I never thought I'd be a person to say this, but my kids have very little homework - even in high school. I get annoyed when they come home and lay around, but i'm thrilled when they use that extra time wisely to join a sports team or take a lesson.
Reading some of these other descriptions it's hard to believe they are describing the school my kids attend! In my mind, there are two things that completely set Windward apart from other Los Angeles schools: (1) The school is at it's very core, a kind and caring community. The counseling is excellent, there are mostly very nice kids and the school constantly emphasizes life balance and other "soft" issues. I have never, ever heard of a mean kid problem or any kind of bullying (2) the school has an incredible music program. The quality of instruction and amount of resources devoted to music is really impressive. My musical kids have thrived in this program. Other strong departments are math and foreign language. My other main thoughts: The school is a good place for self-starter kids. There is a pretty wide range of abilities in a single class, and kids (especially bright ones) who like to take it easy will not find much pressure from the outside. Homework loads are overall quite low, especially in middle school and non-honors high school classes. My kids are on the brighter side and found many of their middle school classes to be easy (too easy, really), but are now nicely challenged in honors high school classes. With the lower homework loads, they are able to do lots of fun extracurriculars like sports and academic teams (like debate) without being overstressed. My one strong critique: we were quite disappointed by the middle school science program (classes were really basic and dull), but apparently some good changes are under way.
As I am nearing the end of my college journey I have been thinking a lot about my high school and college experiences. Undoubtedly the worst years of my life were at Windward and staying there it is one of my biggest regrets. I really wish I had gone to a different school. I went from a very happy, social and friendly kid in elementary school to a very isolated, excluded and withdrawn teenager. I have never in my life had an experience like this. The kids at this school were very superficial and cliquey, not in the way I have seen at many other more established schools such as Harvard Westlake and Brentwood. Windward is neither here nor there and is in a bizarre area. Its a wanna be Brentwood, HW, Crossroads, etc. I have seen teachers bully kids to get in with the cool crowd and many of the kids and many of the coaches and faculty did as well. The school is not large enough to have multiple friend groups but too large to be nurturing and inclusive. I am a very athletic, social and friendly person and have never felt like I was in such a weird fake social environment as I did at Windward. My experience athletically, academically and socially was really horrible and I really wish my parents had looked at other schools for me. In my opinion this school needs a lot of work. I had such a miserable experience here and would really suggest looking at a variety of schools and seeing which ones fit your needs the best.
I have been a college professor for many years so I am familiar with the American academic system that essentially requires students to select a specific path early in life and pursue it vigorously only to eventually discover that it was quite possibly the wrong direction. It is no wonder that many college graduates can t find employment today. My child was at Windward and finding his way, but the school had little patience for his expansive exploration nor did the staff provide the necessary guidance he needed. Here great attention is devoted to students that place their academic studies above all other essential life-skills, and whose parents are determined their child attend an Ivy League university at any cost. If this is your goal, the school is perfect. But if you are seeking to expose your child to all the wonders of this world and assist them in their life-choices by presenting a variety of directions, you might wish to consider a school with a broader curriculum and a staff that understands and addresses the variable maturity periods of teens.
I have a child at Windward, and we think the school is fantastic. There are some truly awesome teachers and the curriculum is interesting and engaging. The work is challenging, but not overwhelming (once appropriate study skills are mastered). A great selection of arts electives allows kids to explore their creative side. The school recently switched to heavy reliance on the ipad, which is great for kids who might misplace their work or textbooks otherwise. The administration is very supportive and very responsive to parental input. As an example, in 2015-2016 they will have a late start Wednesday, to let the kids catch up on sleep (which studies have shown is so important for teens).
Windward is an excellent school. The adminstrators and teachers care deeply about students academically and emotionally. The academics are challenging and their are ample extracurriculars to meet a variety of student interests. Windward is, however, a very traditional school. This is a great school for kids who are comfortable and can function under a great deal of pressure and do not need a more creative learning environment. If you are the parent of a student athlete or future doctor, engineer or attorney this is the school for you. If you are the parent of a more creative, divergent kind of thinker -- look elsewhere. This is a pre-professional high school for kids who are heading to pre-professional colleges. That's not a bad thing. It is just the truth.
Our daughter is finishing up her first year as a 7th grader at Windward School. We are very pleased with the academics, athletics, and the community as whole. She has grown and matured as a 13 year old, both academically and socially. Our experiences with the teachers have been very rewarding and satisfying as parents who only want what is best for their child. The teachers, partnered with the administrators, work very well together to help the students reach their full potential while holding them accountable for their roles in the community; fostering responsibility, integrity, and social morality.