By Becky Richardson (parent of Jane Richardson - Peddie ’19)
I had always planned on my children living at home when they attended high school. As I saw each child grow, I prepared myself for the day that they would go off to college, start their careers, and possibly move away. I was comforted in knowing that I had time to prepare since college was still a few years ahead. Then it happened: “Mom, what do you think about me going away for high school?”
Having four of my five children go away for high school helped me understand and appreciate the benefits for them. I share these insights because they are exactly what I would want to know while considering boarding school.
#1 – It’s excellent preparation for college
Boarding schools helped prepare my children for college. The environment is open, much like a small college campus, yet they have the protection and oversight you would still want for your child between the ages of 14 to 18. Living “on their own,” learning how best to study and prepare for classes, experiencing new cultures and languages as they engage with students from across the country and around the world, and engaging with outstanding faculty that challenge and support them, and provide an incredible foundation for them to excel in college. By the time they went to college, they really did have their wings.
#2 – It will foster opportunities to grow and mature
This has been a huge benefit of boarding school. Students are encouraged to explore and stretch as they learn, make friends, advocate for themselves, take responsibility and experience a new sense of independence. They develop outstanding study habits and learn how to manage their own schedules and requirements. They are encouraged, rewarded and supervised in ways that allow them to safely explore their potential and passions.
#3 – It provides unique educational and social opportunities
Small class sizes combined with enthusiastic educators, most with advanced degrees, who not only want to share their knowledge but also engage students in uncovering new ways to explore topics, make every class a front row seat experience. From intensive labs to field trips and courses abroad, boarding schools help students learn through exposure to unique opportunities, in and outside of the classroom.
#4 – It’s a safe and caring place
Sending my 14-year-old away to school required a huge leap of faith. Boarding schools understand this and make the care and safety of students the top priorities. On-staff nurses, counselors, dorm parents and prefects, as well as teachers and administrators, are there round the clock. Because so many of the faculty members live on campus, they are viewed by the students as trusted adults and resources for help. Many campuses, especially large ones, have on-site security often walking or driving through and around the campus.
#5 – It creates a community and life-long friendships
The built-in, supervised, diverse community that students become a part of at a boarding school is perhaps the most unexpected “bonus” for your child. Students from across the state, country and often the world come together to form a tightly-knit community – one where students learn from each other collaborate and support each other. Many of the friendships the students make will last well beyond their high school years and open them to a world of different perspectives and cultures, in addition to exciting experiences.
I would encourage all prospective boarding school parents/guardians and students to visit the schools they are interested in and talk with current students. You can count on them to be incredibly open and honest. At Peddie, the kids I’ve talked to are excited and happy. They are enjoying their experiences and appreciating the responsibility and independence that is preparing them for college.
You will miss your child, but you see that they are growing and maturing, making friends, experiencing new things, and becoming more resilient and confident – in and out of the classroom. Boarding school has been a life-changing experience for each of my children. They remain grateful to and for the individuals who worked tirelessly to help them, and for opportunities and experiences that helped shape them. And, they still thank us for embracing that “unimaginable” moment.