Comparing great schools: EB, EBI, Academy, Heads Royce, Bentley
We have two children that would thrive in a rigorous academic environment, and can likely afford private schools. We have toured many and the Academy, Bentley, Heads Royce, EBI and EB all looked great and work for us geographically. I've read all the threads for these schools, and seen parents give rave reviews of each school, so I know that we can't really go wrong. But I would love to hear more about some trade-offs, and how parents addressed any limitations of their chosen school. Also, if you're able to answer any part of the questions below, I'd be very grateful.
The Academy: It was intriguing to hear that all kids are given materials one year more advanced than those of California public schools. Do other private schools effectively do the same thing? Or is this unique to the Academy? Also, were you happy with the aftercare/enrichment options at the Academy?
EB/EBI: We are thrilled by the immersion curriculum. But, for families that speak a third language at home, was trilingual education possible? Did you need to supplement language instruction in one or more of the languages, and how did you do this? And did pursuing three languages come at the cost of other academic subjects (e.g., math) or hobbies?
Heads Royce/Bentley: We were very impressed by the facilities and afternoon activity options, especially as we will need to leave our children at school relatively late every day. As these are large schools, was the administration able to accommodate individual requests, e.g., for acceleration in particular subjects, or is this not done?
Thank you for reading through this long post! If you're able to talk about the pros and cons of the school you chose, how you chose this school over other options, and perhaps what you did to address any cons, I'd be most grateful.
New responses are no longer being accepted.
We are an EBI family. Just speaking to your question re families with multiple languages at EBI, there are a number of EBI families with different languages at home. There also are teachers that speak more than two languages. Our children speak three languages. We did not have to supplement any language. But every kid is different. You don't mention your children's ages but you should keep in mind that kids start to learn Mandarin Chinese in elementary school at EBI. So they get English, Spanish and Mandarin at EBI. Depending on your home language, that may mean learning four. That said, one thing we really appreciate about EBI is that, as a small school, we find the faculty really willing to accommodate and respond to individual and unique student needs. Maybe that is something to discuss with them. I also would note that in terms of academic challenge, EBI is an IB school. So it's hard to compare to the California Core curriculum as IB teaches things in a different way and sometimes a different order.
I have a son at the Academy and he is very happy there. We have been very pleased with his education. My son is adamant that he wants to stay at The Academy through 8th grade. From my experience these are the pros and cons:
1) The school is small and the kids in my son's class are very close friends. Also, the parents also get along very well. It's a tight-kinit community. Of course, the small class size could backfire if your child does not click with the other kids.
2) There is a lot of diversity at the school. My son's class is small, but the student's are ethnically diverse. There could be more diversity with the teachers.
3) The curriculum is 1 year ahead. This has been great for my son, but I know that some kids struggle. If your child isn't at this level going into the school, I wouldn't recommend it. No reason to make him/her struggle.
4) They have excellent special teachers. K-5 kids have French, Science, Music, PE and Art. Older kids also are taught Latin. Overall we have been very impressed with the special teachers. Although my son feels the music teacher (although she is very talented) could make the class a little more fun. It's a little too serious for him and I wish she would make this class a little more enjoyable to meet the needs of all the kids.
5) Catherine, who handles the afterschool care is wonderful. She is a very sweet person and has an amazing connection with the kids. She knows them all very well. The negative is that the playground is small and there aren't any organized sport teams. They do offer some fun afterschool classes though.
7) My son's biggest negative about the school is that he feels that the playground is too small.
Before choosing the Academy, I visited Prospect Sierra, Crowden and Saklan. They all seemed like very nice schools. My son is the one who ultimately chose the Academy. He spent a day visiting the different schools and felt he just fit with the class at the Academy. It was the right choice for him.
I have been a teacher for over 30 year, my daughter is going to be a senior in BHS. I visited so many school before she started Kinder. I decided for one of the private schools that you mentioned in your email because the high academics. In second grade I moved to EBI because I was unhappy in the importance that the school gave to emotional program and also because the Spanish program was really bad. I also love the IB program at EBI. As a teacher I believed every child is different and you need to look at the personality and necessities or you child first and what school will be better fit.
If you apply to Head Royce, be sure to get the name right in all of your correspondence with them. It's *Head* Royce, not "Heads.*
We toured EBI and the Academy.
For us the Academy was it! The school embodies the values we hold dear – encouraging curiosity encouraging hard work and grit, that learning is fun and independent thinking is a life skill , as is finding solutions through creative and iterative problem solving. The school community believes that children are capable of a lot and that being challenged appropriately is the way to grow and therefore the way to go. Teaching tends to be Socratic- Kids are taught to wonder, question, experiment and figure things out all the while building on the knowledge they have. Education is revered and there is a culture of respect.
The Academy is not for everyone- if you don’t really believe that it’s approach is right for you and your child, I would guess that it would be a hard road (though you might come to believe in it). The school work is rigorous but each child is engaged and challenged at the level they are at- there is no judgment by the school of kids rather encouragement and high but appropriate expectations of what they can achieve albeit through hard work. Our daughter really benefits from the small, intimate and therefore safe environment of a school community that shares and reinforces the same values we have.
After care at the Academy is an extension of the educational philosophy where are you will have to try new things work hard play hard learn and grow. There are enrichment classes which are fun and enjoyable but are limited enrollment and are not as elaborate as at other schools. The kids have fun, learn to adapt and manage in a larger group and also do homework together.
Hope this helps
We are an EBI family and will be starting our 6th year this Fall. Our household is bilingual English/Spanish, so I cannot personally speak to the trilingual aspects, but I can share that we know many families that speak a 3rd language at home. If you reach out to EBI directly, they may be able to connect you with one of those families.
Pros about EBI are their:
Ultimately, we chose EBI based on our experience there - as we began in preschool. When it came time to evaluate staying or leaving for Kindergarten, I was more than satisfied that the IB curriculum does provide the rigorous academic environment I expect when sending my children to an independent school. Regarding how we addressed the Cons, we ultimately considered the Pros significant and important enough for our family to deal with those Cons. As for the two kids on two campuses, we're not the only ones, so we've been able to coordinate with other families in similar boats to do shared pickups where the families meet at one campus after the picking up at the other, so at least most afternoons you do not have to figure out two campus pickups.
When it comes to academic rigor, we don’t have direct experience with other schools as both of our children have only attended The Academy, where we’ve been extremely happy. I recall when touring other schools, though, that they made claims that they also teach a year ahead. A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, became dissatisfied with her son's math curriculum. Out of curiosity, she asked for me to collect some math worksheets and tests, so that she could compare what our children (in the same grade) were learning. I provided her with samples throughout the year and she acknowledged that The Academy was true to its word. I can also tell you that I’ve been told by parents whose children come from other schools (even during the early years of elementary school), who tell me that it took time for their child to “catch up” to the students at The Academy, so I assume it is true beyond just the math curriculum. As far as the aftercare/enrichment programs, I can't speak to those, because we don't really use them. Hope this helps!
I am writing to say thank you for all these comments! I've learned a lot - starting with minor items, like getting a school's name spelled right (Head Royce!), to bigger items, such as considering pick up from two campuses, or getting used to a small playground. And it hand't occurred to me to ask for math worksheets to get a better sense of math levels - what a great idea (though of course schools teach math in different sequences.) I also liked the idea that not all schools are good fits for all families - good to know (from the academy parents) - that the focus on academics and one year advancement might not be for everyone. Thank you again for all these comments, and especially mentioning the trade-offs. The positives of each school are well-advertised, by the schools themselves and by happy parents, but as we are lucky enough to live an area with many great schools, it's great to be able to anticipate the negatives too. Thank you again! And of course the more responses the better, as I imagine many parents are also trying to compare schools, as choosing a school is a big commitment of time and money.
We were in quite a similar situation you are in, and looked at all the schools you have been looking at as well. Our son was brought up with three languages, and learned a fourth language while living for a year in France. After looking at all the pros and cons of the various schools, we chose to send our son to the Academy and could not be happier. In the end we decided that given that our son was already quite advanced with languages, we would focus on other aspects, such as academics and overall environment of the school.
One major advantage of the Academy is the small class sizes, with at most 12 kids per class in elementary school and at most 15 in middle school As they state, they do teach one year ahead, but I don't think any of the kids in our sons class are struggling. We are very impressed with what our son has learned during his first year in Kindergarten. Another thing that was quite important to us was that our son did not get a feeling of being privileged by going to a private school. At the Academy, the socioeconomic status of the parents is not something that stands out at all. Furthermore, they teach the value of enjoying to learn, rather than the value of learning to get ahead in life, if this makes any sense.
I should also mention that the after school program has been great so far, and as others have mentioned, Catherine is absolutely wonderful. But on top of that kids can sign up for extra classes such as coding, lego, chess, soccer, arts, piano. It is true that the yard is a little small, but the activities make up for it.
Hi there. Looks like you got great feedback from everyone. I have two children at EBI. We speak a different language at home. Both kids have kept up with our native language at home while learning Spanish and English at school. I think for families who want to get their kids to maintain their own language, having exposure to a new language other than English is a huge help. It makes the kids realize that English is not the only other language and they won’t be shy to speak their native language. EBI staff and teachers have been very supportive for our family in our effort to keep our kids immersed in their native language at home. Even though we do not speak Spanish, the kids are thriving in both English and Spanish at school. On top of it all, we love the international/global perspective of the IB curriculum.
We had our child at The Academy, and we were not happy with our experience. Academically, it was fine. Socially/emotionally, it was not. The class sizes are really small, so just consider the impact on your child of having a very limited number of children to be friends with and what happens to your child if they are on the outside. There aren't other options for them. The kids in my child's class had an "I Hate (Kid's Name) Club," and while the teachers always said everything was fine in class, for our student they really weren't. After therapy for our kid and switching schools, we are having a much more successful experience with school. Primary school is about more than just learning academics; there is a lot of social and emotional growth that needs to be tended to also, and The Academy's strict focus on academics doesn't make room for that. Indeed, I got the feeling that many parents at the school were happy that the school didn't "waste" time on things other than the traditional European-style academics. That said, Catherine, who runs the after school program, is great.
I held off on responding to this for some weeks, as what I am about to post is not what you asked; nevertheless, I think these are important considerations as you look into schools for your children. As background: our (yes, gifted) 19 year old attended public schools K-12, and is now, like hundreds of their classmates, attending a highly competitive university, for which they were completely prepared and where they are thriving. (Schools including UCLA, UCB, all the other UCs, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Harvard, etc.)
1. Since you didn't mention any issues with your public school district, only that your children would "thrive in a rigorous academic environment" and that you can likely afford private school for them, I gather that you assume private school is intrinsically better than public school. Please consider this assumption carefully; public school teachers, in general, are a wonderfully talented and passionate group, and there is so much value in attending public schools and investing in your community.
2. Please don't assume that curriculum which is a year ahead of CA public schools is a desirable thing, or will give them a leg up; as it stands, where we spent Kindergarten learning colors, the alphabet, counting, and how to sit still, children are now taught to read, write sentences, and perform mathematics. This is not a good thing; it's developmentally inappropriate, can make even a gifted child feel unsuccessful; it can choke off their intrinsic love of learning for good.
3. Please consider how much money you could save for college by sending them to public school instead. Please think of how much good donating just a small portion of that cost could do donated to a school's PTA.
Thank you for considering these ideas along with the others.
We too removed our child from The Academy due to lack of a solid Social/Emotional Curriculum. The focus of this school is to "teach" the kids a year ahead and issue TONS of homework (work sheets copied from text books). There is no comprehensive Literacy/Language Arts program like other private schools and they use Saxon Math starting Grade 2. The Science Program is great but they've had 3-4 new science teachers the past 4-5 yrs. If you're an overzealous parent, this is school for you. Yes, class sizes are small but the amount of incomplete worksheets sent home at the end week was unacceptable. Based on class size alone, you'd think the students would have ample time AND SUPPORT to complete in-class assignments. NOT!! The school is very cute, charming and the after school teacher, Catherine, is very sweet but she needs help managing the kids and all of the social issues they encounter on the playground. Overall enrichment and resources are NOT on same level as other private schools.