Which Montessori Preschool?

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello, I'm new to the area, from the East Coast, helping search for Montessori preschools for my grandson. The current goal is to continue with Montessori education as far as possible, as my son did. Can parents recommend great preschools in the East Bay Area, preferably Berkeley/El Cerrito?  We also welcome suggestions for any terrific schools anywhere around here. The school my son attended was orthodox, traditional Montessori, with a full staff of Montessori trained teachers.  Is there anything like that in the East Bay Area? 

    Our three-year old daughter attends My Own Montessori.  We love it -- check it out.

    My husband attended a fairly orthodox montessori school on the east coast until high school and did an extensive search of the East Bay’s montessori schools for our preschooler who is now 7. Far and away the most “orthodox” of the programs (& with the most montessori-trained guides) was the Renaissance International School (TRIS). I have no background with montessori education so it’s been a steep learning curve for me as a parent! The program is both dedicated and experienced, and the faculty and administration have been there for decades. I wish there were more “free play” time, but we find that after school :)

    Feel free to reach out to me directly 

    We are very happy with Rising Sun Montessori School in Albany, an exceptional Spanish immersion institution. The sense of community fostered within is truly remarkable, with parents forging meaningful connections and friendships. We appreciate the rich diversity present, coupled with the advantage of smaller class sizes compared to other establishments.

    Nia House is an excellent Montessori preschool in West Berkeley. Students can continue there through their kindergarten year. My daughter (now five) has gone there the past three years and my son will be starting in the toddler program this fall.

  • Hi there, 

    I was wondering if any current or recent parents of rockridge Montessori or rockridge little (broadway campus) could share their experiences? They are fairly different since Montessori vs play based, but we are trying to sort through what style resonates with us and looking for recent experiences. 

    We have had our now 4 year-old at Rockridge Little School for 2 years and love it so much that we are enrolling our 1 year-old for the fall (he will start at the Broadway campus and then move to College Ave). The teachers at RLS have been amazing people, and the environment is great. It is expensive, but the fact that they have taken care of their teachers and created a great place for little ones has been worth it to us.

    I'd also love to hear from some current parents at Rockridge Montessori. We just got an unexpected offer for next Fall, and per their process have very little time to respond. Our son is three but I'm excited to hear any experiences. Thanks!

  • Does anyone have any recommendations for an authentic Montessori daycare in the east bay area? Since “Montessori” is not a trademarked name, it’s hard to tell the difference between what is authentic or not.

    Nia House Learning Center in South Berkeley is an excellent Montessori School. The waitlist is long, so if you are interested you should sign up ASAP.  (http://www.niahouse.org/)

    Another great Montessori is Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland (https://www.grandlakemontessori.com/)

    We have been having a very positive experience at Grand Lake Montessori (which accept toddlers beginning at 18 months). They do things like shelf work, early potty training/routine support, practical life activities, generally following the child, etc. I"m not sure what you are trying to get at it with the word "authentic". I think the teachers are well trained in Montessori philosophy, but i also appreciate that they are not overly extreme or dogmatic. E.g. i have heard of montessori programs that make young toddlers nap in underwear and then continuously have accidents so parents need to wash things every day. Or that chastise parents who send food in containers that despite being simpler to open, their toddler is not able to open. I have not had experiences like this at GLM which i appreciate. 

    Truly authentic Montessori schools are Association Montessori International (AMI) members. This organization was created my Maria Montessori and is the truest to her pedagogy and philosophy. To be a recognized AMI school it takes rigorous oversight by AMI to approve it. Many schools don’t bother because it is expensive and time consuming but they still have quality AMI guides. 


    Check the AMI website for their standards and for a directory of schools. This is the gold standard. 

    However, any Montessori school may have AMI certified guides, assistants, and aides. Some schools are American Montessori Society (AMS) which is a less strict version and modernized form of Montessorian principles. 

    Authenticity doesn’t really matter because it’s more important to find the right program for your child - there is value in any spectrum of Montessori. But it is frustrating when people use Montessori as a buzzword to get people interested.

    P.S. “Authentic” Montessori schools will never be referred to as “daycare”. Teachers are called guides. All the language is intentionally specific. 

    I am a certified AMI guide in the area. Please message me if you have more questions. 

    Look for schools/daycares where lead teachers have Montessori credentials through AMS, AMI, MACTE. We love Oceanview Montessori. They are not super traditional Montessori but have a lot of aspects woven in and leads are fully trained. 

    Our son has attended Little Elephant Montessori in Berkeley for the past two years and we love it. Natanya, the owner, has decades of serious Montessori training and experience (as do the teachers) and takes the method very seriously. But it's also a fun, relaxed environment for kids. Couldn't recommend it more highly! There's also a location in Rockridge. 

  • Would anyone be so kind recommending a Montessori school either near Oakland or near Castro Valley. We live in Hayward, mom works in Oakland. We'd like to find a school for our two-and-half year old. Any help is graciously appreciated.

    We have been at Little Elephant for the past two years and love it. Our son has been going to the Berkeley location, but there is one in Rockridge too. The director/founder, Natanya, is wonderful and so passionate about Montessori education. She is extremely supportive and has helped us work through behavioral problems with our son. With the COVID-19 pandemic, she has also been very open to discussing parent concerns over tuition and working with parents to develop a plan that would relieve some of the financial strain parents are feeling while school is out and also providing for the teachers. She also organizes parent education nights where she brings in people to lecture about topics (like positive discipline, for example). And we have been amazed at our son's development in the environment the school provides. Highly recommend.

    Pride In Learning Montessori - space is limited. Our son Levi is at the lake Merritt campus and loves it. He’s 10 months old. 

    Grand Lake Montessori is located conveniently to the 580 in Oakland between the Lakeshore and MacArthur/Harrison exits.

    I highly recommend The Renaissace International School (TRIS) located in Oakland’s Dimond district. Our daughter started there when she was 2.5 years old and is still there. She has had an amazing experience with this Montessori school where not only she is learning a lot (in English, Spanish and now in French too) but also that’s where she was fully potty trained in a stress-less and extremely healthy & caring environment. Our daughter who is now 3.5 absolutely LOVES her school and has developed amazing social and emotional intelligence through their approach & philosophy in addition to great academic learnings. She has also established great friendships and wonderful bonds with her extremely professional & caring teachers. My husband and I have also found an incredible community of parents where support, guidance and compassion for all have been at the foundation of all interactions & relationships, specially during the past few months with the Covid19 challenges. We had done a LOT of research prior to enrolling our daughter at TRIS and I can honestly say our choice was one of the best decisions we have made in our daughter’s life so far. Everything that TRIS told us at the Open house and throughout the enrollment process was absolutely honored and during these extremely trying times they have proven even more their commitment, compassion, professionalism and excellence at all levels. I am more than happy to answer any other questions you might have and hope to see you soon at TRIS!

  • Hi, I am looking for recommendations for smaller Montessori Preschools in the El Cerrito/Richmond/Albany/Kensington area. My 3 1/2 year old daughter is currently at a large Montessori with wonderful teachers that her older brother loved, but the size and activity level does not seem to be a fit for her more introverted personality. She complains about too many kids and not being able to play by herself, and after six month still does not want to go to school. She had previously thrived at a small home-based daycare. We are in El Cerrito and would prefer something nearby. Thanks!

    My three-year-old started at Oceanview Montessori in El Cerrito at the turn of the year and I can't say enough about it. This is our second child and I've visited many preschools over the years. I'm amazed every day by what my daughter learns (she learned the seven continents within her first week at school) and how thoroughly happy she is there. We were not looking for a Montessori school necessarily, but I am so glad someone mentioned OVM to me. It is a small school that does not even advertise as it typically remains full - I never heard of it when searching for my first daughter - but I would recommend reaching out if you're interested. Aaron, one of the main teachers, has an awesome way with children, and it's a pleasure to see the children thriving. Best of luck!

    Hi Cascabel,

    I would highly recommend taking a look at Montessori Family School. They have two campuses--the preschool is near UC-Berkeley, and kindergarten through eighth grade is offered in El Cerrito. Truly a gem of a school. Our two children currently attend. 



    Montessori family school! They have a pre school site and an elementary site. 

  • We are a non-white family hoping for a diverse and welcoming Montessori preschool experience. Do other non-white families have any experience they can share with us about these schools: PRINTS, LePort, AIM or Urban Montessori?

    My bi-racial grandchildren attended Rockridge Montessori School in North Oakland and we were happy with the diversity and program there.  However the youngest is now in 3rd grade so I haven't had contact with RMS for awhile. 

    Not exactly an answer to your question, but have you considered Nia House Learning Center (http://www.niahouse.org/)? My family is white, so I can't speak with direct experience as a non white family, but we have found Nia House to have a rigorous Montessori philosophy and to be extremely diverse for a preschool. There are all kinds of families from different ethnic backgrounds, two mom families, single parent families, multiracial families, etc. The school has a strong curriculum on diversity and social justice and even discussed how to discuss diversity with young children as a topic for one of their mandatory parent meetings. One of the parents also created an amazing list of children's books about human rights and social justice which we've used in our home to educate our children.

    If this sounds appealing to you, I would encourage you to reach out to the director to see if she can connect you with a non white family for their perspective. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions about Montessori Schools

Affordable Montessori Recommendations

Jan 2013

Moving to the east bay March 1. My husband will be working in Emeryville so we were looking at Alameda, Berkeley, Albany maybe or nicer parts of Oakland. My son is currently in a primary Montessori classroom and I am an assistant in a toddler/infant Montessori school. Looking for an affordable Montessori and/or one that is hiring an assistant.

Check out Urban Montessori Charter School at http://www.urbanmontessori.org. It is tuition free and might be a great alternative for you. Maya

I've recommended Nia House on this forum before, and though it has been quite a few years since my son attended, I would still recommend them highly. When we were there the school fee was based on a sliding scale. As far as I know, it was one of the first Montessori schools in the area to be so inclusive of all levels of income. Nia House Alum

I highly recommend Montessori Family School in Berkeley (preschool) and El Cerrito (K-8). Our daughter is currently attending the preschool program and we love it! The teachers have been terrific in engaging her, and the parents and families are all so friendly and welcoming. In our search, MFS was among the more affordable private schools. They also offer financial assistance. You should check it out. Happy MFS parent

Montessori Schools in Alameda

May 2006

My son is 16 months, and I'm looking into preschools to send him part time once he is about 2 years old. I am a fan of Montessori, and am looking in Alameda. Has anyone had a good experience s/he would recommend? Tara

My 3-year-old son is about to finish his first academic year at The Child Unique and we've been very pleased with it (BPN should have reviews on it ... I think I've sumbitted one). They have a very caring staff and nice kids and parents. Children may be enrolled full or part-time with varying scheduline options available starting at age 2. I think they have a waitlist for next year. Child Unique Parent

Sept 2005

Re: Montessori Schools in Alameda
I am an Alameda parent who sent my then-pre-schooler to 2 different Montessori schools and was disappointed (to a greater or lesser extent) both times. As an educated professional, I was not concerned about my child's academic preparation for kindergarten, and believe that in preschool it is more important for children to learn social and emotional skills. I am really baffled as to why! the Montessori method is so popular. I believe that this method is only appropriate for a small percentage of children, yet it seems to be the main option available. Some of the reasons it was not right for my child include: emphasis on individual work and lack of opportunities for children to work and play together, lack of emphasis and opportunity for children to be creative and use their imaginations (they can decide which materials to use and for how long, but the materials have a ''right'' way, like a puzzle, rather than providing any opportunity for experimentation and creativity). I also did not think that the focus on academics at the expense of play and fun was appropriate, and threatened to squelch my daughter's joy in learning. I will definitely not be sending my outgoing, social, imaginative, and fun-loving second child to a Montessori school. --! not a Montessori fan

Berkeley Montessori vs. Montessori Family

Jan 2005

We are trying to decide between Berkeley Montessori and Montessori Family for our 3 yr old. We enjoyed our tours of both but they have very different characteristics. If you have experience with both, could you offer your thoughts? Also, if he stays through elementary school, I'd love to hear from parents with older children. Montessori Mom

[Editor] replies were posted to the pages for Berkeley Montessori School and Montessori Family School

Culturally Diverse Montessori School

December 2003

I am looking for a culturally diverse montessori school for my 2 year old twins. I'm looking for something in the El Cerrito, Richmond, or San Pablo area. My twins need a loving and academic environment that most day cares do not provide. We would like it to cost less than $750 per month, per child. Tamara 

Recommendations received: