We have been really happy with our experience at Walden. Our son came from a pre-school where there was little room for him to be himself. He is a kinesthetic learner and needs to move around constantly in order to absorb information. Teachers at Walden recognize students' different learning styles and embrace their student's individual strengths and needs. Our son couldn't be happier at school; the teachers at Walden get him and he feels respected. The balance of a solid academic curriculum and a rich arts program has been perfect for him.
Our family couldn't be happier being part of the Walden community. After having been at Walden, both of our kids went on to private middle schools, then Berkeley High where they thrived. If you are searching for a school that values your child for who he/she is, where your child will know every teacher and student at school, and where your child will learn math, writing and reading, PLUS dance, music, and art, check out Walden. Beyond the arts and academics, the kids learn how to think creatively, work in groups, and respect their classmates. Walden is a wonderful place for all types of families too, as the community is diverse in terms of family structure, socio-economics, and ethnicity. I highly recommend it!
Our experience was awful. We selected Walden because our five-year old had difficulty in our public school, and Walden came up on searches for "spirited", "strong-willed boys". The Lower Grade Teacher determined very early on that our son didn't fit in. We were informed that he required a full-time "shadow" that we would have to pay for. We could not afford someone full-time, but proposed having his former "manny" come in part-time, even as a temporary solution. Walden does not have a school head. Decisions are made by committee. They are bad about communication. And while they gave us a hard deadline for providing the "shadow" (late October), they were lax in responding to our e-mails, all of which served to figure out a solution. In the end, they rejected anything we proposed. Even after having met our son in the interview process, and accepting him, they decided, in under six weeks, that they didn't want him there. Walden claims to support individuality, but if your child is not a cookie-cutter example of what they want, there will be problems. Their lack of compassion and small bureaucracy were disheartening. Only the drama teacher showed flexibility and understanding.
Do you view your children as much more than letters, numbers, and test scores? Do you consider them special, and must be treated as intelligent, multi-faceted human beings? Do you believe your children s emotions, thoughts, and curiosity ought to respected and nurtured? Do you believe your children should be encouraged to be their authentic selves, but are also given the tools to learn and grow from mistakes? ... To be concise, when it comes to education for your children, do you want it all? If you answer yes, then, Walden is the right school! Our two children attend Walden, which is a diverse community that embraces a developmental model of education, which engages the whole child as a unique individual. On top of its academic excellence, the integrated arts curriculum makes learning a multi-sensory, thought provoking, and lasting experience; the Respect for All curriculum proactively addresses social development issues, so that kids become equipped to manage the increasingly complex social mores as they grow. Please come for a visit: observe the kids, chat with parents, and talk to the teachers. It will give you a clearer sense of all that Walden has to offer.
As with any school, you must visit and talk with Walden's families and staff in order to appreciate what is special here. I am a strong advocate of the fine arts as a major portion of a child's education. I believe that Walden's academics sparkle with richness in content and student pride in part because the children spend so much of each week fully engaged in body, mind, friendship and imagination through a highly ambitious elementary arts program, as well as literature, shape, proportion and play. It is a joyous and supportive place for our children to grow, excel, and find out what motivates them. A family must trust, believe, and support what Walden offers and asks, in order for their children to succeed here over the long term. We have seen our own and our friends' children blossom, strengthen, and overcome great personal challenges at Walden, and we just honestly love the place.
We had no intention of sending our daughter to private school, but when the time came, we took the plunge and couldn't be happier with our choice of Walden. It has been a near-seamless transition from her experience at a Waldorf preschool. We continue to live with my husband's 4-hour, round-trip commute because we love this school and this community so much.
We chose Walden for our son because we value creativity, curiosity, independent thinking, and a love of learning for the intrinsic pleasure of learning--all of which Walden fosters in its students. The vibrant, close-knit (and quirky) community of teachers, parents, and children brims with creativity, warmth, and caring. I can't think of a better community to help us raise our son! Most importantly, our son loves school and is thriving in this environment! We are very pleased with both the arts programs and the academics. I'm a bit flummoxed by the negative reviews below. Walden's math curriculum is rich and deep and draws strongly on--but is not limited to--Making Math Real, which is a structured, multi-sensory program that builds strong conceptual understanding and reaches a variety of learners. The writing assignments my son receives in class and as homework are thoughtful, creative, inspiring, and challenging, and he has developed a strong love of reading and talking about books, while at Walden. He has been deeply engaged by the rich and varied science curriculum, since Kindergarten, and he loves that the teachers involve the students in choosing what to study.
As a private music teacher, I see students from across a wide range of schools in the East Bay. This is what I notice about Walden students: they come with surprisingly deep educations in music and dance, and they bring both confidence and active learning to their lessons. They see me as a ally, as a resource and they come to me without "teacher fear" - there is no emotional hurdle get over in order to establish a student/teacher relationship. Walden students truly are different, regardless of learning styles or personalities. I've seen many of my students transition to public and private middle schools, and sometimes that transition is rough. When there is difficulty, it seems to be disappointment in the new school, a sense of sadness that their Walden days are over.
Walden was founded 55 years ago by a group of pacifists, advocates for alternatives to the mechanistic approach to education that sadly is still prevalent in many schools today. Studies show that the features of a Walden education (strong arts, no grades, small class sizes, child-centered curricula) provide the very best preparation for lifelong learning. There is no "force ripening" here. The natural curiosity and intelligence inherent in all children is given room to grow in a vibrant, kind, respectful atmosphere. The community of parents is just incredible too. Some parents have voiced concerns about academic standards, but I'm not worried at all. Children can always take tests and acquire skills, but can they always learn to love learning? Walden provides an environment in which it's safe to explore, in which students are supported to follow their interests and reach (often very high) levels of achievement in their chosen areas. I have no doubt that Walden grads do well in life thanks to the good foundation they receive. My 5th-grade daughter has been here since kindergarten and loves to go to school every single day. Walden totally rocks.
Walden Center and School has been proving hands-on education for more than 50 years. Their teachers know how to make learning fun and a new daily experience. Integration of the "ARTS" and environment are the cornerstone of Walden's principles. Reading, writing, math and science become positive activities, because childen see and feel how they are part of the world we live-in. Walden has a strong support system with parents, teachers and a small but nimble staff working together to implement a meaningful and fun program. Although Walden is not a traditional school, its graduates go on to excell in all levels of the education system (junior high, high, and university) because they have a strong foundation in acedemics, arts and science.
Walden is an amazing environment where kids are free to explore themselves in a nurturing non-sexist, egalitarian environment. The school nurtures art and the teachers are dedicated to strong academics.
My hackles go up a bit when I read the negative reviews and my knee jerk reaction is to defend Walden. What I will say is this: no school is perfect. There are things that I think Walden could do better. It is still, without a doubt, the BEST place for our family. It may not be the right place for every family. The approach to academics is not the public school one. Children learn by doing - exploring, discussing, experimenting etc. They are not at their desks doing pages of work sheets or tests. The home work load is light but increases each year towards 6 grade. Walden also teaches Spanish, Sign Language, Art, Music and Drama - each 2 times a week! These programs ADD to the academic learning. They do not detract from them. My children have a love of learning and a desire to know. Walden allows them to develop this in their own little quirky ways. We did not want their sparks to be squashed as we feared they would at a public school because the teachers have to teach to the test and have so many kids to deal with. Our kids' little sparks are burning bright!
I've had my child at Walden from Kindergarten to what is considered 5th grade. However, this will be the last year they will attend because I am afraid that she will not be prepared for the social stress of entering a public school. The program at Walden doesn't prepare kids for public or other schools outside the bubble of less than decent academics, especially writing.
There are so many wonderful things about Walden. From the true sense of community to the creative learning orocess, Walden explores and nurtures the whole child in both academics and the way they individually fit into the world around them.
This is our son's second year at Walden and he loves it. We weren't even considering a private primary school but when we showed up for spring fair it was evident how different this community was. The focus on interactions and relationships over rote learning was, for me, the tipping point.
(Walden/Berkeley) The only reason I'm not giving this five stars is so you'll take this seriously. If you want a school that teaches your child to be a good "worker" in a mindless, robotic way, consider elsewhere. If on the other hand you want to foster in them independent/critical thinking, creativity, self-confidence, curiosity, awareness of the world, and an overwhelming joy for life, then this is the school for you. There is a spirit and community that I've never seen *anywhere*. Not normally prone to hyperbole, I can honestly say without a doubt that sending my two kids to this school is one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. Hands down. The teachers are exceptional, the curriculum superb, the classes small (a plus). A turning point for me was taking the tour (don't get put off by the scruffiness of the buildings) and seeing kids of all ages and body types in the dance class; or reading on-line reviews from former students (now adults) with comments like "Walden was the happiest time of my life" or " I wouldn't be who I am without that school." The school is not for everyone, for sure. But if it's for you, you'll know it immediately. Take a tour.
Walden is a teacher's collective without a principal based on consensus decision-making and mutual aid. It is a small, nurturing and progressive school community run by teachers and supported by wonderful administrative and programmatic staff and parents. Whether in Kindergarten or the 6th grade, the students know one another and interact fluidly providing many opportunities for student leadership and mentoring. Walden creates a foundation for the love of lifelong learning-- traditional testing and grades are not used for student assessment but more meaningful assessment and evaluative tools that encourage intrinsic motivation. The curriculum, however, is comprehensive, placing the arts, foreign language and the social and emotional well being of children at the same level of importance as traditional curricular elements. Parent involvement is a requirement and the school community is greatly enhanced by 100% parent participation. It is difficult to properly rate Walden using this system since the school purposefully does not espouse hierarchy in their governance and therefore does not have a principal.
My fourth grade son wakes every morning excited about school. Walden is an vibrant learning environment for him in all manner of ways. His education is vast and full of depth. My child has attended Walden since Kindergarten. Walden is a small and charming place - and I believe to be like no other. The experiences my son and our family have had throughout the years are moments in time never to be forgotten. If you want a school where kids of all ages and gender play and care for one another, where all the teachers are integrally involved in the every day experience, the learning both in the classroom as well as everywhere else is rich, plus the size of the classes are small - I recommend Walden. In addition to my fourth grader, I also have a son who is in high school and by way of him over the years have known many WALDEN GRADUATES. These Walden alum that we've had an opportunity to follow have attended both public and private middle school and high schools - and by all accounts all are doing great. The kids that I am referencing are excelling both academically as well as personally. Walden has been a joyful that we wouldn't have wanted to miss.
Walden Center and School = pure magic! How wonderful to watch my daughter blossom in such a safe, creative, nurturing environment. How opposite is her experience of elementary school from my own memories of public school prison/hell. In addition to academics and arts, Walden teaches life principles that are so woefully lacking in many other schools such as empathy, respect for all, non-violent conflict resolution, etc. our society would be so much better off if more children received the type of education that Walden provides.
If you choose send your children to this school, be sure to sign them up for year round tutoring. The arts programs are very solid, but the academics standards are nonexistent no matter what you read here. The Science curriculum involve making soaps and candles, and the Science Fair is a sad and sorry affair.
Community ratings and reviews do not represent the views of GreatSchools nor does GreatSchools check their accuracy or verify the reviewers' identities. Use your discretion when evaluating these reviews.
The Community Rating is the school’s average rating from its community members (e.g., parents, students, and school staff). The highest possible rating is five stars; the lowest is one star.
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