Boarding school has a historic reputation of being a dismal place for children who have been forcibly ejected from their families. The media backs up this by depicting students as drunken, marauding adolescents; evil gangs conjuring up witch-craft in the woods; or desolate, picked-on children. None of which are exactly reassuring. However, although a boarding school is by no means for everyone, these portrayals are so inaccurate they are almost mythical, when, in fact, it can often be a natural, and the most logical, solution for many families.
Understanding the Purpose of Boarding School
Although you might appreciate that life at boarding school is rarely as depicted in Hollywood movies, you may also find it hard to imagine that children attending boarding school go willingly. However, while there are obviously varying family dynamics at play and in some cases, the choice may not entirely rest with the teen, the majority of students who attend boarding school are there because they have chosen to be.
Many boarding schools offer education programs that are simply unavailable in mainstream schools; for example, if your child is a talented athlete, they may benefit from boarding at a school that specialized in their particular sport. Similarly, boarding schools are an ideal solution if your child is a high-achiever academically, but attends a public school that doesn’t have the resources or experience to stretch them.
In contrast, boarding schools are also an option for teens who are struggling. Therapeutic boarding schools offer a safe environment, with qualified and caring staff, for children experiencing relationship problems at home, have had difficulties coping within mainstream schooling systems, or have simply fallen in with a bad crowd.
Boarding schools are also a valid option for a child with special needs, or particular requirements, for example, if you would like their child to have an education that is specifically slanted towards a religious denomination or belief.
It’s also relevant to mention that work constraints and family dynamics can play an integral part in deciding on a boarding school: many families are single-parented, and if they have work commitments that mean extensively traveling, then a boarding school might be the only viable option.
Coping with Being Away From Home
Even if it is the teen’s choice to attend boarding school, there is no escaping the fact that being away from family can be tough (not to mention the worry, emptiness and detached feeling you as a parent might experience). The sensation of loneliness, abandonment or alienation is understandably heightened if the teen feels that they are being “forced” into attending due to family dynamics or problems at home. The age of the child also plays a significant part, with younger students seeming to experience more of a wrench, but older children feeling that it is just a precursor towards the natural step in their education: college life.
However, although it can feel lonely for teens not to have a comforting shoulder to cry on, and there’s simply nothing that compares to a mom-hug, the children in boarding school are surrounded by people they can turn to, lean on, and discuss problems with. It’s also important to consider that teens away from home quickly become very responsible, and self-sufficient, which are life-lessons well worth learning early; and this sense of independence naturally seems to bring about feelings of pride and accomplishment.
There are a great many positives in living with your best friends in close proximity, and boarding school sets the scene for life-long friendships to develop; there is often a real sense of camaraderie and closeness. Talented children can experience a sense of alienation in a public schooling system, but when boarding, they are among like-minded peers, all with similar goals and objectives. This cultivates the perfect environment for a teen to grow, and develop their full potential.
There is often a wide-range of extra-curricular programs, which provide children with the opportunities they may not experience elsewhere, such as extensive sports facilities, well-stocked libraries, and impressive arts programs. And unlike attending public school and living at home, there are no constraints of family life getting in the way of making the most of them all.
Attending a boarding school can also benefit teens from a cultural perspective. Many students are from overseas, or with diverse backgrounds (although boarding school has a reputation for being exclusively for the wealthy, this is no longer entirely true, with many talented students there on a scholarship basis).
The bottom line is that boarding school simply isn’t for everyone; we all have different needs, responsibilities, and opinions. However, if your teen fits into any of the categories where boarding school can prove extremely advantageous, then it is most definitely something worth considering.