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- This school closed in June 2015 per Naome Dragstedt
I'm posting to let folks know about our fantastic preschool in Montclair, Applegarden Montessori. It's a warm, nurturing, small montessori school for kids 2 years 9 month through 6. They offer 1/2 day or full day programs and even have an afternoon only half day program that's great for avoiding that morning rush.
What we love:
Experienced, gentle, professional teachers Beautiful, wholesome, thoughtful school environment and materials Lovely garden with sand box, play structure, play house, trike track, picnic tables Some structure (circle time, lunch time) with a long open ''work period'' where kids can tackle the projects they find most interesting. Great parent community with parent workshops and opportunities for parents to participate in the school
It's a really special place. Happy Applegarden Parent
My daughter has attended Applegarden for almost 3 years and we are huge fans. The school itself is a beautiful cottage nestled in the redwoods with ample outside space for the kids to burn off energy. There's a large picnic table where they gather to eat lunch, read books and do art projects. There's a climbing structure, monkey bars, climbing frame with ample room to run around which the kids love. It's quiet and cute. There's a gorgeous playhouse. There's fruit trees which provide shade in the summer, vegetables growing and flowers and a 'peace garden' for when the kids want a bit of space and quiet. There's a race track for trikes, a water table and a whole area for painting outside.
The Montessori approach has worked so well for us. My initial concern was that it would be rigid and disciplined but it doesn't dampen a child's sense of play. Far from it. The approach teaches kids to focus and how to learn. It teaches self-control and respect for others. For example, when the kids are inside and working in groups or individually on their crafts or puzzles, there's another group preparing snacks in the kitchen who then walk around to the other kids and serve them a little snack.
The school is beautifully organized and maintained. The activities are changed out every few months so the kids are exposed to new things all the time. There are teacher conferences each semester which introduce parents to the Montessori approach as well as tell us what out kids will be learning that semester, so we can encourage supplemental learning at home. The teachers are responsive to the children and any issues which have come up for us have been dealt with quickly and with kindness. It's a really loving place. We couldn't be happier and my 2nd child will also attend and we're looking forward to providing him that opportunity. Jo
I'm seriously considering the Applegarden's morning program for my 3-year-old son this Fall. Initially, I was set on a play-based program, but my observation at Applegarden and several other Montessori schools has convinced me otherwise. I'd love to hear about any recent experiences (positive/negative) at the Applegarden. Specifically, I'm nervous about sending my son for 5 full mornings, as this is his first experience away from home. Also, I'm convinced my son will get an excellent foundation, but will he have FUN at the Applegarden? Thanks! Nervous about preschool
Applegarden has been a wonderful school for our now 4 year old son. He started when he was just under 3. Like you, I was a little apprehensive about his transition to 5 days a week especially because he was on the young side and I was due to deliver his little brother the week he started school. The school did a great job helping him (and us!) with the transition. I really think going 5 days a week was not too much for him - full day would have been I think, but half day was fine. This year he has been staying till 1:30 one day a week for extra art and that's his favorite day of the week. As far as whether school is ''fun'' for him I would say definitely yes. Perhaps you are concerned by the designation of ''worktime'' for the kids. Alot of these ''works'' or activities may seem like chores to adults (practicing cutting fruit to serve others, trimming back the hedges with little scissors, sweeping)and therefore not very ''fun''. But remember,kids LOVE to do grown up things and Montessori fosters such independence and pride in the little ones when they can do things grown ups can do. There is also plenty of unstructured run around time outside. My son is quite a goofball and the school has done nothing to squelch that. Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions or concerns. j.
Our family has mixed feelings about Applegarden. For 2 years, we had our daughter in the morning program of this school. For us, the transition from staying with mom all day to pre-school life was quite difficult. It took a commitment of almost 3 weeks before our daughter could stay alone in school all morning. Since I did not work, I had the luxury of taking the time and phasing myself out a little more every day. During the first week, I effectively was in school all morning, observing our daughter from a corner of the room as she was getting accustomed to the school routine. I felt bad for those parents who had to go to work and could not invest the time. A little more pro-active approach on the part of the school may have been helpful. Applegarden's philosophy is to avoid traumatizing the child during the separation phase. That's a sensible strategy but I would have wished for some upfront coaching in terms of the needed time investment.
Our first year at Applegarden was generally a success. Our daughter had a great mix of teachers and made friends quickly. Also in the first year, she still received the benefit of highly individual attention on the part of her teachers as they were getting her used to the school routine.
But by the second year, the magic was gone for us. The mix of morning teachers changed. Our daughter did not care for one of the teachers in particular, who was more strict and academic than we had hoped for in this pre-school setting. Since our child is very playful and developmentally not at the top of the class, we felt she received less attention. Also, the head morning teacher seemed less engaged with our daughter than she had been the previous year. We felt quite pressured to stay for a third year, but we are very glad that we did not put our daughter in the kindergroup rather than move on to kindergarten. She is thriving at her new school (where imaginative play is still part of the K-class curriculum). I am now wondering if she would have benefitted from switching to a different pre-school in her second year.
Applegarden exudes a cozy environment and with the right teacher mix, can be a great pre-school. In retrospect, the afternoon class and its head teacher may have been a better fit for our child. Anon
I wanted to reply in response to the request for feedback regarding Applegarden school. We had an amazingly postive experience there and feel this school is a real gem. Our daughter went to Applegarden 5 days a week from age 4 for two years, and our younger daughter went fulltime to summerschool upon just turning 2 yrs, until we moved that fall. We loved Applegarden for both our girls. Our first daughter had been in a play-based preschool that just overall stressed her out from the lack of structure and the relatively high staff turnover. She thrived with the gentle structure at Applegarden, which has lots of time for imaginative and active play, in my opinion. She found the 'works' to be like play as far as she was concerned, as they frequently center around drawing, animals, building...hey, that's play to them! My younger daughter is a rough and bold girl, and she also thrived in this environment. Every child is different, but attending 5 days a week is probably less confusing for most; this is what we did. We found that our kids frequently did not want to leave Applegarden when we came to pick them up! The teachers are warm and loving and the level of education a Montessori teacher (and Director) has compared to my two other prior preschool experiences in my opinion brought a huge increase in the overall professionalism of the school in all areas (I found this to be true for other Montessoris since we've moved). My oldest attended the Kindergroup program at Applegarden and now is reading at the top of her first grade class, and is very well socialized. My kids and I have fond memories of Applegarden, which prepared them well socially and emotionally, as well as academically, and, yes, they had fun there! Tricia
I've read a lot of praise for Applegarden Montessori preschool in Montclair, and I admire it's thoughtful and well-organized curriculum and physical environment, but I do have reservations about how... well... reserved it seems. When I visited, there was a quiet earnestness in the air rather than the giggling and robust talking and bits of jostling I expected in a preschool. The quiet, ''work''-oriented atmosphere seemed a little tense to me, even though the kids seemed fairly content and engaged. The kids would get self-conscious when talking in the hushed environment and I found myself wondering if the school were ''warm'' enough to meet the needs of me and my daughter. Anyway, I'd be curious to hear from those who like Applegarden as well as those who looked into it or tried it and decided it wasn't for their family. I can see how this beautifully structured atmosphere and approach could end up being *truly* suppotive and wonderful, but I do have some concerns about it based on those first impressions. mom of 2 year old girl
You made some good observations about Applegarden. What you saw in the work period is what they are trying to achieve in that the class is mostly quiet, students doing their works, and the class running smoothly. This is the way that a Montessori class should look like. With that said remember that the students are in this work period for about 2 hours out of a 4 1/2 hour morning session. If you are really concerned about the ability to be silly I would recommend doing an observation during the time that they are outside or during lunch. The students are learning to be disciplined and controlled when that is appropriate. It is actually amazing to me to see my very active, get into everything boys sit and work like they do at school. They love the school and want to be there longer. Of course, with that discipline does come rules and guidance that might not be the right environment for everyone. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or want a more detailed information.
Re: Looking for a preschool with an afternoon session
I want to recommend Applegarden Montessori for a great afternoon program. The afternoon is from 1:30 to 4:30 with the possibility to join an art class from 1 to 1:30 and aftercare until 6. Applegarden is a great little school. I have 2 sons(5yo & 3yo) that currently attend the morning session, though my older son started in the afternoon and was there all day 2 days a week last year. He asks me every week when he can stay all day again (that is the best indicator for me that it is a good school). The teachers are all very good at knowing the kids and helping them to be the best individuals they can be while learning about the world, nature, science, math, and reading. Good luck in finding a good fit for you. tmc
I'm considering Applegarden Montessori Preschool for my daughter and would like to hear from current or alumni parents about their experience there, both positive and negative. I am also curious to find out from the full-time working parents what they have done for childcare during the month of August when the school is closed. Thanks so much in advance for your comments. Anon
I have 2 children that attended Applegarden from 3.5-5 years of age. I selected this pre=school because it took place in a house and was small compared to other pre-schools and Montessori schools I visited. I also selected this school because it follows the Maria Montessori method of teaching (as opposed to some where it uses the name but does not use the actual method of teaching). one feature that helped my children learn to read, was the use of phoenetics that they used at Applegarden. The place is clean and runs like clockwork. The only 2 drawbacks about the schooll is the small yard which inhibits the amount of running space for active little ones, and there aren't supplemental teachings provided-such as teaching music (Kodaly, Suzuki, Orff), and art (ceramics, making sculptures, different mediums of art). We were very happy with the teachers and the school. during August, I enrolled the children in Montclair rec center and they made lots of friends there too. alumni parent
Our son has attended Applegarden for two years now, he goes full time as both parents work. I can't write enough how the Montessori philosophy has created in him such a desire and curiosity to learn. Now he is one of the oldest kids at Applegarden (he'll be 6 in October) and being one of the oldest, he has taken on the ''responsibility'' of welcoming the younger kids, showing and teaching them things, providing guidance, etc. Having delayed his admittance to Kindergarden, he is learning to read and develop his math skills - as well as science (they disected a tulip bulb), studied the human skeleton, studied the craters on the moon, etc. For the month of August our son attended a Mandarin Chinese camp for 3 weeks - the Chinese Cultural Education Association at the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church on Lakeshore Avenue. He loved it there and looks forward to going again this year. Tonia
Re: Preschools with Male Teachers
Applegarden Montessori in Montclair has a male teacher in the afternoon class. Dennis changed professions to become a preschool teacher and it shows that this is what he wants to do. tmc
I'd love to get some feedback on Applegarden Montessori School in Oakland. Positive and Negative. Particularly the afternoon program. What is the the environment and outdoor play space like? We're not in town to see the school at the moment. Thank you! Kelle
This information may be 20 years out-of-date, but I had a very positive experience attending Applegarden as a preschooler. The teachers have stayed in touch and have a very strong alumni community. I was free to do the activities that I wanted, and have memories of a very tidy, organized system, which I now know is in keeping with the Montessori method. If Montessori is the way you want to go, you found a great school. I have since become an avid follower of the waldorf education system, but remember my preschool days (the only time I was not in a waldorf school) fondly. Lyssa
We had the pleasure of using the Applegarden school on Thornhill in Oakland about 8 years ago for two years and it was wonderful. Good people then and seems I have heard good things since. It was a safe environment with good mixture of age groups and interaction. Tom
We consider enrolling our soon-to-be 3 year old girl at Applegarden Preschool in Montclair. Does anyone have feedback about the school and its teachers? How would you rate the curriculum in terms of its rigor and Montessori program aspects? Our girl has never been to a preschool before and she is quite shy. We are considering Applegarden because we heard that it has a very warm, nurturing atmosphere. Thanks for any feedback about Applegarden! BMM
My oldest son went to Applegarden for two years. We only left because we moved out of the area. Applegarden offered him a wonderful social and educational experience, he loved going to school. He now is 6 years old and still asks to go back to Applegarden. We have had experiences with two other schools now and didn't realize how lucky we were to have started with Applegarden.
I can't seem to find anything about Applegarden Montessori on the BPN - it's not even listed in the Alpha Listing of Preschools. Can anyone tell me anything about it - good, bad. Thank you for sharing your experience Anon.
Having previously been one of the unanswered posts the moderator mentions, I'd like to take the opportunity to finally put Applegarden on the record! Earlier this year I looked into 30 preschools, visiting a dozen of them formally. We chose Applegarden and couldn't be happier. It is classic Montessori (i.e, a quiet, structured environment - if you like chaotic, this is not for you) which I have become convinced is what kids this age thrive on. The staff is highly qualified (my sons's teachers all have degrees from Berkeley, Mills etc, and the school's Director is a PhD in pschology) and infinitely patient. I also especially like the physical facility (in a cute little house with apple tress in the yard) and small size (only one class). I feel good about bringing my child here every day, and he not only enjoys it but is already showing signs of growth, independence and learning Linda
I adore Applegarden Montessori school. It is a rare and special school. The teachers are warm and creative, the school is extremely well run, and my son really thrived there. I looked at a lot of preschools and will forever be grateful that I found Applegarden. Susan