School alternatives for 20-21 academic year?

Due to a variety of reasons I won't get into here, I have lost all faith in BUSD being able to provide any manageable school solution for my elementary school kids. There are some spectacular teachers doing a good job, but I've learned that when we don't get one of those, it's a total mess. As a result, I'm trying to find a sustainable solution for our family for the next academic year. I am willing to consider a range of options from private school to supplemental online instruction or tutoring to some sort of paid, in-person small group day camps that meet the COVID requirements to any other ideas out there.

My primary goals are to keep my kids occupied and engaged in something - anything - during the school year so that my spouse and I can work during the day. We are not looking to fill 8 hrs per day -- our kids are pretty independent and can keep themselves occupied. Rather we are looking for 1-3 hrs per day to provide some sort of structure to the endless days at home. Right now we're either dealing with crying and giving up on school work because there is no instruction, or we are peppered with questions all day long because there is no teacher available to ask for help. I don't care if my kids "fall behind" in the traditional subjects as long as they're occupied with something interesting and somewhat educational that doesn't cause continuous strife in my house. 

What is working is the project based "independent" experimentation type stuff. For example, my kids built a marble run out of cardboard & are expanding it into a very basic Rube Goldberg machine with dominos - this has consumed many many hours over a couple of weeks. My kids have also taken very engaging online lessons with outside organizations that they enjoy and where actual instruction happens and where they get feedback on their efforts. In an ideal world, we would find one organization / school / person / etc. who would put together these types of opportunities that are functional for working parents and provide regular daily engagement, teaching and feedback for our kids either in-person or on a videoconference. This could be a support for what BUSD sends out (and we would keep our kids enrolled), or it could be completely independent (and we would pull our kids out). Any recommendations?

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You might want to check out Berkwood Hedge School ( in downtown Berkeley. The school excels in project based learning and that seems like a good fit for what has been working for your kids. I have two kids there, an older child and and younger child who have enjoyed the abundant SIP distance learning that honestly pale in comparison to the rich curriculum offered in person. Right now my kids have a combination of 1 on 1 feedback meetings with their teachers, small group working meetings and live art, music, PE and dance class. The school already has a plan for what will happen in the fall. It is a small school that can be responsive to changing situations. Good luck!

Hello fellow Parent,  Just today I was researching homeschool and independent study alternatives to placing my 10 yr old back in to public school.  Surprisingly, becoming a homeschool "teacher" to my child was not as difficult as I imagined. Rough at first but, once we got into a groove, it went well. Most importantly, I noticed that my ADHD child was actually was making greater progress with me at home than during her attendance at the school. A few of the reasons being, at home she had little to no physical distractions, no social emotional issues (academic level comparisons/ anxiety about who "likes" her..etc), and we had a schedule that was flexible. I decided to pursue the possibility of homeschooling my daughter through the next year (and beyond). However, I am uncertain how to continue without having to "work" nearly full time myself. I've been contemplating a variety of possibilities and one I would consider is to be a "Nanny" or "In-Home Parent's Helper". I've been a parent for 10 years. I have 4 years experience as a Personal Assistant which included Shopping, Cooking and Childcare, I have 5 years experience as Building Maintenance & Resident Manager, 20 yrs experience as a Bookkeeper. I have been a creative artist all my life and I have a plethora of other skills as well. I also have a college degree in Film Production. I have a lot more to offer a family than the average Nanny. Upon reading your post I thought that together we could figure out a way to support each other. I'm not seeking an income, only collaboration. Taking care of children is easier to do as a "tribe". If interested...please let me know. I live in North Berkeley on Josephine Street. 

Please take a look at Aurora School, where we have a current 4th grader. Aurora is a progressive K-5 in Upper Rockridge, and although (pre-COVID) we had a little commute coming from Berkeley, it was always well worth it! The school is small and full of caring and thoughtful teachers, and they have a strong emphasis on socioemotional learning. In addition, they have adapted pretty brilliantly to all the changes wrought by the pandemic. Currently the teachers are offering academic classes via Zoom from 9am-noon, with specialist classes (art, music, Spanish, PE) in the afternoons. Families all differ, but my own child is pretty self-sufficient during school time, and my husband and I are both able to work without much interruption. Aurora is planning for on-site school in the fall, with many contingency plans in place (including the ability to switch to all-remote learning if need be). There are a few families asking for an all-remote experience in the fall, and the school is preparing to offer that as well.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Good luck in your search!

 Hi there!  You mentioned that your kids have enjoyed doing "project based/experimentation" activities...I highly recommend looking into Crestmont School in the Richmond Hills.  It's a small private school and their program emphasizes the type of project-based learning that you mentioned. 

My son currently attends Crestmont and the school is offering parents the option to have kids learn "in house" in small groups or participate in a distance learning program.  Best of luck to you.

I can understand the desire to find the richest learning opportunities possible.  Although I am a stay-at-home mom, I considered evaluating private schools as well based on their covid-19 game plan.  However, unless a vaccine is out of reach for several years, switching the school environment now means at least one more transition in the very near future if private school is not part of the long term plan.  I think I'm going to bet on this being a 1 year disruption.  For working folks with solid careers, this may be the time to take a leave of absence.  For folks like me:  no more pet projects, no unrelated volunteering for a year so that I can focus on the needs of the children.  For the youngest lower elementary kids, homeschooling is actually fairly easy and fun.  I did it for 1 year for the 1st grade level and our child was at the equivalent of first grade completion by February.  We took weekday trips to the beach.  With dad's help, we built a duck run and incubated duck eggs.  This then 6 year old helped me rent a van and load 30+ pieces of 8 foot long PVC at Home Depot.  She took a weekly in-person homeschooling class in her favorite subject with a rock-star teacher.  I cannot overstate that new school transitions are hard for the kids and stressful for the parents.  Staying at home is not a curse if your work situation allows an LOA.  Some families just pack up for another country so that the adults can decompress while the kids get the experience of a lifetime.  As kids get older, their social circles get bigger and are also a bigger part of their lives... that's a whole different and possibly more explosive scenario.