All Five provides early childhood education in Menlo Park’s Belle Haven neighborhood

by Linda Hubbard on March 5, 2020

Carol Thomson’s “ah-ha moment” arrived when she turned 50. “I decided I wanted to open this type of school,” she said in a classroom at All Five in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park. “It took me the next six years to develop the idea and find the right place. We now have classroom space for 24 children ages three to five.”

Children attending All Five learn through play. The preschool places value on teachers and celebrates diversity in order to build a strong community. Earlier this year All Five received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“The greatest satisfaction comes from seeing a child who has come from a difficult place starting to make sense of the world,” says Carol.

Studies consistently show that kids who attend preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t, with poor and disadvantaged kids making the most gains.

Fifty percent of All Five students come from low-income families and are supported through public funding. Another 50% of students come from middle-income and high-income families, who make a financial commitment on a sliding scale according to their financial resources.

“We are one of only two or three preschools that provide full day, year round programs, so the demand is great,” explains Carol.

All Five parents interact with each other across socio-economic lines. “It’s a way to show that everybody has expertise in something — and also how similar families are,” says Carol.

There’s currently a campaign underway to raise $800,000 in order to double the size of the school by developing programs for infants and toddlers. “We know that the return on invest is high,” says Karen Pace, All Five’s Strategic Development Consultant. “We’re tracking the 40 graduates we’ve had so far and all the kids are doing really well.” Donations are accepted online.

“Our goal is simple,” says Carol. “We want our children to grow as human beings, and that means investing in their education prior to kindergarten.”

Photos by Robb Most (c) 2020; pictured top is Karen Pace (left) and Carol Thomson

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