We've had 3 great years with Big Minds! We feel very blessed to have found Melanie and this school.
We are so grateful that another family with 2e kids introduced us to Big Minds. Our son was already struggling in his second week of kindergarten - when I would go pick him up I would hear the other kids shouting at each other not to play with him because he was "mean", as he was bossy, language delayed, and prone to outbursts because he was bored and unhappy. It is his third year at Big Minds, and our daughter's first. There has never been a day they were late getting out the door because they are so eager to get to school and, frankly, they find the weekend a bit of a drudgery because we can't provide them with the quality of stimulation they get at school. Their natural curiosity is stoked and nourished, and they are developing increased confidence and competence across academic domains. My husband and I are both 2e as well, and we are also grateful, personally, for a school whose culture and structure is so supportive of folks who build their lives a bit unconventionally. The thing I treasure most about Big Minds is the scope of emotional and social support the kids receive. I work hard at home to teach them truly pro-social skills and it is such a relief to see these roots watered so deeply every single day at school. The teaching staff is compassionate, creative, positive, and beloved by all the families, and it is obvious they have all received all the support and guidance they need from Melanie and Judy's combined wealth of expertise. Not a day goes by that we don't have warm hearts and profound gratitude that our kids get to learn in such a wonderful environment.
After years of struggling to help my very gifted/LD daughter, finding Big Minds (Dr. Melanie Hayes) was truly a life saver. After countless IEP meetings, multiple doctor visits, therapist, psychiatrist, naturopathic, acupuncture, occupational therapy, multiple assessments, educational therapist, home/hospital teachers, Prozac and Zoloft. I looked at a dozen schools throughout the Bay Area, all of which focused on ''treating'' my child's disabilities/emotional issues, but had nothing to support her giftedness. At Big Minds, the approach was the complete opposite. They focused on teaching my daughter through her interests and passions, emotionally connected with her, made her feel safe to express her anxiety and fears. School has inspired her and continues to help her set goals for the future. Her last assessment revealed huge gains in reading and spelling (her main areas of struggle). She also has a lovely group of friends (she had no friends for years!) and I have amazing support from Melanie, as well as the community of parents at Big Minds. This loving, understanding care has completely turned our lives around, giving the whole family back our sanity. No need for Zoloft around here. Big Minds!
My 2e son has been going to Big Minds for 2 1/2 years and it has been working really well for him and for our family. He continues to grow and amaze me. I would say that the hardest thing to get used to is the unschooling, self-directed model of the school. Many parents jump ship early because of it’s unconventional style, which I totally get. At the same time, our family is a little more balanced knowing that our son is thriving in his school environment. The teacher retention is excellent - my son has had the same core group of teachers his entire time at Big Minds. Some of the teachers are sensitive and creative, some can hold long conversations with him on whatever intellectual pursuits he is thirsting for, such as history and philosophy, and some are knowledgeable in tech and the sciences and have tons of fun experiments up their sleeves.They all get where he is challenged and where his strengths are and help him work with all of that. Most importantly, they work on the social-emotional piece. They help the students understand themselves, their sensitivities, perfectionism, and intensities in a way that is unique to 2e kids. This is the part I am most grateful for. I feel that, no matter where he goes in his life, having this deep understanding of himself will be something he can rely on again and again
Big Minds is a pioneer in 2e education with an award-winning director, and unique, innovative, attachment focused, inquiry-based learning model, but it's so much more. It's no exaggeration to say Big Minds saved our lives. Our family was traumatized by the public school and IEP system, countless failed settings and therapies, and felt hopeless. Big Minds helped us to find a new way forward, community, resources, and heal as a family. Our child finally feels safe, loves school, and is starting to make and keep friends for the first time. He's discovering his gifts and talking about the future. He's not just surviving, he's thriving. We are so grateful to Dr. Hayes for her courage and vision to create Big Minds and for guiding us through this journey.
"In my line of work, I see many children who are pathologized for being who they are in an educational system that doesn't fit. I hope that Big Minds can set a standard for regular education, not just twice-exceptional. Big Minds has been a place where my son can be himself, make mistakes, and is encouraged to grow. Knowing that he is wired differently than the typical child makes a world of difference in how this is done. The teachers are able to engage with him in a relational, real-world, experiential way that suits his learning style."
Having our son enroll at Big Minds 2 years ago was one of the best things that has ever happened in our family! The school’s unique structure allows the students to embrace learning and unleash their creativity and growth. All of the teachers are trained in how to support and guide the students in this very caring environment. Our son looks forward to school everyday and we look forward to his continued growth and development at this positive and supportive school. It truly is impossible to say just how wonderful Big Minds is. I am forever thankful that we heard about it. Our initial tour and meeting at the school lead to successful shadow days and we knew this would be a wonderful place for our son.