies and procedures in place to protect our children. I'm sure the administrators would be happy to share those with you.
We love TRIS and have never felt unsafe at the school or in the area. Many of the residents have been on that street for decades and they are fully involved in the community. We also used to own the apartment building next door - 3600 Dimond. We spent a year renovating the building and I was there all day long and into the night on many occasions. We never had any problems. If you want to track crime sign up for spotcrime.com, put in the address for the school and monitor the community happenings. vlh
Re: Comparing Montessori Schools in Oakland
My daughter attended The Renaissance International School, a Montessori school next to Dimond Park, from preschool through 5th grade. We were thrilled with the school -- from the practical life skills she learned in preschool, the strong music program (starting each day with singing), immersion language program (one language in preschool and a second one in elementary), an incredible arts program, plus strong academics -- this school has it all. Our daughter is now finishing middle school, and we feel her experiences at TRIS gave her a strong foundation that she has been able to build on. Happy parent
Re: language immersion programs for 3rd grader
It's a little outside your stated area, but consider the Renaissance International School in the Dimond district of Oakland. It's just off 580 so it might be close enough. We schlep our son there all the way down from Central Berkeley, and we love it.
TRIS is unique in that it offers a dual language immersion at the preschool level (English/Spanish or English/French) and then a tri-lingual immersion at the elementary level (English/French/Spanish). Each classroom contains a native speaking teacher for each of the languages. Because it is a Montessori school all lessons on the materials are given in each language. The school has a strong international community and some students actually speak an entirely different FOURTH language at home.
I taught at the school for several years as an English-speaking teacher and I was consistently impressed with how quickly the children pick up their new language. By the time the children are in upper Elementary they are completely comfortable switching between three languages in both written and spoken form. I admit I am jealous! The school reinforces this learning with a cultural and international studies program that includes periodic trips abroad (I believe they're hoping to take their next one to France in the next couple years).
Between the language immersion and the exceptional Montessori foundation, plus a great art and music program, I didn't hesitate when it was time to choose a school for my own child. I already see him picking up more Spanish than I'll probably ever know!
I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have about TRIS - please feel free to email me. Jess
Re: EB vs. Renaissance School for preschool thru 8th grade
My 14 year old daughter is in her last year at TRIS. She has been at TRIS since she was Two years old. Today a parent of a primary child asked me what I thought of my Daughters experience. I told her I was not convinced about the true magic of this school until she was about nine. My Daughter gave her half hour presentation on the History of the Miwok Indians written and spoke in French. I was blown away... She is now preparing to enter high school and she is enthusiastic and ready we visited her high school and she said she felt she could do most of the classes at an AP level. Next year will be interesting. She is not Bilingual she is Trilingual English French Spanish and is working on Russian and Arabic. Her Arabic interest is entirely self motivated. Results may vary because each child is an individual but The educational package has made my daughter into what she is and this parent is proud. EL
My name is Liana and my daughter who is 5.5 goes to TRIS. She started there at age 2 and honestly I thought it to be just a nice Montessori school at first. She started in the 2 year old class at pre-primary class from there she learned little steps to independence.
It is bilingual from 2 to 5 in pre-primary to primary (3 to 5 year olds) then when they transition to lower elementary (6-8) and then upper elementary they get lessons in English, Spanish and French. There are 3 teachers in every classroom. They have several art teachers and music teachers too.
It is hard to convince a parent that a school is good or not but if you are interested in TRIS ask to observe a classroom, attend a silent journey, speak to Leslie the head of school. You'll notice the kids are smart, independent, respectful of each other. They have an awesome art, music, math. I am yet to be convinced about science. The kids learn cursive at 3, reading fluently by 5. Before the kids transition to elementary they already know addition, subtraction, single digit multiplication and beginning division.
The school is not for everyone but I have a child who is smart and social but has a hard time focusing. I think the school really helped her focus and she is learning and not only how to work in a team, she learns to work independently and be self motivated. Now she is thriving in this unique learning environment and is happy. As a parent I am completely sold to this school as I see how my child is developing.
The tuition is not cheap but it is a special place. If you have any questions let me know. Liana
(I'm posting the above from another parent at the school -- both my children attend and are in the elementary program. I didn't feel we could address the language question you posed, since we transferred in at the elementary level, but for what it's worth, my kids are soaking it up like sponges. This is our second year at the school and our exposure is only at the elementary level. Of course we wished we had know about it earlier! Fan of TRIS
Re: Bilingual Schools in Oakland and Berkeley
I highly recommend visiting The Renaissance School (TRS)in Oakland. I have had two children at the school since they were 2 years old, and they are both elementary age now. TRS is a Montessori school with a bi-lingual immersion preschool and you can choose whether your child is in a Spanish speaking classroom or a French speaking classroom. The elementary program is a tri-lingual immersion program that includes a Spanish speaking teacher, a French speaking teacher and an English speaking teacher in each classroom. The teachers are committed and caring. After being in the program for several years, my children have a working knowledge of Spanish and both of them are starting to understanding basic French. But more importantly they have learned to appreciate other cultures and are curious about other countries. The art and music program is also exceptional. TRS is a unique and special school with a supportive and interesting parent community. It has an international feel because many of the teachers are from other countries and many families are bi-lingual and/or bi-culutural. This makes for a rich school environment. Feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions. Donna
Re: Bilingual Montessori?
The Renaissance School is not in the exact area you referenced but it is an amazing bilingual Montessori school in Oakland. The music, art, and education program is stellar. The parent to child ratio is extremely conducive to learning and bilingual language development. My daughter has been there for 3 years and we couldn't be happier with the program and her development. jahlskog
This is a reply to the person inquiring about The Renaissance School. My three daughters attended The Renaissance School through pre-school and elementary school and emerged very confident in taking care of and managing themselves. They learned to work in groups as well as alone. In particular, their project and time management skills were well-honed, and they came out with skills to tackle the world in a confident and positive way. The older two ended up commuting to high school in San Francisco and they handled all of their extracurricular activities (including competitive sports), commute, homework, etc. on their own without much help from me (okay, we did drive them to BART in the morning). Both are thriving in college now without much emotional help from their parents and they have found their own summer employment in SoCal on their own. I attribute a lot of their skills and confident independence to what they learned at The Renaissance School. The third daughter is in middle school and thriving too. If you would like to chat off-line, please let me know. janna
I was very impressed with the academic program at The Renaissance School. It seems to surpass all others I've seen, offering all of the language immersion, music, arts and academics I could ask for. I have an exceptionally gifted child, and this seems to be one of the few schools capable of feeding his cognitive hunger.
On the other hand, the school felt a bit cold to me. I was turned off by the Director's lengthy description of how wrong it is to ever tell a child, ''good job.'' They require parents to leave their children at the front entrance (as opposed to allowing us to walk kids into the classroom in the morning), and they do not allow parents into the classroom at all, other than by scheduled appointment (and then, only for a silent observation).
My child is one who requires emotional connection as much as cognitive stimulation. And as a parent, I want to feel welcome at my child's school (even though I don't have much actual time available to be there).
Are my perceptions wrong? Is there some abundant warmth that I missed on my tour?
Thanks for your feedback. Searching for Just the Right School
My two elementary level children are new to TRS this year. Having spent much of their time in a prior school where they were mostly (not entirely) unchallenged and bored, they appreciate everything about TRS, especially ''working at their own levels''. They discuss amongst themselves how great it is at the new school. They miss teachers, friends (and the principal) from the old school, but they are stimulated at TRS on so many levels. My youngest, who barely wrote a complete paragraph last year in public school, wrote her first ''novel'' in November during National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). She has a new fearlessness around learning that I can barely keep up with!
I encourage you to read this piece that provides a little background to what's behind avoiding the ''good job'' approach to parenting. It's not as cold as it sounds! http://www.becomingtheparent.com/subsections1/g_links/goalsc4.html. I was pleased to find that TRS had the same general philosophy towards praise that I have held for years. I'm not strict about it, but I do take the time to offer acknowledgement over praise most of the time. It just make sense to me, and I think it gives my children a tremendous amount of creative freedom.
We have been very involved in our children's education and development, having to stay on top of their learning at public school. Now that we are at TRS, we've relaxed. We find that the teachers are the ones reminding us to come in and observe and meet with them, rather than it being the other way around. We do feel welcome as parents.
Happy to converse more about it if you are still considering the school. b.
I agree that a few of the teachers are kind of cold, but the kids seem to have warm, positive feelings for them (especially the assistant teachers and the specialists). Maybe the Montessori training encourages an emotional distance, but I would also describe some of them as professional, calm, level headed, and patient. I must say, though, that I am not overly familiar with all of the classroom teachers.
Is it perfect? No, not even close. Do I worry? Yes, sometimes. There are things I wish were different, but when I make a list of what they do in class (cook, go on field trips, speak French and Spanish, make handmade gifts for others, compose music, learn the foundations of visual art, and make advances in math, reading, writing, and researching), and when I see how they change (becoming more self-sufficient, more independent, more responsible for their school work, and their behavior), I feel satisfied. Fan of the Renaissance School
As for the drawbacks, there has been a long time issue about parents feeling not welcome at the school and I'm not sure it's ever been fully addressed. The administration is very adamant regarding limited parent involvement in the classroom and they focus heavily on the children being emotionally independent in the pre-school years...too much so in my opinion. I struggled for many months with both of my children when they were 3 years old and were going through normal separation anxiety. I had to leave them at the classroom door with a brief goodbye despite how distraught they were and in my opinion this contributed to how long it took them to get over that anxiety. Did they get through it? Yes. Could it have been much less prolonged and far less emotionally draining with a little more flexibility in terms of my ability to stay and comfort my child? Yes.
I must say the the teachers by and large, are absolutely wonderful - very caring and patient but firm at the same time. However they are not given much leeway by the administration in how to handle parent interactions which can sometimes lead to that cold feeling that you mentioned.
You don't say how old your child is so I'm not sure if they would be in the pre-school/kindergarten program or the elementary program. Both have a lot of positives going for them and to be honest, by the time the children are in the elementary program, the parental involvement/separation issues are not as much of an issue.
Hope this helps... See both sides
Let me assure you, though, that the classrooms are full of love and support. We regularly see students hugging teachers. We see students hugging each other, teachers hugging parents and I have hugged the director on several occasions. Why so much hugging? Simply, this school is amazing!
The kids there have developed the ability to focus on the work they are doing. The classroom is quiet because everyone in it is engaged. (Mind you, there are times of the day when when there is too much energy for that to happen, and they take those opportunities to explore the nearby park or have a Latin music dance party.) While a child is working, learning to master new skills and tackle new challenges, however, they are doing so independently and quietly. What we mistook as coldness was actually a vibrant ecosystem of children learning and growing.
When a child needs help with the work they are doing, they ask a teacher (or another student!) for assistance and they get the help that they need. The emotional connection between the students and teachers takes place during these interactions, as well as during new lessons, story time, and play time. The teachers at TRS have an intense desire to see the students learn and grow, both intellectually and emotionally. (A good deal of the lesson plans deal with grace and courtesy, i.e., how to express yourself and treat others with respect.)
The school does take some approaches that seem counterintuitive at times. I can guarantee that everything is done at the school with reason, and is backed up with a bunch of research. When clarifying the various approaches with the administration, you won't hear them say, ''We thought it would be a good idea to do X.'' They'll say, ''Alfie Kohn's research demonstrates blah, blah, blah and that's why we strive to handle things in the following manner...''
With regard to praise, the school does not seem to advocate that children never be told ''good job.'' What they try to do, as with all things at the school, is to tailor their approach to maximize the students' self confidence and development. In this circumstance, the school wants students to learn to motivate themselves, and not be dependent on congratulations from teachers. Some of the school's approaches seem quirky, but it is this attention to detail that makes the school stand out from the rest. (By the way, the director's office is always open to discuss the school's approach and the reasons for it. I have learned a lot as a parent since my son started going there.)
Lastly I wanted you to know that parents ALWAYS have access to their kids throughout the day. (I don't think the school can legally say otherwise.) The school does ask to minimize the number of disruptions by parents in the classrooms by scheduling observations ahead of time and doing drop offs and pickups outside the classroom. It's very hard for the other kids to do their work if there are parents constantly shuffling in and out of the classroom. The school probably won't work out very well for a family that wants to take an active role in their child's instruction at the school (like at a co-op) but you will find that there are plenty of ways to get involved at the school. Does the school want you to do a presentation on your recent trip to China or help out at the Halloween party? Yes! Do they want you to sing your ''Goodbye Song'' in the middle of the classroom every day while the other kids are working? Probably not. You'll find that, once you see what the kids are doing in the classroom, you won't want to be the one who upsets that wonderful environment.
I can't imagine any other place in the world where my son could be getting a better education. He writes book reports in Spanish (which we can't read.) He does long division. He loves Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He likes to cook and knows who Picasso is. He has lots of friends. He doesn't have anywhere near the number of tantrums and acts of aggression as before he got to the school. I have never, not for a single second, regretted our decision to send him there.
I would gladly talk to you or answer any questions you have about the school. Paul
Re: EBI vs. Renaissance School
TRS has provided us with a community of loving families and warm caring teachers, but with an outstanding infrastructure of support for parents, teachers, and children. We didn't go out looking for a school with strong infrastructure and strong curriculum, probably because we didn't see ourselves as that sort of parents and because we didn't know of the freedom, comfort, growth and confidence that these provide. My son now is in his fourth year at TRS and our youngest child is in his third year. We have friends at EBI who are happy there and happen to have an outstanding teacher. I think there are some phenomenal teachers at EBI. After experiencing the roughest end of the stick, however, I have come to value having a strong infrastructure and strong curriculum. The best measure, however, is how well my kids are doing at TRS. Maria
Editor note: reviews were also received for EBI
My daughter has been attending TRS for 3 years. She started when she was nearly 4. She has transitioned from the Primary to Lower Elementary class level. I've been extremely happy with the entire TRS experience and most importantly my daughter's education. I have never thought twice about the quality of education she is receiving.
I'm consistently amazed at the teaching process employed. The value of the Montessori materials utilized at TRS for improved comprehension is evident in the results I have seen. My daughter's math and language skills are stellar.
I like how the transition process is done so that it suits the child rather than at a set month on a calendar. The transition process takes into account the emotional and intellectual level of the child. For my daughter it was recognized that she might benefit from staying in her Primary class a bit longer in order to ensure she was emotionally ready for the transition. I felt this was very beneficial for my daughter. Since children transition at different times for different reasons the kids don't seem to dwell on the age at which transitions take place.
The Student to Teacher ratio is very generous and is obviously a benefit to all parties. The teachers in my daughter's classes have all been exceptional and have provided me with a high level of confidence.
I greatly benefitted from the Redirecting Children's Behavior Class (RCB) that is offered by the school's Director. I'm always amazed at her knowledge and greatly enjoy her enthusiasm. The school staff is also very helpful and responsive. I regularly interact with them (mainly remotely) for various issues and have never once been frustrated by a delayed response.
Lastly, their music program is extremely impressive. I dabbled in music as a child but had very little formal training. So, I know a few basics. Early on when my daughter was in the Primary classes I was impressed with the music programs and the quality of singing at the various age levels of the children. I was further impressed as my daughter progressed into the Elementary program to see how the music program expanded. I was blown away as I noticed my daughter was studying music theory on her own based on some of the lessons TRS has provided. As with all the other programs and subjects (math, language, art, practical life, etc.) this school builds a very strong, basic foundation that continues to mature in amazing ways. Jennifer
I currently have two children attending The Renaissance School (TRS). With the two of them combined, I have 12 years of experience with the school and the Montessori approach. I grew up in a family where education was extremely important and I have bestowed this same value on my children. From an academic standpoint, I do not believe any Bay Area elementary program comes close to what TRS offers. From pre-primary, my children were in a bilingual language immersion program (Spanish). Starting in 1st grade, the program becomes a tri-lingual immersion program (French, Spanish and English). My son is currently in the 4th grade and he speaks fluent Spanish and is on his way to becoming fluent in French. He is required to read and write in all 3 languages and all subjects are also taught in all 3 languages. In addition, there is a very rich program in music and art. The children start each day with one hour of chorus and instrumental lessons are available and encouraged. Art classes are 3 hours and the children learn a great deal about both art and art history. The headmaster of the school, Leslie Hites, is a BRILLIANT educator and has dedicated her life to exploring the vast potential that is possible with elementary children. She makes herself available and is a very exceptional problem solver. She has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to be flexible in developing an individualized program for my children that best suits their strengths and weaknesses. My 7 year old daughter had difficulties learning to read and arrangements were made for her to work with Catherine Bacle-White who is a highly gifted learning specialist. Within months, my daughter had learned to read fluently and as a result, her confidence soared. With a new level of confidence. I witnessed my daughter's rapid advancement in many other subjects and maturity. This is just one example how TRS has adapted the program to best meet my child's needs. If you visit the school, feel free to interview my son. His knowledge base is far beyond most 9 years because of his exposure to travel, music, art, history, geography, other cultures as well as the basics. My son also just recently joined the TRS cross-country team and he now regularly runs 5k races. Mary
Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
Check out The Renaissance School if you want a school that gives no homework. It's a pre-school through middle school Montessori school located in the Dimond District in Oakland. We too were appalled at the amount of homework even Kindergarteners get in many schools, both public and private, and have felt that The Renaissance School is refreshing in its approach to education. The Renaissance School has a wonderful program, including strong foreign language, music, and art. The elementary kids start their day at 8am with a half an hour of singing. The regular school day ends at 3:30pm for the elem kids, but they can stay as late as 6pm either continuing to work on things from earlier in the day, or engaging in many addition interesting activities. The only thing the elementary children are required to do outside of school is regular reading which we think is a good thing. TRS Parent
Re: Schools Using Non-Violent Communication
The Renaissance School in Oakland is probably the closest thing you'll find to a school using something like NVC with regards to communication skills. They follow a program called Redirecting Children's Behavior and both staff and parents take the course. It's not a perfect place (expensive, top-heavy in administration, classroom teachers turn-over every few years) but it has an AWESOME art program, a solid music program, and the elementary classrooms include teachers who speak Spanish, French and English.
We have looked at other schools, but can't find one that offers the arts in a real way, exposes kids to languages in everyday settings, AND holds to the belief that kids (and adults) can work out their problems respectfully. Good Luck, anonymous
Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
HI, for a kinesthetic learner who has been in (and wants to continue in) a bilingual program, I would highly recommend considering The Renaissance School in the Fruitvale section of Oakland adjacent to Dimond Park. The Montessori manipulative materials are perfect for a kinesthetic learner and The Renaissance School program is bilingual (in either French or Spanish) from age 2-5 and is trilingual (Eng-French- Spanish) from ages 6-12). It sounds like it would be a better fit for your child. -Parent of a Renaissance School alum
I'm curious to know if anyone has received either an acceptance or a rejection letter from the Renaissance School for '07? We followed all their application guidelines for our child, including an interview with the director, but we've heard nothing back. According to their website, letters should have been mailed in March but when April rolled around and we still hadn't heard one way or another, I called to ask if letters had been sent. The person in the admin office who answered seemed unsure how to answer whether or not letters had been sent (odd) and then passed the phone to someone else who said something like, ''we're behind schedule but you should be receiving something soon''. Before I jump to any conclusions, I'm just wondering if anyone else received letters yet. Thanks. annon
My son has attended the Renaissance School for five years and we are very pleased with the education he is recieving there. The head of school, Leslie Hites, is terrific. She is a woman of vision, with lots of drive, and is dedicated to excellence in education. She is also a mother of six (adult) children, and has a deep understanding of how to motivate and guide children on how to be their best true selves. I took a series of parenting class from her that she taught for our community that has helped me become a better parent in more ways than I can explain. The school is in a building phase that should not greatly impact the preprimary and primary levels, but you should definately bear that in mind as you evaluate your choices. Helene
RE: school for bright kids
Check out the Montessori philosophy of education. I think it is by far the best approach for super bright kids. It allows the child to work at his or her own level and speed and fosters independence of thought, self reliance, and respect for oneself, others and the environment. My son attends The Renaissance School, (formerly a Child's World Montessori School), in Oakland, and they have a few kids there who are in the super bright category and are thriving. The school has both a tremendous breath as well as depth in the curriculum. Also, I would suggest you read some of Maria Montessori's books to understand the philosophy and how it translates into the classroom in order to understand what the education is all about. Unfortunately, most journalists who write about it only repeat standard clics and are woefully uninformed. Good luck in your search. Helen
My two older children went to the preschool and now attend the elementary classes at A Childs World Montessori School in Oakland (off of Fruitvale). The 2-yr olds are separate, but the 3- to 5-yr olds are together in one classroom (and the elementary classes are mixed too). The Montessori philosophy is to mix three ages in one classroom. Although I was pretty lukewarm about this when I interviewed the school, I ultimately liked it. My children learned to work with children of other ages, and it seems to decrease some of the competition within the class (as I remember it). They work on projects learning from older children (promotes good social skills and humbleness), or teaching the younger children (reenforces what the child has learned and promotes teaching skills.) When they become a "leader" in the classroom, they feel so good about themselves. This was especially important with my second child who was only a year behind the first, so it gave her a chance to be a leader when the older one moved off to the elementary classroom. In addition, during the music programs, the older children were role models for the very young ones, helping the 2-3 yr olds onto the stage and holding their hands through their short performance - it brought tears to my eyes watching them so carefully helping the little ones. We really like ACWMS - my children have excelled there. FYI, you may be wondering why I didn't mention the third child- she's not old enough, but she'll be there soon. Janna
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