The Berkeley SchoolCommunity Subscriber
- The Berkeley School was known as Berkeley Montessori School prior to July 2009.
- Also see: The Berkeley School Early Childhood Campus ages 2-4
NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR 2017-18! We are a Pre-K through 8 program and we know what really matters in education: curiosity, academic vigor, and creativity matter. So does being connected to a wider community of learners that values those qualities. Our mission — to ignite curious minds, awaken generous hearts, and engage a changing world — is at the heart of everything we do. The Berkeley School offers a unique program that incorporates the latest in educational research and child development. We understand that learning isn’t an experience that “happens to” a child. Our children learn by doing; they learn from the environment, from themselves, and from each other. We follow in the tradition of groundbreaking educational thinkers who focused on equipping students with the skills for a lifetime of learning. We’re inspired by the methods of Maria Montessori, a scientist-educator who shaped her methods only after closely observing children and establishing what worked. John Dewey, Loris Malaguzzi of Reggio Emilia, Howard Gardner, David Perkins, the educators at Harvard-based Project Zero: these are the thinkers who excite us. Financial Aid Available for those who qualify. Contact us for a tour today!
My son was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD ( inattentive) in first grade. He was attending a “ progressive “ private school in Oakland and they were unwilling and unequipped to provide support for my son - as are most schools. The problem is that most learning specialists are not trained in the proven methodologies that support and instruct kids with Dyslexia. In fact, the trend these days is for learning specialists to support teachers - not necessarily students. You might get a “ pull-out” a few times a week but that wont help your child. Early intervention is crucial. Many studies have shown that early intervention can even “rewire” neuro pathways. Check out UCSF’s brain imaging study on Dyslexia.
We sent our son to Charles Armstrong for three years and it was well worth the sacrifice. He is now a 6th grader at The Berkeley School and thriving. TBS is a wonderful community and a school that really and truly embraces diversity in all forms. The school is working on more ways to support neuro-diverse students because the leadership understands that a diverse classroom helps develop deeper learning. TBS also has a project based curriculum, which really works well for Dyslexic students. Our son still needs some outside support but the school makes it easy and welcomes all types of scaffolding that students depend on.
If you are not going to send your child to a school that focuses on remediation of Dyslexia, then I encourage you to hire an educational therapist who is trained in Making Math Real, Orton-Gillingham, and or Slingerland. The Berkeley School provides an environment where your child’s strengths will be highlighted and their challenges will be supported. Unlike many private schools - they welcome students who learn and think in different ways. I encourage you to contact Stephen Cahill ( learning support coordinator) at the Berkeley School. He welcomes the opportunity to discuss the school’s strategies for different learners - I’ve never encountered a more engaged and forward thinking educator !
I highly recommend the Berkeley School. My daughter is dyslexic and she flourished and loved her middle school years at the Berkeley School. She is in high school now. She was prepared well and ready academically and socially for high school. The teachers at the Berkeley School were great and accommodated my daughter's needs. It was the perfect fit for her. All the best and good luck! -frank r
We have a 5 year old boy and 12 year old girl at The Berkeley School (TBS) and have had a fantastic experience with both of them. It's truly an amazing school that effectively teaches to a huge range personalities. They are incredibly attentive to each child, and I frankly have no idea how they give such individualized care and attention. Of course, at the heart of every school is the staff, and they have a gifted staff, administrators and teachers alike. They are all committed and talented educators. Between our two kids, we now have 12 years with TBS, and I can't recommend the school highly enough.
Our son is in his 2nd year at The Berkeley School (he’s now in 1st grade) and he’s doing great. I apologize for my long response, but I want to cover all your questions.
Our family is a mixed race – African, Indian and Caucasian and diversity is important to us. We’ve found TBS to be an inclusive community of all different types of diversity including race/ethnicity, LGBT and neuro-diversity. Last year the school was particularly focused on the importance of racial diversity both within and outside of school and held parent focused programs with different speakers and facilitators on issues of race and ethnicity.
My son is definitely on the high energy side and TBS teachers do a great job of taking his energy in stride. I feel that TBS is good at meeting children where they are – whether that be high energy or more introverted. Also, the school’s academic standards are high and they do a good job of catering to those kids that are ready for more academically and others that may need educational scaffolding in areas.
TBS has lots of parent and student education events throughout the year like parent and staff coffee talks where school staff talks about the school’s philosophy on different academic areas like math and science. Also, like other independent schools, there are speakers that come to the school to talk about interesting educational and parenting topics. Last year Allison Gopnik came to TBS one evening to discuss her latest book on parenting.
We have found a warm community at TBS. We just had our winter festival with a cook-off, bake-off and lots of crafts. The school isn’t large so families know each other and know each other’s children. There’s also a focus on community service which connects members of the community to each other and connects TBS to the greater the community outside the school.
Just like all schools there are areas at TBS which need improvement. For example, I sometimes see same parents doing lots of volunteering, but I think that most schools also have lots of busy families and have similar volunteer issues. The important thing about TBS is the leadership makes themselves available to parents and are very willing to engage with parents on suggestions or critiques.
Our family has been really happy with TBS. Good luck with the decision making process, I know it can be stressful.
My son has attended The Berkeley School for four years and is in second grade. Our experience has been very positive. I especially appreciate that they have two teachers per classroom, so that if a conflict or unhappy moment arises, it is not brushed under the rug, but is dealt with in a very healthy way, while the other teacher is able to keep the rest of the class on track. My son is high energy, has a temper and is also very curious. He loves reading and learning, as long as the teacher makes it fun, which I think they do. The teachers have been so kind and patient and extremely proactive in reaching out to us when our son's behavior has been challenging at school. They initiate meetings and we problem solve together - often with very good results. They are so supportive and positive with him. I appreciate that The Berkeley School isn't a sit-at-your-desk school. Kids are busy, and aren't parked at their desks listening all day.
I had these same concerns for my son (just starting 8th grade this year) who has similar issues. We were also concerned about the potential for slipping through the cracks without anyone to help our son navigate that kind of environment. As we started to feel the pressure to be more organized/independent and socially/environment savvy in 5th grade (which frankly started feeling like a whole family issue rather than just one for my son), we realized that if there was one time to invest in developing the needed skills, the middle school years are the time and place. A friend recommended The Berkeley School --which I swear is the East Bay's best kept secret-- and it has been the one thing that has made our lives easier. I had always been a "my kids are going to public school!" advocate and had never even considered private school but realized that our district just didn't have the capacity (and/or expertise?) to have a whole child focus and that we really needed a skilled school team that understood--and could support the needs of--the nebulous area of executive functioning, etc. In thinking about private schools, we were concerned about finding a balance between strong academics, the social/emotional support, not too big/small, and not feeling like we were the middle class folk in a universe of different values/resources.
We definitely found the right balance at TBS. From the orientation onward, TBS emphasized that its staff prioritized supporting the executive functioning needs of its middle schoolers (without singling out it in any way) and in the three years that we have been there, has lived up to that mission. I was struck by your inclusion of the word "gentle" in your question because that is usually the word that I use to describe our TBS experience. (We have since also moved our other child over to the TBS elementary school). And not meant in a coddling sense but rather the school's approach to supporting the whole child. When I am at the school, it feels gentle. It feels calm. It feels like thoughtful effort goes into everything. And the teachers are super dialed in to the kids. I have seen my son blossom in ways I never could have imagined (seriously!). If I could do my own middle school experience over, I would want to be there. The academics are strong yet the school is down to earth.
Looking back at our earlier (read: more stressful) years, I invested in every strategy, book, therapist/specialist, and constant communication with teachers but the ROI was not there. At TBS, they want to know what kind of support we want/need. I actually can just drop my kids off without worry--which, for those of us who have a more complicated family experience, is not just refreshing, it is actually sanity saving--because I know that the entire staff is committed to helping my kid navigate the day and build the skills to navigate the future. I would definitely recommend checking out The Berkeley School to see if it's a fit. When we were looking, we liked Prospect Sierra too but felt TBS was a better match.
My daughter is a 7th Grader at The Berkeley School (TBS), and I cannot recommend TBS's Middle School program highly enough - for any student. The school-wide philosophy recognizing and celebrating diversity of all kinds - including neurodiversity - is deeply embedded in the Middle School program at TBS, and is a cornerstone of the pedagogical approach in its classrooms. The learning environment is both rigorous and manageable for students. Teachers pay close attention to every student's needs as learners, and provide individualized attention accordingly. The learning specialists at TBS provide additional bridges to learning when necessary - something which my daughter has benefitted from for nearly every one of the 10 years she has been a student at the school.
Please come and see if TBS might be a good fit for your child. I know that a visit to the campus will immediately reflect what our children all feel there: a sense of intimacy, ownership, community and pride in themselves as learners.
We were in the same boat (and looked at the above schools) when we decided to transfer from WCCUSD to the Berkeley School last year for 6th grade. We too had been committed to public education but increasingly saw my son checking out/not feeling stimulated/doing the bare minimum and were concerned about the trajectory that would take once he moved into a bigger middle school during a tricky time of life and could likely slip through the cracks. I wasn't sure whether, as a 6th grade newbie it would feel like he was entering a well-established social and school system but the Berkeley School staff, kids and community have been so inclusive, welcoming and kind from the beginning that my son never experienced any transition issues. I think the school is very conscientious and does a great job teaching and living its values and as a result, newcomers seem to integrate pretty well. The class size has been good too: We were hoping for something not too small and not too big to ease the transition. It seems like the middle school has drawn a lot more new students this year so I definitely would not be concerned about your child being the "only" new kid. TBS also matches up new families with current families so that new students at least have one familiar face when school starts. I have been beyond impressed by how welcoming this community has been towards my family. We actually just moved our (very anxious) 3rd grader there this year and have had the same positive transition experience. TBS has made both of my kids feel excited about learning again and it really is such a nice, no-drama community of good kids and grownups. This was definitely one of the best decisions we've made. My sense is that because these schools see an influx of kids for middle school, they are all probably pretty good at helping incoming 6th graders integrate so it's more a question of finding a school that feels like a good fit for your child and family. Good luck!
I am sorry to hear about you son's troubles. It must be very hard on him and you. My son is a bit quirky and we moved him to The Berkeley School and have been very pleased. They truly encourage kindness among the kids and have an amazing student teacher ratio. I would not wait for your son to really hate school before you intervene. Middle school is some of a boys toughest years so if you can make a change do, even if it's for a short period of time.
Good luck to you both,
As it happens there is a child in my son's class who is leaving mid year so it would leave a spot open in winter. You would have to ask about kindergarten. We are at The Berkeley School which is not far from campus. We have been very happy there and the kids are generally very kind to new kids who come in. Take a look
We have two children at TBS - 2nd grade and ECC. We actually stumbled upon the ECC campus when looking for a preschool for our older daughter. We found it to be an amazing place where our daughter thrived, became curious and always wanted to jump out of our car to go to school.
During our kindergarten evaluation, we looked at several other schools to make sure we were evaluating all of our options. It's the best kept secret of private schools. Education is changing and TBS is light years ahead.
If you are looking for a school that markets academic rigor, than this is not your place.
But if you are looking for a school that creates children that want to learn because they are excited about it, always looking to understand their impact in their community, a dedicated staff of accomplished educators, forward thinking, understand the link between social-emotional learning, focus on the 4c's, project and maker based learning, and more than this is your place.
I work with a lot of private, public and independent schools in the Bay Area and this is one of the best.
We were looking for a middle school that prioritized community, critical thinking, and school-life balance (that is, a reasonable amount of homework) and The Berkeley School has met all of our expectations and more... While at first we were concerned about the small size, it turned out small is exactly what middle schoolers really need--an opportunity to develop into young adults in a supportive community, with a thoughtful, caring, and passionate team of teachers, and an emphasis on learning how to relate to others, know yourself, and learn deeply about important academic topics and issues. We have been blown away by the experience at The Berkeley School, for our 8th grader (who joined in 6th) and our 5th grader (who joined in 4th). We can't recommend this school highly enough. Parent reviews can only point the way--go take a look for yourself and you will see everything I have described! Happy TBS family
Our daughter has been enrolled at The Berkeley School since 2008, when she entered the school's early childhood program. The magic has never worn off. In the eight years our daughter has been a student at the Berkeley School she has been challenged, inspired, motivated and encouraged - in an academic environment that sets The Berkeley School apart from other independent schools.
More than anything, though, it's the way that our daughter feels about the school - her deep love of and respect for her teachers and the faculty at The Berkeley School - that remains our constant reminder that 8 years ago we might the right choice by joining this fabulous community of parents and educators.
Now poised to begin her middle school years at The Berkeley School, we are confident our daughter is receiving the best, most comprehensive and personalized education a child can receive - in the East Bay, and indeed in the Bay Area.
My daughter has been at The Berkeley School for five years and she's thriving in this vibrant, progressive school. She's happy, engaged and challenged here, and loves going to school. As parents, we're thrilled to have discovered this gem of a school, right in the heart of Berkeley, where she's getting a superb academic and social experience.
The class sizes are small and every classroom has two teachers, which really sets it apart from other private schools. The kids can't just sit back and fly under the radar. They're seen and supported, and challenged.
Thanks to the passionate teachers and staff, we've seen our bright and curious kid overcome her struggles as a very reluctant reader to a voracious reader. She's learning how to learn, in a creative, engaging environment with lots of real-life immersive experiences. Her class just got back from an overnight at Fort Ross where they stepped back-in-time to be real-life characters from the 1800's.
One of the first things we noticed at TBS, and continue to appreciate, is the joy of learning in the classroom whether it's math, science, history, writing, music, art or Spanish. Homework isn't expected until mid-3rd grade and now that our kid is in 4th grade, she's so excited to get homework.
We've found the family community to be warm, inviting and friendly, (and they love to throw parties.)
The Berkeley School has been around for more than 50 years and in our experience, every year it just gets better and better. It's one of Berkeley's best private schools!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
From the ''sounds similar'' angle... We have a relatively quiet, creative, bookish, observant 6th grade girl, who, while never disengaged in class, was liable to float somewhat and could easily have been less than sufficiently noticed and challenged to excel (in areas where she is naturally strong) and develop (in areas where she naturally is not) in a larger classroom/school environment.
So we went with the smaller, private option and our daughter is very happily settled at The Berkeley School on University. The 6th grade has two lovely, lively and learned classroom teachers, and the curriculum is rich, engaging and allows for creativity in student work. There's no just getting by and not participating for any student - the teachers are too on it! The school has a warm, welcoming community--staff, teachers and parents-and much attention is paid to the social-emotional well being of the kids. EC mom
I recommend that you look closely at The Berkeley School. I have one child who went all the way through one of the central zone schools in Berkeley and one child who left after a few years at the same central zone school to attend the Berkeley School so I can compare the two. The Berkeley School has been wonderful for our younger child. The teachers are really able to differentiate instruction, they get to know the kids very well, they work really hard to keep the kids engaged (our child comes home ever day and says that school was ''awesome'') and they seem to really enjoy the kids. The public school teachers really couldn't offer differentiation at all in the classroom and we also had experiences in several classrooms where a tremendous time was spent on discipline. My older child did fine in the public school environment but given what you have described about your child, I would give the Berkeley School a close look. public and private parent
I strongly recommend that you look at The Berkeley School. The TBS 4/5 program in particular is outstanding. The two classes (with combined 4/5 grades) both have male lead teachers. These passionate, creative teachers are incredible role models for all the students - in particular for the boys. They are adept at connecting with students in general but especially with boys. TBS also teaches for understanding, not testing. The school has an integrated social/emotional curriculum that runs throughout all the grade levels. Teachers and staff will first try to uncover the underlying "belief behind the behavior" when children are acting out in some way rather than simply address the behavior alone. Creating a safe, respectful classroom community is a value instilled in all the students and broken down into meaningful and grade appropriate actions, from K through 8th grade. Group work entails learning to work cooperatively and respectfully with others as well as deepening understanding of a subject. Engaging, immersive projects are well integrated throughout the 4/5 curriculum. Mindfulness is also integrated into the classroom throughout the school (another method that can help a student learn to modulate behavior such as talking out and wandering "off task").
While I highly recommend that you consider TBS, I also think that very few schools are particularly adept at working with boys. Extremely bright boys (and girls) often push the envelope of acceptable classroom behaviour in even the most progressive schools. That said, I think TBS may be the best East Bay school for addressing exactly what you are seeking for your bright and curious son. I strongly encourage you to contact The Berkeley School Admissions Director, Paula Farmer, (510) 665-8800 ext:103 andpfarmer [at] theberkeleyschool.org to set up a visit before school is out so you and your son can see classrooms in action. Best of luck! Happy parent of TBS student
Re: private school for child who is advanced
When we were in your situation 4 years ago there were no viable schools for gifted children in the East Bay. Since then, I've known some families to use Tilden Prep which I think is newish. We ended up at The Berkeley School which has worked well for our daughter, supporting both her academic aptitude and social/emotional deficits in helpful and kind ways. Feel free to email me directly for more info. PS
Re: Aurora vs. Park Day vs. The Berkeley School?
I am a happy parent of two boys at TBS! My oldest is in the K program and my younger son is at the preschool. The kindergarten is more of a modified Montessori compared to the preschool class, which I find to be VERY Montessori. The K math program seems to use both a traditional and Montessori approach successfully. Much of the math work is done through games, but they also use some of the Montessori tools. The K science program also seems traditional, and advanced for a kindergarten level. For example, my son came home talking about how the exoskeleton of a bug can be hard or soft. They also do things like hold earthworms and talk about their habitat, feed stick bugs, etc.
Regarding the change in class configuration, I have found it to be wonderful. The Ks having their own class has been great and the teachers are absolutely wonderful! I don't have experience with the mixed 1-2 class, but in the K class they are already able to meet kids at different levels with different tasks and personalized education. The head of the school, Mitch Bostian, is very accessible and consistent with a clear and strong vision for the school. You should go and put these questions directly to him. He's approachable and easy to talk to and very passionate about the school's mission.
I've found the interaction with other parents to be easy and comfortable. I'm not a ''social butterfly'' and I'm able to easily engage with the other parents on issues related to the school as well as just about life in general. I don't find people to be anxious; In fact, it seems to be the opposite. They seem happy and easy-going, even the few dressed to the nines in Versace are always friendly and I never feel discriminated against or ''on the outside.''
I absolutely love TBS! You could try talking to Mitch and sitting in during the K class to see how you feel about it. My son has very happy in the K program and eager to go to school every day. Happy TBS Mom
Any feedback on The Berkeley School Middle School?
We are looking at different middle schools but our entry point would be 7th grade. We have looked at Head Royce and The Berkeley School. My daughter loves challenge and is academically strong. I am looking for a balance of where she can be challenged but has a more integrated education and where the teacher knows the child's likes and dislikes. So does any one out there have feedback on The Berkeley School? Benefits of Head Royce are very obvious on paper but anyone who has looked at both the schools? I am really interested to know more about the Berkeley School. Thanks Amy
I can't speak to the Head Royce experience, but my son started at The Berkeley School this year as a 7th grader and it has been wonderful academically and socially. Class sizes are small, there is hands-on learning, amazing faculty, and the curriculum and teaching methods are the result of current best practices.
What I appreciate most is that my child is KNOWN there. He is no longer falling through the cracks of a larger public school classroom setting. There is no escaping (in a good way) in this kind of environment; the kids are really held. The Middle School day is framed by an advisory program that helps the kids to: connect to one another, transition to and from the school day, and review assignments & expectations.
Good luck on your decision! A Very Happy TBS Middle School Parent
Re: Berkeley/Oakland private school recs
The Berkeley School meets all of your criteria. I'm a parent of a first grader at the school. We had our teacher conference yesterday and continue to be impressed by the dedication, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm of the teachers. They just seem to know our child so well and how to support him. I'm sure their positivity has a lot to do with the support the teachers get from the administration. The administrators are constantly and intentionally assessing how they can make the educational experience the best that it can be. My son is doing writing and math in first grade that is far beyond what I understood at his age. (And I'm impressed by the kids' understanding, as opposed to just rote learning of math concepts.) The foreign language is Spanish, and there is also a Spanish option as part of the after-school program. The extended day program has many other interesting choices including carpentry, capoeira, art, cooking, gardening, and knitting (there are new offerings each session). Regarding outside space, in addition to the areas you see when you visit the school (which the kids love), the classes utilize the grassy park across the street at the back of the school. They frequently go there with their "buddies" from the older classrooms to do games and activities. I've also been happy with the social-emotional curriculum and general sense of kindness that pervades at the school. And yes, the parent community is active and diverse. I highly recommend the school.
Re: Private School for Quirky Middle-High Schooler
Hi Concerned Mom! Saw your post and would like to recommend our son's school, The Berkeley School on University. We've been there since preschool and are pleased with how middle school is going thus far (my son is in 7th). What I really like about TBS' middle school program is that the classes are small and the attention from teachers is very individualized...my son has had more difficulty with language arts, and my husband and I have gotten very on-point feedback about this from his humanities teacher and practical suggestions for my son that he has actually taken and has improved (mostly participating in class, taking more time to clarify his thoughts about a particular book, etc). The school prioritizes a safe social environment...lots of discussion about bullying and why it's not helpful...and effective, gentle tracking of the kids' social interactions, as well as great parent support (I've attended at least one evening workshop on parenting kids in the digital age that was really helpful). TBS also places strong emphasis on different learning styles. Hope this helps. Kate
Re: Berkeley School or Redwood Day?
My son attended The Berkeley School (then Berkeley Montessori) from preschool through fifth grade, but thought when he was entering sixth grade that he'd like a larger social cohort, so we moved him to Redwood Day School. RDS is also an excellent school, but he wound up deciding to return to TBS for 7th and 8th grades, mostly because he found that he missed the sense of community and close friendships, particularly with his teachers. We were always really impressed by how well known each TBS child is by the faculty and staff at TBS, and how the teachers nurtured children's comfort with reaching out for academic or social help. I also feel that TBS has a stronger sense of community and diversity.
In response to the answer last week from an RDS parent, you should know that TBS does have a Differentiated Instruction Specialist who's doing amazing work with the teachers. It's also provisionally accredited by CAIS and NAIS, with permanent accreditation due soon. I'm not sure what the responder meant about land ownership, but TBS owns both its campuses.
Both schools are excellent; it's really all about the fit. I advise you to choose the school where your child and your family feel most at home. Alumni TBS Parent
Re: Schools that foster creativity?
My younger daughter, age 6 in grade 1, is in her second year at The Berkeley School (TBS) and sounds similar to your daughter: she loves art and particularly loves to write and illustrate her own stories. We enrolled her and her older sibling at TBS because my husband and I believe the school supports creativity and strong academics in many different ways. The Montessori-influenced and project-based curriculum encourages both independent and group work as well as students' exploration of their own interests. The curriculum allows children agency and choice in selecting activities and experimenting with different tools and methods to learn and master concepts within the major subject areas. There are two full-time teachers in the class to approximately 20 kids who spend a great deal of time evaluating and supporting students. TBS has two art teachers who are active artists themselves and who work with the K-5 and 6-8 grades, respectively, in small groups. TBS also employs teachers in its after-school program who are active artists. The school also attracts many families whose parents work in creative fields -- architecture, journalism, music, photography and film, to name a few. We have watched our child flourish in a warm, supportive environment where art is integrated into the classroom through various projects: this year it has been monthly self-portraits using different media; experiments with light and dark; and map making. Her teachers first noted our child's strong interest in the arts and encouraged our support of her interests when she was in K. They also noted that she has an artist's eye for design, that she is meticulous in her attention to detail in both her art and regular class work, and that she is a self-motivated and highly disciplined learner. In her K year, our child pursued her interests in writing and illustrating her own stories during her daily 20-minute siesta time after lunch and we were impressed by several formal, illustrated stories she wrote for class, particularly her grasp of narrative. This past spring/summer, she developed a keen interest in the textile arts -- specifically sewing and knitting -- that she is now combining with her writing and drawing. For example, this fall she has used her daily siesta time after lunch to work independently on a book in which each page has either a female character wearing differently patterned and decorated dresses and accessories or a male character who is more plainly dressed. She also drew several maps of the Earth to show which part of the world her characters came from. Each character is related to one another yet each character has its own story. (This is her own project, as she proudly calls it, and it is separate from the stories and other written assignments that are part of her regular class work). This example of independent project work is clearly tied to her personal interests in knitting, sewing and storytelling in general. Her interests are also supported in the after-school program, where she attends the TBS 'Fun with Yarn' class every week. In this class, she learned to knit using a circular loom and rapidly completed a hat with pom pom using four different types of yarns, and then knit a smaller hat for her favorite stuffed animal. She finished both hats in two weeks because she enjoyed working on this project at home as well as in after-school, and this work is in addition to the doll clothes, pillows, and purses she sews from felt and fabric at home on her own. Our daughter also enjoys other pursuits, such as singing in her weekly music class; making sugar skulls and learning about Dia de los Muertos as part of her art and Spanish classes; and cooking in the after-school program. This past spring 2012, the middle school put on ''The Lion King'' musical, and she and her big sib were so inspired by the school production that they learned all the songs by heart and sang it for months afterwards (I heard from several other K-3 parents that their children were similarly inspired). Overall, TBS' teacher support of students' personal interests; inspiring classes and after-school activities; wealth of materials and resources; integration of arts and crafts with everyday class work; and encouragement of independent projects have had a wonderful, liberating effect on our daughter's creativity. It's gratifying to see her excitement and motivation about school and learning reinforced in her regular school work as well. Take a look at the TBS Art Blog and class blogs on the school website to see what students are doing. If you are looking for a school that supports exploration and creativity combined with strong academics, I highly recommend that you visit and consider The Berkeley School. A Happy TBS Parent
I am writing in response to your BPN posting about looking for a school for a creative child. I highly recommend The Berkeley School on University, just below Acton. More than most schools, the Berkeley School recognizes that children have natural creativity and curiosity and does a great job of keeping that spark alive. The Berkeley School is run in a very thoughtful way and really focuses on the individual development of each child, fostering independent thought, creativity, love of learning and good social skills. Both my children (ages 8 and 6) are creative, but have very different temperaments, and the school has done a wonderful job of meeting them where they are at and fostering their growth intellectually, creatively and as human beings. The school also has a great community of parents who come from a variety of backgrounds, but who share an interest in bringing up kids who are able to express themselves creatively in many fields. Keren
Re: Good middle school for boys
My eldest son went to The Berkeley School and my youngest son is currently enrolled there in the middle school. I highly recommend this school. It's truly warm and caring with a diverse community of students from all backgrounds. My sons really thrived, both intellectually and emotionally, in the vibrant and supportive classes. The teachers are devoted to helping all their students learn to their full potential. Check it out -- they offer tours throughout the year so that you can visit and see if The Berkeley School is a good fit for your child. I know how difficult it can be to find the right school and I wish you the best in finding one for your son! Lillian
The Berkeley School or Prospect Sierra?
We are in the midst of the search for the right K and hopefully K-8 school! Both The Berkeley School and Prospect Sierra look amazing... I am wondering about people's experience with Kindergarten...I am looking for one that is not too hectic (I have noticed differences on the various tours), warm, flexible, able to follow children's interests, encourages family involvement, and does a good job balancing social-emotional & academics. I know what both schools preach but I'm wondering about parents' experiences?! Also I would love to find one that really honors the big transition that K is for many children (beginning of 5 day a week, full school day) and helps makes the transition as easy as possible with input from the child's family. Another question is...I see that TBS utilizes TERC math curriculum while PS uses Everyday Mathematics as well as Sunshine Math...I am looking for feedback about how either of these are working for your child throughout elementary? Last one...the yard/play area is so much bigger at PS, does TBS feel too small, especially as the children get older? Any parent feedback is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
We are happy at TBS and our now-4th grader is also. TERC has been fine. The play area has been fine for the kid's needs. I know that they are completely re-doing the K-1 play space but it should be fabulous when it's done as they are having a great firm design it. The current play space is fine for the older kids and a few times a week the older kids go the park across the street for PE or for ''park recess.'' Happy TBS mom
We went through the same search a over a year ago after much agonizing and settled on The Berkeley School, somewhat indirectly. Our older child is in her second year in the K/1 class at the TBS and has been at the school since 2008; our younger one is attending TBS' preschool. After looking at a TON of other schools, including Prospect Sierra, we came to appreciate that TBS is the only school that actually suceeds in providing individualzed and differentiated instruction. The teachers (TBS classrooms through grade 5 have 2 teachers each), with strong support from the administration, are genuinely dedicated to meeting the kids where they are academically, socially, and emotionally. We actually started our older child at another independent school for the 2010-11 school year, but transferred back to TBS after just 4 weeks. In terms of managing the transition, the TBS teachers were incredible. Two major transitions in such a short time can be difficult for such young kids, but the teachers and administration handled everything so well that the process was completely seamless. Our daughter was warmly welcomed as part of the community and integrated into the classroom immediately. She experienced no anxiety and only demanded to know why we had not continued at TBS in the first place.
The teachers are very interested in getting to know the kids and families and spend a lot of time doing so. There's always an open door for questions and discussion about any concerns parents have about their kids. They also dedicate a lot of extra time to making sure the class community stays connected. For example, this year, we took a long trip about a month into the school year and the teachers worked our destination into the geography curriculum and helped keep our daughter in touch with the class via e mail.
I cannot compare the math curricula, but will note that our daughter's teachers quickly identified math/number sense as a challenging area for her and looped us in. They and other faculty are providing additional learning support. In stark contrast, the feedback that we received from her interim school was that she was paying attention during math and that even when she was attentive, she was not trying. Because of the keen observational abilities of her current teachers, she is getting exactly what she needs.
As to your final question about the playspace, it seems to be working well. For us, what happens in the classroom is ultimately more important than the size of the physical space. I know that some of the older classrooms also go to the Berkely park that is just out the ''backdoor''. For the younger kids, there is a separate play area in the back that is temporarily closed while the City of Berkeley puts in a bike path, but it will hopefully reopen soon.
TBS is proving to be a fantastic school for our kids and a great community for us as well. Good luck with your decision. Happy TBS Family
Hi, Congratulations on narrowing your choices down to what are demonstrably the two best K-8 schools in the East Bay. Our family has experience with both schools (through Elementary level only) and they are both excellent...but apples and oranges.
PS is very pretty, but if you don't live close by the daily commute is a big drag. They are a more traditional model as schools go. While in the classroom we had excellent teachers, the amount of homework was more than advertised and it was typically busywork. The culture at the school is also very traditional.
While both schools espouse progressive values and driving tenets, The Berkeley School really walks their talk. The TBS teachers (and we have spent roughly equal time at both schools) are excellent and devoted to their programs. There is a great deal of mutuality in the connections at TBS; the school mission is much more about how to best serve the community they have created rather than cramming everyone to fit into a proscribed mold. There is a quality of warmth at TBS that doesn't exist at PS, and that permeates the entire culture of the TBS community.
Regarding your specific questions, my very visual child is excelling in math this year. While it wasn't an issue before, there is a notable change in both attitude and achievement so far. I suspect part of this is the inclusion of Montessori materials (beads, cubes, etc.)in addition to the TERC program. I LOVE the TBS approach to homework. My child recently finished an assignment and volunteered ''that was way more fun than the homework at PS''. I almost fell off my chair.
TBS has access to Strawberry Creek Park, right outside their back door. It's a big beautiful field and has plenty of room for all PE activities. The kids regularly use parks around Berkeley and I love that this makes them participants in their lovely urban home (that's why we live here, right?).
I am happy to answer other questions or expand on these answers if you would like to ask the moderator for my email. You can also contact Paula Farmer, the charming and accomplished Director of Admissions with any questions you may have at pfarmer (at) theberkeleyschool dot org.
Best of luck with your decision! Very happy with The Berkeley School!
Editor note: reviews were also received for Prospect Sierra
Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
I highly recommend The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. Our son is in 3rd grade and has been at TBS since Kindergarten and we absolutely love it. The teachers, administrators and community of families at this school are incredible. There is a lot of emphasis on reading and writing in the early years as well as hands-on experiences for science and math. There is virtually no homework, tests or sitting behind desks in the first few years. What we appreciate the most is that they teach the kids how to learn and why learning is empowering and important. To do this they give the kids the freedom and personalized guidance to build on their "gifts" and confront their "challenges."The school is located on University Avenue just a few blocks from I-80. Check out the website (http://www.theberkeleyschool.org/) for more information. -Arash Sara
In addition to the many wonderful schools mentioned last week, you should pay a visit to The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). We interviewed many of the schools that were recommended, and were impressed by the thoughtfulness and dedication of each one, but TBS stood out for its deeply pragmatic pedagogy (not the last time you'll hear that word...), its continued investment in its teaching staff, and the integrity of its administration. Mitch Bostian (head of school) and Zaq Roberts (K-5 division head) are each your favorite English teacher, ever, now having moved into administrative roles to bring their experience and amazing talents to bear on the entire school. TBS is both well-funded and well-managed enough to offer significant financial aid to support an economic diversity of families. To us, it felt like home. See if it feels the same to you. A TBS Family
Re: Montessori Family School Vs The Berkeley School
We found The Berkeley School (TBS) online before we came to the country. Our son started at the Early Childhood Campus (ECC) and is now in Kindergarten at the University Campus. The school has been amazing for all of us. It gave us a community to enter into when we arrived in the country and we found good friends amongst the other parents and the teachers. The ECC is wonderful, I can't recommend it highly enough, but since your question is about K I will concentrate on our experience so far. The school is a great place for our son, who is not an easy-going guy. He is comfortable and seems to have found a good place for himself. The school is not strictly Montessori - they follow some of the principles but are not strictly or only Montessori, which we prefer. So there is imaginative play and we don't get looked at disapprovingly for our kid's love of computers. So far the 'big' school is less intimate and holding than the ECC, but that's to be expected I think. The staff is amazing; really dedicated and passionate about what they do. Whenever we have an 'ouch' moment about the cost, we think about the parent-teacher evenings we've been to. The commitment of the staff to each child's development is honestly inspiring. I really recommend TBS; at least go on one of their tours and check it out. It's a small, educated, diverse, welcoming community. Natasha
Re: Seeking a Montessori school for 5 year old daughter
Have you considered looking at The Berkeley School (otherwise known as TBS) on University Avenue in Berkeley? http://theberkeleyschool.org/ They are deeply rooted in a traditional Montessori curriculum, but have incorporated symbiotic teaching methodologies such as Reggio Emilia's ''Follow the Child'' approach (observe what the child is naturally interested in and teach the curriculum concepts in that context). The name of the school recently changed from Berkeley Montessori School to The Berkeley School to reflect this more inclusive teaching philosophy. Being a long-ago graduate of a Montessori school, I was definitely looking for a Montessori education for my two children and have received it. The augmented philosophy, however, has been invaluable for my kids who have diametrically opposed learning styles. Both have flourished (both in the pre-school and now Kindergarten), and I am comfortable in saying that TBS will be able to provide a successful and engaging Montessori education to any type of child. It also happens to be a very fun and supportive community. - A Happy TBM Mom TBS Mom
Re: Private schools in Berkeley
My son has been attending the Berkeley School since he was 3 years old. He's now in the 4th grade. It is an amazing community and has been a thoroughly positive experience. The school is focused on all aspects of child developement--from academics, to social development, to being a conscientious and centered individual. The kids are confident and strong critical thinkers and the attention to my son's individual needs has been impressive throughout. We love the school! Carrie
Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
Dear Mom, You should definitely come see The Berkeley School, located on University Ave in the heart of Berkeley. (www.theberkeleyschool.org) My daughter is now in her second year here, in a truly mixed second and third grade classroom. The 23 students in her class (with two full teachers!) are work individually and in mixed-age groups throughout the day, depending on their needs, learning styles, and even interests. My daughter had been in a traditional K and 1st grade class, at another school, but likes this so much better. In addition to the academic benefits are, of course, the social benefits of making friends with older and younger students, and then, as they move into the next class, having the older kids truly welcome them into the new community of learners. I've loved seeing the way the friendships across the grades spill over onto the playground at recess and all-school activities. Feel free to email me directly if you want more information. Moira
Re: School for sensory seeking 1st grader
Look at The Berkeley School. It's on University Ave just a few blocks up from San Pablo. They are giving tours now. We like it a lot and I think you might like what you see there. JM
Re: Middle School for son with advanced math & science
My boys went to TBS from preschool through grade 8. The academics prepared them extremely well for any high school they wanted to attend, and the environment, which I treasured dearly, and believe is equally important, allowed them to remain safely inside of childhood for just a tiny bit longer -- avoiding the over-sexual-ized, over-consumer-ized and media-blitzed reality of life -- for just a couple more years.
One son graduated from The College Preparatory School and the other from Lick-Wilmderding High School (very much their choices). One just graduated from UCLA with his degree Chemical Engineering (just because it ''sounded interesting'') and was recruited by Google where he now works (nothing at all to do with ChemE, he's followed his passion for technology). Our other son is a bio-medical engineering major at UC Davis, where he has discovered philosophy and viticulture. Therefore, I'd say they were both well-prepared for whatever step came next in their lives. (Really, with very little help from us - two parents who are liberal arts graduates who can barely solve an algebraic equation). Both of them could have gone to private/very expensive Ivy League colleges, and both, with our encouragement, chose University of California campuses, for which our bank accounts shall be eternally grateful.
I look back on all the school choices for the boys and I have the most nostalgia for TBS and what a wonderful place it was for our kids and our family. It was a sweet time with so much learning, growing, and happiness.
What more could you want? One Lucky Mama
Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
Our son joined The Berkeley School last year for Kindergarten. He joined one of the K/1 mixed-age classrooms and is now in first grade. My son has well developed academic skills (i know all parents say that)and has benefited from the chance to work at his own pace for more rigorous topics like math and language and last year was able to work at the first grade level on these lessons. You didn't mention in what way your child is sensitive, but our student is socially shy and prefers observation and then carefully proceeding into group projects. There is an assortment of works and activities that can be independent and done in groups so children are able to select where and what is comfortable but still have access to all of the materials. We also appreciated how helpful teachers were in helping us all transition to the routine of school. They were patient and great with helping us with separation at the beginning of the year. Having the same teacher for 2 years in a row has also gone a long way (and one of the reasons we chose The Berkeley School) in helping our son gain confidence and independence in both his learning style and social interactions. Personally our family has made friends and enjoy the supportive, strong and fun parent community! Happy TBS parent of 1st Grade Boy
If you are considering The Berkeley School, I want to encourage you. We transferred 5 years ago and its been a great all round experience. Our daughter has flourished academically and socially in this progressive, relevant, hands on, diverse learning environment. She has learned to apply herself to her studies, to work well in teams and groups, and to take responsibility for her homework (which she has always has a very reasonable amount of, especially now compared to other middle schools). The teachers are the heart of the school. They are of exceptional caliber, forming a solid community. It helps that faculty are well supported in their professional development. TBS has built on the brilliant aspects of the Montessori method, updating with current research and methodology in education. The staff are all great to interact with, and our principal also provides a warmly supportive, humorous, yet clear, firm presence for the kids, as well as being an inspired educator and writer. I have been struck by the the active parent community, which includes many thoughtful, accomplished, creative people. I have had a couple of minor issues, for instance with grammar and spelling, but we are seeing really good essays and poetry. Overall, we are satisfied with the subjects in middle school, appreciating the vitality of PE, art, music, and drama programs. There is even a fresh, healthy school lunch program! Our daughter has surpassed all expectations in her learning and we will always be thankful. Only trouble is, its hard to be moving on... jen
Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
You should definitely take a look at The Berkeley School. I share your views on homework, and you will find that the teachers and administrators at TBS feel the same way. There is basically no homework prior to 4th grade, and very manageable amounts for 4th through 8th grades. More importantly, the homework that is sent home is always thoughtful, and builds on something being done during the school day/week rather than just being busy work. Our Head of School thinks that kids' homework should actually be ''the work of the home,'' as he calls it -- kids helping out, being with family, recharging their batteries. I am happy to talk to you personally about our experience at The Berkeley School if you would like. j.s
Re: Middle Schools - Visited Several - Perceptions
I'd like to suggest considering The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School). When my eldest son was in 6th grade, we had a similar experience as yours, trying to find the best Middle School for him. I know that this isn't an easy process! The Berkeley School is not rigorous in a traditional sense, but the small size of its Middle School allows the teachers to really understand the intellectual needs of each student. My eldest son who is quite academic found the Middle School to be truly supportive both of his academic intellect and of himself as a whole person. The teachers are sincerely passionate about teaching each individual child. There's a true welcoming and supportive environment at The Middle School and my son developed not only intellectually but socially as well. He learned not only intellectual concepts, but when to apply these concepts, how to explain it to others and how to work with other people. I wish you and your son the best in finding the right Middle School for him! Lillian
Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
I so emphathize with your dilemma and your search! Our daughter just transferred from Park Day to The Berkeley School (for 2nd grade), and while we loved aspects of Park Day, we didn't think it was the best fit for our daughter, who was often overwhelmed by the social energy of her peers at Park Day. We moved to The Berkeley School because we were so impressed with their commitment to a truly supportive social environment (the size and layout of the school support this, as well as the on-site school psychologist) within the context of what they call ''a rigorous progressive school.'' Rigor, in this context, doesn't mean testing, but allowing children to move within and across the double-grade classrooms with curriculum that really lets children learn at their own pace. In addition, if the two-year range isn't enough, I know of kids who are in the upper elementary classes for math, but in their own lower elementary class for everything else. This isn't weird or awkward (the way it was when I was in elementary school) but just part of the culture. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions. mrk
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I began learning about progressive educational philosophies when I was looking for a school as my son was getting ready to enter kindergarten. Ultimately, the school's educational philosophy became the most important factor in our decision. We are now in our third year at The Berkeley School with our two children (both also attended the school's Early Childhood Center). We have been very happy with our decision. The school cultivates self-directed as well as collaborative learning and fosters children's creativity and curiosity for learning. Most importantly our children know school as a place that is fun to go where they are appreciated for being themselves. The teachers are outstanding and there is a strong emphasis on professional development, which I feel contributes to the school being among the most progressive in the area.
As you come closer to looking at schools, I would encourage you to visit schools' classrooms more than once and to meet with the head of school/principal - that is what ultimately sealed our decision. catherine
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
My daughter attended The Berkeley School from preschool through eighth grade and is now a Freshman at The College Preparatory School. My son is in second grade and attended TBS' Early childhood Center as well. Here is a little insight into why we love TBS:
- Dedicated, energetic teachers who are deeply supported by their administration, especially in professional development.
- Happy, friendly and diverse kids
- Consistency across classes and curriculum
- Active parent community (with a variety of ways to contribute)
Ultimately, my daughter is doing very well at College Prep. TBS helped build her confidence, developed her already great sense of humor, and prepared her intellectually and creatively to do pretty much whatever she wants to.
PS. we love the school lunch program run by Gregoire (parent and Berkeley restaurant guy)
PPS Feel free to visit our family blog (http://thederringdos.com) to get a sense of what one TBS family is like. Patrick
Re: Private Middle School with strong academics
You should absolutely take a look at The Berkeley School. It offers strong academics--including everything on your list-- Algebra, Geometry, Spanish, hands-on Science, Art, Music, Drama, and an emphasis on differentiated learning. While many schools emphasize skill building, the Berkeley School takes that as only one important part of helping students become strong, engaged learners. In addition to a solid curriculum that builds skills, students at The Berkeley School acquire an awareness of how and when to apply those skills --through project-based learning, and hands-on work-- as well as developing motivation to excel --by an emphasis on understanding their own gifts and challenges, and gaining an appreciation of their own style as learners. At TBS middle-school graduations, every child speaks about themselves as learners, challenges they have faced and overcome, and growth they have experienced. I have attended these graduations for years, and every year I am blown away by the level of self-possession self awareness and self confidence that each and every student demonstrates. They are simply amazing. Happy TBS mom
Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
I am not sure what you mean by ''not too academic,'' but I assume you mean that learning should be fun and should foster a love of learning rather than just concentrating on rote memorization and fact-gathering. If you are looking for a school that can foster inquiry and curiosity, as well as establish a solid foundation for your child to be able to formulate questions, understand and process information, and apply those skills to their daily living and long-term learning, then you may want to look at The Berkeley School. TBS offers a visionary education where each child is truly known, and can go on to succeed at the high school of their choice. For me personally, it's refreshing to be at one of the independent schools that teaches students the importance of how to think for themselves. Paula
Re: Diverse private school for Hispanic daughter
We have been very pleased with The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori) for the diversity of the students and their families and their support of adoptive families. Our two girls were adopted from Cambodia and both have felt the support of students, faculty and staff and the sense that their cultures are celebrated and honored. Throughout the years, the girls brought presentations of Cambodian culture and holidays and their adoption stories to the classroom.
While there is no bilingual program, Spanish is integrated at the Early Childhood Center and in all levels of elementary and middle school. There are TBS families whose first language is Spanish (among many languages represented in the school community). Finally, the flexibility of the progressive education at TBS gives teachers the opportunity to spend time exploring a particular culture and issues that develop around adoption and family. We have been very lucky to have a teacher for the past three years who is also an adoptee.
The Berkeley School is a respectful community where differences are celebrated - I hope you'll give them a look. Catherine
Re: East Bay Private K-4 Recommendation
I encourage you to check out The Berkeley School, which fits all of your criteria (except maybe cheap, though it's competitive or somewhat less than other independents...). Our child is a very happy first grader there.
It's hard to describe a school--really important to go and visit, get the feel, see if it's right for you and your kid. But here goes: At TBS our child is learning to be a self-motivated ''learner.'' Her intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm have been ignited, her confidence and creativity supported-- she's thriving in all respects. The influence of its Montessori past remains in the teachers' emphasis on truly knowing each student as an individual and guiding him/her in her development. That's possible, in part, because there are two full teachers (not student teachers or aids) in each classroom, making the ratio about 1:10. The teachers themselves participate in impressive amounts of on-going education, which keeps them fresh and engaged. The school encourages intellectual growth and rigor without pushing or placing undo pressure on kids. There's also a real sense of warmth and community that we've appreciated as a family.
Best of luck with your search. TBS Mom
Our kids attend The Berkeley School on University Avenue formerly known as Berkeley Montessori School). We have a 3rd grader and a Kindergardener, both of whom have been at the school for several years.
The school is in West Berkeley and has a wonderful program that emphasizes intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation as the basis for learning. They have an excellent faculty and staff and are very good at understanding and attending to the individual needs of children as they develop. There are 2 teachers in every classroom, for about 20 students, plus the ''special'' classes like art, music and Spanish which are taught to half the class (10 students or so) per session. The after school program is also fun for the kids with K-science, carpentry cooking, sports and free play, amongst other activities.
Here is a link to the elementary program. http://theberkeleyschool.org/curriculum-academics/elementary-school/#e
Call Paula Farmer, Director of Admissions at 510-665-880 X103.
Good luck! Willie
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
You should check out The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. It is the only school I found that clearly stated and embodied that it had ''no floor AND no ceiling'' in their classes. They will be responsive to your child's unique needs or, if they cannot meet them, they will not admit him/her. They are one of the only schools that do not just accept for as many spots as they have (or ''over accept'') -- they accept students/families that they can serve well and are a good fit for their program and community. I think you'll be pleased with what you see. TBS is far beyond your typical good progressive school. If your child is really gifted (sounds like s/he may be) then you may also want to check out http://www.baywoodlearningcenter.org/ and also http://nuevaschool.org/ Good luck! anon
Re: Looking for schools with "no homework" policy
My experience at Berkeley Montessori has been no homework until 4th grade, and not a ton of it then. Even better, when my kids were in first through third grades the teachers would talk to them about ''homework'' being the work you do at home, and encourage the kids to talk about the kinds of things they did at home as contributing members of their family. Setting the table, making their beds, helping with dishes, emptying the waste baskets...kids all had different things that they did that varied with their ages and their families, but I really liked how talking about it this way both set an expectation about kids helping out and honored their contributions. Ann
Like you, we don't feel that homework is helpful to our young kids. Happily, we have found a school that doesn't assign homework until 4th grade (and then not very much), and de-emphasizes testing and grades, while emphasizing individualized learning. The school is Berkeley Montessori School, which has a campus for 3- and 4-year-olds and another for K-8. Their website is http://www.bmsonline.org/. A happy BMS family that enjoys our homework-free evenings together
Re: Looking for Bridge K programs in the East Bay
We looked at pre K programs last year for our son who was turning 5 in December. We ended up at Berkeley Montessori and have been very happy with the school. You can check to see if they still have any spots for next year. It's a great school, and our son has thrived there. You can look online at http://www.bmsonline.org/index.php
Re: Differentiated Learning at Berkeley Montessori, the Academy and Park Day
The thing about Berkeley Montessori is that differentiated learning is basically their entire philosophy. they put a ton of energy into closely observing and working with your child, and then meeting the child at their level. Finding the window when they are ready to read, for example, recognizing that, and then jumping in at the right time. There are two teachers in each class, and while one is teaching, the other is often observing and taking notes. I am pleasantly surprised by what they know about my child (3 days last week he was interested in working with such and such math project). We have been at BMS for a few years now. I am constantly struck by the variety of children and learning styles/abilities that the school caters to. there are kids there who are geniuses, but just as many with learning disabilities. And many middle of the road. And its amazing how they handle it so well. One downside to this approach, to be fair, is that it sometimes seems like they are so ready to cater to the child and what their interests are, they they don't really push kids too much when they are not interested in something. I've heard of kids who were missing some basic skills and the parents only happened to find out on their own. The child had been excelling in other areas so their ''individualized curriculum'' sort of skipped a basic or two that the student should have learned. Maybe the school was just waiting till the child was interested. But in truth, most children excel there and most absolutely LOVE school. -anon
I am the parent of a fourth and a six-grader, both of whom have been at Berkeley Montessori School since kindergarten. Woven throughout the teaching at BMS is the idea that everyone has a different set of gifts and challenges, and that the important question is, ''As a learner, how do you choose (or not) to work on your challenges, and make use of your gifts?'' As our head of school succinctly puts it, the question is not ''How smart are you? but rather ''How are you smart?'' Children are encouraged to think about what makes for good work, what is their best effort, and how to continually improve and take responsibility for their learning. What I see as a parent are children who light up and are excited about learning, and, at the same time, know how to buckle down and persevere when they are struggling. I see teachers who know how to ignite that fire, and also use creative strategies to support kids in a variety of ways when the learning doesn't come easily.
Having seen several classes of 8th graders graduate from BMS, I am perennially astounded by how self-possessed they are, and how self-aware they are about themselves as learners. At graduation last spring, some students expressed themselves through art or dance or puppetry, while another said with a smile, ''I thought about what I wild and creative thing I could do, but I realized that I am at core a linear thinker. I do my best expression in sentences and paragraphs,'' and then went on to give a very well articulated, logical talk. A parent of an elementary- aged child recently told me her son was pacing around the house, and when she asked him what he was doing, he said, ''I'm working on my homework. I'm a kinesthetic learner, and walking helps me think.'' After another minute or so he sat down and completed his writing assignment.
Teachers at BMS are constantly learning about strategies and methods to reach a range of students. There is a huge commitment to professional development which extends to best practices beyond the solid tools within Montessori. Just in the past year, all of my children's four teachers spent a week in the summer at Project Zero at Harvard. In addition, individually they have attended the Bioneers conference, the Asilomar Math conference, and workshops on Facing History and Ourselves, sustainability, respectful discipline, science education and more. Beyond the obvious benefit of bringing the best tested methods into the classroom, this commitment to ongoing education powerfully models for the children what it means to be a life-long learner, and be engaged in your work. I couldn't ask for a more committed, engaged, devoted set of teachers. I call them ''the dream team.'' BMS is an exceptional place for all kinds of learners to do all kinds of learning. afh
We did not experience differentiated learning at Berkeley Montessori. Our child did not select math on a regular basis to work on, and so fell behind. The montessori method for the lower grades allows students to chose their work, and we found out at the parent teacher conference that there were basics that were not being chosen (math, grammar, spelling). When we approached the head of school about the problem, she told us our child was just not cooperating. She also told us that the learning specialist which was listed on the web site as being available for math and english, was not available to us for math help. So, we were left having to pay an outside tutor. We ultimately left the school because we were told that the situation would not change in the coming year. Anon
My child attends Berkeley Montessori School. She is in first grade. I think the differentiated learning at BMS is pretty amazing. We're in a Lower Elementary classroom and have been at BMS for almost 4 years and see children across the spectrum thriving.
Our child happens to be an advanced reader, is in first grade doing 3rd grade spelling, better-than-first-grade math, writing, etc. And we find the teachers very attuned to the need for differentiated learning. We have not initiated any of the changes in level, the faculty have each time, often midstream as they realize she is ready for more challenge. There is no wait for ''testing'' or other more formal diagnoses.
There are some areas, particularly social-emotional, where she is definitively a first-grader, and we feel her gifts (strengths) are encouraged and nourished and her challeneges are worked on in a way that makes her feel powerful as a person and also realistic in terms of how she relates to the world. Pretty powerful stuff.
There are children in her class who experience challenges in reading or math, and those who are very gifted in particular areas. And the whole is a pretty terrific community. The class structure this coming school year will change to 2-year groupings (as opposed to the traditional Montessori 3-year groupings) to allow the teachers to better serve the wide range of learning styles and abilities of the students. We're big fans. lh
Re: K-8 private / public school around or in Berkeley
Check out Berkeley Montessori School. It has been a wonderful education for my son, who started in kindergarten and is graduating this year from the 8th grade. The Head of School is dynamic and is a strong supporter of excellent teacher professional development (including sending 12 teachers every summer to Harvard Project Zero), which is directly improving an already great program for the kids. And the kindergarten will be at the elementary campus next year, instead of the preschool, as in the past. Their web site is http://www.bmsonline.org. Best of luck to you in a search for a good match for your child and your family! -Happy BMS parent
After switching to Berkeley Montessori, ''Sara'', a creatively gifted, "outside of the box" learner said, ''Mom, I miss my old friends, but learning is important and at the old school, if you could learn a subject easily it was fine, but that didnmt work for some of us. Now my teachers really know me, they actually TEACH ME! She has made strides academically, understanding her strengths and challenges. Children are guided to take a high level of responsibility for their learning program, and she handles homework gracefully now--a minor miracle! We appreciate balanced individual/group learning, Montessori math,great art room and chorus, well-organized debates, science lessons to live for, challenging poetry recitals, healthy kid-prepared snacks, responsiveness to parents. Our head, an inspired intellectual, and pragmatic leader, teaches at Harvard in the summer. The teaching faculty are outstanding: committed and caring, of a caliber I only dreamed of before (early childhood education minor). Same goes for the learning specialist and psychologist. Montessorims brilliant insight is integrated with contemporary research. They teach and assess for real understanding and thinking, rather than "coverage". I believe children are being equipped for the future, for jobs yet to be invented. The community works hard on diversity, Green issues and social responsibility. Although not as expansive, this campus is a jewel,with beautifully designed classrooms. jen
Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
Visit Berkeley Montessori School. Lots of different types of student thrive there. They educate the whole person, teach mutual respect and positive communication, as well as strong academics. It was a great place for my son to transition into young adulthood. I only wish our very highly regarded HS was half as good. anon mom
What's it really like at BMS? I'm wondering about the social environment. Clique-ish? Competitive? Friendly? I'm also wondering whether or not the teachers encourage balance in a child. I've got a bookish little brainiac, and I'd like him to be encouraged to grow the other side of his brain as well. Do the teachers at BMS truly value arts and creativity? Or are they kind of heady? Many thanks, Looking at Lower El.
My child went through the BMS early childhood program is now at lower El - 1st year. BMS is a wonderful, open community. I rarely see cliques and when it does happen, the teachers are quick to discourage it. Parents and teachers work very closely with one another so any issues that arise are always addressed immediately. The children are caring, respectful, and playful with one another. I believe this is because the classrooms are mixed-age and children are together for 2-3 years. As a result, they learn from a very young age to care of one another, and that there is enough time and opportunities to develop friendships with children across the ages and interests. The teachers are also very attuned to the social and emotional development of children. Academically, because children are engaged in work they find interesting, and the focus is on the growth of the individual child, children feel worthy, confident, and tremendous amount of self-awareness even at the youngest ages.
The teachers are very loving, intelligent, balanced, and creative. The projects they come up with encompass a range of subject areas. For example, the lower el children recently celebrated 100 days of school with involved math projects. While the main focus is on math and problem solving, the parameters of the project were broad enough that they also became experiences in art making, writing, geography, history, science, and storytelling.
There is a misconception that Montessori schools are overly structured, cold, and lack imaginative play. In the several years we have been at BMS, I do not find this to be the case. In fact, imagination is strongly encouraged, intellectual development and individuality are celebrated. happy BMS parent
My ''braniac'' (as you put it) son is very happy at BMS, though that's not to say that other sorts of kids don't thrive there. (One of my son's best friends is dyslexic and has other learning challenges, and he is happy there, too.) Like you, I'm less concerned about my son's academic learning (he could learn reading and math in a cardboard box) and more focused on his social, emotional, and physical (gross motor skills) growth. I'm pleased to say that BMS has greatly fostered those. I think the fact that he's so happy and comfortable with the academic opportunities at BMS gives him the confidence to branch out in other ways. I was thrilled, for example, when he reported that he ''loves'' PE (which was a source of much fear and dread for my unathletic husband and I when we were young). The teachers at BMS absolutely value arts and creativity. My son does tons of artwork there of various sorts. The Montessori curriculum encourages individual creativity--it is the very opposite of a ''teach to the test'' approach.
In terms of the social environment, I have not found the kids to be at all clique-ish or competitive. The parents I've met also seem nice; however, they have not been active in initiating extracurricular socializing. I wish there were a bit more of that, but maybe that's just the reality of today's over-busy society.
On a recent Sunday, my son said, ''I can't wait for school tomorrow!'' ''Why?'' I asked him. ''Is there a special event?'' ''No,'' he shrugged. To me, the fact that he is eager to go to school is more than enough proof that we have made the right choice for him.
Parent of a happy BMS elementary school child
Re: Math for gifted kids
I've looked at many private schools (and checked out the Piedmont public schools) since my older son is mathematically- inclined and the curriculum at the private school he attended until 2nd grade was dismal and not challenging at all for him.
In my opinion, there's no other school that can teach math as thoroughly as Berkeley Montessori School (where our kids have been enrolled for the past 6 years). While other schools teach children how to get the right answers (with schools boasting superior math curriculum teaching FASTER ways, often shortcuts, to the right answers), BMS teaches math in a way that gives students a really deep understanding -- the students truly internalize the math concepts (what's behind the concepts, how to expand on them, etc.). The challenging math curriculum and the superior teaching tools and method are the main reasons why we came to BMS (although, now that we're here, we realize that the amazing social curriculum is also a boon).
Re: First grader's teacher says he's "extremely advanced"
Our daughter is now an 8th grader at Berkeley Montessori School (BMS) in Berkeley. She's been there since Kindergarten; the program runs from preschool through 8th grade.
Through elementary, children are grouped in classes with three grade levels each: pre/K, 1st/2nd/3rd, & 4th/5th/6th. (Middle school is 7th & 8th.) Students are not always grouped strictly by grade level for each area of work, but are often grouped by their readiness for a particular topic. With this arrangement, teachers are working successfully with students having a range of abilities.
Care is also given to social development of each child, and children have a role -- they have a say, they have responsibilities -- in the social and physical functions of the classroom. I find that the mixed-aged classrooms help in this area, too.
This all stems from an approach that is captured by the expression ''follow the child''. The idea is that it is in the nature of kids to learn and grow; given a suitable environment, appropriate resources, and gentle guidance, learning is naturally self-driven.
There is a curriculum, of course, and there are milestones of academic achievement. At the same time, daily and weekly activities are not strictly bound to a script. One day in elementary school, several of my daughter's classmates found a praying mantis in the schoolyard, and caught it. I know that in the schools that I attended, the teachers would have just yelled at the kids to get the thing out of the class and get back to work. At BMS, the students who found the big bug were sent off to the library to research praying mantises and figure out how to care for the new class pet. They presented their findings to their classmates, and the students of the class took on the responsibilities of caring for their new bug friend.
Tuition isn't cheap. However, do not necessarily assume that you will not qualify for tuition assistance. We made this mistake -- when our daughter started BMS, we were recently out of school with our first real jobs; not making much in the big picture, but real salaries seemed like a fortune compared to student life. We didn't apply for assistance, but just pinched and stretched, the first line of our family budget always being the BMS tuition. Some years later, after our careers had seen some growth, we learned that we probably would have been ripe candidates for assistance. If you find yourself exploring independent schools, don't make the same mistake we did in this area.
I could go on... but what we know for sure is that it works for us -- that is to say, our daughter has had a fantastic experience, and continues to be challenged and to grow. Have a look at BMS, and see what you think!
Best of luck! -Greg
We are strongly considering moving my son to a private school for first grade. He hasn't done particularly well in his Oakland public school for Kindergarten (and he's actually begged me not to send him to first grade!). He's plenty bright, but has what is being called ''motor planning'' difficulties, with the result that he has a lot of difficulty writing, and unfortunately the curricula used in OUSD rely quite a bit on worksheets. The result is dislike of school in general, and self-esteem problems. We're considering both Berkeley Montessori and Aurora, although we've had strong recommendations both for and against each place for my son. He's a high-energy, social boy, who loves to be outside and to work with his hands. We've heard that Aurora may not be the best place for high-energy boys; we've heard that BMS may or may not allow much interaction abd working in groups, depending on the teacher. We'd really like to find a good match for my son, as he doesn't like transitions, and we would, if we changed schools, already be doing one more transition than I would have liked. If you have had a high-energy, social boy at one or the other of these schools, could you please tell us about your experience? In addition, if you think there is another school that might be suited to his needs, perhaps you could suggest it to us. Karen
Our son has been very happy at Berkeley Montessori and is a very social and smart child, who also has some challenges with writing. I think one of the best things about the school is the emphasis on working together with others, and I've observed a fair amount in all the first-third grade classrooms. The teachers also look closely at each child and individualize the curriculum to help them work on their challenges and build on their strengths in a caring, nurturing way, allowing them to develop at their own pace. I think BMS could be a great fit for your child. Happy BMS parent
Hello: I have two children at Berkeley Montessori School, one in 3rd grade at the Main Campus and one in the 3,4,5 year old class at the Early Childhood Campus, he will be in Kindergarten next year at BMS and my daugter will be in 4th grade next year and has been there since 1st grade.
We LOVE BMS! We live in Oakland and our school is Chabot which is considered one of the better Oakland Schools. We definitely struggled with the decision to use Chabot since financially it is much easier of course, or to attend BMS. After 3 years at BMS we have no regrets at all.
It is a wonderful school. The teachers are incredibly dedicated and are completely devoted to the work they do. The school bases their view of children on the model of ''Gifts and Challenges'' rather than ''skills and problems.'' Recently in a film made about the school the new head, Janet Stork said, and I quote, ''It isn't about how smart are you, but in what ways are you smart'' with the assumption everybody is smart. ''Difficulties'' such as the one you expressed your son has with ''motor planning'' would be labeled as a ''challenge'' not a ''problem.'' This is much more empowering I think for children and boosts their self-esteem in areas that might otherwise cause them to feel labeled or stigmatized.
As I said, BMS hired a new Head of School this year and she has already made many, many positive changes such as program enhancement, more transparency in communication, staff training opportunities and much more. She is unbelievably honest, a great listener and most importantly to us, she actually follows through on what she says!
I would say one of the greatest strength and unique characteristics of the Montessori environment, and absolutely true to BMS is that children spend most of their time working in groups of 2 or more. Work period is a time of profound interaction with children moving about the room, sitting together and talking about their work, teaming up on work etc. It is truly the complete opposite of a more traditional classroom setting where everybody works on the same thing at the same time, at their own assigned desk, working alone, BMS is nothing like that.
Have you visited the classrooms? I highly recommend seeing the classrooms and the school environment for yourself first hand because as least for us, that was the only way we made the right decision about where to send our children. You could also make an appointment to speak with Janet Stork the Head of School and/or Carol Clark the Admissions Director. Finally, in regards to your son having lots of energy, we feel one of the greatest parts of BMS is that kids don't just sit passively at their desks working on worksheets. The children are always engaged in purposeful activity and the children are always free to move about the room rather than staying confined to their desks. They are taking materials off the shelf, working with them, putting them away etc. They proceed at their own pace, rather than being rushed to meet the ''standard'' of what is expected and most importantly to us, as we have seen with both our children, they learn to make their own good choices, learn to manage their time and are able to conduct self-initiated/directed learning. The school has P.E. and also have yoga every week. Yoga is great because it calms even the most lively children in my daughters class. Happy BMS Family
Hi Karen, I have a 3rd grade son who sounds much like your son, and he's doing great at BMS. (Full disclosure: I actually have three kids there, and I love the school so much I came to work here three years ago, doing Communications.) There are plenty of opportunities for high-energy boys to be active, and the teachers are just incredible -- deeply knowledgeable and intuitive about kids, unfazed by boy energy, etc. Our new head of school, Janet Stork, is a dynamo, and there's so much good new energy here. I urge you to consider BMS for your son. Please feel free to contact me if you have any more specific questions. Laura
- St. Paul's Episcopal School
Does anyone have anything to say about Berkleley Montessori School? I know they have a new Head and changes have been made. How is communication home to parents? Do kids have enough physical activity? How is the community? There is no space large enough to meet as a community. Is that a big loss? No assemblies? Are kids challenged enough? I heard in the past, some kids were leaveing lower elementary without basic math and writing skills. Has this been addressed? Thanks! Curious parent
Boy, I am so glad you asked! Berkeley Montessori does have a new head of school this year, Janet Stork, and she is wonderful. She has been very focused on the quality of communication to parents, and in ensuring transparency in decision- making. I have been pleased with the level of communication from both the administration and from teachers. In addition to school newsletters, and community forums, I have gotten classroom newsletters, emails, check-in phone calls from teachers, and I see portfolios of my children's work. Janet makes herself very available to parents, and is very much focused on ensuring that parents are appropriately involved in decision-making for the school. I chose the word ''appropriately'' because I think that schools can get in trouble either in the direction of too little or too much parent influence.
One of the wonderful things about BMS is that there are a lot of great parents in the community with a lot of strong opinions. As you all probably know, this is a double-edged sword. One of the ways in which I feel we are all learning to be a healthier and more effective community, is by better achieving that elusive balance. We are learning to make skillful use of the talents and energies of parents, without this leading to the sense that we are chasing in a million directions at once, or that a small group of vocal parents are steering the ship.
The play-yard is not huge, but the school makes good use of Strawberry Creek Park, which is right across the street. There have also been improvements to the lay out of activities during ''outside time,'' so that kids have a range of choices to engage their energies. Our wonderful next door neighbors, Congregation Netivot Shalom, have made their community space open to us for use both during the school day and in the evenings as needed, so there are ample opportunities to have large gatherings.
My sense this year is that there is a consistent commitment in the lower elementary classrooms to basic skill levels being met. I know that this has been a concern in past years, and I think a combination of some new staff and better use of learning specialists has resulted in marked improvement. One of the challenges for parents who may be accustomed to a different style of education, is to understand that all Montessori teachers look at achievement over a three year time frame, as all students spend three years in each, mixed-age classroom. This allows for children to truly learn at their own pace. As a parent, I was thrilled when my first grader was doing third grade level math work. It was more challenging to be thrilled when that same child was struggling to read even toward the end of second grade. Good communication with his teachers assured me that he was working away, even though little progress was apparent, until suddenly, at the end of second grade, seemingly overnight, it all clicked for him. He is now a happy fourth grader, reading at the same level as his peers, and delightedly losing himself in reading for pleasure. Throughout this he was never stigmatized for being too smart in math or not smart in reading, and for this I will be forever grateful. I hope this helps. I am choosing anonymity out of respect for my kids privacy, but would be happy to talk more to anyone about BMS. It is a truly great school. Happy BMS mom
We have been at the school for 7 years and my kids have both had wonderful experiences there, and love to go to school every day. Berkeley Montessori is a great school!
The new Head of School, Janet Stork, is fantastic: dynamic, bright, and absolutely passionate about progressive education and meeting the learning needs of every child. I think she is very good about communication and very accessible, and provides numerous opportunities every month for anyone to talk to her in person. She has also encouraged the professional development of every staff member, which has translated into an energized faculty, enriching even more what our kids experience. She has added weekly yoga classes to complement the weekly movement classes, so I feel my children get enough exercise, especially with recess and sports after school. The school can use the synagogue's multipurpose room next door for assemblies and all school events, although it would certainly be nice to have our own space.
My children have certainly learned *more* than they would have in a traditional school, including math and writing, and have been encouraged to pursue their academic interests. I think that is what is possible when experienced and skilled teachers provide the individualized education the Montessori approach fosters. There have been some staff changes at the lower elementary level, and the new Head has added a school psychologist and weekly child study reviews for the faculty, administrators, and learning specialists working with one child to discuss the special needs of that child. I know there are also plans to hire another learning specialist to assist children who have special needs, so I feel the concerns you mention have been addressed.
The community is vibrant and full of very bright parents, teachers, and staff members passionate about serving the children, but in the past they haven't always agreed on how best to do that. I think our new Head of school is a great leader who is harnessing the energy of the community and helping everyone pull in the same direction to make BMS an even better school. Her model of school as learning community, where everyone, teachers, administrators, parents, children, are learning, is a terrific vision for the future. -Happy parent
I have just returned to the U. S. and am trying to place my 5 year old in a good kindergarten in the Berkeley area. I am considering Ecole Bilingue and Berkeley Montessori, and would appreciate comments on these schools for this age, plus any other recommendations for excellent private schools. Thank you
I can definitely recommend Berkeley Montessori as a wonderful school! My two sons both started in kindergarten and have had amazing educational experiences; the older son is in his 7th year and both children love to go to school, love to learn, and have many opportunities to pursue their interests in a supportive, nurturing, and incredibly rich environment. The new Head of School, Janet Stork, is an amazing educational leader who has brought new energy and excitement to the school. I encourage you to visit and see for yourself, and talk to Janet.
Re: Thinking of switching our 7-year-old to a Montessori school
I believe that there may still be openings for the 2006-07 school year at Berkeley Montessori School for a 7 year old child, and I doubt that exposure to Spanish would be a factor in acceptance. The sooner you can make the switch the better, as it can be difficult for children to make the transition later on. Please call the BMS admissions director Carol Clark at 510-665-8800 ext. 103, or check out the web site at http://www.bmsonline.org. We have been very happy with the experience of our children at this exceptional school.
Berkeley Montessori parent
Re: Berkeley Montessori vs. Montessori Family
We had a hard time deciding between Berkeley Montessori and Montessori Family as well, but in the end, we thought that the classrooms at Berkeley Montessori were a little livelier in terms of collaboration between the children, and that ''felt'' better to us. I am a strong believer in gut instincts when choosing schools and other childcare for your children. We have been very happy with the tremendous teachers and vibrant community at Berkeley Montessori as my son has moved from the Early Childhood program through Lower El (1st-3rd) and now Upper El. But we may well have been happy at Montessori Family as well. I think we are blessed to have so many wonderful schools in the East Bay! Another Montessori Mom
Hi, I am hoping any parents whose children have attended Berkeley Montessori or Walden school in Berkeley can respond to this question. We are considering a bunch of different schools right now for next year and I am curious how these two schools graduates transition into a different school setting after completing the BMS or Walden school program? I am concerned about my child being ''behind'' when transferring to a public school setting in 9th grade (if that is what they end up doing). I have this ''feeling'', which is really based on nothing, that these two schools may allow so much freedom and independence that my child(ren) could end up doing more of what she wants and not enough of what she needs? I could be way off base here. I would love to hear any positive or negative feedback and am really looking for answers from children who have already attended these schools and how they are doing now in their current schools. Thanks for any information. Anon
Hi, My name is Antonia and I'm an 8th grader at Berkeley Montessori School. I have been going to BMS since pre-school. Right now I am in the middle of applying to St. Mary's College High School and Holy Names High School. I love the BMS community so much that some days I don't ever want to leave (and then I wish BMS had a high school!). I feel that BMS balances freedom, stability and independence very well so a student can progress at her own rate. In the Montessori classroom kids also learn to be responsible and organized at an early age. This is a really good advantage once you're in high school.
Your concerns are valid, of course. but the questions you raise about being ''behind'' are totally the opposite of what I've experienced at BMS. In fact, many of my 9th grade friends at Albany High are struggling with algebra, and haven't gone nearly as in depth as we have with the books they study in English class. For example, this year we've spent three months reading and discussing ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' writing papers and doing projects based on the book. My friends at AHS said they dont't read classics like that until they are juniors. We're a mixed class of 7th and 8th graders so, in fact we're already far ahead! In 8th grade you take test prep and timed essay practice to help prepare you for HS. Besides the academics, the BMS teachers are awesome! I have great relationships with them and feel that if I don't understand something, I can go to any of them and explain what I don't understand and get help without feeling embarressed or intimidated. I feel this is very important to be able to do this with your teachers.
BMS is a great school with a tightly-knit community of nice kids and caring teachers! There is so much more I could tell you about BMS so free feel to contact me. I honestly know that I am very socially and academically prepared to enter high school. Antonia helen
Although my sons have not yet graduated from Berkeley Montessori School (BMS), I wanted to let you know that Alumni from BMS speak at the school each year about their experiences in public and private high school, and they just had the event last night. I know for sure that last year's event was videotaped and that the BMS Director of Admissions should have a copy of the tape that you could borrow. The event is not a fluffy marketing event--you can ask the kids tough questions and they answer very thoughtfully and candidly. The kids are very positive about the preparation they receive at BMS, and about how they learn to find their own voice at BMS that helps them when they are out in the ''real world''.
Also, bear in mind that the Middle School at BMS is not a Montessori program but a bridging, transition program that helps kid prepare for a rigourous academic high school and college life after BMS. Hope this helps! Sima
My daughter will graduate from BMS this June. All of the Montessori program has been a fantastic ''fit'' for her; in fact, the year we took her out, because of seismic safety concerns at the old Hillside School site, was a disaster. We promptly returned to BMS and she's been thriving again ever since. I don't know where you got the idea that kids attending BMS would be ''behind'' when they transition to 9th grade; nothing could be further from the truth. The middle school program is incrediby rigorous and BMS graduates go on to all sorts of high level academic private as well as public schools. Unfortunately, I did not see your post soon enough; BMS just held its annual Alumni Night this week--a chance to hear from graduates about their transition experiences. For more information, contact Diane Johnson, admissions director at BMS. anon
I wanted to address some of the comments made about Berkeley Montessori School by an anonymous parent in the last Private School issue. One of the greatest strengths of the school is the amazing faculty, and the wonderful teacher:student ratio, with two teachers for each class of approximately 24 children. All of the Head Teachers at BMS are Montessori trained and highly experienced. After completing their Montessori credential, Head Teachers are required to have worked as an Assistant Teacher for at least 3 years before becoming a Head Teacher. All of the faculty and staff education and credentials are available on the BMS web site at http://www.bmsonline.org under ''Education'' ''About Faculty & Staff''. My son's teachers have been truly amazing.
In terms of grading, students at the Early Childhood Campus and Elementary school receive written reports rather than grades, but parents also have the opportunity to talk to teachers at two scheduled conferences during the school year, as well as any extra conferences requested by a parent or teacher during the school year. The teachers are trained in observing the children carefully and can tell a parent where their individual child falls in the continuum for any particular area of study. This observation and knowledge of each child by teachers is part of the beauty of the Montessori method.
The middle school graduates do go to excellent high schools, and the information about which schools they went to is also on the school's web site, under ''Students'' ''Graduates''.
In addition, the BMS test scores are on the web site, under ''Community'' ''Test Results'', and they are quite good. However, I would also like to point out, as has been done before, that test scores really reflect the socioeconomic status of the children, not necessarily the education that is going on in the school. BMS works very hard to achieve diversity, with an important Tuition Assistance program, and need-blind admissions. Not every private school does that.
Of course each family's experience at a school is individual, and each family needs to find a good fit for them. But I would be happy to talk to parents interested in BMS and answer any questions they might have about the school, speaking from my family's experiences. I think it is a very wonderful place to educate my children, and a wonderful community to be a part of. Sima
Hi - I've noticed the new Berkeley Montessori building going up, and it's made me curious. How do current parents feel about the school? (academics, socially, diversity, ''playground dynamics)? About the move? Is the newer building going to allow a larger enrollment? If you have transferred out of Berkeley Montessori, what led to that decision? And, if you decided to go, has it met your expectations? In general we hear very little about this school, so any pluses or minuses would be nice to know.
I understand that they are planning for some expansion in the Middle School in the new building which opens in Feb.2004. The Middle School is relatively new compared to the rest of the school- founded in 1963, but the Middle School is recent like - six or seven years old. In fact we almost did not apply because we did not know it was there. Had to delve! The BMS Middle School is small, cozy, some things mixed seventh and eighth, and some separated. Exceptionally dedicated teachers, high standards, and great high school preparation. All the grads during our year that wanted Independent education were admitted to an Independent High School. c e c
We only used the BMS pre-school/K site with good reason. Great teacher/experience in the pre-schoool while we simultaneously witnessed the elem/middle school in transition and chaos, problems with inconsistency in teachers and the head of school. This was 5 years ago, and I will say that I am impressed by what I know of their curriculum and situation now. It is my understanding that BMS uses the Lawrence Hall of Science science curriculum--there is no better science curriculum, and I sorely wish that my child's independent school used it. Math is very strong at BMS--Maria Montessori got it right about using ''manipulatives'' and segueing into more sophisticated manipulatives to teach math. As well, their middle school grads are of late getting into impressive high schools. I think that the construct of the Montessori system is geared toward the independent learner--the Mont. kids take a lot of responsibility for their learning and academic choices. Their current site is charming, but I hear tell that the school is bound for their own shiny new building on University Avenue. I also remember BMS being more diverse than some of the more ''elite'' elem/midd. schools. I think the school is evolving impressively, and I never would have thunk it a few years ago. LD
We attended the Middle School - but many of the students had started at age 3 - one of the teachers had been an alumus of the school originally starting at pre-k. People seemed very happy, the students were very accomplished and well behaved. claudia
We've had both our boys at BMS from preschool forward - since 1990. Our older son graduated from the Middle School two years ago and was accepted at numerous private high schools, out of which he chose his first pick - Lick Wilmerding in SF. He found himself well prepared academically in math, science and English. The only downfall was Spanish - which, we were told by his first year Spanish teacher at Lick - is not uncommon in most middle schools. He's managed to catch up. It is hard for a school to do everything, and this is a trade-off I'm ok with at BMS because everything else is working so well. And, I'm told now that the Middle School has a far more rigorous Spanish program now.
Our younger son had a less consistent experience in the lower elementary program (grades 1,2,3) at BMS, but in the upper program his teachers are excellent and he's now more academic than his brother ever was! I know he will be very happy at the middle school and I'm sure he'll have his pick of private high schools.
At BMS Middle School,there is a good amount of attention on math, a really good science prep with Lawrence Hall of Science program, and lots of work on writing, writing and more writing. BMS is a school, as my older one says, ''where you can be yourself'' and because it is small, the kids are protected from the big-middle-school/popular culture/peer pressure stuff for a little bit longer. I'm all for that during those tender years and found my older one all the stronger for that bit of extra childhood. There's sports at the middle school in a league with other east bay middle schools, and some terrific study/travel experiences to Wash. DC and the UK and Mexico. I'm into small schools and classrooms where there is time for the kids to develop meaningful relationships with their teachers, which BMS does with true excellence at many levels, especially Upper El(grades 4,5,6) and Middle School.
There's something to say for leadership too. BMS has an extraordinary head of school, Lee Davis, who sets a tone of excellence. She's spearheaded the purchase of the new site and it's development with remarkable strength and consistency. But more important, it's her leadership style, that I think is really great - fair, hardworking, and very joyful.
BMS Old Timer
We have had our son at Berkeley Montessori from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and have been very happy with the school. He has had amazing teachers, who have nurtured his innate love of learning, and encouraged a wonderful sense of community, where the children treat each other and the teachers with love and respect (all modeled by the way the teachers treat the kids and each other). The spiral curriculum really works, and it is great to see how the kids can work independently or together, at their own individual pace, and can teach each other as they grow older and more accomplished. The academics have been very strong, but the kind social-emotional atmosphere is a very important aspect of the school for us. Our son loves going to school every day, and I credit the teachers and the marvelous work they do. The wonderful sense of community we have with the other families, especially in his classroom (where he has spent 1st through 3rd grades), is very important as well.
The new Elem.-M.S.site is very exciting, and will be ready in February. The new school buildings are ''Green'', environmentally sensitive, and they have built in the idea of classroom as teacher about the environment.
The administration has done a great job of focusing efforts to purchase a new site and raise funds to build a new school. And the Parents Association has really blossomed over the past few years, building a sense of all school community and facilitating communication with the administration when parent concerns come up.
One weakness I see is the quality of some of the resource teaching, like music and physical education, as well as the summer program. Also, it is hard for our family to afford private school. But we feel that the cost has been well worth it for our son to be in such a wonderful, stimulating, loving environment where his learning knows no limits.
Happy Berkeley Montessori Parent
Our family is a big fan of Berkeley Montessori School and the montessori format for teaching young children. My child ( 7 yr old ) is developing independence with his learning and a true joy to find things out for himself. We are psyched about the brand new campus too! Happy BMS Parent
BMS has many wonderful characteristics, not the least of which are its new building, its diverse curriculum, and its excellent headmaster. We were very excited to enroll our child there, in a lower elementary classrom. Our experience, however, was less than satisfactory. We are writing to describe some aspects of the school we found most problematic.
1. The Montessori curriculum can be difficult for some children to understand, especially if s/he has not gone to a Montessori preschool. Be sure you know how the classroom is structured; try to determine in advance whether your child can handle that kind of educational environment and curriculum.
2. While some of the teachers are excellent, others are not. If your child is assigned to one of the latter, you're stuck for 3 long years. To our knowledge, classroom assignments _cannot _ be changed. Be sure to check out the academic background and educational credentials of any head teachers to which your child might be assigned. Make sure those teachers have the background to teach your child what you want him or her to learn.
3. In our child's classroom, alot of time was spent on activities that we did not find germaine to the academic Montessori curriculum. For example, the class routinely played on the playground for 15-25 minutes extra before school started. There were also many day-long fieldtrips and other activities that had no discernible relationship to the academic studies. This is in sharp contrast with our child's current school, which starts promptly, and whose field trips and non-academic activities always have a direct link to the subjects being studied in class that week.
4. Individual teachers have alot of autonomy at BMS. If you have problems with your child's teacher, it can be hard to get the managing staff to intervene on your behalf. Again, no changes were allowed.
5. The grading system is very spongy... All the kids in each multi-grade classroom are evaluated on the same scale: not yet, in progress, and proficient. This makes it very hard for a parent to know exactly how their child is doing academically and where he or she might stand in comparison with his or her chronological peers. Moreover, the grades for our child's classroom didn't arrive until well after the school year was over--in mid July.
6. Although BMS says that its middle schoolers go on to excellent high schools, we would suggest checking that out. Most of the students who graduated last year did not, as we recall, go on to established or well-regarded high schools.
7. To determine how well BMS students master the ''standard'' academic skills, look closely at recent test scores for BMS students. The figures we have, for 1999, were in the mid-70th percentile, not nearly as high as those of many other private schools in this area.
Fantastic teachers, small relatively unknown middle school, definitely takes in students from other schools at 7th and 8th grade. Not a traditional Montessori environment - different from the Elementary School in that respect. Very academic but very supportive of a range of abilities. Teachers are very approachable.
Detailed report cards, exceptional math program, prepares students for high school at a strong level. Usually one or more short camping trips and one big spring trip - sometimes international per year. Sports teams, Spanish and Art electives are offered.
I expect with the new building next year, the school will have a much greater wave of ''fame''. The Middle School will also increase in size which will give more social opportunities. c
Re: Montessori elementary school? (October 2002)
Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning!
Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning! hope
We would like to hear any and all feedback on Berkeley Montessori School. We will be returning from a year in Paris and that may be the only school with an opening for our soon to be third grader. Thank you. Margaret
My son has completed Kindergarten and 1st grade at Berkeley Montessori, and we have been very happy 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 plenty of fun. My son made lots of friends right away, and I really enjoy the community of his class, the kids, their parents, and the teachers. They are together for 3 years, and it is wonderful to see how the 3rd graders care for and mentor the younger children. I know that some Montessori schools I had visited were a little more rigid and quiet than BMS. We chose BMS because we liked the looser (more talkative and collaborative) approach, the opportunities for the kids to play and enjoy each other, while still benefitting from all the best stuff that the Montessori approach has to offer. My son's teachers, Chris Middlemiss and Mike Raven, do a wonderful job of helping the children learn that they are all part of a community, and to be respectful and kind to each other. They also do a wonderful job teaching him math, reading, science, cultural studies, grammar, geography, handwriting--you name it! The school really nurtures his innate love of learning. We feel very lucky 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 about the new school site. BMS is a great school. Sima
Berkeley Montessori offers a very excellent and supportive education. Our son attended 5-6 grades. The mixture of ages worked very well and the teachers were very responsive and caring. There is also a strong parents community (something that is almost discouraged at our son's present middle school). We regret that we had missed the earlier grades. The only weakness is the school's lack of a music program. (But this can be supplemented out of school.) The school's upcoming move to a new site should also be a plus. GF
I would like to add to this ongoing discussion. My son attended Berkeley Montessori Middle School and now attends Lick- Wilmerding High School. He was indeed well prepared by the BMS Middle School.
Outlining, grammar, sentence structure, the paragraph, writing literary criticism, and creating a bibliography were all taught at length in his 7th and 8th grade English classes. The enjoyment, memorization, rhyme and meter of poetry were well covered. In addition, through one of his teachers, Charley had the opportunity to take a special novels course each summer, which he greatly enjoyed.
My son's high level of academic preparedness is not just in English - he's finding that he is well prepared for all of his classes. The only weak spot at BMS is the Spanish program and this is not unique among most middle schools.
The English and Math teachers at BMS Middle School are extraordinary. I truly appreciate this now that my son is in a challenging high school environment. Debby
Berkeley Montessori School has a wonderful elementary and middle school program. Both my boys attend and are academically well ahead of their peers, but most importantly they're having a wonderful time learning! hope
By way of background, both of my sons attended Berkeley Montessori School's preschool. Both were in Nancy's class, though I know Denise, and my children were with her in the summer program. We loved BMS preschool, and thought all the teachers were really great, Denise included. We adore Nancy and remain friends with her. The preschool is a warm nest of nuturing and learning. Both my kids went on at BMS and one will go to Lick-Wilmerding HS next fall, and the other is thriving as a fourth grader there. I believe that no school is perfect, indeed we supplement with outside music and sports, but on the whole we are very, very pleased with BMS. We especially valued that the preschool classroom/age mix led to a very special kindergarten third year. It builds confidence, competency, and kindness in the child. It also means that as a parent you avoid the hysteria of applying to kindergarten and putting your child through all that stress at age 5/6. A very good thing. Plus the mixed age group and extended materials and curriculum allow your child to explore and grow at her own pace. She can work on what she needs and wants most to learn, advance and solidify her skills, and feel completely comfortable at her own level. (This keeps going in Montessori, for example, my fourth grader is in the sixth grade math group where he learns the things he is hungry to know...) We feel that the BMS preschool gave our boys the foundation for their future education, a self directed learning style, and the confidence to be generous spirited, kind people. Debby
The materials are unrivalled, and the spectrum of materials (esp. for math) address all levels of aptitude. There are things that I found problematic when my daughter attended the school from ages 3-5. As far as psychosocial dynamics and arbitrating between and among children, the teachers are pretty hands-off. I guess the tenant of Montessori is not only to allow children to select ''work'' independently but to work things out independently; something that a lot of parents and I did not agree with. Children at that age are rightfully dependent, no? The yard, while full of great ''stuff,'' is an accident waiting to happen since all four classrooms are let loose at once, and, on top of that, all of the different age groups are up against one another. Pretty chaotic. We found Nancy's classroom to be the least rigid. She is the most-requested teacher there, so getting in to her class is hard. The class sizes are large--24 children, some/a lot of whom were 2 year olds. I had often heard that the best year at BMS was the kindergarden year. I quite agree--socially,one is then at the ''top of the heat'', and the materials are very exciting. I also had a problem with the school's accessibility to street/foot traffic. They, finally, after a petition was circulated put in a long-promised security pad, I believe. Were I to do it again, I would put my daughter in BMS for only the kindergarden year, and my soon-to-be three-year old son will be starting Berkeley Hills Nursery School (great but hard-to-get-into school) in the f
Regarding great middle schools: Berkeley Montessori School on Leroy Street has a wonderful middle school program. BMS added a 7th-8th grade program a couple of years and from all accounts is very successful. Call at 510-843-9374 and make an appointment for a tour. I think you will be impressed.
The BMS Middle School Program supports young adolescent students in their academic, social and emotional growth. The program promotes academic excellence, expands critical thinking skills and supports the development of each student's unique potential. The program is known for its solid support of students who are moving through the difficult social and emotional transitions of early adolescence. Middle School students are expected to assume leadership roles at the school. Many of our middle school graduates enter their freshman year at both public and private high schools at advanced academic levels.
My son attended Berkeley Montessori School for three years (kindergarten to second grade). The teachers are great! The teaching there gave him a wonderful start, especially in reading. I put him in public school (he goes to Cragmont) because as a single mother I couldn't afford it anymore. They do have scholarships but that didn't help me. Anyway, he loves Cragmont School (on the Franklin School site). Carol Lynn
My daughter will be in third grade this year and we are very happy with Berkeley Montessori School. My daughter started at BMS at age 4 3/4 and they had her reading by the time she was five (actually, before she was 5). I am continually impressed by the level of teaching and learning. The curriculum is science and math oriented but there is an emphasis on reading and writing. The classes are multi-level - Three classrooms grades 1, 2 and 3; three classrooms grades 4, 5 and 6 and now grades 7 and 8 together. This allows children to work not only at their grade level but to step up in an area of interest and ability, i.e., a second grader can do third grade math. The teachers are attentive to the children's needs and abilities and encourage (not push) each child to develop at his/her level and ability. My daughter goes to school with enthusiasm and her happiness and enthusiasm shows up in her school work and at home. I am very satisfied with her progress. Check it out and I think you will be impressed. Trisha
My daughter is a second grader in Berkeley Montessori School. I am quite pleased with the curriculum and the caring, professional attitude of the teachers. There is a younger program 2.8 years to kindergarten at one site and an older program, first through eighth grade, located in the old Hillside School site on Leroy. The Montessori method is to put several age ranges together -- i.e., first, second and third grades; fourth, fifth and sixth grades; and seventh and eight grades. This seems to work out well. Children work at their own level so, for instance, if assignments are completed, a first grader might move on to do some second grade works, etc. The school fosters interaction and caring among the age groups, i.e., the older children help the younger ones with projects or read to them, etc.. The children are for the most part well behaved but lively and attentive. My daughter started at BMS when she was 4 2/3 yrs. and they had her reading in a matter of weeks. I was very impressed. The curriculum includes movement, music and language (Spanish and Japanese). There is an emphasis on math and science. The whole school is now participating in an innovative interdisciplinary oceanography curriculum presented by The Lawrence Hall of Science. For instance, this week is "Ocean Week" in my daughter's class and every thing they do will relate to oceanography - reading, writing, math, etc. There will be a field trip to the Berkeley Marina. The children are encouraged to bring objects from home (i.e., shell collections, pictures, personal experiences, etc.) and friends and family with knowledge of the sea are asked to participate by soming to the classroom and sharing their knowledge with the children. I think the school is great (mayby not perfect but what is) and encourage you to check it out for yourself.