My husband and I are the grateful parents of a 2nd grader and preschool student at Sunny Hollow. Words can't adequately express how thrilled we are with the quality of the school's leadership, teaching and overall sense of community. From the time of her first visit to Sunny Hollow ("Mom, the kids here are all so NICE!!!"), our older daughter (and now her younger sister as well) has developed a love for school and learning even beyond what we'd been hoping for (and we had high expectations). It is amazing to me that she does so much learning without even being aware that she is "working" at it. Equally important, she's learned how to be a valued member of a community, manage conflict and help others. Both daughters love school so much that they don't want to go home at the end of the day. They are also developing a real love for the natural world and the outdoors as a result of the thoughtful environmental programming that has been infused into the curriculum at every age level. The other day my older daughter asked, "mom, how long do I get to go to school at Sunny Hollow? Because I hope you know I want to stay there for ever!" We feel the same way.
I disagree with the previous post about educational involvement, but I understand how the previous poster could interpret things way. As anyone knows, separation for a 3yr from a parent for the first month of a new school can be traumatic and tearful for the child. Sunny Hollow has in place a proven drop-off and pick-up procedure which fosters independence and confidence in even the little ones. Mothers doting over their child during classroom work hours creates confusion and distraction for all children. However, any parent is welcome to come well before the drop off or stay well after the drop off and go into the classroom with the child. Parent can also request to silently observe the classroom during the day. The school also hosts "welcome wednesday" events where the children and their guide invite all parents into the class to show what they are working on. I've never heard a teacher treat a child with disrespect. In fact, they treat the children like capable individuals with personal responsibility appropriate to their age level. The teachers and the staff are very approachable by email, phone, or a meeting at the parents convenience.
I would not recommend this school. They do encourage parent involvement but only in terms of money and volunteer work-- not educational involvement. There are almost zero opportunities to speak with the teachers and you may not step foot in the child's classroom. Also, I have heard my child's teacher yell at him on the playground in a disrespectful manner in front of all his classmates...in only his first month of the program at 3 yrs old. This school has been a huge disappointment for my family. The environment is beautiful and safe but bottom line is that this school is not a good choice if parents want to know what is going on in the classroom-- it's the number one complaint I hear from many other mothers here at pickup time.
We have been involved with Sunny Hollow for almost 8 years, with three boys now at the school (1st grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade). It offers a wonderful, quality education that helps children be serious, critical thinkers, yet also nourishes their childish spirit. The educational philosophy is sophisticated, the classrooms are organized, and the materials are lovely. Because the students are together for so many years, as well as with the same teacher for a number of years, the classes tend to have the feel of a happy family (of course with things to work out at times too!). The setting of the school is peaceful and pretty, overlooking the Mississippi river, which only adds to its appeal. We highly recommend this gem of a school.
Our daughter is in kindergarten at Sunny Hollow and we couldn't be happier. She is already writing in cursive (!) and sounding out words, plus she has shown me the "stamp game" where she is adding numbers out to the thousands.(!) Finally, it really feels like a wonderful, peaceful, happy place to learn. I really don't think there is much more that a school can do to help a child learn.
We love Sunny Hollow too! When our child entered the school, we had no idea just how much we would love it. We feel like the guides really know our child (and us too) and work with each child to ignite their spark for learning. We also feel like the teachers are very responsive to any concerns you may have (and easy to communicate with via phone or e-mail) and there is a feeling of teamwork. What has been one of the most unexpected (but hoped for) perks is the community. We have made such wonderful friends (this includes the whole family) and there are tons of opportunities for gatherings (school wide, classroom wide, play dates, informal get togethers etc.). It is also nice how the children stay in the same Children's House each year, with the same staff and children. This has given our child a lot of confidence and amazing friendships. Last, as a family who receives financial aid, we feel very supported at Sunny Hollow. We know SH values economic diversity and appreciate this so very much. I have such confidence in Sunny Hollow and my child's education. It is a wonderful feeling to have!
Our two sons are here & both are loving it (CH and E). I looked at 13+ schools (for K) along with Mom & Husband, & we all really liked SHM. The Guides really care for the kids and my boys exhibit such joy being there. They are really learning a lot, & are internally motived to do so. As a SAHM, I have time to be involved in the school, so I volunteer as I Guide (help in the classrooms) and serve on a Committee. There are also various educational and social events & the school asks that each family volunteer 10 hours a year. Harder for some, I'm sure, but I'm easily able to do that & like being in the classroom, as it helps me better understand the Montessori process. All parents are welcome to observe as well. My kids love to run, & I was concerned about the lack of formal gym (there is an activity area in the bsmt) but the E kids have PE twice a week (which was consistent with many other schools, including Horace Mann and Highland Elementary) plus recess. The CHs go outside as much as they can & play in the playground, or run around in the downstairs area on rainy days. Only 4 stars b/c of the facilities, but the Board is working on that always. All in all, we love it!
After doing an extensive preschool search, we landed at Sunny Hollow and couldn't be happier. I thought we would stay through the primary level, but were so impressed with the success and development of my oldest son we decided to stay for elementary. He is in his first year of elementary and the joy and pride in learning he shows is beautiful. The curriculum is rigorous, while there is still focus on the emotional and social development of the child. The staff is very committed to the whole child, the community is very warm and welcoming, it is simply a wonderful school. I am confident my children will grow up to be joyful life long learners and competent citizens, in large part thanks to their education they are receiving at Sunny Hollow.
Our two daughters have attended Sunny Hollow Montessori for the past two years and we couldn't be more proud to be a part of the Sunny Hollow community. As a former elementary teachers I was particular about the type environment I wanted for our girls and we chose Montessori specifically because it fosters compassion, independence and critical thinking. When I observed in both the Children's House and Elementary classrooms, what I saw was real, authentic, genuine learning going on. The children were genuinely interested in their work, they were collaborating and learning from one another. It was a very different scenario from most schools where the teacher pushes information to the children. I feel in love with Sunny Hollow at that moment. The teachers at Sunny Hollow are passionate, committed, incredibly smart and have been trained to observe the unique qualities in every child. They really get to know every child and invest in every child. They pour their heart and soul into what they do..and it shows. Other schools tout the "things" they have to offer the children. Sunny Hollow offers more than "things"...it fosters a life-long love of learning.
My child has been attending Sunny Hollow for the last 3 years and I have yet to have an issue with this school. The teachers continue year after year to inspire, guide and facilitate learning in a broad range of subjects. I considered my child very timid at reading and her teachers wisely worked reading into things she was interested in. She was so excited with her work, she didn't even realize she was building up sight words. Now she is reading with pride and vigor, and I deeply believe a traditional school would have forced reading in a way that would have left her behind and still hating it. In response to other parents comments, Sunny Hollow does have gym class for elementary students. They also get plenty of outdoor time along the Mississippi River, hiking and doing nature work. Each elementary classroom has a library of books, and the teachers frequently visit St Paul Public Libraries to bring a child advanced books of interest when needed. My child is multi-racial and lives in a co-parenting family and I've never experienced any intolerance for race or individual circumstances. I highly recommend Sunny Hollow and look forward to many more years there.