TL,DR: Hoping to get our 9th grader out of the pressure cooker east Asian private school world. Want advice about which USBS might be a good fit and how to apply.
We are US citizens living in East Asia with a son in the 9th grade in a “tier one” IB program school. We are concerned that the east Asian approach to education is not a good fit for him. (Although his school is “international,” it is more like a private school for local wealthy kids, who shuttle from school to intensive after-school programs and/or private tutoring, all with the express goal of getting into an elite college.)
We’re not that interested in our son going to an elite university. We just want high school to prepare him for college level work. We would also like him to have fun with school friends and have a sense of community—things that are not emphasized in our current country.
We are contemplating the idea of USBS, but don’t know what would be a good fit. He is a kind-hearted, empathetic, and sensitive kid, but his academics are middle of the road (not bad, but nothing that will wow anyone). He is working with a private math tutor, but his other skills, especially writing and critical thinking, seem behind. He is a strong cross country runner, and he enjoys dance and theater. But it’s all really just for fun, which is fine by us. He’s also a bit immature and disorganized—closer to 13 years of age in mindset than to 15. In short, he seems like a pretty average young teenager. I do feel like the school here has not been as rigorous as we had hoped. Therefore, if we were to send him to a boarding school, we’d probably have him apply as a 9th grader.
Here are my questions:
*Can you just apply to the 9th grade, even if you’ve already taken it?
*Would you recommend USBS for someone in our situation, and if so which schools? We have no investment in him going to a “top” boarding school, but we probably are only interested in fairly conventional programs. We’d like a school that helps inspire students to learn and that provides some individualized attention to help them improve time management, develop study skills, and find their academic interests. It would be great if he could keep running and performing, but just as opportunities for exploration and expression. I’m particularly interested in a Quaker/Friends school or another program that emphasizes responsibility, ethics, etc.
*I had never really considered boarding school, perhaps because as an American it had always seemed to be either for the very rich or for those seeking a very strict, intense kind of environment. But we’ve come to learn that many other international parents here send their kids back home for high school. It’s increasingly seeming like our son isn’t learning all that much in school and also isn’t really finding his place socially. I worry that the situation will continue to erode and that we are being a bit naive in hoping it will all work out. Still, we don’t really know what it’s like to go to USBS. I’d love to hear about some positive social/cultural aspects of boarding school from parents or students.
*What would you recommend for us to do in the next few weeks in terms of prepping an application, trying to select schools, etc—especially from abroad?
Thanks for any advice.