middle school: Julia Morgan, Redwood Day, Head Royce

Hello we are in the process of searching for a middle school for our daughter and considering Head Royce, Redwood Day, and Julia Morgan.  Can anyone give their feedback, positive or negative.  For Head Royce and Redwood Day would specifically help to hear from families who joined in middle school, and if there was any difficulty integrating into the community or academics, as I know many children will have been there since kindergarten.  We have a smart, quirky kid, loves school and super intellectually curious, though does not have good executive function so I do worry about taking on the workload of middle school with a lot more homework, so that will be an adjustment.  She also doesn't have the best social skills, so I'm hoping for a kind, inclusive community.  She loves friends once she makes them (usually does better with bookworm type friends like herself) but she's definitely not going to be the queen bee.  Would love any input on academics, culture, and anything else.

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Our child, now in 9th grade, went to Redwood Day from 6th - 8th. They are on the introverted end of the spectrum, but made multiple good friends over the years and felt they were readily and easily welcomed in 6th grade by kids who had been there for many years. Since the typical cohort of kids in any grade is around 40, the returning 5th grade kids who start 6th are *eager* to have fresh faces and expand their community (the new students, for my child's 6th grade year, totaled 24). Yes, there is more school work and homework than what our child had in (our local, public) elementary school for 5th grade, BUT the RD teachers/staff are phenomonal about teaching students how to plan, how to parcel out their studies, how to use a calendar, how to use study guides, etc. They give them these "ladders" to achieve success! As a result, our kid was set up very well for 9th grade. (Oh, and did you know that RD has a staff member who helps guide 8th graders and their parents through the process of looking at and applying for (when appropriate) high schools? His role is like a college counselor and his knowledge, guidance and wisdom was invaluable. Plus he's a(nother) great human being at RD--there are so many!

Students at RD are put into advisories at the beginning of 6th grade. They stay w/ their advisor throughout MS. They meet at the start (and end?) of each day. They participate in challenges throughout the year (like House Cup challenges in Harry Potter) and get to know one another very well. If your kid is lucky enough to get Ms. Stoler (a history teacher), you and they may be singing her praises regularly, as I still do. She was one of many fantastic, dedicated, responsive teachers. I can only think of two teachers, during the entire 3 years, who rated a "meh". 

Other than the pricetag and commute (at least for us), I have only very positive things to say about RD. They are super communicative, thorough and clear (especially the head of school, John Loeser). They are amazingly inclusive, respectful, and are champions for (and weave throughout the various curriculums) social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. Your child will receive a really well-rounded, age-appropriate and life-appropriate education (eg internet safety, sexual health, etc). 

Good luck in this process and decision!

Signed, a lifelong fan of RD 

We have a 6th grader at Julia Morgan and have been extremely happy thus far. Our daughter is sweet, kind, but a bit reserved and lacks confidence both academically and socially. She also works hard but struggles with executive functioning skills. JMSG has been a fantastic fit for her. The community, in our experience, has been incredibly inclusive, warm, and supportive. She has gotten to know literally all the girls in her grade (they shake up the cohorts each trimester) and from what we've observed, it's been very un-cliquey (i.e., they have a group text thread going that literally involves all 6th graders, she seems to eat lunch with different groups frequently). The school does a lot to help with the executive functioning transition -- they have a weekly Workflow class where they actively teach organization / homework management techniques, and all students are given a planner which teachers then reinforce logging assignments in. There's a huge push for the girls to try new things -- my usually shy child has done chorus, improv, and multiple sports so far this year -- and she's bonded more with classmates given those extracurriculars. There are a lot of quirky kids who seem to find a warm and welcoming home there. And finally, I think we underappreciated the value of JMSG being just a middle school before we started: Everyone's coming in new, the teachers/faculty are steeped in research about middle school girls and how to best reach them, and there are no younger or older-kid dynamics to navigate. Wishing your family the best in making the right choice!

Regarding Julia Morgan: My daughter attended for all of middle school. It was overall a very negative experience for her. Despite what the administration says about managing bullying and mean-girl behavior, it is alive and well at JMSG (don't be mistaken about this). 

Additionally, their emphasis on "growth mindset" and being cheerful and positive at all times feels out of sync with middle school. It is a great idea that is pounded home to the point that it became a joke in our household. If my daughter expressed anything other than enthusiasm for her classes, her "growth mindset" was in question.

There are a few exceptional teachers at JMSG, without a doubt.  I think the academics were fine (not as fine as described, however). Overall, unless your daughter wants a small, somewhat cloying, and idealistic environment, I would consider looking elsewhere. I was very enthusiastic when we visited JMSG and applied. It turned out to be quite different than expected.