Preschools that Prepare Children for Private School

Parent Q&A

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  • Our child is 2.5 and we are looking for pre schools. We want to keep our options open for kindergartens and would consider both private or public options based on our son’s needs. But we’d like to keep all options open. My question is - are there preschool feeder schools to Head Royce and/ or Bentley?

    There are not feeder preschools to Head Royce or Bentley.  

    Enroll your child in the preschool that feels like the best fit for who they are and how they learn, and enrich their experience with as much exposure to music, art, science literature, etc. as is age appropriate, and hopefully they will grow to be a passionate and curious learner. Going to Head Royce (or any school) won't guarantee them a successful life, but being a loving parent who encourages them to be the best of who they are will.

    My kids either attend or graduated from these two private schools.  I have never heard of feeder preschools for either. The best preschool is the one where your child is happy and healthy.  You will know it in your gut when you visit.  Then everything else usually falls into place.  We did a mixture of both public (OUSD) and private schools and there are pros and cons to both.  Best wishes!

  • Hello!

    My husband and I are new to the East Bay, and we currently have a 6 month old daughter. We've heard wonderful things about Head Royce, Bentley School and Redwood Day beginning with Kindergarten. For anyone who has children in any of these schools, I was wondering what preschools you sent your child to, and whether you felt that school prepped them properly for Kindergarten? Does anyone know if there are any preschools in the area that these three schools may prefer a child to attend?

    Any input would be much appreciated!


    Our child went to a play-based, cooperative school, that had no academic instruction (meaning, they were not "prepared" for K). In checking back for several years, no child from that preschool had attended RDS, HRS, or Bentley. The overwhelming majority of kids attended public school. In visiting the private schools, many of the admissions staff had never even heard of the preschool. We applied to Redwood Day and two other private schools (not HRS or Bentley) -- one of which is extremely academic-focused and one of which is a little less so. We got into all three. We have friends who went to some of the premier preschools who also got into HRS and/or Redwood Day and some who did not even get on the waitlist. Our child started K at Redwood Day behind academically and very quickly caught up without ever knowing they weren't at the same level as some of the children who had attended more academic preschool. They ended the year very ready to enter first grade.

    All of this to say, I wouldn't worry too much about which preschool your child goes to as far as thinking about elementary school. Pick a school your child will thrive in -- for some kids that will be play-based, others Montessori and some can handle/need a more academic or structured environment. A lot of factors go into getting into these schools -- how many siblings they have coming in, gender, ethnic/racial, and age balance, whether you apply for financial aid, etc. 

    I would also mention that I just knew which school my child was going to go to when they were a baby. No one would have been able to talk me out of it. I researched it, and visited, and fell in love with it. We initially only looked at other schools as a backup plan in case our child didn't get into our first choice. We applied, and we got in, and my child does not go to that school because it wasn't the right fit for them (even though it remains a lovely school). I also thought we would for sure apply to HRS as a backup, and ended up not applying after the first visit -- we weren't into it, and my child declared they didn't want to go there after that visit. Keep an open mind and pick what's going to work best for your family and your child as they enter each stage. 

    Hi. As the mom of a doing-very-well college student, who went to a regular preschool I found in the yellow pages, and then to very mediocre neighborhood public schools, I wanted to say that your post upsets me on so many levels. Your daughter is 6 months old! Please enjoy her how she is - talk and sing to her. Let her guide you to the type of student she will be, support and encourage her. Competitive schools may be great for her, or maybe she will be more laid back and take things as they come rather than you planning her academic carrier from infancy. Good luck to her and you!

    Agreed with both of the posters. There are not "feeder" schools in the East Bay the way there are in other parts of the country, except inasmuch as families that live near a particular private school may be more likely to apply and also more likely to send their children to nearby preschools. But no, there's no particular expectation around academic readiness for incoming kindergarteners--admissions at that level is as much about family fit as anything else. Kids come in from a wide range of preschools (and occasionally with no preschool at all). And this is absolutely not a thing to focus on for a six-month-old. Look for a daycare or preschool that is a good match for your family as far as location, hours, and overall philosophy. If you do end up going the private route, you'll know much more about your child at that point and can better assess what kind of school will be a good fit.

    I would argue that in preschool, learning social skills and free play is more important than being "prepared academically" for elementary school. Studies have shown that countries such as sweden which emphasize playing together, tolerance and consideration for others in preschool have children who grow up more successful than children who have gone to preschools that have academic rigor.
    I went to a daycare/preschool which did not "prepare" me academically for elementary school and where kids just played, went to public schools and turned out just fine. I ended up at an ivy league college and went to one of the best medical schools in the country. My advice to you is to consider saving your well earned money and using it for something more worthwhile

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice  

Feeder preschools for Head Royce, Bentley, other private schools?

Sept 2014

I do not yet know where my child would be best suited for elementary school--she's only 2.5 now--but I would like her options to remain as open as possible. Specifically, I'd like her to be set up to go to private school, if that's best for her. (Although I'm very much undecided about that and we'll just need to see when she's older.) I'm relatively new to the Bay Area, and in my last home it mattered very much where your child went to preschool. If she didn't go to one of a handful of preschools, her options of getting into certain private schools were nil, or at least very unlikely. So, understanding that the most important thing is to find the best match for my child, both in preschool and in elementary school (and onward), I'd still like to ask the question and get direct answers (rather than lectures about how I should not be focusing on this, please): If you would like your child to have the option of going to Head Royce, Bentley, or one of the other selective private elementary schools, are there certain preschools in the East Bay that you should be looking at? Thanks so much for all answers to my specific question! New and Wondering

Well, I know a kid at Head Royce who didn't go to preschool at all, so I would say no, it doesn't matter where your kid goes to preschool. Mom to 3

Lakeview Preschool in Oakland should be on your list... Their ''graduates'' go off to all kinds of kindergartens (including Head-Royce, St. Paul's, and Bentley), and the executive director offers counseling on school selection to parents who want the benefit of her experience and knowledge. The teachers at Lakeview are top-notch, and the kids love the school's perfect balance of structured activities and play time. As a parent, I appreciate the school's attention to detail -- accurate monthly calendars, daily reports on each kid's meals and activities, and timely responses to all questions. LPS is a wonderful gem of a preschool, and -- should your child attend -- she will be well-prepared for any kindergarten you choose. Happy LPS Parent

I don't think there are specific feeder preschools per se but there are preschools that have higher percentages going to private schools than other preschools. There could be a variety of reasons for that. Both my children attend Head Royce. They both attended Lakeview Preschool. My recollection was that there were definite percentages of folks going to private school from Lakeview Preschool (there are at least 10 families I know of that attended Lakeview in the last 4 to 5 years that now attend Head Royce) but there were percentages going to public school as well so I think you will encounter that with all preschools. I would highly recommend you tour Lakeview Preschool and see if it is a good match for your child. The preschool is amazing and the teachers are wonderful. It definitely prepared both my children for Head Royce. Good luck! Former Lakeview Preschool Parent

I'm also new to the area so am curious to see what kind of responses you receive. My child is in the wonderful preschool program at Mills College Children's School, and I believe they offer priority admission for preschoolers to continue on to their elementary school. If our experience in the preschool classroom is any indication, we'd be excited to have our son continue in their elementary program. The classes are small and the community is wonderful. The elementary school ends at grade 5, but you can view a list of schools their graduates have gone on to on their website. mom to a preschooler, too

Step One Nursery School & Transitional Kindergarten (Berkeley Hills) is definitely a school that sends a lot of kids on to private kindergartens. While the term ''feeder preschool'' is kind of scary... i do know a lot of Prospect Sierra kids come from Step One and know that when I was touring Kindergartens last year, when I mentioned that my child was at Step One, I could tell the admissions person or director was pleased. Also, I should mention, the TK at Step One is a FANTASTIC training ground for Kindergarteners- all the lessons about self regulation, sitting still, following directions, being independent, etc.- they will learn in a really loving, creative space. S1 takes kids who are 5 by Feb 1, so it is appropriate for older preschoolers who aren't necessarily public school TK age. And they have TK openings for fall 2014. A step one mom & big fan

Preparing a preschooler for Head Royce and Bentley

February 2008

We'd love for our child to go to Head Royce or Bentley from KG onwards. I'd like to hear from parents who have young children at either of these schools, and what types of characteristics or skills they look for when admitting children for KG. Any advice? We are looking to put our daughter into a preschool and would like to prepare her (as much as one can prepare a preschooler without being ridiculous, overbearing and obnoxious!) thanks

My response won't necessarily help prepare your child for one of these schools you mention, but I do hope you consider my thoughts. I strongly encourage you to flip your thinking. Instead of trying to find the preschool that will help prepare (form) your child to the criteria of a prestigious school, why not ask, Which school would be best for MY child? Why not look at the natural traits, strengths and weaknesses of your child and look for the preschool where she will grow and learn within her comfort zone and be happy? Helping your child to thrive in an environment where she is safe, nurtured and encouraged will give her the skills to be confident and curious as she goes forward in her school career. Only then will she be able to expand her knowledge and take those calculated risks that provide true learning. Having navigated both private and public systems with our children, we have come to learn that even the greatest school (or the one with the greatest reputation) is only as good as the individual teacher/s that is/are working with MY child at any given time. And even a school that started out as a perfect fit, as years went on, no longer was. The person your child is at preschool age is no precursor to who they will be in KG, nor any grade after that. Children are wonderful evolving beings and I encourage you to keep an open mind. Be willing to advocate for your child and what she needs to thrive as opposed to trying to help her fit what you perceive is the mold the school will recognize. She will thank you for that much more than the chance at a prestigious education if she is not happy and successful in your school of choice. -Leslie

To the parent asking about Bentley or Head Royce admissions, Our daughter is in Kindergarten at Bentley, she was accepted there and wait listed at HR. She attended Rockridge Montessori School, which has a good track record at both schools. Honestly, we thought she flunked her Bentley admissions when she told us that they asked her to write the alphabet and she got up to ''e'' and said, ''I'm bored, can I go play?'' Thankfully they viewed her as being way past that rather than unable to do it (which was the case - we've been blown away by what she's learned at RMS). She's really blossomed since starting Kindergarten and we couldn't be happier. Happy mom of Bentley Kindergartener (with a little one at RMS)

Is a less-known preschool a liability when applying to private school?

February 2004

We are looking for a Montesorri preschool for the fall for our daughter who will be 3. We've seen quite a few and have liked many of them. One we're particularly excited about is Garden Day Montessori ... One of our concerns in that we're considering private elementary schools for our kids and wonder if the fact that our kids will have gone to a less known pre-school will be a problem.

While I am not do know much about Garden Day Pre-school, I want to reassure you about preschool selections relative to private school admissions. I was the Director of Admission at the Bentley School...where people often assume that the preschool you are applying from matters. It doesn't! (We once fielded a phone call from the dad of a six WEEK old girl wanting to know which preschool he should enroll her in to best insure her acceptance to Bentley! After a long conversation, the punchline was, ''Sir, can your daughter hold her head up yet?'')

Please know that the private schools do not care about which preschool your child attends. The most important aspect of the admission process is whether our school is a good match for your child and family. Certainly there are preschools whose programs are similar in philosophy and environment to particular elementary schools...and therefore are obviously good matches...but I promise you that how well known a preschool is, does not affect admission to schools later on.

The best way to optimize chances for admission to private schools is to choose a preschool experience that is ideal to your child's interests and play/learning style and your family's needs. A child who has loved their preschool and had positive school/social exposures there, is predestined to do well (and be admitted) at other schools after they've grown up a bit.

Wanda Stewart

July 2001

For those parents who's children attend either Head-Royce, Bentley or Redwood Day (and have attended from an early age, preferably kindergarten, but possibly 1st grade)... what preschools/kindergartens did your child/children go to (assuming you were in the area)? Did you feel they were prepared for this particular private school? Are there areas where you felt they could have been better prepared? We're finding the preschool decision a difficult one to make, especially since there are so many to choose from - and looking ahead, fairly certain that we want our children to attend private school(K-12), those options seem to narrow considerably. We hope to make the best possible decisions regarding education from the very start. Any advice/feedback is greatly appreciated!

Our daughter goes to Head Royce and the most important thing I can tell you about preschool is don't sweat it. It's really irrelevant. The schools aren't looking for children who are "prepared" in any way. Just pick a preschool where the staff is loving and competent and the kids look like they are having fun Ayelet

My son Jesse is going into 2d grade at Redwood. He was admitted as a K'r. His preschool was a small family day care known as Small Change, in Oakland. Unfortunately, it has closed. Jesse was plenty prepared, as the preschool had a good academic component. Jesse, as fate would have it, is a highly focused little kid who loved to work on art projects or letters, so preparation really wasn't an issue. What was key, I think, is that he learned social skills and group dynamics (he's an only child), learned to like learning, and had early training in numbers and letters and shapes and colors and such. Honestly, I don't think the choice of pre-school is going to make much difference. There's such an oversupply of kids relative to the seats in schools that it's a seller's market. One headmaster told us candidly that after deleting the one third of the applicants they didn't want (not ready, too young, too active, too passive), accepting the few they obviously did (multi-lingual and doing calculus at age four) they really didn't have much basis for selecting amongst the rest. Criteria such as how many from which community, diversity (besides race and gender), parents' backgrounds and other non-academic factors were used. If you think it matters, tho, just call the admissions folks at the schools and ask them. At Redwood, BTW, they have had a pre-K class that is the feeder for the K class (there were only 3 slots for boys when we applied). But I believe that is being phased out this year or next. You might want to check. --wheaton

I'd focus far more on where my child would be happy and successful than where might possibly be a feeder for a private school. A happy and successful child will much more likely be successful in the admissions process than one who is in a place simply because their parents believe that it will assist them in gaining admittance into a prestigous private school.