Parent Perspective: Words of Wisdom for the Reluctant Parent

Updated July 26, 2017
Parent Perspective: Words of Wisdom for the Reluctant Parent
Learn about an initially reluctant parent's perspective on boarding school.
By Shari Bunks Geller, parent of Blair Academy alumni
 
I survey my son's room. High school graduation is just two weeks away.  College is no longer on the horizon, but our next step forward. I am looking to see what he will need to take with him and what he will leave behind.  Looking around his room I am keenly aware of how our worlds have expanded more than we could have imagined just four years ago when we applied Michael to high school. Boarding school was consciously not on our radar when we began our high school search.
 
At the start of his eighth grade year our son announced that would he like to apply to boarding school.  My husband and I had a serious conversation about boarding school as an option.  We both attended good public schools growing up.  We had decided against our public high school as an option for our four children and were committed to sending them to an independent day school.  While neither my husband nor I came from families with a boarding school culture, we had many friends whose children attended boarding schools across the country.  We had been frequently cautioned that once a child visits a boarding school all day schools will pale in comparison. The facilities, the campus and the notion of a different level of independence are very alluring to a fourteen year old.  Although our conversation was serious, we quickly agreed that we would not consider boarding school.
 
We
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Updated April 12, 2018 |
Gifts for the Boarding School Graduate
May is the month for private school graduations. Boarding school graduation is an especially poignant occasion. Why not mark it with a special gift?
Chances are that if you went off to boarding school for three or four years, May is a very special month. AP exams are over. IB work is complete. You probably have your college acceptances in hand. Finally you can focus on graduation and leaving the school which has been your home away from home for these past several years.

You will most certainly receive graduation gifts to mark this very special occasion. With that in mind here are some suggestions which you might want to email to that favorite aunt or uncle. You know that mother and father will give you something special to commemorate your achievements. So I will leave the pens, watches and pendants off this list.

An iPad
This has to be the coolest gift going in 2010. Sleek. Fun. It's just so 2010. Tablets and netbooks just don't offer the same appeal. It's like Bang and Olufsen products. Beautiful, crisp, clean and elegant designs.

Bang & Olufsen BeoTime Aluminum Alarm Clock
Speaking of Bang & Olufsen, their alarm clock is a gift which you will keep forever. It's so unusual yet sublimely functional.

A Honda Metropolitan
Honda built a classic scooter a few years ago. It's been gently refined over the years and remains the perfect big city local transportation medium. It also works for large suburban campuses. Leave the car at home. Think green. Reduce your carbon footprint.

An A&F Gift Certificate
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Updated May 25, 2017 |
What Is Being Taught?
You need to know what is being taught before you decide which boarding school is best for you.
One of the most important considerations in choosing a boarding school for your son or daughter is what goes on in the classroom and in the larger school community. In other words, what are they teaching and how are they teaching it?

You must never assume that, just because a school enjoys a solid reputation, has been there forever and looks wonderful on the surface, it will provide the kind of teaching you want and expect for your child. Doing your due diligence with respect to curriculum and how it is taught has to be one of the most important parts of your school evaluation process.

Here's how to proceed.
  • Observe
  • Question
  • Research
Observe
 
When you visit the school for your admissions interview, try to do so while school is in session. Summer visits are often more convenient for all of us, but you won't be able to observe any classes. Summer sessions do not usually offer a typical classroom experience. So you cannot judge the teaching or what is being taught by what you see during the summer. The teaching staff is frequently not the same as the faculty who teach during the year. Because it is summer, the whole atmosphere is much more relaxed.
 
When you visit the school and observe a class, is the class size small? Do students interact with the teacher and each other? Are they students learning how to think analytically? Are they using texts? Laptops? Are they sitting around a table in the Harkness-style classroom? Does
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Updated June 29, 2016 |
5 Founders and Their Boarding Schools
What prompts somebody to start a boarding school? The motives range from idealism to munificence right on through to capitalism. The common thread seems to be ample capital and a vision of what education can do.
Any school is a lot of work and takes a great deal of money to open and to continue operating. So, when you look at the examples of these five founders of legendary boarding schools, you can only marvel at the sheer determination which each one had to make his or her dream come true. American boarding schools are some of the best in the world. In an age when everybody seems to be taking shots at America and what we stand for, that's a nice statement to be able to make. Here then are snapshots of the founders of five boarding schools. They are an inspiration forever, as indeed are all the founders of boarding schools throughout the United States.
 
Maria Bissell Hotchkiss and The Hotchkiss School
 
Founded in 1891
Number of students: 598
Grades 9-12, PG. Coeducational
Religious Affiliation: Nondenominational
Setting: Rural
Maria Bissell Hotchkiss had inherited a fortune from her husband Benjamin Hotchkiss. He made his money manufacturing guns. After he died, Mrs. Hotchkiss donated 65 acres of land to establish a school for boys. She wanted the school to be a feeder school for Yale University down by the shore in New Haven. Her original gift of 65 acres expanded over time into a magnificent campus of 645 acres of pristine Northwestern Connecticut countryside. Mrs. Hotchkiss' munifence also established a generous financial aid program which gave boys who could not otherwise afford the opportunity of attending The Hotchkiss School. The school became a
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Updated February 05, 2018 |
What If Things Go Wrong?
Boarding schools have a reputation for being tough academically and from a discipline point of view. But that's not all they are.

You are thinking about boarding school. But you've heard that the work is tough. Furthermore, they will expel you in a heartbeat if you are caught doing anything seriously wrong. Is this true? Is that the way boarding schools actually work? Let's look at the facts.

The academic work is difficult.

There's no escaping the truth about academics in private school. Academics are the reason a private school exists in the first place. The academic standards are high. There is a lot of homework. There are a lot of subjects and a lot of ground to cover in every class. Sometimes the lessons are hard to understand. Just remember whenever you feel discouraged that you were admitted to the school because it felt you could do the academic work involved. The school-based its decision on your academic transcripts and your admissions test scores.

MJ The Student Actuary offers some study tips for difficult subjects.

The difference between taking on challenging work in a boarding school versus a public school simply is that nobody in the boarding school is going to let you sink. Why? Well, for one, the classes are small. For example, your teacher will know the instant that you are having problems grasping a math concept. You will not be humiliated in front of your peers. If you don't believe me, read the codes of conduct for any boarding school and see just how seriously they take community spirit and concern for all members of the

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