Nia House Learning Center
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RE: friendly Montessori preschool
I would HIGHLY recommend you check out Nia House Learning Center - a montessori preschool in central-west Berkeley. Everything about it is outstanding, imo. And most importantly, very committed and thoughtful about their practice of montessori philosophy. Eve is the director and she can give you an overview, tour, etc. Jeff
Re: Warm and Fuzzy Montessori?
Nia House in Berkeley! I've written in about them before, always to say that I wish my son could be in school there forever. Such a warm and creative and open environment with Montessori principles. Unfortunately, they don't often have openings. Lise
Hi - We are looking into pre-school options, or morning learning programs/class. Our son is 18 months and attends a wonderful family daycare, but we feel he is ready for a bit more structure and i know waiting lists can be long. We are looking for a part-time program or class that would challenge him a bit. Does anyone have any feedback on Nia House Learning Center and the Model School? The reviews on BPN were older posts. Ideally we are looking for a morning learning program maybe a few days a week, I feel he is still to young for a full pre-school program and we would like to keep him in the family care environment. Or are there any other learning structured classes that you can recommend? We are open to music and art classes as well. Thank you in advance for any advice and/recommendations. Amanda
Our family has been part of the Nia House community for the last 6 years. My daughter started in the preschool just before her third birthday (she is now 9) and my son started in the toddler room when he was 18 months old (he is now 5). I feel quite confident saying that sending my children to Nia House has been one of my best parenting decisions so far.
The program at Nia House teaches each child that s/he is a valuable part of a peaceful community - the Nia House community, the Berkeley Community, and the World community. Everyday, through every interaction, the children learn the responsibilities and privileges that flow from being part of a larger group. Responsibilities include being kind and respectful of one another, taking care of physical surroundings, and working out problems with other children using "kind words" (ie. no hitting, no excluding, no bullying, ever). Privileges include being a teacher/leader to new students, going on field trips, celebrating birthdays and holidays together, doing wonderful art projects, performing puppet shows, cooking banana bread, and just plain ol' having fun together. Somehow, every teacher at Nia House knows how to strike just the right balance of kindness and firmness to create a safe and predictable structure for every single child. As a result, the children flourish socially, emotionally, and, it turns out, academically.
The "academics" at Nia House seem to grow organically from the social and physical environment. As far as the children are concerned, the biggest "privilege" of being a student at Nia House is getting to do the "challenging works" - activities which include the Montessori curriculum (numbers, letters, practical life, sensorial, etc), reading, and art for a one hour period each morning. I know this might sound overly-rigorous and structured to some, but over the years I've observed the children during their "work" periods many times, and I can say with 100% confidence that they love it. They love learning new things, they love working together, and they take tremendous pride in showing their friends and family their new skills. Our kids add to our dinner table conversation many details about animal life cycles, invertebrates, the solar system, adding numbers, and other amazing topics.
Both of my children were incredibly well prepared when they transitioned to a new school: socially/emotionally they knew how to work with other children, they were able to control their bodies and not be wiggly at inappropriate times. They are able to focus on a task for an extended period of time, and both were so skilled with reading, writing and numbers that they instantly felt comfortable with the material they were presented with at their new school.
For me, the strong academic skills both of my children gained at Nia House - while quite amazing - were simply icing on the cake. Everyday my husband or I dropped them off at Nia House, we knew they would be cared for and supported in a safe, loving environment rich with new things to discover. For a working parent - any parent really - what more could one ask for? Denise
Nia House is the best kept secret in Berkeley. The teachers get continuous training and have an impressive number of years of experience with kids. Each child is treated as a person, and these teachers care dearly for the kids. My child thrives there every day! I couldn't say enough about the care that each child gets, and how much they learn because of this environment.
The Nia House teachers pay special attention to how children learn. They understand that young kids are capable of extraordinary things, and that they are each unique. The children learn social behaviors that help them solve conflicts with words, which makes the kids well-rounded and able to act independently...and it's all age-appropriate.
There is a gentleness to all the instructors that makes me feel my child is in great hands all day long. There's never a moment that the children aren't being watched. The kids are not only being watched, they are, at all times, admired.
Nia House Parent
My son is approaching preschool age and we're fortunate to have two great options starting next fall: Nia House Montessori or one of the UC Berkeley preschools. I really liked the feel of Nia House and can sense that it's a fantastic environment for introducing kids to the joy of learning. On the other hand, the fact that they don't provide meals/snacks and that the school is far from my home and work would add quite a bit to my daily stress. The UC Berkeley preschools have a great reputation, although I'm a little less enthused about them relative to Nia House. But...they're close to home and work, and meals are provided. Thus, more precious moments with my son that would otherwise be spent driving, shopping, and cooking. Do any of you have relevant experience, suggestions, advice? anon
I'm sure other Nia House parents will have similar answers, but the convenience of a short drive and not packing a lunch everyday will not outweigh the outstanding benefits of childhood learning at Nia House (which does provide healthy snacks btw). My 2 kids learned conflict resolution, focus, and advanced communication skills by age 3. They went on to early reading and math skills, all within a social justice and peace curriculum. Most importantly, I learned all of my most effective parenting skills at Nia House. Really! At Zellerbach Hall field trips, it's the Nia house kids listening to their teachers, waiting patiently, and listening intently to the performance - not the older grade school students, but these preschoolers. You would not regret your choice of Nia House. a happy nia house parent
My son is 2 (28 months) and we're also researching preschools...especially Montessori. The ONLY (and completley self-serving) reason I had to post is that I am a Nia House Alum. Nia House (I'm 36...years not months, lol) were my first memories!
Painting, singing (they let me sing in spanish even though I didn't know a lick? WTH? poor teachers).
I have no clue how Nia House is run today. Please take my post with a grain of salt. Nia House Alum
We absolutely love Nia House. The Director and Teachers are great and there is a real sense of community! Our daughter has thrived in the Montessori environment. They do provide snacks BUT lunch does take extra time/dedication in the morning. Nia House also encourages healthy meals so ''lunchable type'' stuff is not an option. It has actually helped our whole family eat a lot better. We do a short drive in the morning but it always goes smooth. Nia Mom
editor note: a review was also received for Child Study Center at UC Berkeley.
I would love to hear about recent experiences with Nia House. The reviews on BPN are a few years old at this point, and it would be great to hear from some parents with kids currently enrolled there -- I'm especially interested in the toddler program, but any thoughts would be appreciated.
Nia House is fabulous! We had two older daughters go through their program 5-10 years ago, and our current 3 year old has been there for a year and a half. The staff is wonderful and the toddler room teachers have been there 20 and 15 tears each respectively, but they are not ''burnt out''- they love the kids and are completely attuned to their developmental needs! In fact many of the staff has been there 15+ years, and the new teachers are equally terrific. I am always amazed at how engaged, caring and genuinely happy all of the children are at Nia House. They love to be at school and learn so many skills that build there confidence and capabilities, it's exciting to watch. There is a wide variety af families there also- racially, economically, and family structures, which makes for a wonderful experience as well. The only difficult thing we have found is that since it's a Montessori School, the classroom is child-centered and parents are not invited to be in the classroom with the kids at all. You are welcome to observe anytime, and can also hang out outside with the kids, but sometimes it feels a little cold dropping your child at the door- but this is a parent issue- I think the kids are fine with it.
happy Nia House parent
I've had/have two boys at Nia House, one recently left for first grade, the other is still there. It is a full-time program geared toward working/schooling parents. There is a wonderful mix of all different kinds of families from all different backgrounds. My oldest was at Nia House from 18 months through Kindergarten and just started 1st grade this academic year. My youngest began in the toddler room at 18 months and just transitioned at the end of last year into the preschool program. I could make this email thousands of words long, but the bottom line is that Nia House is absolutely FANTASTIC. The directors, the teachers, the program, and the mix of ''work'' and play, everything. The wonderful new play structures and recent sprucing of the facility are an added bonus. The toddler program (what you specifically asked for information on) is spectacular, two wonderful loving teachers, both of whom have been there for many, many years. Both are so in tune with toddlers, it is amazing. They have different personalities which really complement each other; my sons connected well with both. I still ask the head toddler teacher for advice and she always comes up with 2-3 wonderful suggestions. The preschool teachers are also wonderful with children and great communicators with parents. I am constantly amazed at what my children have learned there, how well children respect each other and their teachers, how well the teachers really know my kids, and how caring the other families are. This is a truly special preschool and a place our family will always, always remember with great fondness.
Sharon A., Nia House mom
Our daughter is in her kindergarten year at Nia House and started there in the pre-school program at 2yrs., 9 mos. I cannot say enough good things about Nia House. The most important thing to me in choosing Nia House at the beginning was the diversity of the staff and the kids. It is diverse in every respect, ethnic, socio-economic and gay/lesbian parent families. Our daughter has thrived there. The things I like the best are the staff, the emphasis on good nutrition and the way they teach conflict resolution. It's also great academically. Daily, I'm impressed with what my daughter knows and understands. I wish it went through elementary school. We will miss it terribly.
Nia House parent
We don't just love Nia House. We LOVE LOVE Nia house. If you're looking for a nurturing, supportive, economically and racially diverse program, which will help you with all of your parenting challenges, then this is the place for your child. I have a 5 year old and a 2-1/2 year old in the program (both of whom started at 18 months), with very different personalities, and they both thrive here. (You could not, in your wildest imagination, dream up a better toddler room teacher). From an early age, they've learned to communicate their feelings, resolve social problems on their own, and learn ''daily living'' skills. The academics in the older ''explorer'' room are strong, and the teachers pay close attention to each child's development in all areas. You may not receive a daily report on your child, but at the drop of a hat you can schedule a one on one conference to speak with your child's teacher, or come to a classroom observation.
I have heard critiques that Montesorri programs can be tough, rigid and inflexible, but this is not one of them. This is a school with deeply experienced teachers (many have been there 15-20 years), almost no teacher turnover, and a friendly, inclusive community of parents and students. New developments in the last 3 months include a brand new play structure and new classroom finishes with a focus on green building materials. Come for a visit!
A happy preschool parent
Nia House is an extraordinary place. My son started there at 18 months in the Toddler program. He is now doing his kindergarten year there. The past 4 1/2 years at Nia House have been wonderful. It is a caring and nurturing environment. The teachers and staff are loving educators who focus on the whole child and whole family. Our son has looked forward to going to school every single day. I urge you to do a tour and observation there. If Nia House seems like a good fit for your child, you will look back on this decision (as I do) as one of the best you've made in your life.
I've been a parent at Nia House for 6 years. My youngest will probably leave to start kindergarten in the fall & it will be very sad to say goodbye to such a wonderful preschool community. Whether it's the incredible, diverse, longterm staff, the great kids, the wonderful families, the play/social/emotional/academic skills the kids acquire or any other aspect of the school, it's been a rich, warm & most memorable experience. I'd be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more. Bill and Rebecca
My younger son started Nia House at 2 1/2 in the "toddler" room and is now in his third year of preschool (preschool is separated into two age groups: approximately 34 1/2 and 4 1/2 to 6, after the 3rd year, kids are ready for 1st grade) and my older son (now a 5th grader) also went to Nia House. Nia House is a warm, loving environment with AMAZING staff. Lee, the Director has been with the school for over 20 years (originally as a parent), Lisa, the preschool head teacher is "new", about 6 years!!, and two of the assistant teachers have been there for 12 years and more (Jeannie, the toddler teacher is one of the founders of the school!). Lisa is just back from successful breast cancer treatment(had been out for several months) and while the school managed to do fine in her absence, her return made us all realize just how much she has become the center of our close knit community. The school is small (about 36 kids from 17 months to 6yrs old) and has to be the most ethnic and socioeconomically diverse preschool ever. Half the kids receive some type of scholarship while higher income families pay a "premium" to attend(and what's nice you don't usually know which kids are from which families) and families range from "traditional" same ethnicity/different sex couples with biological kids to single parents (including grandmas), lesbian couples, transracial adoption families, and more. The staff reflects this mix: Lee is an African American man, Lisa an African American woman, Tita and Pia (the two assistant teachers) are Cambodian, and Jeannie is a white woman. There is other staff as well,including a wonderful parttime teacher that does architecture and gardening with the kids. The school provides every child with the right academic challenge. My son is reading at 1st2nd grade level and is doing 2nd grade math. But as this is a Montessori school, the teachers "follow" the interest and developmental level of each child. The school also stresses individual responsibility and selfdiscipline (very Montessori). The school welcomes visitors call and make an appointment, the school often has a waiting list (ALWAYS for the toddler room) so call soon for the Fall. Feel free to call me for more: 8416153 (as are most Nia House parents I'm FANATICAL about the school). Karen
If you are looking for a high quality, diverse preschool (18mos.6yrs, with kids graduating ready for 1st grade) I highly suggest Nia House Learning Center (Montessori) in Berkeley. For Berkeley public school, I recommend Washington Elementary. I've written about both schools before, so check the archives, but I'll address the issue about diversity, especially for gay headed families.
At Nia House, there IS NO DIVERSITY COMMITTEE, because there is no need. The school is all about inclusivity, socioeconomic, gay/straight, single parent/grandparent headed, multi cultural/racial, "mixed" ethnic families (including by adoption). While I don't remember gay male headed families specifically, over the past 8 yrs. that I've had kids at Nia House, lesbian headed families have comprised anywhere from 10% to at least 20% of the student population (35 kids in the whole school). Nia House's strength to me is that inclusivity there is like breathing you really don't discuss what is integral to you that percentage is just based on families that my kids have socialized with, that I've met in parent meetings/school gatherings, or know from my kids that "Joey/Jane" has "2 Mommys".