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Why Boarding School?

Oct 18, 2017

Helen Waldron, M.Ed., an associate tutor at Noodle Pro has been tutoring and advising students for 31 years. She recently published an article “Why Your Child Should Attend Boarding School” for Forbes.com and wrote this piece for Eagle Hill School.

WHY BOARDING SCHOOL?

“Why would anyone send their kids to boarding school?” Since 1989, when I signed on as a boarding school teacher I have been answering this question. As a teen who yearned to live outside the confines of my home town, I vicariously lived through my friends who attended boarding school. They wrote letters telling me about classmates from places like Oslo, Norway and Bangkok, Thailand. They rowed in regattas, played squash, took Mandarin class and joined debate club. They cheered on friends at water polo matches, studied abroad, went dog sledding, joined animation club, directed and produced an original play and the list goes on. Not surprisingly, I chose a boarding school career.

Over the years, as a dorm parent, teacher, coach and private tutor, I’ve seen hundreds of students flourish in boarding schools. And today’s schools are not the prep schools of the past. Today’s schools possess a modern vibe that welcomes students from around the world to study, learn and discover how they will make a difference.  And boarding provides opportunities not available at public and day schools. Why? Because boarding schools are twenty-four hour, intentional communities created with the student’s growth and development at the center. With a college campus feel, this includes challenging academics, abundant arts and athletics offerings and a supervised, structured student life experience.

Initially, families choose boarding school for more challenging academics. Faculty hold high expectations as they present college prep coursework, sharing their passion in a subject. Teachers live on campus and are available for extra help after the school day ends. Weekend study sessions are the norm. Faculty seize teachable moments in the classroom, on the playing field and during dorm time.

Learning is cool: Harnessing the power of peers

Being smart is cool in boarding school. Students are stimulated intellectually in ways they never were before in their school. They tend to be more motivated when surrounded by success-oriented peers. The TABS study found that 78% of boarders reported they are motivated by peers compared to 49% of public school students. Living with students from diverse backgrounds informs the dialogue in the dorm, at dinner and in the dining hall.

Small classes offer individual attention

A class size of 12 is the average at most boarding schools.  Small classes allow teachers to provide individualized attention and the students have plenty of access to their teachers. The humanities classrooms are often set up in the Socratic method, with the teacher as facilitator and mentor. In these classes students are provided with questions, not answers.  Encouraged to think and share, students find their voices. They actively participate in their learning.  Courses that cultivate curiosity and stewardship are abundant at the best schools.

Connection

Boarding school is all about connecting. While modern technology enhances our capacity to connect digitally, person to person connection is more important than ever. Research tells us time and again that we are hardwired to connect. In boarding school, students are part of several smaller communities each day where they can connect and develop meaningful relationships.  Those communities include: roommates, the dorm, classes, advisory group, the art studio, play rehearsal, athletic teams, and clubs.  Each community provides purposeful, guided and supervised spaces for connection to occur.

The small class size, excellent teachers and strong friendships she developed enabled her to succeed in college, go around the world on Semester At Sea and work in Boston and NYC. She has remained best friends with one of her friends from boarding school who was her matron of honor at her wedding. They live on opposite sides of the U.S. but will always be BFFs. -Eileen, parent

Programs, coaches and facilities are awesome!

There are countless options for athletics, the arts and community service.  And, everyone participates. Boarding school facilities are extensive and typically include performing arts spaces, visual arts studios, multiple playing fields, indoor courts for basketball and squash, an ice rink, swimming pool and fitness room. Since co-curriculars are required, there are more opportunities to try something new.  On weekends when there is some free time, the facilities are typically in full use by students and faculty.  

Outcomes

Today’s boarding school students succeed at significantly higher rates than private day and public school students, especially in college and adult life. My students repeatedly report that the transition to college living was smooth and stressless. They know how to live with a roommate, negotiate laundry challenges and problem solve daily life issues.  My students consistently report that they look back at their boarding school experience with gratitude as this was the time when they made their closest friends and became a lifelong learner.

While these outcomes are great news for all students, it’s especially compelling for students who learn differently. 

Helen H. Waldron, M.Ed.

Noodle Pros, NYC

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