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BS experience vs. parental guidance

ben10afben10af Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
edited March 2012 in Prep School Parents
I know this is a very personal isue and everyone has their opinion / experience on the subject, and that no two families are alike in this regard, but I wanted to get some perspective from parents (hence, didn't post in general board which are frequented by candidates and students) who have kids in BS already, or who are, like me, getting ready to send the kids. My son got accepted in Exeter and Lawrenceville. Clearly, former is our preference. But being completely new to this, having never studied in BS or any other children there, we are wondering the "price" of letting our son leave home so early vs. the wonderful education that awaits him in Exeter. It's not that he is not ready - in fact, he is more than ready. He has been to Johns Hopkins CTY residential camps two years back and loved it. But this is the most formative years of their life and will we miss something by letting him go?

Again, a very personal topic. So, I won't be surprised if there is no reply, but wanted to bounce anyway. Not sure if I am the only one agonizing and everyone else is ecstatic.
Post edited by ben10af on

Replies to: BS experience vs. parental guidance

  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 4,784 Senior Member
    You might want to go back a page and read the "Cold Feet & Getting Ready" thread where this has been discussed.
  • mountainhikermountainhiker Registered User Posts: 810 Member
    For what it’s worth - here’s my take as a parent with a 16-yo D and a 14-yo S, both leaving in the fall for first-time attendance at boarding school.

    I know I will miss them terribly - I enjoy our kids immensely, and as they’ve grown and matured, I really and truly enjoy spending time with them. (OK, not always - we certainly have our share of teenage angst and arguments over curfews and how much time is reasonable to be plugged in to facebook, etc.) Since we have homeschooled, I’ve perhaps spent more time with them than other parents, and this makes the parting even more difficult. But this isn’t - it can’t! - be about what’s best or most comfortable for me. It’s about what they need, and what they can gain at these schools that they will never, ever be able to get by staying home.

    Imagine two potted plants, sitting on your deck in the summer. Both are planted with top-quality annuals from a good nursery. One is planted in a good-sized container, filled with top-quality soil. It is placed in a prime spot - not too sunny, not too breezy, watered everyday, Miraclegro applied faithfully, spent blossoms pruned as needed. The other is stuck in an old pot that’s a bit small, filled with last year’s worn out soil. It’s placed in a corner where the sun beats down in the afternoon and the wind desicates the leaves, it’s only watered sporadically, and it never sees a drop of fertilizer.

    The result - one plant will grow like topsy, meeting and probably exceeding the potential as advertised on the photo of a mature specimen that came with your little seedling. The other one - well, if you’re lucky it will still be alive at the end of the summer, but it’s probably going to look a little the worse-for-wear, and will have achieved a fraction of the growth of the other plant.

    For us, the decision to send our kids to boarding school is the difference between our kids surviving” and “thriving.” If it wasn’t feasible, for a variety of reasons, to send them off to school, we would do our best (as we’ve done up till now!) to give them the opportunities we could. And if they weren’t admitted (as was the case for our son last year) we would continue to figure out ways to give them "proper care" and “Miraclegro” as we could. But because of where we live, and the options available here, they would never be able to get the same “growth environment” that they would at the schools where they will attend. Yes, we could find academic challenge for them (through homeschooling and community college and online classes), and drive hither and yon for the ECs they love, but there is one critical component that they can get at boarding school that we cannot give them here: a peer culture of other kids their age, bright, curious, who love to learn and will grow right along side with them.

    Now, I don’t want to imply for a minute that the only way to “thrive” is to go away to boarding school - that is just not true. The vast majority of high school kids will never have the opportunity to attend a boarding school, but will still go on to lead amazing and meaningful lives. But for our kids, in our situation, it is clear that this is the best path they can take, so we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to give them the “growth” environment of boarding school.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,505 Senior Member
    The last I heard, Exeter and Lawrenceville are peer schools.

    Which one is closer to your home? If you attend revisit days, and a clear favorite emerges from that day--send your son to that school. If your son likes both schools equally after revisiting, I would vote for the school closer to your home. It can make an enormous difference to parents be able to visit campus. Your son may never elect to come home on weekends, but it would be great if the option were open.

    That doesn't help with the BS/home question. Our two oldest children are boarders. They are close enough to come home for weekends, if they wish. They are both doing very well. We are happy. That doesn't mean it's the right answer for everyone.

    Right now, you may be surrounded by people saying, "I could never send my child away." Remember that high school students are (and have to be) much more independent of their parents than middle school students. You will not be able to make sure the homework is done. I think that's a good thing. Many, many parents attempt to micromanage their children's lives these days. Boarding schools have support systems to help students manage their academic commitments, extracurriculars, and social life. Yes, they will make mistakes. They will make choices their parents would not have made for them. They will learn from experience.

    Good luck with your decision!
  • dodgersmomdodgersmom Registered User Posts: 7,311 Senior Member
    My son got accepted in Exeter and Lawrenceville. Clearly, former is our preference.

    "Clearly"? Really, do you perhaps have inside information that I'm missing? These are two entirely different schools . . . and each of them surpasses the other in a myriad of ways. Exeter is definitely different from other schools - but whether or not it's better depends on the kid.

    Which brings me to my next question . . . you state that Exeter is "our" preference, which suggests that you, the parents, made this decision. I'm just wondering what your child's preference is . . . or if anyone even asked him. If you want this experience to be successful, the more input your student has in the decision-making process, the better.

    Perhaps I am overreacting, but I know at least one student who was relieved not to be admitted to Exeter because his parents would have forced him to go there, whether he wanted to or not. And that is not a recipe for success!
  • ThacherParentThacherParent Registered User Posts: 842 Member
    I can’t determine if your son would attend Lawrenceville as a day student, but I assume so based on your comments. There is a lot of discussion about the merits of boarding vs. day on this site, but I think the majority consensus is that a boarder gains access to a set of invaluable growth opportunities that a day student cannot have, no matter how many hours he spends on campus. At the top of that list is learning to thrive in the absence of the parental crutch. There simply is no substitute for the pace and type of maturation this independence produces.

    I also think that Dodgersmom's question is spot on. Why is Exeter your reflexive choice? If you’re letting “other people” tell you that it’s the best, then you should quickly rethink that assumption. It’s only the best for a certain type of kid, not all kids…. and maybe not yours. Exeter and Lawrenceville are two very different flavors. If I were making the choice between the two (and day vs. boarding did not figure into it), I would be fully confident that both choices were equally strong across the board and it would be entirely about which place my son liked more in his gut. I would step out of the choice, happy that either one is winning.

    Finally, with respect to missing your kid, without question that’s the parent’s number one sacrifice, followed by the dollars. I sent my son across the country and I missed him 24x7. But, I knew that I was doing the right thing. His love of learning inside and outside the classroom, his ability to manage time, his ability to focus, his ability to overcome obstacles on his own - all of these are habits etched in and by boarding school. It is for these sorts of gains that parents suck it up and let their kids have the experience, all the while waiting for the next exciting visit home!!
  • erlangererlanger Registered User Posts: 488 Member
    I am often considered the contrarian among Prep parents, but that's okay, because having different perspectives is the point of a site like this. What others negatively call "parental crutch," I see as something quite valuable and necessary for many, if not most, teenagers. High schooler need support from involved adults--that's the given--the variable is whether they will get enough of it at the particular BS you are considering. That is only for you to judge, but dig very deeply . . . I believe Exeter and Lawrenceville are more like mini colleges than high schools and you will need to think long and hard about whether your kid is ready to handle it. I believe few are, and with two kids through BS, we didn't learn about how many kids are NOT getting enough support until they were at school. Summer programs are not at all akin, in my Ds personal experience, because there is not the stress of it "mattering" as well as the length and intensity that makes the school year quite different. I may be negative nelly in this group, but there are plenty of BS kids that do NOT thrive, believe me, and I think lack of adult guidance would be the number one reason for this.
  • ben10afben10af Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    Thank you all so much for your comments and hope more comes thro'. Re: Exeter being a preference, it comes from my son (and I concur). L'ville is closer since we are in NJ but not close enough to be day student. There are many things we liked in Exeter, incl. its science center and library, and athletics program. This is not to say L'ville is not great. It is, in its own right. But we have no doubt in our selection, as of now. Planning a revisit on 26th. Hopefully, we will be better informedt.
  • CollegeCookieCollegeCookie Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    Good luck with Exeter! (And like dodgersmom stated previously, don't count Lawrenceville out. It's not *obviously* the worse school to people who don't know you or your S.
  • 1012mom1012mom Registered User Posts: 876 Member
    So things have gotten a wee bit snarky on this thread. Instead of the focus on which school, it might be helpful to give the OP some insight on the impact of BS on your relationship with your child. That seems to be the more important question. OP you might want to look at some of the older threads in this forum for additional insight.

    Now in terms of day students, being a day student at a boarding school is very different from being a day student at a day school. My DDs are/were day students at a school with 90% borders where probably at least a third of the day students are faculty kids and actually live on campus. One of their greatest challenges as day students is dealing with exactly the attitude that was displayed here – that they are somehow not fully part of the community and are somehow cheating the system by not living at school. Yes my DDs had “the crutch” of parental support at home. Generally that lasts for about an hour each evening after they get home at 9 pm, and for a few hours Saturday morning and Sunday evening when they are not at school. They have all of the same responsibilities of boarders, but they really have to put themselves out there to be part of a community that often treats them as outsiders. On top of their BS schedule they have a half hour commute to and from school. A full additional hour on their day. Before they get their licenses they have the added complexity of managing carpools and pick-up times and dealing with last minute lacrosse practice schedule changes and 8 PM extra study sessions. They spend many nights sleeping on the floor of a friend’s room. I am not complaining, neither do they, they are grateful for the opportunity. However, please do not imply that they have an easier road or do not learn very similar lessons about independence, being proactive, and advocating for themselves.

    We also live in a community where nobody sends their kids to BS, and very few send their kids to any kind of private school. Most of my kid’s friends could not imagine why they chose not to attend the local public HS. D2 has one good friend in town from her MS days – a girl who went away to BS. Otherwise their friends and lives revolve around school.

    OP, you will have to turn to others for advice and insight on the impact of boarding on the parent child relationship. Distance is an issue. In particular, there is a big difference for parents if it is easy to go to the Saturday soccer match or orchestra concert. For all parents who send their kids to school outside of the community there is some distance that develops between the neighbors who you have known because your kids are in school together. That said, the choices you have both offer an amazing educational opportunity, both around academics and around life skills. It has been a truly transformative experience for my girls, and even dealing with the negative bias toward day students has been a learning experience. We all would do it again in a minute.
  • 123mama123mama Registered User Posts: 122 Junior Member
    This is the third time I'm trying to reply on this thread. For some reason, it hasn't taken my posts.

    Bottom line, families are all different, as are the children within those families. This is my second go round with BSs, and this time we looked at different schools. Not because of a poor experience, but because of personality/learning style differences btw DC1 and DC2.

    You do miss out on some experiences when your child is boarding, but you also gain others. Part of this is distance related. DC1 went to a school less than 2 hours away, we were still able to see all major performances, and he was able to come home for weekends semi regularly. DC2 is looking at schools further away, it won't be so easy. Cell phones, email, skype...these are amazing tools, I can't imagine being the parent of a boarder without them. Each school is also different in built in structure of how/how frequently they communicate with the family. I highly recommend making sure your son quickly finds an adult they feel comfortable with. Even if it isn't the assigned advisor, it will help you AND him to have a trusted adult on site.

    It's hard when they're sick, and you get the call from the health center. It's harder if/when you get a call saying, "We're on our way to the ER..."

    There's good and bad to all options, public, magnet, private day, parochial, boarding, and homeschooling. I assume a lot of thought went into the decision to support your son applying to bs, and then more thought on which schools seemed to suit him. Trust that, trust that the schools want kids who will fit in and thrive...but then make sure all reasonable supports are in place.

    DC1 is finished with bs, in the first year of college now. I can honestly say we are incredibly close, and don't believe we'd have been closer if he had gone to a local school.

    If you ask specific questions, I'll try to answer. Also, check out the "hostility" thread, it addresses some of the thoughts you might be having.
  • ParlabaneParlabane Registered User Posts: 596 Member
    1012 - don't think anyone on this thread has been snarky, even a tiny bit. I do think that your response was unnecessarily defensive. TParent was not attacking or diminishing the day student experience and not showing "negative bias toward day students." It makes sense to me that the boarding school experience is materially different psychologically for the boarder than for the day student. I mean, you don't go home. Your parents can be a few or many hours away. It's just different.
  • CollegeCookieCollegeCookie Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    Snarky? Of couse.

    You can always count on people being snarky here. That's why you always have to "thicken" your skin upon coming here, somewhat unfortunately.

    Haha snarky is CC's middle name ;)
  • education1steducation1st Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    @ben10af, you ask some good questions and the worry of how to stay emotionally close and supportive to our BS kids is, like you say, probably personal and different for all of us. Our daughter is in her first year at BS and we have stayed very close, despite the fact that she lives all the way across the country from us. We use text, phone, Skype, email, whatever we can to communicate. We have always had that kind of relationship, so I can't imagine anything different. But one thing I have found really interesting and fun is that she is experiencing and thinking about so many different things - cultures, ways that kids approach things, roommates, personalities, attitudes, . . . and at 14 she is very open to calling us and talking about it. Having her experience it at an age where she wants to talk to us about it and actually seeks our thoughts and input is fascinating - I don't remember wanting to have those discussions with my parents when I went away to college and was pretty sure I knew everything, and they didn't :) You do still have a huge amount of influence and opportunities to guide, talk about your values and ideas even when they are away.

    I also wanted to respond to 1012mom about day students. My daughter attends a BS with more than 50% day students. For many on these lists, that is a deal-breaker but it was not an issue to us/her. She was accepted to quite a variety of schools, some nearly all boarding, but this particular school was definitely the fit for her and the day/boarding population actually works very well. Having driven (and still driving my middle school son) to a private day school for gifted kids 45 minutes from our house, I totally understand the extra time and stress that travel puts into the day student's schedule. My daughter often notes how much easier it is for the boarders - classes are 5 minutes away, between classes they can go to their rooms to pick something up (if time) or if there is a break. She does note that when she needs a folder or binder it is harder than asking mom if we can make a trip to Staples :) She finds that the day students bring a different energy and variety of personalities to the school that she greatly enjoys. So - pros and cons to all situations and let's support each other and our willingness to do what it takes for our kids.
  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 Registered User Posts: 14,567 Senior Member
    Wow. I also found "clearly" to be pretty condescending. Lawrenceville is a top school.
  • CollegeCookieCollegeCookie Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    ...I actually found that 'cleary' kind of enjoyable.....

    Being rejected at Lawrenceville wasn't so great. And their letter is pretty cold.

    *sour grapes*

    yeah, that was condescending, but just saying, i appreciated it :D
This discussion has been closed.