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.