Junior Achievers

The anxious parent’s answer-filled guide to the Hub’s finest preschools.


 

Not so long ago, in what was a gentler, more forgiving era, the good children of Boston didn’t face their first make-or-break interview until they were fully formed college aspirants, or at least looking to sew up a spot in the prep school of their choosing. Now, the decisive moment happens a bit earlier. Like at, say, about two, two and a half years old. The initial steps to that Harvard diploma (or rejection slip), many parents are convinced, are taken in preschool, and so wherever their little one enrolls…. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Because before they enroll, obviously, they have to get in (Read about one mother’s experience with the whole preschool admissions rigmarole.)

Mind you, we’re not endorsing this trend. That said, it seems to us that when it comes to your kid’s education, the if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em mindset is the only real option. And we also know that intensive school shopping, the kind where you go out and size up the place in person—the kind that, if you were looking instead at quaint liberal arts campuses with your preternaturally beatific teen, might almost be soothing—is anything but easy when you’ve got a tyke in tow (or terrorizing the sitter at home). From that perspective, the choice of what to make the focus of this year’s Best Schools guide was clear.

We started by chatting up eminent early-education experts, school directors, teachers, and plugged-in parents, asking them how they’d pick a preschool. Thus enlightened, we scoped out the nominees, scrutinizing the play spaces (were they spotless?), the learning spaces (were they stimulating?), the faculty (how much turnover?), and the curriculum (was a defined educational mission in place?). We played in the sandboxes, sat in on story time, and tasted the paste in classrooms across the region.

A few more notes on our methodology: Though concentrating on preschools—which means a student body between the ages of 33 months and five years old—we also made room for some exemplary pre-K programs that cater solely to four- and five-year-olds. And while there are a number of fine preschool classes in larger daycare centers, we decided to include only preschools (whether standalone or attached to an elementary school) that follow the academic calendar, keep hours close to a typical school day, and make teaching their primary purpose.

Blessed as we are around here with academic powerhouses at every level, we weren’t surprised by the quality of what we found within those parameters. But the breadth of it all blew us away. Whether you’re seeking the perfect place for a free-spirited little scientist or a structure-loving budding musician—or another type of pint-size scholar entirely—here’s where you’ll find it, along with some tips on what those admissions officers will be looking for.

{A note on our sources: Much of the data in this list—including tuition ranges, student-teacher ratios, and admissions policies and timetables—was provided by officials at the schools themselves. When a school was disinclined to share those details, we used the most recent literature publicly distributed by it or posted to its website; if information for a given category was not maintained or was otherwise unavailable, we omitted that category from the school’s write-up. Our characterization of the schools’ educational philosophies was based on information provided by the schools, interviews with school directors, and consultation with child-development experts.}

Go on to the next page to see our top picks…


Apple Orchard School

282D Newton St., Brookline, 617-731-6463, appleorchardschool.org. It’s tough not to fall in love with a preschool situated on a working farm (in charming Brookline, no less!). None of its counterparts can compete with Apple Orchard’s outdoor focus and such amenities as goats, a vegetable garden, and even a miniature horse. Facilities: A main classroom building that looks, fittingly, like a barn, located on an expansive parcel whose animal inhabitants include chickens and a donkey. Educational approach: Developmentally based. Programs offered: Half day, with a laid-back “Sandwich Club” afternoon option. Tuition: $11,550–$12,500; afternoon option, $148 a week. Scholarships available. Admissions: Parent interviews start in November, with applications due mid-December. Preference is given to students’ siblings. Waitlist: Yes.

Bay Farm Montessori Academy

145 Loring St., Duxbury, 781-934-7101, bfarm.org. A first-rate Montessori school with a focus on the arts, Bay Farm boasts teachers specializing in visual art, drama, and dance, and also offers an outdoor amphitheater for performances. Facilities: Four New England–style shingled buildings on a picturesque 8-acre property featuring a gazebo and a swimming pool. Educational approach: Montessori. Student-teacher ratio: 10-1. Programs offered: Morning, afternoon, and full day, with an extended-hour option available until 5:30 p.m. Tuition: Morning, $8,200; afternoon, $8,200; full day, $12,000. Admissions: Applications due January 15; decisions made by March 10. New parents and their prospective students are invited to attend school events.

Beacon Hill Nursery School

74 Joy St., Boston, 617-227-0822, bhns.net. Beacon Hill Nursery is known for its experienced staff (one teacher has 39 years under her belt, another has 20), whose members also help prepare children for the next level by organizing a college fair–style “Meet the School Night,” an event that acquaints families with area private elementary schools. Facilities: Three floors of a stately Joy Street brownstone (which recently underwent a $3.5 million facelift), outfitted with a tucked-away playground. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Morning, with afternoon mixed-age options. Tuition: $10,400; afternoon options, $7,400–$10,300. Scholarships available. Admissions: Applications due January 15; decisions made by March 10. Parents interview with the school director or associate director. Waitlist: Yes.

Boston Renaissance Charter Public School

250 Stuart St., Boston, 617-357-0900, bostonrenaissance.org. Its prowess as a public elementary school is Renaissance’s claim to fame, but its pre-kindergarten program—which puts an emphasis on training strong readers—easily stacks up against that of any school, private or public. And at an estimated 800 students long, its waitlist is a testament to its popularity. Facilities: A stone building situated across from the Park Plaza Hotel. Educational approach: Research- and developmentally based, with a focus on character building. Student-teacher ratio: 10-1. Programs offered: Full day. Tuition: None. Admissions: Applications accepted beginning in January, with the school holding a lottery in March for its 220 spots. Preference is given to students’ siblings. Waitlist: Yes.

Boston University Early Childhood Learning Laboratory

School of Education, 2 Sherborn St., Boston, 617-353-3410, bu.edu/family/ecll.html. Our experts couldn’t stop raving about this lab school, which acts as a field placement site for the university’s early-childhood education majors. The school is also great at making international families feel welcome: Last year’s class included students with five different first languages. Facilities: Three classrooms, plus an outdoor play space and small garden. Educational approach: Lab school. Programs offered: Half day, with an extended-day option. Tuition: $9,600 for 10 months. Admissions: Rolling. After submitting an application, parents meet with the director and observe a school day. Waitlist: Yes.


British School of Boston

416 Pond St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-2261, britishschool.org. Expats and romanticists of the Union Jack should look to the British School, which features the U.K. model that encourages children to advance at their own speed. French lessons here begin at age three—though with the all-Brit staff, it’s a Londoner’s lilt that your child might just end up developing. Facilities: A 45-acre wooded campus in Jamaica Plain. Educational approach: British National Curriculum. Student-teacher ratio: 8-1. Programs offered: Morning and full day. Tuition: Morning, $11,205; full day, $20,475. Admissions: Applications accepted year-round. Parents meet with the headmaster, and then their prospective student sits in on an hourlong class. Waitlist: There’s rarely one at the start of the school year, but it usually begins by midyear.

Cambridge-Ellis School

80 Trowbridge St., Cambridge, 617-354-0014, cambridge-ellis.com. Cambridge-Ellis excels with its arts program and even has an artisan-in-residence to work with both kids and teachers. It also offers afterschool language classes in English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin—and if Mom and Dad are feeling left out of the learning, there are parental workshops on topics ranging from sibling rivalry to child behavior management. Facilities: Six classrooms in a historic brick building near Harvard Square that was updated this summer. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 4-1. Programs offered: Half and full day, with an extended-day language program option. Tuition: Half day, $11,250–$12,500; full day, $14,500–$15,750. Language program: five days, $5,500; three days, $3,500; two days, $2,500. Scholarships available. Admissions: Applications due February 28; decisions made by March 10. Parents tour the school and meet with the director or assistant director. Preference is given to children of alumni and minority families. Waitlist: Yes.

Cambridge Friends School

5 Cadbury Rd., Cambridge, 617-354-3880, cfsmass.org. The only Quaker school on our list, Cambridge Friends is ethnically diverse and proud of its progressive faculty, nearly a quarter of whom are gay or lesbian. The school is known for its über-involved families, and claims that virtually all of them contribute to fundraising initiatives. Facilities: A brick schoolhouse on a quiet backstreet, with a large play area. Educational approach: Developmentally based, with Quaker underpinnings. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Full day, with an extended-day option. Tuition: $19,000. Admissions: Applications due January 5; decisions made by March 10. Parents tour the school and meet with the admissions staff; after applying, they bring their child for a student visit and observed play time. Waitlist: Yes.

The Chestnut Hill School

428 Hammond St., Chestnut Hill, 617-566-4394, tchs.org. Big on reading instruction, Chestnut Hill pairs “beginners” (as first-year students are called) with fourth-graders for three years of sustained mentorship that has the older children sharing books and completing projects with the younger kids (and no doubt providing tips on elementary-school fashion trends along the way). Facilities: A gorgeous gabled schoolhouse with manicured athletic fields near Boston College. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Programs offered: Full day. Tuition: $17,550–$17,650. Admissions: Applications due January 15. Parents tour the school and meet with a faculty member before the prospective student sits for an interview with a “learning consultant.” The child is then assessed in a play-group session coordinated with other applicants.

Dedham Country Day School

90 Sandy Valley Rd., Dedham, 781-329-0850, dedhamcountryday.org. Benefiting from the resources of the top-notch middle and elementary schools it shares space with (there’s a great library, for starters), the pre-K class at Dedham Country Day features dedicated physical education, woodworking, and music instruction. Facilities: A prep school–style campus complete with quad and pool house, scaled down to tot-friendly dimensions. Educational approach: Developmentally based, with an academic focus. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Half day, with an extended-day option. Tuition: Half day, $17,540; extended-day option, $38–$48 per day. Admissions: Applications due January 15; decisions made by March 10. Interviews are conducted in small groups in February. Preference is given to students’ siblings. Waitlist: Yes.


École Internationale de Boston

17 Irving St., Arlington, 781-646-0510, ecolebilingue.org. With more than 40 nationalities represented, this is easily the most internationally vibrant option on our list. It’s also the only one that provides French language immersion—so on your next trip to Paris, your kid will feel confident ordering a croque-monsieur in the native tongue, even if you don’t. Facilities: Classrooms at Arlington&rsq
uo;s Parmenter School. Educational approach: French immersion, academic curriculum. Programs offered: Full day, with an afterschool option. Tuition: $15,920; afterschool option, $9 an hour. Admissions: Applications due February 15; decisions made by March 10. Applicants are considered based on interviews and observed play time—and on their parents’ commitment to the school’s bilingual mission.

Eliot-Pearson Children’s School

Tufts University, 105 College Ave., Medford, 617-627-3434, ase.tufts.edu/epcs. Deemed among the finest schools of its kind in the country, Eliot-Pearson serves as a model and observation site for teachers (new and experienced alike), who come to watch its faculty. Facilities: Immaculately organized classrooms in a one-story brick building on the Tufts campus. Educational approach: Developmentally based lab school. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Half day, full day (four times a week), and afternoon only (twice a week). Tuition: Half day, $6,734; full day, $10,648; afternoon only, $2,472. Admissions: Applications accepted starting in September; most decisions made by March. Parents are encouraged to visit without their prospective students. Waitlist: Yes.

Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center at Temple Israel

477 Longwood Ave., Boston, 617-566-3960, tisrael.org/study/preschool.php. Helen Cohen, considered one of the top preschool directors in the Hub, takes an eclectic approach, mixing aspects of Montessori and Waldorf with Judaic immersion to create her curriculum. (Two- and three-day toddler programs are also available.) Facilities: Five spacious classrooms. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based, with a curriculum that approximates that of a lab school. Programs offered: Half day, with early drop-off and extended-day options. Tuition: $8,610 for members; $9,260 for nonmembers. Admissions: Applications accepted between May and November; decisions made in December. A very popular school, the FJECC is regarded as especially difficult to get into. Waitlist: Yes.

Inly School

46 Watch Hill Dr., Scituate, 781-545-5544, inlyschool.org. Incorporating a variety of teaching styles, Inly’s methods are more flexible than those of some of the other Montessoris we looked at. Twice-monthly field trips to the local library get students hooked on picking out their own books. Facilities: Three buildings on 6½ acres with three playgrounds and an auditorium. Educational approach: Progressive, experiential Montessori. Student-teacher ratio: 12-1. Programs offered: Half day, with a full-day option. Tuition: Half day, $10,595; full day, $17,495. Admissions: Applications due February 1; decisions mailed by March 10. The admissions director schedules a visit for parents to meet with the faculty. The prospective student is observed in a small-group setting. Waitlist: Yes.

John Winthrop School

66 Marlborough St., Boston, 617-267-7159, johnwinthropschool.org. Convenient for Back Bay parents, Winthrop has a cozy feel that it owes to its host, a neighborhood church, coupled with a highly skilled staff known for its low turnover. Teachers make good use of their location by leading frequent outings to the Public Garden duck pond and nearby playgrounds. Facilities: Classrooms in the First Unitarian Church in the Back Bay. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 8-1. Programs offered: Half day, full day, and extended day. Tuition: Half day, $10,600; full day, $14,900; extended day, $18,600. Admissions: Applications accepted year-round; decisions made by March. After parents apply, school officials contact them to schedule a tour and an observation session with their prospective student. Waitlist: Yes.


Kingsley Montessori School

30 Fairfield St., Boston, 617-226-4900, kingsley.org. One of the best Montessori schools in the city, Kingsley offers its students spectacular Back Bay digs. As a bonus, kids also have use of a full science lab that can give them a head start on that quest for a Nobel Prize. Facilities: Six classrooms, a library, an art studio, a large “gross motor activity” room (fancy speak for “playroom”), and the aforementioned science lab, all housed in a townhouse that was once the Saltonstall family’s private estate. Educational approach: Montessori. Student-teacher ratio: 8-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day. Tuition: Half day, $12,800; full day, $17,800. Admissions: Applications due January 15; decisions made March 10. Tours begin in October, during which parents meet administrators and current students’ parents.

Lee Academy Pilot School

155 Talbot Ave., Dorchester, 617-635-6619, boston.k12.ma.us/leeacademy. Lee boasts the lowest student-teacher ratio of any public school in town. And in Kyle Dodson, principal of the pilot lab school, it has a brainy administrator (Harvard undergrad, MBA from Columbia) whose open-minded approach toward curriculum—a rare quality in the public system—earns him high praise from fellow school directors, who call Lee a school worth watching. Facilities: A dedicated wing in Joseph Lee Elementary Schools, with which it shares a gym, auditorium, pool, and outdoor fields. Educational approach: Open lab school. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Full day and extended day. Tuition: Full day, free; extended day, $25 per week. Admissions: Follows the Boston Public Schools lottery system. Preference is given to students’ siblings and to children who live within walking distance. Waitlist: Yes.

Lemberg Children’s Center

Brandeis University, Lemberg Hall, 415 South St., Waltham, 781-736-2200, brandeis.edu/lemberg. A horde of attentive student teachers culled from Brandeis University’s early-education program make instruction intimate and individualized. Lemberg’s novel sliding-scale tuition—which charges families based on their income—is managed by a staff eager to help parents negotiate the intricacies of state assistance when it comes time to apply to elementary schools. Facilities: The first floor of Brandeis’s Lemberg Hall, plus an expansive playground. Educational approach: Developmentally based lab school. Student-teacher ratio: 4-1. Programs offered: Full day. Tuition: $990&
ndash;$1,540 a month, based on family income. Admissions: Applications accepted year-round, with children being admitted whenever spaces become available. Waitlist: Yes.

Lesley Ellis School

41 Foster St., Arlington, 781-641-1346, sfcinc.org/lesley/preschool.htm. This progressive school has an innovative anti-bias program that’s integrated into all aspects of a child’s classroom experience. Lesley Ellis also wins acclaim for its language arts and prereading instruction. Facilities: The former Gibbs School building, featuring sunlit classrooms, a library, a 7,000-square-foot “flex” space used for art and music instruction, and two outdoor play areas. Educational approach: Developmentally based, with an academic focus. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day (three to five times a week). Tuition: Half day, $7,575–$12,198; full day, $10,052–$16,327. Admissions: Applications due January 15; decisions made February 15 for preschool, and March 10 for pre-K. Parents visit with their child for observed play time in December or January. Waitlist: No. When eligible applicants outnumber the available spaces, the school uses a lottery system.

The Meadowbrook School

10 Farm Rd., Weston, 781-894-1193, meadowbrook-ma.org. Alums of Meadowbrook consistently go on to some of the finest private high schools in Massachusetts, which makes the powerhouse elementary’s pre-K program a favorite of W-town elites. Facilities: A 27-acre campus with playgrounds, woods, and a pond. Educational approach: Developmentally based, academic-centered. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Half day, with an afterschool option. Tuition: Half day, $17,215; afterschool option, $11–$15 per hour. Admissions: Applications due in February; decisions made by March 10. Candidates complete a session with a professional evaluator, followed by a group screening with other hopefuls.


Nashoba Brooks School

200 Strawberry Hill Rd., Concord, 978-369-4591, nbsc.org. This is another prekindergarten program with a sterling pedigree. Ninety-eight percent of the school’s faculty boast at least one advanced degree, and according to parents of alumni and current students, Nashoba Brooks’s reputation as an academically rigorous yet tightly knit community is spot-on. Facilities: A 20-acre campus with playgrounds, woods, and a pond. Educational approach: Developmentally based, student-centered. Tuition: $15,680. Admissions: Applications due January 25; decisions made by March 10. Parental visits are scheduled October 1 through mid-February; in January the school holds play-group sessions to evaluate the children. Preference is given to students’ siblings and children of alumni.

Natick Montessori

Goin Bailey House, 49 Eliot St., South Natick, 508-647-0888, natickmontessori.org.
This Natick school augments the traditional Montessori curriculum with unique music classes and Spanish instruction. Parents are also invited to play a large role in utilizing their own expertise for the school’s benefit, another twist on the usually insular Montessori approach. Facilities: Two high-ceilinged buildings and two floors of a neighboring office complex, with 2,500 square feet of indoor play space and a pair of enclosed playgrounds. Educational approach: Montessori, with lots of parent participation. Student-teacher ratio: 8-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day, with an extended-day option. Tuition: Half day, $9,100; full day, $12,400; full day plus extended, $15,800. Admissions: The simple blind admissions process has no interviews: Visit an open house, file an application in October, and receive a decision by March. Waitlist: Yes.

North Shore Nursery School

204 Greenwood Ave., Beverly Farms, 978-922-8450, northshorenurseryschool.org. Heralded by local school directors for its caring staff, North Shore gives kids a bonus: the largest indoor sandbox of any of the schools on our list (it takes up a whole room). It also has a “Wednesday Explorers” program in which everyone from firefighters to actors come to explain their jobs. Facilities: That sprawling sandbox, plus an outdoor play area with a garden where kids can plant and dig. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 5-1. Programs offered: Half day, with optional lunch and afternoon sessions (children may enroll for any combination). Tuition: $6,184–$8,464, depending on number of days and child’s age. Admissions: Open house in November; applications due December 31. Children are considered in the order in which they apply, with two-year-olds chosen by lottery. Preference is given to students’ siblings and children of alumni. Waitlist: Yes.

The Park School

171 Goddard Ave., Brookline, 617-277-2456, parkschool.org. Established in 1888, this Brookline stalwart offers instruction from pre-K through ninth grade. What we like most about the place, though, besides the plush digs and commitment to diversity, is its focus on cooperative play—something that often gets lost in the more academic approaches pursued by many other pre-Ks that are part of elementary and middle schools. Facilities: A 26-acre campus near Jamaica Pond with a 35,000-volume library, computer labs, art studios, a theater, and three playgrounds. Educational approach: Developmentally based. Programs offered: Full day. Tuition: $15,870. Admissions: An application, a tour, and a meeting with an admissions official must be completed by January 4; a detailed family history is due January 25. Children are observed in small-group play sessions in January or February; decisions made by mid-March. Waitlist: Yes.

Plowshares Childcare

Newton North High School, 360 Lowell Ave., Newton, 617-527-3755, plowshareschildcare.org. Plowshares operates three quality schools in Newton, but the one run out of Newton North High is the most impressive. Making the difference is the attention it lavishes on students, thanks to the high schoolers who work with the kids. Facilities: Newton North High School classrooms. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Three-quarters day, full day, and extended day. Tuition: Monthly fees are $850 for three-quarters day; $1,045 for full day; $1,215 for extended day. Admissions: Applications due by February. Beginning in January, parents meet with the director, and their prospective students visit the school. Preference is given to children of City of Newton employees and to students’ siblings. Waitlist: Yes.


The Preschool Experience

1091 Centre St., Newton, 617-964-6749, thepreschoolexperience.org. This is an intimate, (relatively) inexpensive facility that gives children the old-school feeling of home education combined with a modern curriculum, overseen by a pair of directors who have been there for 19 years. Facilities: The first floor of a Victorian house with an enclosed play area. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Programs offered: Half day, with an afternoon option; early-morning option available during school year. Tuition: Three days, $4,300; four days, $4,700; five days, $5,100. Admissions: Applications accepted starting December 1, with most receiving a quick turnaround. Preference is given to students’ siblings. Waitlist: Yes.

Red Barn Nursery School

724 Boston Post Rd., Weston, 781-893-8020, redbarn.grovesite.com. Considered to be among the oldest, most affordable, and most esteemed cooperatives in the Boston area, Red Barn was created with guidance from Tufts University’s department of clinical study (the forebear of the Eliot-Pearson School). The “parent helping” program gets moms and dads lending a hand in the classroom, and is a huge hit with the children (and the teachers). Facilities: A red, barnlike structure custom-built to house the school. Educational approach: Developmentally based co-op. Student-teacher ratio: 8-1. Programs offered: Half day, with early drop-off and extended-day options. Tuition: Three days, $3,878; four days, $4,922; five days, $5,846. Admissions: Applications due by November 15. Parents are expected to tour the school and observe a class. Starting in early January, acceptances are granted on a first-come, first-serve basis at the director’s discretion. Waitlist: Yes.

Shady Hill School

178 Coolidge Hill, Cambridge, 617-868-1260, shs.org. One of the area’s most progressive and multicultural schools, Shady Hill has a student body that’s almost 30 percent African American, Asian American, Latino, or biracial. Its campus also boasts a swath of wetlands that makes outdoor lessons particularly hands-on. Facilities: 18 buildings on 11 tree-lined acres in a tranquil section of Cambridge. Educational approach: An emergent-like style, heavy on projects and a “central subject” curriculum, in which areas of study (math, science, etc.) incorporate the same person, period of history, or idea. Programs offered: Half day and full day, with an afterschool option that runs until 6 p.m. Tuition: Half day, $16,900; full day and afterschool option, $18,300–$30,740. Financial aid available. Admissions: An open house for parents and children is held October 28; applications due January 3. The child visits with a small group of fellow candidates, then meets with a teacher for individual assessment. Decisions mailed by March 10. Waitlist: Yes.

South Shore Conservatory

Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 St. George St., Duxbury, 781-934-2731 x10, southshoreconservatory.org. A great bet for parents interested in giving their kids an early start in the performing arts, South Shore Conservatory has a particularly strong program for musically inclined youngsters. Faculty with expertise in instrumental music, drama, and dance encourage a “learning by doing” vibe. Facilities: Classrooms in the Ellison Center for the Arts. Educational approach: Developmentally based, with an arts-principled, music-focused curriculum. Programs offered: Half day, with early drop-off and lunch options. Tuition: Half day, $2,795–$5,600 per semester; early drop-off option, $240–$1,200. Admissions: Rolling. First-come, first-serve for families of current students or alumni; decisions made in March and April for new applicants. Parents can tour the school and bring their children to meet with the director. Waitlist: Yes.

Spruce Street Nursery School

5 Avery Place, Boston, 617-482-5252, sprucestreetnurseryschool.com. A magnet for progeny of boldface Bostonians (both Manny Ramirez’s and Abby Johnson’s kids are said to attend), Spruce Street offers an almost unmatched child-teacher intimacy. Several weeks before classes begin, instructors meet with their charges at the children’s own homes to make introductions and ease first-day anxieties. Facilities: Four classrooms on the second floor of a high-rise next to the Ritz-Carlton. Educational approach: Emergent, developmentally based. Student-teacher ratio: 4½-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day, with an early drop-off option. Tuition: Half day, $5,800–$12,500; full day, $6,580–$16,360. Admissions: Open house on October 20; applications due January 15. The school contacts the parents to schedule a family visit. Decisions mailed by March 10. Waitlist: Yes.


Temple Beth Shalom Children’s Center

670 Highland Ave., Needham, 781-444-0077, tbs-needham.com/tbscc. New director Marcie Berul—a former assistant director at the B.U. Early Childhood Learning Lab—is considered a rising star in local education circles. Parents looking for religious exposure for their children love the interaction the school provides with clergy in Friday classes. Facilities: Classrooms within the newly renovated Beth Shalom temple. Educational approach: Developmentally based, with a Judaic focus. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Half day, with an afternoon enrichment option. Tuition: $3,435–$5,380 for members; $4,170–$6,070 for nonmembers. Admissions: Member applications accepted for two weeks beginning October 15, after which nonmembers can apply. Waitlist: Yes.

Tenacre Country Day School

78 Benvenue St., Wellesley, 781-235-2282, tenacrecds.org. More intense than most preschools, this pre-K gives kids starting at the age of four the chance to hone skills like handwriting and geometry while offering a gateway into the Tenacre elementary school, one of the most prestigious in the area. Facilities: A schoolhouse with gym and library next to the Dana Hall School. Educational approach: Developmentally based curriculum with more-formal literacy a
nd math components. Student-teacher ratio: 7-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day, with an afterschool option. Tuition: Half day, $16,570; full day, $17,160–$19,340, depending on number of days and time of year. Tuition assistance available. Admissions: Applications due by February 1. Parents meet with the admissions director and head of school; the child meets with a learning specialist and is evaluated in a play group. For pre-K only, preference is given to students’ siblings and children of faculty. Waitlist: Yes.

The Waldorf School

739 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, 781-863-1062, thewaldorfschool.org. This Lexington standout is known for working hard to ease children into school life by inviting parents to be regulars in the classroom until midway through the year. Facilities: Two historic buildings in East Lexington, adjacent to some 200 acres of forested conservation land. Educational approach: Waldorf. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Half day (morning and afternoon sessions available). Tuition: Two days, $5,140; three days, $6,990; five days, $10,690. Admissions: Applications due January 31; decisions mailed in March. Parents and children interview together with a teacher, and in some cases a learning specialist may be asked to observe the applicant at play. Waitlist: Yes.

Walnut Park Montessori School

47 Walnut Pk., Newton, 617-969-9208, walnutparkmontessori.org. Walnut Park stages “activity days” in which special groups or performers put on shows for the kids. The school also features afternoon enrichment programs in music, art, French, and even chess. Computer-based instruction is a point of pride—and the classrooms are equipped with Apple iBooks. Facilities: Classrooms, a gym, and a library in a 19th-century carriage house. Educational approach: Montessori, with a touch of spirituality. Student-teacher ratio: 6-1. Programs offered: Half day and full day. Tuition: Half day, $7,200; full day, $8,700. Admissions: Applications accepted year-round; decisions made in January. Parents (sans child) visit during designated days for one-hour sessions, followed by a Q&A with the principal. Waitlist: Yes.

Wellesley College Child Study Center

Page Building, 106 Central St., Wellesley, 781-283-2695, wellesley.edu/childstudy. At one of the most impressive schools in the Boston area, students benefit from the unique way the teachers communicate: They use scripted dialogue developed by the school to encourage kids to think for themselves and answer their own questions. Facilities: A gracious mansion on the Wellesley College campus, with a greenhouse, garden, and outdoor stage. Educational approach: Developmentally based lab school. Student-teacher ratio: 5-1. Programs offered: Half day. Tuition: Youngest class, $2,138–$5,149; for children of faculty/staff, $1,710–$4,119. Middle and oldest class, $4,482; for children of faculty/staff, $3,585. Admissions: Applications accepted between October 1 and January 31; decisions made in March. At least one parent must visit the school while in session. Preference is given to students’ siblings and the children of Wellesley College staff. Waitlist: Yes.

  • Liz

    I know this is an old article, but you appear to have compared apples and watermelons on the pricing. The prices you’ve listed for Wellesley are monthly; the prices for Tufts are annual. There may be other examples.