“We happily returned for a 2nd year in the Mandarin Immersion program at LePort Emeryville! We joined last year (1st Grade) as our previous Bilingual Preschool discontinued their elementary program. Our son thrives in small intimate learning environments so we were scrambling to find our next landing ground… As we looked around, we weigh EVERYTHING: Mandarin, Montessori, Public (Madera), Charter (Yu Ming), Private…we even applied to a Catholic school, just to have it all covered. We actually got “a golden ticket” into YM’s entering Kindergarten class the year before but ultimately gave up our spot to stay in Mandarin Montessori. Some thought we were nuts, but this whole process helped us see what we ultimately really want for our son. We wanted him to be a “Life Learner”, to think for himself, and to be actually HAPPY doing so along the way (Bonus)!
We discovered that we are true believers in Montessori for Elementary education. It goes FAR beyond the typical “preschool” understanding most have of Montessori…toddlers spraying & wiping, pouring liquids, scooping beads, self care, and other practical skills that foster independence. In Elementary, the children shift into self discovery, going from being self-centric to relating to others outside of themselves. “Who are we”, “where do we come from”, “why are we here”? These types of questions are deeply addressed through a “Spiral Curriculum” that loops back year after year, and as the child ages, they look deeper into the same questions using different resources or critical thinking. Our son’s questions now as a 2nd grader, when given the Cosmic lesson on the universe, is vastly different then his first introduction to it at Kindergarten. The curriculum really takes into account the child’s brain development. Various academic subjects use visual & sensorial materials to bring abstract concepts (like math) into concrete understanding. By K-1st grade, kids are doing math division, reading, writing cursive, along with cooking/cutting, geology, biology, science, and cultural learning to place all the information into a relevant contextual container for their lives.
A “Mixed age” classroom works in Montessori. The teacher acts as a guide and the students take the journey at their own developmental level. So it doesn’t matter a 6 yr old is in the same class as an 8 yr old. “The Youngins” are mentored by “the Elders”, and the Elders are the leaders who return the favor they received as young ones. Much like work in real life situations, teams composed of various age/background work on projects and collaborate for solutions. In preschool, Montessori encourages physical independence. In Elementary, Montessori develops independent thinking. Your own self discovery of why and how something works is SO much more powerful then any lecture. The teachers are careful to guide and point the kids in the right direction, but they don’t get in the way and become the answer. When you learn “HOW TO LEARN”, you have the mind tool to conquer any subject or question in your future. (Just ask the Google Founders, M-Alums)
Specific to Chinese: The school has improved greatly from it’s first year to become a better Mandarin Immersion school. Currently, there’s an English head teacher and 2 Chinese teachers for 21 kids. (Almost like personal tutoring!) They are collaborating with Montessori vendors to create materials in Chinese/Zhuin to teach Traditional Chinese (vs. Simplified at other Chinese schools). In their opening year, our son unfortunately decreased in his Chinese growth as they were piecing together their Chinese curriculum. But in English, math, science, and all other subjects? He has grown leaps and bounds! He comes home beaming about abstract subtraction and conjunctions. Now in it’s second year, the Chinese is gearing up to be on par with the rest of their subjects! Hooray! The new Head of School David is fantastic. Great confidence for their development team to hear our needs. The administrator is superb…always available for parent support. The school is very transparent about any campus developments or staff changes, always giving parent more info than less. The teachers are excellent, assessing each child to give them individualized support, and we get weekly classroom email updates with Facebook photo links. The children seem happy to get to “work”, or learning/engaging. Do keep in mind that the Emeryville campus is currently a Mandarin Immersion school. Although it is advertise as an “option”, the Chinese learning is not easily segregated as it is in an open classroom (like a loft), and the Chinese teachers are dedicated to speaking only Chinese. There are many great English-Only schools in the Bay Area, so do LePort Emeryville if you really want to be exposed to Chinese. Low ratios, personalized, Chinese/Montessori, fantastic parent community, great staff, hands-on learning, it really is a rare gem in the East Bay!”