As mentioned previously, the public school offered basic courses. There simply was not enough depth and breadth for our needs. We had no firm ideas about what the girls should pursue in college. We felt our job was to provide them the best foundation we could. As we explored the curricula at several boarding schools, we realized that our children could build on their existing knowledge base, while having the opportunity to explore more subjects.
The idea of having athletics twice a week was a huge hit. Boarding schools typically finish classes at lunch on Wednesdays. The afternoon is given over to sports. Same thing on Saturdays. The variety of sports offered as well as the availability of many sports at the varsity level as well as intramurals made this feature of boarding school very attractive. The other feature of boarding school sports programs which appealed to us was the fact that the teachers coached sports. The athletic department staff organized and oversaw everything; however, the children’s teachers were actively involved in coaching.
As with the athletic programs, the schools we looked at offered dozens of clubs and other extracurricular activities. Because all the students were required to take part in one or more activities, there was plenty of talent to make the activity fun and practiced at a high level. We also like the fact that all extracurricular activities were directed and supervised by members of the faculty. That involvement allowed students to experience their teachers in another setting than the classroom. Mr. Smith teaching quadratic equations is one thing.
This is not a characteristic of boarding schools which your teenager will consider terribly important. But it was a huge plus for us parents. We had spent many years raising our children according to our personal values and precepts. When it came time for our young adults to begin to leave the nest and fly solo, we still wanted the reassurance of a safety net. 24/7 supervision is something which boarding schools simply do very well. They have looked after teenagers for decades. They are tuned into what goes on in those young minds. They have the safety net at the ready. The net is invisible most of the time. But it is there when needed.
Boarding schools know how to handle the hormone factor before things run amok. They understand bored teenagers. And they do all of this unobtrusively most of the time but conspicuously when that approach is called for. We didn’t want to worry about who was driving our daughter home. We didn’t want our child going to somebody’s home where the parent was either not at home or was disengaged from parenting. Boarding schools’ 24/7 supervision was a feature almost as important to us as the impressive academics were.
Finally, I should mention that we were not helicopter parents. We taught our children as best we could and allowed them to get on with living their own lives. We felt that a gentle transition from childhood to adulthood just made a lot of sense. You cannot hover and be over-protective, and then expect your child to develop self-confidence and independence. That’s why we were comfortable with letting our children go off to boarding school.
Looking back more than two decades it was probably one of the best decisions we ever made. Both girls excelled in college – Harvard and UMass Amherst – and went on to earn advanced degrees. They have great careers. They are wonderful mothers. What more can a parent ask?