The Berkeley School Preschool

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

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

DSS Facility License #: 
The Berkeley School, a non-profit corporation
(510) 665-8800 or (510) 849-8340
admissions [at]
N. Berkeley off Shattuck
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
31 months - 60 months
Monthly Cost: 
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
8:00am - 6:00pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Afternoon option, Part-time available, Pre-K program, Snacks provided
Editors' Notes: 
About Our Program: 

NOW ENROLLING 3 & 4 YR. OLDS! Children aged 2.7 to 5 are encouraged to think creatively and critically, to understand the world and to engage in collaborative play-- all of which align with our goals of developing self- confidence, independence, and a lifelong love of learning. Our multi-age classrooms feature teams of three co-teachers that understand Montessori practices deeply. Reggio Emilia ideas encompassing artistic expression, emergent interests, home/school  connection, and documentation further inform each day’s learning activities.The structure and pace of the Montessori classroom allow our highly trained teachers to prepare a deliberate and engaging learning environment all within a community-building framework. We also offer a Transitional-K.

Parent Q&A

Berkeley School or Duck's Nest for 2.11 yr old? Feb 17, 2017 (3 responses below)
Berkeley School or Hearts' Leap North? Feb 13, 2017 (10 responses below)
  • My LO will be a month shy of 3 at the Sept 1 cutoff used by Ducks nest. We're sure our energetic, articulate boy will be happy at either, but would love input or comparison of the two. Specifically, how the mixed age classes at TBS are for the younger ones vs the more traditional separation by age. Also your experience at DN (Berkeley) starting in the 2s room. TY

    We have two sons at Duck's Nest and our youngest is in the 2 year old (duckling) classroom.  Duck's Nest has exceeded our expectations. The teachers are amazing and their creativity endless.  There is tons of outside play and exploration and beautiful grounds.  Despite being a larger school, it is a very nurturing and a real community.  The teachers know all of the kids and the kids all know each other.  Although the kids are broken into age based class room, twice a day they have all age play.  I love the combination.  There is plenty of time for developmentally exciting exploration, but also time to learn from both younger and older kids.

    The two year old room is the largest room, yet it never feels chaotic.  And the teachers are great guides.  At the start of school, my two year old had a really hard time adjusting. Now he is a confident guy, who puts his lunch in his cubby, pushes me out the door and starts to play.  Because the two year old room is the biggest, there are kids who just turned 2 and kids who are almost three.  Yet the whole class seems engaged and happy.  Also, most of the two year old teachers have been at the school forever, they are amazing.  The ratio is great and the school brings in some extra help (the garden teacher, the language teacher, admin staff ) for extra support.

    The biggest problem I have found in Berkeley is there are too many good options.  I am sure you can't go wrong with either school.

    Good luck!

    Duck's Nest Parent x2

    Good luck on your decision. We have been a happy TBS family for the past five years at both the Early Childhood Center (ECC) and The K-8 Campus. From the moment I set foot onto the campus it was wonderful. We have two girls (3 and 8) that have been at the ECC. They literally jump out of the car every morning and can't wait to get to school. The staff and teachers are kind, responsive and attentive to everything. The mixed age classes were one of the draws for us. It really helps give the older children the opportunity to help support and guide the younger ones. The teachers do a great job of mixing the students but also challenging the older ones. We loved it and saw it as a huge bonus. We also continued onto the K-8 program and have been very happy with the decision. 

    Our daughter attended DN Berkeley for two wonderful years and then we chose TBS for K (and beyond), so I have some perspective on both schools, and we are very happy with our choices for each. Our 2 year old son will be entering preschool next fall, and decided to send him to DN and then follow his sister to TBS for K. We looked closely at TBS' ECC program and knew we could not go wrong. A few practical things helped sway us toward DN, besides our prior stellar experience with the teachers and staff...DN runs a full year program, while ECC runs on the school year with a summer camp add-on to the annual tuition cost. Also, DN's hours go until 5:30, whereas ECC ends at 3 PM with aftercare as an additional cost. Parking and access is easier from I-80 for DN than ECC. In terms of the feel of each place, my totally biased sense is that DN's sole focus on the Reggio philosophy brings a level of spontaneity and exuberance that I didn't sense at ECC when we visited; it is more grounded more in the Montessori approach. For instance, I didn't think that our boy would be able or willing to sit for 20 minutes of circle time at ECC, which they have 2x/day (I think). The open yard at DN was intimidating at first to us, but our daughter LOVED it, and the teachers are incredibly attentive and intervene immediately and skillfully when inevitable conflicts arise on the playground. The little ones are mostly from the bigger kids, but the older classrooms do get some mixed age time on the playground, and our very social daughter knew all the teachers and several kids in the older classes--though it's certainly not as much as ECC's model. I actually prefer the age groupings at DN over the mixed ages, and our daughter's first friendships forged there continue to be meaningful ties even as the girls went separate ways for K. So, you can't go wrong, for sure, with either choice. Go to each place and listen to your gut when you walk onto each campus. That's how we first fell in love with Duck's Nest. You can feel the magic when you set foot through the gate.

  • Berkeley School or Hearts' Leap North?

    (10 replies)

    Preschool question. Better to start as a two year old at Hearts' Leap North or a three year old at the Berkeley School? We like the Berkeley School better - it has a larger and nicer playground, above-ground classrooms with natural light (Hearts' Leap is in a church basement), and one of the teachers speaks my first language which I would like my son to practice during the day. But the Berkeley school only starts students as three years olds and they must be potty trained. Hearts' Leap North has a two year old class and will assist with potty training. During the school tour it was clear my son was ready - he instantly started mingling with the kids and playing with all the toys.  I changed schools a lot as a kid so I'm not inclined to start him at one and then switch him later, though maybe I'm being too cautious there.  They're both equally convenient and similarly priced. Any insights would be much appreciated.  Thanks!

    Our daughter attended Hearts Leap North for 2 years (starting at 2.75 y.o. until she began TK in BUSD) and we couldn't be happier about our decision to send her there. The awesome, intelligent, engaged, loving teachers are the main reason, but the space and location are also lovely. Sure, there isn't a huge garden, but they make great use of the small outdoor spaces with lots of art and nature-based projects. The playground is a perfect size for the number of kids, and boy do they have it mastered by the time they graduate! Upstairs, there is a huge church hall and kitchen for rainy days, gatherings, and gym classes. They often took short walks around the block and learned all about native plants. And I found the classrooms to have plenty of natural light. Perhaps you visited on a rainy day? As to the potty-training aspect, I really don't think we could've gotten it done so quickly without the tremendous help of the teachers—they were gentle and encouraging. Combine that with the subtle peer pressure and voila! I take issue with these preschools that require kids to be potty trained first, as it puts too much pressure on kids and parents, leading to relapses and other problems. I could go on and on about our beloved HLN! Feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

    I have two boys, one at TBS and the other at HLN. Both schools are great options. My older son spent two years at HLN and we switched him to TBS to take advantage of their transitional kindergarten program. He is thriving there, but honestly he would have been great continuing on at HLN as well. Our younger son is in his first year at HLN. The HLN teachers are phenomenal. I can't say enough good things about how involved, caring, and dedicated they are. The classrooms and outdoor space may not be as fancy/expansive as TBS, but this doesn't hold the kids back in any way. We plan to keep our younger son there through to kindergarten.TBS is a much bigger, more expansive community since it goes through 8th grade. HLN is a more intimate, cozy community. You can't go wrong with either option.

    I think if your son is ready you should definitely go to HLN. Both my kids went through this school, my daughter is there now. The Juniper room teachers are as good as it gets. They are nurturing, loving, intelligent and amazing with the kids. My kids have been so happy at HLN. I think kids this little are not so bothered by switching schools, maybe it gets harder later on? SO if you do a year at HLN and then switch its not the end of the world. My kids were also SO ready to begin school and I feel like waiting would have been a disservice to them. I understand the appeal of the bigger space at TBS, however the love and sweetness of HLN will have you feeling like you made a good decision I am sure!!

Parent Reviews

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Hello, I saw your post about  looking for a preschool that is inclusive and diverse.  I highly recommend you check out The Berkeley School. Our daughter is growing up in a trilingual family, my husband is German American, I am Turkish and our daughter is born in Berkeley. It was very important for us to send her to not only a school that understood and practiced diversity, but also for all of us to be a part of a diverse community that valued community service. From the moment we entered the early childhood education center's garden, 5 years ago, we realized this was a community that practiced its mission and values: "Ignite Curious Minds, Awaken Generous Hearts, Engage A Changing World" is the school's mission, and I wished that the rest of the education system was like this. I am a design educator, and founded a school my self. I highly recommend The Berkeley School's approach to education, to creativity and to social learning.  If you have more questions, happy to help more. 

My 4-year old daughter has been going to The Berkeley School for the past two years.  We love it there!!  It's a truly amazing place.  Her teachers are all so kind, loving, and skilled at what they do.  I think they might have spots too.  The person to contact is Paula Farmer: pfarmer [at]  You can also checkout their website:  Good luck!!

you should look at The Berkeley School Early Childhood Center. they fit the bill except location might not be great for you. Central Berkeley near campus. We're in our 2nd year there and very happy with our choice. Kids are met where they are and it's a warm happy place. feel free to PM me for more info. 

DEFINITELY check into The Berkeley School Early Childhood Center on Francisco. Not only do they have a commitment to diversity, their program is founded in civic engagement.

RE: Camp for 3 year old ()

The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Center is great, takes 3 year olds (even if not otherwise enrolled in the school), as long as they're potty trained.  Good luck!

I enthusiastically recommend The Berkeley School Early Childhood Center ( -- it's located in North Berkeley near campus and it's an incredibly nurturing and stimulating environment for preschoolers. We've been there for four years, and both of our sons have loved the teachers, classmates, community, and the idyllic campus - imaginative classrooms and a big outdoor space complete with a little garden, playhouse, and room to run. And there are three teachers to every class!

Good luck with your move and search.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Dec 2013

Re: Is it worth it? Expensive preschool 
Our 3-yr-old child attends The Berkeley School, and we are very happy with it, and we think our child's teachers are spectacular. For us, it was the right choice, but we can afford it.

With that said, what I want to tell you is that over the course of the fall I've realized that having the perfect preschool has not automatically translated into our child always being happy, making lots of friends, turning into a great friend, making huge academic strides, and so on. Our child has gained a great deal of confidence and independence, but this would have happened at many high quality preschools. The Berkeley School has an awesome curriculum for teaching social emotional learning, cooperative learning, and self control -- but it turns out that parents are excellent teachers for those topics too. I thought our child would learn social skills at school, and this has happened, but I think the coaching we do at home before every playdate has been more important. The teachers are amazing, but our child spends a lot of time working and playing independently while the teachers help other kids (which is good!). Friendships have been lovely, but I'm not sure that we've found the unique best parent community in Berkeley -- I bet the parent communities at other schools are great too.

Some friends of ours almost chose The Berkeley School for their child but then switched to their second-choice school for reasons of schedule and commute. And they don't regret their choice at all.

When parents review schools positively, they sometimes focus on everything they love about their kids' development and then attribute it all to their schools. And schools do deserve a lot of credit -- teachers are amazing human beings who know way more than I ever will about child development. But a school will not make or break your child's development. If the choice is a tradeoff between working more to pay for an expensive school and having more time for parenting while your child attends a good-quality, less expensive school, I'd go for the latter.

I am currently a parent of two kids at the Berkeley School preschool, so I can relate to your feeling of falling head over heels in love with it (I also get choked up every time I enter the classrooms and see what a beautiful, intentional, stimulating environment the teachers have created). The tuition is a real stretch for us but a few factors influenced our decision to put our kids there (0) good fit for our extremely curious, high-energy, articulate kids (1) research shows that neuronal connections in the brain, which influence mood/thinking/behavior, all form at an exponential rate from years 2-5, and slow down to an asymptote after that. So it's a foundational time when a love of learning takes hold... we wanted to foster that time (2) we qualified for financial aid from the school, which made it practically possible (still a stretch, but within the realm of possibility) (3) real diversity in the staff & kids, which was important for our multi-racial family. Caveat: we both come from families of educators and have had a wide range of rather alternative educational experiences throughout our own childhoods, including seven years at a progressive alternate school with mandatory farmwork, no grades and no exams in a remote part of a developing country; running a wilderness therapy program in the US backcountry; semester at sea; extensive world travel; living and working on multiple continents. From those perspectives, most US schools seem to us like prisons (architecture included). We wanted something different for our kids, something that would preserve their sense of joy and wonder. So, I encourage you to think carefully about WHY you want to send them there, and whether you can provide that experience for them in other ways if money proves to be the deal-breaker. poor but joyous

Nov 2012

Re: Seeking "happy medium" between structured and play-based 
We moved to the East Bay from a small town on the Oregon coast. My daughter went to a wonderful Montessori-based preschool and I wanted to find something comparable for my son. After looking around at the school in this area, we found The Berkeley School off Shattuck Ave, in Berkeley.

This is our second year with the school, and we have found they foster a good balance between curiosity-led exploration and structure. They allow the children to set the curriculum, with some direction from the two instructors. Both group and individual works are encouraged, and children can use the materials on their own or with classmates. I feel the most important parts of a Montessori education is personal choice and taking responsibility for ones own learning, and these areas are emphasized in my son's classroom. There is some structure to the day. The children have a schedule for the day's activities, and work time, nap time, outside time and lunch occur at the same time every day. There are some special activities that break up the week, like music or art-project time. My son's teachers also organize presentations during the year. We got to watch a preschool-version production of the Nutcracker in the winter, and a Vivaldi-Spring show before summer. Dancing, playing, singing (and learning some languages - we get Chinese in our classroom) are part of every day.

You mentioned a large out-door area. The Berkeley School has a lovely out-door space with a huge sandbox, a train table, and monkey-bars. (There are many other things to explore, but these are what my son talks about the most!) The Berkeley School also has full-day, extended childcare, which is great for working families. I hope you check out this amazing preschool, because you won't have to look anywhere else! Good luck in your search. Megan

Oct 2012

Re: Montessori Family School Vs The Berkeley School 
Our son, now 3.5, has been at the Early Childhood Center (ECC) at the Berkeley School (TBS) since he was 2.9. In short, the school is phenomenal. It's a smorgasbord of kid-size intellectual challenges with equal attention paid to developing social skills and community participation. The outside space is beautiful and serene but also fun! The teachers could not be better - they're imaginative and dedicated in ways that continually surprise us. And, most important, they nurture and care for our son as if he were their own. They get excited about his achievements and are appropriately concerned when he needs a bit of extra help with something. Being connected to a larger K-8 school (campus on University) has also been cool. There are always ways to connect with other interesting families on the weekends and the whole TBS community has been welcoming and warm. Our son is actually disappointed when I tell him that it's Saturday, and he doesn't have school. ''When will it be Monday?'' he asks. To me, this says it all. sarah

August 2012

Re: Non-''Play-Based'' Preschool Programs in Berkeley? 
Both of my children have attended The Berkeley School's early childhood program. Formerly Berkeley Montessori, the school has a long and rich history of Montessori teaching. Several years ago they expanded to include other approaches, like Reggio Emilia, but the base and materials are still very Montessori.

Our daughter loved the structure of the day and activities. During 'work' time, the children are able to choose an activity and material, on their own or in a group, which can range from working with shapes and letters, preparing their own snacks, making art, to using beads and blocks to learn about numbers and math. With loving guidance from teachers, they tend to stay in an area (like shape puzzles) until they have mastered it, and then move on to increasingly more challenging works. It's so satisfying for them, and for us as parents, to see when they have figured something out and want to demonstrate.

Our son has a lot more energy and we were concerned he might not do as well in such a structured setting, but he is entering his third year there and absolutely thriving. It turns out that he loves the rhythm of the day, and is learning to sit longer with works and focus. He begs to stay in after school, so he can do more art and projects.

Both kids have learned to read, and were lucky to have teachers who are bilingual in Spanish and English. This gets rolled into their day in many ways -- from songs, counting and stories, to big celebrations on Dia de Muertos and 5 de Mayo. Other classrooms have teachers who speak other languages and similarly bring cultural traditions to daily learning.

To be sure, there is plenty of play time on the campus. There are four little houses, each with a classroom, and a big common play yard and garden. The outdoor environment is pretty magical! It is worth taking a tour to learn more, and talk to current parents. signy

July 2012

Re: Any preschool openings or short wait lists? 

Our daughter attended The Berkeley School, Early Childhood Center (ECC)/a which is located right off Shattuck Ave at Francisco ( She'll be heading to Kindergarten next year and I can't say enough good things about the teachers, environment, and approach. There are four classrooms all with 2-3 teachers and a lovely, large play space. Our daughter really blossomed there and will truly miss the wonderful teachers and friends she made. We've decided to continue on to the main campus for K-8. I asked the Director at ECC this morning and they still have a few openings for next fall. Hope this helps. Best, Chad

May 2012

Re: Berkeley preschool with openings for Fall 2012 

There are a few openings remaining at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Campus. It is a Montessori-based preschool that is located in North Berkeley. All three of my children attended and had wonderful experiences. You can find more information at their website: TBS Parent

Feb 2012

Re: Montessori for active, high energy boy? 

I highly recommend looking at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Center (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). It is a Montessori inspired preschool which also includes elements of Reggio Emilia. All three of my high energy sons have thrived in this environment which seems to have a wonderful balance of indoor and outdoor play and keeping children engaged both in independent and collaborative play/work. All three of them also transitioned very well to this setting after having been at play-based preschools. TBS Parent

July 2011

Re: Seeking excellent Pre K program with 2011 openings 

The Berkeley School's pre-school, which is launching a 5 year old program this fall, might be a good fit for your daughter. My son (who will be 5 at the end of September) has been enrolled at TBS this past year. It has been a GREAT experience for him--both academically and socially. We really can't say enough good things about his teachers, who have taken our rather shy, somewhat anxiety prone little guy and somehow transformed him into a confident, socially capable being. He is excited about learning and asking questions. He knows how to negotiate conflict with his peers. He has many friends (not true at his previous school). He LOVES going to school. We would keep him at the pre-school next year even without the new 5 year old program, but I think this program will give him yet more opportunities to grow. grechtel

June 2011

Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs? 

The Berkeley School ( is rolling out a bridge program next year at their Early Childhood Campus (ECC). The program is called ECC5 and is designed for kids that are hovering around kindergarten ready, that are ready in some areas but not others, or are ready in all areas but for whatever reason would benefit from a bridge program. The ECC has lots of experience in educating pre-schoolers and kindergarteners alike, so they will be ready, willing and able to tailor the ECC5 to the individual needs of the students. IC-m an ECC alum, my oldest (November birthday) is graduating from the ECC after three years this year, and IC-ll likely be sending my twins there year after next. We love it and could not recommend it more highly. Good luck! SLN

April 2011

Re: Preschool in Berk/Oakland for shy 4.5 yo 

I highly recommend taking a look at The Berkeley School's Early Childhood Center. It is a progressive, Montessori-based preschool located in North Berkeley. My two older children attended the school and my youngest will be starting in the fall. My middle child, who is somewhat shy, acclimated well to the program and made many friends. It amazed me with both my children how quickly they became comfortable with the classroom and their teachers. The teachers are incredibly nurturing and attentive to each child's emotional needs. They also have a bridge K program which may be suitable for your child. Best of luck in your search and move to the Bay Area! catherine

April 2011

Re: Preschool for 3 yr old in berkeley-oakland? 

I would highly recommend The Berkeley School preschool, which I found after looking at many preschools in the area. The school provides a wonderfully balanced emphasis on social/emotional skills as well as cognitive development through a mix of fantasy play, movement, art, music, and learning - all in a beautiful setting. There are four classes, each opening to a large outdoor garden and play area. The school emphasizes the whole child, allowing children to pursue their own individual interests while at the same time involving them in many cooperative games and learning activities. In my son's class, there is daily dance, lots of music, art, play as well as wonderfully enriching activities such as the study of reptiles, fish and mammals, and culture through hands on learning. It is a great community of parents. The teachers are talented and attentive, and I can't recommend it more highly. K.

Jan 2011

Re: Requesting Feedback on Model School 

Although I am not familiar with The Model School, from what you are decribing The Berkeley School would be a wonderful fit for you and your child. My two older sons attended their Early Childhood Center and my youngest will be joining them in the fall. It is a developmentally based program which incorporates both Montessori and Reggio-Emilia practices. My two older children are very different but for both it was a wonderful combination of self-directed learning along with some structure. It is also an incredibly nurturing environment with wonderful teachers. Best of luck in your preschool search. catherine

Jan 2011

Re: Nurturing preschool for very active son 

It's not in Oakland, but you might want to consider The Berkeley School's preschool program. My son (who sounds a lot like your son) is in the elementary school there, and it's been terrific! Lots of play-based learning in the younger grades, lots of attention to social skills, and lots of activity. The teachers really pay attention to what each child needs. In the elementary school active kids are allowed to take a lap around the yard (in a non-punitive way), and I'm sure they have something similar in the preschool. Good luck! D

Jan 2011

Re: Preschools friendly for kids with nut allergies 

Katherine, I saw your post on Berkeley Parents Network and wanted to respond. For any child with severe food allergies, I highly recommend The Berkeley School We picked the preschool specifically because it was the only one that we found that was prepared to deal with severe food allergies and had actual extensive experience doing so. The preschool campus has a no-nut/peanut policy.

My older daughter is four and has;a number of severe food allergies, including peanut and nut allergies. By severe, I mean that ingesting even a tiny amount is enough to trigger anaphylaxis. She has been at the school since Fall of 2008. I can't say enough about what a wonderful job her teachers have done in dealing with her allergies. There are several other kids in her class with overlapping allergies and they manage everyone's very well.

The school provides peanut- and nut-free snacks and the teachers and staff always make sure that each child only eats the snacks that are safe for them. All of the kids bring their own lunches and eat together under close supervision so the teachers can make sure there is no food sharing. The lunches are supposed to be nut and peanut free. On the rare (once or twice) occasions when a family has forgotten - reminders are sent out instantly. The teachers cook with the kids often and have adapted all of their recipes to ensure that no allergens are included (not easy, as some of the kids are allergic to wheat too!)

To give you a sense of how many foods they have had to screen, my daughter is also allergic to dairy, egg, fish, sesame, and strawberries; she was allergic to soy, garlic, beef, and pork, but has outgrown those allergies.

In addition to the food allergy issue, it is a terrific school - fabulous teachers and a really caring community. She has grown socially, emotionally, and intellectually in so many ways during her time at the school. We feel really lucky to have found a place where we our daughter is thriving and we don't have to worry about her all day. We are planning to start our younger daughter there in the fall - she also has peanut and nut allergies.

I know the school is not in the geographic area that you are looking, but it is definitely worth considering. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Regards, Carol

Dec 2010

Re: Chaotic Preschool 

My daughter attended a play based preschool which was not nearly as chaotic as you describe, but which did have a lot going on. After her three year old year we visited The Berkeley School (Berkeley Montessori at the time). I'll never forget how strikingly and visibly she relaxed in a calmer environment. Her whole little body changed. Ultimately I moved her there. She didn't feel academically ''pushed;'' she felt free and safe to explore. She also felt freer to interact socially in an environment where she didn't feel such sensory overload. There is a lot of space to play and run and imagine and be silly, and-- this is key--the environment allows kids to pace themselves and self-regulate with some quiet time to explore and investigate and discover. I wish I had realized sooner how stressful the high energy chaos was for her. TBS turned out, for her at least, to be a better place to work on the social skills and gain confidence as a learner. I think the program at the preschool now is even stronger- drawing from Montessori, and Reggio Emilia, and Teaching for Understanding. I suggest you visit- and pay attention to your daughter's body language when you do. I wish you well in finding a good fit for her. Happy mom of a happy girl

April 2010

Re: 9 month long Preschool in Berkeley/Rockridge 

I'd enthusiastically recommend The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. ( My 3-year old son has been in the preschool at their Early Education Center (EEC) since September, and we couldn't be happier. The teachers are fabulous - compassionate, committed, extremely competent, knowledgeable and communicative - the campus is a beautiful mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces, and we feel our son is getting a great mixture of learning new skills and experiencing new situations in a stimulating and appropriate way. We also love the mixed-age classroom (generally 3-5) and the diversity of the students (and parents). Ask the moderator for my contact info if you'd like to hear more. happy tbs parent

March 2010

Re: Searching for the right preschool 

I am a parent of a 5 year old girl at ''The Berkeley School''. I was also afraid of the traditional lack of ''play and fantasy'' in a traditional Montessori school but TBS is not a ''traditional'' Montessori school. The emphasis is meeting each child's needs and not sticking to a traditional form or pedagogy. My daugher for example loves dolls and role play. When I saw that they have a separate doll/play room I knew TBS was not the traditional Montessori school. The school is full of love. The teachers and staff love being there, the kids are full of aliveness and joy and my daughter and all her friends love being there. The ECC campus is a magical kingdom with a very creative atmosphere. It has a separate art room with a fantastic art teacher, a wonderful music teacher that comes in once a week, an afterschool yoga teacher that comes in twice a week, and a great deal of fun and creativity within each classroom. The greater TBS has a fantastic community. Emotionally, intellectually, creatively, this school has the whole package. I am happy to continue the conversation or answer any questions for those who would like to email me. We also have two years experience in Waldolf preschools. Mitch

March 2010

Hi - My son is almost 2 and 7 months old and very shy in a group setting. I have seen many times the teachers at my son's current daycare would just left him out of the activities that they were doing because he was sitting at the far corner and didn't want to participate. After seeing all the raves about the Berkeley School, I think it would be a great fit for my little boy. Do you know if it's really hard to get in the Berkeley School? Is there a long waiting list? Thank you Jillian

I don't know about specifics regarding a waiting list at the Berkeley School, and I do think it's competitive, but I know that the school really emphasizes a student and family's ''fit'' with the school throughout the admissions process. For our family, that meant that teachers and admissions officers really got to know us, and our child, and we consistently had the sense that there was no ''cookie-cutter'' model of child, or family, that the school was looking to find. In contrast to some schools we've seen that DID talk about a waiting list, the message we got from the Berkeley School was ''we're going to look at your child carefully, and you should look at our school carefully.'' That was refreshing.

I can also say that our experience at TBS has been terrific for all of our children, one of whom, like your son, tends to hover at the periphery, to be a bit unsure of herself regarding ''entering the group'' and being a part of things. We found that teachers really know how to engage the children who might normally hang back, and that, while they have certainly been willing to ''rope'' our child in when she holds back, this also happens naturally because of the way that the lessons offer not only opportunities for kids to learn, but also to interact. We get the sense that when our child gets to school, learning and doing things with other kids occurs naturally, and her anxiety levels went way down from where they were at her previous school.

You should call the school and ask for Andrea Gordon. She is the director of the Early Childhood Campus; she's friendly and approachable and can answer all of your questions, I'm sure. The campus is amazing, and you'll be really impressed by the classrooms. It's a dream-come-true environment for kids: lots to learn and do in an environment that warm and inviting. Good luck to you! Happy Berkeley School Mom

Last year they still had some openings in the preschool at the start of the year. I think with the economy the way it is, they had less than average numbers of applicants. TBS is also flexible in allowing kids to enter mid-year, so if your child is not quite ready until then, that's an option as well. My daughter has loved it there, and our 2nd daughter will start there next fall. TBS parent
Our daughter was at The Berkeley School ECC through 2008 (it was then called Berkeley Montessori). She is a very creative, artistic kid and she loved it. It has aspects of Montessori, but definitely incorporates that joy element - creativity, whimsy, play, flexibility - that a more traditional Montessori school can lack. They changed the name in part to indicate that, while the school has kept the best of traditional Montessori, it also recognizes there are other ideas out there that can beautifully enhance that curriculum. There's a lot of outdoor time and gardening, and the space itself is about as sweet as it can be. Her teacher was Nancy, who was incredible - she was such an acute observer of the kids. She knew our daughter as well and truly as we did. It was a great experience. I have no idea if it's hard to get into; it seems that with all Berkeley preschools there is some shuffling around in the fall, people moving in and out. Certainly worth looking into! Good luck. Happy TBS Parent

Oct 2009

Re: Need a kind Preschool for a 2.9 year old boy 

My child is at The Berkeley School (used to be Berkeley Montessori) for his second year now and is quite happy there. The teachers and administrators are wonderfully loving, patient and kind with the kids. My own shy son had a hard time adjusting at first and his teachers were so helpful and understanding during what for him was a difficult transition time. Now he is thriving. And they do have some 2+ kids there. I couldn't recommend TBS more highly. Best of luck! Happy TBS Parent

Feb 2009

Re: Preschools with Alfie Kohn Approach 

Berkeley Montessori School is it! My husband and I also had a hard time really connecting with any of the preschools that we visited last year and then, quite by chance, attended the last open house at BMS before the application was due. It felt like home...and indeed is. Our daughter has been attending for 6 months and the environment is absolutely along the 'Unconditional Parenting' lines. In fact, the school sponsored a talk by Alfie Kohn last year. Our daughter is learning spanish in class - she actually can count better in Spanish than English and does not come from a bilingual household. Also, believe there is a very strong scholarship program. Pleased Parent

Take a peek at Berkeley Montessori School. It's preschool through 8th grade, and the preschool campus is separate from the elementary/middle school. My daughter is in her 4th year at BMS, she started when she was 3 and recently moved to ''the big kids' school.'' We've been nothing short of thrilled with the attention to social/emotional delvelopment and intelectual challenge. We commute from Montclair, and we're far from the only ones.

The teachers treat the children with respect and affection, without excessive praise. Our Head of School has worked with Alfie Kohn and brought him to speak in the East Bay a few years ago. BMS is also very serious about teacher education, and sends teachers every year to Harvard's Project Zero and last year sent several teachers to Reggio Emilia for a week of study. We can see the direct effect of this emphasis on professional development in the classrooms every day. It's a pretty terrific place. Call the admissions office at 665-8800 x103 to schedule a tour. Very happy BMS parent

Berkeley Montessori School sounds like a good fit for your family. The school co-sponsored a talk by Alfie Kohn last spring for parents, and the teachers are warm and practice Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies. Happy parent

Nov 2008

Re: Piedmont Preschools

I would encourage you to check out Berkeley Montessori School for your child. Several families commute from Piedmont or even farther away to this school that provides a wonderful balance of fascinating learning opportunities, warmth and caring, and the joy of discovery. My children have thrived there. Their website is Happy parent

Nov 2008

Re: Daughter will be ready for K, but is too young 

I would suggest the Berkeley Montessori School for your daughter. They will be starting a blended K-1st grade class at their university campus in the fall. My daughter, a late September baby, is in her 3rd year at the Early childhood campus. We chose this school precisely because they didn't arbitrarily place children in grades according to their age. When touring many of the private schools we were often faced with the Sept.1st cut-off. BMS doesn't use this system and opts instead to blend children into age groups that are socially and academically beneficial. My daughter loves the school and is very excited to attend the Upper elementary campus next year. Give them a call to schedule a tour. Good Luck. Happy BMS parent

Feb 2008

Re: Looking for a Montessori Preschool

My son went to Berkeley Montessori (near Shattuck and Hearst) some years back and absolutely loved it! He is now a 6th grader and a top A student. The teachers were so warm and caring and willing to allow him to explore his talents. He got fired up about reading and taught himself to read (with their help) in a couple weeks. I enjoyed the parents and community. My only caveat is that the principal changed near the end of our time there, so I would also look at a more recent review. kl

Jan 2008

We are looking at preschools for my son, starting Sep 2008. One of the schools we applied to is Berkeley Montessori school. Their Early Childhood campus is walking distance from our place and looked pretty promising during the school tour. We have been asked to take our son to the school for a 'playdate' in early Feb from 9am-1pm where they will observe the kids and probably decide whether they are ready or not. Does anyone out there have any idea what happens during the playdate? We have no clue, so would love to hear from anyone who has had such an experience. Also, we would like to hear your comments regarding the school in general. Thanks in advance.

Hello, BMS is a fantastic preschool. We finally found BMS after trying out 3 other preschools over the years for our kids. We went thru the playdate/observation process with two of our children. I know it seems intimidating, but it is really no big deal. Basically, its not about testing your child to determine admittance, but more about letting the teachers get to know your child a little bit in order to determine the best classroom placement. Because they do this observation beforehand, the school does a really good job balancing the classrooms. Aka, making sure that they get a variety of temperments in each class. Also, its nice for the children to see the classroom and have a chance to play there and meet the teachers before their first day of school.

So this is what happens. You go to one of the classrooms where there will be lot of fun toys layed out for your child to play with. Ideally, your child will become engaged with one of the teachers playing with one of the toys together. Its best if you can make yourself scarce during this process so the teacher can get to know your child. But if your child doesn't feel comfortable ''separating'' then stay there with them. Just try to stay relaxed so your child doesn't pick up on your stress.

The playdate is also really good for you to see how interested you child is in the types of toys and other activities they have in the classroom. I had one child who, when he came for the observation, he just ran in and played with the teacher and had a great time. My other child had a much harder time separating from me, but enjoyed playing with all the fun toys. For both of them, being able to play in the classroom before the first day of school was a great plus. They both loved all the toys and couldn't wait to go back to school and play again.

It sounds like you have an appointment for a child visit. We did this -- and chose BMS for our daughter. Your child will have an appointment for a certain time, along with several other children. The admissions director advised us to come 15 minutes early to get used to the campus, and to tell our daughter that daddy and I really liked this school and we were going to visit to see if ''she'' liked it, too. That was great advice.

The children will be in a classroom with several of the teachers -- to see how they interact with each other and with the materials, how well they separate from their parents (don't stress about this too much, most children entering have trouble separating!) and just generally whether they're ready for school.

My child, not typically one to separate easily, had a great time -- she was enthralled with all the new materials and really liked the teachers. We liked how well it was structured around the needs of the children -- several schools we were looking at did NOT structure their child visit around the visiting children, but rather around adult schedules and needs, which turned us off.

We've been extremely happy with our choice, and can't imagine a place where she'd be more nurtured or intellectually challenged. I'm happy to answer any other questions you have. Lisa

Nov 2007

Re: Look for preschool w. good reading/language program

I saw the headline of your post about wanting strong reading and language, and I immediately thought of our school, Berkeley Montessori. Then I went down to the text of your message and saw that in your view Montesori was not strong on reading and language. Our experience could not have been more different! The children coming out of the pre-school and kindergarten are, as a group, very very strong in terms of reading and language. As they move to elementary school it gets even better. I would say that many kids at BMS are early readers, but, more importantly, early or late, they are happy readers. My son was a later reader than most, but now he loves reading and is the kind of kid who would stay up all night reading with a flashlight given the chance. My daughter, also a late reader, now generates pages of writing out of her own interest, and she loves to edit and rewrite. I would also say that the social learning is very strong and authentic. Before you write off Montessori, take a look at how they do it at Berkeley Montessori. Ann

Sept 2007

Re: Preschool w/ an ''Unconditional Parenting'' approach

One hundred years ago Maria Montessori noticed some of the same things as Alfie Kohn, and most Montessori schools stress the importance of allowing children to do work for their own satisfaction, rather than to please teachers or parents. Berkeley Montessori School, where my children go, may have the environment you are looking for. Janet Stork is very knowledgeable about Alfie Kohn's work, and the teachers have a lot of experience treating children with respect and warmth while not excessively praising them. The result is children who love to learn. There is more info about Berkeley Montessori on the web at: There is also a great article about the problems with praising children at: in case you haven't already seen it. Happy BMS parent

I loved that book and would like to point you in the direction of Berkeley Montessori School. One of the main points of UP was for parents to nurture children's ''intrinsic motivation'', the same point for teachers Alfie Kohn made in another book, ''Schools Our Children Deserve''.

BMS provides a time-tested Montessori environment that engages children's natural curiosity as the motor force for their learning. (I usually had a hard time getting my kids to come home after school.) The mixed-age classrooms, with the kindergartners providing a natural role model for the younger kids, are another way that learning happens without adults pressuring the children. BMS is also known for creating a warm, nuturing preschool social environment where children feel safe and respected. Both my kids, quite different from each other, have been going there since they were 3 years old, and have flourished in both the BMS Early Childhood and elementary programs.

By the way, BMS Head of School Janet Stork has worked with Alfie Kohn in the past, and has arranged for him to come out to the East Bay this spring and talk with teachers and parents. BMS and a couple of other Bay Area schools are co-sponsoring an event for parents in Berkeley (exact location announced soon), on March 18, 2008. Save the date! Dan J

July 2007

Re: Looking for preschool with ''no peanut'' policy 

My daughter has a very good friend with a severe peanut allergy. Her mom says: ''As the mother of a preschooler who is very allergic to peanuts (i.e. carries an Epi-Pen), I understand your concern. Although it's a little outside of your search area, I wanted to recommend Berkeley Montessori School to your attention. When we enrolled my daughter there 2 years ago, they did not have a food allergy policy in place, but their response to our needs have been amazing and incredibly comforting.

Within days, they instituted a campus-wide ''no nut'' policy that has been posted at the pick-up and drop-off areas and sent home with parents on several occasions each year. They also have a rule in the classroom that students are not to share their food with one another, just in case. The parents who are responsible for purchasing the snacks that the school provides are informed, and while there has not yet been a single slip-up, the teachers in my daughter's classroom are well-versed in reading the small print on the back of all of the packages. Occasionally, a parent will bring to school a birthday treat that has been exposed to nuts. In every case, the teachers have provided my daughter with an alternate treat, sometimes taking the time to walk down the street to the bakery to buy it. In short, both the administration and the teachers have taken my daughter's special need seriously and have diligently kept her safe and well.

Finally, I would like to mention that before choosing Berkeley Montessori (at that time without a ''no nut'' policy), my daughter attended a preschool that had a pre-existing ''no nut'' policy in place. In spite of that policy, we found food containing nuts at every single special event held at that school (school play, Halloween celebration, etc.) The parents responsible for bringing refreshments to those events were not reminded, nor were the snacks checked once they arrived on site. Our confidence in the organization, responsibility, and care of the Berkeley Montessori staff and community was so strong, that we felt more comfortable trying out a new policy there than trying to stick with a school that had the policy we needed but lacked the organization to enforce it.'' Lisa

Sept 2005

Re: Montessori Preschool near UC Berkeley

I would highly recommend Berkeley Montessori's preschool program, just off Shattuck on Francisco very close to downtown Berkeley. The program is very rich and stimulating, the teachers are nurturing and very caring, the children are happy and inquisitive. The school is online at, or you can call 665-8800. Good luck, Happy BMS parent

Dec 2004

I am considering sending my 4 yr old to Berkeley Montessori's Summer Program and then continuing for preschool and kindergarten. Any feedback on starting in the summer and on the school in general? Most recent comments are a year old. Thanks! Amy

My three year old was enrolled at Berkeley Montessori's Summer program before she started preschool there this past September ('04). I think she really benefitted from the introduction to the Montessori approach and she made some great friends. Most staff members remain for the fall, so there is that benefit as well. Our daughter's previous program had been a play-based co- op so I am grateful my husband and I had a chance to get to know the approach as well before the fall session began. Btw, our daughter is now thriving at BMS and we couldn't be happier with the program. We are now considering enrolling our daughter in the elementary program when the time comes, we hope her younger sister will also be at BMS for preschool in '07. shauna

Jan 2003

Our two children attend Berkeley Montessori School and we really love it!  At the pre-school (aka early childhood center) we have spent four years with the full day program, a life saver for two working families and single parents. This program has a traditional Maria Montessori approach, uses four teachers for about 20 kids, two in the morning, two in the afternoon. We also happen to have ateacher with Chinese and Englsih-so our children are learning a great deal of chinese along the way. We have built a warm, family focused community here. The pre-school campus on Francisco, near Shattuck, features four classes, three part day and one full day. the yard and garden are wonderful, including small planting areas for each class to manage. An art room and music program are maintained.

The elementary campus is now housed on Leroy near Cedar is serviceable, the teachers are great and the whole thing is planning a move to a brand new campus next year. The new buildings are designed and ready to build as ''passive solar'' architecture designed by Pfau, SF. We are all very excited by the project, and the growing opportunites we see ahead.

I am a serious fan of this school, so if you have questions, please call. Theresa

We feel very lucky that our son is at Berkeley Montessori School. We have been at the school for 2 1/2 years (K-2) and plan to stay there through Middle School. We have been extremely impressed with the teachers at the school and the amazing education he is receiving there. The children are encouraged to work together, to talk and solve things cooperatively, and to have fun. My son and our family felt welcomed by the community of kids, parents, and teachers in his classes right away. The children have the same teacher for 3 years, and it is wonderful to see how the older children mentor the younger children.

I know that some Montessori schools I had visited felt a little more rigid and quiet than BMS. We chose BMS because we liked the looser (more talkative and collaborative) approach, more common in AMS (rather than AMI) schools.

The academics are superb, and each child can work at his or her own level. This requires great teachers who know the children very well and can allow them to work independently. My son's teachers also do a wonderful job fostering kindness, respect, and caring between the kids. The school really nurtures his innate love of learning, something I am especially thankful for.

Some weaknesses of the school: there is no foreign language enrichment in 1st-3rd grade, the tuition increases each year more than I wish, and my impression is that because the classroom communities are so strong, the sense of a whole school community is less than at schools where you switch teachers from year to year. But the Parents Association and administration are working hard on this last point.

The greatest strength of the school is the set of dedicated, talented, nurturing teachers.

It is a great gift to have our son in such a rich environment every day, even if it is a financial stretch for us. We are also very excited that the school will be moving to a brand new site next school year. My son is incredibly happy, so we are happy. I think BMS is a great school.


May 1996

My son is currently 3. He is attending Berkeley Montessori School, and loves it there. At first, I thought it was too structured, fascist, and disciplined. However all the kids were happy, creative, polite, and the teachers were full of energy and good ideas. They have a music teacher that comes once a week. Kids also visit neighborhood parks weekly.

In my opinion, kids have a short attention span and need some guidance in accomplishing activities. The Montessori curricula helps kids focus on an activity from start to finish: they make choices among a set of activities and also pick up after themselves. There are always new activities, but also some that are a permanent part of the classroom. This allows kids to build confidence and demonstrate their abilities on old activities, but also explore new things.They also encourage older kids to explain things to younger students as a way to learn and socialize.

One teacher in the preK class teaches Mandarin during circle time, and offers saturaday class for interested kids over 4 at extra charge.