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We are considering private school for our child and one thing that I have wondered about in this process is the typically small size of private schools. Many just have one or possibly two classrooms in each grade which seems quite small to someone like me who went to public schools with 4-8 parallel classes. I would like to hear from parents who have children in small schools; have your children found friends that are a good fit? what is the social scene like, especially in the upper grades? what can be done if a group of students just doesn't ''click'' and there is no way to reshuffle the classes from year to year? any other insights? Anon
Every kid and family will view small vs. large schools differently though so I hope you find something that will work for your child and your family. We have been happy with our choice. - small school, not small mind
My oldest really likes to be part of a group, the bigger the better. He thrived at large public schools, where he always found a big gang of kids that he could identify with and be a part of. I think he would have been fine in a small school too - he could have honed his leadership skills without competition, perhaps. But he likes being in a big pond. He went to Berkeley Public Schools all the way through, and loved every minute of it.
My middle child is not the team player type of kid -- he really just needs one good compadre, and he always found that one kid he clicked with, whether in a tiny school or in a great big school. He was fine socially in both environments. On the other hand, he was not academically inclined, and was also somewhat of a non-conformist. His big public school stopped working for him by 4th grade, so in the 5th grade, he changed to a small private school that seemed perfect but turned out to be a really bad fit - it was too conservative, and too strict. Despite a very small class, every kid was held to a high academic standard that he just couldn't meet. Public middle school was a big relief, but Berkeley High turned out to be too big for him, so again he went to a small private school for high school that worked better.
My youngest goes along with whatever comes his way. He started out in a large K-8 private school and it was fine. He socialized with all the kids but really only connected with one friend. In 4th grade we moved him to a very small K-6 school where he didn't know anyone, and most kids had been together since kindergarten (Walden in Berkeley). He was immediately absorbed into the small group of boys in his grade, and was in high demand for playdates. He loved all the attention from the younger kids too - all ages play together. He's been extremely happy. We parents have liked that the teachers are able to give our son personalized attention in a way that we didn't see in larger schools. In retrospect I realize that this small school would have been a better fit for him than the big school he went to in kindergarten. But it's just so hard to tell when your kid is only 4!
What I like about a small school: The kids learn to accommodate all sorts of different kinds of kids, because unlike in a bigger school, they don't really have the choice of playing with only the kids they like. The kids in a small school will be interacting with every kid in the school, regardless of age, gender, or personality. A smaller school has a lot more flexibility in terms of adjusting the curriculum for individual children. On the other hand, small schools can still be very rigid in their expectations of students, as we found at another school with our middle child, so you have to pay attention to the culture of the school and whether it will work for your own child. And remember, if you pick a school that doesn't work out, you can always change! mom of 3
Besides being a well-rounded education setting, Walden is a nurturing community for my children's healthy social development as well. The school's small size enables teachers, parents, and children to truly know and support one another, and to have fun together. Nobody gets lost in the crowd. Walden, a diverse community, embraces a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning. Students find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex academic and social problems.
Although it is natural that my children (or all people for that matter) "click" more with some than with others, at Walden, students learn organically how to be members of a community. In other words, while not everyone becomes best friends with everyone else, all students get along and respect one another. In my opinion, it is Walden's proactive approach to healthy social development that makes the need to "reshuffle" non-existent.
One of the most important social development aspects of Walden is its "Respect for All" curriculum: classes, workshops, discussions, early intervention, mediation, role-play, and modeling provide tools and language for positive and peaceful decision-making and conflict resolution for children and the entire community. Respect for All starts at the early grades, so that when students reach upper grades, they are abundantly equipped to manage the social mores of their age group.
Take a look at Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It could very well be the place for your child and family. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk more.
K.G. -- A Delighted Parent of Walden Center and School
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