Deciding Which Private School

Parent Q&A

Private school w/great COVID safety orinda to Concord Dec 13, 2021 (3 responses below)
Independent middle school for dyslexic kid? Sep 23, 2021 (1 responses below)
Bentley vs Head Royce vs the Athenian Mar 9, 2021 (1 responses below)
Private school for social anxiety/but still academic Dec 14, 2020 (6 responses below)
Private elementary school for quirky kid Nov 23, 2020 (7 responses below)
Private elementary school with Spanish classes Jul 2, 2020 (4 responses below)
Why did you leave your private East Bay elementary school? Jun 5, 2020 (1 responses below)
How are private elementary schools preparing for AY 20-21? May 23, 2020 (3 responses below)
Private school under 10K a year? Homeschool? May 1, 2020 (7 responses below)
Private school with social support Mar 11, 2020 (2 responses below)
Aurora or Park Day? Mar 8, 2020 (4 responses below)
Private K-8 Recommendations-Oakland/Berkeley, loving environment Nov 7, 2019 (10 responses below)
Comparing great schools: EB, EBI, Academy, Heads Royce, Bentley Aug 6, 2019 (13 responses below)
Private school close to Hercules for k and 2nd grader Dec 9, 2018 (6 responses below)
Best Private Schools around UC Berkeley? Apr 28, 2018 (18 responses below)
K-8 or k-12 private school recommendations Mar 7, 2018 (3 responses below)
Private Schools in Walnut Creek/Lafayette area? Jan 30, 2018 (1 responses below)
Advice for Head Royce, Bentley and Redwood Day Elementary Please Jan 15, 2018 (5 responses below)
Which private school for high energy boys? Dec 9, 2017 (5 responses below)
Progressive Elementary School for Oakland kindergartener Nov 30, 2017 (4 responses below)
Kindergarten with serious outdoor time/space? Nov 1, 2017 (11 responses below)
Struggling to decide on which private elementary school Mar 20, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • Hi. We are getting ready to move from virtual to in-person and would love to find a private school that has and is planning to continue to have great covid safety measures. For example, an air filtering system, frequent testing, low rates of covid among the students. Geographically between anywhere between Orinda and Concord. We are willing to drive out for the right place. Thank you! 

    Hi there- we left our Oakland public school last year and enrolled our 2nd grader at Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek.  They have been in person since October 2020.  It's been a great experience and we appreciate their COVID protocols.  They have been testing weekly (PCR).  But it sounds like some of that may be relaxed in the new year.

    Aurora School in Oakland, right near Orinda is a great option. So far No COVID cases since the pandemic hit. Weekly testing of students and staff. Good ventilation. Classrooms have lots of open windows, air filters, and fans. Everyone wears masks. Great school!

    Our student currently attends Orinda Academy. It’s a wonderful community and the administration has been attentive to the health of the OA community and CDC recommendations during COVID. Some of the protocols for on-campus instruction have been: all students and staff wear masks; everyone washes their hands at outdoor handwashing stations before entering the school; each student answers questions for a daily health screening upon arrival; every room has an air purifier and the school has an updated ventilation system.

  • Our 10-year-old son is currently in 5th grade at Aurora. He is dyslexic, and we are looking for a middle school that will provide a larger pool of kids and still offer learning support for him. We will look at Raskob, but it's so small (like 15-20 kids per grade) that we're concerned he won't have the same social and athletic opportunities that he might have at a larger school. Does anyone know of other independent schools that offer a balance of these two components? Thanks!

    Park Day School is a great option. My son has been there since fourth grade and is absolutely thriving! They have strong support for learning differences and the middle school is larger than the 15-20 students per grade you mentioned (we have about 40in sixth grade this year). I would highly recommend checking it out!

  • Our child will be entering 7th grade this fall and is currently at another private school. 

    Their current school used to be well known for great academics. But after the head of school changed, the focus has mainly shifted to socio-emotional learning for the past 2 years. This came at the expense of academics and now, during the pandemic, has gotten even worse. As parents we don’t see the point of paying that much money for tuition, if the academics don’t  even reach California state standards.

    For their next school, we would hope to find a school with: great academics, a welcoming community and a stable administration.

    Does anyone have any recent experiences with above mentioned schools? TIA!

    My son is a current senior at Athenian, and he started there in 6th grade. He was accepted at all 3 schools that you listed, and chose Athenian. When reflecting, he recently said, “the middle school experience at Athenian cannot be beat. They just make it too good to pass up.”  In my words, I would say that if you are attracted to their experiential Ed focus, then it really shines in the middle school. They are committed to it and they do it incredibly well- no lip service. The upper school is more traditional, although they have all the same enrichment opportunities that the other private schools have. Athenian has done an amazing job during the pandemic, FWIW. Good luck in your decision. There are no bad options!

  • Anyone recommend a private school close to Berkeley for a third grader who has some social anxiety? I've looked at nearby private schools, but it's hard to tell what they're like until you're in--they all seem nice, but a few I've heard are a bit light on feedback about academic progress. If we're springing for private school (not an easy financial choice for us,) I'd want it to be warm/welcoming and have real academics--not too "fluffy." I also don't want to have to drive too far from Berkeley. Of course we're also late to the touring/application game--both in terms of grade level and the time of year (winter 2020.) And then covid makes it more complicated. If you have recommendations for schools far from Berkeley, that would be great too! We are always talking about moving. Thanks!!!

    We are in our first year at Prospect Sierra with our child who has diagnosed anxiety (manifesting in many ways including social interactions), and it has been great all around, including from social-emotional perspective. They started not at a natural entry grade (I don't want to give too many details and embarrass them) but we have found the teachers and other families to be very welcoming. Academics seem good (solid for most subjects, especially writing/English)  and no doubt will be better when we are on campus in person more in 2021. I think you have time to get in an application on the normal schedule, and we are very happy with PS and feel like it's worth the (expensive) tuition.

    I would recommend Montessori Family School - they provide an emotionally safe and loving environment for students. Academically, MFS has given my daughter the skills to be thriving in high school. It's a wonderful and warm community.
    Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

    If you are looking for a strong academic environment that is supportive look no further than The Academy. This is a small school which emphasizes academic rigor through developing and nurturing curiosity and by challenging  children intellectually through developmentally appropriate, thoughtfully constructed and individualized curricula. This school equips children to be independent and creative thinkers. All this in a supportive environment that makes learning joyful. My daughter LOVES being at this school.  She will enter 3rd grade next year. My daughter can also be socially anxious. However, her outstanding, intelligent (emotionally and intellectually) teachers take the time to know her well and encourage her and challenge her in a way that builds confidence while expecting all that they believe she can do (which is a lot). The school emphasizes mutual respect and community responsibility as a way of being by doing.  No fluff here! Just a warm school that emphasizes being serious about the joy of learning. 

  • Private elementary school for quirky kid

    (7 replies)


    My 5y old is heading to K next year and I am in need of advice on a small size (private) school that has experience with quirky kiddos, that like to do everything on their own pace. My son is still too much interested in playing then on the academics, but seems to be more interested in this if the teacher works more one on one with him. Any leads, advice for a school in the Berkeley/Kensington/El Cerrito area are more than welcome! Thank you. 

    My daughter is in her second year at Golestan (El Cerrito) and loves it. The classes are a combination of grades (K/1, etc) with two teachers each and the kids get a lot of individual attention. In my experience the classes are very accommodating of different levels of maturity and academic readiness. The school is amazing in so many ways. It is very focused on the outdoors (and in fact has been operating in-person this school year thanks to a robust safety policy and mostly-outdoor classrooms), has an on-site chef who feeds the kids delicious, wholesome lunch and snacks daily, and has PE, gardening and art as well as reading, math, etc. Golestan is an outgrowth of a Farsi-immersion preschool and the primary school kids have been learning Farsi, Hebrew and (until this year) Arabic. We have no background in any of these languages but are impressed with our daughter's absorption of the vocabulary. Also, the environment is incredibly loving and supportive with an active (and increasingly very local) parent community. Please message me if you would like to discuss. Good luck!

    You might want to look at Crestmont School. The teachers are good with many types of learners and work hard to be engaging. The class sizes are also small which helps a lot. They also really value each child's individual perspective and have a learning specialist on staff. It is in the Richmond hills, but a quick trip on the Arlington.

    You might want consider whether sensory/language processing issues, anxiety, or ADHD might be at play. That is how my daughter was at that age and learning differences have emerged since then. She is highly intelligent, sensitive, and always trying to be "good," which masked her symptoms for a long time.

    We have a quirky 11 year old who is now at Crestmont School after a harrowing experience at a few other schools that didn't know how to work with kids like ours.  It is great that you are already noticing that your child is a little outside the "norm" - we went to a private school for K that sold us on all their special programs, their beautiful campus and their ability to differentiate learning and meet each child where they are at. But the reality was that they were a hyper academic school where quirky, energetic, spirited and creative kids needed to conform to their model. Knowing at the outset that your child is going to do it their own way is going to save you a lot of heartache later!  :).  We've been happy at Crestmont School because it is a very intimate learning environment and the classes are so small that each teacher really can get to know your child and what makes them tick.  It is a co-op which I thought I would hate because I don't have time to volunteer a lot, but in fact, I love it.  The community is so welcoming and you get full transparency with what is going on at the school at all times.  The head of school is a deeply intuitive, creative person with a very reassuring and calm presence.   I have met so many quirky kids at Crestmont - because of the low key vibe of the school, coupled with the small classes, kids have more space to grow, experiment and move at their own pace.  Definitely worth checking out!  Good luck!

  • Hello,

    I am looking for a private elementary school (not Spanish Immersion) which offers Spanish classes for all grades, including kindergarten. 

    Please let me know if you have any recommendations.

    Thank you,


    Our daughter just finished first grade at St. Paul's.  Their curriculum includes Spanish at all grade levels.  You can learn more about the curriculum here -

    Walden Center & School in Central Berkeley has Spanish class for all grades, K-6. 

    The Berkeley School offers an excellent Spanish program for K-8 students. We’ve been very pleased with our elementary and middle school experience and appreciate how Spanish language learning is tied to cultural studies in Spanish-speaking countries. Our child has enjoyed cooking projects, Día de los Muertos education and activities, conversation in Spanish, and reading novels in Spanish.

    Our child asked for and received some Spanish projects to work on over the summer and has been in contact with his teacher via email about his progress. That is typical of the  
    individual attention and investment we’ve experienced from TBS teachers generally.

    Here’s a link for elementary Spanish and for middle school Spanish at TBS. Paula Farmer, Dir. of Admissions, can also provide more details: 

  • There are many glowing reviews of private elementary schools in the Oakland/Berkeley area on BPN, and I’m sure each school has its strengths. I’m interested in hearing from parents who decided to take their kids out of a Berkeley/Oakland private school. What school did your child attend and why did you decide to switch? What didn’t feel like a great fit? Did you feel like there were certain personality or behavior traits of students who did well or didn’t do well there? How does your child’s experience at their prior school differ from their current one (pre-COVID)?

    Excellent question! We left Ecole Bilingue, but were sad to leave. The good part first: EB offers excellent French immersion. Our child's progress in French stunned us and we met families from all over the world. Also, the curriculum is very global in its coverage, and the school doesn't feel "ritzy". All this is hard to find here, so we were sad to leave. The decent: EB offers a good after-school program (which could be better supervised), and an acceptable, if bare-bones, social-emotional learning curriculum. For us, the big problem was math and science instruction. EB has revised its math and science curriculum, and brought in one strong science instructor. But EB does not compare in these domains with other top bay area private schools in terms of the amount of instruction, the level of instruction, the number of specialist teachers, student test scores, and extra-curricular teams and opportunities. EB is very focused on providing excellent opportunities for students who are weak in French to catch up; they succeed in this very challenging task but it comes at a cost. EB administrators compare themselves to other Francophone schools, whereas for us, the relevant benchmark was what other bay area private schools charging similar tuition offered. 

  • I know most (especially public) elementary schools aren't able to say what the school year will look like this upcoming year, but I was wondering if some of the private schools in the oakland/berkeley area have started to finalize plans?  The public schools are likely going to be hybrid this upcoming year, but didn't know if some of the private schools were going to be able to offer more on-site learning because of the inherent reduced teacher-student ratio.  If anyone has any insight, please let me know?  (and, if able, what school?).  Thank-you!!  

    We are planning to start at Shu Ren, a small immersion IB school in Berkeley. They are small enough to be able to do in person every day and we are hopeful it will stay that way. I know people are concerned about transmission in schools but the data hasn’t really shown that to be the case and we are worried about our child being away for too long, distance learning is way too hard on kindergarteners. It doesn’t seem to me that public schools will be opening in the fall for anything in person but i know it’s a moving target.

    This is a question on everyone's mind.  My kids are at Aurora School (independent/private in Oakland).  They organized a task force of various experts from the school and families to work on planning with the Head of School.  They have also been surveying families on needs/desires for the return to school.  They have also been doing a lot of innovative remote learning in the interim (which will likely be helpful later in the Fall/Winter if more shelter-in-place orders are issued).  You can learn more about that here:

    While they are still waiting for some more data from public health experts, and feedback from community, I predict a blended model (see Option C on the link below).  Fortunately, preliminary data shows that transmission amongst kids is very rare, so it is more about adults as vectors, which is somewhat easier to try and mitigate.

    We shall see and plans will be firmed up soon.  One nice thing about Aurora is it is relatively small school and can be nimble and coordinated in plans.  Fingers crossed.
    Curious to see what other plans schools come up with.  Best of luck to all.

    My daughter goes to Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. Right now they are planning to open next year. They are applying for permits to increase the number of classrooms (mobile classrooms etc) as well as breaking up the gyms and multi-purpose rooms into multiple classrooms in order to maintain the social distancing requirements. If those fall through they are planning to prioritize the preschool thru 2nd grade to on campus 100% of the time with 3rd thru 8th doing a hybrid in-class/distance learning. From what I understand from friends in the public school system they've been told that the distance learning will likely go into the fall and as late as January 2021.

  • We're looking at school options for our 2nd grader. We're currently at a public school. We had seriously considered Crowden, since she loves music--but the small class sizes put us off a bit--and the tuition. Does anyone have any suggestions for elementary schools--public or independent/private--in California or another state? Is that too broad? LoL. As the same for many in the Bay Area, we are always considering a move. But we have family here, etc. The ideal school would be something closer to 10k a year (at the most), one that has a strong music program, and one that helps kids feel confident/interested in learning. Obviously, this school doesn't exist in the Bay Area! Homeschool, maybe? Anyone want similar things and had success homeschooling? We need regular socializing. Signed, Irrationally optimistic:)

    We have considered Grand Lake Montessori and Mills College School as an alternative. With more than one kid, we can’t swing it but they are lower cost than other private schools. 

    I think the only schools you'll find for $10K/year or less are Catholic schools. The diocese is underwriting some of the expenses of running the school, so it costs half what the cheapest private schools cost, but religious education is a goal for them, which may not be a goal for you. And the academics and music would be similar or not as good as what you're getting in public school, depending on the school. You could also consider applying for financial aid at a private school you're interested in, although at this time of year you'd probably be looking at applying next January for the 2021-22 school year. As for homeschooling, lots of people do that, but you're going to be paying extra for music lessons anyway if you homeschool, possibly also for things like science and social opportunities, so why not stick with public school and spend your money on after-school enrichment? If your child is still interested in music by 6th grade, you could apply to the Oakland School for the Arts, which is a free charter school.

    We made the decision to homeschool and it has been great. We're enrolled through a charter school independent study program, although some regular public schools also offer independent study programs. Some people also choose to just register themselves as a private school, but we have enjoyed having a little guidance and structure. We have a lot of control over what curriculum to choose, which classes to sign-up for, etc. The school pays for educational expenses like online or in-person classes, supplies, sports and music lessons. Your kids can learn about things that interest them, and you can choose the methods and pace that work best for them. There is a huge homeschool community in the Bay Area, with lots of classes, field trips and park days, in addition to all the after school activities you can already do, so socializing is really not a problem at all. Your child also has more time to pursue their own interests and passions (my kids also love music), without worrying about peer pressure, which has been especially important in the middle school years. If you can afford to do it, I'd recommend giving it a try - especially next year, which promises to be full of chaos otherwise. Good luck!

  • Private school with social support

    (2 replies)

    My 7-year-old son is in a large OUSD public elementary and it has become pretty clear that he needs a school with more support around social skills. He has always been an introvert and gravitates towards adults. In the 3 years he has been at his school he hasn't made any real friends. The few relationships he has had have all turned negative in some way, i.e. "you can sit with me at lunch" kind of things.  The school does a good job of talking about being inclusive and accepting but I find that without caring capable adults on the playground to help guide kids towards those kinds of behaviors, inclusiveness isn't going to happen. We are hoping there is a private school in the area that does a good job of helping young kids with this kind of stuff. Does your private school have caring adults on the playground to help kids navigate tricky social issues? If so, please share your experience. Thanks in advance!  

    Our 10 year old attends Sunnyside MicroSchool in Oakland which has been such a blessing for my family after being at two different private schools both who said they do a good job navigating social issues and really didn't. Sunnyside is a very special program for a small group of mixed age kids, up to age 11. It caters to kids who are more sensitive and quirky (sometimes called "2E") and who might have asynchronous learning styles. The teachers are trained in NVC and Collaborative Problem Solving.  With a small community of kiddos, they navigate social issues beautifully.  Things do come up but ultimately the class is like a little family that has strong relationships and care for one another.  Website is

    I recommend core academy in Walnut Creek. They start in 3rd grade 3-8. Recess time sadly at most schools is when most teachers go on break and there are fewer eyes watching and sh*t goes down. 7 was a difficult age of impulsivity and lack of social skills for my 10yo. Find the right supportive environment ASAP - the self confidence issues and other host of negatives make it worth your effort. 

    my kid was having difficulty with annoying older kids at 4 square. The school immediately handled the situation and changed the environment adding more teachers to the area and creating a second game. The older kids were spoken to and felt horrible knowing they had acted like bullies. Many kids at alternative schools have been bullied themselves. What’s been so great at core is having my kid not have to compare himself to others. He is gifted and he is smart but he is also so aware of his deficits and they paralyze him and cause him to act out and be an outlier when he’s in the right environment- there are Little to no problems. School environment is everything!!!!

  • Aurora or Park Day?

    (4 replies)

    Hi BPN!

    We are considering Aurora and Park Day schools for our soon-to-be kindergartner.  Both are “progressive” and have some similarities in teaching methods, though there are other differences, particularly in campus size and classroom composition.  We are hoping that we could get some recent perspective from this group on one or both schools based on personal experience.

    Our child is academically bright, but socially/emotionally a bit out of the box and can be headstrong.  We are looking for a school that can accept our child as is and provide individualized attention and support to help our child’s development, as opposed to a school that prioritizes discipline and conformity.  So, what is most important to us is to find a school:

    • that actively fosters kindness, and
    • that is more flexible and individualized, with a big enough box and is willing and able to adapt to individual kids and provide added attention/support as needed.

    Thanks BPN!

    RE: Aurora or Park Day? ()

    Based on what you value, I would recommend Berkwood Hedge in Berkeley.  they are a small, progressive school that is individualized more than any school we've experienced and have a strong community. Both our boys have thrived there. Please private message if you would like more information. If you have narrowed it down to Aurora or Park Day, I would go with Aurora. I have many friends with kids that have attended and they were all happy.

    RE: Aurora or Park Day? ()

    My son is a current Kindergartner at Park Day and we have been so happy with his experience thus far! 

    With regard to your question about kindness - the school actively fosters an environment of mutual respect and kindness. Some examples: each morning the kindergartners begin their day at circle time by greeting one another by name and saying "good morning", older kids welcome my outgoing 5 year old son into their games on the playground even though it clearly slows down and changes the flow of play, and age-appropriate applications of respect, equity, and restorative justice are incorporated throughout the program. 

    With regard to your question about flexibility and individualized attention - the small class sizes and excellent teacher to student ratio lend itself to the teachers knowing your child well and treating them as a unique individual. In addition to the classroom teachers there are also speciality teachers, learning specialists and directors who all get to know the students really well. When I have volunteered in the classroom I've see teachers giving students individualized support so that they can be successful with the given activity or task. I think the breadth of the curriculum - including making tea using herbs grown in the school's garden, germinating acorn seeds found on a  class field trip, building cars out of wood in the innovation workshop, singing songs in spanish, celebrating the chinese new year by learning the dragon dance - provide opportunities for all students to get engaged and excited about learning. The school is also very adept in instruction of all the traditional academic areas - our son learned to write uppercase, lower case, and to read within the first half of the school year. Today was the school's annual read-a-thon (5 hours of reading!) and our son couldn't have been more excited to bring-in his books to school and read stories all day. 

    Please feel free to reach out with any more questions and best wishes as you make this decision for your child! 

    RE: Aurora or Park Day? ()

    Hi- We looked at Aurora and Park Day for kindergartner-to-be two years ago and were also looking for a place where our headstrong, independent thinking kid would thrive. We ended up at Park Day and it is such a great fit! There is a wonderful mix of structure and recognition that all kids are different. The school has helped our kid find freedom of creativity and self and to work well with others who have different ideas and approaches. I am impressed by how much my child is seen and recognized by his teachers and responded to in who he is. I do not see this compromising his experience or that of his classmates. I honestly can't say enough good about how PDS has supported our kid in blossoming socially and in his own confidence. It's really a beautiful learning community. There are indeed more classmates than at Aurora, but to me the class size (16-18 kids I think so far in his classes) creates a vibrancy that is a big part of the specialness of the school. 

    Good luck in your decision. I am sure you will make the right choice for your child.

  • Hello folks, I'm beginning to think about local K-8 private schools for my daughter and am looking for some recommendations. I'm hoping to find a loving and supportive environment with small class sizes in Oakland or Berkeley. I'd love to hear your experiences. Thanks in advance! 

    Hi anon! I highly recommend you explore Montessori Family School, just north of Berkeley in El Cerrito. It is everything you mentioned in your question -- loving, supportive, with small class sizes. It is a dynamic learning environment, a caring community, and honestly a gem of the East Bay that many still don't know about. Best! A Happy MFS Parent 

    Hello there, 

    We discovered The Academy ten years ago, when we moved our older son out of our local public school.  We sought an environment that was both academically rigorous and socially welcoming, a rarity amongst the schools we visited.  The Academy ticked off all of our boxes and we worked with the administration to get him enrolled mid-year.  It was the best school-related decision we ever made for him.  He grew into a hardworking, mature young man and was accepted into the College Preparatory School, where he was well prepared to deal with that school’s rigorous classes and expectations.  

    Fast forward to last year.  Because of our older son’s great experience, we enrolled our little one into The Academy. The school has changed quite a bit since our older son began, but very much for the better.  The administration is responsive and professional, a fair number of teachers have been added on (primarily in the upper school), and the school is overseen by a board of dedicated parents who place intellectual and social development first.  And while these changes have been wonderful, a certain core has remained constant, one that is rooted in a strong sense of community and teaches the children to care and look out for each other both in the classroom and on the play yard.  Our older son, initially a shy and introverted boy, grew out of his shell and felt that The Academy was a second home. Our younger son, a vivacious and extroverted kid, feels as comfortable playing with his classmates as he does playing with kids in other grades and gets a total kick out of the fact that upper-schoolers (he is in the lower school) greet him in the mornings and check in with him during recess.  I highly recommend you check out The Academy for your daughter.

    Here is a link for more information:

    Best, Shirley

    My daughter started kindergarten at The Academy in Elmwood this year, and we’ve been thrilled at the environment. The school is small - class sizes top out at 12 for the lower grades, and in all of K-8 there’s probably about 100 kids. We love the community. There’s a welcoming spirit among the students and teachers, and our daughter feels so much at home there. Because it’s small she gets to play and interact with the older kids as well as her class, which is a great mix of experiences.

    The engagement of everyone - students, teachers, parents - has been so impressive. The school helps kids grow by learning and interacting. A few weeks ago our daughter sang us poems from a Maurice Sendak book, and she’ll happily tell me how to pronounce the French alphabet or ask me about subtraction problems. We’re always looking forward to what she’s learning next. 

    We liked a few schools in the area, but ultimately what made us settle on The Academy was the feeling that the school spoke to us and the kind of experiences we wanted for our daughter. The head of school, John Lynch, is especially good and communicating the school’s goals and vision for its students.

  • 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. 

    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.

  • Hello All, 

    Our family lives and works around Hercules and have decided we will be sending our kids (going into k and 2nd grade) to private school starting in the summer of 2019. Our challenge is finding a great school that is hopefully under 30 minutes away (tough with Bay Area traffic). 

    We hope to find a school that can keep our kids engaged and challenged or “coached up” as needed. As an example, our current 1st grader is very strong in math, grade appropriate reader, but shy and “weaker” in writing and our future kindergartner is the opposite (extrovert, advanced (for 4) reader/writer, “weaker” in math). Finding a school that can help our kids be there best is what we’re hoping for. 

    In general, my wife and I like the idea of a school that is academically strong / rigerous in the traditional sense, with a small class size to allow individualized attention, but still provides a nurturing environment where the kids are comfortable and excited to go to and learn everyday. 

    A bonus would be a school that has a strong before/after school program and summer time options (camps etc). 

    My wife and I have just started our “research” by doing tours -we were very impressed with Bentley (seemed like a caring environment, small classes, academically strong) but it’s just too far.

    The 3 schools that we’ve learned about from BPN that possibly may be the best fit for our family (considering distance and academics) is Palmer (walnut creek-least expensive, but not many reviews) black pine circle (possibly too far-but we are very intrigued based on the strong BPN recommendations by current families) and prospect Sierra (closest and also well regarded of on BPN, but having some administrative changes we were told) (and please let us know if there’s another recommendation).

    Our question to the BPN community is “do you have any guidance for us?” Thanks in advance. 

    There is Canterbury School up on Hilltop in Richmond.  It's pretty small and doesn't get a lot of press but we know kids who've gone there and done very well.  Get's a little too small once they're in MS.  It's pretty academic.  East Bay Waldorf School is beautiful and in the El Sobrante hills, if you're OK with the anti tech philosophy. There's a good Montessori school in Martinez or Pleasant Hill, but I can't recall the name.   Don't go to Black Pine Circle.  It's too far.  It's not worth it--it's just a school. 

    For what you were looking for – rigorous academics In a supportive environment I would look no further than the Academy. This is a small school in Elmwood which teaches children from kindergarten math, reading,  science, social studies,  French, music,  art and of course PE. The emphasis is on a growth mindset and the joy of learning. School encourages creative and independent thinking. It is a diverse environment with financial aid possible. It has a wonderful after school teacher who the kids call ‘mama’who keeps the kids busy and happy while staying disciplined. They have summer camps.  Our daughter is challenged at the right level and she loves going to school.  In fact when we toured my husband and I wished we could go to school there too. And you know what because of the sense of community within the school and because it’s small we kind of do! Check it out at

    Our family lives in Pinole and our son has attended Black Pine Circle since kindergarten.  He’s currently in the 5th grade and attending BPC was the best choice we could have made for him.  Black Pine Circle offers a high quality curriculum with a strong focus on Socratic Methods.  The school’s curriculum is engaging and meets the needs of every child.  Our son comes home eager to share with us what he had learned at school.  BPC offers acceleration as well as additional learning support for students who need more support.  Black Pine Circle has allowed our son to thrive in an array of areas from mathematics to music.  The teachers at BPC are passionate and committed to ensuring students thrive academically and support strong social-emotional development. Every teacher will know your child’s name in the BPC community.  The leadership team at BPC is excellent and John Carlstroem, the head of school is a visionary leader.

    Black Pine Circle offers an array of after-school programs including robotics, chess club, Taekwondo, drama, math club, band, and much more. I would highly recommend Black Pine Circle and it's definitely worth the commute.  Schedule a tour to gain additional insight on BPC. 

  • Hi Parents.

    We live in Berkeley.

    My daughter is in first grade at a private school in Oakland.  We love the school and it was great for our first daughter.  However, we are finding that the classroom vibe changes year to year depending on who is in the class.  And her first grade classroom (as was her K classroom) is a particularly difficult deal of cards.  Few girls live near us.  None of the other families of girls seem to want to get the girls together for playdates or other opportunities to build friendships.  And worse, there are actually some mean girls, who have made things worse.  Our girl is exceptionally well socialized in that she is kind, follows rules, does not have off-putting behaviors.  And seriously, this is not just coming from her mama.  Other adults who observe her behavior around other kids are just wowed at what a dear sweet child she is.  And she is funny.  And she is creative.  She has got it all going on, yet doesn't have a single friend in her class.  Meaning a single friend she can play with outside school.  So my question is - do you have a first grade girl in a classroom that is a great social environment?  A school with parents who want to get the kids together and are active and involved in their kids lives.  Public or private, I'm open.  I'd like to know.  Thanks!

    We’ve just started our kid in kindergarten at Emerson in Berkeley and one of the striking things about the school is the priority on community connections— coffee on the schoolyard on Fridays, an equity group, schoolwide events (walk-a-thons, read-a-thons) and that community feel has made for a pretty great social experience (as in be as involved/not as you’d like) that seems to also be in place with the kids (in our experience at least!).  

    In case it’s helpful, our daughter’s first grade class also went through a “mean girls” phase last year.  Now the drama seems to be a distant memory.  They are really just learning how to navigate friendships at this age, and it’s our job as parents and teachers to help them.  A new school may help, but so may time.

    I am so sorry that things aren’t feeling good for your daughter - it’s so heartbreaking to watch our little ones go through these struggles. Sounds like you’re looking for a warm and welcoming and creative place for your daughter to really settle into...I have a first grade daughter (and 3rd grade son) at Aurora - a small progressive school in Upper Rockridge - and it is just such a place. Both of my children have felt so welcomed and nurtured there - by their teachers, their friends, the other families, the administrators! It is a really lovely school that focuses a lot on building community. The whole school (K-5) gets together every Tuesday for assembly (parents welcome), where we sing, sometimes meditate, make announcements - it’s so fun to watch the kids lead the songs (when they feel ready), make announcements about the school or the world. It’s a small school - 100 kids in 5 grades - which helps facilitate friendships across grades  and which also really creates a feeling of community among the parents. Play dates and camping trips and shared after school activities are all actively pursued by most parents (and kids). I can’t speak highly enough about it. My children (and my husband and I) have been really happy at Aurora - it’s a wonderful place! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


    An Aurora Mama to a happy first grade girl and third grade boy

  • Best Private Schools around UC Berkeley?

    (18 replies)

    Hello!  I have just found out that I will be moving to Berkeley or Oakland.  What are some schools that I could look into for first grade for this fall?  I know the regular admissions cycle has passed, but I am wondering if any schools still have any spaces?  Please advise!  Thank you :)

    In my experience, most East Bay private schools have some space for new arrivals through the summer. I'd think about where you want to live and then explore the schools in that area depending on your child's interests.  If you haven't already found the EBISA website, that's a good place to start for a list of all the schools. Then go from there based on what sounds compelling. Your options are more limited if you need financial aid--much of that is already awarded--but even there, you'll find some schools that can still accommodate you. Welcome to the East Bay!

    Check out Black Pine Circle.  Its a progressive, private K-8 school in Berkeley.  Its been amazing for my son and we are sending our daughter there next year.  

    Hi! Montessori Family School has their KT-8th grade campus in nearby El Cerrito, and I believe they have openings. Others for consideration off the top of my head include Prospect Sierra, Black Pine Circle, The Berkeley School. These will have varying degrees of vacancies. Best of luck!!

  • With only a few hours to go, we are trying to decide between Head Royce, Redwood Day, and Black Pine Circle for our daughter's kindergarten year. We are looking for a good balance between academics and opportunities to express oneself creatively. Also concerned and curious about way down the road--where do these graduates end up for college? She is currently attending a Reggio Emilia based language immersion preschool. I will be grateful for your feedback! Thank you!

    As a former Head Royce grad (along with all four of my siblings) I'd say 100% HRS is a wonderful environment with great and caring teachers with space for creativity and growth. Obviously, I can't compare it to other day schools but there is an excellent alumni community and I felt lucky to have gone there - I felt extremely well-prepared for college and I think my siblings would agree. HRS graduates in our family attended Tufts University, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Pitzer colleges and many of us have stayed friends with the friends we made at HRS to this day.  Feel free to message me with specific questions!

    Our children, now 16 and 18, attended Black Pine Circle starting in kindergarten.  We loved the school, which combined excellent academics with music and the arts.  Each year Black Pine Circle hosts an event for high school seniors about to go off to college, which my daughter attended last spring.  Many students go on to UC schools, often Berkeley, Davis and Santa Cruz.  Alumni also were headed to private schools such as Yale, Brown, and USC (my daughter).  

  • Hi moms and dads 

         My son is currently at Montessori preschool and are looking for recommendations/thoughts on private schools for K-8 or k-12, preferred non-religious, mid range tuition, <25000/ per year in the following city: 

    1. San Leandro 

    2. Oakland, preferred closed to 580

    3. Berkeley 

    the list is so overwhelming, any thoughts/ideas are greatly appreciated ! 



    Pear Tree Community School sounds like what you are looking for, especially if you want to stay with the Montessori model. It is located in the East Oakland hills close to 580. We left our local public school in North Oakland to attend. My daughter is in 1st grade there and we are happy. The application deadline is coming up but you may be able to apply late and still get a spot.

    Definitely check out the Rennaissance International School (TRIS) in the Dimond District in Oakland! It is a Montessori K-8. The music and art programs are extraordinary. In preschool and Kindergarten children have 4 teachers ("guides" in Montessori lingo) per classroom: 2 speak English and 2 speak either French or Spanish (you choose which language for your kid) to the children. Beginning in First grade there are three teachers in each classroom - one speaks English, one speaks French and one speaks Spanish. Children receive lessons in all three languages so by middle school they are trilingual! In Elementary they being each morning singing with an instructor for at least a half hour (accompanied by a live pianist). We've been blown away by the dedication of the teachers and staff. We feel like they are truly caring partners in helping our daughter grow and thrive. There are many special events throughout the year to truly connect with the teachers and administrative staff and to make sure you understand what your child is learning/developing and the Montessori method throughout the grades. They have amazing field trips, including international trips. You can schedule tours to check it out. And if you have any specific questions, I'm happy to answer them. We've toured every school I think, some twice(!), and are so happy with our decision to be at TRIS. Good luck with your search, it's totally overwhelming for sure!!

    A tiny bit north in El Cerrito is the gem, Montessori Family School. If you have been happy with Montessori, you really should consider continuing - they do some incredible stuff with the elementary curriculum. MFS is the only PK-8 Montessori school in the East Bay (not to mention it’s just a great school). Amazing teachers, wonderful families and kids, and students who want to learn and show so much admiration and respect for each other. It’s really just a wonderful place and worth looking into.

  • Hi! We are new to the Bay Area and considering Palmer and Seven Hills for our pre-kindergarten son. Some of the reviews on this site are very dated so would love to hear from anyone attending or has recent experience. Also any other private schools that are worth checking out in Walnut Creek/Lafayette area?


    We moved to the Bay Area 10 years ago, and did the independent school rounds. Our three kids have thrived at The Saklan School in Moraga Kids come from Oakland, Orinda, Lafayette, WC, PH, Alamo. Amazing academics and social emotional program, less competitive environment and easier to get into at K than some of the bigger independent schools. Our son in now at an independent HS, but girls are still there and we love the teachers,  environment and community. Let me know if you want more info!

  • Dear BPN,

    We are going through the kindergarten application process for our 5yr old, and would love to hear current and recent perspectives for Head Royce, Bentley and Redwood Day.  We have done all the open houses, parent tours, and spoken to folks we know, but it is still difficult for us to feel like we truly know the schools well.  

    We have the basic facts of the schools, but don't know what they are really like.  The things that are important to us are (1) an education that focuses on fostering curiosity and skills rather than knowledge acquisition, and is adaptive to the child; (2) preferably no homework for the lower grades; (3) supportive of dual-working parents; and (4) a warm and grounded (rather than entitled) environment for our family to make connections and friends. 

    Please share your perspectives on the schools, both good and not so good and/or difficult experiences - we find that we often learn more about the schools through understanding others' struggles.  Thank you!

    Seeking Feedback

    We are, and have been, in love with Redwood Day for five years. It meets both of our VERY different children's needs, and our needs as grownups! The community is amazing - kids, parents, faculty, and staff (I've heard from others that the love/care/availability of admin is unique to Redwood Day). It has everything you're looking for except #2. There is homework, but it is very minimal in the lower grades and until 4th is completed on a weekly basis (so you can do it all one night or split it into bits across the week). Also, teachers are very flexible when it comes to homework and the needs of each child. At one point, one of my children wasn't doing any homework and just practicing her reading. I could talk on and on about the school (and really enjoy doing that! :), so feel free to reach out to me through my username. I will leave you what made our decision for us, and what reaffirmed it once we were there. While applying, I could find NO ONE who was unhappy here - NO ONE! After being here for awhile, I realized I also had no complaints. I know that sounds insane, and I could probably come up with some nit picky stuff if I tried, but the school talks the talk and walks the walk like no other institution I know.  It's an incredibly special place. 

    I cannot recommend redwood day highly enough. From the teachers to the educational program to the diversity to the wonderful parent community. It’s a fantastic place that fosters learning.    In my opinion it hits all the things you’re looking for. And honestly I can’t think of one negative thing to say... Except maybe the yellow jackets  that sometimes bother the children during lunch :-)

    Going by the things that are important to you in a school I would highly recommend Aurora school. It's a K-5 independent school in upper Rockridge. Small class sizes, differentiated learning, mixed grades in the same classroom, k/1, 2/3, 4/5, progressive education philosophy. We are in our 2nd year at Aurora and couldn't be happier with the school. The teachers get to know each child and create a supportive and safe learning environment for everyone. There is no homework in the lower grades and no letter grades given out. Parents get 2 progress reports for the school year and have 2 parent teacher conferences. Applications are due Jan 19th but they have a rolling admissions policy so it's not too late to get in contact with them. 

  • Which private school for high energy boys?

    (5 replies)

    We have two high energy and studious boys (5 and 7). We are looking into the 3 schools mentioned in the title to transfer to. We’d love to hear about the following at these schools:

    1. Student population diversity

    2. How they support high boy energy

    3. Community connection (parents and students), examples of activities for community building

    4. What areas/aspects of the school need improvement?

    Thank you! Any insight is greatly appreciated.

    I can't speak to your questions about these schools, but I suggest you look into Aurora School as well, located in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, off highway 13.

    My son has attended The Berkeley School for four years and is in second grade. Our experience has been very positive. I especially appreciate that they have two teachers per classroom, so that if a conflict or unhappy moment arises, it is not brushed under the rug, but is dealt with in a very healthy way, while the other teacher is able to keep the rest of the class on track. My son is high energy, has a temper and is also very curious. He loves reading and learning, as long as the teacher makes it fun, which I think they do. The teachers have been so kind and patient and extremely proactive in reaching out to us when our son's behavior has been challenging at school. They initiate meetings and we problem solve together - often with very good results. They are so supportive and positive with him. I appreciate that The Berkeley School isn't a sit-at-your-desk school. Kids are busy, and aren't parked at their desks listening all day.

    Our son is in his 2nd year at The Berkeley School (he’s now in 1st grade) and he’s doing great. I apologize for my long response, but I want to cover all your questions.

    Our family is a mixed race – African, Indian and Caucasian and diversity is important to us. We’ve found TBS to be an inclusive community of all different types of diversity including race/ethnicity, LGBT and neuro-diversity. Last year the school was particularly focused on the importance of racial diversity both within and outside of school and held parent focused programs with different speakers and facilitators on issues of race and ethnicity.

    My son is definitely on the high energy side and TBS teachers do a great job of taking his energy in stride. I feel that TBS is good at meeting children where they are – whether that be high energy or more introverted. Also, the school’s academic standards are high and they do a good job of catering to those kids that are ready for more academically and others that may need educational scaffolding in areas.

    TBS has lots of parent and student education events throughout the year like parent and staff coffee talks where school staff talks about the school’s philosophy on different academic areas like math and science. Also, like other independent schools, there are speakers that come to the school to talk about interesting educational and parenting topics. Last year Allison Gopnik came to TBS one evening to discuss her latest book on parenting.

    We have found a warm community at TBS. We just had our winter festival with a cook-off, bake-off and lots of crafts. The school isn’t large so families know each other and know each other’s children. There’s also a focus on community service which connects members of the community to each other and connects TBS to the greater the community outside the school.

    Just like all schools there are areas at TBS which need improvement. For example, I sometimes see same parents doing lots of volunteering, but I think that most schools also have lots of busy families and have similar volunteer issues. The important thing about TBS is the leadership makes themselves available to parents and are very willing to engage with parents on suggestions or critiques.

    Our family has been really happy with TBS. Good luck with the decision making process, I know it can be stressful.

  • Hello parents,

    We are new to the area, just moved from SF to North Oakland. My daughter is currently enrolled in a progressive charter school in SF (Kinder). I need to transfer her within the next month to an Oakland school. We bought in Bushrod thinking Peralta was our school, but found out we are a block out of the border. 

    Where else do you suggest for a progressive education? We are not looking to spend too much on a private school. We did tour Walden and I like it. Anyone have thoughts regarding Walden or other suggestions?

    thank you in advance!

    My two kids went through Walden and are now in an arts school and a private boys middle school. (Two different schools) they thrived at Walden and love Walden! The bar was set high getting them into middle school and thankfully it has been met! Walden teachers, staff and kids can’t be beat. The arts, the collaborate learning, outside time, etc are special. You will not be unhappy with choosing Walden. You can contact me if you want to talk more.

    I highly recommend Aurora school in upper rockridge. They offer a progressive education in small class settings. Students are in mixed age classrooms and spend 2 years in the same room so the teachers really get to know the children. My son started kindergarten in another school but we pulled him out after 3 weeks because it just didn’t feel like it was a nurturing and very warm environment. As soon as I walked through the door of Aurora school it just felt like home. It has a great community of families and amazing teachers and staffs. Go to their website for more information. 

    There are lots of good schools in Oakland besides Peralta. And if you are looking to start Peralta in 1st grade as opposed to kinder, there just might be a spot for you. But also consider: Chabot, Kaiser, and Glenview at Santa Fe (though I guess they'll be moving back to their old site soon).

  • Hi,

    We are looking at schools for our rising 4th grade currently-homeschooled daughter, and in particular want to find schools that will be responsive and supportive in her tendency to be persistent with other kids when she has an idea she is excited about. As an only child, she does not get to practice negotiating with other kids at home. When she is excited about an idea, she tends to persist, and wears out other kids with her persistence, unless they are just as assertive/excited as her, in which case they quickly come to a compromise on their different ideas. While we work on it at home, we want for her to be in a supportive school environment that will help her gain awareness on how to read and respond to more subtle cues from kids who are more laid back, and practice how to let go of whatever it is she is after. This would need to be done by keeping an eye on her and giving her regular feedback, without making her feel too down on herself. (She is trying to work on it, but loses track of her behavior whenever she is excited about some idea she has on how to play).

    I guess I'm talking about social emotional education? We are looking at a number of private progressive schools, but do any of you have a daughter like that and have found your school to be helpful in guiding her in this respect? (Strangely, she can also be very inhibited in a new environment, but I'm not worried about that, as I suspect that most schools are helpful in that regard)

    I really think your regular public school would be fine. There are many kids (for some reason especially girls) who sound like they have the same energy as your daughter. Public school teachers are generally amazing. In public school, your daughter will get used to being "one of many" and how to make that work in a positive way.

    Have you looked at Walden? Our daughter is there in first grade. I've found their social emotional teaching to be excellent and given their arts integration, there are lots of steady teachers available for feedback.  

  • Hello bpn,

    My 4 year old is currently at a preschool where he has a ton of freedom, and generally uses it to be outside. We are looking into kindergartens for next year, and I am dreading the thought of him doing worksheets, or even doing structured "centers," and only having specific, limited "recess" times to be outside playing or digging. Are there any kindergartens  that would give him more freedom to explore the outdoors? (I am aware of Berkeley Forest school.) We are in Berkeley. Thanks, parents!


    Singing Stones in Walnut Creek is AMAZING and people come from all over the Bay Area to attend it. I can't really recommend it highly enough. It is on seven acres, has an organic garden, the kids spend TONS of time outside and even every other Friday in an off-campus nature spot (that varies). 

    They are a Waldorf school and they are extremely nurturing and, at this young age, have no focus on traditional "academics." And if you are daunted by the price they have an "accessible-to-all" philosophy and will work with you (seriously, they give me about 75% off of tuition because I'm a single mom and that's what I can afford). If you'd like to speak to me about it PM me your phone number and I'd be happy to. Good luck!!

    The Berkeley School is nice

    Have you looked at the East Bay Waldorf school in El Sobrante?  My two little ones are there in Kindergarten and they spend a lot of time outdoors.  They have rain coats, rain pants and rain boots in case it rains.  On Fridays, they go on a long hike and other days, they spend in the school garden or at various other places on their large property - even a frog pond.  My kids love it there!

  • Hello All,

    My about to be 5 year old son is an outgoing, energetic, curious, talkative and academically strong personality. He is currently attending the Dorris-Eaton Pre-school in Alamo. We live in Walnut Creek and for the kindergarten admission, we applied to Head-Royce, Bentley and Dorris-Eaton. Given that he got admission into all the three schools, our struggle began as to which school would be best fit for him.

    Besides the three different philosophies and educational environment of the above three schools, we are also wondering if we should also consider the different neighborhoods to eventually move or would a commute from Walnut Creek for next 6 years is worth with regards to volunteering activities, play-dates etc.

    Any recommendations towards our selection process would be much appreciated.


    The commute to any of these three from Walnut Creek makes my head hurt, so yes, I would absolutely factor in where you might like to move in the long run to be closer to one of them (unless one is along a commute you're already doing for work--and then I would consider that). This may be driven in part by your budget, too. Head-Royce probably gives you the nearest options for more affordable neighborhoods nearby but it very much depends on where you work. As you already know, the schools themselves are quite different too, so that might offer you a starting point if you don't have a commute in the mix. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to research schools

May 2016

i am starting to look into elementary schools for my son - public, charter, private. i was wondering how one does this...are there websites that compares rates, scores, rankings? google search reveals which i've perused. i've also looked thru BPN, alameda parents network (i live in alameda), and yelp. anywhere else? i have 2 years until he enters kindergarden and would move if necessary/able to. i am looking in alameda, east bay, east of caldecott tunnel. thank you in advance for your recommendations. helen

My first bit of advice is to not overthink it! My second piece of advice is to remember there's no such thing as a perfect school. So unless your child is extremely ''special'' in some way, he/she will very likely do just fine in your local public school, or a charter, or a private school, whether it be in Alameda, Oakland, Orinda, or wherever. I think BPN is a good resource for checking out schools, especially if you have specific questions. I don't necessarily trust GreatSchools and I don't know anybody who reviews schools on Yelp. Word of mouth is probably the best resource available to you. Good luck to you!
Mom of 3 who've been in school for awhile

Private elementary schools -- constructive negative feedback?

Sept 2014

Hello, We are looking for a private kindergarten in Oakland for our son for the 2015-2016 school year and just starting the touring/application process now. We have had no trouble finding parents with glowing reviews of just about any private school in Oakland and Berkeley. However, I am curious whether there are parents who would be willing to share constructive criticism of their schools or parents who have left certain private schools and would be willing to share reasons why. We are particularly interested in Park Day, Redwood Day, Head Royce and Bentley. I'd really appreciate your insight! Thanks in advance, Potential private school parent

I know you are looking for negatives for the various private elementary schools, but I think that you will need to figure out the negatives for yourself. I don't mean that to be unhelpful, I truly mean that the negatives I found at each school are likely positives for other people. For example: a couple of schools we visited emphasized social-emotional development over academics while others valued academic rigor over social-emotional development. A couple of schools have mixed-age classes while others do not. Depending on what you are looking for and what your child needs, you'll find a good fit. When we were looking for a private kindergarten, we looked at Aurora, Bentley, Head-Royce, Redwood Day, and St. Paul's. I think that they are all excellent schools but we only felt drawn to two of them. I recommend starting at the EBISA fair- i felt like you get a snapshot of each school there. I will say that one admissions director was completely uninterested in talking to me at that event or making me feel welcome, and that feeling continued with other people (teachers, etc) at our school visit. Bottom line, it was just not a fit and we did not apply to that school. I'm sure other people love it there. To each their own, but I think you'll get a good sense of each school on the visits. It all sort of seems whitewashed, but the true character of the schools actually shines through, in my experience. Good luck, former searcher


How did you narrow down your choices?

Feb 2013


Having finally completed the Kindergarten application process, we, like many families, are in the waiting stage. Our family applied to four private schools, all of which seem very strong. I'm wondering how we will choose between them if we are lucky enough to get into more than one. Can you share how you narrowed your choices down, especially if you were unsure before getting your acceptances? Or, should I even be worried about this - do most people only get into one school? It's hard to know how much to think about it now before hearing from admissions, though I also don't want to scramble once we get our letters. Thank you! anonymous

When selecting a school, keep in mind that the school's administration probably wants you to talk to families who are happy with the school. To find out if you yourself are likely to be happy with the school, ask how many people (i.e. children and teachers) have left in recent years. A few families leave because they are moving out of town or because they are unusually hard to satisfy. But if more than a few families and/or teachers leave, that could be a red flag.

The school's administration knows how many families are applying elsewhere. So, ask directly: Are the children I saw during my visit going to be there next year? Has the school's size been stable? Have there been changes in staffing? Do you anticipate changes in staffing?

Also keep in mind that unsolicited reviews on BPN can only be positive, as a matter of BPN policy. If you have a question about a particular school, the only way you can find out not-so-positive information is in response to a posted question. And even then, the information isn't going to be free of bias: At my child''s school, parents earn parent participation credit for posting on BPN and for monitoring BPN and responding to any criticism.

Perhaps all the schools where you applied are great and people are happy there. In that case, you can't go wrong and might simply decide on the basis of location or convenience. Cautious

First off, try not to worry. I know that is much easier said than done-- but the likelihood is that everything will work out well. ( Full disclosure, I have a daughter in the midst of the high school application process- and I find myself thinking about it all the time. So do as I say, not as I do! ) For now, relax and enjoy spending a little extra time with your child. Once you know what your choices are, then arrange to take one more look.

It is not unusual to get acceptances to more than one school, so you may find yourself in the happy position of having to choose. From the time the acceptances are mailed until you need to respond is called ''quiet week'' because the schools are not supposed to reach out to you to try and sway your decision. However, you can and should reach out to them, and you should find that they are happy to answer any lingering questions you might have. You might even be able to arrange a time to have one more visit to the school.

Then, I would encourage you listen to your gut. When you close your eyes and picture your child in that school, or with that kindergarten teacher, how do you feel? Comfortable? Safe? Excited? Happy? Anxious? Nervous? Stressed? You know your child better than anyone, and (s)he is most likely to thrive in an environment that has the right mix of nurturing and challenge, stimulation and safety. What is the right mix? The answer varies with every child- and that's where listening to your gut will serve you well. Don't focus on the literature, watch the teachers interacting with the kids. Pay attention to how the Head of School interacts with parents and teachers. I'm sure you will make a great choice. Happy at The Berkeley School


Which private school?

August 2005


Hi, We are going to start the private school process in September. Our daughter is very smart in a science, math sort of way but socially is very shy and observes rather than joins. She tends to have one or 2 friends but for the most part enjoys being on her own doing things like reading etc... We have heard about all the schools but would love parents opinions. I do believe she needs some structure and fairly strong academics but I don't want a child in 4th grade with 3 hours of homework , but also don't want her to be bored. Please advise if you know anything and share your thoughts. Another alternative is just moving to Piedmont.

I have a daughter who's entering 2nd grade at Park Day ... read this review ...

Why not consider Redwood Day School? read this review ...

Our daughter is going into 2nd grade at Park Day and pretty much fits the description of your soon-to-be kindergartner. read this review ...

As a parent who has had a child in Bentley and in Piedmont (and examined several of the other alternatives you mention), I would emphatically recommend against Piedmont for a gifted child ... (see Moving to Piedmont for the schools and Bentley School

Dear School-Searcher: My advice to you is to visit the schools especially when class is in session. See if you like the energy level and interaction of the classroom. Also look into schools which may not be on your short list. We ended up at a school we didn't even know existed (at the beginning of the process). You'll have a gut-feel about it and you will make a good decision. tli


How to decide on a school

October 2002


I have looked at the archives about these three privarte schools but the posts are from 97-99. We are considering these three schools for Kindergarten for 2003. Their websites are vague about tuition costs, scholorship availability, interview process, etc. Most of all we just want to know what worked for you in the decision making process (visiting the school, interviewing the teachers,??) and how you are enjoying your decision. Thanks much for your time. Nilou

Actually, you can find quite detailed information about the Windrush application process on their website. Just click on ''Admissions'' at the top, and then you'll see a sidebar that has lots of links to information about the application process and other FAQs. You won't find information about tuition or scholarships on websites because they usually don't know what the tuition will be until it's decided in the spring. However, Windrush lower (elementary) school tuition is currently around $10,000 and Prospect-Sierra is $12,500. You can expect increases of from 4 to 10% from year to year. To find out more about scholarship availability, you just have to call the admissions office.

As for advice on the decision-making process, you might find helpful two articles that I wrote for the Neighborhood Parents Network, which have been reproduced on their website. One is called ''Sorting Through the Choices'' and the other is called ''Raise Your Hand: Questions to Ask''. You'll find them both at this site:

I have friends at a dozen different schools, public and private, and everyone has things they love about their school and things they don't. We ended up at Windrush, which felt like the right fit for our family in terms of its educational philosophy, but also because we instantly felt at home there. We liked the teachers, administration and community members, loved the campus, liked the smaller class size, werer impressed by the afterschool program, and liked the relationship between the middle and lower school kids. But we probably would have been happy at Prospect- Sierra, Park Day, Head Royce, Redwood Day, Black Pine Circle, Cragmont or Oxford. There are so many choices. But we chose Windrush, which turned out to be the right place for us (so far)!

Good luck on figuring out what feels right for your family. Natasha B.

Feb 2009

Re gathering info about schools: For private schools, write or call the admissions office. Beginning in the fall, there are two types of programs - "tours" and "open houses." The open houses are large meetings for all parents who might be interested in the school. There's a presentation, some opportunity for questions. It's held at the school. "Tours" are daytime tours of the school, while kids are in class. You go with small groups of other parents. You can ask lots of questions and pick up any literature you don't already have, plus the application packet. You see the premises, the teachers, and the kids in action. After a while, I skipped all the open houses and saved a lot of time. I learned all I needed at tours. I also checked out a few schools I knew I wouldn't commute to, just because they were reputedly "good" or had a certain philosophy and I wanted to have a basis for comparison. Most schools also have lists of parents you can call. One piece of advice: when looking for kindergarten, think of the type of school best for YOUR child, and think of the years beyond K. How far does the school go gradewise, will this be a good third-grade place for your child, etc. Linda