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