Peninsula School feels like an oasis of calm in high pressured Silicon Valley. It was founded in 1925 by a group of Stanford faculty and spouses who weren't happy with the "factory" model of education in the public schools. Josephine Duveneck was the first principal of the school (she created Hidden Villa in Los Altos, her home) and was dedicated to a model of progressive education. Important to progressive educators are learning useful skills (ie, wood working, weaving, ceramics, gardening), freedom to play, the abillity to express oneself in the classroom, democratic modeling, community jobs, developing critical thinking skills in all academic subjects, and freedom of artistic expression (music, art, drama). All of these ideals that were formed in the 1920's still hold true today. Children are engaged in their learning, joyful in the classroom and are able to take risks academically without feeling judged. As a trained teacher in progressive education in Boston, MA, I was skeptical about the "hippie school" I had heard about. After the school day tour, I was so excited to see a school that was vibrant and true to the progressive ideals. A hidden treasure in the valley.
Peninsula School's a treasure. Freed from endless mindless worksheets and "teaching to the test," kids develop a passion for learning and really WANT to go to school. Graduates are well-rounded, articulate, mature and self-assured. Curriculum includes social-emotional development and conflict resolution (class meetings). Kids pursue their interests as they are challenged to master difficult material w/real world applications. Plus there's pottery, visual arts, floor loom weaving, wood shop (avail. 1st- 8th). Music thrives here (choir for K-3; rock bands for 4-8th). Low student-teacher ratio is key, with excellent teachers. I went to preschool at Peninsula in the 60's (and am a UC Berkeley trained lawyer). Our friends' Peninsula kids graduated w/ honors & later got PhDs from places like Tufts, Oberlin, Princeton, UCLA and Stanford. Our daughter, who attended preK-8th grade ('99 - '13), tested into advanced classes at M-A as did most classmates. About half of her class wanted to pursue rigorous private High Schools and all tested into places like Castilleja, Sacred Heart, Crystal Springs, Notre Dame, etc. This school is NOT mainly for people w/learning disabilities.
I went to Peninsula for 11.5 years, and loved it. If you go there, you'll always be the oddball in the classroom once you leave--you're the one who puts in extra work on assignments, makes friends with professors and staff alike, feels ok doing Opera and CS research. Peninsula gave me a sense of self and of my own worth. It let me know learning was ok, and helped me form a community of support which I (a Junior at Carnegie Mellon University) am still relying on. The common concerns (students don't spend enough time on spelling and testing) come out silly. I graduated with honors from one of the toughest technical high schools in the Bay Area--and managed to keep my love of learning (by the skin of my teeth). Peninsula is not for everyone, but for some of us, it was nearly perfect.
My wife and I both attended metrics-driven, Catholic schools as kids. So choosing Peninsula School, a pre-K to 8th grade alternative school, was not a natural choice. However, we made the choice after careful study and some skepticism. No grades or report cards at Peninsula School, which took some getting use to. However, our daughter has thrived there after 4+ years. She is bright, curious, and socially adept. Most Peninsula kids graduate with superior critical thinking skills and higher levels of maturity. Several well-known CEOs have sent their kids to the school. I can also say with certainty that 8th graders move on to top high schools and colleges. Peninsula kids test well and college admission folks like the school's reputation.
I am a current parent at this school. From nursery through first grade we had a great experience. If your child has a learning disability be prepared to get zero help from the school except recommendations for tutoring.
My son has spent 7 years (nursery - 5th grade) at Peninsula and has had an exceptional experience. He is a unique and engaged individual, in part, I believe, because of the unique school experience he has had. Students interact directly with the staff and act as if they 'own' the school. It's a wonderful experience for parents who trust the process and don't feel they or their kids need the goal posts of grades to validate that they are learning 'enough'. In general, Peninsula kids go on to be very successful in all forms of High School and interesting, engaged individuals in life.