Which private school for active, tactile kid?

My son is 4 years old; will be 5 in January. We're looking at where he should go to school for kindergarten and beyond, but ... the options are a little intimidating. So many great places in the East Bay - I'd love to hear personal recommendations if possible. We're looking for a private school in the east bay; Berkeley/Alameda/Oakland/Albany/Emeryville/El Cerrito? We don't live in a great public school district. About my son... he's a very exuberant and extroverted kid! He's very hungry for knowledge, and can already read but he has a lot of trouble sitting still and being quiet. He's drawn to sports and music, and shows some real natural aptitude there. He likes to get his hands on things and definitely learns by doing; he wants to touch and explore and be outside as much as he can. He loves books and will make up songs and stories. He is fascinated with technology and would spend hours on our phones if he wasn't forbidden to use them. Still, doesn't stop him from asking. He doesn't have a tablet or device of his own, although his dad and I work in gaming and tech so that's a big part of our lives. I want somewhere he won't be chained to a desk; where he'll be able to fidget and touch and learn. Somewhere that can develop his love for music; his dad and I are not musical but come from a family of music and theater people. He's a quick study with languages and went to a Spanish speaking daycare until he started preschool. I'd love him to have a focus on foreign language; I grew up in bay area public school and didn't learn Spanish until I was a teenager which I feel was a huge loss. Not sure what else will be helpful to add; I'd love to hear real personal experiences from  people, especially if what I've said about my son resonates with your own childrens' experiences. Thank you.

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Please check out Walden center &school in berkeley! It is an arts school, beautiful small campus, a lot of project based learning. Both my kids went there and are excelling in high school. Very strong in art and dance/movement/acting! 

My 5-year-old is finishing up her second year at Wildcat Canyon Community School in El Sobrante (formerly East Bay Waldorf) and we couldn't be happier. We attended preschool for part of the 2019-2020 school year (until the world shut down) and were back for kindergarten this year, so I feel like we can speak to the early childhood experience.

First things first: the program is still Waldorf-inspired and so there are no formal academics in kindergarten (and based on your child's birthday, they would likely start in kinder this fall and stay there for 2 years; the kinder program includes kids from ages 4.5 through 6.5 and most kids do two years). The kindergarten curriculum includes singing, dancing, painting, drawing, lots of physical activity, and chores (the children chop vegetables, knead bread dough, sweep their classroom, etc.) They learn handicrafts (sewing, "finger-knitting") and in the latter half of the year they've been doing some woodworking. They also celebrate lots of festivals from all around the world.

This year, the children spent almost all their time outside. The school abuts Wildcat Canyon and has over 90 acres of land of its own, so there are lots of places to play! Our daughter comes home muddy most days and happy all the time.

Happy to talk more if this sounds like it might be a good fit. Feel free to PM me.

I highly recommend looking at Escuela Bilingue Internacional. It fits a lot of what you’re looking for. It’s Spanish immersion, but the kids also start Mandarin in the 3rd grade. This is what initially attracted us - our son also went to a Spanish language preschool and we wanted to continue. The IB curriculum is also student led, hands on and inquiry/project based. I’ve found it to be very engaging for my high energy, curious boy. They do have a wonderful music teacher and program during the school day as well. After-school my son has also tried both piano & guitar lessons as optional add ones in the aftercare program. Importantly for us, we’re also found the overall community to be wonderful - very welcoming and down to earth.  I definitely hear you on how overwhelming the school process can be. When we were looking at K we were living in SF and looked at many public, private & charter school options both there and in the East Bay. Talking to parents definitely helped - you’ll find a great fit!

One more option to add to your list is TRIS (The Renaissance International School), whose Elementary campus is on Park Boulevard on the Oakland/Piedmont border. The music program is top-notch (both vocals and instrumental) and thanks to its immersive trilingual curriculum, your child would be able to continue with Spanish while also adding French. At the Elementary level, there is at least one Spanish-speaking teacher, an English-speaking teacher, and a French-speaking teacher in each classroom. As a Montessori school, it's good for kids who need to wiggle and can't sit at a desk all day, since the kids are able to move around and have more freedom in terms of the work they decide to do. The school community is also very close-knit and not pretentious. The very small outdoor space is the one downside from our perspective, but otherwise it seems like it might be a good fit for your family. 

Our precocious, high energy, and extroverted child is thriving at Aurora School which allows our kid to fidget and have a lot of movement throughout the day. Before we even brought up the subject, our teacher proactively reached out about offering fidgets to our child during class. We are very happy that the child gets a lot of outdoor time, hands-on/inquiry-based learning, woodworking, music, and STEM. The social emotional curriculum is excellent and we feel that our child is intellectually challenged, encouraged to develop athleticism, and is learning to be a kind and empathetic person, while simply having fun at school. The new PE teacher is incredible and kids love her. The community is truly kind, caring and committed to diversity and inclusion. The school offers Spanish and music. Kids write and perform the work (play, poetry, etc.)  Our child is currently building an airplane in STEM and a birdhouse in woodworking. Language is not Aurora's focus, although they do offer Spanish. The Spanish teacher is also the music teacher, and he is wonderful.

EBI would be my recommendation, if bilingualism is your primary focus. We have friends at EBI who are very happy there. We applied to EBI and really liked their IB curriculum and diversity. We chose Aurora, as we're already bilingual (not Spanish) and did not feel the need to add another language and we really wanted our child to be at a school with trees and nature. EBI campus is not its strength. Park Day and Aurora came really close and in the end, we chose Aurora based on how warm and welcoming the community felt and the small size. However, we think we would have been happy at any of the three finalist schools for us (Park Day, EBI, and Aurora) and I think you should check out these three schools. Good luck!


I would highly recommend checking out Crestmont School.  It's a wonderful, inclusive, nurturing environment.  It really focuses on the whole child and especially in the younger grades Social/Emotional Learning.  The social/emotional learning is built into the curriculum and really the school as a whole.  Crestmont also manages to have strong academics in addition to all the other.  There's music, spanish, science, and PE every week.  We've been happy there for years (from kinder to 5th grade) and are only leaving because of a move.  It's a great school with a caring staff and a true sense of community.


Park Day is a terrific school.  Our daughters are now 11 and 8. They have different needs and aptitudes. Park Day has been a fantastic match for both of them.  If you're looking for a school that will tend to the whole person, help cultivate a life-long love of learning, build your child's resilience and model kindness and compassion, you really couldn't ask for better.  Plus, terrific hands-on learning opportunities, design-focused modules and lots of outdoor space.  Spanish classes are part of the mix from very early on, but needless to say, if you're really wanting to prioritize the learning of a second language above all else, an immersion school is the only place where that can truly happen.  Nothing beats being forced to speak another language 5 or 6 hours a day.  Hope that helps. Good luck with your search.