AIM Preschool

Berkeley, CA

To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.

Type: 
Childcare Center, Preschool
DSS Facility License #: 
Owner: 
Ernest Mahr
510-868-1815
info [at] AIMmontessori.com
Location: 
Berkeley
94703
S. Berkeley
Maximum Capacity: 
117
Language(s) Spoken: 
Chinese, English, Japanese
Ages Served: 
18 months - 72 months
Hours: 
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

AIM Infant Community Feb 17, 2021 (0 responses below)
AIM Japanese Children's House Jan 18, 2021 (4 responses below)
  • AIM Infant Community

    (0 replies)

    Hi! I would love more information about the infant community at AIM. I have my son on the waitlist, mostly because I intended for him to go to Berkeley International Montessori when he's 2.5 years old. I lived in Japan/speak Japanese so I'm primarily interested in the Japanese program. What does the AIM infant community look like? Any experiences? He won't be 18 months until the fall but I'd love any preliminary information. Thanks!

  • AIM Japanese Children's House

    (4 replies)

    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!

    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!

Parent Reviews

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Hi there, we have two kids at AIM, who each started when they were three. It is a Montessori Mandarin-immersion program, so the classes are of mixed ages. Out of all of the schools we visited prior to choosing AIM, we found AIM to be the most academically rigorous, but with a nice balance of playtime and opportunities for social interaction with the other children. The children learn Traditional writing and reading, and their Mandarin speaking skills have become much more sophisticated when speaking at home. Only Mandarin is spoken throughout the day when the kids are at school, except for their music class, which is taught by an English speaker. In addition to learning how to read and write in Chinese, they learn how to write in cursive, geography, math, and a host of other daily life-type activities (laundry, cleaning, food prep, etc.). Speaking with parents who have  older children who graduated from AIM's preschool program, their kids found kindergarten/first grade to be a breeze. Though, with AIM being a Montessori school, kids are encouraged to stay for their kindergarten year.

The teachers are patient and kind, and really take care with the children. Also, the school's response during the COVID lock-down was amazing. They took every precaution to keep the entire AIM community safe, and once they reopened, were able to stay open with no outbreaks occurring. This is just to say that they put attention and care into all aspects of the school and community, and I believe that our children will be well-prepared for wherever they move onto afterward. Good luck with your search!

One school that you might want to add to your list is American International Montessori, if you're interested in either Chinese or Japanese language immersion (and Montessori, obviously). As you might expect, its student & teacher population is majority Asian. However there are no Black teachers and few (if any) Black students, which I can completely understand you seeking out. We do have a gender-diverse child at the preschool and have really appreciated the support we've seen from the teachers & school (and larger school community) on this type of diversity - so I'd give them general high marks for an inclusive atmosphere.

My daughter started in IC (Infant Community) at American International Montessori when she was 19 months. Now she is 5 years old and is going to their elementary program in September. As other parents comment, they potty train and offer a great immersion program in Japanese and Chinese. There is a long waitlist to get in but the good news is they are going to open a branch named Berkeley International Montessori in North Berkeley this September. Two of my daughter's amazing teachers will teach Japanese and English for children from 3 years old to 6 years old. AIM parent

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Jan 2014

Re: Good quality day care in North Berkeley
I would highly recommend The American International Montessori School. This school has amazing teachers! They also potty train and supply the kids with an excellent immersion program! Adrienne



Aug 2012

Re: 18 month old too young for Montessori?

My son is now 6 and he started in IC at 18 months when Ernie Mahr was still the director for PRINTS. For my son, the hardest part was being separated from us and he cried for a whole month before setting into a good routine. But he gained tremendously from being in a language immersion environment from such a young age. It really helped him when he transitioned to CH. He also got potty trained quickly.

Fast forward to this year, my daughter started at AIM in Jan when she turned two. I cannot say enough good things about the IC teachers at AIM. They are loving, patient, experienced and work hard with each individual child to help them learn good practical life habits. The office staff communicates well with parents to keep them informed about their kids, as well as what's going on at school.



Montessori can work well as early as 18 months, or even earlier. AIM's toddler community is a wonderful program: the classrooms are small, the teachers very caring and well trained, and the school's parent community is really nice and supportive. They help with potty training, too, and always have lots of good ideas on Montessori-based parenting. And, as a bonus, your child will also learn Japanese and Chinese!

We chose AIM for our family after visiting many Montessori schools in the area, and I am choosy, as I work for a group of Montessori schools in Orange County. At the OC schools, we offer Montessori programs starting as young as 3 months, and it's amazing what a difference a high-quality, educational program can make even for children this young. So I'd say, go for it (but make sure you get on the waitlist right away - a friend of mine was interested in AIM, but didn't waitlist immediately, and her child didn't get in as the school was full...)

I'd suggest bringing any of your questions straight to the AIM staff. They are so passionate about Montessori, and always willing to answer questions. Plus, once you join the school, you'll get lots of information at the regular parent education events, held about every 6 weeks throughout the school year. Heike - Montessori Mom



My daughter started at 17 months at AIM in Berkeley and she turned three a few months ago and is in their Children's House program. I would have preferred that she be home with me or my wife longer to be honest, but we both had to go back to work after taking leaves before that to stay with her. She cried on the first day but rarely after that, and was generally trying to drag us out the door each morning to go to school. She'd ask for school on weekends. She was potty trained before 2 and became fluent in Japanese and Mandarin unbelievably quickly. This is the time to teach languages Cb wait til six and it's already too late! Her mom speaks to her in Spanish and now she easily switches between her four languages! The teachers and director, Ernie Mahr, are very good about helping parents know what to do at home to encourage their child's independence, but there are also many good books out there about this. Nothing beats Montessori for a child-centered, nurturing environment, at 18 months or any other age. And AIM is the best Montessori program I have found in the Bay Area. AIM Fan



We started our son at AIM at 18 months. He went from being at home with a nanny full time, to being there until 330 pm. We also are not Chinese or Japanese so there was a complete language immersion as well. Given all of these facts our son is flourishing!!! He is now 26 months and He is potty trained, he listens to us and is much more self sufficient. He is also understanding basic mandarin and Japanese. We were skeptical in the beginning but turns out to be the best thing we could have done for him. Happy AIM parent



Putting our children in Montessori school at 18 months was the best decision we ever made. We are convinced their Montessori education has helped us avoid many of the behavioral / sleep / eating issues our friends are going through with their children. Our 2 year old just used the potty, washed her hands, and cleaned up some water on the floor without any prompting from us. We often get complements at restaurants on how well behaved our children are. When the children walk into a store, they instinctively put their hands behind their backs and stroll around until we let them know it is okay to touch! We cannot take credit for their good behavior, though, because we have only done exactly what AIM told us to do. AIM is an exceptional school. The facilities aren't exactly posh, but the money is on the field. The AIM staff is the best in the business. The teachers take their jobs very seriously, have angelic patience, and are frankly just good people. Even if AIM had no facilities and the teachers had to work with the children in an empty field, they would still offer the best developmental education in the East Bay (in my humble opinion).

Early on, AIM provided specific suggestions on how to Montessori-ize our house, and we did. We went to Cost Plus World Market and bought a bunch of cocktail utensils and small juice glasses for meals. We got small furniture from IKEA, including a table and chairs and a toy shelf, which we use to rotate out toys. We favor Melissa & Doug wooden toys and puzzles which can be put away in an orderly manner. We do not keep toys in the children's bedroom, which we think is why they go to sleep so easily. The children's beds are layered with sheets and absorbent pads which make middle-of-the-night sheet changes easy (you rip off the top sheet and pad and a dry layer is waiting underneath). We were given a toy cleaning set that includes a small broom and mop. Through clothing swaps/sales at AIM and other places, so we were able to build up a small collection of cotton training pants. Our bathrooms mimic the potty setup at AIM, including the trash cans, the hampers, and the Baby Bjorn potties. We have individual toddler-sized cubbies in the hallway for hanging jackets, hats, and putting away bags and shoes. It was a small investment, but completely worth it. The children respond well to the familiar objects and routine. AIM Parents


April 2011

Re: How is Montessori style Mandarin immersion

My son is currently at AIM in the infant community and has been there since September. I can't speak to the technical aspects of Montessori but can tell you my experience from the point of view from someone who didn't know a whole lot about it from the beginning.

My son went from a home based daycare with a lot of children primarily under the age of 2. When he arrived, they started teaching him to care for himself, including potty training him. I didn't understand how Montessori helped teach children to be self sufficient. But I saw how they helped him wash his hands. They guided his hand to the soap and showed him how to put his hand on top and push to release the soap. They never pushed it for him. When showing him how to pull up his pants, they guided his hands to his pants and put his hands around the waistline and showed him how to tug up on his pants. I try hard to let him do things by himself at home but am so glad that they are there to teach and challenge him.

I also looked at a preschool that had different classes for the children to attend and the children would shuffle from one room to another. In thinking about it, I am glad that the Montessori style allows children to spend a lot of time on something that interests them. When we have so many things where we can only spend a few minutes here or there, it's nice to encourage our children to get lost in what they enjoy without even knowing that they are learning. It is so nice to see children helping each other and learning from older ones.

I hope these brief examples provide some useful information that helps you from a non-technical perspective.

You didn't ask specifics about the school and the teachers, but that is the true key to the reason that I am so glad to have my son at AIM. They are truly caring and are excellent teachers. They create the environment and they are what makes it all successful. My son has thrived because of what they do and how they do it. Montessori is the tool that they use but they are the reason it works. I am sure that the other schools are very qualified--I can only speak to the fact that AIM has done a wonderful, wonderful job. a happy AIM parent


Hello! I realize that most parents probably say the school they chose for their children is the best one. I also realize that all children are different and so respond differently to various educational environments. But I also know it is nice to have candid advice on the various school options, so here is my opinion which you are welcome to take or leave.

My children are enrolled in American International Montessori (AIM) which we chose for them after reviewing all the options in the East Bay. We were immediately attracted to AIMC-s dual Mandarin and Japanese immersion starting at 18 months. Many other schools have a minimum enrollment age of 2 years. The dual language immersion was a huge plus for us C1 I see it as two languages for the price of one! If this were an academic paper, I could quote several studies that show children are quite capable of learning in two or more languages and doing so sharpens their cognitive skills at an early age. After only a few months at AIM, my children spoke Japanese, Mandarin, and English. They experienced no delays in language development (this is a common myth). Of course, they are toddlers and do not (yet) recite poetry in all three languages. But their vocabulary and sentence forming skills are roughly equal in all three languages and entirely appropriate for their age.

Montessori methods are really great for a lot of reasons. Again, I could quote studies, but you want to hear about our personal experience. My personal view is that Montessori believes your child is capable of much more than you might otherwise think. Our toddlers drink from real cups, feed themselves with utensils, dress themselves, use the potty, put on their shoes for outside play, and take off their shoes for inside play C1 all with little to no insistence from us. In fact, if we try to hurry them along by helping them, they balk and insist on doing things themselves. They clean up spills, wipe their mouths, wash their hands (with soap!), and load the dishwasher. They also entertain themselves, practice sharing, offer apologies, and exhibit generosity. All of this at two years old. We constantly receive praise from family members and strangers (even strangers on airplanes!) about how well behaved our children are.

I know that some critics of Montessori claim the environment is not fun, lacks social development, and is non-nurturing. I absolutely respect these opinions because as I said before, I believe all children (and all parents!) are different. Our experience, however, has been quite the opposite. Our children engage in creative, constructive, and athletic play at AIM and at home. They are also highly social with other children and adults. And most importantly, they are lavished with love and attention at AIM. If you need proof, simply stop by AIM and watch all the deliriously happy children running around during afternoon yard time. Good Luck!


 

Feedback on American Int'l Montessori Infant Program

Feb 2011

i would like to get more feedback from parents who have their children enrolled in the infant community [which is for children ages 18 - 36 months] of American International Montessori program. Would you recommend the program, and address the level of infant/parent community, well-being, and nurture that's provided within it? any important considerations you think parents should know about? many thanks!


While I can't comment on the AIM Infant Community (our child attends the Children's House program (3-6 year olds)), I have been impressed with the school overall.

The administration is very knowledgeable about Montessori (Ernest Mahr, the director, teaches other Montessori teachers at St. Mary's, I believe, and has years of experience in the classroom.) They are also super friendly and provide GREAT customer service, which I have found to be a rarity in schools. It's a new school, so there are occasional challenges - but the director sincerely invites feedback, listens to parents, and eagerly makes changes based on our suggestions, such as implementing a drive-by drop-off (so convenient!)

The AIM parent community is very engaged (they recently started a PTA, and have an active Yahoo! Group), and very welcoming. Many families are of Asian or mixed ethnicity, due to the Chinese/Japanese immersion approach, and the parent group is very inclusive, with a mix of all kinds of backgrounds (adopted children, single parents, mixed-race families, a range of economic backgrounds, a handful of Caucasian families...) We enjoy being around the other AIM parents and children, whether at the well-attended school functions, such as the regular parent education evenings, or at birthday parties and play dates. A satisfied AIM parent


My daughter has been attending the infant community at AIM since last September and I couldn't be happier with this program. The teachers create a truly nurturing Montessori environment where the children are inspired to become independent learners. The prepared environment is properly designed for the needs of infants and the teacher are very observant about the needs and readiness of the children. The teachers are usually busy but you can set up appointments to meet with them and also to observe in the classrooms. This is anew school but there is a lot of community building going on and a group of parents started a PTA recently. If you are not familiar with the Montessori method I suggest that you educate yourself first because it works best when what happens at home mirrors the philosophy. Happy AIM Parent



While I can't comment on the AIM Infant Community (our child attends the Children's House program (3-6 year olds)), I have been impressed with the school overall.

The administration is very knowledgeable about Montessori (Ernest Mahr, the director, teaches other Montessori teachers at St. Mary's, I believe, and has years of experience in the classroom.) They are also super friendly and provide GREAT customer service, which I have found to be a rarity in schools. It's a new school, so there are occasional challenges - but the director sincerely invites feedback, listens to parents, and eagerly makes changes based on our suggestions, such as implementing a drive-by drop-off (so convenient!)

The AIM parent community is very engaged (they recently started a PTA, and have an active Yahoo! Group), and very welcoming. Many families are of Asian or mixed ethnicity, due to the Chinese/Japanese immersion approach, and the parent group is very inclusive, with a mix of all kinds of backgrounds (adopted children, single parents, mixed-race families, a range of economic backgrounds, a handful of Caucasian families...) We enjoy being around the other AIM parents and children, whether at the well-attended school functions, such as the regular parent education evenings, or at birthday parties and play dates. A satisfied AIM parent



My daughter has been attending the infant community at AIM since last September and I couldn't be happier with this program. The teachers create a truly nurturing Montessori environment where the children are inspired to become independent learners. The prepared environment is properly designed for the needs of infants and the teacher are very observant about the needs and readiness of the children. The teachers are usually busy but you can set up appointments to meet with them and also to observe in the classrooms. This is anew school but there is a lot of community building going on and a group of parents started a PTA recently. If you are not familiar with the Montessori method I suggest that you educate yourself first because it works best when what happens at home mirrors the philosophy. Happy AIM Parent



We just started sending our son to AIM in September and love it!!!! My son is in the Infant Community. He has wonderful teachers and has learned to comprehend Mandarin and Japanese. He has been taught so many valuable skills. I am so happy with our choice. I feel really lucky to have my son at AIM and can not imagine having him at another school. Good Luck -Adrian



My son started at AIM in Sept. just after turning 2. There was some transition after being at a daycare but I see a lot of changes in him. At school, I see that he is capable of controlling himself and that he carefully wipes his mouth and nose and will sit quietly and finish a snack even when he sees that I have come to pick him up. His English is improving dramatically (I think he was a bit behind in speaking) even though they don't speak English there. They also potty trained him and had after school training sessions for parents to help us understand the role we play. One teacher told us that getting them to sleep through the night without wetting the bed was more about whether the parents were ready to deal with it than the children. After accomplishing that, I see exactly what she meant. There was no pressure and they were telling us that to support us and hint that we would need to find a time that was appropriate for us and our son. AIM has also used technology to create ways to communicate and has hosted social events. They are very open to suggestion and are very happy to hear ideas. I know nothing else, but am so impressed with how I see my son progressing and how hard the staff work to be available to parents and create a good, healthy environment. -Happy AIM parents and son



Nov 2010

Re: Wanted - Nurturing, high-quality preschool
I would strongly recommend America International Montessori School. I did a lot of research on schools this past summer and this school past with flying colors! I was looking for great teachers, a great facility, and commitment to diversity/language immersion. The director is awesome and very knowledgeable on early childhood developmentally appropriate practices. We love this school! ajs