Below are some of our most frequently asked questions – please click to expand and find the answers.
1. What are your hours of operation? Are you on a conventional school year calendar?
The school year runs from Mid-September to Mid-June, and the school day is from 9 am to 3 pm. Days off and holidays basically follow most conventional school calendars. We offer extended care (a before and after school program) for parents who qualify and for an additional fee. We also offer a Summer Camp to currently enrolled families.
2. What is your total enrollment?
Our total enrollment is right around 100 students every school year, and it’s usually evenly split between the Preschool and Elementary school.
3. What is the age range of children?
Our children generally start at age 3, and can stay through 11 years old.
4. What is the teacher to child ratio?
Our teacher to child ratio is one of the best, 1 teacher to 4-7 children, depending on the age group.
5. What is your approach to education, teaching and learning?
The educational model we work with is the child-directed model for curriculum. We really want children to know that they are at the center of their own learning process. Learning is bound to a child’s interest, and organically generated from that interest. The program is rich with opportunities, both child-initiated and teacher-offered, but all are choices, and no curriculum plans are compulsory. Teachers are here to help support the children’s interests and create a rich learning and playing environment, as well as to support their social and emotional development, their emotional intelligence, and to help them work on their friendship dynamics by facilitating and mediating conflict resolution between children. In this model, children do spend much of their time in play. We know that children learn through their play and how valuable their playtime is.
Children are playing, but they are also choosing to spend time enjoying some of the plans that are offered by the teachers. At the elementary school level, teachers begin to offer more classes and students and teachers collaborate on the content of many classes. Within the classes, there are many opportunities to talk about typical elementary school subject matter, concepts and relationships. Much subject matter curriculum is learned through the experience of doing other things. For example, a child’s interest in video games leads to reading, money planning leads to math skills, and so on. The learning process here is primarily experiential, inclusive of the children’s interests and passions, and developmentally appropriate for each age group. It is the teachers’ responsibility to plan a program that is inclusive of a wide range of subjects from science and nature to arts and music, the social sciences and standard subjects of reading, writing, and math. So, if a child wants to go to a reading class or a math class, it’s offered; but children don’t always want to do that, and they will learn their skills in other ways.
Many people look at this educational model and may feel uneasy with the amount of time spent in play, or may worry that their child won’t learn a particular subject if he or she is not forced, or that their child won’t even know about a subject if it’s never introduced by adults. These are real concerns, and we see parents struggle with their concerns year after year. However, in our experience, we have found that this model works well for learning, preserves the desire to learn, and keeps the child’s experience of how to learn intact. That’s what we are working on here with children, preserving the desire to learn and helping them gain experience in finding their way to the information they need. We are not just feeding them information. We are collaborating with them in their own learning process by trusting their natural curiosity and empowering them to further their understanding of any type of subject matter.
6. What happens when children leave Play Mountain Place and go into traditional schools? What is their transition like?
Almost all of our graduates do transition into a traditional (compulsory curriculum model) type of school where testing, taking notes, and doing homework are all expected. The change from the Play Mountain Place model to the new school model is similar to any culture change. There is much to adjust to, but Play Mountain Place students bring with them a sophistication in interpersonal relations, problem solving experience and flexibility to their new environment. They have also mastered many skills, academic and otherwise, coming directly from their own experiences and motivation to learn. So their desire to learn is still intact. They are interested and excited to learn because they have not been forced and because they’ve been trusted in their own choices about learning. The majority of students adjust to a more conventional learning environment in a matter of months. There are some students whose learning styles or learning challenges are more complex and who will require more individual support in their transition.
All students will need some support in this transition. At Play Mountain Place, we work to support and prepare our families for this transition and we also assist them in their search for a school that will be a good fit for their child. We have meetings, conferences and discussions so that your child and his/her abilities will not be a mystery to you. Also, during your time here, you are establishing strong connections with the community of other parents. Parents tour, get information, find support and get feedback about other schools from each other. Eventually, families pick a school that is appropriate for their child and support their child through the transition.
7. Do children need to be able to use the potty, toilet, or can they be in diapers?
We don’t have a requirement (as some schools do) that children know how to use the potty. We really want children to go at their own pace in terms of the whole process of transitioning out of using diapers and starting to use the potty or toilet. In alignment with our child-directed model of curriculum, we go by the child’s needs and direction and let them be in charge of their process out of diapers. There’s a wonderful article by Janet Lansbury, “Three Reasons Kids Don’t Need Toilet Training (And What To Do Instead)” that puts in perspective honoring the child with their own process of transitioning into using the potty.
8. Do you offer parenting classes outside of the school community?
Yes. We offer a Communication Skills workshop approximately 3-4 times a year. Our current parents have first priority so space is sometimes limited. A reservation is required for our workshops, and there is a fee. Find out the details and get on the waiting list to join a class by calling us at (323) 870-4381.
9. Do you allow people to come and visit your school?
We have scheduled hosted visits for prospective parents, staff and other educators to see the school. Please see our Admissions area if you are a prospective parent. If you are interested in working at the school, please see our Employment area. If you are an educator that would like to visit our school for course requirement or any other reason, please call the office to discuss at (323) 870-4381. We do not allow drop-in visitors, as we are not open to the public.
10. Do you do any kind of formal testing? What about state education requirements? What about accreditation and certification?
Testing is not required by the State for a private or independent school. We do not test children in a formal or standardized way. We have regular and frequent conversations and conferences with parents to discuss how their children are growing in all areas of their development in our program. If the children ask for tests, and they sometimes do, then we test them in the way that they would like and whenever appropriate, we validate and give them feedback on what they are learning.
The California Department of Education does not mandate a prescribed set of adopted textbooks, approved curriculum, or course of study for private schools. Private schools are required to provide a basic academic education, but are protected from untoward interference by any Board of Education, state or local.
Our Preschool (Nursery) is a fully licensed day care facility. We are licensed by the California Department of Social Services, Child Care Licensing Program.
California law does not require public or private schools to be accredited, and the State does not accredit schools.
11. What is the teacher's educational backgrounds? What's the average teacher tenure?
Our teachers’ educational backgrounds are varied. We have teachers with AA, BA, Master’s degrees and some who have trained only in our own teacher training program. Teacher tenure here at Play Mountain Place ranges from people in their first year to people who have been here over 20 years. Very experienced, long tenured teachers lead each group. Newer teachers generally assist in the groups.