AIM Japanese Children's House

Hello, I've been keen to send my daughter to American International Montessori (AIM). The location works for us and I really want a language immersion program. At AIM, she would learn Japanese and be in a Montessori environment. I visited the school once (before COVID) and have studied their website. My daughter is exuberant, energetic, loves music, dancing, and dress-up. I would like to hear from other parents about their take on the AIM preschool program. Do they have much outdoor time? Is there lots of creative play? The website tends to emphasize the curriculum such a language acquisition but I'm wondering about the other parts like fun and friendship. Thanks!

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RE: AIM Japanese Children's House ()

In general, I think you will find AIM to be a fun place for your daughter, but with more emphasis on academics and language development than other preschools.

My son has been in the Japanese Children's House program for about 1.5 years.  As you probably know, the CH program is for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, including the Kindergarten year for 5-year-olds.  My son started with the 3s and is now 4, so he's gone from being the new kid to being one of the kids with more experience compared to the young kids.  Some kids come out of AIM's Infant Community, so for them it's probably not as big a transition when moving up to CH, but my son did not go for IC.

Obviously my son's experience at AIM was massively disrupted by the pandemic.  We had six months (I think... it seemed to drag on for years) of online-only class.  Thankfully they're now back in school in person, though for a reduced schedule.  But a lot had to change about the program, including breaking the class into 3 (and now just 2) different cohorts.  They spend more time outdoors now, just because that's safer for virus transmission.  So I think there's less time spent doing Montessori learning activities than before, and less collaboration between the students.  And more time spent playing outside.  I don't think it's a huge difference, but a little bit of a difference.

I can compare AIM to my son's previous preschool, which my daughter also attended, Blue Skies for Children.  Which had a play-based curriculum.  Like LOTS of playtime.  Like that's all they did.  And the kids loved it.  Compared to that, AIM is much more academic.  They're teaching the kids reading and writing in Japanese AND in English.  They teach them English using cursive writing, which I think is a bad idea, but that's the Montessori technique.  What you have to keep in mind is that the CH program is supposed to cover everything kids are supposed to learn in Kindergarten, which is typically (like in my daughter's OUSD school) much more academically focused than preschool.  So AIM is doing academic stuff for all the kids in CH.  It's not like when they turn 5 they suddenly have to start doing Kindergarten work.  It's all integrated into one curriculum.  But it's all student-led, so the kids (based on my understanding, and I haven't been able to observe as much as I would like) pick the Montessori work they're interested in, and which is developmentally appropriate for them, with guidance from the teachers.  So even when I say "it's more academic," I don't think the kids think of it as being academically focused.  They just think the Montessori learning activities are what everybody does for fun at school.

At Blue Skies there was a big box of dress-up clothes that the kids could dive into anytime.  There is no dress-up at AIM.  They had music classes, but it's been canceled since the pandemic.  And they are strict about a lot of their rules, including for parents.

Still, I think that kids will always find a way to have fun and play and make friends.  My son has another boy who's similar in age and similar in Japanese-language ability (on the low side, compared to some of the semi-fluent kids) and the two boys are best friends and love to play together, in and out of school.

RE: AIM Japanese Children's House ()

I currently have two children in the Chinese Childrens House, and they were there pre-Covid. We really love the school, the teachers, and the community of families. Not only do the kids get a true Montessori education, and learning in their target language, but there is definitely plenty of outdoor play time, and opportunity for interactions with friends. When not in the throes of a pandemic, the big event every year is the spring concert, where all of the children learn songs and movements, and perform in a local concert hall or theater. The kids learn songs year-round, as well, with some songs being used for the concert. Both JCH and CCH also do a winter concert on campus, in each classroom. My kids really love this part of school! We speak Mandarin at home, but being in a language immersion program has vastly improved their speaking skills, and now they are learning reading and writing, as well.

Our family is also very pleased with the way AIM has handled the pandemic, and they have made safety their highest priority this last year, without sacrificing the sense of community or learning standards. I highly recommend the school. Good luck with your decision!

RE: AIM Japanese Children's House ()

Both of my children went to AIM for IC and JCH and while their experiences were very different, I have a deep love for the school. (the older child now attends a public school in the OUSD system, the younger child currently attends AIM in the elementary program)

AIM is pretty hardcore Montessori so the kids in the IC and CH classrooms have a real focus on practical life skills and fairly rigorous academics.  The practical life skills are fantastic things to acquire--it was always surprising to me to see how well things operated in the classroom.  You'd think that with 30 kids aged 3-5, all doing different activities in the same space, there would be constant chaos but all my visits to the classroom showed me how capable 3, 4, and 5 year olds can be at cleaning up their own messes, washing hands, returning work materials to their proper places, waiting their turn to have their teachers' attention, etc. Truly astounding! 

A lot of the materials and activities are academic in nature but I don't think either of my kids were ever bored or bothered by this.  There are plenty of art activities sprinkled throughout the year, many based on holidays both Japanese and American. The work that the students choose to do is based on age appropriateness and choice so they do get to exercise their freedom of choice which goes a long way in helping them learn independence and self-confidence.  So, not a ton of creative play during the "work time" but there is a fun weekly music program and a couple of the JCH teachers are good musicians/singers so there's a good amount of singing and dancing that happens in the classroom. 

Outdoor time--with my older child, I think he would have liked more of this, but there seemed to be an adequate amount for my younger.  With Covid restrictions, I believe they are enjoying more time outside when the weather cooperates.  There's a great gardening program (might be more of an Elementary thing now) but pre-Covid, the gardening teacher would often take the CH kids out for gardening time and they could harvest fruits and veggies, or plant stuff in the boxes, or collect eggs from the chickens.

Both kids made very good friends in the CH classroom and playdates are very common.  Sometimes room parents would coordinate class playdates as well, which was always a good way to get to know other families.

Also, it may be important to note that the school has had a very thorough and responsible response to Covid.  The re-opening took months of planning and I feel that the headmaster and administrators did a very good job ensuring that they did it correctly.  Everyone who works at AIM is fantastic and they've definitely earned my trust and respect.  Highly recommend!

RE: AIM Japanese Children's House ()

Thanks so much for sharing this information about AIM. It's very helpful in imagining what it would be like for our daughter to start  in their program. I should have mentioned that we're thrilled with the idea of language immersion. I studied Japanese in college but we don't speak Japanese at home. She'll be a zero-start learner. Perhaps this will also make AIM more challenging for her.