Maybeck High School (Berkeley, CA)
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Maybeck High School
Re: Affordable private school for struggling teen
I would check out Maybeck High School in Berkeley. That's where I ended up when I
was flunking out of Berkeley High. They turned me around, and I ended up making
it into UC Santa Cruz. Best of luck!
My daughter is 14 and started at Berkeley High in the IB
program this year. In the past, she loved school, but it's
gotten increasingly more difficult socially over the
She excels in school academically (this is a kid
who read The Hobbit in first grade) but is bothered by the
general attitude of most of the students and teachers who
don't care about actually learning.
She is also suffering under a huge load of busywork.
We're looking into alternate
options, especially Maybeck, for next year. Is there
anyone who has transferred their child from BIHS to
Our son has been at Maybeck since 9th grade and he is now in 11th.
He really loves the school and is very happy socially there. I
think there is a lot less busy work than at other schools, and
maybe there is no busy work at all. Some kids transfer in in late
January, when the 2nd semester starts, so just letting you know
that is an option.
you can email with questions. m.
Although my son did not transfer to Maybeck from another high
school, I can give Maybeck a strong recommendation, and from your
description of your daughter it seems like a good fit. Maybeck
provided my son, an eager and engaged student,with countless
wonderful experiences-from compelling classroom discussions to
foreign travel. He was very well prepared for college,too.
Fan of Maybeck
I have a current Senior at Maybeck that left BHS (CAS program)
after his freshman year and a current BIHS freshman this year so I
don't exactly fit the criteria you are looking for in a
respondent. Regardless, here is my experience. For my son,
leaving BHS and going to Maybeck was the best thing for him. He
finds Maybeck stimulating academically , enjoys the small
classroom size and the learning environment. For my daughter,
yes, it is full of a lot of ''busy work'' and she is not learning
to her full potential. Yet, after coming from a small private
school, she enjoying being part of a more diverse school and is
overall happy there. People tell me that the work does become
more interesting and stimulating in the second and beyond years.
Only time will answer that question. She has a least one teacher
that is pretty bad and I suspect there will always a lemon here
and there. I suggest you arrange a visit at Maybeck for your
daughter--this was a very enlightening and exciting visit for my
son and gave him hope in finding a place that would be a better
fit. Good luck, each kid is so different.
Re: Home school to high school transition
I would check out Maybeck High School in Berkeley. They are a a small private
school with a lot of small group learning experiences. The school culture is
one of acceptance. I could see a child as you described needing support in this
sort of setting. Ask to speak to Trevor, he is in admissions. Good Luck!
Re: How to Choose which Private High School?
My son is a sophomore at Maybeck High and is extremely happy with his
teachers and with the social life at the school. This is one of the
best schools in the Bay Area. It's small and is run by the teachers
as a co-op. It is truly a unique and vibrant place.
We went to visit the various schools on our list to get the feel of
their atmosphere. My son was able to participate in classes, and most
importantly, talk with students and hear first-hand of their experience.
His impression of the interview was also an important factor. It was
his decision where to go, and I feel that letting him decide was the
best guarantee of his present happiness and success.
Re: Switching Schools as High School Junior
Maybeck High School might be a great fit for your daughter. It is
not unusual for students to transfer to Maybeck after starting high
school elsewhere.(She might even be able to start mid-year.) I
suggest you check the BPN postings for Maybeck, and plan a visit if
it sounds like a school she would like. I cannot say enough good
things about our experience at this wonderful school- strong
academics, small classes taught seminar-style, plenty of
intellectual stimulation, close student-teacher relationships, and
students who are accepting of others. Maybeck students are extremely
well prepared for college. The writing program, especially, is
superb. They also offer exciting travel programs each spring- last
year kids had the opportunity to go biking through Japan, surfing in
Kauai, explore the Theater and Art worlds in SF and NYC, or travel
through Copper Canyon in Mexico, for example. Tuition is less than
at most independent private schools. And the new location at St.
John's on College Ave. is beautiful!
I would say that its small size would not suit every kid. It is
not for someone who wants a classic ''big high school'' experience,
for example. But it may suit your daughter very well.
Happy Maybeck Parent
Re: A Kinder, Gentler High School???
I have two sons that go to Maybeck High School in Berkeley, which is
currently on Bancroft Ave across the street from the CAL campus. This
summer Maybeck is moving to a new site on College Ave (St. John's
Church). The school is one of the smallest high schools I know of
(approx 100-110 students), which creates the environment of intimacy
for both student relationships and student/teacher relationships. My
sons have flourished there emotionally, socially and academically.
There are many talented and interesting students. There are
interesting opportunities to travel during a ''special programs''
session in the spring. Right now some of the students are bicycling in
Japan; others are in the Copper Canyon, Mexico. Mine are in Hawaii
hiking and surfing. There is an emphasis on academics, the environment
and bicycling. There are no competitive sports teams, however, if that
is an interest.
I am trying to find a good fit more my daughter who is
academically gifted, but struggeling in the large classes
and crowds of Berkeley High. We are considering a smaller
school like Millenium or Maybeck (my ex lives in
Piedmont). Does anyone have experience with either or both
to share? We would like to find a place where kids can
develop personal relationships with teachers in an kind
and intellectually challanging environment. (shouldn't all
schools be like that?).
My daughter went to Millennium from freshman year (fall
2000) through graduation (June 2004). My son went to Maybeck
for his junior year (2007/08). These schools offer very
different types of opportunities. Millenium is tiny--less
than 80 when she went. About half the students otherwise
would have been at Piedmont High, and the other half were
from other districts. For her, the great advantage was that
classes were graded by what she accomplished, and units
allocated by how much she accomplished. It took her a very
long time to complete some classes (math for example), while
others she completed very quickly. There was a lot of leeway
in how assignments were accomplished, so if she didn't feel
like writing a paper, she could do a poster and a collage or
present a scene from a play (much less choice in
math--perhaps why it took so long). The down side was that
she didn't get much experience with some of the more
traditional skills one needs for college. The plus side was
that she graduated (I don't think she would have made it
through PHS) and that she felt good about her
accomplishments. Maybeck is much more challenging, and does
a much better job of prep for college. My son wrote at least
a paper a month in English class (as compared to at most one
a quarter at PHS), the feedback was intense, and there was a
lot of personal attention. For him, the down side was the
size (around 100 students) and one teacher, with whom he had
really serious problems (generated on both sides). He went
back to PHS in his senior year for the social scene, and is
doing much better there this year, but he admits the quality
of the teaching for most of his classes was excellent at
Maybeck, and that he learned a lot while he was there. Both
my daughter and son felt the diversity at their respective
schools was a real plus. There are a lot of Berkeley kids at
Maybeck, so it might be an easier transition socially than
to Millennium, which is more and more PHS transfers, from
what I hear.
A parent who seeks out alternatives
My son is a 10th grader at Maybeck HIgh School after spending his 9th grade
year at Berkeley HIgh School in CAS. He loves the small school learning
environment at Maybeck and is finding it stimulating and challenging. The
teaching staff are dynamic, engaging and have high expectations for their
students. While miserable at BHS, he has blossomed at Maybeck. The
physical location will be changing sometime next year which will be an
improvement from what I am told. Has your daughter visited the school yet?
I encourage you to arrange this, the answer to your question may become
clearer after she sees what the choices are. Good luck.
My daughter attends Millennium and has many friends at Maybeck. Your child
sounds like a good candidate for Maybeck which is more challenging than
Millennium. My daughter has liked Millennium a lot, but doesn't do much
homework and gets A's and B's without much effort. She was interested in
Maybeck but knew herself well enough to know she didn't want to work as hard
as they expect, quit a bit I think. So if your child is motivated I'd chose that as
think they have a great program.
My son started at Maybeck this year and he is very happy
there. The classes are pretty small (around 15 students)
and the classes are interesting. My son was very bored
with middle school, but he is happy and interested at
My daughter is a 10th grader at Maybeck this year after
attending public school k-9. Maybeck has really turned her
life around--it is a challenging and interesting
environment. One that goes deep in the subject areas without
being competitive. It also supports students with artistic
passions. The downsides are that it is small, there are few
extra curricular activities and the physical space is bare
bones.That said, the new building is beautiful and I have
been impressed by how thoughtful the teachers are about
learning and just teens in general. Go and check out the
school, Trevor the admissions counselor is a wonderful person.
Re: Private school for 8th grader
I used to teach at Maybeck High School on Bancroft Way, across
from CAL. I would suggest he spend part of a day there
attending classes and having lunch with some students. It is a
very small school which has its pros and cons. Cons are that it
does not participate in team sports with other schools. Because
it is small, there is a limited social scene, so if he doesn't
click with the kids there -- it will be even more limited for
him. The positives are that the teachers are genuinely
concerned with the students' academics and social development.
They will not let them be anonymous. If they are having a
problem, teachers will talk with them and with the other
teachers and parents. Art and Drama are strong. Writing is
exceedingly strong so when he goes on to college, he will be
better prepared than most. There are also cool camping trips at
the year's start and end and a two week Special Program around
Spring Break where they can do things like learn to surf, make
films, visit a foreign country, etc. It is less expensive than
some of the other schools and is a teacher cooperative (low
admin. costs). It is close to CAL so lots of opportunities to
see plays, films, art exhibits, visit labs, etc. Most of the
students go on to smaller liberal arts colleges, but I
personally knew a couple who went on to CalTech and Stanford.
They also have some financial aid available. Take him for a
visit and listen to his feedback. Several faculty members will
also interview him once he applies.
Re: Trying To Choose A High School
Maybeck High School Feedback. The small size is a drawback for
a number of students, especially if they don't fit into the
rather artsy, ''original'' dressing, piercings, etc. social
scene. Also, they have no team sports programs if that is
important to your student. They offer ''lifelong'' sports like
yoga, swimming, fencing, etc. Pluses are 1)they learn to write
like no one's business!, 2) plenty of individual attention --
you cannot hide and not do your work, 3) great, bonding camping
trips at the beginning and end of school year, 4) cool programs
before spring break where they can choose to travel abroad with
a teacher, or stay local. Past trips have included surfing in
Hawaii, studying sea turtles in Costa Rica, studying film
making in Hollywood, etc. I would suggest having the student
spend a typical day there if they could, going to classes and
meeting other students.
I can't offer an opinion about the other high schools on your
list, but my son (now in 10th grade) considered many of them
and chose to attend Maybeck. I was concerned about its small
size, but his experience there has been rich and satisfying
beyond my expectations. Maybeck is truly a gem! The small size
of the school fosters close relationships with both fellow
students and teachers. The level of classroom instuction, and
the enthusiasm of the students and staff provide a high school
experience that is challenging,rigorous,and intimate. The kids
are comfortable being themselves, and there is a warm feeling
of acceptance among them that is rare, in my opinion. The more
I see,the more I am impressed with Maybeck, and I am delighted
with my son's decision to attend this school. That said, it
would not be a good choice for a kid who wants a ''big high
school'' experience, or a kid who is not interested in rigorous
We looked at almost all the schools on your list (and more).
He applied to several of them (those we preferred) and was
accepted at all but one of his choices. Choosing between those
was a difficult process! Ultimately, his father and I felt that
it had to be his decision- after all, he was the one who would
be attending the school, and he had only applied to schools we
approved of so.... he chose the school where he felt most
comfortable, and it was the right decision for him. I say,
allow your daughter to go with her gut (and your guidance);
they are all good choices.
Happy Maybeck Parent
Re: Choosing a high school for gay son
Maybeck High School in Berkeley has a wonderful, accepting
and progressive social environment. My second child is there
now; my older one graduated from there and is doing very
well in college. Maybeck is definitely a place you can be
gay/bi or ''on the spectrum'' and be totally accepted.
Check out an open house, and talk to the teachers and
students who give presentations. Also, each of my teens were
sold on the place after they spent a day visiting classes
during 8th grade. They are very different kids, and it has
been great for both of them. By spending a day at school,
your son will really get a feel for the program. Maybeck is
academically rigorous (without being overwhelming), so if
your he is a reasonably strong student, it could be a great
Re: Current feedback on Albany High/Maybeck
Our family has had a terrific experience at Maybeck H.S. so far.
Our daughter is a freshman and we were a little worried about
what we'd heard concerning the homework load, but she's found it
very manageable, and did very well in her first school report
(maybe because she got such a great preparation at Berkeley
Montessori School!). I highly recommend Maybeck for its
passionate teachers (it's a teacher co-op, as you probably know),
its academic rigor without being insane with the homework, and
especially its acceptance of kids who like and are comfortable
being themselves. It's an intentionally small school where the
kids feel well-known and supported; there's no getting lost in
the crowd. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Re: Private high schools in east bay
Picking a good fit for your student depends on so many
variables. I would recommend that you take a look at
Maybeck High School in Berkeley. Your posting basically
touched on all the reasons we sent our son there (''schools
that present the curriculum in a very interesting way, and
encourage social, artistic and critical thinking
development'') and we have been very impressed. By the time
our boy is done, we feel he will not only be ready for
college, but will be ready to take on the comlexities
presented by our culture today. Don't be put off by the
appearance of the school; take a good look at the
curriculum and the emphasis on social and personal
responsibility. The program gives ample room for self
expression in different artistic media -- drama, film,
painting, drawing -- and offers a good solid education that
will serve them well as fledgeling adults. Their website
is maybeckhs.org. I am happy to speak with you about our
experience there if you wish.
Maybeck High strongly recommended! My son came to Berkeley
mid-way through his last year of middle school and
fortunately we were directed to Maybeck High School by a
friend. It was the best thing that happened to him in his
school career. The staff truly care about not only what they
teach but about the kids and the school community itself.
The school is run in a more cooperative style than most
schools which is why the teachers are more invested in thier
work. My son was challenged intellectually and
philosophically, supported for all efforts and had enough
diverse experiences with the special programs to last a
lifetime. What was most thrilling to me was to see how the
teachers loved their subjects and taught with enthusiasm and
innovation. Many Maybeck parents, including me, would say
that they wished they could go to the classes themselves. If
you and your child are looking for an academically exciting
college prep highschool without the uniforms, a small and
diverse community of people who build strong bonds and an
attitude of openness and inquiry, then take a look at
Maybeck. They have introductory evenings during the year.
Call the office http://www.maybeckhs.org/
Sign me as: parent of a Maybeck grad 2007
Parent of Maybeck Grad 2007
I can wholeheartedly recommend Maybeck High School in
Berkeley. It is a small and unique school that offers both
excellent academics and a warm accepting community.
Subjects are taught in a manner that reminds me more of a
college seminar than a typical high school class. Topics
are explored in depth, with students actively engaged in
discussion. During his first week there, my son commented
that ''Everything they talk about is SO interesting!''. He is
now in his second year and loves Maybeck. We are so pleased
to have found a school that satisfies his intellectual
curiosity and that is filled with students who want to be
there. He truly looks forward to every school day- he may
not want to get out of bed in the morning-but he never
wants to miss a day of school! The small size of the school
and the dedication of the staff provide an exceptionally
caring, supportive and intellectually engaging community
for its students. The work is very challenging and there is
quite a bit of homework,but as my son says,''It's never
busywork.'' Maybeck graduates routinely go on to excellent
schools, and are extremely well prepared for their college
careers. I suggest you visit Maybeck; it may be just what
you're looking for!
Happy parent of a happy Maybeck Student
Please take your student to Maybeck High School and let them look around.
It's on Bancroft, in Berkeley, across from the big Cal Rec Ctr. upstairs in
former Sunday school rooms of a church. My student was drawn to the space
immediately upon seeing ''murals'' painted in the halls, by Maybeck students
from their own designs. He was suffering at first, from the homework load,
but became adjusted to it. All classes are very small and the foreign
language classes are fabulous: he took French from a native French; and
Spanish is taught from a native Spanish (not Mexican). They have wonderful
philosophy, history, and literature classes which all build strong critical
thinking skills. The Maybeck students are all strong critical thinkers.
Maybeck also has a strong math program, and strong science classes. Due to
the small class sizes and the dedicated, hard-working teachers (these
teachers are crazy-dedicated), the students are actually functioning at a
college level in their Maybeck classes. Most graduates breeze through their
first year of college classes--Maybeck prepared them very well. They have a
wonderful Art program, and also a very strong Drama Dept. Students make
films, display their art, and stage Drama productions each year. Because the
school is small (about 90) the students know each other very well. Through
the (also wonderful) twice a year teacher-led all-school camping trips, strong
bonds, mutual support and respect are established. They go to Yosemite and
up the Russian River, plus there's a winter inter-session where teachers lead
special interest programs that include travel to Europe, So. America, art,
stagecraft, etc. Maybeck is supportive, affirming, academically challenging
and rewarding. Most kids suffer emotionally during their high school years
(one of mine graduated from Piedmont and never wants to see those girls
again--not uncommon) but our Maybeck student has had a completely
different experience. He has had supportive, caring teachers and staff, as
well as fellow students. And, somebody else took our teen-age boy camping
twice a year, which is a real plus to us, since we parents have been so busy
earning money and keeping up with our busy kids' schedules that we never
took our kids camping, and we had always regretted that. There's a booklet
available called ''Private High Schools of the East Bay'', but it only contains
general info----I urge you to take your 8th grader to check out Maybeck.
Grateful Maybeck parent
I have to second all those opinions expressed in the last
newsletter about Maybeck High School. That school is doing
something right. My son was drowning at one of the ''best''
East Bay public schools--drugs, partying, found his classes
boring and meaningless, straight Fs etc. etc.--he
transferred to Maybeck and is enjoying studying for the
first time since he was a child. He has stopped getting high
every day--because he's doing his homework! It's an
academically challenging school where students feel
respected and appreciated as individuals, and have space to
really grow. Some parents have commented on the appearance
of the school--its site is the Methodist church on Bancroft
shared by the Berkeley Free Clinic and various services for
the homeless--but teens find this gritty aspect way more
''real'' than some gated haven. I should add that Maybeck
also has access to UC Berkeley sports facilities just across
the street, which are state of the art, and the classrooms
themselves are good-looking to me--very Berkeley, in the
Re: Maybeck High School - it is not for every student!! My
daughter had a terrible experience a few years ago that
took her at least a year to recover and feel like a
successful student again. Interestingly all of the
positive comments were from parents of male students. My
daughter's class lost 1/3 - 1/2 students in the first
year. Perhaps things have changed and there is new faculty
and administration. Check it out, ask hard questions and
be certain it is the right fit. I'm glad my daughter left
and has been thriving in another small school and getting
ready to apply for colleges. Had she stayed at Maybeck, I
doubt she would have made through high school.
I am the mother of a Girl who is thriving at Maybeck. I think it's
important to know your child and matching their personality and needs
with a school before enrolling them in. It's true Maybeck is not for
every student but it is an excellent school where students are taught
to think. My daughter would not have been as successful at a school
like St. Mary's for instance but she is excelling, going beyond the
classroom thanks to attending Maybeck.
Daughter doing great at Maybeck
My daughter just graduated from Maybeck High School this year. She
did not want to apply to any other High School. Maybeck was perfect
for her and she knew this after spending a day there while she was in
8th grade. She did not have such an experience at her private middle
school. The teachers know every child- her graduating class was 18
students. It is not uncommon for teachers to take an interest in
kids who have not had classes from them and help steer them into
projects and classes that they think a particular child would enjoy.
The community is very close knit and this is nourished by the camping
trips at the beginning and end of the year. It would be hard for a
child to be an outsider there- they would hard to work hard to not
get involved. There is a culture of acceptance and respect for
individuals. And enthusiastic and interesting teachers. The
coursework is academic but there support for children who need extra
help. She is at college and misses Maybeck- it was a nourishing high
school experience in every sense.
ex maybeck parent
I am a 24-yr-old Maybeck Alum and I just wanted to speak to the
various comments about Maybeck High School. I can honestly say
that Maybeck saved my academic career. After one year at
Berkeley High I was really struggling so I transfered to Maybeck
my sophmore year.
I did very well at Maybeck, because of their very strict
academic and behavioral rules it created a community of kids
that wanted to be there and to learn. The teachers were always
accessible if anyone needed help. The fact that it's a teacherís
co-op and that students are involved in policy making and
enforcement created an environment of equality, commitment and
personal freedom. It was such a unique and wonderful experience,
it really enforced my dedication to learning. What ever your
passion was Maybeck provided an outlet. I had amazing
opportunities of directing and acting in the schoolís play,
traveling and doing service learning abroad, and taking ballroom
I went on to Occidental College and graduated with multiple
honors, awards and distinctions. While my friends were
struggling with the workload I was well prepared. I would
strongly recommend Maybeck to anyone.
Very Happy Maybeck Alum
Re: High school for 16 year old daughter, creative and academic
My son recently switched from Piedmont High (public) to Maybeck High
School (private) in Berkeley, where he's very happy. At Piedmont, he
was harrassed by a couple teachers for his hair being long; found no
support among his peers for the genres of music he is dedicated to
(he's a serious musician and has played with professionals for a couple
years); lost his best friends to pot smoking, drinking and chasing girls
(he's not interested in that and not engaging in that meant being
dropped, socially); and was beaten up. Switching to Maybeck was the
best thing for him----academically, emotionally. The Faculty and
students accept and support one another. It's wonderful. Within one
month after school began, the Drama Dept staged a Moliere play (the
Maybeck Drama teacher used an excellent translation which really
heightened the enjoyment)---every student attended this play, most with
family and additional friends. Even the teachers. I was incredulous at
such a successful effort being pulled off after only 4 weeks of school's
commencement. They also recently staged some One Acts that
included Lysistrata, along with some modern humorous ones. They
were great. Again, all students, teachers, families, etc. turned out to
show their support. In May, there's a Film & Art Night, where students
are free to perform & display works of their own choice, regardless, I've
heard, of ''tastefulness.'' It's a great school for the performing arts-
inclined student. They also have a strong Visual Art program, I believe.
And there's more! Each fall, the teachers take the school body camping
in Yosemite for one week before school starts (bonding and probably, if
there is any ''culture shock'', it's overcome during that week), then for a
week of backpacking in Yosemite at the close of the year, plus, mid-
year, they run a two week ''Special Programs'' session and, for example,
my son's on a two week camping trip in Baja Mexico with 20 other
Maybeck kids , lead by 4 Maybeck staff, two of which are Science
teachers. Maybeck classes are small----my son's French class only has
5 students and the teacher is native French. And, despite its bohemian
reputation/appearance, the school's academics are outstanding.
Despite its rigorous academic environment, the demeanor of the school
is low-key---it's no pressure cooker environment and the kids are the
kind that don't like to be in a pressure/competitive environment. They
don't have such a thing as a Student Body President. Or Sports teams.
But, my son groans under the weight of 4-5 hours of homework per
night. He's a bright kid, and he's definitely being challenged. They
regularly send graduates off to the best colleges and universities. And
at Maybeck, he can be himself. All of the students are supported by the
Instructors as well as their fellow-students in their self-expression. One
more thing: A Berkeley High parent-friend remarked to me that they had
heard Maybeck has a lot of students that smoke dope. That worried me,
so I asked my son about it (he's very honest with me) and he informed
me that it's the Berkeley High kids he sees smoking dope all the time,
plus approaching him trying to sell dope, AND, there's a much smaller
percentage of kids at Maybeck who smoke dope than Piedmont High (!).
Fan of Maybeck
Oct - Nov 2005
If you're in the East Bay and not sure public high school is the place for your
child, please check out Maybeck High School near the U.C. Berkeley campus
(www.maybeckhs.org). I'm in my sixth year as a Maybeck parent and I highly
recommend it. For some odd reason not that many people take advantage of
this unique educational opportunity, and several families have moved away,
so there are still some openings for this year. Call admissions director Trevor
Cralle, 841-8489, and tell him I sent you.
If there's anyone out there who has a highschool aged kid
who is unhappy, bored, listless, unchallenged in school,
I'd love to recommend Maybeck Highschool in Berkeley.
I have a kid with some minor learning differences who is
totally in love with school; who is challenged
academically, who is involved and happy socially. I
couldn't be more pleased! A teacher-run coop, it's been
in business for 30 plus years and these people really know
kids and have built a wonderful community. I'd be happy
to talk with anyone who's interested.
I have a very different point of view than the two
comments a few weeks ago about Maybeck High School. My
child left after freshman year, as did one third of the
class. The school was very academically challenging, with
very little support from the teachers. My child felt
intimidated by three out of four of the teachers, so was
unwilling to seek out their help out of fear of being
humiliated. As my child started to do poorly in a few
classes, not one teacher made the effort to contact us to
discuss what was going on; in fact, one teacher never
called despite repeated messages left for him. I thought
the idea of a teacher run school was terrific, but now
think there is very little teacher accountability. The
other problem I found was very little feedback on
assignments and tests. If you are interested in the
school, I would ask them many questions: why so many kids
leave, what is the percentage of students who stay for the
four years, what recourse is there for a poor teacher.
My 16 year old spent one miserable semester at Maybeck-our experience was
much like the ''alternative experience at Maybeck'''s writer's experience. Our
son had a miserable time with no support and we received no telephone calls
from his teachers-only saw the failing progress notes. We thought we were
enrolling him in a small arty hippy type of school-rather it was very
academically challenging and did not offer him the help he needed to keep up
or the communication we needed to realize how far behind he was getting.
He ended up feeling very depressed. In contrast, he's now at Arrowsmith
(after spending one year at BHS independent studies) and likes it very much.
He likes his teachers, the other students. After going to the parent teacher
meetings I feel like the teachers know my son and care about him. I trust
that they would let me know if a problem starts to develop. They really
emphasize that the strength of their program is that they can work to a
particular student's strengths and weaknesses. He tells me that he will never
love Arrowsmith (after all, it is SCHOOL) but that he does like it and we are
thrilled that he's doing well in school and is feeling good about himself and
his capabilities. If you are considering Arrowsmith I recommend you visit and
see the school, talk to the staff. We have been very pleased (and relieved) to
finally find a high school that is working for our son.
still there and doing that
In response to the parent whose child left Maybeck High
School after freshman year:
While I sympathize with some of your frustrations with
Maybeck High School (see below,) my son's experience there
(he graduated this year) was so different that I had to
reply. Maybeck was my son's third high school, after trying
a large public school for one semester and then a smaller,
less academically challenging private school for the rest
of his freshman year. Coming to Maybeck was, for him, like
an infusion of pure oxygen. The school is small, safe and
personal, with a rigorous anti-bullying/tolerance policy
which everyone takes quite seriously. While the academics
were tougher than he was used to, the classes were small
enough, and the teachers demanding and supportive enough,
that he was able to grow in confidence and competence. What
especially excited him was that he was treated as an adult
in most of his classes. He was expected to manage his own
work load, keep up with the curriculum and do extra work
(many teachers set aside time outside of class to meet with
students) if he found himself falling behind. The burden
was on him to ask for help; in this way Maybeck is more
like a junior college, where parents are peripheral, than
like a middle school, where the parent is very much in the
academic loop. Parents can be involved in their kid's
academics at Maybeck but, in my experience, they will have
to take the initiative for that to happen.
This sudden burden of personal responsibility can be quite
stressful for some kids - it certainly was for my son. It
was the dedication and encouragement of his teachers, many
of whom let him redo assignments, that pulled him through
that rough first semester. This is why it astonishes me
that your son found the teachers there unhelpful. I wonder
if maybe your son's reluctance to approach his teachers for
help early on may have set up a negative spiral for him.
I'm not sure where the fear of humiliation came from; with
one or two possible exceptions in three years, my son was
treated respectfully by all of his teachers.
I agree with you that Maybeck does not seem to have a
mechanism for getting rid of the occasional poor teacher -
or if they do, it didn't always work to my liking. And
they could do more to contact parents early on if a kid
starts to falter. Yet overall, its incredibly dedicated
staff (who take the entire student body on a three night
camping trip at the beginning and end of each school year -
now that's dedicated) made it a wonderful experience for my
son. I'd be happy to talk to any parents who are
considering sending their child to Maybeck.
Our daughter is in her 4th year at Maybeck High School.
Our family will be forever grateful for the education we
have ALL gained during this time.
In the new parents' orientation session, we heard, and
took to heart, Maybeck's message that students accepting
responsibility for themselves is a critical component of
the Maybeck experience. It is a college prep school.
(Somedays I think it is a college.) Just as in college,
any student floundering is to approach the instructor(s)
involved and ask for help. Some instructors are able to
wait for the student to approach. Some reach out first.
Parents are not encouraged to be involved in the kids'
work. We are gently encouraged to start letting go. That
said, there is a process for intervention on a student's
behalf. The ''scariest'' of the teachers insists that all
parental criticisms/complaints about him be shared with all
the staff. And the school does have a process to alert
parents of impending failure.
Good communication with the student, at home and at
school, is critical to fully appreciating Maybeck's
strengths. The reward is an exceptional education, lengthy
community service, travel opportunities, potential life-
time relationships with excellent instructors and a strong
preparedness for college.
My son is in his second year at Maybeck High as a
junior. I can't speak to the experience described by the
posting of the anon dissatisfied ex-Maybeck parent, but
I hope I can put it into context, because many kids who
haven't done well in other settings do benefit from
Maybeck's unique community.
Maybeck is, as the anon poster says, ''very
academically challenging.'' This is particularly true for
entering students, who must adjust to a near-college
level of teaching, testing and homework.
Adding to this challenge, Maybeck operates on the
strong belief that once kids reach high school, they
should take responsibility for their own actions,
including asking for help when it is needed. This is part
of Maybeck's college prep experience. ( This
sometimes requires parent adjustment, too.)
My son had a discouragingly time-consuming workload
in his first year. It was hard for him to step up to a
teacher and ask for leeway when he truly was
overloaded, but with coaching from us, he did, and the
response when he did was supportive. (I also spoke to
the academic counselor, who was very helpful in my
Maybeck is a teacher-run cooperative in which all of the
teachers carry multiple curricular and extra-curricular
hats, which makes them extra-busy. (This year
teachers have posted office hours for students.) As in
all schools, some teachers are better or more receptive
to feedback than others, but our kid, even when he
hasn't liked a teacher, has been intellectually
challenged and engaged in every subject.
With only 100 kids, even a small number of departures
can look like large turnover. When considering
Maybeck, we heard about a number of kids who had
been there for one or two years. In most cases, the
reasons for departure were extra-curricular: the kid
wanted to be at a big high school with lots of social and
sports activities that Maybeck is too small to offer. It's
important to note that there are transfers in every year,
too, from those same schools, that have proved too
distracting, socially intolerant, or not academic enough
for other kids.
Moreover, because Maybeck bends over backwards to
consider bright, creative kids who have not done well at
other schools, it takes chances in its admissions
process that other private high schools don't take. It
would seem to me that a natural consequence of
Maybeck's relatively liberal admissions policy would be
Finding the right high school for a kid who is struggling
with academic motivation or other issues is tough.
Maybeck High School offers a unique small school
alternative for many kids. As the poster suggests, you
should ask lots of questions of Maybeck (and the
questions suggested are good ones to ask all
schools), but you'd do yourself a disservice if you
struck Maybeck off your list.
Satisfied Maybeck Parent
Maybeck suffers from profound misperceptions held by the
outside community. One of the prior postings succinctly
stated this misperception of Maybeck as follows: ''We
thought we were enrolling him in a small arty hippy type of
school-rather it was very academically challenging''.
The result of this misperception (in the case of this prior
posting) was an unhappy student who struggled academically
before transferring to Arrowsmith and finding a likable fit.
My impression is that a large percentage of situations in
which a student/family withdraw from Maybeck are because of
the workload. People often mistakenly associate and/or
confuse Maybeck with Arrowsmith, which is quite problematic
because although they are both very tolerant ''Berkeley''
schools, they have radically different academic demands and
My son is now in his junior year at Maybeck, having
attended since the start of his freshman year. He loves
Maybeck. He has received incredible support from his
teachers, including especially intense development of his
writing and critical thinking skills. He continues to be
inspired and supported by his instructors and fellow
students, and receives excellent counseling related to his
academic development and college considerations.
All of his class sizes are small, ranging from 4 students
in Spanish 4 to 18 students in Pre-calculus, Chemistry, and
Greek Literature. His Greek Literature class is taught by
an inspiring teacher, whose Ph.D. thesis dealt with some of
the texts that the class is reading. The students love to
have him read Homer from the original Greek (in class) and
to compare his translation impressions with the translation
that the class read. I showed the SEMESTER syllabus for
this class to a friend who is a tenured UC Berkeley English
professor and he commented that the intensive reading list
would be a lot even for a UC Berkeley course!
In fact last year, the UC team accredited Maybeck with
flying colors. However, they did provide feedback to the
Maybeck staff that many of Maybeck's classes were at or
above the honors or AP level even though the students were
not receiving the honors or AP designation on their
transcripts. Maybeck is now in the process of preparing
the paperwork for submission in order to get honors or AP
status recognized. They hope to have this in place by the
beginning of the next academic year (fall '06).
I think word of Maybeck's academic rigors really needs to
get out to the community (and especially to Middle school
counselors - that make high school recommendations to
students/families). Although Maybeck is often misperceived
as an ''arty hippy type'' of high school, it is an actually
incredibly academic learning institution that really
engages the student, resulting in remarkable achievement
from its students (many of whom, for example, produce
college level papers during their required 10th grade
Students looking for an easy ''arty hippy type'' of school
are destined for a rude surprise, which may result in an
academic struggle before they transfer out to a less
rigorous school. However, Maybeck is an outstanding school
for students interested in a strong small college
preparatory school with a safe, lively, engaging, and
tolerant social environment, located on Bancroft across the
street of the UC Berkeley.
I would be happy to discuss Maybeck with any family
considering Maybeck for their student.
my son went to maybeck as a not-very-studious sophomore. i asked for and
readily received a weekly monitoring sheet, which each teacher signed on
friday and my son then brought home. it listed any undone work, which he
then had to complete before he could go out on the weekend. this plan worked
very well, so that after a couple of months he did not need it anymore.
although he didn't like to study much, he was fascinated by some of the
history and english courses at maybeck. he admired the teachers, talked
about the lectures, got interested in the reading and then immersed in
writing papers for them. the quality of teaching was just far superior to
that at the big private high school he attended as a freshman. his history
teacher still works there on emeritus status. those teachers spent extra
time with him, academically and socially, to his great benefit. during his
junior and senior years he transformed into an excellent and dedicated
student, one who earned a four point average during his senior year, even in
algebra 2, which he had dreaded. whenever he asked for extra help, it was
available. so, it is true that maybeck is for serious students, but i found
that if he and i took the initiative to ask for these various kinds of help,
help was readily available.
satisfied parent of maybeck graduate
RE: "Where do kids go who just want to be educated in a safe
environment where most of the challenges are academic?"
Some go to Maybeck High School at Bancroft and Dana in Berkeley. I've
been a Maybeck parent since 2000, and I highly recommend it. Imagine
classes of 12 students, many of them very bright; wonderful, caring
teachers; all-school camping trips; and opportunities to travel to
another country with a small group! It's relatively affordable (15,100
this year), and financial aid is offered. Call 841-8489 for info.
I am the parent of an 8th grader applying to high school
for next Fall. I would like to hear parents'
recommendations and comments regarding Maybeck
and high school. Thanks.
Maybeck High School is tiny (100 students, 9-12 grades)
founded and run by teachers. Located on the second floor
of a church on Bancroft, across from UCB's athletic
complex, the funky physical plant is quickly not relevant.
Staff model respect of each other, the students, parents.
Rules are few and strictly enforced. It's ''college prep''
in more ways than academic, at which they excel: students
are responsible for their actions and work, free to leave
when not scheduled; access to instructors is easy; students
are away from home two to four weeks per year, traveling
with the school. Perfect for kids with strong outside-of-
school interests. Excellent drama, film, art -- Arts &
Film Festival each May. It's a treasure for high and low
caliber students, college-bound immediately, later or not
at all. Tuition is ''moderate'' like parochial schools, aid
is available. Second-semester admittance a bonus.
Happy Maybeck Mom
I am interested in hearing from parents whose teens
have had both positive and negative experiences at
Maybeck High School and Bentley Upper School. I am
specifically interested in getting a good handle on the
teen social scene/peer interactions and on the
supportiveness of the faculty and administration for a
kid who is bright and funny, but somewhat shy and
sensitive to criticism.
Views on the advantages and disadvantages of the
urban open campus (Maybeck) vs. the closed suburban
campus (Bentley) are also welcome. General posted
replies and private emails to
Regarding Maybeck High School, what I've observed over
several years is that it can be a wonderful place for ''a kid
who is bright and funny, but somewhat shy and sensitive to
criticism.'' It's a small community in which teachers
and students get to know each other well. The all-school
trip to the Yosemite area at the beginning of the year and
the small classes of 12 or so make getting acquainted easy,
and acceptance of people's differences is embraced.
Teachers encourage students to stretch beyond their comfort
zones and do their best. The location (near Telegraph and
Bancroft in Berkeley) and open campus give kids some
nitty-gritty real world experience without having to deal
with that stuff in the school itself.
It has been a very moving experience attending two
graduation ceremonies at Maybeck. Each senior gives a short,
informal speech, and many of them talk about what
an ''amazing'' place the school is. The teachers, in
introducing the students, show their appreciation for each
one's individuality, endearing qualities, and growth over
their years at the school.
I can't compare it to Bentley, but I can highly recommend
- anonymous parent (somewhat shy and sensitive to criticism)
Our son is in his second year at Maybeck and really likes
it. He is a serious student who did well at at intensely
academic middle school, but wanted a more socially relaxed
atmosphere for high school. He is challenged by and likes
his english and history classes, among others. And
although Maybeck is without its own sports facilities it is
able to take advantage of UC Berkeley's, as well as those
at the Y. He had a wonderful ultimate frisbee class last
semester on a university field and is doing weight training
this semester at the Y, both classes taught by Maybeck
faculty. Maybeck's art and drama programs are also fine.
We are all very happy with this school.
a content parent
Any advise about Maybeck, my daughter is in 9th grade in Public School
and we are thinking of changing her to a private school because she
needs to be challenged more and she needs to advance faster, she does
not want to go to Berkeley High school, any suggestions?
My daughter joined Maybeck in September as a 10th grader
and so far feels positive about the school. The academics
are definitely challenging without producing a pressure-
cooker atmosphere. Your daughter would need to be O.K.
about being in a small school (Maybeck has about 100
students) which does not offer the full range of facilities
larger high schools provide. Maybeck seems to be working
for my daughter who is enjoying its supportive and
community atmosphere -- she has an active social life
outside school and some extracurricular, out-of-school
activities as well.
My son is in his third year at Maybeck, and I highly
recommend it. He does find it challenging, but he has
been much more motivated about school work than in
middle school. To quote another parent's recent
Annual Fund letter, ''In most of our lives, there have
been special teachers who have made a difference.
They have challenged us to think, encouraged us to try,
and taught us by their example. We and our children
are very fortunate that the teachers at Maybeck do all
this and more. The small classes, camping trips, and
Special Programs provide ample opportunities for
learning experiences our children will remember and
cherish forever. Some of us parents feel it's a minor
miracle how much value Maybeck provides for such
modest tuition.'' (Tuition and fees for
2002-03=$10,600.) The school has its limitations,
such as very little in the way of extracurricular activities
or AP classes, but the mutual appreciation and respect
among the students and teachers is wonderful. Check
it out! I believe there are mid-year openings for girls.
From the discussion "Transferring to Berkeley High from private school ...
[After not clicking with Arrowsmith and Athenian] a wonderful therapist suggested looking into Maybeck. I was quite doubtful, after our risky
Arrowsmith experience. But she interviewed there and again, loved it.
The difference is, the school is more structured than Arrowsmith,
expects more academically from the kids, yet is small enough that they
won't let a student fall through the cracks. They are very strict
about drugs and cigarettes etc. My daughter went there last year and
I won't say she had an easy time academically, but she definitely
finished her work and is very motivated to graduate this year. She is
planning to go to CCAC or another 4-year art college next year and has
grown (and grown up!) so much. All I can tell you is that we carpool
with about 5 other kids each day and they each have their own reasons
for going to Maybeck--mostly for being "different" from their peers at
mainstream schools. But they all seem to really appreciate--and
almost seem relieved--at the chance to go to Maybeck, where everybody
accepts and respects everyone else. It's quite an eye opener to
see--high school kids not being "cliquey" and acting tough--but just
being themselves, their quirky, interesting selves.
We looked pretty hard at Maybeck a year and 1/2 ago when our son (who
sounds somewhat akin to yours) was in 8th at King; we liked it and
would have gladly sent him there. He eventually decided to go to BHS,
because he has a core of friends with him. I suppose we'll know in 20
years whether that was the 'right' decision. To address the question
however, we were in touch with a number of people whose children had
attended Maybeck and felt that it would be a good place for a creative
kid who needs more personal handling by the teachers. The information
night we attended was more useful than most -- a couple of students
spoke at length, one of whom had struggled in the school before
adapting to the relatively heavy homework (~3 hours a night, he said.)
I think the humanities program is probably stronger than the core
English/History program at BHS seems to be (because it doesn't have to
reach as wide a range of kids). OTOH, the physical lab science
facilities are spartan at best. I doubt that really matters if the
instruction is good, but others may differ. Maybeck turned around one
of our friends' kids who was even failing fencing at BHS. He went to
Sarah Lawrence and is now a minor 'Net mogul in NYC, for what it's
worth. One final note: my wife and son both thought there was a
pretty heavy Goth presence in the halls when they visited.
My son looked at Maybeck last year and liked it, though he decided to go to
BHS to stay with friends. I'm not sure I would describe it as light on
academic demands, though. That being said, the original poster's message
reminded me of the story we heard from a friend that led us to look at
Maybeck. His son was flunking fencing (!!!) as a freshman at BHS (and other
things I suppose). He transferred to Maybeck mid-year and never looked
back. Ended up at Sarah Lawrence for college and is now in media in NYC.
My son, Aaron, went to Maybeck for four years, graduating in 1995. He was
not doing well in middle school, and needed a place that provided more
encouragement and connection that a public school could offer.
We have only positive things to say about his Maybeck experience. Staff
really care about the students, and because the school is small, they can
get to know them pretty well. The trips the students take at the beginning
and end of the year help the students connect with each other in positive
The intersession courses provide unique opportunities for growth. (My son
spent last year as a CSU exchange student in France as a result of the
travel with Maybeck to France in his Junior year.)
Maybeck involve students in creating school rules and maintaining
discipline. Students learn to think for themselves.
The regular curriculum is strong. Most Maybeck students in Aaron's
graduating class went on to college (several to UC Berkeley and Santa
Cruz.) He is still in touch with friends he made there.
I know Maybeck offers students the opportunity to visit for a day. (We
took advantage of that when Aaron was in the 8th grade -- following which
he decided that he definately wanted to go there.)
I attended Maybeck High School from 1975 -79 and had the best school
experience I could have imagined. After graduating I went to Reed
College in OR and then finished my Bachelors in Physics at UC
Berkeley. I came to Maybeck after four years of Berkeley experimental
schools, with some serious set backs in basic reading and writing
skills. At Maybeck I was challenged like never before, and encouraged
by the supportive teaching AND student community. The small school
atmosphere lended itself to close relationships with peers and
teachers, and gave ample opportunity for small, indepth discussions or
outings. The teachers at Maybeck were motivated and inspirational. I
came away from my High School experience with a true appreciation for
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Maybeck High School and it is
still thriving. I definitely hope to send my children there six years
from now, or something as close to Maybeck as possible.
For the parent who asked about Maybeck: I have a good friend, Mike Golston,
who teaches English at Maybeck. He is a fantastic teacher, and really
enjoys working with his students. I was an English major here at Cal, and
he and I often talk about the subject and what he's teaching the students,
and there's a real joy and love to his work. Mike has told me that Maybeck
is that way in all of its subjects, and they really work with the students
to get each student into the love of learning. They also do big trips,
although they're pretty expensive, I guess. For example, Mike took a group
to Egypt last year.
Maybeck is a popular alternative for students who don't work well at
Berkeley High (and whose parents can afford the private school tuition, of
course). These students seem to thrive on individual attention, and
Maybeck offers that opportunity.
My stepdaughter, now graduated from college, went through Berkeley High and
loved it and excelled in everything. We thought all of her teachers were
topnotch. But, Berkeley High is not for everyone.
Good luck! The high school years whiz by in retrospect!
this page was last updated: Dec 19, 2011
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