School Life

For boarding school students, and many teachers, the campus is home. Explore dormitory living, get expert advice on learning and living away from home and learn more about what can be done to help your child transition to and succeed in boarding school. Find resources for parents, teachers and students. We’ll cover sustainability, boarding school jargon, and corporal punishment. Read first-hand accounts from parents of boarding school students, find graduation gift ideas, and learn why small classes are effective.
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Published April 19, 2017 |
A Year At A Swiss Boarding School
In 1957-58 Peter Denis attended a boarding school in Switzerland. In this article he recounts his experiences for us.

Editor's note: In 1957-58 my cousin Peter Denis attended a boarding school in Switzerland. I posed a series of questions when I asked him to recount his experiences for us. ~Rob

What prompted your parents to send you to boarding school overseas? Which school did they send you to? How did you get there?

My parents wanted me to improve my French. So they sent me for one year after high school and before university to Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande, Chailly sur Lausanne, Switzerland. I was the third in a series of five people who had followed such a plan. The idea was to live in the boarding school together with the students doing regular studies. I was enrolled to learn French which I had already been exposed to over eight years growing up in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. This Swiss school had a French second language program with dedicated teachers to accommodate students from around the world. The 18 students in my class came from the US, Norway, Sweden, Iran, Germany, to name just a couple of the countries. 

There was no penalty for speaking English, but if you were going to survive, you had to learn French. Once your French was at an acceptable level, you were placed in the regular classes. 

I traveled to Le Havre, France via a Cunard steamship from Montreal. Then I spent five days in Paris with cousins. This was before travel by jet. 

Which grades did

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Updated April 05, 2017 |
Spotlight on Sports
Explore the incredible variety of athletics which schools offer. Athletics are not optional in boarding school. Athletics are one part of a comprehensive program most schools adopt to educate the whole child in mind, body and spirit.

 I have assembled this spotlight on sports in boarding schools so that parents and prospective students can explore the incredible variety of athletics which schools offer. As I have pointed out many times, athletics are not optional in boarding school. Athletics are one part of a comprehensive program most schools adopt to educate the whole child in mind, body and spirit. What do you do if your child is not athletically inclined? Don't worry. Schools are accustomed to students with just about every background you can think of. Your child will surprise you after a few weeks at school by exclaiming "Mommy! I love sprinting!" If you live within driving distance of her school, even better. You can attend games. We used to enjoy driving up to the old girls' campus of Kent School on Skiff Mountain to watch our daughter play field hockey. The toughest issue with boarding school athletics which she will encounter is which ones to select.

Crew

69 schools offer crew. Most schools assume that their students have never rowed before. As a result, they offer a solid grounding in the sport combined with all the ergnometrics required.

Groton School, Groton, MA 
"Since Groton’s founding in 1884, rowing has been a prominent sport. Girls began to row as soon as the school became coed in 1976. Groton rows in 4 person shells with a coxswain to steer the boat and give commands. We generally have eight boats of girls for a team

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Updated February 03, 2017 |
To Harkness or Not To Harkness
Whether a school uses the Harkness Table™ or doesn't use the Harkness Table™ is a matter of teaching style worth exploring in some detail.
My apologies to Shakespeare! Whether a school uses the Harkness Table™ or doesn't use the Harkness Table™ is a matter of teaching style worth exploring in some detail. That is what you and I shall do in this little essay.
 
What's a Harkness Table™? Well, depending on how you look at it, it is a table. Some would say it is a method. We will look at Harkness™ from all angles so that you can understand it and decide whether sending your child to a school which uses Harkness Tables™ is something you value.
 
Background/history
 
First of all, the Harkness Table™ gets its name from a wealthy philanthropist by the name of Edward Harkness. He was a graduate of historic Saint Paul's School Concord, New Hampshire. In 1930 he gave $5,840,000 (approximately $60,000,000 in 2015 dollars) to Phillips Exeter Academy with the stated purpose, among other things, of changing the way students were taught. About one third of Edward Harkness' gift was used for the tables and necessary alterations to the classrooms in which they were installed. The rest was used for a host of other projects at Exeter including the addition of new teachers and halving the class size.
 
In Harkness' own words: “What I have in mind is (a classroom) where (students) could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them, and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where (each student) would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in
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Updated June 14, 2015 |
Packing for School
What are you allowed to bring to boarding school? What are you not allowed to bring to boarding school? Answers to those questions and more.
Here's what we are looking at. Your daughter heads off to boarding school in a two months. She's got a horse and a cello and a raft of sports equipment including skis and field hockey sticks. You're going to need a truck to get her to school, right? It all depends. Let's review the items and equipment schools will allow her to bring and things she should not bring. Bear in mind that every school has its own unique rules and regulations concerning what can be brought on campus and what cannot.
 
Incidentally I remember quite vividly load our Dodge Caravan full to the brim with what I can only call 'stuff'. I never knew one young lady would need so much 'stuff' when she went off to boarding school. But she and her mother had determined what she needed and what could be left at home for another trip. I was comforted to discover dozens of other over-loaded vehicles at the school when we arrived to move our daughter in. And most of the fathers looked just as bemused as I did.
 
Horses
 
Let's start with the horse. Riding is an integral part of many boarding school athletic programs. If riding is important to your child, investigate the equestrian programs offered by the schools which you are considering. Our daughter had ridden in seventh and eighth grades. Fortunately for us, her interest in that expensive pursuit had waned by the time she was ready to go off to boarding school.
 
The following
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
Why Choose a Boarding Summer Program
Most boarding schools offer summer programs running about two weeks. Some answers to your questions about what's involved.
Most boarding schools offer summer programs running about two weeks. If your child needs help with a subject like math, for instance, she will be able to find it. Ditto with enrichment. Summer boarding programs offer a special opportunity to sample a variety of subjects in a residential setting away from home.
 
Behind the scenes
 
Boarding schools run professionally staffed, fully insured and properly licensed programs. They have been doing it for years. They understand how to supervise young people. That's because they do it all year long.
 
The teachers are generally drawn from the school's academic team with adjunct faculty added as necessary for special programs. The support staff including kitchen and security professionals are usually the same team you will find on duty when school is in session. All these professionals have passed background checks.
 
Boarding schools have found that summer programs make good use of facilities which would otherwise be idle for several months over the long summer vacation. They also have learned that summer programs provide an agreeable soft introduction to the concept of going away to boarding school. Many parents send their children to a boarding school summer program to see how they will like it. Next thing they know their son or daughter is asking if they can go to that wonderful boarding school. Here is an example of what I mean.
What about the amenities?
 
Are meals provided? What are the meals like? Most schools offer three meals a day. Snacks are also available.
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April 19, 2017
Here are some answers to the more common concerns we parents have when our child goes off to boarding school.
A Year At A Swiss Boarding School
April 19, 2017
In 1957-58 Peter Denis attended a boarding school in Switzerland. In this article he recounts his experiences for us.
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School Life

For Parents

This section covers issues and concerns for parents of boarding school students. Explore corporal punishment, get expert advice on preventing hazing, and read first-hand accounts from parents. Learn what to do if things go wrong, see what boarding school students do in the summer, and get words of wisdom from a reluctant parent.

For Students

Here you’ll gain knowledge about student life at boarding school. User our glossary of terms to learn boarding school jargon, discover the importance of a partnership between school, parent and child, and find great gift ideas for the boarding school graduate.

For Teachers

The articles in this section are related to teaching at a boarding school. Learn more about what is being taught, why small class sizes work, and the impact of sustainability on boarding schools. You’ll find a list of eBooks about boarding schools, be able to view pictures of boarding school life, and explore course offerings.