Walden Center and School

Community Subscriber
Private School
126 students
admissions [at] waldencenterschool.org
2446 McKinley Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703

Here you’ll find child-centered K-6 education at its best. Our approach to teaching makes learning a multisensory, joyful, and lasting experience.We cultivate a diverse community of learners, families, and teachers.

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi

    We are considering Walden Center and School for my daughter who will be
    eligible for kindergarten in 2024. We visited the school today and really love it.

    Things we like:
    1. Small class size
    2. School feels like a community
    3. Lots of outdoor play time
    4. During the tour, teachers treated the student with respect and kindness.
    5. Engaging classes
    6. Emphasis on Social justice
    7. Art/Music/Drama program

    The only thing we are not sure about is the academic rigor.  What has your
    experience been? Will they push the kids academically as well? Will they be
    ready for a rigorous Middle school environment, say Head Royce or Bentley?

    My other questions are:

    1. What do you like most about the school?
    2. What are some of their growth areas?
    3. Will you get regular feedback/updates from teachers about your kid?
    4.Our daughter is super slow to warm up, but loves to do art/craft and
    read/write - would this be a right environment for her? 

    5. I know Walden is a collective and a lot of teachers has been there for a long time, but is there a lot of teacher turn over year over year?

    Thanks so much :) 

    Hi there,

    My son is in kindergarten this year, and it has been an amazing experience. Like: full stop, amazing. He has learned so much—from Spanish to music—AND he is so happy. He literally says “Yey, it’s a school day.” And he never wants to leave at pickup time. (This is after a very challenging TK experience at another school which he never wanted to attend and refused to do the after school program.)

    like you I wasn’t too sure about the academic rigor when I first visited, or even when he first enrolled. But I can now clearly say that the curriculum is extremely sophisticated and engaging. My kiddo has learned so much about not just literacy but also how to be a part of a community and develop a “perseverance”. Having lots of different arts and language teachers also seems particularly enriching for the kids through the day.

    There’s lots of feedback and you can be as im touch and involved as you like to be. The teachers are wonderful to interact with. We just recently finished up a round of parent teacher conferences in which we met with each of our kiddo’s teachers and learned about their approach to teaching, and their tailored approach to teaching our kid. The music teacher uses stories with integrated songs and instruments, the art teacher teachers collaboration and perseverance through projects inspired by real artists the kids learn about, and the primary kindergarten teacher uses lots of imaginary play to organize several very well considered thematic “units”, etc etc. In total we met with 6 adults who had extensive and thoughtful comments to share about our boy and his progress.

    Turnover is a good question. The school is 65 years old, and there have been some retirements recently, but as far as I can tell the teachers stick around for a long time. All the relatively recent hires (drama, music) are just excellent and much loved by my kid and me.

    Happy to Connect if you have more questions 

Parent Reviews

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For elementary, Walden Center & School gives out very little homework, which is line with their teaching philosophy, as well as the most current research on homework's benefits & costs (i.e. all the other things children could be spending the time with, including play!). In 2nd grade, we get a small packet of worksheets to be done over the course of the week - but it's not a big deal if it doesn't get done. Occasionally there's a bit more - e.g. in preparation for science week (which includes a science fair) the kids get small assignments each week, but it's meant to provide scaffolding to allow them to think through the steps of their planned science experiment and complete the work & poster by the time science week rolls around. 

Overall, we've been very happy with the project-based academics at Walden, and especially the way they're structured to connect with socioemotional learning & social justice. As an example, my 2nd grader's class as been doing a project on people with disabilities, and how our society succeds and fails in various ways to support people with disabilities. In social studies/english they've been learning about athletes with disabilities and reading/writing about different individuals. In science & math they're working on engineering spaces that are accessible to "clients" with varying disabilities & preferences - how would a house need to be designed to accomodate an electric wheelchair user who also has a dog? What sort of square footage is needed in the garage? How would charging facilities for the wheelchair need to be designed?, etc.). It's pretty fantastic how the teachers weave this type of learning into everything they're doing!

I strongly encourage you to check out Walden Center & School. Our eldest is a sensitive soul - and also let us know that she was trans just before she turned four - so finding a school that would nurture her & support her socio-emotional learning was #1 on our list. We have been thrilled with Walden for her elementary years (she's a newly minted second grader). It's a smaller school (80 - 90 students total), with extremely supportive staff and teachers, and just a lovely community overall. My child and her classmates play & interact so well together (it was something all of the parents were remarking upon during our end-of-the-year class camping trip), and I know that's due to the focus the school brings in helping them learn to kindly advocate for themselves within the community while also respecting and caring for their fellow classmates & friends. 

Have you looked at Walden Center & School in Central Berkeley? Our child started there this year in first grade, and we've been blown away by the school and community thus far. It sounds like they could be a very good fit for what you're looking for your son & family. Walden is a progressive school focused on project-based education with a strong emphasis on the arts. We were sold on the school after several teachers told us (independently & in their own words) that Walden wanted its graduates to understand how they, as individuals, best learn & grow, as well as how to confidently advocate for themselves while being part of a diverse community. All stuff that I'm still learning as an adult - I wish I could study at Walden! As you can probably guess from the description above, socio-emotional learning and restoritive justice are deeply integrated into the curriculum (at back-to-school night I was blown away in particular by our 1st grade teacher's passion for phonetics/the process of learning to read and in explicitly building community, conflict resolution, and age-appropriate understandings of social justice within her class). Our child, whom I would consider slow-to-warm-up, has *loved* Walden (and its magical after-school program!) from Day 1, and we're already seeing some of the socio-emotional learning (practices to calm oneself down, taking others' perspective, etc.) come through at home, especially in her interactions with a younger sibling. 

To your point on the technology piece... the school and parent community isn't anti-technology, but screens aren't a significant part of the curriculum. Walden's focus on the arts (visual, music, drama/movement) means that the education is much more concrete in a meaningful way for younger kids. It's also, in my opinion, more developmentally appropriate than where the public school curriculum currently is (no fault to all the wonderful public school teachers out there, to be clear!)

Finally, on costs, Walden is a pretty amazing deal at just over $21k for the school year. The costs are kept lower in a couple of ways:
1) The school is run by the teacher collective, rather than by a large administrative staff. Decisions are made by consensus by the teachers - in our short experience, this means that the decisions may take a bit longer, but that everyone at the school is fully on-board with the determined approach. This administration approach also means that details about school events (e.g. pumpkin carving) are a bit slower to filter out (since the teachers are, understandably, also focused on teaching!), but everything comes together well in the end. It's just a bit less Type A than what I'm used to in my professional life. :)
2) Families have a work commitment of 50 hours (75 hours if you have 2+ kids at the school) per school year, and the work committment is a fundamental part of keeping the school running. Newer families are often asked to be part of the weekend cleaning or landscaping crew, which means one parent working ~3 hours one weekend morning every three weeks. It's not hard work (think vacumming, moping, dusting classrooms, cleaning windows), and it's pretty satisfying to be helping your kid's school & education in such a fundamental way, to be honest, as well as helping build the parent community.

I encourage you to check it out to see if it could be a good fit!

My first grade son has only been at Walden for about a month but he is so in love with the school that I can already confidently write a review. We did our elementary school research over a two-year period in the midst of COVID. We applied to four different private schools and got into all four. Ultimately we decided on Walden because of the unique co-op model of governance that infuses a strong sense of community and engagement, the incredibly integrated arts program, the small classes, and the inviting environment. It is not the most modern looking buildings or high-tech space but it has soul (and is well-laid out with mature fruit trees and nooks and crannies for the kids to play in during their generous outdoor free time). We are so happy to hear our child already developing an awareness of social justice issues (see his spontaneous illustration that he drew at home this week!) and to have already developed strong relationships with his teacher (who he ADORES) and his friends. Like other reviews have said, our son looks forward to school everyday. The other day he told me, "Mom, Walden was such a good choice." He usually groans when I tell him tomorrow is Saturday and he doesn’t have school. He says he wishes he could go to school every day!

I will say it's probably best suited for a family that enjoys being involved in their child's education and wants to be part of a school community (there is a 50 hour work commitment). Thanks to the parent involvement and the general co-op model, they are able to keep the cost of the school more affordable than other private schools. Highly recommend everyone to check out Walden!

Walden has been great for my transgender son. It's K-6.  The kids learn about gender diversity and the restrooms are gender neutral.  There's a lot of respect and it's so small.  It's in Berkeley on Dwight near MLK, and there are family from all over who commute there.  It is arts focused and the kids do 2 of Spanish/art/music/drama each day.  My son loves art and is mildly dyslexic so it's been great to have the arts and music to balance out the parts of school that are hard for him.  The Spanish teacher is from Chile and very kind.   Class size is small and because it does require an hour commitment from parents, it costs 10k less than other private schools.  The hours can be yardwork, cleaning, or helping out in music class, etc.  Check it out!

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! 

Our daughter is now a fourth-grader at Walden and it's been the perfect school for her creative, expressive personality. The school has a stellar arts program that offers the kids multiple classes in art, music, and drama each week. The school is small, with about 80 children total and around 12 kids to a class. 2nd and 3rd grade, and 4th, 5th, and 6th grades are combined into groups (middle and upper) that let the kids mingle and mentor each other, with breakouts for grade-specific lessons. The program combines personalized, no-grade academics with strong progressive social values and the arts. The drama program in particular is off the charts, with a year-end performance that upper groupers rehearse and work toward all year. If your child has a creative side that you want to nurture, and a socially progressive side you want to encourage, this is a great school for them.

Hello, I just wanted to add that you may want to explore Walden Center & School in Berkeley. It's a very small, arts-oriented school that values individuality. It's worth a look!

Our child started kindergarten at Walden this year. We agonized over whether to send him to our OUSD public school or Walden and I'm so glad we made the choice we did. Gina is an inspired kindergarten teacher who has worked miracles over the past few months: the distance learning at the start of school was impeccably well-organized and truly engaging, and since the school reopened she has made school safe, fun, and meaningful for two small cohorts on campus and the kids who are still at home. Here's a few things we love about the school: 1) It is collectively run by the teachers and staff. This seemed pretty cool before covid but we truly understood what a strength it was when we saw how they worked together to come up with a reopening plan that they were comfortable with as individuals, teachers, and as socially-responsible citizens. 2) The arts are fully integrated into the curriculum. Despite the pandemic my 5 year old already has a personal relationship with two main teachers and five arts teachers (drama, music, art, sign language, and Spanish). 3) The parent work commitment is not arduous and means we can afford the school! (It's actually really satisfying work.) 4) The teaching of "how to be in a community" skills is really really strong. The teachers have high expectations of the kids and the gentlest ways of getting them there. 5) The extended day care program is also GREAT. Despite all the challenges of the past year, our kid loves going to school and is already overflowing with enthusiasm for the new things he has learned and the new friends he has made. We are really looking forward to watching him grow at Walden.

We LOVE Walden! Our daughter started there in kindergarten, and is now in 5th grade. Our son started this year in kindergarten. The teachers are amazing, and our kids never want to miss a day at school. Walden's teachers are so dedicated and engaged. They have creative learning assignments, and my daughter has thrived in writing, reading comprehension and math. The arts and drama program is also a big reason we were drawn to Walden. Students have these classes several times a week. The projects are involved and creative and the teachers are loved. Spanish is also solid and fun, with an excellent teacher. We are so grateful to have this community. We love the other students and the parents.

I currently have two children attending Walden. One just started Kindergarten in the Fall and the other is now (already!) in 2nd grade. We originally sought Walden out for our older child who is a very shy, linearly-minded child. While we knew he would be just fine in a public school setting, we understood that he would just go to school, follow the rules, do his assignments, and school would just be a box-checking sort of activity for him. Walden Center and School, due to its small class size and intimate feel, allows him (and, in fact, encourages him) to find his voice and understand that his contributions to class discussions are valuable and important. Also, Walden's focus on the arts has required him to stretch his brain and explore new ways to express himself. Within mere weeks of first starting Kindergarten, our child, who was focused on math and sports and all things organized with numbers, was proactively asking us at home to pull out construction paper so that he could do art at home. Three years in and he adores the art teacher and loves his time in the art classroom. Our shy child even loves his time with Russell, the drama and movement teacher, who encourages the children to explore body movement as another valuable form of personal expression. Walden is such a great fit for our older child that we, at first, thought we would need to find a different school for our younger child, who is more extroverted and imaginative, and who craves variety and new experiences. But, we quickly learned that Walden is such a unique school that our youngest child would thrive there, too. And, honestly, after spending two years at Walden by the time our youngest was ready to start school, we wanted to give our younger child the "gift" of the Walden experience. It truly is a magical place. Gina, the current Lower Group (aka Kindergarten) teacher is an incredibly imaginative teacher, who is teaching my child the wonder and excitement of learning. He now gets genuinely excited when he doesn't know something, because he sees it as an opportunity to learn something new and help his brain "grow." My youngest child also gets so excited about art that he comes home and insists on sharing his art lesson with us. We break out the paints and construction paper and he guides us through the day's lesson. Oh, and yes, he's also working on and making great progress with letters (sounding out three word letters on his own and yelling out words he recognizes on signs and stores as we drive around town), numbers (in just a couple of months we have already seen great improvement in his "number sense" and his addition skills), and science (the questions he asks now about how the world works and how our brain and our bodies work require us to actually break out the computer and do some "research"). Both of my children also love music class with Julian, and will spontaneously start clapping to "find the beat" of any song we're listening to at home. I cannot say enough about our family's wonderful experience at Walden and its beautiful community. I know Walden is offering virtual tours right now, and I encourage you to attend and get a glimpse of Walden is all about. They will also put you in touch with a Walden parent (like me), who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I have two 2e kids and they both went to Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It was a fantastic experience for both! My 16 year olds core group of friends are kids that went to Walden with her even though they are all indifferent high schools now. It is arts based and bullying is NOT part of Walden. Check it out!

I suggest looking at Walden Center & School in Berkeley.  I have a 4th grade boy there and have been consistently impressed with the social/emotional skills development.  The teachers and recess and afterschool staff are very involved and take time to work with the kids on relationship skills.  They also encourage the kids to develop the skills necessary to resolve conflicts themselves in a fair way.  My kiddo is introverted and often lacks self-confidence but has really found his voice there in a way I don't think would have happened in a larger school.

I would check out Walden Center and Schoo, in Berkeley. They are responsive to individual child needs and are willing to make adjustments to suit the child and family. They would absolutely be open to having your child work with an ed therapist during school hours and have both a child psychologist and ed therapist on staff.

I recommend you look at Walden Center and School in central Berkeley. Time devoted to art, music and drama is extensive.

I am a parent of first grader. My wife and I looked at many different schools before choosing Walden. We have been delighted with our choice and, more importantly, so has our daughter. Often times "going to school tomorrow" is what she is most looking forward to.

The Walden learning experience isn't just based in theory, but a living, breathing experience for the children. Differences in background and learning style are appreciated. My daughter, who is already artistically inclined, thrives in the art, music and drama classes. Social justice is a real topic at Walden. The teachers seem employ teaching theories that inspire learning from the inside. Whether it's science, reading, math or social studies, my daughter's internal drive to learn is nurtured. We couldn't be happier.

Walden is a wonderful, small, and often overlooked progressive school with a large emphasis on the arts. Our three children went to Walden and I highly recommend it. It’s a place where kids are able to be kids, learn in a supportive environment with small class size, and have fun while still being well prepared for middle and high school. Kids are taught to think critically and be kind to others. I’d be happy to talk more and answer any questions you have, so feel free to DM me. My kids are now 14, 21, and 24 and thriving:)


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.

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.  

You might want to consider Walden Center & School in Berkeley.  My son came there from a preschool where he also had a lot of freedom to choose his activities and spent most of the time outside.  The children at Walden, especially in kindergarten, spend a lot of time outside and have a pretty long noon recess.  The school grounds have several smaller play areas (one right next to the kindergarten room) as well as a larger field and sandbox.  They also move around a lot inside the kindergarten classroom and between the various classroom buildings.  It definitely was an adjustment for my son, but I felt good about the amount of time he spent outdoors and in unstructured play with his classmates.

Have you considered the Walden Center School? They have an amazing art room, music, dance, theatre. 

You should check out Walden Center and School near Cal: http://www.walden-school.net/

My kids are in 6th and 2nd grades there and we love this school. In the past Walden has offered placements to children of visiting faculty members.

Speak with Admissions coordinator Vicki Edge: 510-841-7248 ext 1

Good luck!

A happy Walden mom

Walden is a magical school. I know, because I've done the pre/post comparison.

Our son was in a great Berkeley public school. But in 2nd grade he started to "shut down" and it continued in 3rd, even though his 3rd grade teacher was really excellent. He spaced out in class a lot, felt lonely, didn't want to engage much with the other kids, and didn't want to go to school. He had been a sunny, exuberant, social child until that point. When his public school teacher said she didn't really know him very well at the parent/teacher conference in October, we knew something was really wrong. She agreed, and we all thought private school would be better for him. We were lucky there was a spot open at Walden that year for January, and we made the switch. We couldn't be happier!

Not only does Walden manage to offer incredible teacher-student ratios (1:8 most of the day), but the school is a warm, loving place with a highly supportive and engaging staff. The curriculum is amazing -- dance, art, music, science, math, reading, writing, spanish. It's hard to describe the impact of the arts on the kids' self-expression, confidence and joy. The fact that every child engages in dance and music, and performs often (like monthly) for parents normalizes these activities, builds confidence and liberates the children in ways I'd never have imagined. At the public school, almost all boys engaged in sports activities during recess and after school. Our son wasn't interested and felt isolated. At Walden, boys (and girls) engage in a wide range of activities, including sports, construction toys (legos, etc), imaginative games, playing music, dancing and reading. The kids can be themselves.

The school has had a huge impact on our son. First, he's back to his sunny self. He's laughing and happy and wants to go to school every day. Everyone was very welcoming to him. He even commented on it, saying, "Dad, everyone is so nice at Walden!" Second, he's come out of his shell: he's playing a musical instrument and wants to do recitals, and he's taking a dance class outside of school. He also feels more comfortable writing and making up stories than he did in the previous school. His confidence has dramatically increased. Some of that may be normal development, but it happened pretty quickly in the months after the change.

A final note: Walden manages to be much less expensive (25%?) than other private elementary schools. They do it by (a) having no head of school (the teachers collaboratively run the school) and (b) parents do actual work at the school, like cleaning, construction, fund-raising, etc. (The work requires no prior skill, though you can put your skills to work by finding the right job within the school.)

I highly recommend Walden.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

March 2016

RE: Deciding between a Waldorf school, other private school, or Berkeley public

Hi there! I have two kids at Walden and we love this school. Our son, now 10, sounds like your daughter in that he taught himself to read at the same age. Initially he started at an Oakland public school but after 6 weeks of that we were seeking another kindergarten. Walden felt like home when we first visited in terms of its small classroom size and close knit community, but what really sold us was Pamela Meredith, the amazing Lower Group teacher. She has a way of reaching and really understanding each child, and it is magical. We love all the Walden teachers but we are especially grateful to Pamela for helping our son bloom after such a rocky beginning in another school. Walden isn't for everyone--it's a real teachers' collective, with no admin, and lots of required parent time expected. But its commitment to the arts, to social justice and to the education of the whole child is fierce. And Walden's been doing this for over 50 years. I encourage you to check it out! Please ask the moderator for my contact info if you'd like to talk more. Wishing you the best, melinda, happy walden school mom Melinda

Hello MIS, I've been a parent at Walden for 7 years with two children and I can share our experiences in answer to your questions:

How academic are the younger grades? Is there homework? If what you mean by ''academic'' is sitting at a desk and doing worksheets, then the answer is ''not very.'' It is a place for learning but not as a rote grind. As an arts-based school, there is more of an emphasis on projects and the arts throughout all grades. For example in kindergarten, children may learn by taking a walk around the neighborhood and looking for letters or shapes in the environment. Homework in kindergarten is minimal and may include reading a story and then drawing a picture about it. By 4th-5th grade children usually have weekly homework which is often a project involving both research and artistic creation, but most nights remain homework-free.

Do you love the school? Yes, we love Walden although of course it's not perfect. I think in terms of the children's experience, it is as wonderful as an elementary school can be. Teachers are nurturing, thoughtful, and really mindful of the whole child. The arts teachers are phenomenal. Having plenty of outdoor and playtime is wonderful. Also the social/emotional environment is supportive and loving. Children are generally kind to each other and welcoming of newcomers. Also very importantly, the community is strong and we have strong ties with other families that are continuing beyond the elementary years.

If I had complaints about Walden it would be more on the administrative side, for example, I found the school schedule to be difficult for a working family, especially the late start of the school year and the extra week off in February. However, these are issues more for the parents and not for the child. For our children, I'm convinced that Walden has been a gift that will empower them for a lifetime. Our older child is now thriving at a public middle school. Wishing you the best in your search. happy walden mama

Walden is an amazing school and community. They meet each child where they are and allow them to grow and flourish. The Arts are truly a part of the school, not treated as a ''break'' from learning. They are incorporated and valued as much as traditional academics. I cannot say enough good about the teachers and the community. Strong, supportive and involved! Walden was a gift for my child and my life. Ruth S

Oct 2015

RE: Disappointed with Oakland public kindergarten experience

I have one school recommendation for you: Walden. No shaming, blaming, only respect for each child. Small class sizes—my daughter's academic classes were no larger than 8—and not surprisingly in this atmosphere students flourish and develop their intellectual and social strengths fearlessly. Now that my daughter is in middle school, I notice the differences between those kids who have been through a punitive, ''traditional discipline'' school experience and kids who have been in a respectful classroom environment. l I find Walden kids remarkable for their ability to self-regulate, their academic curiosity, and their emotional intelligence. Grateful

Nov 2014

RE: Progressive school with black students/teachers?

I highly recommend looking at the Walden School in Berkeley: www.walden-school.net. It's intimate, very student-led, and diverse in many ways. Walden Fan

Nov 2014

Re: K for sensitive, spirited boy? Private or BUSD

Hello there! I'm surprised you don't have Walden Center and School on your list; it is a small, arts-based private elementary school in central Berkeley (a couple blocks from Berkwood Hedge) and I think it's a good match to your description.

A few of your phrases jumped out at me: ''positive and encouraging and warm - not punitive or scolding or shaming''... 'the social-emotional climate''...''how well his teachers will really see him as an individual''. Each of these is a good description of the environment at Walden. With small classes, the teachers get to know each child as an individual and work with their unique traits in a positive, nurturing way. There is definitely no sense of scolding or shaming that I've ever seen or been aware of.

When we were looking for a K school for my son, he had such strong anxiety that I didn't know if school was going to be possible for him. He responded particularly poorly to harsh authority (sometimes freaking out and running away, and even putting himself in danger), and because anxiety doesn't always look like anxiety, I was very concerned that he would end up in punitive or disciplinary situations for not following direct orders. I will be forever grateful to the amazing teachers and staff at Walden for taking such good care of my little guy, giving him space, understanding, appropriate challenges and (yes) love that has allowed him to grow up mentally healthy, socially capable, proud of himself and able to face the world in ways I could barely imagine when he started at Walden. This school is truly a gift in our lives and the life of our child. I hope you find somewhere that works for you and yours! - Happy Walden parent

Oct 2014

Re: Seeking Mixed-Grade School for advanced kindergartener

Check out Walden in Berkeley. My kid went there from K and is now in middle school. Walden was a great experience. Class size is small (10-15 kids or so, with academic groups no larger than 8) so there's ample room for differentiation in Math and Language Arts. In fact the whole Walden experience is about learning to express yourself in various languages: academic, artistic, and most of all HUMAN. Getting along with others and yourself with kindness and intelligence. Kindergarteners have Spanish, American Sign Language, as well as amazing music, art, drama, dance classes. Art is integrated into the everyday school experience at all grades, so my kid was NEVER bored or rebellious and loved going to school every single day. In fact all the Walden kids I know love school; on school field trips people always comment on how enthusiastic and cooperative they are compared to kids from other schools. This blew my mind as I basically hated school: for me school was a place I too was bored and then a rebel. Kindergarten and first grade have their own classrooms, but 2-3 and 4-5-6 are mixed grade classrooms. Each kid gets to be recognized as an individual and can move at their own pace; their strengths and weaknesses acknowledged and taken care of. Now my child is in a (well regarded) public middle school with little differentiation I can see how the Walden tool-kit of academic and social skills (think for yourself; come up with creative solutions; respect others' and your own opinions; express your thoughts articulately and appropriately) is hugely useful now and into the future. Walden alum parent

March 2014

Re: First grader says he hates school - change to private?

Since you mentioned Walden school, I thought I'd share some of our experience at the school. I have two children at Walden and we've been at the school now for six years.

To speak to the level of physical activity at Walden, I think it is on the high side compared to most schools. Part of this is because of the physical layout of the school. Each classroom is in a separate little building, so the children inherently get up and move around outside throughout the day as they travel from class to class. They eat outdoors and have generous recess time(s) with organized sporty play. The lower group (kindergarten) children often take walks around the block where they explore what they see in the neighborhood. The children also have a great deal of physical movement/exertion in their dance/drama/movement classes. Keep in mind that art, music and drama are multiple times per week and are a core element of the education at Walden. One thing that you will not find at Walden, however, are organized team sports requiring large fields or facilities. The campus is very small and has only a single modest-sized grassy field.

Academically, the school focuses on inquiry and the learning tends to be deep and thoughtful - not ''rote'' learning. Naturally, there has been some variation in the level of engagement for my kids. They've each had ups and downs, and classes that have gotten them more (and less) excited to go to school. I like that their schedule has a lot of variation: Monday might be art and Spanish, Tuesday is drama and music, Friday science and poetry (plus math or language arts most days). Each of my kids has different favorite classes, so they have better or worse feelings about the different days. I don't hear "I hate school" but I do sometimes hear things like "I hate Mondays."

Next year my son enters sixth grade and we faced the choice of whether to continue another year at Walden or start public middle school in the standard year of 6th grade. The deciding factor for us was the teachers at Walden. I just can't say enough good things about them: they are dedicated, smart, thoughtful, creative, and not overwhelmed or overworked. The teachers take professional development days during the year and are always learning. I know that (most) public school teachers are also wonderful, but I believe that they are less well-supported in their schools. Walden is a teacher cooperative, so the teachers have a great deal of sovereignty over their curriculum and all school decisions.

I wish you the best in your decision and I hope this information has been helpful! Walden family

March 2014

I want to put in a good word for the summer program at Walden Center & School in Berkeley. This summer the program will feature three key teachers who have taught my children (ages 6 and 14) over the past nine years: Cristin Costello, Dominique Concepcion and Alma Jurado. They have many fun activities planned that include field trips, swimming and lots of PLAYING. The camp will feature activities in both English and Spanish and is open to rising Kindergarteners through sixth graders. I can't say enough good things about these three women!

Cristin Costello has been teaching at Walden for many years and currently teaches kids in a second/third grade classroom. She is masterful in relating to the kids on their level, setting loving but firm boundaries and creating a strong community with the kids she leads. She also manages to be super-fun while she's at it!

Alma Jurado has been teaching Spanish at Walden for many years and is also my older daughter's private Spanish tutor. Alma is amazing at creating games and situations where learning a new language is fun, supportive and engages the whole body. So much of her teaching is game-based and fun and really helps the kids assimilate a new language. I have worked with her personally and think she is the best Spanish teacher I have ever seen at the elementary level.

Dominique Concepcion has been a part of Walden for many years. She has also been a beloved swim teacher at the Berkeley YMCA and other locations. She truly loves working with kids and is so great at making everything feel like a grand adventure. She is the kind of person who kids gravitate toward. She is funny, loving and one-of-a-kind. I love having her as a role model for my daughters.

All three teachers have extensive experience working with children and are attentive to creating a safe environment in every sense of the word. As a school, Walden has a strong philosophy toward healthy conflict resolution that you will see reflected in the summer program. Walden's summer program is sure to be a place where your child will be a respected part of a strong community, will have a great time and will even learn some Spanish. I highly recommend this program. My daughter is already signed up! Sarah C

Sept 2013

Re: Which Schools Use A Best-for-Boys Approach?
Apologies, I didn't see the original post but since you didn't get a lot of suggestions - and no recommendations for schools that are best for boys - I want to put a word in for Walden school in Berkeley. My two kids go there - boy and girl - and one of the things I love about the school is the amount of outdoor time and movement that the kids get. I can't imagine that a student would ever be denied recess as a punishment, since obviously getting a bit of 'running around time' is probably exactly what they need in order to improve their behavior. (besides, Walden's approach to discipline is much more thoughtful and not about punishment).

I have seen times when teachers pause class to send kids out for a quick run, just to get their ya-yas out. I don't know that they do this for individual kids but I bet they would, if need be. Often a child might be sent on an errand, like bringing something to the office (which involves walking outside), and I suspect this is done therapeutically as well. Very small class sizes mean that teachers aren't exhausted by discipline issues and can take the time to individualize, which benefits children of all genders. Expectations for how long a child can sit still are developmentally appropriate.

Walden isn't perfect and there are some frustrating things about it from a parental perspective (I find the calendar difficult for a working family) but in terms of the childrens' experience, I am completely thrilled and grateful to be at Walden. There are many rambunctious kids there (boys and girls alike) who are thriving in an environment that celebrates them for who they are. - Walden parent

Dec 2012

Re: Seeking excellent music program for 8 year old
Walden Center and School at McKinley and Dwight in Berkeley has a fantastic music program led by Harry Gray, a very experienced educator and musician with a masters in music education and a PhD in music theory from Northwestern (http://www.walden-school.net/who-are-we/staff/harry-gray/). My child is reading music for vocal and recorder and getting a great grounding in music theory as well as having tons of fun in ensemble work. Kids also get to do musical theater in the Walden drama program led by Russell Wright, who has won the East Bay Express award for Best of the East Bay Arts Educator 3 years in a row. You might check out one of the school's many cultural events to get a sense of the joyous energy in Walden's arts programs--each child is respected as an artist, and grows up with a healthy sense of confidence in his or her ability based on well developed skills. It's wonderful to see a body of students so expressive, fearless, creative and thoughtful in their approach to performance. Walden Parent

Dec 2012

Re: Schools that foster creativity?
Walden, without question! My daughter starts drawing as soon as her eyes open some days and tries to draw instead of eating, and I am confident that Walden could be a good fit for your child. Art, excellent! Music, wonderful! Movement and Drama, phenomenal and beyond. The community is warm and welcoming and diverse as well. Happy Walden Mama

Walden, a progressive school in Berkeley, fosters the creativity of each child like no other that I have known. I am a parent, teacher and director so I have seen many schools. Each child is seen and treasured, and challenges are seen as just that, challenges. Children are given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves in a multitude of ways, as well as given good academic foundations. The music, art and drama/dance program are all excellent as stand alone programs. The arts are also incorporated into the rest of the curricullum. The community is amazing, accepting and ... well, a great community. Check it out! Ruth

Walden vs. Berkwood Hedge?

Nov 2012

I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of schools that need touring! I am wondering if I can narrow down some of the schools... can anyone give me their perspective on Walden versus Berkwood Hedge? I've toured one (BH) and really liked it, but am wondering if they are very different... should I bother with the other? Thanks. Overwhelmed and Low on Time

I don't know what your criteria are in choosing your school, but I think you would be doing yourself a disservice if you don't check out Walden. We have been very happy there for the past three years for both an introverted, highly artistic child who has had reading issues and one who is a total extrovert and athlete. We love the community, the arts classes, and the educational approach. Come for a visit! Love Walden

I know both schools are excellent, great schools with terrific communities. My son went to Walden and it was great. Walden, a progressive school in Berkeley, fosters the creativity of each child like no other that I have known. I am a parent, teacher and director so I have seen many schools. Each child is seen and treasured, and challenges are seen as just that, challenges. Children are given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves in a multitude of ways, as well as given good academic foundations. The music, art and drama/dance program are all excellent as stand alone programs. The arts are also incorporated into the rest of the curricullum. The community is amazing, accepting and ... well, a great community. Check it out! Ruth

Berkwood Hedge and Walden are similar in size but are quite different programmatically and academically. I would encourage you to visit Walden so you have something to compare it to. BH is a progressive school firmly rooted in developmental practices. They value the documentation of learning both in the classroom (displays of work, student made books, presentations), as well as in the thorough narrative reports that parents receive each year. Depending on what is important to you and what is right for your particular child, your choice will become clearer after you have the opportunity to observe and examine them both. Good Luck!

Walden is an amazing school. It is well worth a visit. There is a difference. The kindergarten is so inviting. The teachers really accommodate the students needs and interests. The music teacher is tremendous. Stacey

Walden is great, especially for younger kids. There's a lot of running around wild, no shoes, and lots of general sassiness. The downside for us: no director, so when we had serious issues with a teacher -- and that teacher is a ''big personality'' -- the other teachers didn't go to bat for us (or for our child). Our kids did get a lot of art instruction, but as they got older, there was a huge amount of stress placed on them and their ability to perform onstage. Lots of drama there.

Berkwood Hedge has a much more balanced, professional, tantrum-free environment. There is emphasis on the arts and on working cooperatively (both kids and teachers), and they have a director who is able to hear concerns in a non-loaded way and thus really help families. The kids are happily engaged, active learners. Ask to see both school's handbooks. -Done both

As a new Walden family, I believe you should bother with the other. We toured both BH and Walden (along with a few others) and feel they are very different. We were a bit worried joining up in the 2nd grade, after the closure of our sons' school. After being at Walden for 3 months, we are wondering why we didn't start there in Kindergarten?! The community is wonderful and supportive, the children are so happy, full of life, welcoming and allowed to be who they are. The teachers are amazing. When I watch Pamela (the kindergarten teacher) interact with the children, I feel we missed out on a very special and nurturing beginning to Walden. She is so warm, patient and present!

I was a bit worried that my son might not be artistic enough for such a creative school, being that he had no desire to draw or paint. I am now often amazed with what he brings home to show me and just how much he loves his art class. And the drama class... well he asked if he could have that 7 days a week!

I was also a wee bit worried about the academic side of Walden, as our son likes a challenge, especially in Math and Engineering. We have been very satisfied with the academics and our son never gets bored. Walden has been a perfect balance for our family. I hope that you have a chance to visit!

Wishing you the best, A Happy Walden Family

Hello...I am a parent to a child that has attended both Berkwood Hedge and Walden. They are very similar in that both have progressive curriculum. They are different in their organizational infrastructure. I'm assuming this from observation since I'm a parent and not an administrator. Berkwood has a school director and a hierarchy and Walden does not. Decisions at Berkwood are made through this hierarchy although it appears that teachers and administrators have great influence on things that happen at Berkwood. Walden appears more consensus and this affects the culture of the school for the kids. For example, I've noticed that kids at Walden are empowered to consult with one another and the community to figure out solutions to issues. My child initially chose to attend Berkwood and then choose to switch to Walden for their superior art program (specifically to attend Russell's drama class!).

One thing I did love at Berkwood was the fact that the teachers and administration work very closely on the curriculum to ensure there is a connection between grades, and I love the honoring time they have on Wednesday morning community meetings. Although Walden does not have these "honoring" times, honoring one another seems a natural part of the Walden way. As for Walden's art program, they have one of the best in the bay area I believe - with the teacher - Russell winning awards several years in a row.

I have to say though that, from personal experience, the before and afterschool program is superior at Walden as is the general love and spirit that you feel when you walk onto the campus. I'm a bit bias because my husband, Naru, has ran the afterschool program at Walden for the past 17 years...however, having been at Walden before I became a Walden parent and now being a Walden parent, I would say the big difference is Walden is a community that becomes your ''home'' away from home. The people, the teachers, the students, the school itself is your family. Berkwood probably has the same spirit...but at Walden it is almost instantaneous and infectious. (Contagious even...). I have to drag my child kicking and screaming away from the school everyday and remind her that she actually has a home where she sleeps with a bed and parents. The best example, to me, of the love that you feel at Walden is when you attend the graduation events where the kids are moving onto junior high school. My experience (having had an older child) is that kids can't wait to leave...but at Walden kids are often quite teary and upset to leave a place they've grown up at the kids often share very sweet stories about all their teachers, paying respect to them, and to one another. This to me, is one of the best transitions a youth can have onto the next phase of their life. One thing I have noticed though: even though they have graduated, those waldenites keep appearing every now and then at Walden events and just any ol day. Jora

Walden for a very bright kid?

Oct 2012

I have a daughter who, among many other things, happens to be a very bright little girl who is very far ahead of her peers in all academic areas. She is six and I just don't want her to lose her love of learning by being bored in school. Walden seems like a potential fit. Have any of you send a little intellectual to Walden? If so, please share your experience! Fitting In

Walden excels at supporting students with wide-ranging intellectual gifts. Because of the opportunity to learn by doing, and without being constrained by textbooks and workbooks, students have a chance to exercise the full potential of their minds, and experience deep learning. My own daughters were academic, but Walden offered them a chance to experience many other creative opportunities to learn through music, dance, drama and visual arts. They learned how work in a group, an essential life skill, as well as to problem-solve with their peers. The supportive and nurturing setting, where teachers understand all the developmental tasks of childhood, including the academic skills students need to thrive, offers a stellar opportunity to attain a lifetime love of learning. anon

I had the same concern when we transferred our two daughters to Walden. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they, at the time ahead of their then-peers in highly academic Montessori schools, were actually behind Walden students in quite a few areas.

Because Walden, a diverse community, embraces a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning, students are encouraged to find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex academic and social problems. Due to space limitations on this posting, I'm only able to offer a few specifics on Walden being a good fit for my intellectually advanced children:

1) Walden teachers look for ways to make learning a thought provoking and enjoyable experience. Homework is high in quality and low in quantity - students actually have to think it through before working, and often, find various ways of tackling the same problem.

2) Walden provides an authentic "education for the whole child." Its well know arts curriculum engages all parts of the child to learn about themselves and world from different approaches.

3) As with many other intellectually advanced children, mine had issues in the area of social development. Walden nurtured them into the socially apt beings that they are today. The school's small size enables teachers, parents, and children to truly know and support one another, and to have fun together. Nobody gets lost in the crowd.

4) One of the most important social development aspects of Walden is its "Respect for All" curriculum: classes, workshops, discussions, early intervention, mediation, role-play, and modeling provide tools and language for positive and peaceful decision-making and conflict resolution for children and the entire community. They are no pigeon-holing identifiers such as: "nerds" or "jocks" at Walden. Children learn at an early age to respect individual differences and appreciate one another.

In a nutshell, Walden students are simply too busy exploring the many wonders of this complex world and their roles this world to get bored. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to talk more in detail.

A Mighty Pleased Walden Parent kati

Nine years ago we chose Walden for our very bright daughter. It was the best investment we could have made for her. It was critical to me that she be in an environment where she could shine and be her smart, exuberant self. She did, and now she is confident, resilient, and feels that she can learn even those things she finds most challenging.

At Walden, how our child learned, how she felt about herself, and how she functioned as a member of a community were as important as the academic skills and facts she learned. Walden's amazing teachers met her where she was and gave her support and challenges that kept her engaged and eager to go to school every day.

You signed as ''Fitting In.'' I think you might find the idea of fitting in to be uniquely expressed at Walden. To me the most important part of fitting in at Walden is a willingness to accept people for who they are, regardless of how different or similar they might be. Walden really does build a community with many types of diversity, including a variety of learning styles. Our daughter felt truly valued for who she was by Walden's community.

I checked in with a Walden alumna I know from my Walden parent days about how she would respond to your question. Here is what she had to say:

''I am a Walden alum, class of 2006 who is now a freshman at Vassar College. Walden definitely seems like a good fit for your daughter. Walden will fulfill her intellectual curiosities and also foster her creativity. As an alum, I feel like one of the most important qualities I took from my time at Walden is my love of learning--learning for the sake of learning, not for grades or tests. I fully credit Walden with all my success in high school, and with my acceptance into a college as good as Vassar: I wrote my main college application essay on my first Upper Group Play at Walden!''

Nine years later, I am still part of Walden! Just as our daughter graduated, I was offered the opportunity to be Walden's admissions coordinator. I'm thrilled to advocate for the school that means so much to our family. Vicki

Walden was a great fit for my bright son, who is now thriving at Berkeley High. It is precisely his love of learning that Walden preserved. School at Walden is fun, and the students learn together without any thought of grades. In choosing classes, my son still cares much more about whether he will be challenged and learn than about his GPA. I am glad he went to Walden, both because he is doing so well now and because he has happy memories of elementary school. J

I'm not sure how advanced your child is, but our 6 year old daughter could read chapter books and do simple multiplication and division when she started at Walden in the first grade. She's now in 4th grade at Walden and has never complained of being bored; in fact she loves it! Much of the work is open-ended so it can be tailored to different abilities. For example, kids can write a whole page as a response or just a sentence or two, depending on where they are. They have different spelling word lists, etc... Beyond the academics, there is Spanish, music, dance/drama, and art which were mostly new to her. These programs are fantastic and an integral part of every child's experience at Walden. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions. Christa

I am the parent of a 7yo boy currently in second grade at Walden. We actually pulled him from an award-winning Oakland public school in the 6th week of kindergarten as we were unhappy with that school's inability to meet his educational/developmental needs. At the time he was already reading at about a 2nd grade level, but had not yet turned 5, and had spent three years at a great Montessori preschool that nurtured his interests in books and science. Walden was the perfect fit for him and for us as a family, and our son has continued to thrive there. We truly appreciate Walden's small class size, its commitment to progressive education and arts education, its dedicated and experienced teachers, and its welcoming, inclusive community. The best thing would be for you to tour Walden yourself and speak to the teachers and parents to see if this is the right fit for you. Please contact me (ask moderator for my email) if you would like more information. I wish you the best in finding the right school for your daughter. Sincerely, Happy Walden mom

When we were looking for a kindergarten for my oldest daughter (now almost 13) we were really worried about her losing that natural love of learning too. Luckily we found Walden and it was a wonderful fit for her. She graduated from Walden's sixth grade last June. The teachers at Walden truly meet each child where they are academically; challenging kids who need the challenge and scaffolding kids who need more help. This works really well for kids of all intellectual abilities because the school is small and the teachers have the opportunity and commitment to cultivate a real relationship with each student (and their parents).

Two other factors at Walden have also been key for us: the socio-emotional focus and the real and frequent exposure to the arts. Teaching to the whole child really happens at Walden and socio-emotional learning is equally important to academics in my book. Having Art, Drama/Movement and Music twice a week (for each subject!) helps children develop their brains in different ways than traditional academics and, in my experience, balances a child's experience in school.

My youngest daughter just started kindergarten at Walden this fall and, although her personality and learning style are very different from her older sister, I can already see what a great fit it is for her and they ways in which she is blooming based on what brings her joy. Her teachers engage authentically and give her that "just right" amount of stimulation and challenge.

Both of my daughters would be considered well above average academically by public school standards. In fact, my oldest entered Berkeley public schools this fall and was bored out of her mind. (We've since found her an environment that better fits her drive to learn.) What I love about Walden is that kids aren't categorized as smart, gifted, slow or difficult; they are all honored for the amazing learners they are. And it's important to keep in mind that no matter how smart a student is, there will inevitably be a time when something is hard for her whether it be math, friendship, or learning a new dance step. Walden is a place where I know my child will get the help she needs when she needs it and the push she needs at the right time as well.

Best of luck with your decision. sarah

We enrolled our 6 year old son at Walden in Fall, 2011. He's extremely bright, has exceptionally fine motor skills (origami/legos/drawing), and very physically coordinated. He loves Walden and so do we. We have been so pleased with the variety of ways that they engage the total intelligence of each child, making room for individual differences and encouraging each one to move at the appropriate pace. Can't recommend a better school! Bill

Oct 2012

Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
You should put Walden School on your list. It's a very small K-6 school established in 1958. It's near downtown Berkeley and it definitely qualifies as a ''hidden gem.'' The tuition is lower than average because of the light-weight administrative structure of the school, and scholarships are available, so there are many families at the school with modest means, especially young artsy families. Wealthy families are there too but I would say they are in the minority. The homework policy at Walden was described to me as ''gentle'' when we first visited - it was a priority of mine, too. This has turned out to be very accurate. But at the same time I have been impressed with the amount of knowledge and academic confidence that our son, now in the 6th grade, has acquired. The best part about Walden is the teachers. Unlike most other schools, Walden does not have a director or Head of School or principal -- the teachers collectively share in the decision making, so they really believe in the mission and are dedicated to a degree that I have not seen in any of the schools my 3 kids have attended, both public and private. Most are ''lifers.'' And by the way, the performing arts program at Walden is like none other in the Bay Area and has been a major factor in our child's growth. It's an incubator for local highschool-level theater groups. Walden is a school that really walks the walk -- what you get is way more than what you see. Walden isn't for everybody, but if it's right for your family, you'll be in paradise! GO

Hello, I think Walden Center & School in Berkeley may be a good match for your description. This is a small, arts-based, project-oriented school. There is a some homework but it's not excessive. My daughter in 2nd grade has one assignment each week, and my son in 4th grade has homework 2-3 times per week. As I recall, in kindergarten there may be homework such as: once a week, 'draw a picture of a story you're reading.' The teachers are thoughtful, engaged, and creative. Education is integrated between arts & academics. For example, in first grade my son's class had an Ancient Egypt segment that integrated history, visual arts, language, math, and even a dress-up event. The kids bring home so much art I have nowhere to put it all! The school has a strong music and drama program as well.

Also, Walden is cheaper than most private schools. To keep costs down, there is mandatory volunteer work - parents maintain the grounds, clean the school, handle administrative tasks and more. Many families get financial aid. You can find tuition and admissions info on the website, here: http://www.walden-school.net Good luck! Walden parent

Feb 2012

RE: Small schools - good or bad?

I share your concerns about the effects of a small school on your child's social development, which is why I've chosen to have both my children attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley.

Besides being a well-rounded education setting, Walden is a nurturing community for my children's healthy social development as well. The school's small size enables teachers, parents, and children to truly know and support one another, and to have fun together. Nobody gets lost in the crowd. Walden, a diverse community, embraces a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning. Students find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex academic and social problems.

Although it is natural that my children (or all people for that matter) "click" more with some than with others, at Walden, students learn organically how to be members of a community. In other words, while not everyone becomes best friends with everyone else, all students get along and respect one another. In my opinion, it is Walden's proactive approach to healthy social development that makes the need to "reshuffle" non-existent.

One of the most important social development aspects of Walden is its "Respect for All" curriculum: classes, workshops, discussions, early intervention, mediation, role-play, and modeling provide tools and language for positive and peaceful decision-making and conflict resolution for children and the entire community. Respect for All starts at the early grades, so that when students reach upper grades, they are abundantly equipped to manage the social mores of their age group.

Take a look at Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It could very well be the place for your child and family. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk more.

K.G. -- A Delighted Parent of Walden Center and School

We chose Walden Center and School because we felt that our child would benefit from it's small size. From an academic standpoint, Walden breaks up the class up into small groups when instructing the core curriculum. For example, my child has 6 kids in her Math lesson group where they sit round table style with the teacher. Another 6-8 kids will be in Language Arts and the remaining classmates will be in an Art(s)- either Movement, Music, Visual or Spanish. The small class size leaves very little room for my lovely child to zone out, thus keeping her engaged. The social aspects of being in a small school has been wonderful for my child. My child has known her classmates since Kinder garden, so their bond is almost like siblings with its good days, bad days, quirks and all. The genius of Walden is its mix age groups, the kids are already use to the combined-age classes thus at playtime, lunch, and breaks the kids gravitate to where they feel socially comfortable. Most of the time, I see my child and her classmates play together with the younger kids and at times, testing their social prowess and hanging out with the older kids. I'm amazed find that the older kids enjoy being leaders and feel a sense of responsibility to help the younger kids. Kudos to Walden for understanding that learning doesn't stop once a child steps out of the classroom! small is smashing

Nov 2011

Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
You should visit Walden Center and School in Berkeley, which has one class for 4th, 5th and 6th grade. There are 2 teachers, and about 30 students in the 3 grades. The school has a developmental philosophy, encouraging students to follow their interests. My daughter will be in 4th grade next year also. Currently she's in the combined 2nd/3rd grade. It's a wonderful school with focus on the arts and integrating music, drama, and visual art into the curriculum. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions, but Vicki, the admissions coordinator, is a good contact for you: admissions [at] walden-school.net. They are having tours now for fall 2012 admissions. Happy Walden Parent Laura

May 2011

Re: School for 11-year-old Spanish speaking boy
You might look at Walden Center & School, a private K-6 school in central Berkeley. During the time my child has attended, several foreign students have joined the school for varying periods of time and have done well. At least two of the teachers speak fluent Spanish, and many of the students also speak at varying levels. Mary

March 2011

Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
Hi, Have you looked at Walden Center & School (a couple blocks away from Berkwood Hedge in Berkeley)? My son had major anxiety issues entering kindergarten. We really didn't know if any school would work out and we toured 21 schools altogether! I'm glad we chose Walden. I can't say enough good things about the nurturing, low-impact environment there. The teachers really get to know each child (this is possible because the teachers are not overwhelmed by large class sizes). They helped him slowly emerge from his shell and he is now thriving and happy in his gaggle of kids. It's a tiny school, which I think is great for sensitive and anxious kids. As a plus, Walden is less expensive than other private schools in the area. It looks like they are still taking applications for next year. good luck! - happy walden parent

Jan 2011

Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
I want to recommend Walden School in Berkeley as a school with a ''gentle'' homework policy. I am not sure what happens in K-3 at Walden because we have just started this year for the 4th grade. But homework in 4th grade is MUCH more reasonable and also MUCH more thoughtful than what we have experienced in public school or other private schools. There is reading a book of his choice every night, as in other schools. There is a weekly project due on Weds. customized to tie into instruction for the week. Example this week is writing about pros/cons of California's aqueduct system. Then there is one short nightly assignment which alternates between math and language arts that takes an inattentive, distracted kid 30-45 min., for example a couple pages in the math workbook. There is no busy work, no brainless discouraging stuff, none of the xeroxed sheets we'd grown used to in the past. Sometimes homework still doesn't get done, and the Walden teachers will sit with my son the next day to work on it. They also check his assignment book every day, adding notes as needed. I really like the way they do things at Walden. G.

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I would like to tell you about Walden School in Berkeley which is private and fits your brief description of what you want. It is the most affordable private school we found, and worth every penny. It's an art-based, progressive school that is truly developmental. It's also very small, allowing for a lot of individualized instruction. The teachers are amazing. Each year we have fallen in love with the new teacher and see how each offers something wonderful to our child. At Walden, 2nd - 3rd grade are combined in one class, and 4th - 6th are also combined. Each class has music, drama/movement, Spanish and art twice a week. K - 1st also learn sign language. It's a wonderful community of committed parents and teachers and we enjoy being a part of it. Here is a brief quote from the website:

''We embrace a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning. What this means is that Walden students actively participate in their own learning. They look, listen, and touch. They ask, answer, and discuss. They measure, move, and create. Walden students find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex problems.''

The website is an excellent resource for learning more: http://www.walden-school.net I'm also happy to answer any questions. Best of luck! Happy Walden parent laura

Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
In response to the poster looking for progressive schools in Berkeley & Oakland, I'd suggest you look into Walden Center and School in Berkeley near Dwight Way/MLK. The school is small, child centered, arts-based, and identifies as progressive. It's a private school but offers financial aid, and is one of the lower tuitions (if not lowest) in the area. One strong feature of the school is community involvement; all families are required to volunteer for the school and parents perform a great many functions, including staffing the office and cleaning & maintaining the school facilities. We've been very happy with our experience at Walden so far (in our 3rd year now). Good luck! -- very happy Walden family

June 2010

Re: Will private schools accept a child without preschool?
I have 2 daughters at Walden, and preschool experience is not a requirement. Some children come into the school after being home-schooled for a time, some come from a preschool. It is a small school with amazing teachers. Pamela is the K teacher and she has an amazing ability to include all children, help the wiggly ones focus, allow the focused ones to lead, and teach a subject all at the same time.

My younger daughter started there early and will do a second year in K this coming year, and we are thrilled to have Pamela for 2 years. Ruby will be 5 this Sept. Pamela is very able to incorporate children of different abilities / maturity. The curriculum is different every year, based on the children's interests. It's a small school with lots of individual attention, and lots of encouragement for each child to ask questions, think for themselves, be creative, work together, solve problems, etc. Walden is a wonderful place with integrated arts, music, drama, sign language, and Spanish. I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have. Best of luck with relocating. Laura

May 2010

Re: Summer camp for two German 10-year-old friends
You might try the summer camp at Walden Center & School in central Berkeley. Their phone number is 510-841-7248. My 10-year-old will spend a couple of weeks there this summer. It's a fun, low-key camp with a few field trips to places like swimming pools. Last summer a camper from France had a good time at the Walden camp. Mary N.

May 2010

Re: Moving from Boston ... which school?
Congratulations on your move to the Berkeley area. (I grew up in Bedford MA) My 2 girls attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley and we love it. It's a small private school focused on integrating arts education with academics. My children are in 1st and K, and so far the homework is optional. Class sizes are small, generally 10 - 15 in a class, and often they break into 2 groups for lessons. The teaching at Walden is very creative, using varied activities to teach a subject (discussion, demonstration, games, small groups).

For example, the 1st grade has recently studied frogs, ancient Egypt, and money. The unit on money included store games, learning about different types of money, kids bringing in samples from different countries, reading stories about money, making and designing their own coins, and learning the song ''Can't Buy Me Love'', among other things. Music, art, math, history, etc are all integrated into lessons about a common theme.

Outside time: I think they get a full hour (including lunch), and it's free play. They also do mindfulness exercises, and have quiet time in the classroom when they can choose from a variety of quiet activities.

The after school program is run by fabulous teachers with lots of free play. This really fits into my understanding that children learn while playing. My kids are generally there until 5:00 or 5:30, and they don't want to leave. I wish they didn't have such a long day, but feel good about where they are. I know almost everyone at the school.

Best of luck with your move! Happy Walden Parent

May 2010

Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
There are lots of schools in the East Bay that fit the description of ''a private school that is ... not trying to prove itself academically.'' In fact there are only a handful that are! But I can personally recommend taking a look at Walden School in Berkeley. We are starting there for 4th grade in September for similar reasons to yours. My nephew went to Walden and is now in high school. He was very well prepared academically, though he was difficult as a young kid, and I think he would not have succeeded in other schools. In my opinion, Walden is a small enough school that every child can be met at her/his own level, but at the same time the bar is very high, and the teachers, most of them long-term, seem to be pretty outstanding. Plus, the emphasis on arts makes school fun and challenging for kids. Check it out! Walden newbie

Consider Walden Center and School for your son. At Walden academics are important, but they are part of a wider curriculum that is developmental and high individualized, because, well, academics aren't enough. The emphasis at Walden is on helping kids love to learn and helping them develop fully.

The curriculum is both rich and deep, and fully integrates the arts, helping kids find the ways they learn best. Walden kids are confident, self-expressive, and respectful of diverse ways of being. They go out into the world and become passionate, compassionate, and accomplished adults. Walden graduates are an incredibly diverse bunch of people and include foresters, theater directors, teachers, engineers, carpenters, entrepreneurs, midwives, musicians, professors, and yes, Harvard alumni, to name a few. At Walden achievement goes beyond academics.

Our daughter is thriving there and we are very happy. Walden is small, so all the teachers and students know her. She is part of a learning community that values diversity, respect, and creativity. At Walden you'll find a wide range of learning styles and levels because Walden reflects the world in all its diverse glory. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. Vicki

April 2010

Re: My 4th grader son gets into 'trouble' for being a normal little boy
My child goes to Walden School in Berkeley (not to be confused with Waldorf). The boys there seem to be allowed to be boys. In fact, one of the many things I love about Walden is that everyone is accepted for who they are. The school's philosophy is child-centered and progressive, with great arts classes (art, music, and drama each twice a week). Check out the website: www.walden-school.net. happy parent & child

Nov 2009

Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
My two girls attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley (K and 1st grade), and it is a truly developmental school where there is lots of hands-on work on all topics. The children learn by experience and doing in the classroom on all subjects -- from making their own knitting needles, estimating how many objects are in a jar, field trips, etc. Arts are integrated into the curriculum: music, dance, visual arts, etc. I find that my children are picking up sign language very quickly, but their Spanish is a bit slower. I attribute this to the fact that they are visual learners. I am no expert on different educational philosophies, but Walden is definitely a place to check out! Happy Walden parent

Oct 2009

Re: Kindergarden Next Year, but which one?
You said you are looking for a bilingual program, and we applied for that in Berkeley but did not get it. We are incredibly happy with the school we ended up at: Walden Center and School in Berkeley, which is a private school focusing on integrated arts with education. It's a wonderful, small school with Spanish, sign language, music, drama, art: http://www.walden-school.net/ If you're looking for a small, individualized, developmental, arts-based program for your child I highly encourage you to check out Walden. And I'd be happy to answer any questions. Laura

Oct 2009

I toured Walden recently and was very impressed with the teachers and the teaching I saw going on. But it feels very small to me--the current kindergarten seems to be only about 10 kids--and I worry about what that is like socially for the kids, and for the parents. I'd love to hear from current parents about the school culture. Thanks. looking for a progressive school

I have one current Walden student and one graduate, and our whole family loves the school. The grades are small, averaging about 15 students per grade, but many classes are multi-age and multi-grade. Also, the students all mix together at morning break and lunch. The students all know one another, and the older students look out for the little ones in a very sweet way. My older child started playing soccer when he was five and some fifth and sixth graders included him in their lunchtime games. The parents are also friendly and inclusive. I encourage you to apply to this fabulous school! Jennifer

Walden's size is just right! Most classes have 18-24 students in the class, and the groups often get split when doing teacher-intensive activities like language, arts, drama, reading, etc. to keep the teacher to child ratio low. The size of my daughters kindergarten class was 20, this year is lower due to the reality of the economy. Even with higher enrollments in the classrooms, the teaching staff at Walden goes to great lengths to do group activities, as well as ''learning station'' type activities where children are closely grouped with other children at the same developmental milestones. There are many opportunities for socialization in the school grounds across classes, and there are activities where the children from the upper groups mentor (reading buddies, etc.) children in other classes. walden parent

First off, you are right about the quality of the teachers. They are first rate and it shows in everything they do. Every new staff member is mentored by an established staff member for up to two years. And because the school has small numbers, every teacher knows every child, even if the child may not be in their class for some years to come. They have regular all- school assemblies, so each teacher gets to know YOUR child. My daughter LOVES the school and all the teachers. She is now in fifth grade, so has gone through all the classes and worked with every teacher. What I love about the school, as a parent, is its deep sense of community, and the fact that the school is a teacher collective, which is something rare. Like all schools in the area, numbers have decreased because of the economy, but they are only marginally below what is their optimum number. So yes, the school is small in numbers, under 100, but it was set up that way. The great advantage of the school is the fact that my upper group girl knows the names of every child in the school. There are no strangers. I love seeing the older children playing with and mentoring the younger ones. It is so good for them. The parents are extremely diverse and friendly, a lively bunch from all walks of life, welcoming and working alongside each other with fun and enthusiasm. As someone born outside the US and a card- carrying immigrant, this is important for me. Please write to me if you want further information. Shay

My son attends the current Kindergarten class at Walden school. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. My child is exceedingly happy. He came from a tight nit cooperative where his friendships and community were very important to him. It has been wonderful to watch with each passing day the children in this Kindergarten class deepening their connection to one another. Having my child be one in a group of ten students has turned out to be a positive experience - resulting in a lot of joy and good feeling. The Spanish, Sign Language, Music and Dance teachers are intricately involved in the classroom goings on and this weaves yet another layer of familiarity. I am happy at seeing my son excited about learning. I am glad that he can't wait to get to school to be with his peers (which includes the older kids) and that he has a wonderful relationship with his teacher Pamella. I am thrilled that my son is reveling in all of the arts that he is being exposed to. My child is counting everything he can in Spanish (from the toes on his feet to the whiskers on our cat's face) and showing us with great pride the sign language he has acquired. We are beyond pleased with Walden school. Walden School Kindergarten parent

Our 2 daughters go to Walden, in first grade and K, and they are having a great experience. The community is small (but not too small), which is one of the things we love about it. My children love the arts, music, drama, sign language, and Spanish that is integrated with their academic learning. They know all the teachers in the school, and the teachers are amazing. A small setting ensures a good deal of individual attention, individualized homework in some cases, and deeper relationships between children and teachers. I think it's amazing that my girls will have 7 years of drama with the same drama teacher, and music with the same music teacher. The teachers are inspired and inspiring, and that is really what makes it a great place. The parent community is also very involved. We look forward to going to school events, and the girls are excited to go to school every day. Best of luck in your search! I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have. laura

Hi! I had the same concern when we were prospective family at Walden - I wondered if it would be socially difficult for my son (would he make an friends??) and whether there would be limitations in the facilities or resources of the school.

Turns out, we have been ecstatic with Walden. My son is in first grade now and I think he knows the names of every kid at the school. He's up at the crack of dawn begging to go to school every day. It really says a lot about the school that 10 and 11 year olds will play with the kindergarteners and treat them kindly!

My son was certainly not a socially graceful guy, and yet he has made good friends at Walden. Beyond that, his entire class of kids seems to be on warm and friendly terms with one another. I don't think this is just luck -- I think it has a lot to do with a carefully tended culture of caring and respect. My son has developed warm relationships with not only his homeroom teacher, but also Spanish, visual arts, dance/theater, music, and sign language teachers, each of whom knows him well, not to mention the aftercare staff, other parents, and younger & older siblings of students, all of whom often 'hang out' before and after school.

Feel free to contact me off-list if you want to talk more about it! Gradiva

Oct 2009

Re: Elementary schools where African American boys thrive
... we moved to Walden on Dwight Way in Berkeley. Walden is a very small, sweet school with a ton of heart. There is a real community there that embraces children, and even parents, with genuine warmth and support. Like nearly all private schools, the student body is not extremely diverse; however there are long-time African American teachers who are at the core of the school's program and (collective) decision-making functions. They are fabulous role models for all the children at the school. If you are open to a truly alterative school, I recommend that you check it out. Anon

Feb 2009

Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
I would say not the right school, rather than not ready for kindergarten. After all, the preschool teacher knows your daughter well. Since you're already looking at private schools, you might like Walden in central Berkeley. At the Walden kindergarten visit, if a child is not okay with her parent leaving, then the parent may stay. The kindergarten teacher, and in fact all of the Walden teachers, appreciate that some people are quieter than others and know how to make all children feel welcome and happy in school. As a former shy child myself, I feel strongly that shy does not mean unready! Jennifer

Nov 2008

We're considering Walden School and have been very impressed with everything, especially the drama program. We would love some feedback about what's going on with music. Thank you! Music Fans

We are new to Walden this year so perhaps we're not the best people to answer your question as our experience is limited, but so far our daughter is really enjoying the way music is integrated into her day. Also, after seeing some members of my family become unable to enjoy playing despite conservatory-level standards of training, perhaps I have a different set of values from many re. musical training: I think technique and theory can be learned in many places, but learning to nurture the self-confidence to perform wholeheartedly is special to Walden's approach to the arts. The way I see it, music is a part of daily life at Walden; the children learn music theory by doing music together every day in some way or the other; there also seem to be opportunities for short performances in front of larger groups at assemblies and special events. The most valuable thing for me to see is that performance, the act of sharing music with others, is something the kids genuinely seem to enjoy; there is an amazing absence of forcing, tension, or stress, and whatever the technical level of each child, the kids perform with joy and self-confidence. Also a Music Lover

I am a former Walden parent, and my son attended there from kindergarten through 5th grade. He personally enjoyed the music program, and reported to me that music sessions included xylophone ensemble and drumming. The kids in grades 4-6 have played music on a float at the ''how Berkeley Can you Be'' parades. This will be the third year for the current music teacher at Walden; prior to that the former teacher had been there for 20 years, so the program has undergone some changes in flavor and focus. marcie

Hi music fans. I have had two children at Walden, and we've been very happy with the school. The arts education is especially great. The students have music classes, and they also learn dance and singing performance in the drama program. My older child moved on to Willard Middle School this year, and he was able to start the trumpet and catch up with the other students in band because of what he had learned at Walden. (He was well prepared for middle school in other ways, too.) Jennifer

Dear Music Fans, My son is in 3rd grade at Walden and loves everything about it, including his music classes! They sing and play recorder as well as pitched percussion instruments on a variety of songs. Movement is integrated into the class and sometimes they play music to accompany stories.

My son has been at walden since Kindergarten and when he was in 1st grade, a new music teacher was hired. The previous music teacher had been there a long time (15+ years) and was much beloved by the entire community. It was a tough transition to a new person in that role. What my son reported at the time is that many kids found the teacher more strict, which I think might have really meant more ''technique oriented''. What I notice as a parent is that the performances are tight and the children take a lot of pride in knowing they sound great! And, as I mentioned before, my child is really happy. Hope this helps. Contented Walden Parent

There was a change in staff in the music program several years ago and it has been a little bit of a rocky transition. Our child went to Walden and when the music program changed, we ended up supplementing music lessons outside of the school environment. The drama program is superb. Other factors you might want to consider are academics and the collective set-up of the school. While the collective has some positives, there is no hierarchical structure to the staff and no one person to handle problems that come up with your child. We have found the public school setting to be much more challenging and comprehensive academically and would not choose Walden as a school if we had it to do over again. If you'd like more specifics, perhaps the moderator can give you my contact info. -anon

We love Walden. Our kid is happy and excited about learning all the subjects (and has learned more about art - both visual and performing than we parents have ever learned).

Right now, the music program is Walden's weak link, but my sense is that the program will be different next year (the current teacher has already accepted a job at another school and reduced his time; he has also let the kids know how much more appreciated by the students he is at the other school). Even if the situation doesn't change the rest of the program makes up for it.

I think the current situation with music speaks to one of Walden's greatest differentiators: it is a teacher run collective. This is both awesome as you get truly invested staff, and difficult, as it is often tricky finding new staff that get it, and when a fit is not great the staff can have a hard time recognizing and reacting to it (once a staff member is brought on board it can be difficult for the collective to own up to the mistake). This strength/weakness shows itself in other areas of the school, for example sometimes its hard to know who to ask about something, or how to get a decision made. Sometimes the school can be slow to address a problem that seems obvious. Ultimately we think its more of a strength because all of the long term staff/collective members truly love their work and are extraordinarily dedicated to the community and educating the kids. One might even say that its only by the standards they set that the current music teacher doesn't measure up.

We strongly suggest you consider Walden for your child, its been great for ours.

BTW: the music teacher is a very serious, good musician and has conducted well received workshops for the school's parents. He's a far better teacher of adults than kids, imho... a Walden parent

Dec 2007

Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
Our peace loving son is loving Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It's a very safe, tolerant place.

The kids are active, creative, vocal, readily ask for help from the wonderful yard staff, and have positive outlets for aggression.

Playground violence and bullying are not tolerated - and the staff helps the kids find other ways to communicate. My preschooler loves to play on the bars with the big kids and they tolerate/support her very well.

My son is a Harry Potter nut and was really into StarWars last year, but I've never seen the kids do gunplay. The fans get together and talk about the movies, characters, etc. Shirley

Dec 2007

We are considering Walden Center and School for our son who will be entering kindergarten next Fall. I have toured the school and really like what I saw. However, I haven't gotten a strong impression of the kindergarten teacher. I know she has been there a long time, but she was not very outspoken at the open house and I only observed her classroom for a short period of time on the tour. Does anyone have any feedback about her strengths and weaknesses and what it was like for your child in her classroom? Thanks so much.

My two children went to Walden kindergarten (and beyond) and I think the teacher is absolutely wonderful. She is more focused on the children in that year's class than on their parents, or on prospective parents; but once she has taught your child she will know her, all her peculiarities and preferences. When my daughter goes back for social events (after almost 4 years away from Walden) that teacher recognizes her, greets her warmly, looks deeply into her, and my daughter is proud to be remembered and have her growth recognized and appreciated. (My son is more reserved but still can't help smiling when greeted by her.) She sees truths and encourages their best qualities. - a big fan

Walden is a secret treasure chest and the kindergarten teacher is one of its gems. My son had a fantastic kindergarten experience. The teacher has deep, deep respect for the needs of the children including their need for independent work. She comes forward in a quiet, clear, and decisive way to guide the children as needed. I would not let her relative quite throw you off, it is just her way of showing respect for the children and the hard work they are doing. Liza

I have two children at Walden, and they both had a great kindergarten year. At Walden, kindergarten is more about reading readiness, and many children learn to read in first grade. The kindergarten is a full school day, but time spent sitting and concentrating is alternated with time to run around and play outside. For my children, and I think for most others, this set-up was developmentally perfect. The teacher is warm and kind, and she is especially good at incorporating music into the classroom. She welcomes the children so that they feel safe and happy and ready to learn. The math program at Walden, beginning in kindergarten, has been very effective for my children. Using blocks and other manipulatives in the early years, they really understand math concepts rather than just memorizing techniques. By the end of kindergarten, my older child was inspired to spend weeks trying to count as high as he could. I encourage you to apply! Jennifer

My son attends Walden Center and School and I've been completely happy with it, year after year. It's a place where individual creativity is truly given a place to thrive and it seems to me the happiest group of students I've ever seen at a school. My son is now a sixth grader and has never once not wanted to come to school.

My son had the current Kindergarten teacher many years ago as a kindergartner. He still says she is his favorite teacher, even after all these years. Incredibly sweet, kind, intelligent and attuned to each student. I always felt she is a quintessential Kindergarten teacher. Children really respond to her warmth. I have no idea why she seemed reserved to you in the open house, but that is not my experience of her. I highly recommend both Walden and the kindergarten program. Feel free to e-mail me if you would like more specific informaiton. ekl

My son is currently in the Lower Group (kindergarten) at Walden. We both love the school, and we especially love the kindergarten teacher, Pam Meredith. Pam genuinely loves each and every one of her students -- she has told me that each year she thinks of each child as a gift to open, as their unique personalities unfold. She is very nurturing, and very good at helping each child develop their strengths. She is gentle, but firm when necessary. She is in complete control of the classroom but without being overbearing about it. Each child feels free to speak up, and they do so, often.

I especially like the way Pam teaches math skills, and as a math/science person myself, I'm not easily impressed. For example, she has the kids count out 10 or 12 of a small object (like goldfish crackers), and then has them group the objects by 2's, by 3's, by 4's, etc., and has them count how many groups of 2,3, etc, and how many objects are in the remainder (e.g. 2 groups of 4 with 2 in the remainder if there are 10 objects total). This is a very visual, hands-on way of laying the foundation for later math skills.

She also has each child keep a journal -- in pictures, and then with letters and words as their writing skills develop.

All of the teachers at Walden are fabulous -- my son enjoys the music, art, Spanish, drama, and after school teachers as much as his classroom teacher. But of all the fabulous teachers at Walden, I think that Pam is especially wonderful.

I looked at something like 17 schools (public, private, and charter) before choosing Walden. I was looking for a warm, nurturing environment, a low child/adult ratio, a hands-on approach to learning, and an active and involved parent community. I found all of that at Walden, and I definitely recommend the school and all of the teachers highly. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me. Diane

My older son ( now in the middle group at Walden )truly enjoyed having Pamela as a teacher. We absolutely adore her.She is sweet,kind of shy which is why you might not have heard much from her at the open house or tour.She is kind and knows just how to calmly support the children to find their way.She is very loving . The only weakness we found was that she had to have another teacher show her how to start a campfire on the camping trip:) My youngest will be in her class next fall, and he is so excited. If you have any more questions feel free to email me. shannon

We have two kids in Walden, a fourth grader who transferred from another school, and a second grader who was in Kindergarten at Walden. My daughter had a wonderful experience with Pamela. More generally, I would say that Pamela is great with transitioning kids into elementary school. She is extremely loving, accepting, and flexible with each child, bringing them forward and preparing them for first grade. This includes high energy boys as well: I wish my son had experienced her class. More generally, I would recommend that if you have questions or need to see more of her work with the kids that you ask the school if you can observe her class again. I cannot say enough good things about Walden. I think it is a great place for nearly every child to learn and grow. I only wish they had a middle school, too. Very Happy Walden Parent

This is in reference to the kindergarten teacher at Walden. I want you all to know how great Pam is, even though my son did not have her. My interactions and his interactions have been so positive. As a former preschool director and teacher, I recommend her highly. Her soft spoken and loving approach is a perfect introduction to elementary education. I live next door to the school and can often hear her calm, supportive yet firm voice from my back porch. It is a pleasure to listen to her explainations, instuctions and comments to the children. I have observed her at many community event, always 100% there for the children. She is truly gifted and a gift. Ruth

Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Please have a look at Walden Center & School. I know you asked specifically for Oakland, but it is central Berkeley very close to many parts of Oakland and many students there are coming from Oakland. It is a small nurturing school, and the kids are generally friendly and inclusive. For its size I think it fairs better in many areas of divesity than many other private schools. There is diversity among the teachers and staff too, including African American and male teachers which I think is vital in celebrating, honoring and modeling diversity to kids. anon

May 2007

I am considering Walden School for my son, who will be entering kindergarten this fall. I have read the reviews in the archive, which are largely positive, but the most recent is two years old, and most are older. I'm interested in hearing from parents with more recent experience with the school about how you and your child(ren) feel about the school. Does your child like school? Are they making good progress academically? It sounds like everyone loves the art/drama/music there, but there's less information about the math and science program. What math and science topics are covered, and what level of math skills do the kids typically attain by 6th grade? How do Walden grads do in middle school? I'm also interested in hearing feedback on the before and after school programs -- again, does your kid like it, and what do they do? I'm also kind of curious why Walden still has openings this time of year, when most other private schools are full with waiting lists? Thanks for any and all feedback! -- a prospective Walden parent

My son is in 1st grade at Walden School. I cannot imagine him at school anywhere else. He is very bright and social, and the small class sizes allow the teachers to challenge the children at different levels. His kindergarten year was absolutely magical. A perfect balance was struck between inside/outside play, social/academic expectations, nurturing/independence. This year he has flourished academically. He is reading and excited about absolutely everything they have studied. His teacher is extremely competent, organized, and has the calm demeanor required by a group of 6 year olds. The Music and Drama programs are also very challenging, and the Visual Arts give him yet another creative outlet, one that I am not sure he would explore as fully as he now has the opportunity to do. As a student, my son is enormously invested in his own learning. For the recent Science Night, all the students grades 1-6 did an independent science project using the Scientific Inquiry model. It was amazing to see how such a goal is realized for 6 year olds, 8 year olds and then 10 year olds. My son's project, as well as his classmates', all seemed completely child driven. We are very happy at Walden School. A current Walden parent

My daughter is finishing the fourth grade at Walden and both she and we love it. You asked specifically about the non-arts curriculum: For us the science has also been a strong point; there is a science fair every spring and the kids work hard on their projects which they present for others at the school using the scientific method. While there is the basic necessary memorization involved in sections on anatomy, astronomy etc., much of the science curriculum is experimental, experientially based so that the kids really relate to and understand the concepts of science. I think the math curriculum is prety much on par with other schools - they use the standard math work books for each grade level as well as integrating other projects. I'm so happy that my daughter isn't spending all of her time in school just memorizing facts for the standardized tests. Instead she is learning analytical thinking skills, how to give presentations, the fundamentals of writing research papers, AND a love for learning. These are skills which will serve her through life. Although my older daughter didn't go to Walden, many of her friends did and they are now at NYU, various UCs and University of Chicago etc. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions. monika

Our family has been at Walden for five years, and my children are in the first and fourth grades. They both like school a lot. In math, the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders generally follow the same curriculum as in the Berkeley and Albany public schools. We were especially happy with the Middle Group (second and third grades) math program. The teacher let the children who were ready work ahead, and each child seemed to get an individual homework assignment. We have also been happy with the first grade teacher, who is in her second year at Walden. Our child has made great progress in reading and math. I think Walden is the best elementary school in Berkeley! Jennifer N.

This is my son's 3rd year at Walden (we transferred from a public school). I think it is the best thing I've done for my son. For one thing, all the children are happy in that school because Walden provides a very nurturing, comfortable environment for them. In this atmosphere, children learn much more without feeling forced. Most important, the school teaches them to think, to reason, to question, to use given information to draw a conclusion. Those are the skills the children will need for a good math/science education (I have MS in Computer Science). I wish you could see the science projects the students put together this year. It was equivalent to what we had done in middle school. About 50% of the students go to public schools after Walden. I've talked to the parents of those students, and they all do very well. Some are under the impression that math and science education is not strong because it doesn't follow the traditional methods, such as 'read and memorize your text book, then repeat what you learned'. My observation is they learn more while doing the experiments or solving mathematical puzzles and they have fun at the same time. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information. Ani

Walden is a different kind of private school. If you are looking for souped-up high-pressure academics, it may not be the place for your child and your family. But if you are looking for a truly developmental school, you have found it. The school does not buy into the “homework hype” that most kids are subjected to these days beginning in K. Homework is truly optional for K and 1st, and very light for 2nd and 3rd. By 4th, there is apparently quite a bit more, although it isn’t endless repetitive worksheets. (My kids are in 1st and 3rd.) That does not mean math, science, and all the academics, are not rigorously taught. They are. But the school is not high pressure. My understanding is that kids do very well after Walden; I can’t speak to that yet from personal experience, although I am very confident that this is the case. Walden has all the arts and other enrichment opportunities of other private schools (actually more art than most, Spanish, many field trips and overnights). To me, these things are more than enrichment. They are integral to a well-rounded school experience.

Why is enrollment lower than many privates? I can only venture a guess that the school is not as attractive to some people who can pay private tuition precisely because it isn’t high pressure.

Also the school is small and the campus is small. It isn’t glitzy, but it is very warm and comfortable, which in my opinion is much more important to kids than fancy. I know people who anxiously compete for the “right” preschool based on where they think their child should go to college. Tracking from age 3 doesn’t work for me. And Walden isn’t like that. I really believe it a hidden gem. You are welcome to email me directly with further questions. c_scott

I am a parent of a current Walden student and have a graduate as well. To answer some of your questions: Both of my kids love(d) Walden. They never complain about going to school. They love their teachers, and are fully engaged in the work they do at school (and at home). My older daughter went on to another private middle school and had absolutely no problems transitioning to what appears to be a more academically rigorous program, with grades and testing.

Yes, the arts and drama program are first rate- I don't think many other schools' programs come close to what the kids at Walden get in terms of the arts. With our older daugher (now in 8th grade), we were concerned about the level of math and science, mostly because we just weren't sure where she should be, and since there are no letter grades or testing, we didn't have ''proof'' of how she measured up. But she is doing fantastic in math, and has a real understanding of the concepts and mechanics. She is on track to be in Honors Geometry in the fall at Berkeley High. Neither of our girls are fond of science, but I would say that the hands-on science at Walden, especially in the ''middle group'' is stimulating and really gets kids thinking as scientists- ''what happens if?'' and ''why did that happen?'' The teachers weave the subjects together (learning strands) so kids are learning topics in depth- ie. they might study the rainforest and bring that subject into math and language arts, as well as science.

A few other positives- there is true diversity at Walden- economic, racial, LGBT. The community is small and most families form strong friendship bonds over the years. There is very low teacher turnover- many teachers have been at Walden for 10-20+ years! And yes, it's private, but the cost is among the lowest in the Bay Area.

As to why there are still spaces- I can't say. I know that many people who consider Walden are weighing that choice against public school, and many will go that route instead. We have had such a positive experience at Walden, I could go on and on. Feel free to email me with any more questions.... christa

My son is in his first year at Walden and I could not be more thrilled with the school. The staff and faculty show amazing commitment to the students. Every faculty and staff member knows the name and personality of every student. They genuinely care and nurture each student and allow them to be individuals. Children are allowed to learn in their own way-hence a developmental model and yet the pace of learning is quick and efficient. All subjects are weighted equally so that art is as important as math- my son is truly getting a well-rounded education. I am truly grateful for Walden and would not want him anywhere else. Walden is a true gift of a school for those fortunate enough to find it. liz

I'm glad a current Walden parent gave their review, since the questioner asked for recent experience, but I would like to give my take on Walden as a graduate (definitely not recent!). Walden was one of the things I am most grateful to my parents for. The experience of Walden - being heard, valued, nurtured and respected regardless of my age - was so important to my developing personality, I doubt I would have been the same person without it. The core values of Walden I still use everyday, and even though the programs have changed over the years (less camping now, more spanish), the gestalt is still the same. I went to their Spring Fair a few weeks ago and I saw the same kind of confidence in the current student body that we had 25 years ago. I really believe that Walden is the best private school for helping kids grow into themselves as healthy, well rounded people. Middle school was difficult, the concepts of conformity and rote memorization were alien, but I was happy at Berkeley High and I discovered that what Walden didn't provide in academic discipline it more than made up for in self-directed learning and love of knowledge. Proud to be a Walden Kid (class of '80) Jennifer

My second grader is finishing his first year at Walden and we are so relieved that our son's academic career didn't peak at his beloved preschool. We tried three different elementary schools before finding Walden. He has blossomed at Walden, both academically and socially. (Walden is a developmental school, not to be confused w/Waldorf.) The only drawback is that he never wants to play hooky - he'd rather be at school. The kids treat each other well, the teachers are warm, competent and fun, the art and drama/dance programs are phenomenal. I think Walden still has a few openings for the younger kids. The school's located on the corner of Dwight and McKinley, a block below MLK in Berkeley. Shirley

March 2007

Do you want a truly developmental elementary school instead of one that masquerades as “developmental” while under the surface they are exerting high academic pressure on very young children, even while claiming they don’t buy the “No Child Left Behind” view of education?

We were drawn to Walden for our two children because we didn’t feel we would be shut out of our children’s lives at school, but instead would be part of a warm community of caring teachers, parents, and children.

We chose Walden because the teachers personally connect with every child, and address their individual academic needs.

We chose Walden because it is immersed in the arts: The fulltime arts teachers are a central part of the staff, and drama/dance, music and visual arts are all taught twice a week.

Our children are thriving there.

Walden still has a few spaces for Kindergarten (2007/08). If you have questions about the school, you can visit www.walden- school.net or call 841-7248. Constance

Nov 2006

Re: Alternative/arts based public school?
Although it has been some time since my son attended, Walden Center & School is what you're looking for! They have an arts-based curriculum, with art, drama (which often includes dance), and music all being an integral part of the curriculum. Check it out. They are on McKinley at Dwight in Berkeley. Deb

July 2005

Re: Seeking arts-based elementary school for entering kindergarten

We have been extremely happy with Walden School and think of it as a little gem in the world of schools. It is a small, nuturing arts-based environment that does a great job at catering to kids throughout the spectrum of learning abilities. Because it is small with a low student to teacher ratio, kids' work can be individualized to their ability. I'd would definitely encourage you to check it out for yourself. mmann

our daughter has had a wonderful experience at Walden for the past 2 years (and she's entering 2nd grade there in fall)and I adore it also. It's arts-based with every class having art, music, and drama/movement classes each twice a week as well as incorporated into the other curricula. I have seen my daughter thrive with an interest in sciences deepening as a result of the multi-modal curriculum. The atmosphere is very relaxed, nurturing, and childhood-friendly. And, while she started there loving to draw yet rarely if ever singing, she has been drawing less (though still enjoys it) and has been teaching our family dozens of new songs. you can e-mail me if you have any questions, Chris

April 2005

Re: Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School? (April 2005)
I'm a little late in jumping in here, but I wanted to let you all know that Walden Center & School in Berkeley is a wonderful place for kids from GLBT families! Our son is one of a number of kids from GLBT families. All kinds of diversity is welcome and honored at Walden.

Walden (not be confused with Waldorf) is a small independent school of about 90 students K- 6 - and the parent/teacher community is fabulous. It's like a village that is helping us to raise our son, not an institution where we hope he will survive.

There are openings for the 2005-2006 school year in kindergarten and the upper group (grades 4-6). For more information, you can check out www.walden-school.net or call 841-7248 and leave a message for Cristin Costello.

I am happy to answer questions about our experience at Walden. B Avalon

March 2005

I have a child entering kindergarten in the Fall and we are looking at the Walden Center and School. I'm sold on the type of education they offer but am looking for pros and cons that people may be able to offer on the school and its community as a whole. Thanks. Sarah

Our daughter is in second grade at Walden Center and School and we couldn't be happier. She started out at a Berkeley Public School and we found she just was not thriving in her particular situation there and I felt she was at risk of developing a negative attitude toward school. At Walden she is thriving. All of the teacher's are great, nuturing and truly take a personal interest in the children. Additionally, we enjoy the Walden Community and friends that she has made at the school.

Nov 2003

I'd love to get some feedback on Walden School in Berkeley.I'd like to hear both about current experiences and also about how kids have fared at integrating into other schools after Walden. monika

I have had a child at Walden for several years, and I strongly recommend the school for families looking for an inclusive, loving environment that lets children develop at their own pace and encourages creativity. The school's strengths are its strong arts focus with full time art, drama/dance and music teachers and its creation of a tolerant, respectful community among the kids. The drama/dance component of the curriculum is particularly central in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades with a large, elaborate production at the end of each school year. Although graduates seem to go on to a variety of middle and high schools (mostly public, but Maybeck, Bentley and Athenian also come to mind), this may not be the right choice for families interested in a more traditional academic program, test preparation or competition. The school, with its small, funky site and parents performing most of the janitorial and other maintainance related tasks for tuition exchange, may also not be a good fit for those looking for a more traditional campus.

We give two thumbs up for Walden Center & School! Couldn't be happier! Walden is teacher collective, and so there is no administration dictating what must be done in the classroom. Being a cooperative requires EXTRA dedication on the part of the teachers who work cooperatively in determining the curriculuum. They use what works, not what someone in Sacramento tells them they have to use. The staff are all loving and generous, really getting to know all the kids in this small (90 students) K-6 school. Our son is in 1st grade and LOVES going to school. There are mixed grade classes for 2nd - 3rd grades and 4th-5th-6th grades. Weekly drama/movement, spanish, music and art. Very important to us is that Walden is like a community that is also a school. Diversity is good for such a small school, which is important to us as lesbian moms. I could go on and on. Please email me directly if you have other questions. B Avalon

I would agree with most of the recent postings with a few differences-

Walden fosters deep understanding and intellectual development. It is very hands on - my child now does exceptionally well in math and science. I attribute this in part to Walden's focus on music and art instruction which educational research has shown to develop mathematical abilities, and in the way students were required to verbalize all their science and math lessons. I do agree it is not big on test taking skills so we had her tutored in that area. Though generally she performs well on subject area tests in school.

In terms of cleaning - getting down with the basics. Performing these basic tasks forms community - it is the way you get to know the other parents, by working together and adding TLC to the classroom. Some parents do other jobs during the day like Office Parent, Classroom Assistant, Construction, or fundraising. Parents can opt out of this by paying more tuition or paying for a substitute when they can't make their work time. Parents who need more scholarship are often granted more hours or specially skilled jobs. I often say that when you go to other schools you gain an education but at Walden you gain an exceptional education AND a family. Walden teachers there have always happily and enthusiastically gone the distance for my child.

FYI- Walden Center and School is not a Waldorf school, this is a common confusion, one that I shared when I first heard the name, Walden has its own very independent, very dedicated history which greatly influences its path thru today. c e c

To parents thinking about sending their child to a school that is a teacher cooperative (like Walden) or a parent coop (like Crestmont). Others have pointed out the advantages of these alternative structures, but there can also be disadvantages. One can be that if you have a serious disagreement or conflict with your child's teacher it may be very difficult to figure out who to speak with after you have tried and failed in working with the teacher directly. Such difficulties are often hard to resolve by talking with other teachers (the peers of the teacher in question).

The NPN school directory lists only very positive comments about Walden School in Berkeley, and I'm wondering about other views. Did you or someone you know leave the school? If so, why? The arts seem great, but how is the quality of the academics? How receptive is the teaching collective to parents' views or concerns? How was it to contribute 50 hours per school year? What was your experience with the before and after school care? What kinds of private schools do children leaving the school get into to? Thank you! Interested Parent

To the Interested Parent looking for more information about Walden school: Our experience is several years old, and quite mixed. I don't think the Berkeley Parents' Network likes to post negative comments about schools, so please contact me directly if you are interested in hearing more. L

[Editor note] We do accept negative reviews but only if they meet the policy. The policy about negative reviews is on the website here: http://parents.berkeley.edu/FAQ/rec#neg

to the person eliciting other than positive experiences at Walden; go to the info. meeting and/ or school tour, you will probably then know whether the school is a good match for you and your family. It is unfair to ask for only negative experiences; it could set up a lot of rumours and unfair bashing. We are very happy there. You will either love it or else you will find another school that better suits your own expectations. There is an abundance of great schools in the East Bay. Chris

Our oldest daughter is in the Kindergarten class at Walden so I can't answer all your questions, but we have had a wonderful experience thus far. The teacher makes herself available on a daily basis for any type of questions or concerns and will always schedule a conference if you want one, and gives each family her phone number before the start of the school year; someone who has been there longer could tell you how things are resolved if there is a major conflict with a teacher, but I have found teachers there very available and approachable so that I can't see issues becoming irreconcilable as things are dealt with if or when they arise. As for the academics, you would have to be comfortable with Walden's philosophy and atmosphere to send your child there. If you are looking for a more traditional approach which includes testing, you would be happier with a public school or more traditional private school. The basic philosophy I would say includes guiding each child at his/ her own pace, encouraging strong motivation, and the arts are an essential component of academics and learning, not an extracurricular time filler. I see relaxed motivated children interested in learning throughout the grades at Walden and my understanding is that they go on to a variety of the private middle schools, as well as Berkeley public schools and the Community School (private I think or else charter) which was started by families from several of the schools (including Walden) that go through 6th grade, so it is just 7th and 8th grade. Chris

Oct 2003

Re: Racially Diverse Private Schools

I highly recommend also looking at WALDEN SCHOOL in Berkeley (no, no affiliation with Waldorf schools or methods.) We only looked at Walden and Crestmont so I can't compare to the others you mentioned but I hear Walden has more similarities to Aurora and Berkwood Hedge (nearby.) The STAFF is wonderful and diverse- racially, and gender too (2 male teachers and 1 teaching assistant,) which is nice to come by in an elementary school. It has an arts-based curriculum, each class has art and drama and music (also Spanish and sign language) twice a week. The student body is diverse, though I would not say radically- but it is either the same or better than other private schools. a bonus is that you can opt to do 50 hours work commitment for the school year and reduce tuition by $2000 making it one of the most affordable of the private schools (crestmont is slightly less, that is why we didn't look at the others.) In theory that might attract economic diversity, but maybe not because 8000 vs. 12000 is still a lot. It is a warm vibrant community and the children seem happy and excited to be there. You can call 841-7248 for information and see if it fits for your family. (located on McKinley off Dwight Ave.)
happy mom and kindergartener

January 2003

Walden Center and School in Berkeley : My daughter attended Walden Center and School from 1st through 6th grades. This is a privately founded school not related to any other. It is not a ''Waldorf'' school, common misconception.

The school provided excellent academic preparation in a slightly different environment. It is an arts based curriculum with full time teachers in drama, music, and studio arts. There is no elementary school in the area which provides a finer environment in the arts. The teachers are wonderful. Students have ALL the arts twice a week, they do not need to choose. Current studies are showing that this type of environment is excellent for developing upper reasoning math skills, which it has done for my daughter. When half the class is in art, the other half is in academics: Language, Science or Math. Makes for very small academic classes like 8-12 depending on the year. Spanish starts in the early years - I think 1st or 2nd grade, also an excellent program - hard to match in Middle School.

The philosophy is grounded in peace education, very diverse, conflict resolution is practised naturally- not a ''special'' subject. When you go to Walden you become part of an extended family. There are no grades, tests or written records kept. This irritates some people. My daughter stayed through sixth grade, she is doing extremely well at Berkeley Montessori Middle School. c

Re: School for HIGHLY spirited child (September 2002)
My son just started kindergarten at Walden Center & School in central Berkeley. He's not especially spirited in the way you mean, but the school seems to leave a lot of time for outdoor free play between more structured activities. Walden is definitely an alternative school and not right for everyone. There are mixed-age classes, no standardized testing, and a lot of integration of the arts into all types of lessons. The teachers seem to understand what kids are like and what they need, so it might be a good fit for you. Jennifer

Dec. 2002

I recently went to an information session for Walden School and was impressed. The one recommendation for Walden on the website is 4 years old. I'd like some more current feedback. What do you consider the pros and cons? It sounds like a wonderful environment but since it is a pretty alternative school I'd like some input on that. We are considering it for our son next year. Thanks, Laurel

My son is in kindergarten at Walden, and we're very happy with the school. There are only 14 kids in his class, and the kindergarten teacher, Pam, is wonderful. All the classes get art, music, drama, and Spanish twice a week. The school doesn't have traditional grades, but instead has mixed-age classes. For example, the middle group is mostly 7 & 8 year olds. I think that's an advantage because the teachers get to know the kids better, and the kids can do whatever work they're ready for. The whole school has only about 90 kids, and they all play outside together at lunchtime. They all get to know each other, and the older ones seem to watch out for the younger ones. There's also a really good aftercare program. Jennifer N.

April 1998

Our son is just finishing his first (Kindergarten) year at Walden, and we are very happy there. It is not a chain :-)---there is no other associated Walden school.

It's a small school (around 80 kids in K-6), with an strong focus on the arts. The kids have music, art, and drama (and Spanish) twice a week, with special teachers who teach only these subjects. It's educational philosophy is "progressive"---no grades, multi-age classrooms, experiential learning. The social atmosphere is wonderful---kids of all ages mingle on the playground, and the social and emotional development of the children is seen as very important. The school is also committed to diversity. Three of the teachers are African-American, one is Thai, one is Palestinian, and many of the kids are kids of color. Two of the teachers are males, too, which is really nice for the boys.