The Renaissance International School (TRIS)Community Subscriber
- Prior to 2001, The Renaissance School was called A Child's World Montessori School
- See also: The Renaissance School Preschool
My daughter attended the Renaissance School from age 2 - age 8. She is now 12 and her Spanish is still very, very strong, despite us not speaking it at home. Her middle school Spanish teacher considers her fluent and praises her accent. When we travel in Mexico she often translates for us and she always receives compliments from the natives on her ability to speak like them. So yes, TRIS does really deliver in the language department. Yo no hablo espanol
My daughter went to The Renaissance International School from age 4 to 10. My husband got a job transfer so we recently moved out of state. Our experience at TRIS was excellent and my husband turned down a few job offers prior to this one so that we could get some more years in at TRIS. My initial interest in the school was the language program. We had a nanny who helped my kids with Spanish as infants. I really wanted to retain their language skills. The language program is excellent in that you typically have native language speakers teaching either Spanish or French to the younger students. As the kids get older they are in a 3 language immersion classroom. My daughter had great early Spanish skills that were enhanced at TRIS. In the elementary level she picked up French and did so fairly quickly. I've had many native language speakers comment on how great my daughter's Spanish and French skills are as well as her accent. The language program includes writing in both languages. My son, 6 yo, had two native Spanish speakers in his age 3-6 yo class. One thing I initially didn't expect is that whatever the Spanish teacher happens to be teaching that day (Geography, Math, Practical Life, etc) will be taught in Spanish. So, the students are learning a completely full vocabulary, not just basic language.
Although your main interest is in the language program I wanted to also share some of my recent observations after my move. I am now in the midwest and picked one of the best school districts in the US. Once we started TRIS I began realizing that art and music program was excellent as well. Now that I've moved I realize there is no way to replace what we had at TRIS without schlepping my kids all over town and even then I cannot match the fluid, peaceful way art, language, and music were incorporated into my kids' day to day school life at TRIS. At the elementary level there are 3 hour art sessions once a week where art history and art lessons take place. That's exactly how I would want to learn. The music program was ever present, slow, and gradual. My daughter has never taken piano lessons, only violin, but she can easily pluck a tune on the piano of any popular song she hears. She just got ''exceeds expectations'' on her progress report for music. Both my kids sing beautifully but they are quick to tell me I do not. The academic program was also wonderful. We are dealing with regular homework now. My daughter never looks at school work as drudgery based on her early beginnings at TRIS where learning is an adventure. The other day she whipped out her midwest school homework on a Friday night eager to work on it. TRIS allows kids to learn at their own pace. My son was more at a 1st grade level at TRIS. Due to his birthdate he is now in Kindergarten. He is not being challenged as he was at TRIS. The other night he was doing math out loud such as 200+200 and 4,000+4,000. He told me he really misses the level of math he was doing at TRIS. With all that said, TRIS provides an excellent, well-rounded education with many benefits that would be hard to achieve elsewhere. Loved TRIS
Re: Renaissance or Park Day for elementary school?
School choices are tough. We have been very satisfied with TRIS (The Renaissance International School). We left public schools in San Leandro 2.5 years ago, and have not looked back. You are spot on in your description of the program - nurturing and group/individual conflict resolution, etc.
In short, I would say that the administration's responses to a majority of issues we are aware of have been thoughtful and considered. For our oldest daughter, it's a perfect fit. For our youngest, we are working with teachers and administration and with her too to improve her experience - or more fairly her perception of her experience! But her attitude towards school is a funny one - she would rather be home making art all day instead!
I'm happy to talk with you about the questions you've raised, so feel free to contact me directly. Madeleine
I've searched the archives and there are many references to the Renaissance Int'l School, however none address the question of safety. For those families that have attended/do attend this school, are you concerned about the safety of your child(ren) given the location and the neighborhood? Is vandalism a problem for the school? We are admittedly not from the area, and after visiting are frankly quite concerned about this issue. Fruitvale BART (a crime mecca) is not far and the general neighborhood appears to be in crisis. Any comments or feedback would be greatly appreciated. -anon
Neighborhood in crisis? Did La Farine run out of morning buns?!? Just kidding, but I do wonder where you live if you are so anxious about the neighborhood around the school. It is definitely busier, more urban, etc. than say, Moraga, but it is really a pretty typical residential and commercial area of Oakland. Definitely more family-friendly and safe than much of the city. I'm not sure I'd call the Fruitvale BART a crime mecca, and anyways it is a full 2+ miles away. Of course, there are car break-ins, house burglaries, etc. and those are scary and I don't mean to minimize that. But I think you need to ask the school about their safety and security plans and procedures, as that is more relevant to your child's experience than the surrounding area. I doubt your child will be wandering around by themself, so the most pertinent info will be safety at pick up and drop off, etc. For what it's worth, we shop in that neighborhood frequently- at Peet's, La Farine, Farmer Joe's, Paws and Claws, Hive, etc. and really like the area and the friendly vibe. Come get a coffee and a morning bun some Saturday morning, and maybe you'll feel more comfortable. Good luck!
My daughter attended TRIS for about 6 years and we never had safety concerns. The school has very specific and stringent rules about dropoff and pickup of children. The school makes use of Dimond Park next door and, again, teachers are regimented about keeping track of the children. We live about 10 minutes away from the school, so we know the neighborhood well. While the surrounding neighbors seem to be lower income, I would imagine the crime rate is comparable to other Oakland neighborhoods. Oakland parent
You asked for comments and feedback about your view of the area around Renaissance International School. Here's my feedback: I've lived in the Dimond district for 11 years and am really surprised to hear it characterized as ''in crisis.'' In fact, I had to google the school to make sure that you were referring to the one in my neighborhood! My kids and I walk, shop, eat, play, and learn here daily. So yes, in my view it's safe. But my view may be different from yours. Apparently during your visit you didn't notice the park, the library, the many small businesses and restaurants, the clean streets, the flowers, the well maintained for houses and apartments... So, what did you notice that caused you to be ''frankly quite concerned'' about the area? I can only guess that what many of us see as another of its desirable qualities (that it is home to people of many different cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic situations, family configurations, and lifestyles) caused you to react with fear and judgment. If this is the case, I can only say that this reveals much more about you than it does about the Dimond, and it may be that you will never feel safe here because of the assumptions you carry with you. If I'm wrong and you're actually concerned about something specific that you saw or heard during your visit, it might be useful to repost with a particular question about that particular concern rather than asking for feedback on a statement that disparages the whole neighborhood. Oh -- and Fruitvale BART is nowhere nearby (and much more than a ''crime mecca''!). Dimond Girl
If you think ''the general neighborhood appears to be in crisis'' I'm not sure why you would pay to send your child to school there. I am also wondering what your assessment is based upon. Do you know anyone who lives in the Dimond? I know that you are ''admittedly not from the area.'' Are you also afraid of Head Royce and Redwood Day? They are quite nearby as well.
The neighborhood you are ''frankly quite concerned about'' is the neighborhood my family, including two young children, have lived in for over a decade. We have many friends who live here too and are very happy. We all use the park (a stone's throw from the school you are considering) and the library regularly. We walk to our wonderful local public school and Farmer Joe's, get our hair cut on Fruitvale Ave, and eat at the taqueria just up the block from Renaissance. We enjoy all of the new public art that is being installed and we know our neighbors. There are many, many things to love about our neighborhood, but perhaps you have to live here to appreciate them. Dimond Mom
My kids don't go to the Renaissance School but we do attend another private school about a mile away--a very sought-after school, despite the less than perfect neighborhood. I have never heard that the Renaissance School neighborhood is ''in crisis'' (whatever you mean by that.) In Oakland, there is crime in every neighborhood, including car and home burglaries, armed robberies, etc. However, some neighborhoods suffer much more than others, and I would say the RS area is above average, meaning less than average crime, for Oakland. There are at least two very popular independent schools within a mile of the Renaissance School--Redwood Day, and Head-Royce.
The Fruitvale BART station is over 2 miles away and is a pretty different type of area where the crime rate is higher. I would not use proximity to Fruitvale BART as a factor in your decision.
I agree overall that the crime rate in Oakland is very troublesome and if you are worried about that, you should not live/send your kids to school in Oakland. Our school has been locked down twice in recent months because of active criminal activity in the neighborhood (not on our campus.) It's a definite issue and I don't really think it's going to get better any time soon. I hope it does some day, because Oakland is a fantastic city with so many things to offer. Hoping for better days ahead
Wow! I've lived in the Dimond neighborhood, less than a block from the Renaissance International School, for more than 16 years, and I'm really shocked by your question about neighborhood safety. I have safely raised a child of my own in this neighborhood. Dimond is full of involved, active people, looking out for each other and trying to improve what needs improving and enjoying the many advantages that are already present -- which include a local park and wonderful branch library. I have no direct experience with the Renaissance School, but surely it has procedures for the safety of its students. If you are unsure about what those are, I would ask school administrators. Your child will be at school during the day, not walking the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. Also, for the record, the school is not near the Fruitvale BART station, which is more than two miles away. Neighbor
I toured Renaissance for my daughter, and had absolutely none of the safety concerns you mention. Perhaps, it's because I'm in the area, and feel quite comfortable in the Dimond, Laurel, Fruitvale, East Oakland. Please don't mistake what one might consider blight, to be a place where you think your life (or child's) is in danger.
And seriously, Renaissance costs $25K+, if safety were a real deal issue, I'm guessing they'd find a new site. Resources are aplenty there. anon
Wow!! I have been a resident of Oakland for most of my upbringing so, I'm very glad to see so many people so eager to defend it!
But, I would like to speak to what I believe is your intended question. I am a Renaissance parent. Every school entrance has a keypad or combination lock, which requires a code to gain entry. There is also a faculty member posted in the main lobby during school hours for the sole purpose of observing comings and goings.
Parents are notified via email regarding any incidents occurring within the neighborhood or on campus, most recently a small fire that occurred down the street from the school and was quickly extinguished by the fire department. The administration is quite transparent in these matters, please ask questions and find that your concerns will be met with the respect they deserve.
Lastly, thank you to all the residents of Dimond who deal with the daily activity a school brings! TRIS Mom
I wanted to reply as a parent who has two children enrolled at TRIS. From your original question it appears you may not be from the area. Please be assured that TRIS is not located anywhere near the Fruitvale Bart station. It is located in a neighborhood called the Dimond district. This is a very charming part of Oakland. I would encourage you to spend some time in the area or attend one of the many events. More information here:
There are many mornings at drop off where I see community volunteers picking up trash or participating in the street sales. The area is filled with parks and public art.
Oakland is a very urban area - even in the so called up scale neighborhoods crime is a problem. In the two years we have been at the school only one lock down has occurred. The school has many policies and procedures in place to protect our children. I'm sure the administrators would be happy to share those with you.
We love TRIS and have never felt unsafe at the school or in the area. Many of the residents have been on that street for decades and they are fully involved in the community. We also used to own the apartment building next door - 3600 Dimond. We spent a year renovating the building and I was there all day long and into the night on many occasions. We never had any problems. If you want to track crime sign up for spotcrime.com, put in the address for the school and monitor the community happenings. vlh
Re: Comparing Montessori Schools in Oakland
My daughter attended The Renaissance International School, a Montessori school next to Dimond Park, from preschool through 5th grade. We were thrilled with the school -- from the practical life skills she learned in preschool, the strong music program (starting each day with singing), immersion language program (one language in preschool and a second one in elementary), an incredible arts program, plus strong academics -- this school has it all. Our daughter is now finishing middle school, and we feel her experiences at TRIS gave her a strong foundation that she has been able to build on. Happy parent
Re: language immersion programs for 3rd grader
It's a little outside your stated area, but consider the Renaissance International School in the Dimond district of Oakland. It's just off 580 so it might be close enough. We schlep our son there all the way down from Central Berkeley, and we love it.
TRIS is unique in that it offers a dual language immersion at the preschool level (English/Spanish or English/French) and then a tri-lingual immersion at the elementary level (English/French/Spanish). Each classroom contains a native speaking teacher for each of the languages. Because it is a Montessori school all lessons on the materials are given in each language. The school has a strong international community and some students actually speak an entirely different FOURTH language at home.
I taught at the school for several years as an English-speaking teacher and I was consistently impressed with how quickly the children pick up their new language. By the time the children are in upper Elementary they are completely comfortable switching between three languages in both written and spoken form. I admit I am jealous! The school reinforces this learning with a cultural and international studies program that includes periodic trips abroad (I believe they're hoping to take their next one to France in the next couple years).
Between the language immersion and the exceptional Montessori foundation, plus a great art and music program, I didn't hesitate when it was time to choose a school for my own child. I already see him picking up more Spanish than I'll probably ever know!
I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have about TRIS - please feel free to email me. Jess
Re: EB vs. Renaissance School for preschool thru 8th grade
My 14 year old daughter is in her last year at TRIS. She has been at TRIS since she was Two years old. Today a parent of a primary child asked me what I thought of my Daughters experience. I told her I was not convinced about the true magic of this school until she was about nine. My Daughter gave her half hour presentation on the History of the Miwok Indians written and spoke in French. I was blown away... She is now preparing to enter high school and she is enthusiastic and ready we visited her high school and she said she felt she could do most of the classes at an AP level. Next year will be interesting. She is not Bilingual she is Trilingual English French Spanish and is working on Russian and Arabic. Her Arabic interest is entirely self motivated. Results may vary because each child is an individual but The educational package has made my daughter into what she is and this parent is proud. EL
My name is Liana and my daughter who is 5.5 goes to TRIS. She started there at age 2 and honestly I thought it to be just a nice Montessori school at first. She started in the 2 year old class at pre-primary class from there she learned little steps to independence.
It is bilingual from 2 to 5 in pre-primary to primary (3 to 5 year olds) then when they transition to lower elementary (6-8) and then upper elementary they get lessons in English, Spanish and French. There are 3 teachers in every classroom. They have several art teachers and music teachers too.
It is hard to convince a parent that a school is good or not but if you are interested in TRIS ask to observe a classroom, attend a silent journey, speak to Leslie the head of school. You'll notice the kids are smart, independent, respectful of each other. They have an awesome art, music, math. I am yet to be convinced about science. The kids learn cursive at 3, reading fluently by 5. Before the kids transition to elementary they already know addition, subtraction, single digit multiplication and beginning division.
The school is not for everyone but I have a child who is smart and social but has a hard time focusing. I think the school really helped her focus and she is learning and not only how to work in a team, she learns to work independently and be self motivated. Now she is thriving in this unique learning environment and is happy. As a parent I am completely sold to this school as I see how my child is developing.
The tuition is not cheap but it is a special place. If you have any questions let me know. Liana
(I'm posting the above from another parent at the school -- both my children attend and are in the elementary program. I didn't feel we could address the language question you posed, since we transferred in at the elementary level, but for what it's worth, my kids are soaking it up like sponges. This is our second year at the school and our exposure is only at the elementary level. Of course we wished we had know about it earlier! Fan of TRIS
We have been at the Renaissance school for the past 4 and a half years and are extremely happy with our choice (one child now in elementary and other in preschool). Children receive individual lessons in all subjects so the sky's the limit in what they can achieve. We were also really taken by the out of this world art and music curriculum.. Our boys travel with us to Mexico every year and are comfortable fending for themselves in Spanish there. French is new for my older son this year so can't yet evaluate but an hopeful that he will become proficient in the next year or two. Please feel free to send me more questions off line. And best of luck in your decision! Jeanne
We were in exactly the same place a year ago or so. I visited both schools for the same reasons, language immersion and preschool-8th grade. While there were things I liked about both schools on paper, it was really the extended observation/tours that helped me make the decision. When my husband and I went to observe the classes at The Renaissance International School, we stood outside the Pre-Primary class for about 20 minutes at a random time of day. The children were calmly doing their ''work'', having snacks, waiting patiently for the teacher to help them, the feeling was so different. One girl was new, crying for her daddy and was being helped gently to deal with her separation anxiety. The teachers were loving but had a firm way of teaching the children. We just fell in love. I wanted my daughter to be in those hands. When we observed the other classes we saw a very high level of academics, even the six year olds were all doing very impressive math. Again, calmly and independently, with guidance from loving teachers or other students! It was so clear, we signed up right away. We have been thrilled with our time (now a year) and our daughter has learned so much. I am sure they are both good schools academically but the music and art program, the language immersion, combined with the Montessori curriculum at TRIS is truly superlative. Amy
Re: Bilingual Schools in Oakland and Berkeley
I highly recommend visiting The Renaissance School (TRS)in Oakland. I have had two children at the school since they were 2 years old, and they are both elementary age now. TRS is a Montessori school with a bi-lingual immersion preschool and you can choose whether your child is in a Spanish speaking classroom or a French speaking classroom. The elementary program is a tri-lingual immersion program that includes a Spanish speaking teacher, a French speaking teacher and an English speaking teacher in each classroom. The teachers are committed and caring. After being in the program for several years, my children have a working knowledge of Spanish and both of them are starting to understanding basic French. But more importantly they have learned to appreciate other cultures and are curious about other countries. The art and music program is also exceptional. TRS is a unique and special school with a supportive and interesting parent community. It has an international feel because many of the teachers are from other countries and many families are bi-lingual and/or bi-culutural. This makes for a rich school environment. Feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions. Donna
Re: Bilingual Montessori?
The Renaissance School is not in the exact area you referenced but it is an amazing bilingual Montessori school in Oakland. The music, art, and education program is stellar. The parent to child ratio is extremely conducive to learning and bilingual language development. My daughter has been there for 3 years and we couldn't be happier with the program and her development. jahlskog
This is a reply to the person inquiring about The Renaissance School. My three daughters attended The Renaissance School through pre-school and elementary school and emerged very confident in taking care of and managing themselves. They learned to work in groups as well as alone. In particular, their project and time management skills were well-honed, and they came out with skills to tackle the world in a confident and positive way. The older two ended up commuting to high school in San Francisco and they handled all of their extracurricular activities (including competitive sports), commute, homework, etc. on their own without much help from me (okay, we did drive them to BART in the morning). Both are thriving in college now without much emotional help from their parents and they have found their own summer employment in SoCal on their own. I attribute a lot of their skills and confident independence to what they learned at The Renaissance School. The third daughter is in middle school and thriving too. If you would like to chat off-line, please let me know. janna
I was very impressed with the academic program at The Renaissance School. It seems to surpass all others I've seen, offering all of the language immersion, music, arts and academics I could ask for. I have an exceptionally gifted child, and this seems to be one of the few schools capable of feeding his cognitive hunger.
On the other hand, the school felt a bit cold to me. I was turned off by the Director's lengthy description of how wrong it is to ever tell a child, ''good job.'' They require parents to leave their children at the front entrance (as opposed to allowing us to walk kids into the classroom in the morning), and they do not allow parents into the classroom at all, other than by scheduled appointment (and then, only for a silent observation).
My child is one who requires emotional connection as much as cognitive stimulation. And as a parent, I want to feel welcome at my child's school (even though I don't have much actual time available to be there).
Are my perceptions wrong? Is there some abundant warmth that I missed on my tour?
Thanks for your feedback. Searching for Just the Right School
Our daughter attended TRS for 7 years, and we were extremely happy at the school and our daughter thrived. We dropped our daughter off in the classroom and picked her up there, and we always felt welcome in the classroom. In fact, it was required to make contact with the teacher to ensure the correct person was picking her up. We felt it was a warm, supportive environment and community from the parents, to the teachers, administration and head of school. And I concur that the language immersion, music, arts and academics were unsurpassed. Happy family at TRS
I think your perceptions are pretty good -- I would not consider TRS (my comments only pertain to the elementary level, not primary and pre-primary) abundantly warm. I do think, however, it is warm enough! There are warm teachers and there are not so warm teachers in the mix. There are three teachers per classroom, plus specialists in music and art, so I think it all balances out, and the children get what they need.
My two elementary level children are new to TRS this year. Having spent much of their time in a prior school where they were mostly (not entirely) unchallenged and bored, they appreciate everything about TRS, especially ''working at their own levels''. They discuss amongst themselves how great it is at the new school. They miss teachers, friends (and the principal) from the old school, but they are stimulated at TRS on so many levels. My youngest, who barely wrote a complete paragraph last year in public school, wrote her first ''novel'' in November during National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). She has a new fearlessness around learning that I can barely keep up with!
I encourage you to read this piece that provides a little background to what's behind avoiding the ''good job'' approach to parenting. It's not as cold as it sounds! http://www.becomingtheparent.com/subsections1/g_links/goalsc4.html. I was pleased to find that TRS had the same general philosophy towards praise that I have held for years. I'm not strict about it, but I do take the time to offer acknowledgement over praise most of the time. It just make sense to me, and I think it gives my children a tremendous amount of creative freedom.
We have been very involved in our children's education and development, having to stay on top of their learning at public school. Now that we are at TRS, we've relaxed. We find that the teachers are the ones reminding us to come in and observe and meet with them, rather than it being the other way around. We do feel welcome as parents.
Happy to converse more about it if you are still considering the school. b.
I have a child at The Renaissance School and the quality and warmth from the community has surpassed my expectations. I'm happy to hear you were impressed with the program. To speak to your concerns: It's my understanding that any parent is always welcome to enter the classroom at any time. I feel they encourage saying your goodbyes at the door to the classroom respects the child's environment and allows them the independence of beginning their day. The same notion for observing the classroom your child is in. In regards to the ''good job'' comment it comes along with a concern of when words lose their meaning. By not saying ''good job'' it asks us to express ourselves more accurately to what we want to share with our child. I am sure all of these concerns could be addressed with the school directly. I have never seen another program like this and we are continually impressed with the the education, care and attentiveness given to our child and their environment. Happy Renaissance Parent
In an age of permissive parenting and spoiled children, I am SO glad to be a part of a school where manners, respect, and conflict resolution are taken seriously (alongside academics, music, and fine art). My husband and I have learned how to say, ''good job'' to both our children in ways that do not motivate them to do well simply to please us. Yes, the director has a somewhat stern style, and I sometimes get the feeling she is lecturing us - but we have learned a lot about parenting from her, despite her style.
I agree that a few of the teachers are kind of cold, but the kids seem to have warm, positive feelings for them (especially the assistant teachers and the specialists). Maybe the Montessori training encourages an emotional distance, but I would also describe some of them as professional, calm, level headed, and patient. I must say, though, that I am not overly familiar with all of the classroom teachers.
Is it perfect? No, not even close. Do I worry? Yes, sometimes. There are things I wish were different, but when I make a list of what they do in class (cook, go on field trips, speak French and Spanish, make handmade gifts for others, compose music, learn the foundations of visual art, and make advances in math, reading, writing, and researching), and when I see how they change (becoming more self-sufficient, more independent, more responsible for their school work, and their behavior), I feel satisfied. Fan of the Renaissance School
You are very perceptive in your observations about the Renaissance School. As a long time parent there, I can say there is both positive and negatives about the environment, which I'm sure is true of any school. The upside as you mention is that children are actively engaged, exposed to a wide variety of cultures, languages, and mathematical and scientific concepts. Each child advances at their own pace so they are never bored. There is a strong emphasis on language (French and Spanish) as well as music and art, much more so than at any other school to which I've been exposed. It's amazing to see what the children can accomplish when there are no limitations set on their learning.
As for the drawbacks, there has been a long time issue about parents feeling not welcome at the school and I'm not sure it's ever been fully addressed. The administration is very adamant regarding limited parent involvement in the classroom and they focus heavily on the children being emotionally independent in the pre-school years...too much so in my opinion. I struggled for many months with both of my children when they were 3 years old and were going through normal separation anxiety. I had to leave them at the classroom door with a brief goodbye despite how distraught they were and in my opinion this contributed to how long it took them to get over that anxiety. Did they get through it? Yes. Could it have been much less prolonged and far less emotionally draining with a little more flexibility in terms of my ability to stay and comfort my child? Yes.
I must say the the teachers by and large, are absolutely wonderful - very caring and patient but firm at the same time. However they are not given much leeway by the administration in how to handle parent interactions which can sometimes lead to that cold feeling that you mentioned.
You don't say how old your child is so I'm not sure if they would be in the pre-school/kindergarten program or the elementary program. Both have a lot of positives going for them and to be honest, by the time the children are in the elementary program, the parental involvement/separation issues are not as much of an issue.
Hope this helps... See both sides
Hi there! My son is in his second year at TRS and has been in both the Primary (3-6 year old) and Lower Elementary (6-9 year old) classrooms. When we first toured the school, I too thought that the classroom seemed a little cold. That is, I guess, normal when you see 20 small children quietly working on projects.
Let me assure you, though, that the classrooms are full of love and support. We regularly see students hugging teachers. We see students hugging each other, teachers hugging parents and I have hugged the director on several occasions. Why so much hugging? Simply, this school is amazing!
The kids there have developed the ability to focus on the work they are doing. The classroom is quiet because everyone in it is engaged. (Mind you, there are times of the day when when there is too much energy for that to happen, and they take those opportunities to explore the nearby park or have a Latin music dance party.) While a child is working, learning to master new skills and tackle new challenges, however, they are doing so independently and quietly. What we mistook as coldness was actually a vibrant ecosystem of children learning and growing.
When a child needs help with the work they are doing, they ask a teacher (or another student!) for assistance and they get the help that they need. The emotional connection between the students and teachers takes place during these interactions, as well as during new lessons, story time, and play time. The teachers at TRS have an intense desire to see the students learn and grow, both intellectually and emotionally. (A good deal of the lesson plans deal with grace and courtesy, i.e., how to express yourself and treat others with respect.)
The school does take some approaches that seem counterintuitive at times. I can guarantee that everything is done at the school with reason, and is backed up with a bunch of research. When clarifying the various approaches with the administration, you won't hear them say, ''We thought it would be a good idea to do X.'' They'll say, ''Alfie Kohn's research demonstrates blah, blah, blah and that's why we strive to handle things in the following manner...''
With regard to praise, the school does not seem to advocate that children never be told ''good job.'' What they try to do, as with all things at the school, is to tailor their approach to maximize the students' self confidence and development. In this circumstance, the school wants students to learn to motivate themselves, and not be dependent on congratulations from teachers. Some of the school's approaches seem quirky, but it is this attention to detail that makes the school stand out from the rest. (By the way, the director's office is always open to discuss the school's approach and the reasons for it. I have learned a lot as a parent since my son started going there.)
Lastly I wanted you to know that parents ALWAYS have access to their kids throughout the day. (I don't think the school can legally say otherwise.) The school does ask to minimize the number of disruptions by parents in the classrooms by scheduling observations ahead of time and doing drop offs and pickups outside the classroom. It's very hard for the other kids to do their work if there are parents constantly shuffling in and out of the classroom. The school probably won't work out very well for a family that wants to take an active role in their child's instruction at the school (like at a co-op) but you will find that there are plenty of ways to get involved at the school. Does the school want you to do a presentation on your recent trip to China or help out at the Halloween party? Yes! Do they want you to sing your ''Goodbye Song'' in the middle of the classroom every day while the other kids are working? Probably not. You'll find that, once you see what the kids are doing in the classroom, you won't want to be the one who upsets that wonderful environment.
I can't imagine any other place in the world where my son could be getting a better education. He writes book reports in Spanish (which we can't read.) He does long division. He loves Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He likes to cook and knows who Picasso is. He has lots of friends. He doesn't have anywhere near the number of tantrums and acts of aggression as before he got to the school. I have never, not for a single second, regretted our decision to send him there.
I would gladly talk to you or answer any questions you have about the school. Paul
Re: EBI vs. Renaissance School
TRS has provided us with a community of loving families and warm caring teachers, but with an outstanding infrastructure of support for parents, teachers, and children. We didn't go out looking for a school with strong infrastructure and strong curriculum, probably because we didn't see ourselves as that sort of parents and because we didn't know of the freedom, comfort, growth and confidence that these provide. My son now is in his fourth year at TRS and our youngest child is in his third year. We have friends at EBI who are happy there and happen to have an outstanding teacher. I think there are some phenomenal teachers at EBI. After experiencing the roughest end of the stick, however, I have come to value having a strong infrastructure and strong curriculum. The best measure, however, is how well my kids are doing at TRS. Maria
Editor note: reviews were also received for EBI
My daughter has been attending TRS for 3 years. She started when she was nearly 4. She has transitioned from the Primary to Lower Elementary class level. I've been extremely happy with the entire TRS experience and most importantly my daughter's education. I have never thought twice about the quality of education she is receiving.
I'm consistently amazed at the teaching process employed. The value of the Montessori materials utilized at TRS for improved comprehension is evident in the results I have seen. My daughter's math and language skills are stellar.
I like how the transition process is done so that it suits the child rather than at a set month on a calendar. The transition process takes into account the emotional and intellectual level of the child. For my daughter it was recognized that she might benefit from staying in her Primary class a bit longer in order to ensure she was emotionally ready for the transition. I felt this was very beneficial for my daughter. Since children transition at different times for different reasons the kids don't seem to dwell on the age at which transitions take place.
The Student to Teacher ratio is very generous and is obviously a benefit to all parties. The teachers in my daughter's classes have all been exceptional and have provided me with a high level of confidence.
I greatly benefitted from the Redirecting Children's Behavior Class (RCB) that is offered by the school's Director. I'm always amazed at her knowledge and greatly enjoy her enthusiasm. The school staff is also very helpful and responsive. I regularly interact with them (mainly remotely) for various issues and have never once been frustrated by a delayed response.
Lastly, their music program is extremely impressive. I dabbled in music as a child but had very little formal training. So, I know a few basics. Early on when my daughter was in the Primary classes I was impressed with the music programs and the quality of singing at the various age levels of the children. I was further impressed as my daughter progressed into the Elementary program to see how the music program expanded. I was blown away as I noticed my daughter was studying music theory on her own based on some of the lessons TRS has provided. As with all the other programs and subjects (math, language, art, practical life, etc.) this school builds a very strong, basic foundation that continues to mature in amazing ways. Jennifer
I currently have two children attending The Renaissance School (TRS). With the two of them combined, I have 12 years of experience with the school and the Montessori approach. I grew up in a family where education was extremely important and I have bestowed this same value on my children. From an academic standpoint, I do not believe any Bay Area elementary program comes close to what TRS offers. From pre-primary, my children were in a bilingual language immersion program (Spanish). Starting in 1st grade, the program becomes a tri-lingual immersion program (French, Spanish and English). My son is currently in the 4th grade and he speaks fluent Spanish and is on his way to becoming fluent in French. He is required to read and write in all 3 languages and all subjects are also taught in all 3 languages. In addition, there is a very rich program in music and art. The children start each day with one hour of chorus and instrumental lessons are available and encouraged. Art classes are 3 hours and the children learn a great deal about both art and art history. The headmaster of the school, Leslie Hites, is a BRILLIANT educator and has dedicated her life to exploring the vast potential that is possible with elementary children. She makes herself available and is a very exceptional problem solver. She has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to be flexible in developing an individualized program for my children that best suits their strengths and weaknesses. My 7 year old daughter had difficulties learning to read and arrangements were made for her to work with Catherine Bacle-White who is a highly gifted learning specialist. Within months, my daughter had learned to read fluently and as a result, her confidence soared. With a new level of confidence. I witnessed my daughter's rapid advancement in many other subjects and maturity. This is just one example how TRS has adapted the program to best meet my child's needs. If you visit the school, feel free to interview my son. His knowledge base is far beyond most 9 years because of his exposure to travel, music, art, history, geography, other cultures as well as the basics. My son also just recently joined the TRS cross-country team and he now regularly runs 5k races. Mary
Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
Check out The Renaissance School if you want a school that gives no homework. It's a pre-school through middle school Montessori school located in the Dimond District in Oakland. We too were appalled at the amount of homework even Kindergarteners get in many schools, both public and private, and have felt that The Renaissance School is refreshing in its approach to education. The Renaissance School has a wonderful program, including strong foreign language, music, and art. The elementary kids start their day at 8am with a half an hour of singing. The regular school day ends at 3:30pm for the elem kids, but they can stay as late as 6pm either continuing to work on things from earlier in the day, or engaging in many addition interesting activities. The only thing the elementary children are required to do outside of school is regular reading which we think is a good thing. TRS Parent
Re: Schools Using Non-Violent Communication
The Renaissance School in Oakland is probably the closest thing you'll find to a school using something like NVC with regards to communication skills. They follow a program called Redirecting Children's Behavior and both staff and parents take the course. It's not a perfect place (expensive, top-heavy in administration, classroom teachers turn-over every few years) but it has an AWESOME art program, a solid music program, and the elementary classrooms include teachers who speak Spanish, French and English.
We have looked at other schools, but can't find one that offers the arts in a real way, exposes kids to languages in everyday settings, AND holds to the belief that kids (and adults) can work out their problems respectfully. Good Luck, anonymous
Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
HI, for a kinesthetic learner who has been in (and wants to continue in) a bilingual program, I would highly recommend considering The Renaissance School in the Fruitvale section of Oakland adjacent to Dimond Park. The Montessori manipulative materials are perfect for a kinesthetic learner and The Renaissance School program is bilingual (in either French or Spanish) from age 2-5 and is trilingual (Eng-French- Spanish) from ages 6-12). It sounds like it would be a better fit for your child. -Parent of a Renaissance School alum
Did you receive a response to your application?
I'm curious to know if anyone has received either an acceptance or a rejection letter from the Renaissance School for '07? We followed all their application guidelines for our child, including an interview with the director, but we've heard nothing back. According to their website, letters should have been mailed in March but when April rolled around and we still hadn't heard one way or another, I called to ask if letters had been sent. The person in the admin office who answered seemed unsure how to answer whether or not letters had been sent (odd) and then passed the phone to someone else who said something like, ''we're behind schedule but you should be receiving something soon''. Before I jump to any conclusions, I'm just wondering if anyone else received letters yet. Thanks. annon
Hi - I received a response about a month ago. The letter was sent out later than originally expected, however it was only about a week or two late. It sounds like your letter was lost in the mail or some other issue...I would call and ask to speak to the head of school, Leslie Hites, or Rosario Toward. Ren School Mom
Your experience with the office is unfortunately not unusual. To give you some perspective, the returning families also did not receive their new contracts....and basically got the same response. They are way behind.....and sadly are really bad at proactively communicating about it. There are new people working in the office who have not gone through contract time before, so my suspicion is that it has just become way more challenging than they expected or planned for. Also, I would guess that if the current families don't have contracts to sign and get back, then they have no way to gauge how many openings there are because signed contracts are how they find out who will and will not be returning. I would recommend that you call again and ask if they could be more specific about timelines....it's not that they don't want to help, they're just overwhelmed. Renaissance parent
I too applied to the Renaissance school and have not received an acceptance or rejection. We heard so much conflicting information from them that it's hard for me to know what to tell you here--first, their website and brochure say they inform applicants by March, then at the tour we were informed that we would have an idea immediately after the interview (which we had to call and schedule--they never contacted us as they said they would), and now, after multiple phone calls to the school, it appears we will not know until the first or second week of May. Their application process seemed so transparent at first! Guess not. Oakland
Our daughter currently attends TRS and just to reassure you, even the kids who are currently enrolled in the school have not yet received packets confirming the upcoming school year. I, too, called the office and got a similarly vague response that there's been a delay this year. I wasn't overly concerned because my daughter's an existing student. If you are concerned about whether your child has a confirmed spot, I'd call the office again and specifically ask that either Leslie Hites or Rosario Toward (Head of School and her assistant) return your call directly. I'm sure one of them will. Good luck - it's a great school! Still waiting too
My son has attended the Renaissance School for five years and we are very pleased with the education he is recieving there. The head of school, Leslie Hites, is terrific. She is a woman of vision, with lots of drive, and is dedicated to excellence in education. She is also a mother of six (adult) children, and has a deep understanding of how to motivate and guide children on how to be their best true selves. I took a series of parenting class from her that she taught for our community that has helped me become a better parent in more ways than I can explain. The school is in a building phase that should not greatly impact the preprimary and primary levels, but you should definately bear that in mind as you evaluate your choices. Helene
RE: school for bright kids
Check out the Montessori philosophy of education. I think it is by far the best approach for super bright kids. It allows the child to work at his or her own level and speed and fosters independence of thought, self reliance, and respect for oneself, others and the environment. My son attends The Renaissance School, (formerly a Child's World Montessori School), in Oakland, and they have a few kids there who are in the super bright category and are thriving. The school has both a tremendous breath as well as depth in the curriculum. Also, I would suggest you read some of Maria Montessori's books to understand the philosophy and how it translates into the classroom in order to understand what the education is all about. Unfortunately, most journalists who write about it only repeat standard clics and are woefully uninformed. Good luck in your search. Helen
My two older children went to the preschool and now attend the elementary classes at A Childs World Montessori School in Oakland (off of Fruitvale). The 2-yr olds are separate, but the 3- to 5-yr olds are together in one classroom (and the elementary classes are mixed too). The Montessori philosophy is to mix three ages in one classroom. Although I was pretty lukewarm about this when I interviewed the school, I ultimately liked it. My children learned to work with children of other ages, and it seems to decrease some of the competition within the class (as I remember it). They work on projects learning from older children (promotes good social skills and humbleness), or teaching the younger children (reenforces what the child has learned and promotes teaching skills.) When they become a "leader" in the classroom, they feel so good about themselves. This was especially important with my second child who was only a year behind the first, so it gave her a chance to be a leader when the older one moved off to the elementary classroom. In addition, during the music programs, the older children were role models for the very young ones, helping the 2-3 yr olds onto the stage and holding their hands through their short performance - it brought tears to my eyes watching them so carefully helping the little ones. We really like ACWMS - my children have excelled there. FYI, you may be wondering why I didn't mention the third child- she's not old enough, but she'll be there soon. Janna
Our family really enjoys A Child's World Montessori School where many of the children come from Glenview and Montclair (a few from Piedmont too.) It is located next to Dimond Park where Dimond Avenue deadends on the park, so you don't get a lot of traffic. You should first interview to see what is the Montessori philosophy. We really like it because it promotes self awareness, independence and respect. Some people consider the Montessori approach to be too restrictive, but once the children go through the exercises, they have an incredible amount of flexibility and choice; it's a matter of understanding how it's being used. For example, once they learn how to do a project by themselves (i.e. full preparation, execution, and clean up), they are allowed to go on their own and be creative (some limitations, of course). Until then the teacher prompts and assists; in such a classroom, the teacher knows my children intimately- their strengths and areas for improvement. And every exercise is set up to move them toward independence. The materials for learning are wonderful, and my two older children have excelled in the environment - they are always eager to learn more. They learn a lot about self motivation and independent learning at their own pace (rather than in a class where everyone learns the same thing at the same time.) Another thing nice about Montessori is the mixed-age classroom - at one point, your child will be in the youngest age learning from the older children, then later in the oldest age teaching the younger children; it's actually really great once you see it in action, although I was wary until I saw its benefits. Even the 2 yr olds perform (albeit for a short time) at the holiday performance! Sounds funny, but I have one child who is incredibly shy and wouldn't stand in front of a group of people, and over the years, she has finally progressed to volunteering for a musical instrument solo - I wish I had such training when I was that age. Our two older children have been there since 2 yr old and are now in 4th & 2nd grades in the elementary program (sometimes the elem students ask the teacher for harder material!); the baby will start there next summer. When some of the children moved on to other respectable schools in the area, they were considered academically ahead. What are the down sides? Cost, it's not cheap, but I think it's fairly comparable to other preschools (but you also get what you pay for). In the elem program, there is not a strong P.E. program, but it doesn't matter to us, because we take care of that through soccer and swim teams; the preschool children have lots of running around in the playyard. You may have to ask about the part-time hours; they usually encourage a minimum amount of time for the child's sake. Call early, because there may be a waiting list. The office number is 531-8566; Leslie Hites is the Director.
A Child's World Montessori School is tremendous at developing the whole child. It is in the Dimond Distict (Fruitvale and MacArthur) of Oakland. I have had two children attend this school..It is superb. It has an amazing amount of resources for the kids, child:staff ratio is about 3-4:1. You may want to call the Director for a tour: Leslie Hites 510-531-8566. I think you'll be impressed. By the way I am an Elementary Principal in a neighboring district. P.