Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hidden Gems 2: More SoCal Preschools You May Not Know

Those of us that live in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas know that searching for preschools is a daunting task. Dr. Michelle Nitka, author of Coping With Preschool Panic: The Los Angeles Guide To Private Preschools describes the process this way: "In Los Angeles, choosing a preschool, and being chosen, has come to feel like competitive sport. Parents attack it with the same fervor and intensity as a military general mapping out his next battle plan."

In many ways this is true, but it shouldn't be. For me, part of the problem stems from the fact that there just isn't enough information out there about all of the preschools that actually exist. We all know about the same 20 schools and once we've narrowed it down to those that are within a reasonable distance from our homes, we feel as though there are only 3 or 4 schools in all of L.A., each with only a handful of spaces available, that hundreds of families are vying for. No wonder we panic!

Last Summer I posted Hidden Gems: Preschools You May Not Know and received an overwhelming response to it. Based on the number of views that post receives each month and judging by the comments left from parents who offered additional "hidden gem" schools, I know there is a need for more sharing. One of the problems I have noticed in searching not just for preschools, but for private elementary schools as well, is that few of the books or websites that list schools have taken into account the fact that their target audience has moved. Literally. Those of us looking for private education no longer only inhabit "the West Side" (Santa Monica, Brentwood, Venice etc.). We now also live in Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Calabasas, Glendale, Studio City and so on. As the prices of homes on the West side rose and the availability of affordable places to live decreased, many families moved East and North. Obviously there must be schools in those areas to accommodate those families. 

Thus, I decided to put together a second list here. I have included Westside schools that are, perhaps, lesser known; as well as a number of schools in surrounding areas. I have also included a few that offer more low-cost options (co-ops, YMCA programs, LAUSD pre-K programs and so forth) that I have heard good things about for those families for whom preschool might otherwise not be an option. As before, I would love anyone to add to the comment section any schools they know of that are hidden gems - no matter their location. The more we share with each other, the more we can lessen the panic.

    1. Children's Center Preschool Serving Silverlake and Los Feliz 323-422-9690
    2. Children's World Montessori Mid-Wilshire: 323-677-2670 Verdugo and Eagle Rock: Phone 323-256-2215
    3. A Child's Place, Los Angeles/Palms 310-204-6833
    4. Branches Atelier, Santa Monica
    5. Sunflower Preschool, Santa Monica  310-260-1295
    6. Montessori of Malibu Canyon Calabasas 818-880-0555 or info@mofmc.org
    7. Caterpillar Cottage Preschool Lake Balboa/San Fernando Valley 818-881-1355
    8. Culver City - Palms YMCA preschool (310) 390-3604
    9. CHALK Preschool Venice: 310-827-7300 Westwood: 310-446-5400
    10. The J Preschool Santa Clarita 661-877-7121
    11. Nora Sterry Pre-K West L.A., Pre-K program through LAUSD
    12. Clover Avenue Elementary Los Angeles, Pre-K program through LAUSD
    13. Joy School. A co-op homeschool option 801-655-0091
    14. The Early Years School Santa Monica 310-394-0463
    15. Evergreen Community School Santa Monica info@evergreencommunityschool.com 310-453-6255
    16. Little Dolphins By The Sea Santa Monica 310-998-0011 or littledolphins@sevenarrows.org.
    17. SGM Atelier Mar Vista 310-397-4863
    18. Rose Scharlin, Co-op nursery school, Silver Lake 323-661-1319 or info@rosescharlin.com
    19. Miles of Smiles Canoga Park 818-888-1099 or milesofsmiles@gmail.com
    20. Camelot Kids Silver Lake 323-662-2663 or info@camelotkids.org
    21. All Children Great And Small, Los Feliz 323-666-6154 or info@allchildrengreatandsmall.com
    22. Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool, Hollywood 323-871-2470
    23. Los Angeles Family School Silver Lake 323.663.8049       

      Is your preschool on this list or listed in my original Hidden Gems post? Why not leave a comment and tell us more about it? Or leave a comment about schools that aren't listed here and tell us what makes them hidden gems!

      Thanks for reading!
      -Gina
      The Twin Coach

      Thank you to everyone who voted for my blog on Babble's 50 Best Mom Blogs, I am currently number 39! If you haven't voted yet please click here, scroll down and click on "I like this blogger!", I would be so appreciative! 
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      Christina Simon said...

      Hi Gina,

      A friend told me about a new Co-Op preschool starting this fall at the Family YWCA in Santa Monica (14th/Pico). contact: michellernilsson@gmail.com

      Anonymous said...

      Thank you for this list. Another hidden gem: there's a preschool called Encino Parents Nursery School at 16953 Ventura Blvd. 818-788-4582. It's been there for many years and is very well respected.

      Anonymous said...

      A hidden gem is Palisades Preschool, 958 Lincoln Blvd. Santa Monica. 310-434-9917. Check it out!

      Anonymous said...

      Palisades Preschool is not exactly a hidden gem.

      Anonymous said...

      Culver-Palms YMCA Preschool seemed like chaos to me. The director is very new and it didn't seem to be the most nurturing or pleasant environment, but maybe I got it on a bad day.

      Hidden gem: Gan West on Jefferson. Great director, really clean and attractive school, good people.

      Anonymous said...

      Hi There
      Another great preschool in Santa Monica
      Beginnings Learning Center
      www.beginningslc.com

      The Twin Coach said...

      Thank you everyone for adding your thoughts and comments on local preschools! Word of mouth is such an important tool to let families know about great, lesser known schools!

      And thank you, as well, to the poster who said they didn't care for Culver-Palms YMCA. I included it based on good reviews from parents I know, but it's great to have some specifics as to why it may not be right for everyone.

      Keep the comments coming!
      -Gina

      Anonymous said...

      Milestones Preschool in Inglewood (on the edge of Culver City)has the most amazing director. A hidden gem we were lucky to find.

      http://milestonespreschoolprogram.com

      Anonymous said...

      From Jen's List in case you missed it:
      The Language Garden Community Bilingual Preschool for children 18months- 6 years old
      Located in North Hills, the language immersion/acquisition model is the program's driving vehicle. This bilingual model offers a strong Spanish language foundation for all children. The environment in the school is beautiful, homelike, and stimulating to children's curiosity and learning. They are now registering for summer camp and fall 2011. Call Ms. Yessy at 818-601-8833. Mention Jens List & get 50% off the registration fee.
      WWW.MYLANGUAGEGARDEN.COM

      Anonymous said...

      Also from Jen's List. Respected Parent Educator Betsy Brown Braun was featured guest speaker.

      The Barefoot Preschool, 1620 S. Bundy Dr. LA, CA 90025

      www.barefootpreschool.com

      Anonymous said...

      For anyone interested, Sunflower is DEFINITELY worth the tour, and consideration. (We went yesterday). I found it to be just exceptional and if we can find a way to afford it, we will try to go in 2012.

      The teachers were amazing, the setting is just beautiful, with creative toys, gorgeous art supplies, and items to fuel the imagination in every nook and cranny. Sweet interior and lovely feel overall. Reggio-based and incredibly respectful of the children in every possible way.

      Anonymous said...

      From Jen's List on May 14, 2011.

      The Language Garden Community Preschool
      BILINGUAL PRESCHOOL FOR CHILDREN 18MOS-6YRS
      The Language Garden Preschool is a unique BILINGUAL Preschool & Toddler center located in North Hills. The language immersion/acquisition model is the program's driving vehicle. This bilingual model offers a strong Spanish language foundation for all children. The environment in the school is beautiful, homelike, and stimulating to children's curiosity and learning. They are now registering for summer camp and Fall 2011. Call Ms. Yessy at 818-601-8833 & Mention Jen's List to get 50% off the registration fee.
      WWW.MYLANGUAGEGARDEN.COM

      Anonymous said...

      A mom I met the other day was raving about Young Minds Preschool on Abbot Kinney in Venice...

      www.youngmindsla.com

      The Twin Coach said...

      A mom I know posted this review of a preschool that sounds great:

      Wanted to share a little gem of a school I discovered last month. It's called Milestones and it's located in a residential neighborhood near La Cienega and La Tijera. The contact information is here: http://www.milestonespreschoolprogram.com/contactus.html.

      Milestones is truly Reggio inspired (so many schools seem to say they are, but are missing many of the key components regarding respectful communication and modes of "discipline"), and the founder Milena Brice works closely with New School West and other Reggio- inspired schools. She has a wonderful collaborative attitude and holds open houses monthly if you'd like to learn more. She has been open since 2006 and it's a home-based program with a great child-teacher ratio. She follows an emergent curriculum and really knows her stuff.

      Once enrolled, parents are asked to regularly (every six weeks?) attend an evening meeting (they provide childcare and food during this time) for educational purposes, to discuss various issues, and for community building.

      I believe she accepts children at 18 months into the toddler program (1/2 day) and then preschool begins when the children reach 3 years of age.

      Our kids will likely be starting the toddler program in the Fall. I think she likes to start toddlers off with a few play dates, and then the teacher they most connect with will come to your home for a play date. Then you would start 2 or 3 days per week until your children seem ready to move to 5 days per week (1/2 days). She understands the stress of separation on everyone and encourages going at the child's own pace/comfort level.

      I believe the cost for full time preschool is around $1000 per child (full days with a nap). I don't know the cost of the toddler program yet. She helps with potty training (very gently) and provides a snack, but you send your own food for lunch and the morning snack. She does not do "time outs". I believe she has six children "graduating" in July and perhaps has openings for the preschool starting in the Fall... but contact her directly if you are interested to confirm.

      Great place to check out. The website doesn't do it justice, and Milena has such a warm, caring, knowledgeable, collaborative way; you have to meet her in person to see what I mean.

      Anonymous said...

      Someone I know who has been a nursery school teacher for a while has just opened her own school in Encino. She has the option you mention. It's RIE and Waldorf based. http://www.singingtreeschool.com

      Anonymous said...

      My daughter attended Culver Palms YMCA in 2010, and it was an amazing experience for her. She absolutely blossomed there. I was amazed at how much she learned in a short period of time. I would absolutely recommend it.

      Amber said...

      We absolutely love Caterpillar Cottage in the valley. Very attachment parenting friendly, non-violent communication and just...warm. It has that certain something that just makes you feel good being there. We toured over 20 preschools in the San Fernando Valley and this one is truly a gem , glad to see it on your list! Two teachers with a max of 13 kids. Pretty unheard of. They use a child led, Reggio inspired learning/play philosophy. Can't say enough about it!

      The Twin Coach said...

      I wanted to post this info that a mother in my multiples club offered yesterday. This school sounds like a real hidden gem!

      "My twin girls enrolled in a Pre-K Program though the LAUSD which is nothing short of WONDERFUL, and if you can believe this, it is FREE OF CHARGE, and there are spots available right now! And, the lead instructor is a daddy of twins himself (there are 2 teachers and 2 assistants in the class of 16-20 kids). We participated last year and it was a great combination of academics and music and more. This class was due to be cut as a result of the budget crisis, but was saved at the last minute, and thus the availability. They have worked with twins and triplets. The class is held at Brockton Avenue Elementary School in West Los Angeles, near Wilshire and Bundy. I can't recommend this class more highly. The instructors are truly incredible. I am so impressed with how they make the focus on academics so fun for the kiddies, along with things like Halloween parades, Holiday performances, etc. The classes are Monday-Thursday for 2 1/2 hours - which is the only drawback, as I wish the class went a bit longer. The kids need to be 4 years old by Dec. 2nd (I think there is some flexibility if you are close to this date). If you are interested call Brockton Avenue School at 310-479-6090 and ask for Mr. Rossdanson... and call quickly as these spots won't last. Class begins this Monday, September 12th. We were fortunate to be in the class last year, and we will be in the class this year as well. And again, if you can believe it, there is no charge at all for this program."

      Anonymous said...

      Another hidden gem: Picfair Village Montessori. It's a small, home-based Montessori in mid-City that I can't say enough good things about: http://www.greatschools.org/school/parentReviews.page?id=25310&state=CA#schoolReviewSubmitForm

      The Twin Coach said...

      This is a post that came from a mother in my multiples club. I thought this was an option worth sharing:


      "I really like our little local pre-school and it has spots for children 3-5 yrs that are potty trained. ( they won't change diapers/pullups)

      The price is GREAT, especially for those with twins where everything is
      double in cost. My older daughter attends the Little Learners Program that is part of the Stoner Park offerings. This is her second year there.
      Stoner park is in West LA, between Barrington and Bundy on Stoner and
      Nebraska. We live a block and a half away but some parents come as far away as Culver City. She goes 4 days a week ( M-Th), 3 hours a day, 10am-1pm. They eat lunch there, and the parents provide it. The price is $80 a week or $880 if you pre-pay the 12 week sessions in advance ($73.30 a week!)

      About the school-
      -there are no major amenities-they have a large room that they use for
      leaning and playing. It is not a whole complex. It has Toys, learning
      activities, etc but is just 1 large space.
      -They use the Stoner park playground for outside time so they share this
      with who ever happens to be at the park and it is not an enclosed area
      exclusive to the preschool. They do wear special shirts for outside time and
      they are watched closely by the 2 teachers.
      -Lots of parents stay after class and their kids play at the playground for
      awhile before heading home.
      -They will take up to 15 students with 2 teachers. Last year they had 15 and
      it felt like my daughter had plenty of teacher attention/help This year so
      far they have 8 kids.
      -They do tons of art projects, have cooking projects, puzzles, play dough,
      games, learning ABC's, numbers, etc.
      -This is a traditional learning environment
      -Teachers are friendly, helpful and very open to discussing any concerns,
      special requests, etc with parents

      I love what you actually get for the price. My daughter learns through
      play, but they also taught her to write her name at 3 and learn days of the week, months of the year through songs. If we still live in the area when my twins are ready for preschool, I'd send them there. This is the first year that they haven't yet had a set of twins enroll for the class. They are very familiar with twins and twin dynamics from all the previous classes. Last year there were Boy/girl twins in my daughters class.

      I have friends with kids in some "fancy", very pricey preschools in Santa
      Monica that only go 3 half days and I have to say that in speaking to them, for what they get and for what we get, I don't think the overall difference really justifies the enormous price difference."

      Anonymous said...

      My son attended Culver Palms YMCA Preschool in 2011. We had an awsome experience and haven't stopped recommending the school to family and friends. The Director and staff are excellent and very nurturing.They currently have a waiting list, you might want to call for an appointment to tour

      Anonymous said...

      My boys went to Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center. If you are looking for a JEwish preschool this one is it! It is the hidden gem in Beverly Hills. The director and staff are top notch. Give them a call for a tour. The number is 3102769776. Stacy is the Director and she's an absolute doll! Hope you have an amazing preschool experience like we did with our boys!

      Anonymous said...

      My two boys attended Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center. The administration and staff are fabulous. If you are looking for a Jewish preschool experience...look no futher. This school is really the hidden gem of Beverly Hills. Here's their number 3102769776. The director is Stacy and she is an absolute doll.Hope you enjoy your preschool experience as much as we did.

      Anonymous said...

      Does anyone know about good preschools in West Hills, Ca?

      Padmini said...

      Any comments about Granada Preschool in San Fernando Valley? They have been around a long time, and we are considering for my neice.

      Padmini said...

      What do you think of Granada Pre-School in San Fernando Valley? We are considering it for my niece. They have been around a long time...

      Anonymous said...

      First Step Nursery School in Santa Monica is such a hidden gem! It's been there for 35 years - Betsy Braun Brown's children went there - with the same director!! Mixed-age grouping, so much love from teachers who have been there for years. It's I was so lucky to find it. Check it out if you're looking - they have a toddler group too. - a parent of 2 (one now in Kindergarten, one still there)

      Anonymous said...

      a friend of mine told me about EducationandEnrichment.com
      It's a local web directory of schools with links to school websites. It's not clouded by opinions, it's just a comprehensive list, which helped me identify the schools that I wanted to visit.

      Jenny said...

      Thanks for sharing this post to us. This is really helpful for parents. This also helps the kids to develop their skills with the help of early preschool.

      Anonymous said...

      My child is enrolled at Chalk Venice. It was chosen because it was an easy transition from their Mommy and Me class to the 2 yr old class.

      Pros: SUPER clean facility. Young teachers who have good energy (most) and there is structure to their day (which was important for us as I wanted something more traditional)

      Cons: SUPER HIGH turnover rate with the teachers. My child had a 100% turnover in less than one year. BOTH teachers in her class left. And add the one teacher from her first classroom who left....it's tough. Also, some of the teachers just look annoyed to be there. True they are young but if you don't like your job, you should just go.

      Further, when you bring up your concerns to either of the Directors, they don't seem to really listen. Sure, they HEAR you but they never offer any feedback or genuine solutions. For ie, one of the teachers was reading the same book repeatedly each week. One of the mothers inquired about it and the response was: Hmm...that's not right. We have a library of over 300 books. OK, but that doesn't change the fact that one of your teachers IS reading the same book repeatedly.

      They are friendly people. If you want to look at it as glorified babysitting in a social environment with some activities thrown in, this is the place. If you are looking for a little more structure where the program helps the kids get ready for Pre-K, this probably isn't the place for you.



      This is for the Venice location. FYI. Multiple parents have come up to me asking if my daughter would be re-enrolling for Fall as they were looking at different schools.

      Andi Ballard said...

      Does anyone send their kids to Plymouth in Hancock park \ Korea Town? Our daughter's been accepted but we're trying to find out more about it before we commit. Thanks!

      Anonymous said...

      Looking for a program in the South Bay area (El Segundo / Manhattan Beach / Hermosa / Redondo / Hawthorne.) Can anyone recommend??? THank you!

      Anonymous said...

      I have heard great things about Beach Babies from my colleagues. Their 2 kids go to BB on Grand in El Segundo and they cant stop appreciating the place. I work in El Segundo and I personally visited the facility for my son and loved the center and the teachers. I did not choose it though, due to my residence in West LA which seemed far for my son to travel everyday. It is pricey but looks very clean and structured. They have a few other day-care centers too around the same area. They recently bought Bright Horizons on El Segundo blvd, so they should have vacancies. Worth a visit!
      http://beachbabies.org/index.html

      Gigi Guerra said...

      An absolutely amazing hidden gem in Miracle Mile is Children at Play Learning Center. All three of my children 11, 4, and 18 mos, started as infants and have gone and currently go there. I could never imagine such a wonderful organic and natural environment for my children to learn and grow in. The Director, Teacher JoAnn truly welcomes you into her family she is so experienced and has been in business for 20+ years, it is such a therapeutic relief to leave my children with someone I can trust.

      The constructivist evidence based curriculum is exactly what I wanted for my children. I feel like people have their entire lives to be sitting at desks, why not allow them the freedom of learning through their play? The children learn from each other and through activities like gardening, dance, art, and all types of explorative play. The green environment is so great and the yard is amazing. There is a huge avocado tree that makes the entire yard look like Peter Pan's treehouse wonderland.

      The parent support network is great too, I feel like it is such a close knit community that Teacher JoAnn and her family offer. Though my son has moved on to Hancock Park and now New LA Charter (and tested at gifted level every year-a majority of C@P alums test similarly) his closest friends are still his original Children At Play pals. I really cannot rave enough about this amazing gem of a school.

      Penelope Bam Bam said...

      I would say for SGM Atelier, if your child has no behavioral issues, isn't developmentally behind in any way, this is a decent school for your kid. If, however, your child has any behavioral issues, you may want to find another school that is more tolerant of kids that need a little help in these areas. They have a ratio of 1:10, more or less, and are good so long as your child is okay with a similar ratio of kids to adults. If you have a child that might be overwhelmed with so many kids, or with so few adults, you may want to look somewhere else.

      But after we determined that SGM wasn't the best fit for us, Palisades Preschool was a pretty amazing little school. This school is a gem for kids that are a little overwhelmed/have behavioral issues or need help adapting to socialization. It's Reggio Emilia based and very thoughtfully run. It's in Santa Monica.

      Also, Sunshine Daydreams in Culver City. Wonderful, wonderful little school. Based in a house, but is very much a preschool. It has a structured, yet pressure free approach that has worked very well with my son so far (he started recently).

      Anonymous said...

      For what it's worth, my kids have LOVED going to Los Feliz Nursery School (LFNS.org) which is a tiny little cooperative preschool serving the Silver Lake, Los Feliz and surrounding areas. It is the only place we saw that was both affordable and unpretentious. The teachers are amazing and the community of parents/children cultivated are priceless. I was surprised to see that this school was overlooked in the 2 lists you posted, but I guess that is part of the charm of this place... in a sea of overpriced, overhyped, ego-fueled schools - where directors will bluntly say you can get fast tracked if you're an architect who will design them a new feature - at an orientation!

      We simply love LFNS. It is a place that is socioeconomically diverse, and full of love.

      Anonymous said...

      Hi, we became a part of a school this year that is absolutely incredible. I debated commenting because part of what I love is that it's such a neighborhood treasure. At the same time, it has made all of the difference for my child and our family so I feel I must share. The Methodist Preschool of Pacific Palisades (curriculum isn't religious) goes above and beyond with everything. We love the teachers, the director, their blended philosophy (emergent curriculum, project-based, Reggio, etc.) Check them out. www.methodistpreschool.com

      Anonymous said...

      Do you know much about Beginnings preschool in Santa Monica? Due to a sudden relocation, I am looking for a preschool for my son with only a few months notice on the west side (Westwood, Santa Monica, Brentwood) with "longish" hours (i.e. 9-3 won't work with my job). Beginnings is one of the only places I've encountered that does not have a huge long wait list...I don't know if that should be red flag. I really want my son to go to a school with a nurturing yet academic environment and don't want my lack of time in preschool selection to affect him attending a well-respected and well-run school. Any other suggestions would also be very helpful! Thanks in advance.

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