Growing Light Montessori KensingtonCommunity Subscriber
To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.
I highly recommend Growing Light Montessori. There is one in Kensington and one in Oakland. My child with special needs who needs a lot of support went to the one in Kensington and absolutely loved it. The owner is an amazing lady who truly understands what it takes to create an environment where every child is cherished and thrives. And the teachers went out of their way to make sure my child's needs were met. Most of all, it is a place where I feel confident to say that they truly put the children's best interests first (not every school does that).
Our daughter has spent two years at Growing Light, and we feel truly lucky to have found it. What stands out most about it are the wonderful teachers—so dedicated to their time with the kids and to their roles as guides to ease kids into education. They create a warm, homey environment and flow to the day, and a real community both in and outside of the classroom. My daughter made some great friends at age two in the toddler class, and now at age four in the preschool class, those friendships continue to evolve. There is no pressure to learn, but lots of opportunities to do so. A ton of effort is put into rotating classroom materials, which the kids can feel free to explore at their own pace, either solo or with friends. They have the freedom to play and pretend and invent, with a grounding routine to the day and emphasis on contributing to the group. A great school!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I'm considering sending my child to the Growing Light Montessori in Kensington. I'd
really love to hear any recent reviews about the school. Do you think there is enough
imaginative play? Outdoor play? I know strict Montessori's have a lot of quiet
individual activity time, is there a sufficient amount of group activities? And what
do you think of the afternoon program? And for recent graduates, was the transition to
kindergarten or 1st grade easy as far as academics and social maturity?
I am also curious as to which elementary school most of the kids go to, I would assume Hilltop? I've found the reviews here to be so helpful so thanks in advance for your response!
Our 3 kids have attended Growing Light Montessori School (GLMS) in Kensington (2 are there now). and we've been very happy there. Several of the teachers have been
recognized for excellence. It's set up well for families with working parents (kids
can attend from 8-6, although most younger kids don't spend that long there). There's
plenty of yard time, a great community of parents, many of whom send multiple kids
there like we have, so there's some continuity over the years. Most of the kids come
from the neighborhood (Kensington/El Cerrito), but some come from farther away. The
afternoon program is relatively unstructured but the teachers are experienced and
great with kids. Our older son was well ahead of many of his classmates when he
entered kindergarten at Hilltop - per the Montessori philosophy, there's no pressure
to read or write, but kids who are ready to do so get lots of opportunities and
reinforcement. Kensington Hilltop is probably the school that's attended by more GLMS graduates than any other, just because it's the closest - about 4 out of 24 kids in our son's kindergarten class came with him from GLMS, which helped to make the
transition a gentle one (since our son has an August birthday, he was on the young
side for his class).
Wonderful school! Our son started GLMS when he was 2 years old, about 3 months ago and has been doing great there. I'm amazed by how independent he has become i.e always trying to put his own shoes/socks on, tries to dress himself etc. He adapted very quickly to the school and talks about his new friends and teachers incessantly. He is always bringing home new art projects and telling me about all the activities ''jobs'' he gets to do- including music time with various instruments, and soccer shots. The school has a very small and warm feel to it. I already feel like we are part of such a great community. Also- Great playground with a lot of outdoor times.
Re: Bright Star (or other Montessori) for May
Hi- Welcome to the East Bay! We were in your shoes about three years ago. I'd like to recommend Growing Light Montessori School. My older kid transitioned there from his SF Montessori school and now my three year old is in the toddler room. Although it is in Kensington, that's not too far from Albany. Check it out. Montessori Mama
Re: Recently moved and no space in preschool!
HI, we had both our kids at Growing Light Montessori when they were 2.5 until Kindergarten and we loved it. If you haven't checked there for availability, we'd recommend it. It is a Montessori school without being ''too'' Montessori. http://www.growinglight.net/enrollment/kensington-application/ It is in the church across from Kens Library and there are several schools that lease space there. Good luck! Luisa
I wanted to share the amazing experience that I had with Growing Light Montessori School of Kensington. All three of my children graduated from the program not only ready for elementary school but ready to be amazing citizens of the world. The way the teachers implement the Montessori Curriculum is very holistic and true to the philosophy. The kind teachers set examples for the children of how to treat others and solve problems in a powerful way. Many of the teachers have been teaching at the school for more than 10 years some even close to 20. My children learned the basics and were ahead of their peers. They weren't pressured, only inspired to learn and discover new ideas and concepts.
The best thing we got from the school was the community. My kids have all remained friends with their classmates from preschool. As a parent, I made great relationships too and I still see many of the other parents and even the teachers. We loved our experience and highly recommend this school to everyone. They have now added an early elementary program which is great for kids who are not able to attend Kindergarten due to the new age requirements. If you have any questions or want a tour just call Surya. 510-527-1278. She is wonderful . Margaret
I am looking for more recent comments on Growing Light Montessori in Kensington. The last posting was in 2009. anon
Our daughter has been at Growing Light for about 6 months and we are VERY pleased with the school and program. The school is VERY well run and organized. Teachers are excellent with the kids, accessible to parents and seem to be on top of everything. The schedule offers a good balance between Montessori work time, free play time outside and optional classes like cooking, creative movement and science. We have no complaints and would recommend without reservation. Mary
Re: Year-round all day preschool in Berkeley/Albany
Check out Growing Light Montessori school, which is right on the Arlington, 5 min. away from Berkeley. It is a very established Montessori school with well trained teachers, a warm environment, and a good balance between academics and freedom. My children went to school there, and really blossomed. The school is year-round with extended care until 6pm. It is a wonderful place. Happy mom
Re: Looking 4 preschool for 4 yr twins w/kindergarten
Check out Growing Light Montessori, which has campuses in Kensington (10 min. drive from Berkeley, 5 min. from Albany), and in Oakland. The school goes from toddler classroom through kindergarten. There's no parent participation requirement. More over, it is an authentic Montessori school, a warm community with well trained staff members and teachers who have a remarkably low turn-over, and also, it has a low teacher/student ratio. My older daughter graduated from there last year, and the younger one is still happily thriving there. The school works wonders. Katrine
I wanted to post a glowing recommendation for Growing Light Montessori in Kensington. It is a fantastic place for children to learn, to grow and to explore. Our son is in the toddler program and has been since the beginning of September. He is thriving--learning all sorts of things and making wonderful new friends under the tutelage of two gifted, loving and talented teachers, Hannah and Jason. The director, Surya, is wonderful--hands-on, aware of happenings in all of the classrooms and always available with a kind word for children and parents. Our son was ill this week and came back to find a handwritten card from his class wishing him well. Contrast this to our cooperative preschool last year where, when he was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery, we heard not even a single expression of concern or support from the teachers or director. Our son is an asthmatic and the staff at the school is on top of his condition--we really feel safe having him in their care. Enrichment activities and special programs are constantly offered, as is childcare during days that the campus is not normally in session. If there is a better place for a child to thrive, we haven't heard of it! Happy Parent
Re: Preschools with Male Teachers
my daughter went to Growing Light Montessori in Kensington. there are two wonderful male teachers-- Jason in the toddler room & Nobu in the primary class. they are kind, fun, silly & gentle men who truly love children. there are also 2 male subs. Virginia
Re: Seeking preschool with working mom's hours!
Growing Light Preschool in Kensington has working parent hours. They also provide childcare (at an additional cost) during the school breaks. You noted that you are on the wait list for Via Nova. Just thought I would mention that VN closes for about 5 weeks out of the year (Christmas, Summer and Spring vacations) and DOES NOT provide any additional childcare. -working single mom
Re: Montessori Preschools in Kensington/El Cerrito
My son has attended GLMS for a year now, and his dad and I are really really happy with the school, but it depends on what you want. My son had a rough adjustment period and the admin took the time to meet with us multiple times and give us ideas on how to help the transition. I feel that more than just learning stuff, I really feel like my son is learning to be a good person. They talk a lot about respecting the environment, learning about other cultures, feelings, etc. I like the other parents. I don't find it snobby. I can't speak about Keystone since my son never went there, but I think the parents of children that attend there like it too. I think either would be a good choice. Happy GLMS parent
Our daughter went to Growing Light Montessori in Kensington from age 2 thru age 6, and we loved it. In the toddler program, you mention that there aren't a lot of toys out. They actually have many toys and activities, but carefully set up the classroom with a reasonable amount displayed, with items at the correct developmental level for the individual kids. They then swap out the activities continuously throughout the year. One thing I loved, especially about the toddler program, was that the activities were teaching important skills and concepts, but were done in such a way that our daughter felt like she was playing the whole time. There were interesting motor skills activities, early number and learning activities, and other things as well, all done in a wonderful, fun, nurturing environment. I also liked the fact that they took the best ideas of Montessori, but were not overly dogmatic about it. We're definitely fans! Marilyn
Our nearly 3 year old boy/girl twins are currently enrolled in the Toddler Room at Growing Light in Kensington. Here are a few thoughts in response to your question about the toys and activities in the toddler room, and about our experience at Growing Light more generally. First about our experiences in general: We (parents and each child) have been very happy at Growing Light. Our kids are very different from each other (one is more physical/tactile and socially-driven, the other is more verbal and self-driven), and each has gotten a lot out of the program. Our tactile/social kid ADORES the Montessori toys/materials, which often involve manipilating objects with his hands, and te seems to love the social environment of being around other children at preschool -- he talks about his school friends constantly. Our verbal/self-driven kid loves singing at home all of the songs she has learned in school and since starting school seems to thrive on chosing to focus her attention for a relatively long time on a given activity (e.g., play dough, building with train tracks). The teachers in the toddler room are terrific at respecting the needs of each individual child, and creating a fun/nurturing environment. Both of our kids have just blossemed, in their own way, since starting at the school last Fall and each has developed strong self confidence. They are thrilled to go to school every Monday when a new week begins. As parents, we recommend the program without reservation, and as they will soon outgrow the toddler room, didn't think twice about signing them up for the 3-5 year old room upstairs for next year. As to your question about the toys and activities..... I suspect that you might be reacting to the look and feel of the Montessori-based materials, which are often made if wood and/or modelled on everyday practical objects, as opposed to looking like brightly colored ''toys''. Also, in the room the materials are all geared literally at the children's level (so they are 1-2 feet off the ground on low shelves as opposed to being at adult height). I guess all I can say is that our kids seem very well-stimulated by the materials. When we get to school in the morning, they run in and pick up something to play with, often before taking off their coats, and as best as we can tell are never bored (though we are not there during the day to observe them directly). The teachers seem to be thoughtful about switching the materials/toys/books around pretty frequently as well. As for group activities, our kids talk enthusiastically about cicle time, tea time, and playing outside, and they talk about the books at school and sing new songs from school all the time too. I hope this helps to answer your questions! Carolyn -- Growing Light parent
My son is currently enrolled in the toddler room at Growing Light, and is thriving. It's a warm and caring environment. I have never felt there weren't enough toys, in fact, it seems that the teachers spend a lot of time choosing toys to put out for the kids to work and play with, based on where they are developmentally. My son walks in and gets busy. Children are guided through a process at GLM that focuses on how to respect themselves, each other, and their environment. As such, each child plays with a toy on his or her own rug, and can work alone or with a friend, and must put the toy away once done with it (cleaning up!). That may be why you sensed a dearth of toys. There are a multitude of other ways the teachers, Jason and Hannah, engage the children, through art projects, song, puppet shows, yoga (''reach for the apple''), face painting, etc. Regarding Surya, the new director, she's actually not new, just new to the position, and she's a wonderful asset to GLM, in my opinion. She has worked there for over six years, so knows how it's run. She's been working side by side with Maggie for awhile now. She is approachable, and really good with the kids. When they're down a teacher, she goes into the classroom. I wouldn't worry about poor leadership under Surya, she's up for the job. Am happy to talk more offline about GLM or to answer other questions you may have, just let me know. Sara
I would like feedback on people's experience at Growing Light Montessori in Kensington. Most of the feedback is either old or about the GL campus in Oakland. I am thinking about applying for my son who will be 3 in 2007.
Growing Light is fabulous. The director and all of the teachers are just wonderful. We have been at the school for the past year and a half and will be there for another year. We can't wait to send our younger child there too. There are many positive things about Growing Light but if I had to mention one thing it would be that the teachers have a plan for each individual child. If there are things that your child lacks (mine was social skills) they will work with the family and the child on developing these skill sets and keep the family posted on the progress. I think we had at least 2-3 regular teacher/parent conferences and if we requested one, it was always scheduled. I recommend Growing Light without any reservations. smaa
I noticed their ad in the last Schools newsletter and thought I would chip in with my 2 cents.
We transferred our then-3-year-old to their Kensington campus for preschool after discovering that the preschool he was in was physically abusing him (among other problems).
He loved Growing Light Montessori. They had wonderful toys which were also (of course) great learning tools; teachers who were loving, patient, creative, and attentive; really nice classroom layout; and a huge play area, with a separate smaller area for the younger children.
Connor was very happy there. Some of the things I remember most fondly:
* That there was always a teacher ready with some awesome art project or game in the mornings, as an alternative to just running around in the playground before school;
* That the teachers, and especially Maggie who is the director of that campus, were always willing to stop and talk to us parents about anything, and could do it while still being there for the kids;
* That they had really wonderful conflict resolution skills, and helped the children deal with their problems and come up with solutions without blaming or punishing anyone;
* That they had a good variety of very healthy snacks;
* That they were concerned with the quality of the children's food in general, with clear guidelines like ''no snacks that have sugar in the first three ingredients,'' and would tactfully bring it up with us if the lunches we sent were too small for him or weren't in line with the rules - they put the children's needs first rather than just kissing up to the adults as some schools do;
* That if our child had problems at school, they were eager to meet with us whenever was convenient to work out a mutual solution;
* That they had great, enriching activities in all areas and offered several extra activities like dance and Spanish for a fee that we could manage;
* That they were open to all suggestions and requests from the parents;
* That they had a really, really, really good school photographer who included candid shots of the children as well as a formal class photo, and black and white as well as color shots - his school photo from this year is still my favorite picture of him!;
* That they had a variety of community events throughout the year, like a ''celebrate your heritage'' potluck, that were interesting and exciting for the kids and let the families mingle and meet;
* That they have campuses in Oakland as well as Kensington;
* That they have after-school education so that (if necessary) a child can be in their supportive and loving environment from 8-6, and that they have excellent boundaries so that parents actually get their children by or before 6;
* That they were very willing to work with us when our finances shrank in the Great Dot-Com Bust -- we ended up doing a work-exchange for the fees and some of the tuition, and talked about scholarship possibilities for the future.
Personally, the thing I valued most about Growing Light is that when our child's emotional problems became too much for them, they were willing first to work with us to find a solution, and finally to honestly say that they did not have the resources to help him, and to recommend several therapeutic preschools that could better support his needs. They were willing to put our child's needs above their own and be totally clear about what problems they saw and what kind of attention and resources he needed.
I cannot think of a higher recommendation for a school than that, and I hope that someday he will be able to return to Growing Light and to Montessori education in general as an older and emotionally healthier elementary school student. And for his part, Connor has always rated Growing Light at the very top of the six schools he has attended in his short life, tied for first with Building Blocks (the wonderful therapeutic preschool he subsequently attended). Aidan
Re: Montessori schools
Another good Montessori program is Growing Light Montessori. It has a Pre K/Kindergarten class at both of their locations - one of which is in Kensington. Their Kindergarten teacher, Deborah Carr, is the best! Call Maggie Scheving at 527-1278.