Big Minds Unschool


Private School
operated by Dr. Melanie Hayes
32 students
Email: bigmindsunschool [at]
1937 San Pablo Avenue Pinole, CA 94564

School for twice exceptional children grades 1-8.

Parent Reviews

Parents, Sign in to post a review on this page.

Have you heard about Big Minds? it is a very small private school in Pinole- north of Berkeley on the I-80 that serves kids who sound like your son: very smart, energetic children who do not do well in "regular schools". Big minds operates on an unschool model- there are no classes a student must attend but rather a more fluid schedule in which teachers support students' natural curiosity and help them become successful self directed learners. The social emotional development is supported by staff and peers along with the academic needs, so students who need quiet time are able to sit by themselves for parts of the day, those who have trouble communicating or calming down are supported rather than punished. Check out 

My 2e son has been going to Big Minds for 2 1/2 years and it has been working really well for him and for our family. He continues to grow and amaze me.

I would say that the hardest thing to get used to is the unschooling, self-directed model of the school. Many parents jump ship early because of it’s unconventional style, which I totally get. At the same time, our family is a little more balanced knowing that our son is thriving in his school environment.

The teacher retention is excellent - my son has had the same core group of teachers his entire time at Big Minds. Some of the teachers are sensitive and creative, some can hold long conversations with him on whatever intellectual pursuits he is thirsting for, such as history and philosophy, and some are knowledgeable in tech and the sciences and have tons of fun experiments up their sleeves.They all get where he is challenged and where his strengths are and help him work with all of that.

Most importantly, they work on the social-emotional piece. They help the students understand themselves, their sensitivities, perfectionism, and intensities in a way that is unique to 2e kids. This is the part I am most grateful for. I feel that, no matter where he goes in his life, having this deep understanding of himself will be something he can rely on again and again.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2015

After years of struggling to help my very gifted/LD daughter finding Big Minds (Dr. Melanie Hayes)was truly a life saver.After countless IEP meeting, Multiple Doctors visits: Therapist, Psychiatrist,Naturopathic ,Acupuncture,Occupational Therapy, multiple assessments (including the Diagnostic center)Educational therapist,Home/hospital teachers, Prozac and Zoloft.I also looked at a dozen schools through out the Bay all of which focused on ''treating'' my child's disabilities/ emotional issues but had nothing to support her giftedness.At Big Minds her teacher Melanie's approach was the complete opposite. She focused on teaching my daughter through her interest, emotionally connected with her, made her feel safe to express her anxiety and fears.She has inspired her and continues to help her set goals for the future. Her last Assessment revealed huge gains in reading and spelling ( her main areas of struggle) She also has a lovely group of friends ( she had no friends for years!) and I have amazing support from Melanie as well as the community of parents at Big minds. This loving understanding care has completely turned our lives around giving the whole family back our sanity. No need for Zoloft around here. Big Minds