Much has been said about the benefits of boarding, and it is true that even more has been said against boarding. Whatever your views may be, the children who board deserve our utmost respect.
I still hear parents saying things like, “I would never send my children away to boarding school” or “My child needs to be at home with me – after all, that’s why I had children”. There are many reasons for sending a child to boarding school (rather, choosing to send a child to boarding school). Whatever the reason, parents love their children and want what’s best for their children. Boarding will never replace the home but boarding offers what the home just quite frankly cannot offer.
Boarding offers children the opportunity to be independent, tolerant of others, confident and resilient. The boarders share their lives with children and staff from all around the world and happily share their personal space with others, even when they are over-tired and irritable. As a result, they demonstrate a level of independence and maturity that day children should envy. Boarders are able to make friends and hold conversations with strangers and negotiate and compromise with others; they know how to occupy themselves and enjoy free time. They even know how to survive for days on end without computer games and mobile phones! Boarders make their own beds, clean their teeth without being nagged to do so, put their laundry in each day and shower because they know that it’s the right thing to do. Try getting your child at home to do all this on their own…
Over the past 17 years of being involved with boarders, I do not know a single child that has not flourished in a boarding community. Some may start with the odd wobble but if their parents are supportive, encouraging and trust their child’s house parents and matrons, they begin to grow in ways that are only possible by living in a community.
Children learn early on that they are indeed loved by their parents and that love and being in the presence of someone is not synonymous. You can love your child and not be under the same roof. We all knew this when we, perhaps reluctantly, first dropped our little ones off at pre-school… Why should this change then, when our children get older? Surely our children should be able to go to school without being within arms’ reach of their parents?
Independent school life is busy. It is not uncommon for many children, as young as 10 years old, not to get home until 6:30pm. And then what happens? They go on their electronic devices, eat supper, do prep and go to bed. And the chances are, that all this has been a struggle. If they were boarders, their prep would be done (properly and much quicker), they would eat their supper, talk to others, have free time with friends and then enjoy an activity and quiet reading before bed. Then they would sleep well – and get their much needed nine-plus hours of sleep every night. The recipe for success.
Life in a boarding community is sheltered and we make no excuses for what we are providing for our boarders. They don’t have to catch busses and read inappropriate billboards, they don’t have to be subjected to the filth that constitutes pop music, and they don’t have free access to mobile phones and upsetting newspapers and magazines. They are allowed to develop and grow in a safe and secure environment. They aren’t pressured to wear the right clothing every day; they don’t get time to be self-indulgent at home…they get the chance to just be children, like we were able to be when we were young. They get to play with friends. They get to enjoy the outdoors. They are surrounded by fantastic role models day in and day out and they make life-long friendships. And when they return home for the weekend, half term or holiday, they are more relaxed, more appreciative of home and able to do stuff around the house and look after themselves.
Boarders are the children who walk taller, speak clearer, make more eye contact and know how to make friends no matter where they are. They are more tolerant of others, more patient in stressful situations, more resilient when faced with challenges and more confident in the company of others. They leave school with far more personal and social skills and strength of character than most. Boarders are incredible children.