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Boarding dilemma

(240 Posts)
difficultpickle Wed 25-Sep-13 23:34:28

I've name changed for this thread as under my usual name ds is pretty identifiable.

Ds did flexiboarding last year and loved it, so much so that I had to limit the number of days he did as I thought he was too young to do as many as he wanted (year 4). Now in year 5 he doesn't want to board at all.

My dilemma is that he needs to do some boarding nights to stay at the school as it is too far to drive every day. Also the activity he loves doing at school means that he should be doing some nights boarding and building up to weekly boarding over the course of the year.

I have said to him that I have no problem with him choosing not to board but that he will have to cease the activity he loves and change schools to one that is more local. He was more upset at that than at the thought of boarding. However he still says he won't board.

Not sure what to do. Do I perserve with his existing school (which he loves, has lots of friends, has support that he needs and gets to do an activity he is passionate about) or do I move him (he will know a couple of people there, bigger class sizes, limited support - he would need a statement which may be hard to get, no possibility of continuing the activity he loves)?

Vijac Wed 25-Sep-13 23:38:25

Why doesn't he want to board? Do you want him to board? In this situation I think I would keep him in the school but I will be using day school for my son personally. Is there nowhere else he could do this activity? What is it? Is it likely to be something he keeps up?

difficultpickle Wed 25-Sep-13 23:44:30

He's a chorister. He loves choral singing, is hugely proud of what he does and by all accounts is immensely talented. He just says he gets homesick and doesn't want to board but wants to carry on being a chorister. Everything at school is great, he loves it and is doing very well. He has some SENs that the school has identified and are in the process of putting support in place to help him. I know if he stays there he will do very well indeed. However it is too far to do a daily school run and if he doesn't want to board I can't see how he can stay (and all the other choristers of his level board). It breaks my heart but at the moment the only thing I can think of doing is moving schools. If he moves schools he won't be a chorister (he has no interest in doing anything like Stagecoach).

difficultpickle Wed 25-Sep-13 23:45:23

I should add I don't mind if he does or doesn't board, I just cannot continue doing a daily school run to his present school.

ancientbuchanan Wed 25-Sep-13 23:48:13

You are not in London are you ? Because if you are, the temple is the place for you. They rehearse Saturday and sung Sunday. You go to your local primary. Brilliant.

Edinbugger Wed 25-Sep-13 23:51:30

Could something have happened that has changed his mind about boarding? If he was happy to do it last year but is adamant he doesn't want to this year then what has changed? I'd be asking some (subtle) questions - at home and at school.

difficultpickle Wed 25-Sep-13 23:52:22

No not in London unfortunately. Ds could go back to sing at our local church but that is only one service a week and he loves the fact that he is singing five days a week. He is coping brilliantly with the amount of singing and fitting in school work whereas some others struggle. He just seems to have lost his love of boarding and I don't know what to do to help him rediscover it or whether I even should.

difficultpickle Wed 25-Sep-13 23:56:00

He had a problem for part of one term last year with another boy. That boy was picking on him and a number of others. He was removed from boarding and is no longer at the school. There hasn't been anything else and ds continued to board when that was going on (even though I gave him the option to come home). Now he says that the summer holiday has made him too homesick to board. Part of me thinks that it will resolve itself if I give it another couple of months but part of me cannot continue living like this for much longer.

steppemum Thu 26-Sep-13 00:04:55

sounds to me as if the novelty has worn off and the reality of being away from home has kicked in.

I think you probably need to persevere for a while, as chopping and changing is not good for his education, especially as they are sorting SEN support for him.

Can you compromise?

take him to school mon morning, home for wed night, then home fri night?

or does he need to do sunday singing?

Make some sort of visual timetable so he can see how many nights he has at home and when they are.

steppemum Thu 26-Sep-13 00:05:35

forgot to say
I boarded full time from 9, it was pretty hard. Would have been fine to weekly board though

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 00:11:02

I've offered him all sorts of compromises but the only one he is currently doing is going to school for 7am and coming home at 8.30pm. He is thriving and that day length is killing me. I have to get up at 6am to get him up at 6.30am for us to leave home at 6.40am. I then collect him and by the time we are home and he is in bed it is after 9.30pm before I get to sit down. I work full time and have been diagnosed with severe anaemia because of failing bone marrow. I am physically struggling to cope and ds sees this but still won't try one night's boarding. Tonight he sung at a concert that was recorded for broadcast. It was amazing and he loved it. He was supposed to board but refused to stay, got very tearful and ended up coming home.

BlackMogul Thu 26-Sep-13 01:08:07

Can the school not offer help? They must have had experience of this before in young boys. They usually have staff who are very experienced in settling down those who are wobbling. I would try and explain your position fully to your DS and see if he is able to give it a better chance this year. There must be some reason for him to change especially if he has friends at school. Is homesickness the real reason as he was not a full boarder anyway? Is there something else? I would speak to the school staff as a priority as you need someone else to help you settle him down again.

CloudyBayDrainageSystem Thu 26-Sep-13 05:07:43

Changing schools is not going to help at all and will give you a host of additional stresses. And trying to force him to board is going to put him off it even more.

Solutions to me seem very very simple. If moving closer to school is not a possible option then you should either get a driver to take away those couple of hours of time from your schedule each day, or get an au pair to provide the wrap round care in the mornings and to put him to bed at night some evenings (in addition to the school runs).

Flexi boarding is around £25/30 a night so doing either of these is going to be cost neutral. You are then left with a need to provide emotional input yourself of around 45/60 mins every evening, Monday - Thurs, that you would otherwise not have to worry about. That is far less than the emotional input you'd need to deal with the more radical options on the table.

I would dearly love my DS to board sometimes but, like your son, he flops round like a fish on the subject. I figure he'll settle into it at some point but to pressurise him is pointless. Both my kids have SEN and I often want to cry with the relentlessness of it on top of my job (I too have either kids or career non-stop from 6.00 till 22.00), but I know that the kids are happy and it will ease off when they choose boarding for themselves which will happen when they start to miss out on stuff because they're not boarding. At DCs school this is yr 7/8 because the school day gets stretched at that point that a gulf opens up between the boarders and the days because the day parents refuse to let the kids stay for prep, supper and then 90 minutes of activities (they tend to draw a line and only let them do the after school activities that finish before prep/supper). If you already have him regularly staying 3/4 nights a week after supper because of chorister duties then maybe limiting the number of days you allow him to stay late could be a compromise that might lead him to see the benefits of boarding.

Speaking to a mum at DC's school who is also a housemistress and a trusted friend, she told me that the only boys she ever has to worry about are the ones who are boarding primarily for the benefit of the parents, rather than the benefit of the child. She says she can spot them a mile off and that although she totally understands the reasoning of the parents (ugly divorces, hectic lifestyles, work commitments), she sees the boys struggling to deal with the transition far more than boys who come in knowing that the boarding decision is all about 'them' and not more about their parents. I'm no psychologist as to the reasoning behind this but I can hazard a guess as to why this is the case, but I do know my friend is being totally honest (despite her comments, she is a huge huge fan of boarding and firmly believes that its the parents she feels sorry for when it comes to boarding rather than the kids) and her views here have driven some of my own actions on dealing with the same issue.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 08:19:27

School are trying to help but it has been three weeks now and ds is showing no signs of relenting. It was their idea to do the extra long school day in the expectation that ds would give up and decide to board. They didn't count on how stubborn he is!

happygardening Thu 26-Sep-13 09:05:11

DS2 full boarded from 7 yrs old for the first three years he loved it and then it changed in the last two - three years he was thoroughly miserable the last year was torture for all of us. I just want to add that I'm not a completely heartless cow I tried on numerous times to move him but weirdly he would not go which in retrospect was a mistake. We tried as did many other to find out what was the problem bullying? no friends? Didn't like the work? too much pressure? or even something significantly more sinister? My exceedingly bright and highly articulate DS could never give us a reason.
Three years down the road having changed to a full boarding senior school he's literally flying and loves every minute of it (wheres the relief smiley). I've spent many a long night wondering what caused the extreme unhappiness and the only conclusions I could come to is that 1. the school was academically sound but ultimately not big enough to really stretch the super bright, my DS was bored stiff in lessons and his less favourable qualities emerge when he's bored. Secondly the head changed my DS also changed or at least his personality developed as he grew up and the two were just mutually incompatible. The new head was conservative with a small c, team sports/golf obsessed, and petty, we are the complete opposite we are all outspoken eccentric and opinionated, I've never voluntarily watched a team game in my life and would rather boil my head than play golf in fact should I take up golf I hope someone takes me out and shoots me, we are all definitely not team players and are liberal to the point of being completely slack. Our head also blatantly favoured those who were either like him or those who were particularly compliant and well behaved again not a characteristic anyone would ascribe to my DS2. So It was oil and water. I just want to add that there were a few others in the same situation as my DS all from similar type families but also many who were very happy.
So OP what would I suggest. I agree with the idea of persevering for a term maybe its just a blip but if it continues either somehow let him become a day boy or move him. My DS has not kept up with any one at his prep school he's had loads of invites to various things but always refuses, and in a conversation the other day was saying how utterly miserable and that seeing his rep school friends reminds him of how awful it was he was the how he felt like a square peg in a round hole.

mummytime Thu 26-Sep-13 09:19:49

Does your son know you are not well?

I wonder if he is secretly or unconciously worried that if he boards something may happen without him knowing. (I had a friend whose DD was a school refuser, several of us believe it was linked to her younger sister's ill health, and being worried about what would happen when she wasn't there.)

Can you get the school to talk to him? See if there is a compromise you can all come up with, maybe a nightly phonecall? Or Skype chat.

Pinkje Thu 26-Sep-13 09:29:11

Is there any way you could move closer to school? Even temporarily renting just to ease the travel. I guess your work is in the other direction though, isn't it?

That's a really hard day for you; please look after yourself.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 09:35:47

I wish ds would tell me what's going on and then I'd be able to help him. All he says is he gets too homesick to stay. He's not a child who usually gets homesick. He loves going to sleepovers at friends.

I will preserve and talk to school about what we can do. Having slept on it I agree that if I move him now I'll probably just be exchanging one problem for a load of new ones.

IndridCold Thu 26-Sep-13 09:40:51

The main problem here seems to be that there isn't a compromise! OP cannot manage the daily run, DS won't board - not even a few days a week. The only options available are either to board or move school.

OP, you have been telling him that he can't go in daily, but you have been managing it somehow, so of course he doesn't believe you, and thinks that he can have what he wants. Maybe you should try being a less accommodating for a bit so that he really understands that he has to make a real decision - either board or change school.

It is quite common for boarders for the start of the second year to be much harder than than the first, I could tell this September that DS was slightly dreading going back after a long lovely summer, but both he and I knew that once he got back into the swing of it all he would be fine. And he was (he is older than OPs DS though).

happygardening Thu 26-Sep-13 09:42:39

OP I didn't see the bit about you not being well. As already said above does your DS know you're not well? Has your health declined recently? Do you look unwell? Children IME don't miss much. I agree with mumytime this could be at the root of the problem; worrying about whats could to happen when he's not there.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 09:47:59

When he has boarded I've phoned him nightly. He knows I'm ill but not how ill I am. He just knows that I'm exhausted all the time, eg if we are out all day at the weekend I have to spend most of the next day in bed.

We are only 10 miles from school but it takes 30 mins on average and I think the day length is what is affecting me most. School don't know that I'm ill (although I don't look well to anyone that knows me).

Somethingyesterday Thu 26-Sep-13 09:50:38

Poor you! I imagine the long summer holiday had something to do with it. I've often felt it's not helpful for boarders - although very welcome, those two months give them a long time to lose the grown-up-ness that they acquire at school.

The thing is he's still so little - and you must be horribly aware that he might regret it later if you let him make this decision.

I second the suggestion above - if it's at all possible - could you arrange someone else to take him to and from school. And hope that he will eventually want to return to boarding.
That would surely be easier than moving - particularly when you don't really sound up to it.

happygardening Thu 26-Sep-13 09:54:52

Indrid has a point OP you are telling him one thing and doing something else and its having a detrimental effect on your health. I think you are going to have to stand you ground a bit here explain thats its not realistic for you to keep driving back and forth and that he has to accept some boarding or leave and find another school.
She is also right in that I suspect few boarders skip back after the lovely summer break but then I didn't skip back to work after my holidays its human nature but as she sys once we're all back into the swing of the thing its all fine, the holiday sadly seems like a distant memory. He cant have been back more than three weeks perhaps as the term gets under way he'll settle, the winter term for choristers must be the best one surely? I was also wondering if the work load has slightly increased I believe your DS is in yr 5 and I know some of the schools you've looked at select next yr maybe he feels under more pressure and that can be difficult when you've got SEN especially if you feels he should be statemented (he must be pretty bad as those are increasingly becoming like hens teeth).

Somethingyesterday Thu 26-Sep-13 09:57:53

I posted without seeing your last. As its only 10 miles I would definitely say try to find a way to get him there daily. It may take a year but it may only be a few months.

You say the school are sympathetic? I should think his peers may also have some effect on how he feels. As long as he enjoys being a chorister he won't surely want to miss out on anything - and may work it out for himself.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 10:00:34

I think he will be fine once he's done one night. For some reason he's built it up in his head that he doesn't like boarding when we both know that's not true. When he used to board and I'd call him he couldn't get off the phone fast enough to carry on doing whatever activity he was enjoying. He's a very sociable boy and likes having friends to play with after school (which he doesn't have if he's at home).

Other than knowing I'm tired I don't think ds understands how I'll I may be (hopefully medication will help but there is a possibility I may need a bone marrow transplant if that doesn't work). I've got progressively worse over the last year but so gradual I really don't think ds would break my have noticed. My consultant said he doesn't know how I'm managing to function but I'm good at carrying on (lone parent so no option to do otherwise).

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