Sending your child off to boarding school is not as simple as dropping him off at school, giving him a teary hug and kiss and then driving back home. Sending your child off to boarding school requires that you honor the contractual commitment which you signed when you decided to accept the school's offer of a place. Remember that binding, legal document called a contract? In it you agreed to a partnership of three: the school, you and your child. Let's look at what this arrangement involves.
The School's Obligation
The school spells out its obligations in great detail both on its website and in the various printed brochures and catalogs. The admissions staff will also discuss the school's various programs and school life with you when you visit and have your admissions interview. Most importantly, the school lists its obligations in the contract which you and the school signed.
1. The school will offer the academic instruction spelled out in its various materials. And it will ensure that the teaching is of the highest order. You expect nothing less. Private schools take academics very seriously. You won't have to worry about what will happen if the French teacher suddenly takes sick and has to withdraw. Her replacement will be in place quicker than you can say "Je ne sais quoi".
2. The school will act in loco parentis while your child is in its care. It takes its responsibility very seriously. Their students safety and well-being are paramount at all times.
3. In line with #2, the school will shape and mold your child by the philosophy it has spelled out in its materials. Teaching children to be responsible adults and aware of their role in an increasingly global, closely connected society is the sort of thing you can expect to see a school try to do to the best of its ability.
This short video outlines Emma Willard School's approach to education.
The Parent's Obligation
Months ago as you read the school's online materials, you began to understand the implications of the partnership which you will have with the school after you sign the contract. The sheer variety of academic choices, sports options, and extracurricular activities means that you know that you will have to have some serious discussions with your child about what courses he should take, what teams to try out for and what clubs in which to participate. Your child is about to begin a brand new chapter in his life as this video from The Hun School shows.
This awareness of your obligations intensified when you arrived on campus for that all-important visit and admissions interview. Remember some of the questions which you had on your list? Will the school meet your requirements? Will it be a good fit for your child? Of course, you were very aware that the school was asking similar questions as it sized you up. There's a balance here. While you are the consumer or the client, if you will, at the same time the school will be fussy about who it will take on. In other words, do you qualify?
If you are evaluating a school which will provide specialized instruction with learning differences, you will undergo another level of scrutiny and assessment. The school needs to determine what it can and cannot do for your child and you.
You have a triple obligation in this partnership too.
1. You need to pay all the tuition and bills for sundries such as extra lessons, sports equipment, and so on.
2. You must provide encouragement and support for your child while he is away at school. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it's not a matter of dropping him off and forgetting him. You have spent fifteen or more years molding and shaping him. That molding and shaping does not stop once he is out of sight and away at school. Most importantly he must be responsible and abide by the Code of Conduct which he has signed.
3. You need to determine how best to support the school with your financial gifts both while your child is at school and after he graduates. Private schools may appear to be big organizations which don't need your gift of $5,000 or $10,000. That's not true. Every gift matters greatly to schools.
Furthermore, you are setting an example for other parents and potential donors by supporting your school financially. You would be amazed at how people listen when you state quietly that you are so grateful for what The Academy has done for you child and that you regularly give to its annual fund and capital campaign.
The Student's Obligation
I have saved the best for the last. School and parents. That's for the adults. True. But, after all, it's your education, right? You have a tremendous obligation to honor the trust your parents have put in you. They have done so much for you already. And now this incredible opportunity awaits. Not many young people have the chance to leave home at age 15 and go away to boarding school. It will be a bit scary, but think of it as an adventure, and you will do just fine.
Promise yourself that you will do your best. That's all anybody can ask. Seize the opportunities to explore old, familiar subjects thoroughly. Discover new worlds of subjects and disciplines about which you have never thought. Participate in extracurricular activities. Enjoy all the athletics the school offers. These activities are all part of laying a solid foundation for your role as an independent, responsible adult. Your school believes in a balanced approach to your growth. Boarding school is not all academics. Academics, sports, and extracurricular activities are integrated into the school's program to develop your leadership skills, your confidence and your ability to work with and get along with others. This video from Missouri Military Academy takes a look at boarding school life from a student's perspective.
Respect the rules and regulations. Those rules are there for your safety and guidance ethically and morally as well as physically. Your side of this three-way partnership is the one with the most excitement. That is because the school and your parents are waiting patiently with great anticipation to see how you develop and flourish in your new setting. So, make the most of it!
Questions? You may contact me via Twitter. @privateschl