Schools for High Energy Kids
Berkeley Parents Network >
K-12 Schools >
Schools for High Energy Kids
Hi BPN community
I am looking for a school for my son who will be entering Kindergarten next year and
would love your input. I'm open to both private and public (we live in BUSD Central
Zone) but am guessing that private may be a better match for his needs. However, cost is
a big issue so we're looking at public as well.
He is a spirited boy who needs to be in an environment that channels his energy in
positive ways. He wants very much to do the right thing but he struggles to sit
still/quiet for very long periods of time and he is working on impulse control, using his
words, and knowing how to enter play with others...all of which seem like age-appropriate
challenges to me. He is a sweet and social child who enjoys being part of a group, team,
or classroom community. He is very bright and curious about learning. His current
teachers (in a private Bridge-K program) say that he processes information so quickly
that his mind is on to the next thing before some other kids have picked up what's being
said, which can be frustrating for him. He needs teachers that will be positive and
encouraging and warm - not punitive or scolding or shaming. He also needs to be in an
engaging, exciting and challenging learning environment - not one where he will be doing
worksheets and where he will be expected to sit quietly and wait for other students to
finish their work (as opposed to a differentiated class where he will be given additional
challenges that keep him engaged when he's ready for more). The most important thing to
me is the social-emotional climate...how well his teachers will really see him as an
individual and will help channel his energy with positive and gentle guidance. Given his
sensitive nature, I think that a punitive classroom would be particularly damaging to him
(not that any child should have to endure that type of discipline, in my opinion). Due
to a variety of factors, the private schools we are considering so far are Berkwood
Hedge, The Berkeley School, Black Pine Circle, and Prospect Sierra. Input about BUSD
Central Zone schools would also be helpful. Thank you in advance for your support!!
Mama considering K
I might not be the right person to respond to this because I have a girl who's super
spirited at home but not in the classroom, so let's hope you get other tips, but we are
super happy with our experience in the Central Zone. Our daughter is in 1st grade at
Cragmont and has had a wonderful teacher who is just amazingly skilled with even the most
squirrelly kids in the class. Nobody is ever waiting for the others to finish -- kids go
over to the reading corner or to one of the activity centers when they're done. There are
kids of all different stripes (academic, emotional, ethnic, economic, etc.) in the class,
which I so appreciate. Yes, the worksheets are annoying, but whatever - we all have to do
things we don't adore in life. I count that as a good lesson for my spoiled daughter!
I just think that you should try out public school first before going the private route.
It's just kindergarten! BUSD is a great district - the class sizes are very small and
there are a lot of parent volunteers in the classroom. We have been so happy with the
community we've found at Cragmont.
Happy Cragmont Mom
Hello there! I'm surprised you don't have Walden Center and School on your list; it is a
small, arts-based private elementary school in central Berkeley (a couple blocks from
Berkwood Hedge) and I think it's a good match to your description.
A few of your phrases jumped out at me: ''positive and encouraging and warm - not punitive
or scolding or shaming''... 'the social-emotional climate''...''how well his teachers will
really see him as an individual''. Each of these is a good description of the environment
at Walden. With small classes, the teachers get to know each child as an individual and
work with their unique traits in a positive, nurturing way. There is definitely no sense
of scolding or shaming that I've ever seen or been aware of.
When we were looking for a K school for my son, he had such strong anxiety that I didn't
know if school was going to be possible for him. He responded particularly poorly to harsh
authority (sometimes freaking out and running away, and even putting himself in danger),
and because anxiety doesn't always look like anxiety, I was very concerned that he would
end up in punitive or disciplinary situations for not following direct orders. I will be
forever grateful to the amazing teachers and staff at Walden for taking such good care of
my little guy, giving him space, understanding, appropriate challenges and (yes) love that
has allowed him to grow up mentally healthy, socially capable, proud of himself and able
to face the world in ways I could barely imagine when he started at Walden. This school is
truly a gift in our lives and the life of our child. I hope you find somewhere that works
for you and yours!
- Happy Walden parent
I could have written your post about my son, practically word by word, a few years ago. I
struggled with finding the right school for him. Ultimately, we chose Prospect Sierra. For
the most part, all the teachers and staff have been the right fit: challenging and
supporting him appropriately. Prospect Sierra provides the right balance of structure,
routine, clear expectations while allowing freedom for individuality. Additionally, the
academics are strong enough to sustain curiosity and attention. No school is perfect and
I've had to do my share of advocating for my son but overall I've been very happy with the
continuing to be a spirited parent
I recommend that you look closely at The Berkeley School. I have one child who went all
the way through one of the central zone schools in Berkeley and one child who left after a
few years at the same central zone school to attend the Berkeley School so I can compare
the two. The Berkeley School has been wonderful for our younger child. The teachers are
really able to differentiate instruction, they get to know the kids very well, they work
really hard to keep the kids engaged (our child comes home ever day and says that school
was ''awesome'') and they seem to really enjoy the kids. The public school teachers
really couldn't offer differentiation at all in the classroom and we also had experiences
in several classrooms where a tremendous time was spent on discipline. My older child did
fine in the public school environment but given what you have described about your child,
I would give the Berkeley School a close look.
public and private parent
I am writing to recommend Berkwood-Hedge School to you for your son. My child has been at
BH for 3 years, and it is a wonderful, engaging, creative and dynamic school. My child,
and we, have been very happy. The teachers are kind, intelligent, empathic and teach in a
unique and approachable way. There is nothing punitive about the school ! It is a warm
and nurturing environment, and the teachers and staff take all and any concerns seriously
There is a large focus on social-emotional learning, and there is a focus on positive
communication. Each child is seen as unique, and they are met where they are at. There
are wonderful art and music programs, which felt ''missing'' when we look at the public
schools. The PE program and teacher are great - and the kids have a lot of fun and get
great exercise and development of many skills. There have been some changes since we
arrived, as a new Director came on, but the school is weathering the changes. The KG
teacher, Hanan, is very wonderful and was so welcoming to our family the whole year in KG.
I highly recommend you visit the school and take a tour. Best of luck with your
I've seen a handful of sensitive, active, bright kids do well at Escuela Bilingue
Internacional. One of the factors that has kept my smartie pants kids doing well at EBI is
the variety of teachers each child has; not only is there a primary teacher for various
subjects in Spanish, each class also has an English teacher as well as awesome music
teachers, an art teacher, and PE. Kids don't sit in one classroom all day long. Also, the
learning specialist shares tools for wiggly kids with ALL children, so even undiagnosed
kids can use a heavy lap pad or fidget toys. An excellent ratio of teachers and assistant
teachers to kids makes for an environment with a ton of support. This year's three
kindergarten classes, for example, have 17 kids per class, which is incredible for kids
who need a little extra academic challenge and also for language acquisition in Spanish or
English. My children are very engaged in the classroom and supported by a warm bunch of
teachers and staff. There are tours open in December and January to see for yourself.
good school is essential
My now 9 year old son sounds very similar to your son: intellectually advanced, sensitive,
kind, low impulse control, active, etc. I encourage you to think about public school.
After trying both options, my son is thriving at a BUSD school. The learning is
differentiated and challenging. We had one difficult year with a punitive teacher, but all
the others have been incredible. The private school setting was actually less prepared to
work with my son's unique strengths and challenges. Both public and private schools are
going to ask your son to be able to function respectfully within a group, ie: wait his
turn, control his body, manage his emotions, etc. I used to think that the ''right''
setting would limit my son's difficulties with these issues, but I was wrong: he really
needed to learn these skills, regardless of his environment. After trying both options, I
would say there's nothing super special about private schools that makes them a better
fit for kids like ours. You might want to save your money for a social skills group,
martial arts, chess classes, or whatever else really helps your son build upon his
strengths and learn to develop impulse control and friendship.
Public school convert
My daughter goes to the Crestmont School (in the hills above El Cerrito)where I think
they do an exceptional job with kids like ours. My daughter is highly sensitive, and
the teachers and administrators at Crestmont have really taken the time to get to
know her and accommodate her in the ways she needs. She loves it, and is learning
fast. It helps that it's a very small school, with a lot of adults around (on most
days my daughter's class has an exceptional teacher, a terrific aide, and a parent
volunteer for 15 kids). If the commute works for you, it's worth checking it out.
Our HIGHLY spirited child will be going to kindergarten next
year. Can parents of spirited children recommand a school
that cherishes the spirit and allows spirited children to
While I don't think my son fits all the characteristics of being
spirited he is very active and outgoing, and is thriving at
Aurora School (he is now in 1st grade). The program is
developmental and doesn't require as much sitting still and
being quiet as some more academic or structured
kindergartens. At the same time students are expected to
respect each other and the teachers, be good listeners, and
generally create a kind community for learning. The program
also has wonderful art, music, movement and spanish. I
would definitely check it out and see if you think it would be a
good fit for your child.
Our daughter is a very high-energy kid. She was at
for kindergarten last year, and we were delighted with
it. The classes are quite small, and the teachers are
excellent. She learned a great deal -- both socially and
academically. Things were a little bumpy in the beginning as
she adjusted to all the changes -- new school/teacher/kids and
the tremendous difference between of the expectations/program of
pre-school and those of kindergarten. However, she came to love
her teacher and the school. We were particularly impressed with
how they were able to set firm but loving limits with her,
reasonably accomodate her needs, and encourage/support her
strengths. For example, she loves to do cartwheels and does
them all the time -- down the street, in the supermarket, and at
school. It does not work to simply tell her that she cannot do
them. You have to figure out how she can do them but be safe.
When she began to do them in her classroom last year, the
teacher talked to her about it and worked out an agreement with
her that if she needed to do cartwheels, she could go to the
dead-end hallway that adjoins the classroom, do them there, and
then come back to class. This worked out very well and
prevented the issue from becoming a big deal. Good luck with
the process of finding the right school. It is difficult,
demanding, and important. I hope you are able to find the right
place for your child.
My son just started kindergarten at
Walden Center & School in
central Berkeley. He's not especially spirited in the way you
mean, but the school seems to leave a lot of time for outdoor
free play between more structured activities. Walden is
definitely an alternative school and not right for everyone.
There are mixed-age classes, no standardized testing, and a lot
of integration of the arts into all types of lessons. The
teachers seem to understand what kids are like and what they
need, so it might be a good fit for you.
Just a little bit of a suggestion... Spirited can mean a lot
of things. If you have a particularly high maintenance kid, you
may want to seriously look at public school, where there may not
be as high standards of behavior as a private school.
Last spring our private school informed us
that they could not offer my son a place in their second-grade class.
They also denied admission to our younger son, who started
kindergarten this year. Our older son, while excelling in all academic
areas, consistently had trouble meeting the school's standards of
behaviour. As parents, we never thought of those standards as
unrealistic and always tried our best to help him meet them. We
continue to give his behavior lots of attention, and both boys are
succeeding fairly well with impulse control, following instructions,
etc., at their new school--though much room for improvement remains.
Unfortunately, the school lacks the resources to really challenge
them academically or enrich their education beyond the basics.
Besides being "active," they are both _exceptionally_ intelligent and
eager to learn. My question is: should I apply to private schools for
next year? Can anyone recommend a school that does well with this
type of kid? We live in South Berkeley and would prefer somewhere
nearby if possible.
My son is a very high energy child and got in so much trouble for it at his
pre-school that I voluntarily got him out before they expelled him. For
that reason, I have decided to put him in private school vs. our
neighborhood public school. My son attends
Redwood Day School in Oakland,
where he absolutely loves it. He started in their pre-K program and is now
in Kindergarten. In my opinion, their success is based on a healthy balance
between a very challenging academics program and a wonderful physical, arts
and science program, which includes 3 PE classes a week, music, art,
swimming, Spanish, computer classes. I firmly believe that my son would not
thrive in an environment where only the basics of education are taught. I
would love to give you more specific information, so feel free to call me.
I think that high energy boys might do better in an environment where
their behavior doesn't stick out and make them "the troublemaker". There
was a thread a year or so about private school and ADD, which sounds as though it may not be the case for your boys, but is still relevant.
(See Middle Schools for ADD and LD Kids for that review)
FWIW, I think a good public school is likely to have less rigid views
of behavior than many private schools.
this page was last updated: Jan 11, 2015
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network