Reflections on Sending Our Daughter to Boarding School
We were busy parents with careers and two children. The girls were five years apart. One in junior high. The other in elementary school. We lived in a little town in northwestern Connecticut. You had to drive ten miles to get to anything. Literally. While the regional high school was doing a good job, it was limited in the number of academic courses and extras which it could provide our daughter. Not only that, she had to be driven everywhere to participate in sports or extracurricular activities. With those factors looming large, we sat down one day with her and asked "What do you think about going off to boarding school?" There was a rather enthusiastic acceptance of the idea. Probably because she realized that she would no longer be trapped in her circumstances. It would be a chance to see something different. To experience something new.
Our Boarding School Exploration Process
Looking back, I cannot honestly call it a school search process. There was no Internet via which to search. You had to snailmail or call long distance (remember that?) schools for catalogs. We selected Kent School because it was in the next town over from us. I knew the headmaster and thought very highly of the school. Still do. Kent was within easy reach but still far enough away that she would feel on her own.
We also chose two other boarding schools to visit and inspect. They were in the Boston area as I recall. One was in the St. Grottlesex group though I honestly cannot recall exactly which one. It doesn't matter because she was rejected at the Boston schools. Kent, on the other hand, welcomed her with open arms. All the more so since we didn't need any financial aid. Kent was $11,600 a year for tuition, room and board in those days.
Off to School
That long awaited Saturday afternoon came quicker than any of us imagined it would. But it was a beautiful September afternoon when we loaded the Dodge Caravan full of her stuff and set off for the girls' campus which at that time was high on the top of Skiff Mountain. The Dodge had a four cylinder engine which was no match for Skiff Mountain Road. That road was designed for goats, not loaded vans. Eventually we made it to the top having crawled along in second gear most of the way.
The circle in front of the girls' dorms was full of other vans and station wagons disgorging their daughters and enough possessions for an army. There were hugs and tears and off we went leaving our beloved in the hands of others.
The Next Three Years
Lots of homework. Lots of sports. Lots of friends. Of course, since we lived relatively close to Kent, there were lots of quick visits home with her new-found friends to eat Mom's great cooking and do laundry. I believe that I recall being told that Kent had no laundry facilities or that you had to wash your clothes in a stream. (Neither was true, of course. Just an excuse to come home for an hour or two.) Kent, however, did insist on its students wielding a mop and a broom. Scouring the lavatories was just part of Father Sill's character-shaping method.
$40,000 later and graduation was at hand. Another glorious day. Lots of photographs. Fond memories of being ever so proud that she had achieved so much academically. (I seem to recall that she graduated fifth in her class.) We had sent a small child off to Kent three years earlier. We received back a mature, confident, poised young lady. She was ready to take on anything.
Obviously there's much, much more to the story. But the bottom line is a resounding "Go for it!" if you are thinking of sending your daughter off to boarding school.