Magnolia Children's School

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

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

Home-Based Daycare/Preschool
DSS Facility License #: 
Laura Bullock
Central Berkeley
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
18 months - 72 months
Monthly Cost: 
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
8:00am - 6:00am
Additional Services & Features: 
K-5 afterschool available, Year-round, Sibling discount, Snacks provided, Vegetarian options, Cloth diapers accepted, Diapers provided, Potty training support
Editors' Notes: 
About Our Program: 

Play based preschool with emphasis in social/emotional development, self-help skills and conflict resolution.

Weekly music and yoga classes

Daily art activities

Daily circle time 

Seasonal gardening 

 Monthly sharing theme   

Annual sleepover for 3 and up

Annual campout in Tilden park for all families 

Bi-monthly field trips

4 Potluck dinners per year for community building 

End of the year Graduation ceremony for children entering Kindergarten or T-K 

Parent Reviews

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My son joined Magnolia Children’s School a couple of months following his second birthday after spending his first two years at home with me.  He’s a very active and social boy and secretly a little sensitive at times.  I’d looked at several childcare options before I visited Magnolia School but knew as soon as we walked in that this was the place for him as he ran off to the outdoor play area without hesitating to look back.

The school has a real family feel to it and a group of very kind, warm and fun teachers (Laura, John and Shayna).  They take a play-based approach to teaching and offer a range of great activities throughout the year using a flexible structure.  The children can move freely between the outdoor and inside play areas which seems to work really well.  I’ve been impressed with the range of activities my son has got involved in such as music and yoga classes, various arts and crafts, a fire brigade visit, school field trips (before the pandemic), dancing and singing games, water play and lots of digging woodchips outdoors which he is obsessed with.  There are chickens, a garden area and monthly themes which are discussed during circle time.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the teachers and they’ve provided invaluable advice and support to us for moving through key milestones such as potty training and self-help skills, both of which were a struggle at home to begin with.  They also helped my son to adapt when his baby sister was born, providing books to take home, talking about her at school and helping him to do artwork for her. 

The running of the school during the Covid-19 pandemic has also been excellent, making sound decisions around closure and providing thorough communications by email, daily activity emails, online yoga classes and comprehensive procedures for re-opening.

My son is now nearly 3 and a half years old and we’re very sad to be leaving the school as we’re moving overseas back to London.  However I’m really pleased that we have all had such a positive first experience of preschool and feel very strongly that this will shape my son’s outlook in the future. 

We have some lovely reminders of his time at Magnolia from the annual school photo and a photo book from the most recent school graduation, which he hasn’t stopped talking about (and is currently sleeping with).  I would highly recommend Magnolia Children’s School to anyone looking for a great place to send their child.

Both my kids attended Magnolia's Children school at the same time. First of all, we were very lucky that Laura accepted both kids (1 year old and 3 years old) and this was very important to me that they could spend that time together and with other kids. Then the second most important thing to me was that they were able to spend time outside, in the garden and playground rather than inside since they really enjoy the outdoors. As soon as they started, everything was ready to welcome them, they had their names in their own little cubbies, their glasses, the circle time board, etc. They learned so much from the teachers and the other kids thanks to circle times, yoga and music classes. I also love how Laura keeps all the parents updated on every month activities, and organizes some really fun outings for the kids (little farm, Kid's Gym, etc) where parents are welcome to join if they can. All this made it worth it for me to drive all the way from Oakland. Also, when I did not have to go to the office, I would just walk half a block away to a perfect little coffee and work from there which was so pleasant. We loved everything about the school and its teachers. We are moving abroad keeping lots of great memories and a wonderful class picture. Thank you so much!

Hi! Check out Magnolia Children's School, on Sacramento near the corner of Parker. Our 3 year old has been there for almost 6 months now and we are so happy. It's a pretty big yard, with room to run and play. There is a garden which the kids get to help in, and two chickens which they get to help feed and take care of. Definitely space to dig, get dirty and wet, etc!

There's often a water table available for play on warmer days, and they let kiddos play in the rain if it's ok with a parent, you send extra changes of clothes, etc. My son LOVES digging and playing in the rain... one of his current favorite things to do is "make soup" in the rain with wood chips and dirt in one of the big buckets. Or play in the water table... in the rain... basically lol, I can often measure how happy of a day he's had by how many clean, dry changes of clothes he's been through that day. ;)

Anyway, give Laura a call. There are reviews here on BPN both for Magnolia and for Woolsey Children's School (the school's name from its former location) from many happy parents, and I'll definitely add my name to the list. Laura and all the teachers are so kind and good with the kids, they're totally on top of positive behavior reinforcement and childhood development, and I feel like the daily schedule is a very good mixture of *lots* of play time outside, with inside play spaces available too, sprinkled with awesome teacher led activities (Art! Music! Yoga!). I could keep going. I feel very lucky that we got a space and plan to be there until our little one is ready for K. I'm not sure what kind of availability she has left for next "school year" (they follow the Berkeley Unified calendar), so you may want to call soon.

I hope you find what you are looking for! Lots of great preschools around here. Good luck.

Magnolia Children’s School is our second home and a lot of fun! Our family of five relocated from Germany a year ago and our youngest son did not have any English at all back then, but Laura and all the teachers, kids and parents at Woolsey School made him feel so welcome and at home that he absolutely loved going there from day one. This summer he made a very happy transition to Laura’s Magnolia Children’s School after Woolsey School closed its former location.
All of our kids (now aged 4, 8 and 11) attended a very similar play-based, multi-age pre-school in Berlin before, and as parents we love to see how the kids grow and flourish in a caring, loving environment where they are allowed to "just" play, get messy, be curious, inventive, creative and learn and discover things themselves. What we also love very much is the school’s emphasis on social/emotional growth. It’s amazing to see how the kids respect each other, learn from each other and learn to solve problems themselves.
That said, Magnolia Children’s School is not a place where children are left alone. Rather, Laura offers just the right amount of structure and stimulating activities and projects (e.g. music, dance, art, baking...). Insofar as school-readiness is concerned, I feel that there is no better way to prepare kids for kindergarten (and life) than keeping up their natural habit of self-directed learning and stirring their inherent curiosity the way Laura does.
Laura is a very warm, energetic person. She is also an extremely competent and experienced teacher who has a very good eye for when and in which ways her support is needed. I can’t recommend her school highly enough.

My daughter attended Woolsey school with Laura for 3 years, then was lucky enough to spend a magical summer at Magnolia School before kindergarten. Now she can't wait until she is old enough to return as a summer helper. Laura is loving and truly gifted with kids. The community at Magnolia School is warm and brings out the best in each child. My daughter ran into school with a smile for 3 and a half years and gives Laura a huge hug whenever she sees her. Now that my daughter is in kindergarden and I see how regimented the days are, I feel incredibly lucky that she got to be in a place where she could create, build, and play, all within a loving and supportive structure. Laura has the recipe for a happy childhood and any kid would be lucky to attend Magnolia.

I was lucky enough to cross paths with Laura and learn of her program at Magnolia. It has been wonderful for our 6-year-old as an afterschool life-saver! So much active, outdoor, imaginative play. Laura is very friendly, reliable, and responsible.

We love Magnolia! Our 3 kids went to Woolsey School for years, and now with our youngest we have made a very happy transition to Magnolia Children's School.

The main attributes of Magnolia School are its play-based educational philosophy, its focus on social/emotional development and conflict resolution, and its leadership under Laura Bullock, who was at Woolsey School for 12 years.

The play-based approach is what we sought for our family. We love how Laura's philosophy encourages creativity and fun. In terms of ''school readiness'' we have found that it's been best for our kids to learn from the beginning that school and learning is fun and self-directed, not just sitting in rows and getting taught. Our older kids were 100% ready for kindergarten after their time with Laura at Woolsey, and have flourished socially and academically in elementary school.

On social and emotional development and conflict resolution, we have seen how important this type of development is for preschoolers. Ages 2-5 is a critical time to learn to play with other kids, how to share and how to solve problems. I don't know of a lot of preschools that prioritize this element, and we really respect that it is the central theme of Laura's work with the children. She is really magical in the way she can get all the kids to play together and learn from one another. The bigger kids get to be leaders and guide conflict resolution, and the littler kids learn from their example. Encouraging the kids to come up with activities on their own, then figure out how to include other kids in it, allowing them to negotiate how to set up a play or a fort or a ''petting zoo'' (of stuffed animals), it's all very organic.

For our family, Magnolia School has everything we want in a preschool -- a safe, loving, creative and fun environment for kids to spend their time, learn and grow as a community of families and children. We can't recommend it highly enough.

Our twin boys spent three years at Woolsey School (which has now moved to a new location to become Magnolia school). It's a wonderful multi-age program. They started when they had just turned two, and at that age they learned from the older children. As they grew, they gradually became the ones to help the younger children. It's a very caring environment where the kids learns to express themselves, and develop emotional intelligence.

Our boys were given a lot of freedom to run, to play, to get really messy, just what our energetic kids needed. Every day there was a different well-thought-out art or baking project. The kids could take part in the project, or do their own thing.

There is a real sense of community, which has continued even as our kids have moved on to kindergarten. Parents would often linger to chat at the beginning or end of they day, and we felt welcome to drop by and stay any time.

Laura is caring, unflappable, and extremely competent. Good luck with Magnolia school in your new location, Laura!

At first glance, it’s hard to tell Magnolia(and woolsey before this) for the little gem that it truly is. It’s not filled with precious beautiful color coded toys nor is it filled with quiet well behaved children. Instead, it’s a little loud, a little wild and a little messy. But it has truly been a great home away from home for our little ones these last four years.

Magnolia focuses a lot on free play, social emotional growth and conflict resolution. Kids learn to work out how to respect each other’s needs and check in with one another when someone has been hurt. It warms my heart to see one kid running to get an icepack for another because they fell down.

The school is mixed age, so there is the benefit of the older kids helping the younger ones (it sure taught my son how to work with his little sister). It’s mostly self directed play and it’s been amazing to see what the kids come up with (mud baths anyone?). Mixed in with the wildness, there are warm teachers who swoop in to hug the sadness/ouchies away at just the right time, some structure to get kids ready for K (circle time, clean up, writing snack signs, music class) and a great community of parents.

Laura is great!! We've been so lucky to have her as a teacher for both our kids over the last four years and we couldn't be happier with her care. We first met her at Woolsey Preschool where she was the head teacher, and then followed her to Magnolia School when she founded it.

Laura has always had just the right balance of being emotionally available and nurturing for our kids when they need her, but allowing them to grow and play independently without smothering them. We've really appreciated how she keeps the day fresh with art, music field trips, and a boundless creativity for fun things to do. At the end of the day our daughter comes home happy, usually with smudges of paint or glitter on her smiling face.

If you're looking for a fabulous teacher and a very homey and loving play based pre-school, I can't recommend Laura and Magnolia School enough.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2016

RE: Preschool for high energy kid in Oakland/Berkeley?

You should try Magnolia Children's School (disclaimer, we currently attend it). The school is play based and with the exception of lunch & nap, the kids are able to roam btw the inside and outside freely. There is no set outside time like in a lot of preschools.

The school is not much to look at, and can use a little more cleaning. But the head teacher, Laura, has a pretty high energy boy herself who use to attend, and really thinks a lot about getting kids out. They do outings to nearby parks a lot also. They also do conflict resolution which I really like. They are expanding to 14 kids so I think there will be openings.

active kids need to get outside