Growing Light Montessori Oakland or Rockridge Montessori

Hello! I am looking for feedback on Growing Light Montessori. My child is currently at Rockridge Montessori School. My eldest went to RMS and we had a great experience, but for whatever reason, it's not working for our youngest and we're looking to for a change. Our youngest doesn't seem to enjoy his time there and seems to developed almost an aversion to learning versus a love. We want him to be very well prepared for Kindergarten and to be in a kind and loving environment. I looked into Growing Light because a neighbor really liked it there, but I want to make sure I get more than one opinion before I make the leap.

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We are at RMS which has been fine for us but every kid is different! A friend had two kids at Growing Light and after her first kid moved on she moved the second to Duck’s Nest. She said she felt her second child needs more social and play based learning and GL didn’t do as well for her.

We had a wonderful experience at Berkeley Little School. The school just opened last year so the facility is brand new, spacious and clean. My daughter loved all of her teachers and her happiness made the drive to Berkeley worth it. They're affiliated with Rockridge Little School. I know RLS doesn't have the greatest reviews, but Erika the director at Berkeley Little School is awesome and competent so we always felt like we were in good hands. 

We were at Growing Light Oakland for 2 years -- we really like site director Hyejin (currently on sabbatical until October) and co-director Awa. Both are excellent. We felt certain classroom teachers could be hit or miss but this is probably typical of any school; we looooved some teachers (so did our kid) whereas there was one who was not as friendly or welcoming and our child even described her as "mean" (I don't think she was trying to be mean, but she barely spoke to parents in the morning even when we tried to say hi).

Overall, how we'd summarize our experience:

Pros: Fostered independence in our child, lots of freedom and opportunities for self-expression and play, but we worried that there wasn't as much behavioral supervision as might be needed. I also appreciated their Covid policy and mask wearing (they followed OUSD guidelines) and they were very transparent and fair about Covid exposures and when kids could come back to school. We also felt that the academics were very strong and our child's learning was the least of our worries (we were constantly surprised by the new things they shared when they came home)!

Cons: A little too free-for-all at times, which honestly put our child at a disadvantage. This was also the first childcare situation we experienced where there were almost no photos or specific communication on what our child was doing or learning on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Perhaps because we joined during Covid where dropoffs and pickups happen exclusively outside, it felt even more unclear about what was going on inside the classroom, so we felt very much in the dark except for the twice a year parent-teacher conferences, which we appreciated having. One note is that except for age 2 kids, the 3 & 4 year olds are in a mixed classroom; my understanding is it reflects the Montessori philosophy of allowing one to be both a beginner and a teacher of the same material. (We only learned our child was in a mixed age classroom midway through the year however... so while sitewide communication is good, somehow we consistently seemed to miss classroom specific info.)

Frankly, we joined GLMS because it was conveniently located and seemed reputable and like a trustworthy place; the parent community is also great and there are various programs and opportunities to get more involved, we weren't tied to the Montessori approach necessarily. Our child is thriving in their new school as well but it was a unique opportunity that opened up at another preschool that led us to leave. We have very positive memories from GLMS but depending on your child's personality, I can see different school environments being better suited to certain children more than others.

I don't want our review to seem too negative though; again, we would've stayed had this other opportunity not fallen into our lap. It's a very well-run school with teachers and staff who genuinely care, and that was evidenced multiple times throughout the past few years we were part of the GLMS community. Room for improvement would be classroom specific communications and maybe keeping a little closer eye on the kids during their outside time.

Hi there, mom of 3, we have some experience with both RMS and Growing Light. Our middle child started at Growing Light in August 2020 and was there for 2 years prior to Kindergarten (now at Head-Royce in Oakland). Prior to that he had been at a Bright Horizons in SF (age 3 months to 3 years) then was at GLMS from age 3-5. We absolutely loved Growing Light - teacher Awa was his main teacher, followed by Rebecca in the Wizards. Teacher Awa literally taught our son to write and read - he was fully prepared for Kindergarten and is thriving this fall. To us it seemed like GLMS had a good mix of structured time (reading, writing numbers/letters) and free time. It might be that our son just is sort of an easier kid but he really loved it there. Every teacher was very loving and caring and we really fell in love with the school. I should note this was a less convenient option for us - not super close to where we live and not close to where I work but I really thought it was the best school for our son so we made it work.

Our younger daughter (age 1) is at RMS - this is mainly b/c it is very close to where I work and it starts at age 1. We have had a pretty good experience so far, she seems happy and well cared for. The infant teachers are very loving. However, because our experience at Growing Light was SO good and our middle child was SO prepared for Kindergarten, we will plan to move her to Growing Light in approximately one year. We have friends who used Growing Light and others who used RMS, both with kids who were really prepared for Kindergarten for what its worth. I don't think you would go wrong, but it may not hurt to tour GLMS, talk to Awa and HyeJin. We just loved it there and that is the reason we will likely have our youngest move over there when she is able.

Happy to chat more if it would help!