Hi everyone! I have been lurking in this forum for a couple months now, reading over many, many threads and I first wanted to say thank you to all of the parents who come on here and help the other parents feel safe and comfortable and able to ask all of our newbie questions.
I am here because we are considering boarding school for our youngest child. However, we are really not sure about this (as I’m sure many first-time boarding school parents are hesitant). We worry that she is at a vulnerable age (vulnerable in many ways - socially, emotionally, physically) and are looking for a place where she can grow, thrive, and be safe.
A little about our background:
Parents - mom attended public school; dad attended PEA as a day student
Family - Both brothers attended public school for high school and one is about to graduate college and the other is taking a gap year after graduating high school last spring.
Important to note - of utmost importance to our family is the fit of a school, not the prestige. We have always told our children that our definition of “success” as parents will be to have adult children that can support themselves independently and are happy and safe. No other expectations. I find myself already anticipating defending the choice of boarding school as people might assume we are “elite” in some way, which if you knew me in person, you would know is not our mindset at all.
We are currently stationed in Asia and our daughter is attending a private school here (current 7th grader). We have the potential to be moved every 2-3 years to other countries around Asia so we are considering boarding school to offer her some stability instead of changing countries and schools every two years.
More about our daughter: Of course she is a lovely young woman and we love her tremendously. She is very active in Scouts (both Scouts BSA - currently working on Star rank and Girl Scouts - currently working on her Silver Award), loves hiking/outdoor activities/backpacking, has discovered drama at her private school (was not offered at the public school she attended) and is in love. She is also an avid drawer/cartoonist and watercolor painter (nothing crazy in terms of skill, but she loves it). Academically, she says she really likes Science, English, and French. She is easy to be friends with, but is quite shy (if we go the boarding school route, she will need some prep for interviewing!). This girl loves to read! She started reading early and hasn’t stopped. And, she loves many genres (with fantasy and dystopian probably vying for the top spot). She just finished And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and that was her first foray into the murder mystery genre (and she loved it). She is a runner like everyone else in the family and, based on her times from 2019 (last time she was able to actively train and compete), she would have been fairly competitive at many of the boarding schools as an elementary schooler. She starts track today so we are eager to see what her times are now and are hopeful they might lead to interest on the part of a coach if she decides to go the boarding school route. Her grades are solid, with straight As at her public middle school in a tough school district in the US in 6th grade. Now that we are in Asia, she is at a school that doesn’t give grades for middle school. Her grades are all in the Meeting or Advanced level on the scale.
Her private school here has kids applying to boarding schools every year and has a track record of acceptances to PEA, Loomis-Chaffee, and Choate. We were warned, however, that the kids that are being accepted are citizens of the country in which we live (our daughter is a US citizen living abroad), are full pay, and are seen as a “get” by boarding schools because there aren’t a lot of citizens from this country applying to boarding schools. Regardless, we don’t even know if those schools would be a good fit for our daughter (which is why I’m here).
What I’m looking for help with: Finding a good fit for our daughter in terms of a school that works really hard to not have cliques and makes it easy for kids to get started right away with activities and making friends. A school that has a good cross country running program with a caring atmosphere and coach. A school where kids can do both arts programs (drama particularly) and sports at the same time. A school that is not hyper-competitive in terms of the pressure the students are putting on themselves or the competition amongst the students - she would not do well in that environment. She is a hard worker and a strong student, but is not competitive and would likely feel inadequate in a high-stakes/high-pressure environment. Another key is that we only want a school in the New England/Upper Mid-Atlantic area as we have family in that area that could visit her or she could leave and visit them over long weekends. We are not open to schools elsewhere in the US where she wouldn’t have that support available if needed.
I would also love to hear from parents who were hesitant about sending their kids really far away to boarding school and what that experience was like (good and bad). Our daughter is definitely open to the idea, but that’s because she’s open to just about anything! I’m not sure she’s really thought through that this won’t be like another summer camp (she has been attending residential camp since she was in first grade). Although maybe that’s just me. Maybe there is a school that feels like school combined with summer camp and we can find that place for her!
We would love to get some ideas for schools you think would fit with what we are looking for and we’d also love to hear if anyone knows if there is a way to continue with Scouting at any boarding school. Also, we will likely be full pay if that matters (as much as we would love financial aid, I don’t think we would qualify - we don’t qualify for any aid except the unsubsidized federal loans for our older kids in college). We will be back in the US this summer and would love to have a short list of schools to visit while there!