- Boarding School
- Navigating Admissions
- Partner in Parenting
So, you’re a first-time boarding school parent. You probably have a lot of questions, a touch (or maybe more!) of nervousness and hopefully some excitement. By making a few small shifts in perspective, you may feel more at ease and prepared for this next journey in the parenting process.
Let’s get started with three ways you can reframe this big step for your family.
- Erase the misconceptions.
- Celebrate the advantages.
- Prepare confidently.
Erase the misconceptions
There is no shortage of misconceptions out there regarding boarding schools. You may see these exaggerations on TV or in movies, hear your friends talking about it, or even your family members. Let’s tackle some of the biggest.
Misconception #1: Sending my child to boarding school makes me a bad parent.
Reality: This one could not be further from the truth. Many first-time boarding school parents worry that, by enrolling their child at a boarding school, they are telling the world that they chose to send their child away and neglect their responsibilities as a caretaker. The real story is, by finding the right match for your child in a boarding school, a parent is showing a fierce commitment to their child’s education and future. Given some space and independence, children also have the opportunity to develop beyond their parent’s vision. While boarding school parents may not be physically with their child every day, it can often mean the shared conversations are richer, and the trips home are more meaningful. A boarding school parent can, and should, remain very involved in their child’s life and will be given every opportunity to do so. FaceTime and texting allow for easy and frequent communication between child and parent no matter how many miles physically separate them. There are also ample chances to visit for events such as family weekend, athletic competitions, theatre productions, and more. The faculty at your child’s school will be more than willing to personally communicate with parents regularly. At most schools, students have a designated faculty advisor that can serve as a great point of contact.
Misconception #2: Attending a boarding school means my child will be living without adult supervision.
Reality: Faculty live right in the student dormitories and serve as “dorm parents.” Dorm parents supervise the dorm, enforce rules and regulations, and support the safety of students at all times.
Misconception #3: Boarding schools are overly strict, rigid, and old-fashioned.
Reality: While every school is unique, many boarding schools today are not nearly as traditional as you might think. There are often rules regarding things such as dress code, leaving campus, and bedtime, but students are also given some flexibility and choice. For instance, it is not uncommon for a school to have one day a week for formal attire and have a more relaxed dress code for the remainder of the week. You can get a good sense of a school’s policies by visiting campus or by checking out their dress code or student handbook online.
Looking for more info? Our friends at the North American Boarding Initiative share information on the truth about boarding schools.
Celebrate the Advantages
There is a lot to be enthusiastic about as a first-time boarding school parent. You are providing your child with an impactful experience that will shape them for years to come. Take a moment to recognize all of the great things boarding school brings to the table.
1. Smaller student population
Among the many positive attributes of boarding schools are that they typically feature smaller student bodies, something that is beneficial in a few ways. For one, classes are more intimate, and each student is able to receive direct attention from teachers. Additionally, having fewer students provides everyone with the opportunity to be part of the team or participate in activities. Students will also be more likely to assume larger roles and leadership positions within the activities that they choose to take part in.
2. Strong community
The sense of community at boarding schools is very strong. Students living together on campus promotes the formation of close friendships and allows for classmates to engage in a variety of activities together. With many of a student’s best friends living right down the hall, it is easy for them to gather together to form a study group, go outside and toss a Frisbee, or head over to the dining hall to share a meal. Many of the faculty at boarding schools also live right on campus and, as such, are able to interact with students in a variety of settings – from casual to formal occasions.
3. Quality of resources
Boarding schools often resemble small colleges in terms of the resources and facilities that they are able to provide to their students. It is typical for boarding schools to feature top-notch libraries, athletic complexes, and art facilities.
4. Global communities
Many boarding schools are quite diverse in terms of their populations. There are numerous international boarding schools that educate students from all around the globe and serve to connect our vast planet. Attending a boarding school likely means being a part of a global community and network, something that will benefit students both educationally and professionally.
A few forward-thinking steps will make a difference now and in August when it is time to load the car and head to school.
Helping your child pack for boarding school doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Luckily, there are packing guides and resources out there to make sure your student is bringing everything they need. The residential life section of Perkiomen School’s website, for example, outlines what students should bring to campus. If transporting items is an issue, materials can always be bought upon arrival to school. Remember to pack a few cherished items from home like posters and pictures to help your child feel more comfortable in their new home away from home.
One thing that can really help with a student’s transition to school is experiencing the campus with their family. If you are able to tour the school’s grounds with your child, it will help them to establish a level of familiarity and ease their uncertainties. Be sure to check out all the buildings and facilities and meet some faculty and students while you’re at it.
During the months leading up to the start of school, you can help your child prepare by fostering more independence at home. Begin now to pass some of the responsibilities on to your child that they will need to handle on their own at school. Encourage them to wake themselves up in the morning, do their own grocery shopping, and learn to do their own laundry. Helping your child develop these skills in advance will increase their confidence in their ability to thrive upon arriving at boarding school.
Talk about checking in
You will want to come up with a plan for how you and your child will communicate when they are at school. Some children will want more frequent contact than others, so you will want to figure out what both you and your child are comfortable with. You may need to even consider a time change! You want to give your child every chance to immerse themselves in life at school, but also be sure to remind them that it’s normal to feel homesick and that you will always be just a call or text away.
“What impressed me at Perkiomen School and that I didn't know before Philip started here, is that most teachers not only live on or close to campus, but also have more than one role at Perkiomen. Many teachers are also coaches, dorm parents, and chaperone outings. The teachers are very involved in each student’s life and are accessible 24/7. I know when I am leaving campus that my son is in good hands and is well taken care of.” Julia Byriel P '21
For more information on the benefits of boarding at Perkiomen School please, click HERE.
To learn about the North American Boarding Initiative, please click HERE.
By Greg Welsh, Marketing & Communications Assistant
Greg Welsh is a 2020 graduate of Villanova University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He has a background in journalism and is excited to be assisting Perkiomen School by working with the Office of Marketing & Communications.