Daughter is 3 and has been there 2m. I was not sure of the play based nature, wanting a little more academic rigor. Having looked into the philosophy and thought about what I want for my child I have come to love the idea. I want my daughter to love learning and be capable of organizing learning for herself. This way she will be well served her whole life. Many good things to say: -High teacher student ratio. 1:2 to 1:3 -Mostly outside under trees. Kids move around -Autonomy, responsibility and control for the children within boundaries -Academics are problem solving rather than ABC -Navigating relationships and conflict resolution are important -The staff are lovely, caring, highly attentive and always present -Community is great -LOT of diversity I asked a lot of different people how students go after leaving the school. The reports I've been getting satisfy me that the students are not left lacking after they leave the school. In many cases they out perform the existing children at their new schools! The parenting course is awesome. I learned a lot and in fact I apply it more to my adult relationships and business than I do to my child! This school is not for everyone.
Both of my kids attended PMP, one through 2nd grade and my other child through the entire nursery program. PMP is definitely not for everyone. Many people think it's insane. But here's what matters most to me: Both my kids came out of PMP with an incredibly strong knowledge of self. They are articulate about their feelings. They're skilled at resolving conflicts. This is a DIRECT result of being treated with so much respect and compassion during their years at PMP. As far as the academics. We eventually left because my son was ready for more traditional presentation of ideas and structure. He started 3rd grade way BEHIND all the kids in the school by traditional measures like knowing times tables or holding a pencil correctly. But within a month he was the kid everyone else was going to for help with their school work. Currently he is in an honors program at a highly respected magnet school and does extremely well. And he does it because it's important to him, not because we, his parents, want him to do it. PMP was definitely one of the most enriching experiences of my life and will shape my children for all of theirs.
So do you remember the idea that parenting didn't come with a 'how to' book of instruction? Well here's the hands-on, experiential version. It is complete with direct feedback available and optional coaching. I cannot say enough of how this school has helped me grow, both as a parent & as an adult. If you can understand these statements or are merely curious... maybe a tour is in order.
I sent my daughter to Play Mountain Place for both the Nursery & Elementary School, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. She had all the freedom she needed to learn at her own pace and in her own way. She did lead her to read, write, do math, learn about other cultures, people, experiment and do science and learn about the natural world first-hand and because she wanted to learn. Her interpersonal, communication, and problem solving skills are all top notch. Plus, the added bonus is that we as parents were also able to improve our basic communication skills by learning how to set limits respectively, work with our child without using bribes and punishments to get things done, and also how to problem solve using curiosity and neutrality. That has helped the lines of communication stay open long into her teen years, and has made our family much closer. She had a full childhood, full of play and imagination and freedom, and in Middle and High School (which were traditional/college prep/) is doing fine if not better than her burnt out on school counterparts. If you live in Los Angeles, I highly recommend that you check it out!
Overall, I think PMP is great, and would be an excellent preschool/kinder option for many, many families, even non-crunchy types who might not initially consider it because of the funky hippie vibe. School visits here can be confusing (Who really knows what "humanistic" means?) but what fundamentally happens in preschool and kindergarten here is play-based learning and the teaching of non-violent conflict resolution. Sure, that sounds a little silly, but I can say that my preschooler can now very accurately parse emotional dynamics, much more so than his Reggio-attending buddies. I can also say that our whole family has benefited practically from learning these skills. Our family life is more peaceful and relaxed since joining PMP. That said, PMP folks can get really enthusiastic about the alleged superiority of their pet method, and of course this is not a good fit for every kid. The main con I can think of is the way academics are taught in the elementary years. Unless you are a John Holt groupie, the house style may be an unschooling bridge too far. But for preschool and kinder, this place is great. And relatively affordable, by West LA's ridiculous standards!
Play Mountain Place is a preschool through 5th grade alternative school with a philosophy greatly influenced by the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers. It has been around for over 60 years. It seems that parents will either love this school or disagree with it. Our family immediately fell in love and embraced their philosophy. Our 3 children have gone through both the preschool and elementary. The program focuses on conflict resolution where teachers serve as facilitators instead of authority figures. Children are NOT labeled, shamed or punished and teachers help each person verbalize their feelings and intentions especially when in a problem with another child. Teachers and staff talk with respect to children. Elementary offers a few traditional classes like reading, math; however, these are optional to the individual. Our daughter took advantage of some of the classes, while our sons made their own plans. Our kids have benefited in many different ways from the school. As part of the Peaceful Parenting Program, parents are required to attend a Communication Skills Workshop. The course is informative not just for communicating with children but also interacting with other adults.
I cannot recommend PMP highly enough. We are completing our 8th and final year and I am going to miss being connected with it on a daily basis profoundly. Being at PMP has supported our entire family s growth. I am saddened to see a few negative reviews here. In trying to understand why those would appear, I have a couple of thoughts: While I think this school would be great for any child, I recognize that it isn t always right for every family because it demands a lot of every family. It takes a willingness to look at our own programmed responses and baggage and learn new ways of being with our children and each other. This takes courage and work and not everyone is up for that. I do think every type of child can thrive here. I ve seen kids on the boisterous, even aggressive, end of the spectrum learn compassion and empathy, and I ve seen kids on the more timid, gentle end of the spectrum come into their own power and find their voice, and everything in between. It s beautiful to witness. For families who are up for it, a world of possibilities opens up and the way we interact with all of those around us shifts into something deeper and more meaningful.
My son has been a student at PMP since he was 3, and I'm confident that he will graduate having learned many things that will serve him well for the rest of his life. At the age of 10 he knows how to identify and express his feelings, how to say when something isn't working for him, how to negotiate, compromise and resolve problems, and how to listen and provide emotional support to others. He feels capable of facing and handling difficult issues, he operates under the assumption that he has something of value to contribute with both peers and adults, he is compassionate (as much as one can be at 10!,) and he's experienced himself as a powerful person with a voice and an ability to impact his world. My son has mastered things I watch adults struggle with every day. Much of this he got from being at PMP. He learned to read at 9, and months later was devouring novels far beyond his grade level. (Clearly some things are easier to learn than others.) The approach is definitely not for every family, and like any other option it doesn't provide everything, but I think it provides the important stuff. I'm grateful our family had the opportunity to go to PMP.
Our son is in his 8th year at Play Mountain, starting at age 3 He loves it. If there is a philosophy, it is to let kids be kids, let them have a childhood, keep parental agendas out of the way. While occasionally this leads to problems, on the whole it is a much saner way to raise a child than to burden them with expectations, homework, tests, grades, etc. in their primary years. It has certainly opened our eyes as parents. There is a curriculum--emotional intelligence. Our son is a late developer and he has benefitted immensely from PMP, and from the sensitivity of the staff. He is now a bright, savvy child who hasn't been emotionally shut down, and who can hold his own with anyone. He talks about his feelings, and this hasn't come naturally to him. He knows what he's interested in, and he's had time to explore it. This school isn't for everyone. Special needs children may do better at a school which caters to them. As for the bullying mentioned here, if you can find a school without bullies, more power to you. I have seen bullies get away with it at PMP because they were clever enough to hide their acts from teachers. I have also seen bullies removed from the school.
I love this place. The approach of child-centered organic learning through empowering the students practiced at PMP since the 50's is not for everyone. You must be very sure that this approach is in line with your family's values, & is right for your child, & the admin helps with that decision. As prospective parents, we observed for over an hour, & then had a private 2 hour interview with the principal. It has a wonderful energy, having been in the same buildings since the beginning- & though it might be in need of some renovations, the teachers' salaries are raised every year, which makes for lots of happy, experienced & loyal teachers. The aesthetic is child oriented, & won't impress those parents looking for sparkly modern spaces. My kids spend as much time as they want outside, & the play yards are filled with "dirt" that gets raked every day, & is just what my two boys want to be playing in. My grade school boy plays with other very compassionate kids of all ages. Discrimination based on "things we can't control about ourselves" (overheard a teacher say that to a child)e.g. sex, age, race, etc. is not ok- reflected by the diverse community. & the parental support is amazing.
This school is a whole person journey. The whole family goes on the journey and LA feels like a loving community. Whole children grow to successful adults. I have seen it all.
I have had three children attend Play Mountain for a cumulative total of 27 years. Now in their teens, they are remarkably sane. They have opinions, confidence, ability to explain their thoughts and feelings in ways that are uncomonly sophisticated for their age. The only problem I ever had was that reading is not promoted (though taught if kids ask - which they rarely do). And yet, it hasn't really mattered with my children - they all adjusted to public schools and are doing very well. There was an initial bump in the road where they had to learn public school work habits but that was quickly overcome because PMP kids have more confidence. The person who said "Kids that bully, tease and gang up on more vulnerable kids is common, while the teachers do nothing concrete to help." must have sent their kids to a different Play Mountain, maybe somewhere on Mars (their review is that off the facts - if they actually believe what they write, they need psychological help to even breathe).
My son currently attends PMP and we love it. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better parent because of the school. I have had a very different experience from the other parent who posted. The teachers are incredibly engaged and not overwhelmed at all. There is a 7:1 ratio and teachers are right on top of conflict resolution. The entire philosophy is based on teaching kids in an organic and child directed way, which numerous child development studies have shown is much more effective and relevant to kids. What I know is that their approach works. My son is very skilled at problem-solving, empathizing/understanding others limits and voicing his needs.
This school is AMAZING. I went to PMP for ten years and it was awesome. Despite what the other comments say, you need to check this out!
While the first year is wonderful and nurturing with amazing staff, the second year (what is called Big Nursery) is overrun by too many kids and not enough teachers. Kids that bully, tease and gang up on more vulnerable kids is common, while the teachers do nothing concrete to help. Any problems that come up with school philosophy, you will be told it is your issue as a parent and you don't understand the philosophy. Dogma rules here. If you want to spend a hefty tuition (and a lot of volunteer time and extra $$) on what amounts to letting your kid run wild Lord of the Flies style at a dirty playground, than PMP is for you. If you rather have a school that truly practices humanist (equality and loving environs), developmental and experiential learning, look somewhere else.
Play Mountain's philosophy may be humanistic on paper, but the teachers are so overrun with children that they can only practice crowd control -- i.e., they can't offer curriculum. The school says the curriculum is child-driven, but the teachers have no time to help children develop these child-directed plans.
All three of our children went to PMP starting at age 2 or 3, and each continuing for part or most of the elementary years. PMP is for families committed to humanistic values, experiential education, and a child-centered environment. Of all alternative schools in the Los Angeles area, PMP remains truest to the 'free school' tradition. The strong emotional and joy-of-learning foundation served them well later in local public schools. The two oldest went on to graduate from UCLA and UC San Diego. Their younger sister recently transfered from public middle school into a private high school that had only 13 places for over 100 applicants, and she made Dean's list in her first semester. Even if you plan to enroll your child in another progressive school, a visit to Play Mountain is well worth the time.
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