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Sit down dinner disappointment

one1ofeachone1ofeach 194 replies9 threads Junior Member
How do other parents feel about sit down dinners? I had read about them in glowing terms on CC (my older DD does not have them at her school). My DS seems to be of the opinion that they are mostly a waste of time. I had high hopes for them and am disappointed that the students don't like them. He says he'd rather just eat and go do homework.
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Replies to: Sit down dinner disappointment

  • doschicosdoschicos 21416 replies223 threads Senior Member
    My kids loved them for the most part. They could vary depending on who is heading the table. Great way to meet and connect with kids/faculty that you might not cross paths with in dorms, classes, and sports/ECs.


    I think sit down meals work best when all people at the table try to be engaged and positive. If your child and others are sitting there all mopey and quiet and just wishing they weren't there, it will detract from their own and others' experience.

    My kids' one complaint was less food variety at a sit down meal which sucked if you didn't care for what was being served that meal.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 194 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Interesting. My kid is shy with upper classmen and crazy with his own class (very much under the impression that freshmen should be seen and not heard). His first sit down dinner was with the senior star of the football team who didn't make an effort to engage with the underclassmen at the table. I think this may have colored his experience in general.

    I did ask about the faculty member at the table and got little response.
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  • CTMom21CTMom21 470 replies2 threads Member
    I think DS only has sit down lunches a couple of times a week, not dinners. Dinners are probably tougher since different teams finish practice at different times, and, yeah, kids want to get moving. They have sit-down lunches with their advisory, which is cross-graded, and since DS’s advisory group is small, they hook up with another one. I think DS enjoys it, and he will sometimes tell me interesting stories/anecdotes he hears from other kids and faculty. I think it’s a nice change from the routine but not something I hear a lot about.
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 273 replies5 threads Junior Member
    It would have to vary by school and how they implement it. As you describe, schools that culturally separate out the grades that could be a tough challenge to overcome. But then again, that’s the whole point.

    I like the schools that do them once a week or so.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8512 replies91 threads Senior Member
    OP wrote: "He says that he'd rather just eat and go do homework."

    This statement raises the question of "Why attend boarding school if not interested in social interaction with a variety of other students ?"

    Sit down dinners are an important aspect of the boarding school experience. Allows students of different grades & with different interests an opportunity to interact. Also, gives teachers a chance to become acquainted with a variety of students.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 21416 replies223 threads Senior Member
    "My kid is shy with upper classmen"

    One trait I see fairly universally among boarding school graduates is a level of poise, articulation, the ability to talk to anyone and everyone. When my first was looking at schools, I was super impressed with upperclassman and that polish they had. I think there are things particular to BS life - small classes, active engagement with faculty, more engagement across all grade levels/forms vs what is found in public school, and yes seated meals - that help build those skills even if it might seem painful to a new 9th grader. That unease and awkwardness will disappear with time. Growth experiences aren't always easy and require stepping outside of one's comfort zone.

    I've found the skills mentioned above have helped my kids a lot in interviews and securing opportunities and jobs.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1821 replies34 threads Senior Member
    In general, most kids loathe them... but they appreciate the results: Formal dinners really do help knit a community together.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5853 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I'm reading with interest. Our school didn't have them, and I would have liked it if for no other reason than as an etiquette lesson! There was plenty of interaction with faculty, students in other grades, etc. But dining with others in a civilized manner , that wasn't part of the design.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8512 replies91 threads Senior Member
    If I recall correctly, Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania has a lot of sit down meals which recieve very positive reviews from students.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39583 replies7182 threads Super Moderator
    I would have liked it if for no other reason than as an etiquette lesson!
    Isn't that what parents are for?

    I'm not sure my adolescence was somehow shortchanged by not having seated meals.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5853 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Well, @skieurope , I agree but it's really good to have reinforcement. And there's a difference between a family of 3 sitting down for dinner on a busy weeknight and a more formal dining group of 8.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8512 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 17
    I believe that the most important value in seated meals is socialization with those whom are outside of one's class & normal social groupings.

    One of the strongest impressions regarding elite prep boarding school visits was at a school without seated meals was the tendency for Asian students to isolate themselves as a group during meals.
    edited October 17
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 273 replies5 threads Junior Member
    ^I have heard that, too. It has to be hard to make the cultural shift to American boarding school, and speaking your home language must me a comfort.

    There are lots of ways schools build the social skills, and meals is a big part of that. Assemblies can be, too. It is a great thing to suss out in advance, if it matters to a family- how much does a school emphasize the cross-pollination between the grades?
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 194 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Publisher wrote: »
    OP wrote: "He says that he'd rather just eat and go do homework."

    This statement raises the question of "Why attend boarding school if not interested in social interaction with a variety of other students ?"

    Sit down dinners are an important aspect of the boarding school experience. Allows students of different grades & with different interests an opportunity to interact. Also, gives teachers a chance to become acquainted with a variety of students.

    I think he feels like he socializes a LOT when he has time and isn’t in a homework crunch. Sit down dinner on a weeknight after a 2 hour practice cuts into homework time more than he’d like. On top of that he hasn’t found them to be very engaging. If the homework load was lighter on sit down dinner nights, or they were more engaging I think he would be more interested.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 194 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Which actually is really my issue maybe....my guess is all the kids involved are stressed about homework. Maybe the school should have a “no tests on the day after sit down” rule or something.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5853 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Some of the Chinese girls in my son's class told me it was exhausting for them to speak English all day and that their option for as reprieve was to find other Chinese speakers or to just be quiet.

    Honestly, having had the experience of being on the other end of that back in my youth, I get it and don't blame them. They "mixed" plenty in other contexts.

    With that said, one seated meal a week would hardly deprive them of respite.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8512 replies91 threads Senior Member
    "On top of that, he hasn't found them to be very engaging."
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1821 replies34 threads Senior Member
    @one1ofeach There is a valuable lesson for your son in these dinners: As a participant, it is HIS responsibility to help make them more engaging! Sit down dinners are not a spectator sport.

    We love the fact that kids have to interact with students and teachers they might not otherwise meet or get to know.
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  • squ1rrelsqu1rrel 377 replies25 threads Member
    I'm a busy HS student and I sit down for dinner every single night...I really don't have a choice but sit down and eat what my parents cook; it's probably a good thing, but normally it takes 30-45 minutes of my valuable time.
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  • carpoolingmacarpoolingma 701 replies8 threads Member
    @one1ofeach DS has sit down dinner once a week. The kids generally complain about them, perhaps because they have to get dressed up (jacket and tie.) Generally, day students choose not to go. Although ds would rather not have sit down dinners, he often enjoys them once he is there. As a parent, I like sit down dinners! When ds was home, we had dinner together as often as possible (though not in dresses and jackets!) It is good for the kids to have adult conversations, remember how to eat slowly and using their manners, and to interact with kids outside their usual group. Also, it gives the kids an opportunity to be a waiter as a "work-job" for a trimester. This is another thing the kids don't like but I, as a parent, think is great!
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