1260 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA | Directions 9002934.094789 -118.291569
Neighborhoods: Wilshire Center / Koreatown, Central LA
A magical preschool experience – Our son spent 3 years at MSH and we have now enrolled our daughter there as well. We have found it to be a warm, stimulating, exciting environment that produces happy children. Both of our kids talk about how much they love their teachers and the hugs they give them every morning are a good indicator that it's a great environment. Not only do they cover all the preschool basics with circle time, singing, story time, etc, they provide a wide variety of enrichment classes - from Chinese to dance to computers to karate. There is something that interests every kid. In addition, if your kid is so inclined, the opportunity is there for a tremendous amount of academic learning. From reading to learning about great artists, to acting in plays to scientific exploration. There are also several hours each day of unstructured playtime where the kids get their energy out by running around the playground, playing legos... you name it. Finally, by keeping the doors open until 5:30, the school is so understanding of the pressures of working parents. I really can't recommend the school highly enough.
Reputation for excellence well deserved – The reputation of this preschool for excellence is well deserved.
The campus (Berendo) is remarkable inside and out. Outside: the playground is well kept, roomy and secure. Inside: The entire learning environment is just breathtaking. Beginning with the entire school being incredibly clean (everyone is required to remove their shoes before entering the school). All the Montessori learning materials are of the highest quality. The arts and crafts projects that come home with my daughter, also lead me to believe there is an extensive area for that as well.
The teachers are experienced, warm & welcoming, and interested in the children. The teachers work with individual children and with the others teachers as a team. It seems that each of the teachers know each of the children. Every time I have had any questions or concerns about my daughter, I have received insightful, compassionate, informed responses – either from one of the teachers or the director, Elena. These responses come either immediately, by the teacher coming to the door to talk to me, or by a phone call later that same day. I also really enjoy the twice yearly parent teacher conferences during which I hear about what my daughter is doing during her day - what she is interested in, what she is progressing in and enjoys doing. The description by the different teachers concerning my daughter’s behavior and personality traits, leads me to believe that these teachers are really engaging with my daughter during her day at school.
I understand that this school is not for every family, nor for every child. For example, if a family wants the opportunity to be involved daily in the classroom with hands-on volunteering, this is not the school for them. There are however plenty of opportunities to volunteer and be involved with your child’s preschool experience. There are 3 plays performed throughout the school year, in which every student takes part. These plays take a lot of parent volunteerism, basically that is the main part of how they are produced. This is a truly magical part of this preschool experience. The music and production is amazing. The best part is that the children seem to have such an incredibly fun time - singing performing, dressing in costumes, being part of a play - and that all 3xs every school year!
My daughter has gained an incredible amount of confidence and independence as a direct result of her attending Montessori Shir Hashirim. She continues to blossom each day and she is just so happy. Every day when I pick her up from school, she comes out from the front door of the school with this look of happiness and contentment on her face. My intention for her preschool experience was for her to enjoy herself and her first experience at school. That is exactly what is happening at MSH, she loves going to school every day to do her different “jobs”, baking, gardening, singing, yoga, music, or drama. We feel very lucky to have found this utopian environment for our daughter’s first exposure to a school setting.
This Preschool Is A Gem – Words cannot express how in awe I am of this gem of a preschool. My son loves it and so do my husband and I! In fact, we love the school so much that we drive our son every day from Beverly Hills to Hollywood so that he can attend.
I had been planning to write a review for some time, but after this week's events I can't write it fast enough! Every day my son goes to school happy and excited about the adventures that await him. He comes home talking about painting, water jobs, puzzles, letters, numbers and continents, but also about baking raisin bread and sharing it with his friends, gardening and how fast the fruits and vegetables are growing, or how he is a sheep in the next school play. Some of his experiences he loves so much he tries to recreate them at home; so he will show me a yoga pose he did that day ("try it mommy"), recite a Chinese rhyme (mommy isn't so good at these), do the gestures to a French song (I try!) or show me what a whole, a half and a quarter note look like and how those make up the rhythm of a song ("clap with me mommy"). Other times he will tell me how he played outside with his friends with Legos and trains (his favorite) or with the ride-on cars and bicycles.
Needless to say, our son is having a fabulous time at school! But the event that triggered me to finally write this review occurred earlier this week when he came home with a list of 3-letter words that he had written himself and that he couldn't wait to read to me(!). Although my son has always been interested in letters and how they sound, the fact that he is reading and writing even simple words at only 3.5 years old shocked me. This also shows another strength of the school. Certain activities are done in group, other activities are done individually with only assistance from the teachers as needed, and others still are done 1 on 1 with a teacher who will sit with a child and focus on something challenging that the child likes to do (e.g. phonetics, counting, complex puzzles etc.). This provides an environment where each child is able to learn at his or her own pace, and allows children to excel at the things they are interested in while encouraging them to develop a well-rounded set of skills.
Even more important, the school places great focus on helping the children to build critical social skills. Our son is understanding the concept of sharing, taking turns and has even developed some conflict resolution skills (e.g. talking through a conflict, compromising, etc.). The older children “mentor” the younger ones throughout this process and, as a result, our son has many friends at the school (of all ages).
This cooperative atmosphere extends beyond the children. The parent community at this school is a community in which you are welcomed with open arms, whether you are a parent of a child in his or her first year at the school or a parent of a child in his or her final year. Not only does this make after-school activities easy and fun, it results in great friendships. We have even vacationed with other families from the school!
The director of the school is a visionary who has developed a program that encourages the children to have fun while learning and honing their social skills. Most importantly, the program infuses in the children a love for learning and a sense of independence and accomplishment. All of this is implemented by the director herself as well as a stellar group of teachers. They are all very knowledgeable and loving (often, our son is greeted at the door with a hug).
Montessori Shir Hashirim offers a safe, welcoming environment in which the children can learn and play. And it works! The social development, the education, the independence and the exposure to so many different topics are second to none and provide a perfect start in life!
This preschool is a jewel!
Great experience for our child – Our daughter went to MSH for 4 years -- 3 for preschool and 1 for kindergarten. She absolutely loved it, as did her parents. The school was one of the best things that ever happened to our child, and we were all sorry to have to move on.
The Montessori method, at least as practiced at MSH, was a perfect fit for our child. The emphasis on teaching competency at life skills, self-reliance and a self-motivation for learning was just what she wanted and needed. The teachers were engaged with all the children on a one-on-one basis, and had great compassion and understanding for the kids. We found the environment to be warm and safe, conducive to exploration.
We found that the children leave MSH more advanced than most in the basics -- reading, language, etc. They also are exposed to a broad cultural curriculum. And then there are the famous, elaborate plays -- often Shakespeare and Shakespeare-inspired. As is often the case in LA, several parents are in creative fields, so the costumes and sets are great. All the kids participate, and this really brings the school community together.
If desired, the children can stay until the end of the day taking part in a broad variety of enrichment classes, such as karate, piano and languages. This is ideal for working parents.
The school director and teachers are the most competent people you'll find, and although compassionate, they are no-nonsense. They did not make a big deal over ordinary behavioral issues with kids -- they just administered timeouts without always notifying parents, which horrified some parents but which we appreciated because kids are kids.
MSH worked for us, but is not for every kid or family. For example, although there was plenty of free play, if that's all you want then go elsewhere. You are not likely to to convince them to change the curriculum or teaching style based on your ideas, no matter how great. Remember, this is a Montessori school and they've been doing this for a long time.
Probably the best preschool in LA – Montessori Shir Hashirim is an amazing place for kids. It emphasizes the arts and literature, and it is not at all unusual to see a four year old in the school plays reciting Shakespeare. The school leaves the teaching to professional, Montessori certified teachers who love to include equally great art (such as Van Gogh and Monet) and hands-on projects (such as preparing bread in the morning). The school prides itself on developing self-reliance and life skills for its pupils. The head of school, Elena Cielak speaks several languages and brings a very world-oriented perspective to the curriculum. Although there are Jewish themes, the school celebrates all cultures. One pair of parents were amazed that their young student came home reciting the countries of Southeast Asia, which she had learned in the geography unit. For parents who do not support an academic curriculum or Montessori philosophy, this is definitely not the place for your child. In addition, the environment is not one for children who need a ‘progressive’ play-oriented environment. While there is play and the wonderful sites accommodate free activity, it is definitely a place that mixes structure with fun. I put my boy through the school and it was the best thing I ever did for him. He was the head of his class when he began first grade and more importantly, socially he was well adjusted and happy. I highly recommend the school, probably the best preschool in Los Angeles.
Be Cautious -- Cruel and Harsh for Many Children – This school has wonderful facilities and is beautiful. It also has enrichment programs that appear spectacular -- from Spanish to Karate to Dance to Computer Classes. In short, everything appears great on the outside.
It is the inside that is the problem. The school is extraordinarily rigid in its discipline -- i.e., if your child talks out of turn, they may be made to sit sobbing in a chair while watching the other children eat lunch, etc.
The teachers and director are also extremely unwilling to discuss issues with the parents and essentially believe that they have no responsibility to communicate with parents whatsoever. The first time you hear about a behavioral issue may be when your child is being kicked out of the school, which the school will also do on a hair trigger.
There is also a cruelness about the place. In our experience there, not once did we receive a word from a teacher about a single accomplishment of our child, or a single nice story about any achievement of our young child.
Although we are not certain, we believe that the teachers were consistently yelling at children, and we know, for a fact, they admit to raising their voices often.
For some children, this school does seem to work well. Our child was frankly miserable there, however, and would come home and start sobbing at the end of the day, crying because she had been made to feel so isolated and did not want to return. Be very careful in selecting it for your young child.
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