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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)?

schoolnurse Thu 26-Sep-13 10:03:07

I work in a boarding school and we have some very homesick children You have to make a decision do you want him to stay at that school and board or are you happy and willing to move him to a day school. If you want him to board then I'm afraid that your going to have to bite the bullet and make him board I know from extensive experience to keep bringing them home is not the way to get him to settle into boarding. It may take him a year to settle but we find that in 99.9% cases they all settle in the end and are then very happy. The tiny number that don't we then advise the parents that they would be better off at a day school.
I am also flabbergasted that you haven't told the school about your illness, his house parents at the very least need to know so that they can offer him support.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 10:05:44

Would actually have noticed - not the rubbish my phone wrote!

schoolnurse Thu 26-Sep-13 10:13:27

Dont underestimate how observant perceptive even young children can be. Boys are often natural worriers especially those with vivid imaginations maybe he senses there is something wrong and doesn't know what it is. The fear of the unknown is often worse than the reality. Also as your a single parent perhaps he feels that he has to shoulder more of the burden. Please talk to your house parents and I would also say your DS about your health problems bone marrow transplants are not something you can hide so if your going to need one of these your going to have to tell him one day do it now before it becomes a significant issue. Is there a support nurse at the hospital or a support group who can help you to tell you DS?

Somethingyesterday Thu 26-Sep-13 10:14:27

OP Setting aside what your DS thinks he wants i- t sounds as if he might soon need to board anyway, simply so that you can concentrate on your illness.

If you think just one night would change his mind can you and the school not find an irresistible reason for him to do that one night?

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 10:15:07

It has only been in the last month that I've discovered quite how ill I may be. I'm waiting for an urgent referral to a world renowned expert as my consultant has said that I'm beyond his level of experience. I don't really want to say anything to school until I know exactly what is wrong with me. I'm hoping I'll have the answer to that in the next couple of weeks.

mummytime Thu 26-Sep-13 10:18:26

Get him to board one night. Even if you have to manufacture a crisis to prevent you picking him up.

LET the school know about your health!!! Even with a day school you should always let the school know. Their pastoral support can't kick in if they don't know.

Young children are often far more perceptive than you would expect. But don't have the vocabulary (both vocally and internally) to express their worries. They also may try to put a brave face on things, but may actually be very very deeply worried (maybe even more than the worst case).

schoolnurse Thu 26-Sep-13 10:19:17

I think all of us who work in boarding school would say please give us the heads up that there might be a problem. They don't have to talk to your DS about it but they are very likely t0 keep an extra careful eye on him and if they see anything ensure he gets extra support.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 10:21:05

We thought we'd sussed it last night. He was in the most amazing concert and did fantastically well (first professional concert). So late night and excited about what he'd just done. All the other choristers said good he to their parents and went off to get a snack and ds sat there and refused to stay. A real shame. He'd taken in his favourite posters, cuddly toys, iPod etc but still wouldn't stay. I think he is worried that he will get so upset he won't b able to calm down and sleep. He was so tired last night that he was asleep in under a minute when he got to bed.

KitZacJak Thu 26-Sep-13 10:28:19

I am a bit confused about this:

It was their idea to do the extra long school day in the expectation that ds would give up and decide to board.

as if he didn't have such a long day part of your problem would be solved surely??

Is there anyone living near you that you could share lifts with?

Hope your heath problems get resolved soon. x

Slipshodsibyl Thu 26-Sep-13 10:29:54

A regular taxi is surely the answer? If you feel comfident the problem is not with the school itself then it is a shame to move him for a problem that seems very likely to be short lived since ultimately boarding might suit his needs and abilities, and yours, best.

schoolnurse Thu 26-Sep-13 10:46:21

Children and for that matter adults are not logical. From reading your posts OP I'll eat a set of notes if your health problems are not a major cause of your DS's sudden refusal to board.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 10:51:17

My mum has offered to take him one or two mornings which will help a lot. She knows I'm not well but not how ill as I don't want to worry her. As the day length isn't working I will need to talk to school about alternatives. I doubt that they would want him to give up being a chorister so hopefully they may have some alternative suggestions. I might speak to the choir master too as I think ds would really listen to him.

Viviennemary Thu 26-Sep-13 10:56:34

Could you not reach some sort of compromise. With some boarding, some you taking him when you're not too tired. Taxis would be a bit expensive I would imagine but worth considering for the odd time. In the gentlest way possible your DS must be made to say that things can't carry on the way they are with those very long and tiring days for you. I think it would be a shame for him to leave this school and go somewhere else. It sounds great. And then he would have the problem of settling in, new teachers, new friends and so on. Could you pay somebody to drop him off in the mornings.

Viviennemary Thu 26-Sep-13 10:57:23

not say 'realise'

FunnyRunner Thu 26-Sep-13 11:03:55

Sorry to hear about your situation Pickle. A few people have suggested a driver / taxi. Is this an option?

Somethingyesterday Thu 26-Sep-13 11:06:22

I wish ds would tell me what's going on and then I'd be able to help him.

This may sound obvious but is there someone else he might talk to? A relative, godparent, friend of yours that he trusts? I've found sometimes that children are more likely to open up to someone who is not their parent. Perhaps on a day out, say, with someone else, he might surprise himself and find a way to say what's troubling him.

And I think schoolnurse is almost certainly right.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 11:21:52

Ds really likes the school chaplain so I'm going to speak to ds tonight and see if he would speak to him. If he will then I can speak to the chaplain tomorrow and arrange that. It would be someone neutral who isn't part of the boarding set up but completely understands the life of a chorister. He also teaches ds Latin (ds's current favourite subject).

Somethingyesterday Thu 26-Sep-13 11:38:26

OP That isn't quite what I meant. I suggest it might be better if the conversation seems spontaneous and not arranged by you. And also - assuming he is worried about you (rather than life as a chorister) - is he really likely to discuss that with a master, however understanding he may be?

Might it not me helpful for him to speak to, and hear from, someone who he knows cares about you? Who might subtly suggest that he will really be supporting you by returning to boarding....

steppemum Thu 26-Sep-13 12:02:57

what a hard situation op.

There are a couple of things I would do, but others may not.

1. I would make him do one night. So he knows when you drop him off, and you just don't come and pick him up. That way he CAN'T go home, there is no-one to take him home. You may need to be breezy bright and tough in the morning. Find an excuse, the best one I can think of is that after you drop him off you have to take the car to the garage and can't pick it up until the following morning.
Than after that one night re-evaluate. Possibly do that again a couple of times before making a final decision to him about your illness. Not the severity, but just you are tired because of x, you find it hard to drive when you are tired. Together you need to make a plan that works for mummy and ds. Part of that plan might not be his first choice, but that is the way it is sometimes.

I wouldn't want to force him, but I would want to get over the road block he has set up.

But I would also go with the idea of taxi transport every morning/evening that he would have boarded. It wouldn't be any more expensive would it?

kalidasa Thu 26-Sep-13 12:26:15

You must be very worried OP about your own health, on top of feeling so ill. I think there's no chance AT ALL that your DS has not picked up on this, but he can't tell you what's wrong, even if he wanted to, because you haven't told him! If you see what I mean. I think it's likely he senses that there's a big worry that you're not articulating. I think there's more of a chance he'll settle if you are (in an appropriate way) honest with him about the seriousness of the health situation, and also about the uncertainties, to get it out 'into the open', though I also think he may not be able to bring himself to stay at school until you are clearer what's going on with your health and so more relaxed.

I grew up in a family with a lot of health worry (my sister had leukaemia which then relapsed) and even though no-one EVER told me how serious it was I was fully aware, in a child-like way, even at 4 or 5, and certainly at 8 or 9 I was constantly 'on alert' for a crisis. I boarded from 15 and actually I loved it because it was the first time I felt able to "relax" and that if something big went wrong at home I wouldn't have to deal with it directly.

I agree with others that you almost have to push him in at the deep end and leave him to board one night. If he would usually come home on a Friday night and have Sat off (I assume he sings on Sunday) then perhaps he could stay on a Thursday so he only has one school day and then its home for the weekend.

Car problems or a meeting somewhere else so you can't get back in time.

If you mention that he is helping your health by boarding I would focus on the car journey only and point out that being able to rest a bit during the week means you can enjoy the weekend with him so much more.

IndridCold Thu 26-Sep-13 13:31:09

I agree that you need to make him spend one night at school, and he needs to go in to school in the morning, knowing that this is going to happen. He will be busy all day and have all that time to reconcile himself to it, and he will not see you again until you pick him up at the end of the following day.

I can quite see (from his point of view) why he did not want to stay after the concert, even though he saw his friends all going off quite happily back to school. The fact is, you were there, you were about to return home, of course he wanted to go with you!

The worst part of boarding your child is always the moment of parting; and although it is slightly counter-intuitive, to help them settle the best solution is to reduce the number of occasions you are parting from each other by increasing the amount of time they are at school. But I understand you may want to build up gradually, I'm sure the school will help with what they think is best.

You need perhaps to be a bit tougher with him and make him stay.
I do understand how hard this is for you, but I think that you can take comfort from the fact that he did board perfectly happily last year.
Being tough is not the same as being mean!

IndridCold Thu 26-Sep-13 13:35:13

Actually I've just remembered hearing Martin Clunes on Desert Island Discs. He had to board because his mum was a single mum with a very demanding job. Because he hated it he went home every weekend, and his last comment was 'I'm not sure that didn't make it even worse!' and I'm inclined to agree with him.

I wish you luck and hope that you can get it sorted out soon.

difficultpickle Thu 26-Sep-13 13:56:49

I have tried to make him stay once. He knew he was supposed to stay but he was so upset the school called me to come and collect him at nearly 10pm as they were concerned at how upset he was and how that was affecting other boarders. I was thoroughly fed up as I thought if he had stayed we'd have cracked it.

I've tried to get him to talk to his friends' mums during the last two weekends. People he knows very well, but he won't tell them a thing. He is very good at internalising his thoughts and it can take months to find out what he really thinks about something.

I have told him that I get tired easily and that I'm finding the early mornings and late nights a real struggle to do. I have offered him countless treats if he would board one night. We had a lovely weekend planned based on him boarding last night and I've told him that none of that will now happen. It still wasn't enough to get him to stay.

When I have suggested that he may be happier in a local school and not being a chorister he gets even more upset than he does when I've collected him from an unsuccessful boarding night. Last night he said that he knows he needs to get on and get over his issues about boarding but neither he nor I know what we can do to help him.

handcream Thu 26-Sep-13 14:23:08

I agree with the poster that says you cannot continue with the drive and he doesnt want to board. Yet you are doing exactly what he wants which is avoid boarding but still stay at the school.

I have two boys both boarding at 11 and 16.

I think your options are:

1. Move house
2. Continue with the drive until it takes your health
3. Although he has input into the decision leaving this school which sounds great I dont beleive is the right move
4. Other school will only be available if they have space. They will have to assess his SEN. His current school is known, another school isnt.

Also, if I can say that you are giving him too much input. You are the parent and you need to decide the best option for him. He can have an input but you will make the final decision. He is too young.

I wonder whether there is something going on around boarding. The school will be able to help. They will be used to dealing with boys that are scared, nervous etc.

But you cannot do nothing. There is not some magic solution that will give everyone what they want.

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