Academically, this school was terrible. Our child was there for kindergarten & 1st grade. When we moved at the end of 1st grade, she was an entire academic school year behind. Near the beginning of her 1st grade year, it was recommended I get once-per-week after school tutoring (paid for in addition to her private school fees). After mid-year, I could see that my daughter was still far behind, so I took her to Sylvan Learning Center, where she was professionally evaluated. Sylvan told us that our child was incredibly bright, learned quickly & loved learning, but it was obvious that "she simply hasn't been taught". When we started our child at her new school, two teachers independently evaluated her & both told us the exact same thing: that our child was intellectually gifted and eager to learn, but "it is obvious that she hasn't been taught the concepts". She was placed in the gifted and talented program at her new school, but she will have to repeat 1st grade. Having paid more than $40,000 for two years at Berkwood Hedge, we feel that the school was a waste of money. Their constructivist approach to learning is poor. They say, "each one, teach one," which means the children are supposed to teach each other. It's like the blind leading the blind. It didn't work & my daughter complained about it often. I'll also mention that the frequent field trips at Berkwood Hedge are often poorly planned & unsafe. I worried about my child getting dysentery when she was encouraged, on a "nature excursion" field trip (that was repeated twice), to play in a stream located on a busy Berkeley street corner used by the homeless as a place to defecate & get drunk. On another field trip, I worried about children being poisoned by an animal "more toxic than a puffer fish". No one was informed that the "surprise" animal was poisonous until a child reached out to touch it. The teachers & principal at Berkwood Hedge completely ignored me when I communicated my concerns about field trips & gave me poor advice & no insight about my daughter's academic struggles. At my daughter's new school, I feel comfortable letting her go on field trips (to locations designed for field trips) & I don't feel like I have to go with her in order to ensure her safety (it's such a relief!). My daughter is now being taught & quickly learning. Berkwood Hedge failed us academically. I cannot recommend.
BH is a peaceful refuge after a transfer from a school that had an incredibly bright kid with some learning challenges convinced he was a stupid troublemaker. His turnaround at BH was immediate. One teacher told us he hasn't met a BH kid a who doesn't like math, our son's chief challenge. Within weeks, our son proclaimed he understands math the way BH teaches it. A poster there sums it up: "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." We value BH's commitment to social development. We learned a meditative breathing tool from our son's teacher that has become indispensable at home. BH head Love Weinstock radiates realness, commitment, strength, and wisdom. Her words move me to tears. When we first visited, she paused mid-tour to remind us to hold ourselves as parents with the same love we hold for our children. When she talked about the importance of recognizing differences in learning styles, I found myself shouting "Hallelujah!" although I'm an atheist. Weekly community meetings host peace songs, public affirmations, and student-led announcements. School performances seem focused on getting kids to love the arts.
BH is a small independent school in an urban neighborhood with an emphasis on hands-on learning. The teachers at Berkwood Hedge are flexible and responsive to each student's learning style and needs. Curriculum is built as a series of in-depth studies, and teachers use a variety of learning materials and tools. The school is also geared toward social and environmental justice issues. It's is a diverse place composed of families of all backgrounds and structures.
Our daughter has been at Berkwood Hedge since Kindergarten and is about to graduate from 5th grade. This school has really helped her blossom into a confident, happy child. The children at this school learn to care for and respect one another. It's an extremely nurturing environment. The teachers are wonderful in every grade.
The teachers and staff at Berkwood Hedge really "get" kids. It is also evident that they like and respect each other as colleagues and collaborate across the grades. The size of the school means that everyone is known by name and valued for their individual gifts. The new director, Love Weinstock, embodies the mission of the school, has been embraced by the community, and is bringing her special touches to an already excellent and established institution. And the parent community is full of interesting, kind, inspiring individuals.
I am just bubbling over with gratitude that a school like this exists and that my son is part of this engaging and wonderful community. When looking at schools, we had quite a bit of concern about kindergarten being dubbed as, the new first grade . We wanted our son to be challenged but not pushed. We liked the idea of education being, not so much the thrusting in of information ie. memorizing multiplication tables) or learning for the sake of learning, but we felt that education should be the bringing out of what is already in the child. Berkwood Hedge has already kindled my son s interest in learning. He tells me things in Spanish. When we go to the library, he beelines for the non-fiction juvenile section for books on insects. He wants to know what is at the center of our planet and he makes drawings of other solar systems that we ve never heard of . Where blocks were once used for building towers, he now builds ships creating triangular bows. He s learned that Zev is a boy s name and it comes from a place where people speak Hebrew. He is learning in a truly organic fashion he has no idea that he s learning and he enjoys everything that he learns.
Berkwood Hedge has provided an wonderful community for our family. My sons are starting their 3rd year at the school and their academic and social growth has been incredible. We have found the teachers and administrators, including the former and new director, to be incredibly thoughtful -- they are passionate about educating kids in engaging and creative ways and also foster the warm, respectful community at the school. We really feel like we made a great choice in sending our kids to Berkwood Hedge.
We have been at this school for three years now. Berkwood Hedge creates a truly unique learning experience for the kids by providing a small, supportive and nurturing environment for young learners. If your goal at the end of elementary school is for your child to love going to school, believe that learning is enjoyable, and preserve his/her natural curiosity and joy of discovery, this is the school for you. I also love the diversity of the school, both racially and economically, which is quite uncharacteristic for the majority of private schools. If you go visit the school, you will immediately sense how at home the kids feel. It is truly a unique school with a strong sense community and clear set of values.