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The Renaissance School (Oakland, CA)

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The Renaissance School was formerly called A Child's World Montessori School

The Renaissance School - Academics + fun?

July 2014

Hi BPNers -

Hoping i can get some feedback on the Renaissance School - Preschool Rooms - which I am seriously considering enrolling my son for next fall. I recently toured for the very extensive 2.5 hour visit and just like everyone has said here - the school is obviously top-notch academically for a montessori bilingual approach.

I wanted to get feedback from you parents out there: Is the school also fun for your little ones? I haven't been able to get my hands on a schedule yet of the 'typical day' but do they have multiple times outside? How about the extended care time from 7:30 - 8:30 and 3:00 - 6:00? Do the kids get to choose what they do? Can they choose art, play outside, etc? or is another work time?

My husband and I both work so my little guy is going to be someplace for 10 hours a day so i want to make sure besides being academically focused it also offers some free time and fun time which is hard to get a sense of from their website or tour.

Thanks! Future Preschool Mommy

I have two kids at the Renaissance International School (TRIS). My kids attend approximately 10 hours per day. My oldest has been there for approximately 5 years. My youngest for 2 years. The youngest is very high energy. TRIS has been good for both kids. I was somewhat worried about my youngest attending TRIS but it's worked out very well for him. The classrooms are calm and well managed with kids working on their own or in small groups. This helps him focus and reduces the chaos that can be created when he has too much stimulation.

Both my kids attended the same Primary (3-6 yo) class and they often talk about dancing with one of the teachers to music in Spanish. They love that activity and it happens a lot on rainy days. The teachers are warm and they incorporate a lot of fun, creative activities that promote growth for the kids. For example, in the afternoon some of the kids may be sewing which improves fine motor coordination.

TRIS incorporates a good amount of outdoor time. I was really happy to see that in the last 2-3 years they've added more outdoor activities for the kids in addition to their normal outdoor time. My oldest is very athletic and I think it would have been a show stopper if the school hadn't added more outdoor activity (run/play as a class in the nearby park & some trial PE classes). The outdoor space has been improved over the last couple years as well.

Unfortunately we'll be moving out of the Bay Area in the near future. TRIS is on my top 5 list of the things I'm going to miss the most when we move. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a warm, nurturing community. I initially was interested in TRIS for the language program but we've gained so much more than I would have expected. The music program is excellent and provides a great foundation for learning. Although my daughter hasn't taken piano lessons she can pluck any popular song by ear on a piano. My kids have learned much about world geography and other cultures. My daughter's creative writing skills are allowed to flourish and are encouraged. My son's still not a great eater but the cooking days have helped expand his eating horizon quite a bit more than I could have alone. I'm seriously jealous of my daughter's art skills that she's learned. I realize with our move I have no idea how to help my youngest gain the same solid art skills my daughter has achieved. Although there are a lot of parents who are professionals I feel the parent population focus is excellent education with a worldly outlook in a creative manner. So, the parents are a lot of fun too. Lastly, the school is well managed and operated which many of us likely take for granted since the TRIS Director and Staff do such a good job. Will Miss TRIS Big Time!

I have two girsl at TRIS (ages 7 and 5) that both started at 2 years old. The environment allows for plenty of fun. In fact, both girls still get mad at me if I pick them up before 6 p.m. In addition to the work periods, there is play outside at least two times a day and sometimes more as certain lessons and excursions frequently occur in the play yard and surrounding park(and if it's raining they still go out for some rainy day fun in rain gear). During open play times, the art studio is available if the child chooses to go, and there are a variety of creative materials brought into the yard in addition to the structures and bicycles. I would also add that the work periods really are not ''work'' for the kids. The nature of the hands on materials feels very much like play (although it is academic) and the children move through the materials at their own natural pace. The classroom environment also has a very home-like feel that my children really see as an extension of their own home. So when they are not in a work period or outside running around, they have some down time to simply relax with a book, sew, or a calming activity of their choice. I hope that helps! Ashley
Hi there, My son just started at TRIS in May and all of us couldn't be happier. He is in the extended day program 7:30-6:00 and there are days when he doesn't want to leave. When I arrived yesterday, he and his other late stay friend were outside with their teacher playing with some balls. Then they ran inside, grabbed some musical instruments and proceeded to run around their teacher in circles while singing the alphabet song and shaking maracas. I sat on a bench and watched while they giggled and sang. It was wonderful to see how happy he was and I know he is receiving all the benefits of a Montessori and bilingual education. I strongly recommend TRIS. I wish I could have had an experience like this when I was young. Hope this helps in your decision making. We are absolutely delighted with ours. Happy Mama
Depends how one defines “fun.” If for you “fun” is letting kids run amok with total abandon, than TRIS is not for you. There are plenty of cheaper daycare settings where children are left to their own devices and kept distracted by “fun” and games. The question is, what sort of child emerges from that kind of environment?! From your post, however, I get the impression you would not want that kind of environment for your little guy. You are looking for something much better and are concerned that he would only work and not have fun in the sense of running outside in the sunshine several times a day. I understand that the kids spend at least two such periods, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Moreover, they often eat their snacks outside, weather permitting. My daughter comes home plenty full of dirt under her nails and bruised knees, which tells me she definitely had some outdoor fun. The kids even have a lovely little vegetable garden and a worm composting bin, which they tend to with utmost care. So, if for you “fun” includes deep appreciation of life’s wonders, developing of one’s full artistic and scientific potential through the training of one’s attention, respect for children’s inner core – i.e. not tampering with their essence – then TRIS is definitely for you. There have been times when the atmosphere in the classroom seemed “unfun” to me too, looking from the outside for a few minutes, however, on a deeper level, I truly can rest assured that is only the appearance. The teachers are fully attentive to the children in the classroom, and what may seem like a strange atmosphere from outside is in fact the atmosphere of deep attention, and there is nothing more important for children to develop in today’s world of so called Attention Deficit Disorder and all too frequent prescriptions of Ritalin. I am very happy with the way my daughter has been developing during her years at TRIS. No shortage of fun in her life. In fact, she has a rather profound sense of humor for a chil! d her age.

Oh, and a note on the use of the word “work” for play. I find that word extremely important, because to me it signifies a deep inner connection with the object of attention, be it a puzzle, a set of pictures to be matched with words, cutting, sewing, pouring liquids, polishing metal, cleaning windows, sweeping the floor etc. It is not a synonym for drudgery. It is the exact opposite of that. It teaches children to appreciate any given task fully and with deep attention. What a gift to the child and humanity!!! ida

Hi Future Pre-School Mommy, I have a daughter in Pre-Primary and she is so happy to be at TRIS that I have to coax her to come home everyday. She attends from 7:30a-5:30p. She is only 2.5 years old and has learned how to ride a bike, ground coffee beans, arrange flowers in a vase, water plants, loves ''play doh work'' (as she calls it), learned how to use scissors comes home with drawings and necklaces she made, etc. When I pick her up, she is usually in the playground either playing in the sandbox, climbing the ladder in the jungle gym/slide (which she also learned to do at TRIS) or just running around uncontrollably being chased or chasing another classmate. This is not to mention that she helps with gardening and one day there was a chicken on campus, which she was so excited to show and explain to me. Yesterday there was a basketball hoop in her school yard, and she explained how she played with a basketball. There are mats in the yard for her to simply jump up and down on. I've also enrolled her in gymnastics at TRIS(for an additional fee), which she attends once a week during the school year. There are many board games, and toys in the classroom that she can choose from and play with at most times. I am sure that I am missing some events since my daughter has only been there almost 4 months. Yes, everything I've listed has happened within this 4-month period of time. I know that TRIS has parties for special occasions (e.g., Halloween, Narooz, end of school year, Fetes des Parents, etc.) There are plenty of fun options for any child to participate in at TRIS. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. daphneh
My daughter is in a primary classroom at Renaissance, so I can tell you in our experience that Renaissance is both for the preschoolers, fun and a place to learn.

The day starts with a traditional Montessori ''work'' period. It's easy to misunderstand what that means as we adults think of ''work'' as the thing we go to in the morning that gives us a paycheck. In Montessori-land, it means a three hour period where the children get to move freely around the classroom, watch each other, and choose the activities they wish to engage in. My daughter goes nuts for these activities. She just LOVES them. The magic is that as she's learning to choose what she enjoys, to watch other children and learn through observation, and to concentrate and stay focused while engaging in something she has genuine, pleasurable enjoyment in, she's actually learning things that provide an astounding foundation for the rest of her school life. Focus. Concentration. How to follow directions. How to ask questions. Divergent and creative thinking. The wonder of the world around her and how it works,and how surprising and delightful is actually is. She's learning how to resolve conflicts (truly, my 3-3/4 year old can stand in a room with a similarly aged friend, and when they both want the same toy can turn to her friend and say, ''We both want to play with this. What might a solution be?'' And she actually comes up with creative solutions on her own.) She's learning that she's competent. Self-reliant. That if there's a work she wants to learn that requires skills she doesn't have, that she must learn preliminary skills first. She actually KNOWS this now. She knows she must master some skills before she can build the Roman Arch, and she really wants to build that Roman Arch. So she's learning patience. Fortitude. How to practice. And in all this, incidentally, without it being an issue and without there being any tedious drills, she's learned the alphabet, how to draw the letters, and how to sound out words. Some of them in another language. It's been effortless, joy-filled learning. And she knows how to cut vegetables.

Kodaly method singing is twice a week, times vary by classroom. (Google it. The children LOVE Jutka, the Kodaly teacher.) The art program is astounding. It's custom built by a longtime art educator based on Montessori methods. Art studio happens once a week during the work-period. There are only a handful of students in the art studio at a time.

After morning work session/music/art is outside play. Raucous running around, digging for roly-poly bugs, watering plants, climbing, tumbling, imagination play, sandbox, trikes. Then lunch. Nappers nap until about 3. Non-nappers play outside or do works (I believe.) Around 3 everyone goes outside to play again. Art studio is available to limited children, spur of the moment, if they wish to have another session. Around 4-4:30 the children have afternoon snack, and then another indoor work period.

Again, that work period means they're interacting with Montessori materials that are a game to them. Don't let the language misconstrue what's happening. The materials are engaging, the children select what they're interested in, and the teachers watch what every child is doing to see if it's appropriate to teach them new aspects of what they're doing. They may read, may do a work that involves another child. My daughter particularly likes the egg work. She actually puts on an apron, and by herself opens the fridge, gets out a hard-boiled egg, neatly shells it, puts it in the egg slicer and slices it and then cleans it all up. Not sure if she eats it herself or puts it on a tray and offers pieces to the other students. She also loves metal insets, which teach her the beginnings of geometry as an art project and that develops her pincer grip. Why do I care about pincer grips? When I started writing I kept getting hand and finger cramps. Montessori children don't get those cramps because various works (use tweezers to move these blue balls from one bowl to another) develops it so well.

Lastly - what I love about this school is that my daughter isn't just given art supplies to play around with. She's given art supplies and direction on what to do based on what she WANTS to do, so she knows how to figure out how to draw her rocket ship, or her best friend, or a bird, whale or car. She's given excellent materials and just enough instruction to allow her to thrive and explore, with enough freedom to make the whole thing fun.

It's been working for us. Happy Renaissance Parent.

Renaissance Int'l School: Safe neighborhood?

April 2014

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

My daughter attended TRIS for about 6 years and we never had safety concerns. The school has very specific and stringent rules about dropoff and pickup of children. The school makes use of Dimond Park next door and, again, teachers are regimented about keeping track of the children. We live about 10 minutes away from the school, so we know the neighborhood well. While the surrounding neighbors seem to be lower income, I would imagine the crime rate is comparable to other Oakland neighborhoods. Oakland parent
You asked for comments and feedback about your view of the area around Renaissance International School. Here's my feedback: I've lived in the Dimond district for 11 years and am really surprised to hear it characterized as ''in crisis.'' In fact, I had to google the school to make sure that you were referring to the one in my neighborhood! My kids and I walk, shop, eat, play, and learn here daily. So yes, in my view it's safe. But my view may be different from yours. Apparently during your visit you didn't notice the park, the library, the many small businesses and restaurants, the clean streets, the flowers, the well maintained for houses and apartments... So, what did you notice that caused you to be ''frankly quite concerned'' about the area? I can only guess that what many of us see as another of its desirable qualities (that it is home to people of many different cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic situations, family configurations, and lifestyles) caused you to react with fear and judgment. If this is the case, I can only say that this reveals much more about you than it does about the Dimond, and it may be that you will never feel safe here because of the assumptions you carry with you. If I'm wrong and you're actually concerned about something specific that you saw or heard during your visit, it might be useful to repost with a particular question about that particular concern rather than asking for feedback on a statement that disparages the whole neighborhood. Oh -- and Fruitvale BART is nowhere nearby (and much more than a ''crime mecca''!). Dimond Girl
If you think ''the general neighborhood appears to be in crisis'' I'm not sure why you would pay to send your child to school there. I am also wondering what your assessment is based upon. Do you know anyone who lives in the Dimond? I know that you are ''admittedly not from the area.'' Are you also afraid of Head Royce and Redwood Day? They are quite nearby as well.

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

Neighborhood in crisis? Did La Farine run out of morning buns?!? Just kidding, but I do wonder where you live if you are so anxious about the neighborhood around the school. It is definitely busier, more urban, etc. than say, Moraga, but it is really a pretty typical residential and commercial area of Oakland. Definitely more family-friendly and safe than much of the city. I'm not sure I'd call the Fruitvale BART a crime mecca, and anyways it is a full 2+ miles away. Of course, there are car break-ins, house burgleries, etc. and those are scary and I don't mean to minimize that. But I think you need to ask the school about their safety and security plans and procedures, as that is more relevant to your child's experience than the surrounding area. I doubt your child will be wandering around by themself, so the most pertinent info will be safety at pick up and drop off, etc. For what it's worth, we shop in that neighborhood frequently- at Peet's, La Farine, Farmer Joe's, Paws and Claws, Hive, etc. and really like the area and the friendly vibe. Come get a coffee and a morning bun some Saturday morning, and maybe you'll feel more comfortable. Good luck!
My kids don't go to the Renaissance School but we do attend another private school about a mile away--a very sought-after school, despite the less than perfect neighborhood. I have never heard that the Renaissance School neighborhood is ''in crisis'' (whatever you mean by that.) In Oakland, there is crime in every neighborhood, including car and home burglaries, armed robberies, etc. However, some neighborhoods suffer much more than others, and I would say the RS area is above average, meaning less than average crime, for Oakland. There are at least two very popular independent schools within a mile of the Renaissance School--Redwood Day, and Head-Royce.

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

Wow! I've lived in the Dimond neighborhood, less than a block from the Renaissance International School, for more than 16 years, and I'm really shocked by your question about neighborhood safety. I have safely raised a child of my own in this neighborhood. Dimond is full of involved, active people, looking out for each other and trying to improve what needs improving and enjoying the many advantages that are already present -- which include a local park and wonderful branch library. I have no direct experience with the Renaissance School, but surely it has procedures for the safety of its students. If you are unsure about what those are, I would ask school administrators. Your child will be at school during the day, not walking the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. Also, for the record, the school is not near the Fruitvale BART station, which is more than two miles away. Neighbor
I toured Renaissance for my daughter, and had absolutely none of the safety concerns you mention. Perhaps, it's because I'm in the area, and feel quite comfortable in the Dimond, Laurel, Fruitvale, East Oakland. Please don't mistake what one might consider blight, to be a place where you think your life (or child's) is in danger.

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

Wow!! I have been a resident of Oakland for most of my upbringing so, I'm very glad to see so many people so eager to defend it!

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

I wanted to reply as a parent who has two children enrolled at TRIS. From your original question it appears you may not be from the area. Please be assured that TRIS is not located anywhere near the Fruitvale Bart station. It is located in a neighborhood called the Dimond district. This is a very charming part of Oakland. I would encourage you to spend some time in the area or attend one of the many events. More information here:

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, put in the address for the school and monitor the community happenings. vlh

March 2014

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

Feedback wanted about TRIS for pre-primary

Nov 2013

Hi, We are seriously considering sending our son The Renaissance International School next year for pre-K. So far, we have read great things about the school and were impressed with the staff/facilities. We are also considering EBI as Spanish is very important to us. We'd love some feedback from parents with kids currently (or recently) in TRIS's pre-primary. Our only concern is that is not truly Spanish immersion (unlike EBI). Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Our daughter is currently in pre-primary and started there in March 2013 when she was 2. She has been there ever since including over the summer (during their summer program).

We have been extremely happy with our experience so far and our daughter has thrived in their environment. Few things to note:

1. She is socially much more confident now, is able to speak with adults and other children her age / slightly older - her language skills (and music skills) has grown tremendously

2. She is also physically more confident given the excellent playground at TRIS where they can play on slides, climbing spider web etc. (she goes to gymnastics as a separate place and even they have commented on this)

3. Her potty training has come leaps and bounds (we tried ourselves in November last year with not much success) since starting at school, in the last 9mo, she is now going to potty by herself and we are recently in no pull ups for nap. The school and parents work together closely on this including being able to talk about which training pants to use, when to go off pulls for naps, so that we are completely coordinated. I have leaned on her teachers a lot in this area. And other pre-primary parents.

Re the language immersion, I would say that TRIS is a true Spanish and French immersion program (in PP, it is English and Spanish, and in Primary you can choose whether you continue Spanish or move to French, and in elementary it becomes Spanish and French both). The PP class has 2 teachers, one speaks only English and one speaks only Spanish (in fact the Spanish-speaking teacher cannot speak English so during the Parent-Teacher meetings, we have a translator there for her to speak with parents). My daughter now understands and speaks English and Spanish (and a third language that my husband speaks with her at home). It truly is a bi-lingual education. I cannot stress that enough - this was very important to us while finding a school.

Also my husband did the transition week with my daughter and I think it set the tone for her experience at school. The transition is so well done at TRIS. My daughter had just welcomed a baby brother the week she transitioned to TRIS, and we were concerned about it being too much change for her. TRIS gave us options and were very flexible if things shouldn't work out. But in the end, going to TRIS actually helped her adjust better to a new baby at home.

The teachers, the staff, the principal, the parents, the entire community is wonderful. My daughter started with the 3pm program but now stays until 6pm.

I am happy to answer any questions. Sulakshana

Hi Stephanie, you are considering the right school for your little one. TRIS is as amazing as it seems. It is actually more amazing! My 4 and a half year old daughter has been there for almost two years now in the primary program. We were very interested in giving her language too and this trilingual program is top notch. Our daughter (who is in the Spanish speaking class) is not only speaking and understanding Spanish but she has also began picking up some French from other children and teachers! She has an overall appreciation for language and a strong command of both English and Spanish.

The amazing thing is that TRIS is a trilingual school and so much more. For example, my daughter recognizes continents around the globe and understands the animals, languages, and cultural dynamics of the various continents, countries and regions. In essence the language is supported throughout the curriculum by the way they learn and teach geography, science and math.

The school also has a strong emphasis placed on grace and courtesy as well as conflict resolution. People always comment to me and my husband on how well behaved our daughter is and I have to say she is but honestly it is not because of us-it's the school! They continuously teach grace and courtesy and focus on natural consequences to actions and behavior. The school provides great support and network to parents too. Their course on redirecting children's behavior really helped us become more confident and better parents.

I really can't say enough about TRIS. It is the best kept secret in the Bay Area. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Editor Note: reviews were also received for Escuela Bilingue Internacional

April 2013

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

Feb 2013

Re: Oakland vs Rockridge vs Renaissance Montessori
My daughter has been attending The Renaissance International School (TRIS) for 4 years, my son 1/2 a year. If you are considering a multi-year commitment to a preschool I would highly recommend TRIS Montessori. The programs that I see really make TRIS a step above some others is art, music, language, and culture. Children of all ages go to art studio for hours each week. I'm jealous of what my daughter is learning and am always excited to see how her art skills are progressing over time. The music program is wonderful and steps through a natural progression that gives children a joy of singing which later develops into music theory and then instrument skills. The billingual and trilingual (elementary age) programs are fascinating and work well. I initially thought kids would get a little language instruction in their classes second language (either Spanish or French) but that's not the case. Children are taught whatever materials they are studying at that time of the day (math, letters, practical life) in either English or the second language. It's amazing and works well. My daughter is picking up French, her third language, rather quickly. I love that my children are learning the locations of other countries and about cultures in many different parts of the world.

The other great things I see is that the school is very well organized. There is never any flakiness at the Staff level. There's good communication at all levels and the Staff is always available to help you navigate through any issue necessary. Lastly, although my kids did not attend the pre-primary school my babysitter often saw the pre-primary teachers with their students. She often told me how incredibly impressed she was with the teachers and the children. Glad we found TRIS

Feb 2013

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

Hi there,

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

We have been at the Renaissance school for the past 4 and a half years and are extremely happy with our choice (one child now in elementary and other in preschool). Children receive individual lessons in all subjects so the sky's the limit in what they can achieve. We were also really taken by the out of this world art and music curriculum.. Our boys travel with us to Mexico every year and are comfortable fending for themselves in Spanish there. French is new for my older son this year so can't yet evaluate but an hopeful that he will become proficient in the next year or two. Please feel free to send me more questions off line. And best of luck in your decision! Jeanne
We were in exactly the same place a year ago or so. I visited both schools for the same reasons, language immersion and preschool-8th grade. While there were things I liked about both schools on paper, it was really the extended observation/tours that helped me make the decision. When my husband and I went to observe the classes at The Renaissance International School, we stood outside the Pre-Primary class for about 20 minutes at a random time of day. The children were calmly doing their ''work'', having snacks, waiting patiently for the teacher to help them, the feeling was so different. One girl was new, crying for her daddy and was being helped gently to deal with her separation anxiety. The teachers were loving but had a firm way of teaching the children. We just fell in love. I wanted my daughter to be in those hands. When we observed the other classes we saw a very high level of academics, even the six year olds were all doing very impressive math. Again, calmly and independently, with guidance from loving teachers or other students! It was so clear, we signed up right away. We have been thrilled with our time (now a year) and our daughter has learned so much. I am sure they are both good schools academically but the music and art program, the language immersion, combined with the Montessori curriculum at TRIS is truly superlative. Amy

Spanish Immersion Montessori near Oakland?

Dec 2012

We have just moved from Kensington to Oakland (Montclair) and are looking to start our 2.5 year old daughter in a pre-school program ASAP. We have been with Adela's World of the Children daycare (in El Cerrito, who we absolutely adore), and are hoping to continue Spanish integration as she enters pre-school. Ideally we would love a Montessori style pre-school, but I can't seem to find one that does more than reading a few books now and then or have a teacher that teaches the absolute basics. Does anyone know of a Spanish immersion pre-school that has a fairly structured curriculum? In Oakland?Affordable? Lorena

Our daughter attends The Renaissance International School (a Montessori school that goes from preschool- 8th grade) on Dimond Avenue in Oakland. She started when she was 2 yrs 6 months and is now 3 yrs, 2 months. The Pre-Primary class, where a 2 yr old would start, has one English speaking teacher and one (only) Spanish speaking teacher, so the children are getting half of their language exposure in Spanish all day long. When they transition to the next level at age 3, families can choose to have Spanish or French integrated into the classroom. Currently, my daughter has one English Montessori guide, one Spanish guide and one Spanish aide. The art and music programs at the school are outstanding, my daughter is in a concert next week! The school was established 20 years ago and the director and music director are still the same, the teachers are stable, with a low turnover rate, my daughter is very happy there and is learning a tremendous amount. They also have a great system/website for notifying parents about upcoming activities, it is run very well. Perfect for language immersion and Montessori together. Amy
My 2 daughters attend the renaissance international school on diamond blvd in oakland. The kids start there in preschool with an option to continue for elementary.

The Spanish is great, all native speakers (from mexico, Peru and other countries) and the classes are truly bilingual, the Spanish teacher speaks spanish and the English teacher speaks English. The kids actually think the Spanish teacher doesn't know how to speak English and that if you want to talk to them you have to speak in Spanish, so they learn a lot.

My husband is from Argentina but we don't speak Spanish at home, so we were looking for a good Spanish foundation and this is great. My younger daughter started at 3.5 years (you can start at 2 if you want) and she sings and speaks in Spanish, my older daughter also started at 3.5 and is now in 2nd grade there and reads Spanish books. The kids actually learn to read first in Spanish at about 4 years old since spanish is so phonetic, it's much easier than reading in English. The confidence they got from this seemed to spur them ahead in their English reading once they got the idea of it.

It's a true Montessori program, so the reading, math and life skills are also great, as are the families. Very down to earth friendly, not materialistic.

They have financial aid if you qualify. The music program is pretty awesome too and they also have an English/french option. Hope this helps. Valerie Valerie from glenview neighborhood

My kids attend The Renaissance International School (TRIS previously TRS). We could not be happier with the language program. The primary classes are bilingual. Initially, I assumed that the Spanish teacher would only be teaching language. During my school tour I learned they teach all subjects; math, language, geography in Spanish. Both of my children had learned Spanish with their nanny. The school has helped them retain their Spanish and move forward with reading and writing in Spanish. My daughter who is nearly 8 is now in a trilingual class and is now learning French. She is picking up French rather quickly as do her classmates. Beyond the language program the Music and Art programs are stellar. The Staff is warm and helpful and always have prompt answers whenever I have a question or have an issue that needs to be addressed. Lastly, the Director of TRIS is always on top of things. I never worry about the direction of the school or whether or not things are being properly handled. I feel extremely fortunate that my kids are attending TRIS. I know the foundation that is being built for them is very solid and nurturing. Feel free to contact me with any follow up questions. jahlskog
Aug 2012

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

Aug 2012

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

April 2012

Re: Spanish Immersion Pre-school, S Berk/Montcl/Rockridge
My 2 daughters attend the renaissance school on diamond avenue. Both started at age 3. This Montessori program is truly bilingual, the English teacher only speaks English and the Spanish teacher only Spanish. The kids learn Spanish very well this way. The school is a 5 day program but my kids did fine, and by kindergarten my older one was reading! The school prepares them very well for grade school and the teachers are very loving, they have a cute and safe playground and a lovely singing program. Valerie c

April 2012

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

Jan 2012

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

Our daughter attended TRS for 7 years, and we were extremely happy at the school and our daughter thrived. We dropped our daughter off in the classroom and picked her up there, and we always felt welcome in the classroom. In fact, it was required to make contact with the teacher to ensure the correct person was picking her up. We felt it was a warm, supportive environment and community from the parents, to the teachers, administration and head of school. And I concur that the language immersion, music, arts and academics were unsurpassed. Happy family at TRS
I think your perceptions are pretty good -- I would not consider TRS (my comments only pertain to the elementary level, not primary and pre-primary) abundantly warm. I do think, however, it is warm enough! There are warm teachers and there are not so warm teachers in the mix. There are three teachers per classroom, plus specialists in music and art, so I think it all balances out, and the children get what they need.

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! 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 have a child at The Renaissance School and the quality and warmth from the community has surpassed my expectations. I'm happy to hear you were impressed with the program. To speak to your concerns: It's my understanding that any parent is always welcome to enter the classroom at any time. I feel they encourage saying your goodbyes at the door to the classroom respects the child's environment and allows them the independence of beginning their day. The same notion for observing the classroom your child is in. In regards to the ''good job'' comment it comes along with a concern of when words lose their meaning. By not saying ''good job'' it asks us to express ourselves more accurately to what we want to share with our child. I am sure all of these concerns could be addressed with the school directly. I have never seen another program like this and we are continually impressed with the the education, care and attentiveness given to our child and their environment. Happy Renaissance Parent
In an age of permissive parenting and spoiled children, I am SO glad to be a part of a school where manners, respect, and conflict resolution are taken seriously (alongside academics, music, and fine art). My husband and I have learned how to say, ''good job'' to both our children in ways that do not motivate them to do well simply to please us. Yes, the director has a somewhat stern style, and I sometimes get the feeling she is lecturing us - but we have learned a lot about parenting from her, despite her style.

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

You are very perceptive in your observations about the Renaissance School. As a long time parent there, I can say there is both positive and negatives about the environment, which I'm sure is true of any school. The upside as you mention is that children are actively engaged, exposed to a wide variety of cultures, languages, and mathematical and scientific concepts. Each child advances at their own pace so they are never bored. There is a strong emphasis on language (French and Spanish) as well as music and art, much more so than at any other school to which I've been exposed. It's amazing to see what the children can accomplish when there are no limitations set on their learning.

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

Hi there! My son is in his second year at TRS and has been in both the Primary (3-6 year old) and Lower Elementary (6-9 year old) classrooms. When we first toured the school, I too thought that the classroom seemed a little cold. That is, I guess, normal when you see 20 small children quietly working on projects.

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

Jan 2012

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

Dec 2011

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

Dec 2011

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

Nov 2011

Re: Preschool for slow-to-warm child
The Renaissance School (TRS) enrolls students at the age of 2 in its pre-primary program which is a ''single age'' classroom where children remain until they are socially and developmentally ready to transition into the primary multi-age classroom (typically 3-6 years old). My oldest daughter remained in pre-primary until after she was 3 years old, because she simply needed more time while my youngest daughter transitioned to primary earlier because she was ready. Every child is different and the school takes an individualized approach to learning; many schools say this, but this one walks its talk. I couldn't think of a better place for a slow to warm child to blossom over time and for you as parent to have access to a phenomenal faculty of teachers and learning resources to support in that process. The language (Spanish and French), music, arts, and classroom learning curriculum are phenomenal and integrated with one and other to provide a holistic learning approach. Definitely go on a tour and speak with Leslie Hites the Head of School to learn more. Very satisfied parent at TRS - Ashley

Oct 2011

Re: full-time program for 2-year-old
The Renaissance School fits your description perfectly ( It is a Montessori program and non-religious. The campus is wonderful with great indoor & outdoor spaces. It is located right next to a park. All the rooms/facilities/grounds are well maintained daily. The teachers & staff have been with the school for many years. This particular school goes beyond the standard Montessori program by offering separate art & music teachers. Primary students have either a French or Spanish speaking teacher communicate in their native language exclusively. We are very happy with the school. My oldest daughter started at age 3 & is now 6 soon to enter Elementary at the school. My youngest started in the Pre-Primary program for 2 year olds. This Pre-Primary program is a great start for children. The school offers a 5 day program with different times for different ages. Please check out the schools' website & take a tour! TRS mom

Sept 2011

My kids are both students at The Renaissance School in Oakland. My youngest has been in the Primary school program (preschool) since he was almost 4 and we moved my older son to the elementary program last January when he was 6. We have been extremely happy at TRS. The preschool program was so wonderful that we felt compelled to move our son from his excellent public school in Oakland into their elementary program.

The primary school is an immersion bilingual program where you may choose Spanish or French as the second language. My son is in one of the Spanish classes, two teachers in the class speak only Spanish to the children and one is an English speaker. The program runs until 3pm everyday, which may seem like a long day, but the children are so engaged and happy that it is not too much for them. The classroom is filled with a diverse array of lessons for the children to complete. They have a lesson plan that is individually created for each child to meet him at his level. The children work individually or in small groups. It is a multi-age classroom (3-6) so the children can benefit from being mentored by the older children or by being the mentor. There is a very important emphasis on ''grace and courtesy'' in the primary program. The children are taught/encouraged to respect the teachers, their peers and the environment. This lesson is learned by modeling- I have never experienced a more tolerant, kind and patient group of teachers. They understand that a very important goal of these years is to help these little wild creatures learn to control themselves, not try to control them externally. The classroom is not a disordered free for all that we encountered in other preschool classrooms. The students are being productive in a way that makes them feel empowered and encouraged. The children cook their own lunch once a week in their kitchen, and because this is an international school the meals are an extension of this mission. Last year they were studying Asia, so my son prepared and ate everything from kimchi to Thai chicken curry. I loved walking into the classroom last year and watching these tiny kids lined up at a kids sized counter in their aprons, working chopping vegetables for a soup they were preparing. TRS is also a choral/music school so all of the children learn to sing and if they want, play an instrument. In the older students, music theory is part of the curriculum- all the students learn to read music.

We also have been happy with the elementary program. My older son is in the lower elementary program, also a multi-age classroom. At the elementary level they add a 3rd language. On any given day he may be getting a math lesson in Spanish or a geography lesson in French. He also has an individualized lesson plan that will allow him to work at his own level. If he is reading at a 4th grade level and doing math at a second grade level, they are able to meet his needs. In his class there are 3 teachers for a class of about 22. One other plus is that the students are so productive during their day, they do not have homework. Very rarely, they are given something to do over the weekend if they did not complete some lesson they were working on during the week. If this happens, it is work that the student is able to complete on their own- it's not parent's homework. Finally, TRS is set up in a way that makes being a working parent easier. The school is available from 7:30-6:00 pm. A variety of extracurricular activities are available throughout the school year for the kids to participate in if they choose. I think it is important to note that this is not just childcare after school hours- the teachers are with the students until 6pm. They may be getting an instrumental lesson, taking a gymnastics class, learning capoeira, playing soccer, etc. If they are not participating in any of the extracurriculars, I will find them in their classroom choosing to do a lesson that they are interested in completing or quietly reading a book. When I ask what time my kids want to be picked up- they never say when class gets out- they want to stay until at least 4:30! tessa

Jan 2011

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

Jan 2011

Re: Oakland/Berkeley Preschools with Caring Teachers
I recommend you look at The Renaissance School (TRS), in Oakland. Our kids have been there for several years and we have been very happy with the care both the teachers and administration give all of the children. The curriculum (Montessori) is well balanced and indeed fosters both a love of learning and kindness and respect towards others. They have a beautiful outdoor space and, because the school is located adjacent to Dimond Park, the children frequently have outings in the park. All of the classrooms at TRS include language immersion. The pre-schoolers/K can be in a Spanish or French class. The elementary kids learn in three languages: Spanish, French, and English. The school has rolling admission so it's possible, assuming there is an opening, to start your child at any time during the year. They take children as young as 2. However there is not a part-time program for any age child. It's a five day a week program for all children which we were concerned about initially, but ended up being very happy with when we saw how content our children were while at school. There is a nice continuity having them have the same schedule every day. It makes it easier for them and us. I think TRS has regular tours so you might go on one to see what you think. Happy TRS Mom

August 2010

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

June 2010

My daughter is in her second year at TRS and she started around her 2nd birthday. She loves her teachers and the school. My husband and I are totally impressed with her transformation to an eloquent, respectful, and independent 3 year old in just 1 year! Other folks have mentioned about the school's amazing art and music programs but all you need to do is see the children's art or listen to them sing! It's worth the tuition right there! I was really impressed to see how well the older children understand their math as you see it so well in their drawings and sculptures. Not only do children learn to have good learning skills and problem solving skills but they learn to be independent, curious, and creative. Learning in English, Spanish, and French also trains the brain to process things a little differently good for a budding engineer or scientist. Leslie Hites the Head of School is very open and approachable. This is truly a top school in my opinion. There are a lot of famous and successful people (founders of Google, Amazon, Wiki, etc.)who have benefited from this style of learning. I spent some time in a Montessori school growing up and I believe in their values and style of teaching. TRS mom

Nov 2009

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

Feb 2009

Re: Preschools with Alfie Kohn Approach
I encourage you to check out The Renaissance School, in Oakland, next to Dimond Park. It's a Montessori school. Each of the four Primary classrooms have at least one teacher who speaks nothing but Spanish or French to the children. You can choose to have your child be in either a Spanish or French classroom. The head teacher in each classroom always speaks English. It is truly amazing to see how easily the children pick up the second language.

The school is a big fan of Alfie Kohn. When he spoke in the Bay Area last year the school encouraged parents to go hear him speak.

TRS provides a warm and nurturing environment. The children have a great deal of freedom of choice. At the same time, they are taught to respect their environment and the people around them.

To top it off, TRS has an amazing music and art program, and the most culturally diverse community of families, teachers, and staff that you can imagine. The best part is that the school doesn't seem to need to try to be diverse... it just has naturally grown that way.

Now the downside of this seemingly perfect school... it is expensive. But, the school has a financial aid program, so I encourage you to check it out. Here is a link to their website: A Very Happy TRS Parent

Feb 2009

I was curious to know of any past graduates as well as current students who go to The Rennaisance School. I am thinking of sending my daughter 2.y.o next fall. Most of the posts are old and I was curious to know of both the old and the new families at the various grade levels. For the graduates or past students how well did they thrive in the environment and how well prepared were they for the next step? For current students anything you can say I would greatly appreciate. anon

Love, love, love The Renaissance School! Our kids started there when they were 2. I was apprehensive before they started because I thought that attending pre-school five days a week would be too much. But, that couldn't be further from the truth. They have truly thrived there and if I had more children I would start them there as soon as I could. It is a very special Montessori school with amazing music and art programs and it is a naturally very multi-cultural environment. The teachers and staff are very warm and thoughtful. It's a nice, calm environment where children learn to respect each other and the environment around them. And, most importantly, the children are inspired and enjoy learning for learning sake, not just to pass a standardized test. Happy TRS Parent
Our nearly 5-year-old daughter entered the pre-primary program at TRS when she was 2.5 and she has thrived at this school. We soon will be sending our younger daughter as well. TRS is an extraordinary school, and we feel extremely fortunate to have found it. The school's philosophy is Montessori, and it offers very rich arts, music and language programs that are tightly integrated into everything the children do. As importantly for us, however, has been school's culture and deep respect the teachers and administrators show for all children. This is a place where the teachers and administrators really do value who the children are, their innate capabilities and their potential. The program fosters internal motivation - rather than motivation through external rewards - a strong sense of community, respect, independence and imagination. The parent community is very strong as well. We really do feel like the school is a ''partner'' with us and is concerned about all aspects of our child's development. I would be happy to answer questions or give you more specifics offline. Susan
My kids are at The Renaissance School and we have had a great experience there. All of the teachers have been wonderful -- very devoted to the children and helping develop confident, creative, independent thinkers. The school is really unique in that it provides a Montessori curriculum through Upper Elementary, in a multi-lingual environment with a very strong art and music program.

One of the great qualities of TRS is its emphasis on the study of world cultures. The children learn all subjects in two (or three, at the Elementary level) languages. Each classroom at the Primary level studies a different continent in-depth each year. They learn about the physical and cultural geography of the continent, hear presentations from people who are knowledgable about a country, take field trips, and prepare a meal every week from a different country or region.

Another great thing about TRS is its commitment to the arts and creativity. Each child participates in studio art sessions (even the 2 year olds!), with individual instruction from wonderful art teachers -- the children learn art technique in a way that allows them to develop and express their individual creativity and imagination. The school has an art show that is open to the public in late spring (May or June, I think), and this is a great way to come learn about the art program. Also, children at all levels participate in chorus and have regular performances, which really helps develop confidence and composure in addition to developing their musical abilities.

And most importantly, our kids love TRS and are excited about going to school. They have built strong relationships with teachers and friends, and have learned how to peacefully and respectfully resolve conflict (an ongoing process, of course!) The school also does a great job of teaching the parent community about the curriculum and the Montessori method -- this week the school had a interactive presentation on the math curriculum, which was really impressive.

Good luck! Happy TRS parent

We are currently enrolled in the Renaissance School. However, we have decided that the school is not a good fit for my child, and are seeking another school for fall.

I agree with previous posters, Renaissance School has a lot to offer:

-Excellent, professional teachers who really do see each child
as an individual; we love our child's teachers and have received
much feedback from them
-Low teacher-student ratios
-Music classes and art classes twice per week
-Foreign language instruction in both French and Spanish
-A Montessori curriculum and those fancy materials!
However, the school follows the Montessori method very literally. There is very little flexibility in their approach. So if you are considering the school, read up on the Montessori method and be sure that you are happy with it. Make sure your child will thrive in the Montessori classroom. The school is very strong in intellectual developement, but weaker in social/emotional and physical developement. Some of the things that did not work for my child are:
-Long work periods without time for play and exploration; not
enough playground time
-Too much emphasis on individual work and no small group
-Little chance to be directed in social skills or to learn how
to make friends. For a social child, this was frustrating.
-Strict rules for how to work with the materials, with very
little room to explore and find answers on their own.
-Always doing Montessori, not much variety or activities to help
integrate the details
-No variety in the afternoon program for working parents - more
-Many vacation days, which is difficult for working parents
However, the school is excellent and many parents love the school. My child has made many increases in cognitive development, but has just not been really happy. I have been very concerned about my child's attitude toward school and learning in general since attending Renaissance School. I believe at these early years that learning should be fun. I feel a happy child learns better than one who is frustrated, anxious,and worried. still searching
We have been at TRS for more than 2 years, and have found it a place where all types of children - social, quiet etc. - can and do thrive. This school is exceptional at truly meeting children where they are at - socially, emotionally, ''academically'' - embracing children for who they are, and at the same time challenging them to grow. While we were initially concerned that a Montessori environment may not address the social and emotional needs as well as other types of schools, I can say unequivocally that TRS specifically does a tremendous job on these accounts. There are multiple opportunities inside and outside of the classroom for children to work and play together in a very natural way. I see this when I drop my daughter off and watch a friend eagerly ask her if she would like to ''work'' with her. At the end of the day, she will often be sitting with another child or in a small group of other children doing ''work'' together. Small groups of children also cook meals together for the class each week, learning to work together and to contribute to their classroom ''communities''.

The classes are mixed ages, so my daughter has had the opportunity to learn from and teach other children, which I believe has helped develop her confidence, self-esteem and social skills. TRS also places a strong emphasis on conflict resolution, and I see this in very real ways in my child's interactions with others. Just recently, she was playing with two other children who disagreed over where to have a tea party. One girl in particular was very adamant about having it in a specific place and she was at the point of screaming and crying. I watched with great pride as my daughter said several times ''I have an idea'' or ''Here's one solution,'' trying to help the group come to agreement. On another occasion, my daughter was helping me unload the dishwasher and she suggested that we do it ''as teamwork, like in school.''

TRS is not a place where 15 children sit in a circle and are told to make papier mache elephants and asked to share scissors, paper etc. It's a very special environment, and in some ways it's hard to explain. Teaching children social and emotional skills does not occur through orchestrated, contrived activities. Instead, the school has created an environment where children learn to be social, make friends, share and resolve conflicts in a very natural way that ultimately comes from within.

I will say also that while I believe that all types of children can and do thrive at TRS, the families who benefit the most and are the happiest are the ones who believe in the Montessori approach and philosophy. Anonymous

Nov 2008

Re: Piedmont Preschools
If you're looking for Montessori type schools in the Piedmont area, I encourage you to look at the Renaissance School on Dimond Ave in Oakland, which is very close to Piedmont. It is a Montessori school and has the balance you describe you are looking for. There is a big focus on music, art and languages but at the same time the children are challenged academically and move at their own pace. The parent/teacher community is very diverse and welcoming. There is a small 2-year old class and following that a 3yr-5yr old classroom setting (there are 4 of those). There is also an elementary program for children ages 6-12 that continues to expand as more families desire to keep their kids at the school. My daughter started in the 2 year old class and is now in the Elementary program. My son just recently started in the 2 year old class. My kids couldn't be any more different in terms of personality and temperment, yet both are very happy and are thriving academically and socially at the school. Big fan of the Renaissance School

Feb 2008

We will be looking for a french preschool for our son. In the Oakland or Berkeley area, Any recommendations would be great. marina

I just noticed in the last newsletter that no one responded to the request for a French pre-school.... I had intended to do it! The Renaissance School in Oakland has one preschool classroom (ages 3-5) that is bilingual French/English and their other preschool classrooms are Spanish/English. There is one Montessori teacher in the classroom who speaks just English and one who speaks just French and is, in fact, French and just came to the US to work at The Renaissance School. If you continue on at the school, their elementary program is tri-lingual. It also has an intensive art and music program. Wonderful school - we've been there with our 2 kids for 4 years.. There was just a lovely article about it on the front page of the Montclarion today (1/25). Roxanne
Nov 2007

Re: Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley
We considered EB a couple times and in the end decided to send our children to The Renaissance School (TRS), a bilingual Montessori school (pre-K to 6th grade) in Oakland. EB offers a very thoughtful approach but TRS' very structured Montessori education made much more sense, to us, from developmental perspective. Our children started at age 3 1/2 and now our oldest is in the first grade. We have found that they have thrived academically and enjoy a rich environment of language, culture, music and art. The primary classrooms (ages 2.9 to 6) at TRS are truly bilingual. There is 1 French bilingual classroom and 3 Spanish bilingual classrooms. In the French classroom, there is a marvelous native French-speaking Montessori teacher who speaks only French to the children. There is also an AMI trained Montessori teacher who speaks only English. All the children receive lessons in each language every day. Though it is not complete immersion, it is truly bilingual. My children are learning to read and write in French, to cook in French, to sing in French, to do math in French and more. Once the children enter the elementary level (grades 1-6), there are native French and Spanish teachers, so their education becomes trilingual. It really is amazing. In addition, the school values music and art education like no other school I've toured or heard about. The children learn music through the Kodaly method and choral music is a part of their day every day at the elementary level. TRS is a small school with a very strong point of view. It may not be the right place for everybody, but it sounds like it may be worth considering for your needs. The staff is very helpful and I know they have regular tours. Here is the website if you want to contact them:

May 2007

I was wondering how much the Renaissance School encourages or discourages imaginative play. I went to Montessori school myself, so I understand and support all the cooking, cleaning, and general self-sufficiency that is emphasized there, but I also believe in the value of role-playing and imagination for small children (mine is 3). Any experiences with the school one way or the other? anon

Regarding the question about whether the Renaissance School encourages imagination, I would say that the school more importantly encourages creativity. While there is a focus on the Montessori activities cited (cleaning, cooking and so forth), there is equally a focus on developing one's creative self. The art program there is superb and relies on the child to develop and execute his/her own ideas, while not relying on copying the ideas of others. In fact, the school has an art show every year that is the testament to the amazing work of children from ages 2 and up. This year's show is called A Celebration of Children's Creativity, and it will be held June 10-24 at 5900 Hollis St. in Emeryville. I urge anyone considering the school to attend the show, meet other parents and see for themselves the joy and creativity of the children. My daughter has attended the school for 4 years, and I like not only that aspect of the school but also its philosophy of non- consumerism and the discouragement of television. I think this has done as much for my daughter's creativity and imagination than anything else. TRS parent
May 2007

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

Hi - I received a response about a month ago. The letter was sent out later than originally expected, however it was only about a week or two late. It sounds like your letter was lost in the mail or some other issue...I would call and ask to speak to the head of school, Leslie Hites, or Rosario Toward. Ren School Mom
Your experience with the office is unfortunately not unusual. To give you some perspective, the returning families also did not receive their new contracts....and basically got the same response. They are way behind.....and sadly are really bad at proactively communicating about it. There are new people working in the office who have not gone through contract time before, so my suspicion is that it has just become way more challenging than they expected or planned for. Also, I would guess that if the current families don't have contracts to sign and get back, then they have no way to gauge how many openings there are because signed contracts are how they find out who will and will not be returning. I would recommend that you call again and ask if they could be more specific about's not that they don't want to help, they're just overwhelmed. Renaissance parent
I too applied to the Renaissance school and have not received an acceptance or rejection. We heard so much conflicting information from them that it's hard for me to know what to tell you here--first, their website and brochure say they inform applicants by March, then at the tour we were informed that we would have an idea immediately after the interview (which we had to call and schedule--they never contacted us as they said they would), and now, after multiple phone calls to the school, it appears we will not know until the first or second week of May. Their application process seemed so transparent at first! Guess not. Oakland
Our daughter currently attends TRS and just to reassure you, even the kids who are currently enrolled in the school have not yet received packets confirming the upcoming school year. I, too, called the office and got a similarly vague response that there's been a delay this year. I wasn't overly concerned because my daughter's an existing student. If you are concerned about whether your child has a confirmed spot, I'd call the office again and specifically ask that either Leslie Hites or Rosario Toward (Head of School and her assistant) return your call directly. I'm sure one of them will. Good luck - it's a great school! Still waiting too
March 2007

We are considering moving our 3-year old daughter out of her large preschool, where she is overwhelmed, and into a Montessori program. Can anyone comment on the Renaissance School in Oakland? We are interested in the quality of the teachers and the Director, including how effectively they communicate with parents. Any thoughts would be most appreciated. Elizabeth

We didn't enjoy Renaissance Montessori, and after 2 years, switched schools. Our problem was with the French program -- people had totally different and very positive, experiences with the Spanish program. We felt that a lot was promised that wasn't delivered. I'd also consider whether you are truly committed to the Montessori approach (Renaissance is VERY traditional), as opposed to just wanting a good preschool. This is NOT the place if your particular child would do better in a play-based learning environment. PS: we switched to Ecole Bilingue and had a wonderful preschool experience. It's an excellent school to transition to, once the child is school-aged.
Our child had a very difficult time transitioning to Renaissance. Some of the teachers such as our classroom teachers and music teacher were quite good. However, we found the school to be extremely strict, and unwilling to take our recommendations into consideration for our child. They felt that if a child cried for months, it meant that the child was trying to trick the parents into believing they weren't happy at the school. They were not very willing to be flexible with early pick ups the first couple of weeks of transition and didn't want to help our child overcome shyness by making connections on the playground, stating this was the child's own responsibility.

Ultimately, we decided it was not a good fit for us and our child thrived at another (more playbased) preschool. I now feel terrible that I inflicted that horrible experience on my child. As a child expert once told me, if you as an adult don't like to live in a rigid atmosphere, then why should you expect that of your child? If you have a very independent child and are looking for a more rigid montessori, you'll be happy with this school.

I wanted to respond to the post requesting recent feedback regarding The Renaissance School. My three year old has been at the school for over a year and is now in the French primary classroom. We are very happy with the school. The teachers are wonderful -- they are very caring and attentive to the individual needs of each child. There is a very positive energy at the school, and my daughter is excited to go to school every day. In addition to the very high quality of teaching in the classrooms, the school's music and art programs are terrific -- the children participate in vocal and instrumental performances and art shows throughout the year.

The original poster asked specifically about communication at the school. I have found the teachers and the administration, including the Head of School, to be very accessible to parents. I have daily interaction with the teachers in my daughter's class, and if parents need additional time to discuss anything, teachers will make the time to talk over the phone or in person. Parent-teacher conferences, class parent meetings, open houses, and other gatherings provide additional opportunities for parents to communicate with teachers, the administration, and each other. Parents are definitely encouraged to be an active and involved part of the school community. We are very happy that we decided to send our daughter to TRS! Kerry

Dec 2006

Re: East Bay Bilingual Montessori
You MUST check out The Renaissance School in Oakland. It's a hidden jewel. I don't know what language you are looking for, but The Renaissance School has bilingual programs in French AND Spanish for the primary level (ages 3 to 6) and TRIlingual program for the elementary level (through 6th grade). We moved here from France a couple of years ago and really wanted to find a bilingual French program. We checked out the Ecole Bilingue and liked it but it wasn't quite right for us. We are believe very strongly in the Montessori method so when I found The Renaissance School, I was over the moon. Each Primary classroom has a trained AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher who speaks English and an AMI trained teacher who speaks either Spanish or French. The head of the school has very high standards for her teachers. They must be native speakers and have completed the AMI training. The Spanish and French teachers speak ONLY their native language in the classroom. The children have all their lessons in both English and either Spanish or French. In addition, they have language lessons to help build their vocabulary. They also sing and listen to music in the second language. Our daughter is 5 and is now learning to read in English and French. She is also learning to write in French and is learning to use a stylo plume just like French students! It's amazing. My husband and I are both American but speak French and love that we can also keep up our French by singing and reading with our daughter and speaking to her French-speaking teacher everyday. Our younger daughter, who is 3 1/2 and is in the same classroom, was not exposed to as much French when she was little but loves learning the language now and thoroughly enjoys receiving lessons from her French-speaking teacher.

The Spanish classrooms are the same. Everyday when I pick up the children I hear the teachers speaking to their students on the playground in Spanish. It's normal and expected to hear several languages on campus. It's a very international school with many multicultural families.

I should also point out that The Renaissance School has an incredibly strong music and art program, which is another aspect of the school that drew us to it. The children are taught music using the Kodaly method and really develop beautiful singing voices and an understanding of music very early while having fun doing it. Depending on their age, they have a total of 1 or 2 hours of dedicated music each week in small groups with a wonderful music education staff. Of course, they also sing in their classroom. When they are old enough, they can take chorus and instrumental lessons at school, which cuts down on schlepping kids around after school to various lessons.

I'm glad you asked this question. Whenever people say that the Ecole Bilingue is the only French bilingual school in the East Bay is just wrong. True, it is the only bilingual school accredited by the French government, which may be important to some, but their are some of us who have more flexibility and it's important to know there is a choice.

If you have any questions about the school, I'm happy to answer them. The school has been great for our children. They are growing into caring, kind, respectful, interesting, curious, intelligent, musical, French speaking children thanks in part to this great school. Carrie

Sept 2005

We are considering The Renaissance School for our nearly 2 year old daughter, does anyone have any personal experience with this school to share? thank you, tina Anon

My three daughters started at Renaissance School each when they were two years of age and the whole family is quite happy with this decision. Renaissance provided a strong foundation for their education to follow. My older two moved into the Renaissance elementary program for a number of years (now eldest is just starting high school and middle is still in middle school), and my youngest just moved this summer into the Renaissance elementary program. Because of the skills they learned at Renaissance, my older two have excellent time and project management skills, are independent, and have always been self-sufficient in their schoolwork. They learned to take ownership of their education which is valuable. The preschool program provides a nurturing environment that also encourages the children to explore and learn. Not only do they learn math and language skills, but also practical life and presentation skills.

Here's an example of how the school supports student ideas - Last year after the tsunami, my daughter's preschool class talked about how tsunamis occur and what happened to the people in SE Asia. During the course of this discussion, they wanted to collect money to send to the tsunami relief agencies. So the several kindergarteners of that class wrote up a proposal and approached the Head of the School. With her blessing, they set up collection cans and in teams of two, they went to all the other classrooms (including the elementary classrooms) to give a presentation on the tsunami and explain why they were collecting funds. It was incredibly touching from a parent perspective, and the children felt empowered and supported in their ideas.

And the music program is out of this world - I doubt you'll find anything comparable. They use the Kodaly method and it's amazing to watch even the preschoolers playing bells alongside the choristers. When they move into the elementary years, different instruments play together harmonizing. I never understood how much they were learning until a work colleague with extensive musical background happen to look at my eldest daughter's homework assignment to write a song. I tried to explain the assignment to him, and he understood everything, but noted that it was unusual that the music teacher would allow her to put a particular chord in a certain spot of the song. When I asked my daughter about it, she smiled and explained that she asked for permission. These were eye-opening conversations that I cannot explain any better, because I don't have that music theory background. You may have specific questions, and sinc! e I've been associated with the school for awhile, I'd be glad to share a parent perspective. I do encourage you to learn a little about the Montessori method so that you'll understand the activities your child's experiences in the school. If you (or any other parent) would like to talk about the school more or have some specific questions, feel free to write back and we can set up a time to talk. Janna

My daughter attends the school and is very happy there. Please e-mail me directly if you have specific questions. Jeannine
April 2005

I'm interested in finding out information about the Renaissance School's preschool program. In particular, I'd like to know whether people are pleased with the program and why? Or unhappy and why? Also, I'd like to know whether the kids in the program are generally happy or does it seem overly strict? Finally, are kids who complete the program generally well prepared for elementary school? Thanks so much for responding. Anon

My preschooler went to Renaissance School for two years. I would suggest that you look carefully at the school before sending your child there. During our time in the school, there was a tremendous turnover in teachers. Many of the teachers were young and inexperienced and some did not even have Montessori certificates. The inexperience began to trouble us when we discovered that the teachers did not even realize that our four-year old could read! I witnessed two separate very tense arguments between two of the teachers (one on a field trip, of all things) that underscored for me the general tension within the school.

The school has a rather tough love approach to teaching independence in their students. Athough I agree with the goal, the message is delivered rather harshly. For example, if your 3 or 4 year old cannot tie his or her shoes you better work on this before starting the Renaissance preschool. The teachers will not assist a child who needs help with shoes or socks.

My husband and I were quite attracted to the language program but, in fact, very little language instruction really happened during our time with the school.

That said, the music and art teachers were outstanding. If the quality of the rest of the teachers and instruction matched the standard set by these two, we never would have left.

Changes may have been made in the school since we departed. I suggest that you ask careful questions before making a decision. Signed: anon anon

Both of my kids are now in preschool at the Renaissance School and we have been extremely happy with the school. The staff and teachers are fantastic and are very devoted to the well-being of each child and take each child's development very seriously. My daughter is very shy and the teachers have gone out of their way to help her feel comfortable and develop her social skills. My son just started in their two-year-old program. Both kids love school. We are not a very strict family and the kids seem to welcome the structure at the school. That said, the philosophy of Montessori teaching is about letting the child take the lead in what they want to do and the Renaissance school takes that seriously. So while they provide a lot of structure, within that the children have a great deal of independence to pursue what they want. I can't speak to the issue of elementary school placements. If you have any questions,please feel free to email me. Overall, the school has really exceeded our expectations. roxanne
I have to respond to a recent negative posting about The Renaissance School to say that my experiences are not anything like what that person reported. My daughter has been there for two years of preschool and she is absolutely thriving. Not only are the art and music programs spectacular but my daughter is doing impressively well learning French, learning to read, developing cooking skills and working on social skills including helping the younger children learn. In talking to other parents, I have never heard anyone complain about any of the issues brought up in this posting, and other parents seem very pleased with the school. I don’t sense any tension within the school or any issue with getting teachers to tie shoelaces. With regard to the turnover of teachers, there was a large turnover at the beginning of this school year, but I don’t think it’s fair to imply that it has anything to do with the school; each teacher had her own personal reason for leaving and it was coincidental that several of them left at the same time. I sense complete dedication on the part of all of the teachers.

Of course this school, and Montessori schools in general, are not for every child. But I would hate for people to form an impression about The Renaissance School without hearing from a number of parents. Jeannine

January 2004

The Renaissance School, a Montessori school in Oakland, does have a good language program. However, it's not a total immersion experience. There are three ''primary'' classrooms (ages 3- 6) with two English-speaking teachers and one Spanish or French teacher per class. The kids receive instruction in both English and the other language throughout the day. (The pre-primary program for 2-year-olds does not have a language component that I'm aware of.)

In the short time we've been at the school (we started in Sept) I've been amazed by how much Spanish my 3- year-old has picked up (she sings in Spanish and understands quite a bit). Even my 5-year-old, who's not particularly verbal, can understand some basic Spanish now. There are many families from Spanish- and French-speaking countries at the school -- it's a very international student body. Hope this helps! Happy at TRS

December 2003

This is in response to the parent looking for Oakland Montessori preschools that emphasize arts, music and creativity. The Renaissance School (on Dimond Ave next to Dimond Park) has an outstanding music program that utilizes the Kodaly music method. Jutka teaches ''music appreciation'' to all levels (preschool starting at 2 y.o. up to the middle school kids) - the comprehension level and grasp for music theory and performance is quite amazing. In addition to singing, there are various instrumentals (e.g. piano, drums, guitar, etc). The piano students often will accompany the choir. My older girls were playing piano duets with one another by the time they were 7 and 8 years old. Art is also well integrated, and creativity and expression are everywhere in the Montessori curriculum. The school does utilize the typical Montessori curriculum, but I felt that there was far more music than elsewhere and arts and creativity were evident in the program. If you have any questions or want more extensive comments, please feel free to write to me. Janna

March 2003

I am interested in any recent information about the Renaissance School (formerly A Child's World) or the Growing Light Montessori School's Oakland site. The web site has outdated info for Renaissance and no info for the Oakland location of Growing Light. Any details on teacher quality, balance of program, and well-handled transitions would be much appreciated. Lori

We just moved our Daughter to The Renaissance School this month, to get a head start (and to make sure she was in for kindergarten this fall) and we are so happy! She is very happy with the teachers and we have seen just in the last 3 weeks that she has become more curious in learning. I know it is pricey, but it is worth every penny! She loves the weekly cooking, music, Arts and the emergent Spanish program and all the tools to learn with in the classroom. We love it! Yvonne J
My son has been at the Renaissance School for 6 years (he's now in fourth grade), and my husband and I are extremely pleased with his academic progress. My child is enthusiastic about going to school every day. The Renaissance School is more expensive than some others, but they offer a program that has both breath and depth. Also, they have the entire line of specilized Montessori equipment for all ages, not just a selection. Music, art and foreign language are fully integrated into the curriculum. The staff and student body are culturally diverse. The school sets high standards which the children meet. It's a place where the kids take pride in their accomplishments. In short, it's a great school. Helene
Feb. 2003

Re: Spanish Language Pre-school?
The Rennaisance School in Oakland has what they call language immersion in the pre-school years. English, and Spanish or French, is spoken consistently in the classrooms. They have a truly international comminity and it is not uncommon to find other bilingual kiddies in the same group as you child. Worth checking out. -- happy Renaissance School parent

August 2002

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

Our family really enjoys A Child's World Montessori School where many of the children come from Glenview and Montclair (a few from Piedmont too.) It is located next to Dimond Park where Dimond Avenue deadends on the park, so you don't get a lot of traffic. You should first interview to see what is the Montessori philosophy. We really like it because it promotes self awareness, independence and respect. Some people consider the Montessori approach to be too restrictive, but once the children go through the exercises, they have an incredible amount of flexibility and choice; it's a matter of understanding how it's being used. For example, once they learn how to do a project by themselves (i.e. full preparation, execution, and clean up), they are allowed to go on their own and be creative (some limitations, of course). Until then the teacher prompts and assists; in such a classroom, the teacher knows my children intimately- their strengths and areas for improvement. And every exercise is set up to move them toward independence. The materials for learning are wonderful, and my two older children have excelled in the environment - they are always eager to learn more. They learn a lot about self motivation and independent learning at their own pace (rather than in a class where everyone learns the same thing at the same time.) Another thing nice about Montessori is the mixed-age classroom - at one point, your child will be in the youngest age learning from the older children, then later in the oldest age teaching the younger children; it's actually really great once you see it in action, although I was wary until I saw its benefits. Even the 2 yr olds perform (albeit for a short time) at the holiday performance! Sounds funny, but I have one child who is incredibly shy and wouldn't stand in front of a group of people, and over the years, she has finally progressed to volunteering for a musical instrument solo - I wish I had such training when I was that age. Our two older children have been there since 2 yr old and are now in 4th & 2nd grades in the elementary program (sometimes the elem students ask the teacher for harder material!); the baby will start there next summer. When some of the children moved on to other respectable schools in the area, they were considered academically ahead. What are the down sides? Cost, it's not cheap, but I think it's fairly comparable to other preschools (but you also get what you pay for). In the elem program, there is not a strong P.E. program, but it doesn't matter to us, because we take care of that through soccer and swim teams; the preschool children have lots of running around in the playyard. You may have to ask about the part-time hours; they usually encourage a minimum amount of time for the child's sake. Call early, because there may be a waiting list. The office number is 531-8566; Leslie Hites is the Director.

Janna (7/00)

A Child's World Montessori School is tremendous at developing the whole child. It is in the Dimond Distict (Fruitvale and MacArthur) of Oakland. I have had two children attend this school..It is superb. It has an amazing amount of resources for the kids, child:staff ratio is about 3-4:1. You may want to call the Director for a tour: Leslie Hites 510-531-8566. I think you'll be impressed. By the way I am an Elementary Principal in a neighboring district.

P (7/00)

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