View Full Version : All SF Summary of our preschool application experience

06-20-2011, 03:23 PM
I thought it might be useful to give the highlights of our application experience, in case it benefits others.

We put in only two applications at birth for our twin girls: St. Luke's and Lone Mountain. We got into neither one; had a friend write a letter for St. Luke's but didn't know anyone from Lone Mountain. Last summer, I started looking at schools that take kids at 2-2.5 years, but only got as far as touring Stretch the Imagination (this was when they were still a "preschool alternative") and Peekadoodle. Last fall/winter, I toured/applied to the schools below. Ironically, we got into more schools where we did NOT have letters written on our behalf when we applied, and the timing of when we toured/applied did not seem to make a difference either. My overall conclusion was that if you really like a school, stay positive, let the school know of your continued interest, stay on the wait lists, and see what happens. In the end, we probably applied to way too many schools, but with twins we were nervous. While we only received one acceptance in early May (when most of them let you know), by early June we had gotten into 4 more schools. Here's the list, in no particular order:

Laurel Hill Nursery: I heard great things about it, so was excited to check it out. This is one of those schools you'll know when you walk in if you're into it or not. They are a cooperative preschool, so there is a mandatory parent volunteer component, and the kids basically have the freedom to do what they want (even run naked); it is completely play-based. They have open indoor spaces for play, a huge outdoor space, and lots of extended care options. We ended up getting in, but not until late May, by phone call. I believe they only contact you when you are accepted. Definitely has its strengths, just wasn't the best fit for us.

Stretch the Imagination: I can't really assess it too much since I toured the SF one so long ago, but I've heard wonderful things. I might have pursued it more if it were in our neighborhood (really wanted to be able to walk the girls, if I could). I love the idea of yoga influencing the curriculum. We ended up getting in, on the same day as Laurel Hill, by phone call.

Little School: Toured in October. LOVED the school and the vibe of it. Seems like an amazing nursery school, and the director's presentation is very impressive, and they put a LOT of thought into curriculum and teaching children to problem-solve. They accept special needs students, which I thought was great and would help expand a preschooler's experience in getting to know others of all abilities. The outdoor space is decent-sized but very carefully planned out with lots of appealing things for little ones. I loved their gross motor skills activity sessions and willingness to pull from their students' cultural backgrounds. It is T/TH the first year and M/W/F the second year, and they have TK. It was my first choice when I applied. I sent a letter of interest after we toured and a friend of ours whose daughters went there sent a letter also. We did not get in (notified by email on 5/1).

Presidio Preschool: They are steps away from us, are fairly new, and we got the impression that they were in need of students. The space is small. They start at 2 yrs 6 mos, 2 am's per week. Did not get a sense that they had a well-established curriculum, other than broadly saying they were play-based. They proudly pointed out a big poster that the kids had put up with leaves on it. The sign read: "LEAFS". I can't say I was impressed with the school and even debated applying there at all. We got in, notified by letter in early May, and it was the first acceptance we got, so we were tempted to take it, but then realized that we shouldn't just accept it if we didn't love the school, so we turned it down.

Peter's Place: Loved this little school when we attended the open house in January. Definitely a "hidden gem." The parents rave about it, the PD is lovely, the teachers seem fabulous. The space is a little small but very cozy. We did send a letter of interest after applying but had no friends write letters on our behalf (we didn't know anyone whose kids went there). They notify by phone on a bit of a rolling basis, so we followed up by phone/in person in early May, and ended up getting in, likely because of our persistence as were genuinely interested. Only reason we decided not to was that the 2y 9 mos class is T/Th am, which I thought would be perfect for them when I applied last fall, but then realized at 2.5y that they could definitely handle more than 2 days. Ultimately, we decided that the only reason we would not go to PP is if we got into a 5 day/week program that offered extended care, as it would give us the most flexibility without having to have a nanny as well. But if PP's schedule works for your lifestyle, this is a super great school (and they don't believe in auctions). FYI, the program director of many years is stepping down. She will still be a teacher in the T/Th classes, but there is a new PD on board for the fall.

Lone Mountain: didn't get a tour, didn't get in.

St. Luke's: Didn't get to tour, didn't get in, but friends' kids go there and they really like the structure and the discipline (e.g. their 4-year-old learned that to introduce himself to an adult, he should walk over, shake hands and state his name, and he's confident enough to do actually do this, even if that adult is the Mayor of SF!).

Cow Hollow: didn't get to tour. Seems amazing, has an obligatory parents' participation component. Didn't get in.

St. James: didn't tour as we heard about it way too late but made the application deadline. Small school only a few blocks away from us; class size is very small (9, I think). Takes kids at 2 years and has extended care. Sounded like a great parent community. Is a non-religious school (although I believe it used to be). We didn't get in.

Serra Preschool: applied online rather early, got a call for a tour, and toured in November. Loved that it was in the Presidio; has a great space. It's a play-based, 5 day per week program rooted in Catholic traditions (Mass included). I got the impression on the tour from the PD that if you plan to embrace that part of the curriculum you should definitely write her to let her know. Have good friends whose daughter LOVED it there (they are not Catholic, btw) and she got into an amazing kindergarten afterwards, and gave a lot of credit to the school. These friends wrote us a letter. Still haven't heard from the school, even after emailing to follow-up and to inquire about summer school. Weird...

Montessori Children's House of the West Coast: Only Montessori we applied to, steps away from us so super convenient. Have great after school/extra-curricular activities and a bus that takes kids to parks, etc. Have friends whose daughter went there, and they loved it. I've heard nothing but great things; tour was very thorough. They have a pet bunny named Houdini for the aftercare, which was super endearing. I'm still not sure about the whole Montessori educational curriculum, but the kids did seem to be moving in a zen-like state as they went about their "work", very different from all the other emergent or play-based (and often chaotic) preschools. Has 2 very large mixed-age classrooms. Would have been quite a decision to make if we had gotten in, but we didn't.

The Waldorf School: I was curious about this type of school, so attended a tour, which shows you not just the nursery school but the entire school (up to high school). It's one of those places where you either feel the fit or you don't. If you are considering it for elementary or HS, definitely need the kids to do preschool at a Waldorf school, as they pool from their own preschools. It's an experience in itself if you are interested in learning more, and although I like a lot of their concepts (e.g. keep technology limited to age-appropriate levels, embody sustainable living), it wasn't the right fit for us. I didn't apply.

and last, but not least, our very favorite....

150 Parker: Love this school! Found out about it late in the game (ironically, even though it is in our neighborhood, I heard about it from the PD at Serra school, who used to be at the Parker school) and got to attend a tour in January. Loved everything about it as soon as I walked in. It just looks like how I pictured a nursery school to be--it is pristine yet warm and cozy, full of light. Great central yard with play structure, sand box, open classrooms, pet goldfish, tons of kids artwork everywhere, etc, etc. Gorgeous transitional kindergarten space. Parents raved about the amazing parent community. We didn't know anyone whose kids went there when we applied but knew it had a great reputation. Got wait-listed, applied for summer school, got in, and then shortly afterward got off the wait-list! The girls started 2 weeks ago at 3 days a week and LOVE it. We get a weekly newsletter by email so we're in the loop with what's happening, which I love. The teachers are so lovely; the PD is super accessible and friendly. The AM nursery starts at 2.9 yrs, 5 days a week. There is a PM class and TK, and early and aftercare options. No participation is mandated for parents as they try to keep the school accessible to those who work. The kids get a snack at school (frog hollow organic fruits). It's also a big class, which we love, so that the girls are together yet can get to know other kids and not always have to do the same thing at the same time. We definitely feel it is the right fit for us!

06-21-2011, 02:51 PM
Wow! Thank you so so much for sharing your journey. We're applying this coming year so reading your story has been helpful if not reassuring that things will work out.

Are there things you would have done differently if you were going the process again?

06-21-2011, 09:10 PM
Glad it was helpful! Only thing I would have done differently is tried to get more of a list of the schools closer to us and focus my list down so that I wouldn't have had to apply to so many schools. The reality is that there really are a LOT of preschools out there (just look at the lists on Savvy source, it's overwhelming!) and some are just different on paper than when you actually visit. But, hindsight is 20/20, and I guess it was better to have too many options than too few. Fortunately, this forum exists to ask questions and learn about schools from other parents, which is a tremendous resource. You may be able to focus your list before you even get into the whole application process, especially if you are narrowing down the categories (e.g. takes 2 y 6 mos, or has extended care, or is close to home, etc). I learned about several schools I hadn't considered before from the great folks posting here! Good luck next year, and remember that worst case you just put your kids in lots of fun activities until they get in somewhere (they will, trust me!).

06-24-2011, 01:13 PM
Congrats dbltrbl on 150 Parker and thanx for telling your story! I wish we have good news like you...

One thing I saw in your post was that you got into 150 Parker after applying to summer school. Do you think applying to summer school there got you over the hump for the regular preschool or was it just coincidence? How often did you stay in contact with the director there?