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I am the mother of two children, ages 4 and 6. I feel an intense loyalty to public schools (and libraries, parks, and other shared spaces). I believe the public schools should be better and smaller and more resourced. I know it takes parent involvement to make a great school. I started my son at my first choice BUSD elementary school. I was mixed about it before we began but I wanted to make it work. However, truth be told, deep inside I was full of ambivalence about class size (too big in K and 1st, and increasing after 3rd grade) and limited Arts, PE, etc.
My son completed Kindergarten and had a solid year. My son's dynamic teacher welcomed parent involvement although it was hectic in her large class and there were clearly classroom management issues. But in 1st grade things got shaky fast. My son was exhausted by unmanaged social issues during recess and lunch. My son's teacher was cool and distant, and I found when things came up I couldn't get a timely response from her. She was remote with me and, from what my son told me, she was strict in class. When I spoke with the principal about this she described the teacher as having good boundaries. This struck me as odd. Then, one day, about three months into the year, my son raised his hand in class and asked to go to the bathroom. The teacher said no. Shortly thereafter my son wet his pants and (this is the part that really upset me) nobody noticed. Not one adult in his school environment noticed him in his obviously soaked pants. This deeply bothered me.
I tried to work things out at his school. I spoke with the principal, his teacher and with other parents. At the same time I started looking at independent schools and sending emails to Admissions people. During this search I found Deb Fink at Tehiyah, who really won my heart. After finding out about my son's difficulties at school, she kept asking, ''How's Jack??'' This was real maternal concern. She and I had a very natural and easy rapport and I found that I was deeply drawn to the school. When I visited Tehiyah my positive feelings only grew stronger. The kids were so relaxed. The teachers and parents came over to meet me and include me in the community. It was warm and gentle and profoundly real. Everyone was watching out for one another, you could just feel it. I also felt that my concerns for my son were not seen as overbearing or lacking boundaries, but just what any parent would feel for her child. They should be nurtured, protected, challenged and loved by the adults in their lives.
I took a big breath and transferred my son to Tehiyah. I have no doubts it was the right decision for my family. I know my son will not be lost in the middle of a large class or a lunchtime crowd. My son is thriving. I can't wait to bring my daughter who will be starting the Bridge-K in the fall.
Thank you, Tehiyah. [posted by a BPN member for] HN
Add Tehiyah to your short list of schools to visit. Tehiyah truly meets the child, has an amazing community and offers top notch academics. We are not Jewish and had not considered Tehiyah an option until our son's school declared bankruptcy. After hearing that Tehiyah would offer a place to finish the school year if the courts shut down the school, we went to check them out. Wow, were we impressed. Not only did they live the message about community through their generous offer, the academics and success of their students post graduation is unrivaled.
However, what won our hearts is how Tehiyah welcomed and embraced our spirited boy. While his other schools purported to meet the child, he was apparently out of reach and he ended up in a series of "positive" reinforcement programs to contain him. The daily evaluations clearly put great stress on him and despite the positive emphasis of the programs, he still got the message that there was something wrong with him and that he was "bad."
At Tehiyah our son's ''spirit'' is embraced as enthusiasm. Instead of being something to manage and contain, its something to celebrate. His teachers are able to harness his curiosity without singling him out. They are experts at leveraging the curriculum to engage the spirited mind.
The proof is that he loves to go to school in the morning, clearly loves learning and we have to drag him home at the end of the day. We are so grateful we found Tehiyah. Bill M
Re: Private K-8 with strong science? Does it exist?
Our daughter, Neomi, is in Grade 3 at K-8 Tehiyah Day School http://www.tehiyah.org/. She began there last year. To set the background, I must explain that Neomi's quite an avid little scientist -- the type who puts a cup of honey in the freezer to see what happens, returns two hours later to find it never froze, then Googles, ''Why doesn't honey freeze?'', gets the answer ''Because it's made of only 18% water,'' so she mixes some water to the cup, returns it to the freezer, waits another hour, and reports that it froze. She's always asking questions: Why did the car's back window frost over but not the front window? How does a calculator know the answers? How can we figure out if a barnacle is alive? What's the difference between baking soda and yeast? What actually is fire? Neomi has also gone to Sarah Science Camp several summers and is in her element doing cool nerdy stuff deep in nature, like collecting shells on Albany beach, saving snails from sidewalks, searching for patterns in the multiplication table, or reading about anatomy. All this to say that Neomi would be unhappy in a school that does not have a strong science curriculum.
I believe that the Tehiyah Day School solution to science programming is a marvelous exemplar of making the best of school: Its vision for science is an interdisciplinary, project-based inquiry approach, in which children ground both subject matter content and research methodology in their natural inquisitiveness. I identify at least four activity dimensions that apparently have been conducive to the positive experience Neomi has had with science at Tehiyah Day School: (1) Respect and deep concern for all living creatures and the environment; (2) Holistic, integrated approach to curriculum, where logic, mathematics, history, language and cultural studies, and art (!) all cohere around a focal unit theme, such as earth (second grade) or life cycles (third grade); (3) Experience-based approach, including gardening at school, numerous field trips to ranches, tidal pools, and local natural resources requiring community attention; (4) Customization and empowerment by giving each student agency in preparing summative posters and delivering classroom presentations (e.g., mapping ecological habitats in our back yard, photographing spiders, botanical classification of stems and roots); yet also (5) Collaboration, of the good type, in which individuals think hard together to enrich and challenge each other to find new wholes larger than the sums of the brainstorming parts. Perhaps the best test for Neomi's engagement is that the science she does at school comes home with her. She quizzes us at dinner (and we fail miserably, to her glee and our subsequent enlightenment): What is a xylem? a phloem? How does water go up a stem? What's the sun got to do with nutrients? Why do carrots have tiny hairs along the side? And is a spider an insect? Dor
Re: Evaluating academic strengths of local private schools
I currently teach 5th grade at Tehiyah Day School but used to teach history at Berkeley High School. While at BHS, I noticed that graduates of Tehiyah had superior work and study habits. They were some of the best writers I had. They also showed respect for their teachers, they valued ideas and learning, and they displayed an excellent sense of perspective and openness to others. The students would talk more about Tehiyah than students from any other private school, and their positive reflections were one of the reasons I chose to start teaching at Tehiyah. My current Tehiyah students love to read and learn. They take their schoolwork seriously, but find joy in every academic subject. Rebecca
When looking at schools for our two children, the social, moral and spiritual aspects of the school were as important to us as the intellectual. So, we'd like to heartily recommend Tehiyah Day School as a wonderful place for children to flourish. The teachers are superlatively caring and a lot of emphasis is placed on teaching the kids to be respectful of each other. Speak to any 8th grader there, and you'll see a level of poise and respect that is rare in children that age. Academics matter, too, of course, and Tehiyah is one of two private schools in California to be awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award for academic excellence from the Dept of Education. And, it's not just classroom learning - there is violin, piano and drumming lessons, fashion and cooking classes and a whole host of sports, including yoga (and the football team that stands at 5-0 at this point in the season).
We initially had some reservations about sending our children to a private school, and Jewish day school, to boot, in terms of the diversity of their classmates. Things have been really great at Tehiyah, however, with a very diverse faculty and quite a diverse student body as well, rivaling the economic, racial and cultural diversity of some of the local public schools.
Raising children can be hard and who your child grows up to be depends as much on the community you surround them with as on what you teach them at home. So, it has been really great to have a place like Tehiyah in our lives. Marc
Our family had been at Tehiyah Day School for 5 years now, and we love every moment of it. I can't say enough about the school, the teachers and the community that we become a part of through school. The school provides an extremely nurturing environment, while also providing excellent integrated academic curriculum. It is a place where all families are comfortable, regardless of Jewish knowledge or affiliation, and there is indeed a very diverse body of students across the full spectrum of affiliation and observation levels, including non-Jewish families. The teachers are phenomenal and most remarkably, we felt in those 5 years that they really ''see'' , know and love our kid. There is a lot of attention to individual kids, and meeting them where there are at. Kids get a lot of help when they meet difficulties. At the same time, kids also get individualized work and projects when they are much ahead of the class. As a result, our daughter thrives in school, really enjoys it, and it is wonderful to see the love and excitement of learning that she gets thanks to Tehiyah. A very happy Tehiyah Family
Our kids are in their second year at Tehiyah and we couldn't be happier with the school. We transferred in from public school and, while our kids were happy there too, we could see the difference immediately in how much they were learning and how excited they were to learn it. The teachers are amazing, the extras (PE, art, music, library) are treated as an integral part of the curriculum, and the community is strong and welcoming. We never felt like outsiders, and the kids immediately made friends. It is a Jewish school but we have found it a very comfortable environment for us as cultural Jews who don't consider themselves particularly religious. There are many mixed families and an open, accepting vibe. Happy Tehiyah Parents
I never thought I would send my children to private school, let alone a Jewish school, but now I can't imagine being anywhere else. Tehiyah is a much more diverse community than I expected to find in terms of the socio-economic realities of the families, their ethnic backgrounds (including multi-racial families), LGBTQ families, single-parent families, children being raised by people other than their own parents, and a wide range of religious identities (all across the Jewish spectrum and non-Jewish as well). As opposed to the ''surface diversity'' that is common in schools that have larger percentages of students who fall into these categories but don't necessarily feel connected to one another in a positive way, Tehiyah has a ''depth of diversity'' that I have come to really cherish. Each child is seen by classmates and teachers as a unique individual and there is a real commitment to building an inclusive close-knit community that brings people together, regardless of their differences. We are connected by shared values, based on Jewish ethical teachings, that permeate every piece of the way the school functions. The Head of School is a true leader with an unwavering commitment to Tehiyah ''living the curriculum''. Tehiyah is a place where my kids are seen, understood, cared about, and valued. They are getting a phenomenal progressive education that inspires them to be independent and creative thinkers while nurturing their love of learning, their confidence in their innermost selves, and their sense of responsibility to be agents of positive change in the world. What more could a parent want? Grateful to be a Tehiyah family
As a parent of a now 4th grader at Tehiyah Day School I am continually in awe of the knowledgeable, inspired, and devoted teachers my son has had since he began as a kindergartener. The level of rigor and support by the teaching staff have inspired curiosity and a true level of pride in the learning process-even through the struggles of mastering new concepts. As with general studies the integration of Judaism is equally woven into the learning experience, one that extends well beyond the classroom. The level of respect, friendship, and acceptance that is fostered through Tehiyah's Jewish education is modeled and echoed in the connectedness of the parent community. An equally important aspect of what makes Tehiyah so special is its community. It is a community active in the many layers that make up being Jewish and a community of close friends. It is truly Modeh Ani and beyond. Renee
We joined the Tehiyah community this year, with our son going to Kindergarten. He enjoys two wonderful and loving teachers in Bracha and Ricki and a small class size. This contributes to the feeling of cohesiveness and family in the classroom, which is actually shared school-wide each morning with singing and a welcome gathering. The K class is diverse with children from all types of ethnicities and economic backgrounds who are all brought together under the umbrella of the best in education. This fosters a love for the world around oneself. This year, the entire curriculum at Tehiyah was awarded a National Blue Ribbon, direct from Washington, DC. This award symbolizes excellence in education and was awarded to only 50 private schools in the United States. We are also taking advantage of the after school programs, which offer plenty in terms of different interests and music. I think the hallmark of Tehiyah is community. The curriculum as well as the school are alive and ever-changing, being molded by the interests of those who participate. All parents are required to volunteer a certain number of hours per year and we have already gladly exceeded the required amount in the first couple of months of school. This is because it is easy to become involved and contribute. It is this involvement that makes me think Tehiyah is just perfect because it can be made so by those who participate in it. In summary, I can't think of a better well-rounded education than the one that has been designed at Tehiyah. The Head of School, Bathea James, works relentlessly behind the scenes to make this all work and come together. She is absolutely fantastic and dedicated to each and every student. We are happy at Tehiyah and highly recommend this school to anyone considering an exceptional education for their child. Alex and Julia
I am writing with a strong endorsement for Tehiyah Day School. We are in our second year at Tehiyah and our child is thriving--constantly reporting home with delightful tidbits like ''I love school''. The teachers are outstanding, the community is warm and welcoming, the school facilities are world-class and the after-school enrichment program is deservedly award-winning. It came as no surprise that Tehiyah was awarded a ''Blue Ribbon School'' this year. I appreciate that our son's teachers joyfully embrace him for who he is and provide him with a loving and nurturing place to thrive. As parents, we feel warmly welcomed into the Tehiyah community (like many at Tehiyah, we're a mixed faith family). Happy Kid, Happy Parents
It may sound crazy, but we moved from Chico so that our daughters could attend Tehiyah Day School! From the moment we walked on the campus, we knew this was where our daughters and our family would thrive. Tehiyah offers what most Bay Area Independent schools offer: top notch academics in General Studies including an engaging and enriching selection of specialty classes (art, music, PE, technology, etc.) Additionally, Tehiyah gives our daughters precisely the Jewish education we are seeking--an inclusive, engaging, relevant, and meaningful course of Judaic studies and Hebrew. Rabbi Tsipi, the Head of Judaic studies at Tehiyah, brings passion and enthusiasm to the school, creating a vibrant atmosphere for spiritual growth. Starting off with a beautiful Modeh Ani assembly each morning sets the tone for an appreciation of life, learning, and our Jewish heritage. Our girls are thriving, deepening the Jewish identity each day. Jewish values, Torah study, Menschlekeidt, Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah are part of the curriculum and are artfully woven into the General studies program as well. We saw the school last March and moved to El Cerrito in July. We are appreciative each day when we pick up our daughters. Tehiyah is a very special place with incredible, dedicated teachers, administrators and staff. The school as a whole is lovely community that not only supports and nurtures our daughters, but our whole family. Lisa
I'd like to put in a good word for Tehiyah Day School, a Jewish community school in El Cerrito. We've been at the school for years. My daughters have all felt very at home there and been well taken care of. I think the special thing about the school is the warm community atmosphere among all the kids, teachers and parents. The school works hard to create an accepting, inclusive atmosphere where everybody feels welcome, regardless of level of Jewish knowledge or observance. The daily morning assembly sets a great tone for the whole thing! Satisfied parent
As a parent of a recent Tehiyah graduate and a current student, I am incredibly thankful for the educational and personal development our kids have experienced at Tehiyah. Our kids have felt very comfortable there, encouraged by their teachers and happy with their friends. Our son graduated recently and is well-prepared for high school. Our daughter looks forward to school every day. Their teachers have been effective, committed, caring and inspiring. The school's program is very strong, providing a thoughtful balance of general studies and Judaic studies. The graduates that I've known have succeeded in high school and college -- Tehiyah's Jewish values-based curriculum has served them well. We have also benefited from Tehiyah's strong community and have made some of our closest friendships with parents at the school. Adam M.
Tehiyah has the perfect combination of (1) strong academics, (2) ethical responsibility for the community and the world baked into the curriculum and (3) a culture of nuturing the whole child. I know my children are receiving the optimal educational experience to prepare them for their future and to help them to have success in the world. The teachers are amazing. The PE Program is strong and inspiring. The art program is exceptional - stronger then any I have seen in elementary and middle school. Tehiyah has the whole package, I highly recommend it! Laurel
Not only does Tehiyah Jewish Day School in El Cerrito provide an amazing education and teach my children to be citizens of the world but the school chef cooks amazing organic food for lunch each day and snack many afternoons in the afterschool program. Today my son didn't want to leave until he had a chance to enjoy some of the amazing snack which was a cooked snack. It really helps a two working parent family when a school can really help by providing this service.
My friends are looking for a great school for their child. They want a warm environment, community spirit and a good academic base. Someone recommended Tehiyah Day School to them. Does anyone have recent experience at the school? I hear it has openings in some grades. Sally
The lower grades teach in units and when the class is, say, studying about birds that topic will be woven throughout all subjects C1 there will be research about bird facts, writing about birds, fieldtrips to see birds, birdy art projects, and even nest building. The first grade tide pool unit included science research, building a whole tide pool in the classroom (e.g. making sea urchins out of toothpicks), learning and performing tide pool songs, reading tide pool stories, a tide pooling fieldtrip, and so much more. In English literature, the children learn language arts by reading age appropriate novels and writing stories and book reports (not just completing worksheets or workbooks); at the third grade level our son has excellent skills.
Many assignments are open ended to allow for individual differences and interests. The curriculum allows for the kids who are a little slower in any given subject or those who are more advanced to play on the same field and feel equally included. And then there is the rich Hebrew and Jewish studies that is woven into the curriculum seamlessly. The school lives its teachings. The values of healing the earth, charity, and community are modeled by the school and its families and are part of the programs for the children. They can been seen throughout the school - from the morning assembly to greet each new day to charity fundraising drives conceived by the children to assignments focused on gratitude. I am constantly reminded how blessed our family is to have Tehiyah. Happy Tehiyah Mama
Re: Elementary Schools for ''gifted'' children
Have you considered Tehiyah Day School? Tehiyah is a wonderful, engaging, warm, excellent K-8 community Jewish day school in El Cerrito. Our son is in 2nd grade and does work far beyond grade level. His teachers and the head of school are great at challenging, supporting, stimulating, and loving him. Come take a look and talk to some of the teachers and parents at the kindergarten information night on October 28th. Details are on the website, tehiyah.org. Good luck on your journey.
Re: Gifted 4 year old: best school?
My gifted son, who is now in the 3rd grade, has truly flourished at Tehiyah Day School. He was reading chapter books when he was four, and I feared that I would never find a school that would challenge and interest him.
At first, I was unconvinced that Tehiyah's developmental approach would suit him, but I am glad to say that it turned out to be a good fit. For one thing, so much of the subject matter expands to fit a child's interest. For another, every single teacher that he has had there has been very generous in providing my son with extra challenges. This year he is getting one-to-one math instruction at the 5th grade level. The Hebrew language instruction opens up another path for challenging gifted kids -- it is new and can be satisfyingly complex. Above all, though, is the quality of his peer group. At Tehiyah, my son has surrounded himself with other bright, creative, well-mannered children who manage to feed each other's curiosity. The quality of the community is exceptional.
Tehiyah has done a great job in attending to both of my older children's social and emotional development. They stress many values that we practice at home, and help the kids to develop a strong sense of respect for each other. I will be sending my third child there in the fall.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Elisabeth
We're considering both Tehiyah and Oakland Hebrew Day School for our child, who will begin kindergarten next fall. I'd love to hear from parents who have considered both. We are not orthodox at all - don't keep a kosher kitchen and are not shomer shabbat, and wonder about fitting in at OHDS. I'm also concerned about the distance from our home in Oakland to Tehiyah, and whether we'll be spending half our lives driving all over for playdates, school events, etc. Thanks for your input! Mom of a soon-to-be-kindergartener
There is a school bus for kids that live in Berkeley and Oakland.
Regarding your concern about driving because of playdates, etc., I don't think you need to worry. You'll find many of your child's friends probably will be in your area. Truthfully, although we have always had to drive for playdates (as hardly anyone lives where we do), it's really never been a problem. Distance is relative. And don't worry about spending ''half your life'' driving. As time goes on, you'll look forward to carpool opportunities when they arise.
The thing that outweighs everything is really the friendships that we have gained through being a part of the Tehiyah community. We have made life-long friends at TDS.
OHDS is also a great school. Rather than choose based on how much driving you'll do, make your decision based on what you want out of the school and for your child. Both schools are great, but they are different. For me, TDS is a great place where I know my kids are getting a superb education in a safe environment. I like the mission statement of the school. I love the kids, teachers, staff, and families. We are truly a close knit community.
So look at both schools closely. Go on tours. See what resonates with you.
Wish you all the best in your decision. Marcia
We are a non-orthodox Berkeley family who chose OHDS and couldn't be happier with the decision. I think we're about middle of the road in terms of observance at OHDS (I'm writing this on Friday night after my Shabbat dinner guests have left!). There's quite a range, from happily secular to orthodox. The school has a modern orthodox point of view and mission, but always feels very inclusive and non-judgmental.
I think that both OHDS and Tehiyah offer great education and communities. We chose OHDS because OHDS aims for a 50/50 split between Judaic Studies/Hebrew and General Studies (reading, math, science, etc.). This is very intense, but is exactly what we were looking for in a Jewish day school -- a major focus on torah and Hebrew.
Logistics matter, of course. Our daughter has long days to get to the bus on time and such, so if you could easily drive your child to school, that could certainly simplify things. I think that kids live all over and attend both schools, so there will certainly be some shlepping for birthday parties and playdates, whichever school you choose.
I hope that you spend some time touring both schools, and have an easy time deciding which is a better fit for your family!
Editor Note: this discussion is also archived to the page for Oakland Hebrew Day School
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
I encourage you to check out Tehiyah Day School. Our son is in first grade there and is thriving. We couldn't be happier. He is reading far beyond his grade level and far beyond anyone in his class, and his teachers are wonderful with him. He is challenged, supported, and encouraged. We feel that the school provides just the right balance of strong academics, a nurturing and supportive social and emotional environment, and a lovely Jewish framework and community. Tehiyah is definitely worth exploring for your talented daughter! Best of luck to you. Debbie
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
I have a very similar child -- reading at 3 1/2, chapter books by age 4, long division and Harry Potter books in first grade ...
When I toured the Berkeley Public schools, the heads of school emphasized that their first priority was to make sure each child was reading at grade level. This is a worthy public policy goal, but promised very little for my son. There were some private schools that I looked at that also seemed daunted by the challenge of educating my son.
We are now at Tehiyah Day School. My son is in 3rd grade, and my daughter in 1st. We are extremely happy there. This year my son's math teacher has created an individualized program for him, and his Hebrew teacher has moved him to a class designed for native speakers (which we are not). His general studies teacher is also very accommodating, as have been all the teachers we have had up to now. We are a Jewish family, and are very active in the Jewish community, so it is a huge benefit to us that Tehiyah had been able to meet our needs academically.
I will note that in Kindergarten, our son's teacher made many efforts to give him advanced projects, but he often spurned them because he wanted to do what the rest of the class was doing. I think that forming a peer identity is a big part of Kindergarten.
As the children grow, they begin to value having a true learning partner -- other children who can understand them and work at their level. We have been pleased to discover several good partners for our son at Tehiyah -- kids who can keep up with him, inspire him, and challenge him in many ways. This is key to making learning a social experience.
I would be happy to discuss our experience at Tehiyah further, if you have any questions. elisabeth
Re: Portola Middle School
In response to the concerned Portola parent, while I can't speak for the school, I can offer a suggestion for a fantastic private middle school. My son attends Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito and has had incredible teachers, a challenging and thoughtful curriculum, small class size, a great group of friends and a wonderful community of families. I encourage you to check out the school; it is a very special place! Tehiyah Day School. -- Middle School Parent
Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
I am sorry to hear about you and your daughter's experience. I'm not sure if you have had any other private school ''assessments'' yet but I just wanted to let you know that not all kindergarten ''assessments'' are like the one you have just described. My son started kindergarten this past fall at Tehiyah Day School and his ''assessment'' actually referred to as a playdate was quite the opposite from what you described. My son was allowed to visit the classroom in advance, hang out and play with the toys and even happened to meet the teachers before the kindergarten playdate. This allowed him to not only become familiar with the room but to also be excited about coming back so he could play more with their toys. I remember during this visit he constructed a lego space ship and the the Director of Admissions, Amy Utstein, even kept in her office until the playdate (a transitional object of sorts which he was very excited to have at the playdate ). During this kindergarten playdate there was absolutely no one-on-one assessment! Instead this small group of prospective kindergarteners came together for an hour, had free choice of activities to engage in, had a short circle time where they sang songs, and then shared a snack together. I was also told and was comforted by the message that if it was just ''one of those days'' then the kindergarten teachers would visit the preschool to see him in his familiar and comfortable environment. That being said, this wonderfully sensitive approach is mirrored in Tehiyah's development approach to teaching. Needless to say my son is thriving there, he can't wait to get there in the morning, and we as a family couldn't be more thrilled! Feel free to contact me if you like. You can also contact the Director of Admissions, Amy Utstein she was wonderful throughout the whole admissions process! Renee
Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito is an amazing school and an equally wonderful community of families and educators!!! I have two children, a 5th grader and a 2nd grader, both of whom have been at Tehiyah since they were in Kindergarten. I can't say enough about the quality of the education they have received and the friendships they have developed. The teaching staff is truly devoted to their students, challenging them to think critically as well as learn the basics. My 5th grader has come home this year so enthusiastic about his assignments. He has been asked to create his own invention, do a research project and art installation on a woman in history, as well as participate in debates about Judaiac texts. The assignments are interesting,thought provoking and age-appropriate. The school also has a wonderful art program. This year alone my children have worked on weaving, printmaking, portraiture, collage and puppetmaking. There are equally wonderful opportunities for parents to get involved in the school. One can volunteer in some of the classrooms, take an adult Hebrew class, participate in parent education forums, as well as join one of the many volunteer commitees throughout the school. Tehiyah is a very special place that our family feels very fortunate to be a part of!!!!! Mom from El Cerrito
Hi, I'd like to let everyone know about Tehiyah Day School (www.tehiyah.org) in El Cerrito . My son is in second grade and has been at Tehiyah since kindergarten. He loves it there and we have found it to be a perfect mix of loving teachers, developmentally appropriate experiences, and educational excellence. The community of parents is warm and loving, and the school provides a Jewish education that inspires tolerance and a love of history and learning. Below is a list of upcoming admissions events:
Wednesday, October 25, 7:30 pm – Kindergarten Information Evening Sunday, November 5, 10:00-11:30 am – Preschool Havdallah Celebration Sunday, December 3, 2:00-4:00 pm – All-School Open House Sunday, January 7, 10:00 am – Kindergarten Information Brunch (childcare provided) and/or have them call Amy at 510.233.3013 x239 for a private tourRebecca
Re: Secular Jew married to atheist wants ''religious'' framework for kids
My husband and I were in a similar situation. We started an informal family meditation group that is based on Buddhist principles and we also attend Spirit Rock family days. We sent our daughter to a private school that also honored many traditions. Those things did provide a framework for spirituality but not provide a sense of Jewish heritage. Ultimately, we transferred our daughter to Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito. It sounds like your kids are preschool age, but you might want to consider Tehiyah for kindergaten. Here is some information I posted previously:
Originally we had not even considered a Jewish School because my husband is not Jewish and I am not practicing. I visited Tehiyah just to get another point of reference, but from the moment I set foot on to the school grounds, I felt that I had found something very rare and precious—a true feeling of community. Tehiyah has quite a bit of diversity considering that it is a Jewish school. There are families like mine that are not affiliated with a synagogue and some that are observant. There are single parent families, families with gay parents and many families where one or both parents are from another country (Israel of course, but also France, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Holland to name a few).
The school as a whole fosters creativity and truly honors the spirit of each child. Jewish Studies and Hebrew are a part of the curriculum which greatly influences the feel of the school. Rather than focusing on the practice of religion, the emphasis is on Jewish values and culture. Academic work is a priority in the curriculum. The teachers are extraordinarily dedicated and many have taught at the school for 10 years or longer.
Tehiyah must be experienced first hand. If you visit, come early, by 8:25 AM. Then you’ll be a part of Modeh Ani when the whole school from the tiny kindergarteners to the surprisingly unjaded eighth graders get together to welcome in the new day. In joyful song to the beat of drums and the gifted musicianship of Achi Ben-Shalom, the Judaic music teacher, the community celebrates together. There is a spirit and joy that is palpable. Beautiful artwork adorns the school and creative academic projects are proudly displayed in the hallways. My daughter feels that Tehiyah is her home away from home and my husband and I are very happy to have found a great school that welcomes our involvement and where our daughter is thriving. Happy Tehiyah Parent
Just like you, I wanted to give our boys a Jewish framework with which to begin their lives. My husband was not as sure. What we both agreed on was that we did not want a religious education per se, nor did we want any particular ideology thrown at them. What we wanted, and what we got at Tehiyah, was a diverse community of Jews and non-Jews, a first-class education, emphasis on social responsibility, and a tolerance for all levels of religiousness. Every morning, the children begin the day by gathering together and singing songs – it’s beautiful and moving. It’s this spirit of community at Tehiyah that gives my children, and me, a sense of place in the world.
As a kind of ''pick and choose'' Jew who embraces some rituals and beliefs and not others — I feel entirely embraced and welcomed by the Tehiyah community. If you’d like to talk more, I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Dayna
I'll use myself as an example. I'm a Jewish mom married to a Catholic guy. My husband and I share the same goals, ethics and principles as you and your husband do, regarding our kids. Before we married, we agreed to raise our children Jewish. My husband was okay with it because he's not ecstatic about some of the hypocrisies of his religion. I was not raised in a very religious home. My family went to Temple on high holy days and that was about it aside from a one-two year try with Shabbat and Hebrew school.
I wanted my kids to have more information about their heritage as well as religion. We found the best of all worlds at Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito. Our kids have Judaism class, and Hebrew class as well as all the regular academics--math, science, P.E., art, music, etc. In the regular course of their academics, they learn about other religions.
We find that the school meets all our needs. It's not all about Jewish this and that. It teaches about it informatively but does not ''ram it down kids' throats.'' It's the opposite. They learn and then appreciate what they learn and appreciate their Jewishness, for lack of a better word. There are kids at the school who are not Jewish. They get the opportunity to learn about Judaism while still practicing their own religion.
It's not new agey. It definitely is community oriented. One of the things I like best is that when I need help, a favor, whatever, there is someone I can call, someone I can trust. Whether it's a teacher, a parent, a staff person. We are one big community that is here for each other.
So hope this bit of information helps. Tehiyah is a great school. I'm happy and confident to recommend it especially when I think the description of what you are looking for is exactly what Tehiyah is.
Good luck! Marcia
Then, a few years ago when we started trying to figure out what to do for kindergarten for our older child, we discovered Tehiyah Day School. At that point we were not actively looking for the Jewish aspects of the school, but once we found ourselves there we became delighted with the Jewish cultural values and community. In fact, we have been surprised at how moved we have become by having such an open and inclusive Jewish community day school in our lives. For me personally, reconnecting with a Jewish community (in a progressive minded context) has been a visceral experience. It has an intangible resonance that I can not name, but I am so grateful to have happened upon.
There is something incredible about starting each school day with everyone (K-8) coming together and singing (mostly Hebrew, some English) to greet the new day. What we have found is a pluralistic Jewish community that feels Berkeley-ish in its openness. There are families with all sorts of backgrounds and approaches to Judaism, spirituality, and life in general.
There is a palpable love of learning at Tehiyah. The teachers we know (some of whom are not Jewish) have a genuine desire to understand and respect each kid for who they are. The general studies part of the program (which makes up the bulk of the day) gives kids the academic challenges and/or support they need based on their individual requirements. Jewish traditions are taught and presented as a starting point, not an end point. Torah stories are discussed with the acknowledgement that some people think they happened exactly as written, while others think they are myths and legends. Scientific thinking and archeology are added to the mix and the emphasis is placed on figuring out what is it that we can learn from Torah stories that is valuable in our own lives. Honoring the concepts of tikkun olam and tzadaka are also omnipresent parts of the underlying essence of Tehiyah.
It would be a pity for apathy and assimilation to succeed in doing what anti-Semitism has failed to do over the past many centuries. To me the key seems to be in knowing and understanding Jewish traditions so they can help propel us forward in our own lives and in the realm of Jewish thinking itself. In short, we have found Tehiyah to be a dynamic, understanding, and supportive school where our kids can learn to keep Jewish traditions alive while they personally thrive!!! Mother of Tehiyah Kids
I welcome anyone thinking of sending their kids to Tehiyah Day School to contact me. I am a very happy parent of two very happy kids. My boys are now in first grade, and are thriving in every way. The academics are strong, and they learn conflict resolution skills, but most of all, the sense of community is wonderful. You do not have to be Jewish (or religious) to go to Tehiyah! The community is based on shared values of learning and giving back to the world. Every morning the kids start their day with Modeh Ani, which includes music and singing. It's really a terrific place. If you have any questions and want to hear a parents' perspective, please feel free to email me. Dayna
I'd love to hear reviews of Tehiya from current parents. Listings in the archive are from last year and earlier. What are the plusses and minuses of the school? How do people deal with living far from school? Thank you! Seriously Considering Tehiya
This Friday the children will celebrate their 100th day of school. They now come home and teach me Hebrew words. One of my children read me Hop On Pop for Chanukah. They are excited about learning, asking for math problems to do in the car and proud when they get the answers right. The work papers they bring home from school show me how much they are learning academically as well as socially. My shyer child is finally having play dates with peers.The Second Step Program that the school has recently implemented helps the classmates manage conflict and learn about emotions. Finally, the extended community has been warm, welcoming, and supportive. They celebrated the birth of my kindergardeners'new siblings with us, and extended themselves in every way they could to help our family with many transitions. We have felt blessed to be there. Jeannie
Pluses: Warm, welcoming community. Plenty of laughter. Morning all-school meeting with lots of spirit and smiles. Small classes with wonderful teachers (both 3rd grade teachers are amazing, as are the two 2nd grade teachers). Kindergarten is excellent - a loving environment.
The children don't seem to carry around a lot of ''attitude''. Rather, they are happy, playful, and surprisingly insightful. The 8th graders have repeatedly impressed me by their academic abilities and kindness towards the younger students.
There's a superb library that the children are encouraged to use. The art program is excellent as well. The male gym teacher towers over everyone and is loved by all.
Strong emphasis on critical discussion of events and history. Hebrew is taught at the intro through advanced levels. Jewish thought runs through the school, but you need not be Jewish to attend. Mainly, have a Jewish sense of humor.
Minuses: The lower classes haven't figured out how to teach arithmetic ... they've started ''Singapore Math'' which is drill- to-kill style of math teaching.
A weekly ''Second Step'' program is supposed to teach children how to relate to each other. My child says it's boring, stupid, and filled with psychobabble. The children pretty much recognize it as a politically-correct waste of an hour a week. I understand that other schools are doing the same thing, so this might not be just Tehiyah.
Tuition just jumped 9 percent (to about $15,000) because of the expensive gymnasium. The teachers didn't get a raise.
There's a bus that picks up around Albany and central Berkeley. Older students often take the AC Transit bus. But it is probably a difficult car commute from Oakland, although plenty of parents do it. A happy Tehiyah Parent
Re: Can't afford private school
I don't remember the original question, but I do want to support Tehiyah Day School. I have 3 children at the school and have been there for 8 years. One child is graduating this year. I volunteer in a class every week and have almost every year, so I see both the variety of teaching techniques as well as the broad range of children' abilities in the classroom. Unlike other schools, Tehiyah doesn't test in kids or have a very strict age cut-off. Tehiyah's written mission is ''committed to serving a diverse student body'' and that diversity is reflected in the classroom. The teacher's job is to reach all these kids. Depending on the range of abilities and the size of the class, the teacher can tailor the math curriculum to the class. Sometimes a child needs outside support and it is wonderful that parents have the resources to get them.
Two of my kids needed learning support and the staff and teachers could not have been more wonderful and helpful. There is a very good learning specialist on staff, who is fluent in Hebrew, a definite plus at Tehiyah. The school psychologist, Ken Benau, is bright, personable and very intuitive, as well as insightful. He steered us through some difficult learning issues and my children are now above grade level in all subjects and are flourishing. Most important, the teachers are absolutely on board in terms of recognizing and supporting learning differences. Steve Tabak, the head of Tehiyah, was my son's 7th grade math teacher and was both great in supporting my son, and in really getting the 7th grade mentality (and enjoying it!) He is a very gifted teacher, and as well, as 2 separate teachers told me, ''the best boss anyone could have.'' The teachers love him, morale is high and I see that most important the children seem very very happy. What you get at Tehiyah, that you cannot get at almost any other school, is a deep emergence into moral and spiritual issues, in action and in intellectual study. The school has made a big investment into teaching the children to respect each other and create a loving community from K-8 grades.
That said, no school can be everything to all people and certainly if any school is not meeting your needs, perhaps a change is needed. But I would caution parents in taking a single child's or parent's perception of any institution and consider it as applicable to all students or the entire institution. cb
My daughter began kindergarden at Tehiyah in September, and we are very pleased with the school. We are not Jewish, and I was initially concerned about my daughter not feeling included. The opposite has been true. Other than some interesting discussions about faith and Santa Claus, she has had no problems being a non- Jewish student. It has enabled her to widen her cultural context, think about her own beliefs and to really explore diversity. She is also the only Native American/ Chicana/ Irish kid I know who is learning to speak Hebrew! I am impressed with Tehiyah's committment to each, individual child; meeting them where they are. My daughter is truly thriving at this school. Erin
Kids do get a strong cultural sense of being Jewish and there is a nice community feeling. Holidays are really wonderfully done. The classes are small and most teachers are quite good. The Hebrew program is not a strong one and I don't think that anyone sends their child to Tehiyah for language acquisition. I think it's wonderful that they study another language but don't expect fluency! Music is also not its strongest point. But it is a warm, nurturing environment and the kids seem to really love it. Plus there are alot of wonderful teachers and parents as well. Anon.
How does Tehiyah compare to other private schools? Are you happy with your experience there? Is it diverse enough? Thanks for any input! Researching Schools
1. Tehiyah presents a stimulating Judaic education which honors diversity of practice; the Judaic studies teachers are wonderful, and children are speaking, reading and writing in Hebrew very early on...The best part of the program is the unmitigated joy the teachers bring to celebration and respect for Jewish study and heritage, all under the guidance of Rabbi Tsipi Gabai, a spectacular head of Jewish Studies. I spent the first six months of my son's kindergarten class crying at the morning prayer in the courtyard just watching the children gather and sing.
2. Tehiyah is as much a community of teachers, parents and students as it is a school, and there are dozens of ways for parents and children to participate. The Tehiyah Parents Organization is very active and welcoming, the school practices what it preaches about diversity and it's the kind of place where your child will feel recognized and very special.
3. Teachers stay at Tehiyah...and there are many teachers who have been there nearly 20 years...in fact, my son's kindergarten teacher opened the doors to the school as its first Judaic Studies teacher to 13 children in 1979. The morale among teachers is wonderful and it shows in the freedom and creativity they have with classroom programming. My son's class is now learning about disabilities in a unit developed by his teacher, also there for nearly 20 years, and he can't stop talking about the visiting speakers and their stories.
4. The community, with the help of an anonymous million dollar gift from a Tehiyah family, built a multipurpose gymnasium that has been used for everything from sports to school celebrations to its book fair and graduation and school play. The building includes a Bet Midrash for Torah services and Jewish studies, a kitchen, a beautiful music room and other multipurpose spaces that have transformed the school into a home away from home.
But the very best part of Tehiyah are its students who graduate and go on to the best public and private high schools and colleges, and who return (!) to visit all the time because it is a place they loved. My only regret is that Tehiyah does not extend through high school. I would be delighted to talk to anyone interested in Tehiyah and to answer questions...Tehiyah is truly a gift you can give your child. Helaine
Tehiyah delivers on it's promises and then some. Not only is it a warm and caring environment in which our son is learning and growing by leaps and bounds, but it is also a warm and spirited, not to mention, incredibly welcoming, community.
Though a number of schools could have worked for our son, Tehiyah was our #1 choice. Why? While this may sound cliche, Tehiyah really is a special and unique school. First, it offers a very rich experience of Jewish culture and education with an active recognition of the diversity that exists within the Jewish world. Tehiyah also provides a wonderful academic education . We chose Tehiyah because this is what is offers and offers so beautifully. I honestly didn’t realize how important it was to me for our son to have a Jewish education outside of what he was getting at home....until he came home singing Hebrew songs and unveiled the challah he made.
Second, Tehiyah is a real community. I discovered during our school search last year that we were choosing a school not only for our son but for our entire family (including our 2 1/2 year old). From the first day he started kindergarten, when the entire school welcomed the incoming kindergarteners, our son has felt included, cared for and received by the community and his teachers, as is true for our whole family. Tehiyah seems very committed to creating what to me feels like a healthy environment for children to develop real friendships. It seems that no one gets overlooked, which is important to me, given that my son’s classroom has 19 children.
Third, Tehiyah’s approach to kindergarten offers just the kind of balance between academic learning and play we were looking for, which means most of the learning at this age takes place through play. This will naturally change as he gets older. My son is learning so much through play, without pressure, at his own pace. One day he came home from his art class so excited by Eric Carle’s art-making techniques he learned that he whipped up a dozen amazing paintings in one sitting.
The kids at Tehiyah seem to love learning because learning is made lovable. Now what more can you ask for? Go see for yourself. Good luck on the journey to school. Miriam
Tehiyah is a GRRREAT! school. Diverse economically, religiously (yes, religiously), behaviorally. Supportive administration and parent population. Academics are very good to excellent--a lot of different learning styles are represented. There is an emphasis on kindness and inclusion. - Hard to satisfy parent
I am interested in sending my son to a Jewish day school. I am wondering what people thought of Oakland Hebrew Day school vs. Tehiyah Day School. If you have recommendations of either individually that is great or a comparison if you looked at both and choose one. I am also interested in knowing if a family who does not observe Shabbat would fit in at Oakland Hebrew Day School. Thank you for your help. -looking for a good Jewish education
I had an older child (now in private high school) who wasn't particularly happy socially at Tehiyah, but as he is socially awkward, he would have been miserable elsewhere. I felt that he was very protected at Tehiyah, emotionally/socially.
My younger son is delighted with Tehiyah and even protests staying home when he is sick.
There are non-Jewish and interfaith families at Tehiyah who are completely comfortable, there, as well. Finally, we have an up and coming basketball team, and a GREAT! new gy Impressed and Happy Mother of 2
Re: School for 3rd grader with Selective Mutism
You didn't ask about other schools so I will suggest a school that may (or may not) fit the bill for you. My child attends Tehiyah (and got into all of the other private schools, as well). I am struck by Tehiyah's willingness to take children who are all over the learning and behavioral spectrum; it's amazing, since a lot of schools seem to have their radar up for only ''easy'' children. Good luck
Re: Neighborhood Public School vs. Jewish Day School
I think that Tehiyah Day School is a very welcoming and warm place. It is blessed with incredibly talented and loving teachers, and an administration who is not above hearing parent/child input. What is also nice about Tehiyah, also, is that it pulls from the spectrum behaviorally and economically. The children, overall, seem very precocious, and the school seems to be able to ''service'' children with various learning disabilities, as well. A nice testimonial to the school's appeal/success is that non-Jews attend because it is a very special place. And, finally, from what I've seen of other schools, public and private, Tehiyah hits the middle of the homework spectrum--not too much and not too little. It is a very special place, and of the kids who graduated last year who applied to private high school, all got their 1st and/or second choice school. D.
I have found the teachers, with few exceptions, to be very committed and involved with the students, at all levels. The middle school core curriculum closely follows the state-defined framework. The school principal, Steve Taback, takes an active interest in the students and seems very accessible to me. The kids are expected to function at a very high level academically, but I do not get a sense from my step-kids or the teachers that strong and unproductive competition among the students is a problem. The Jewish studies curriculum is designed to meet the needs of kids who come from homes with a variety of religious observance and knowledge, although it probably doesn't meet the needs of every student. My stepchildren have all been happy at Tehiyah, and there seems to be great stability within the teaching faculty.
My major concern has to do with the limited opportunities the kids are afforded to meet kids of other backgrounds. Just about all the kids at Tehiyah are from middle to upper middle class backgrounds, Jewish, and most pretty liberal and/or progressive. I think it gives the kids a somewhat warped vision of the world, as would any educational environment in which most of the kids have a similar background.
Another concern is that most of the middle school kids go on to private high schools which perpetuate closely the same environment as Tehiyah, but my step-kids go on to Berkeley High School. My 16 year old stepson (10th grade) has found the adjustment process difficult and a bit frightening. Few of his Tehiyah classmates went on to B.H.S., and so he did not have much of a peer group to rely on, and really didn't know a lot of other Berkeley kids. For my stepdaughter (7th grade), I suggested that she be put in a regular Berkeley middle school, to ease the adjustment, but she is still at Tehiyah. She is not the same self-starter her older brother is, nor is she as strong a student, and I fear that she will be lost in the huge, multicultural, complex society of B.H.S. I believe parents should consider this situation before sending children to any small, private school with a fairly homogeneous population.
Despite my concerns, I highly recommend Tehiyah, and if my husband and I do have a child of our own, we would choose to send that child to Tehiyah, although I would be in favor of a public middle school if public high school is a likely outcome and we perceive that our child would have a difficult adjustment. Jane
In any event, you can't go wrong choosing Tehiyah Day School. There are many interfaith couples, and while the children get the Jewish culture, it is pretty secular. The non-Jewish parent is made to feel pretty welcome. Tehiyah is a safe environment for your child. Also, my daughter is at Stanford, so Tehiyah must have done something right. Sheila
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