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DD want to board - help! I don't know where to start!

(154 Posts)
StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 19:54:52

Hi all - NC - I have an unusual issue: in a nutshell I fully admit I am uncontrollably a helicopter parent - and poor DD is on the receiving end. She is only in Y3 but I suffer with anxiety and I can only see things getting worse over the years.

I do so very much want her to be free to make her own decisions as she gets older but I just feel that I am letting her down as I get really anxious and worried and keep interfering and controlling everything. If I'm like this now at Y3 what will I be like when she is making important decisions later on? I don't want her to end up living my version of what I think her life should look like. And then hating me.

DD has asked if she can board from Y7 (she must sense what is coming already!) - and DH also thinks this would be a good idea.

I don't know anything about boarding schools - we live in London so anywhere within a 2 - 2.5 hour drive would be great. Can anyone help with any advice or experience - she loves learning, is quite academic, ace at music and dance. Music is v important, so is a Christian ethos (RC or CofE), and an academically challenging environment with creative learning.

Looking at the map I've pinpointed Uppingham, St Mary's Shaftesbury, Roedean, Downe House, St Mary's Ascot. Does anyone know anything about these schools ? I know they are probably all different but the main thing I am looking for is a super-friendly and supportive environment where she can learn to mature at her own pace, be accepted for who she is, make good friends for life and thrive.

My biggest worrying is bullying and I don't want her coming out of school a stuck up bitch either - any (polite!) suggestions most welcome confused

Many thanks in advance.

Rioja wine

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PoohBearsHole Fri 25-Mar-16 20:00:27

don't know about the schools individually, however boarding may well be a great experience for her smile lots of friends, independence and nowadays lots of fun!

there are some good schools about, try and get an independent schools guide and visit for a feet on the ground experience for you all as a family. Also good train connections is a good start as many schools have an escorted train system for the younger years.

StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 20:08:23

Thank you, Pooh - yes, it's very important to us that she learns to be independent snd I do agree that she will benefit enormously from boarding.

Will definitely take her to look around but I have no idea what to look for in a boarding school - how to assess what I see as I look around - what questions to ask - it's such an important decision - I don't want to make the wrong choice - here I go getting all anxious about it!

How far in advance do I have to register?

Good point about train connections - thank you.

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Undercooked Fri 25-Mar-16 20:12:31

Nothing wrong with boarding if it's right for the child but if you have the insight to see that her desire to board is down to your behaviour wouldn't it be better to get some therapy and learn to relax about parenting? That way your daughter can feel comfortable at home and then make an unforced decision about boarding.

StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 20:46:21

Undercooked - thank you, you are right - I am in fact under constant therapy for anxiety - but I think in all honesty DD is also drawn to boarding because of what it offers - she is ultra sociable and loves to be involved in everything - i spend every weekday after school and all day Saturday ferrying her around to all the different things she loves to do and I think that with all the activities available in a good boarding school she could try all sorts of new things and this is appealing to her. We have all 3 of us had many discussions about this and I feel that it is the right thing as long as it is the right school. DD is also an only child so from a social point of view it would be good for her too. I think she is lonely at home.

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SpikeStoker Fri 25-Mar-16 20:54:22

Boarding is great, and if you know you are a helicopter parent (major points for self awareness) it may be the best way to help your DD learn to make her own decisions and live with the consequences. You seem aware that helping your DD to learn to make choices for herself is a very important part of parenting.

The difficulty is accepting that sometimes she will fail, make a bad choice or wish she'd made a different choice. She has made a very brave choice asking to board. It is a choice our DS made just two years ago. We let him make this choice, knowing we had a great boarding prep to send him to and it has worked brilliantly. So brilliantly that DD has now made the same choice to board from year 7.

Bullying can happened at any school, DD suffered it in year 4. Whilst I would love to have spared her the experience, she has emerged stronger and a better friend. Whether she ends up a stick up b***h is up to what you teach her now. Is she inclusive? Does she seek to help those less able than her? Etc etc etc...

As your DD is in year 3 you have time to visit lots of schools and get a feel for them. I do question your travel time of 2-2.5 hours. Admittedly we have got a similar travelling time for our DC, but I am not a helicopter parent and have told them if they are ill I will not drive 5 hours there and back just because they "don't feel well". That is what San is for. Also I accept that I won't be at every match, concert and play they take part in. You may possibly want to be at school more frequently than me, a 5hr round trip maybe too much.

We looked at Downe House and loved it, Wycombe Abbey which both DD and I disliked and Cheltenham Ladies College. I loved CLC, at first visit DD (aged 9) wasn't keen, I however thought that teenage DD would appreciate the relative freedom of a town rather than campus school. We therefore kept CLC in the mix.

We did not visit Benenden due to distance, but DD's head has only great things to say about the head there and recommended it for DD. Worth a visit if it's in your distance.

As she got older DD began to get that her needs would change and fell in love with CLC., especially as she has become a hockey bunny and DH doesn't do hockey as a major sport in years 7 & 8. Thankfully she got a place, we also applied for day schools so that boarding was not the only option.

My advice would be to visit every school within your chosen travelling distance. Try and think of your DD as a teenager and keep as many options open as you can until she is as old as possible as her views will change. Also Tony Little's "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Education" might be a useful read. My final piece of advice is do not give your DD the choice of a school that you do not like. You are the grown up here. You are about to embark on a fascinating journey, good luck. (Sorry this is so long, hope it helps.)

colander1 Fri 25-Mar-16 21:18:21

She may well change her mind, but I think with any school choice a gut feel is really useful. Must it be all girls? If not, Luckley House ticks all your boxes.

StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 21:23:42

Stoke - I am so thankful for your advice - and actually so amazed at kindness of MNetters who take the time to share.

I too like the look of Downe House - but don't know enough about the spiritual side - is a christian ethos central to school life? With reference to your comments about bullying, we have brought up DD to have Christian values which I hope are shaping her into a "good person" (btw that is just our way of doing things and I do not judge anyone else's way or prescribe for them) - but if I am to hand over my DD to someone else's day to day care I want to ensure that these values are being upheld - this is my way of giving (helicopter) protection against her succumbing to any "bitchy" influences.

I will look at Benenden - It's not too far away I don't think - just don't really know how to assess what would be a good fit for DD. She is not at a prep but at GDST junior school so there will be no input from school.

Thanks for the reading suggestion - I will definitely follow up.

Any views on co-ed v single sex?

Thanks so much again for your input.

R wine

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StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 21:24:47

Colander - I have not heard of Luckley House - I will look that up! Thank you!

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StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 21:29:27

PS Stoke - re distance - that's a good point - I should have said though that if necessary, once she is settled somewhere, we would be prepared to relocate to be nearer. In which event the 2.5 hour rule would be more for me to feel I still somewhat connected to my beloved London grin

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StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 21:32:11

Colander Just looked at Luckley - lovely school - only issue is that I think we would prefer somewhere that was more full boarding with perhaps a minor day element - this is because I feel it would make for a better and truer "boarding" experience. Lovely school though!

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bojorojo Fri 25-Mar-16 21:38:14

Queenswood at Potters Bar would tick a lot of your boxes but I am not sure how many now board in Y7. You could look round at an open day. Not too difficult to get in.

ShinyShinyShiny Fri 25-Mar-16 21:42:42

I asked to board and my parents were very supportive, I absolutely loved it and I think the fact that it was my decision played a big part in that.

mary21 Fri 25-Mar-16 21:57:05


StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 22:00:15

Thanks Bojorojo - will look at Queenswood.

Shiny - was your desire to board a reflection on your parents in any way? Sorry, that's probably too personal a question - I am pretty convinced DD wants to board because she is so active and eager to learn and to make friends and she knows it will offer her all the opportunities she wants - but part of me feels sad that she wants to go away and I blame myself. I proud of her too though, for knowing her own mind at such a young age.

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StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 22:15:32

Thanks Mary - will look at Woldingham too

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bojorojo Fri 25-Mar-16 22:17:57

I think some children have a strong desire to board. It is not a reflection on you. My DD had a similar personality to your DD and absolutely thrived when she went boarding. Children who like the idea and decide it is for them, are often the ones who get the most out of it. My DD saw it as a way to have friends handy and get fully involved with school life. It suits children who naturally like to join in and are gregarious.

BathTangle Fri 25-Mar-16 22:22:26

Came on to suggest Woldingham too. Know 3 fab girls who have been there, all polite but definitely not stuck up! A mix of sporty / arty / academic with lots of nurture and beautiful grounds.

StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 22:29:15

Thanks BathTangle - do you know anything about the music there? Also, is it mostly/full boarding? I must look it up!

I feel also that I must ensure that the school is at least as academic as the one she is at now otherwise I feel I would be shortchanging her.

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StrictlyRioja Fri 25-Mar-16 22:29:58

Oooh can you hear the blades spinning ahaha! wink

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ShinyShinyShiny Fri 25-Mar-16 22:57:16

Strictly for me it was about the opportunities and having read a lot of Enid Blyton I had and still do have a great relationship with my parents and my decision to board was no reflection on them. I do think it helped my relationship with them during the teen years though as I appreciated them a lot more than I would have living at home.

ShinyShinyShiny Fri 25-Mar-16 22:57:56

Oh, and look at Christ's Hospital for music and a good social mix.

Leeds2 Fri 25-Mar-16 23:20:03

Have a look at Woldingham.

happygardening Sat 26-Mar-16 01:21:19

My DS has full boarded for 11 years ( I am the opposite end of the spectrum to a helicopter parent) this is what I've learnt over the years. I personally think 2.5 hours drive is far to far. We learnt the hard way, 1 1/2 max is what many boarding parents will tell you.. If you think about it if you attend a school play match concert etc (and as a "helicopter parent" your likely to want to attend lots of plays concerts matches etc) with a 2/1/2 hour drive one way your adding 5 hours onto your trip.Do you or your DH go to work? Would you have time (and the energy) for that sort of travelling I know I don't. Secondly what sort of boarding do you want? Weekly; coming home Saturday and returning to school Sun evening/Monday morning, Full; sleeping in school 7 days a week only coming home on pre arranged weekends? Or flexi boarding three to four night a week? If you want full boarding then you should choose a school that only offers full boarding with maybe a small number of day pupils, otherwise come the weekends your DD will be part of a small minority in school whilst everyone else goes home.The majority of schools are not full boarding schools because there is a very limited market for it especially amongst UK based parents.
Next decide what you think a school must have; stables? golf course? town? rural? coed? pushy? big name? ballet? selective? super selctive? Sanskrit lessons? Then make sure the schools your considering actually offers it or it is what it claims to be? It never ceases to amaze me that parents just assume for 36k PA it will be there. I always say if it matters ask.
Choosing the right school is very difficult many have virtually identical websites with tedious videos, earnest sincere heads telling you how special the school is. how children are treated as individuals, encouraged to do their best and maximise their potential, how wonderful the pastoral care is, blah blah blah, happy smiling children concur telling you their school is unique in what it offers and there will also be also shots of rolling acres manicured lawns and wonderful sports facilities. I reckon they've all been to the same film makers and the same script is tinkered with!
Draw up a short list I would start off with 4 max 6 (if you must) and go and visit as many times as you can, ask lots of questions and watch the pupils and staff, do you personally like what you see? Its worth asking others opinions but we often want something different so don't be overly swayed by the opinions of others unless its about practicalities: e.g. actual number of full boarders, existence of five courts etc. Many years ago I was one of four sets of parents from DS2's prep visiting Eton, we all went round together had the same tour guide, listened to the same speeches, watched the same film, one set of parents couldn't wait to fill in the registration form, 1 was ambivalent and two hated the place, no one was wrong its just how we felt and whether or not it would or wouldn't suit us and our DS's.
Boarding isn't for everyone, frankly it isn't Enid Blyton/Mallory Towers its hard work, there's little privacy, not much down time, children have to learn to live communally often with others they may find irritating or have nothing in common with. some hate it, Most are exhausted at the end of every term, boarders work very hard and are then expected by the school and their parent to play hard as well. I suggest you read this thread. You cannot be a helicopter mum if your child's at a boarding school you'll drive yourself, your DD and the school up the wall, can you stop yourself, if you can do you need to send your DD to a boarding school? Its also a massive financial commitment oh and I nearly forgot you'll have to put up with ignorant comments from the anti boarding brigade who criticise you as a parent, and make assumptions and cast aspersions on your relationship your DC
Having said all of this as my DS starts his last term of full boarding I look back andhave not regretted sending him to boarding school, he's had opportunities he could never of had at a day school, he's adaptable, self sufficient and tolerant of others, nothing phases him, he can quickly read situations and knows how to respond, and he's a caring empathetic individual, also, I suspect much to the disappointment of the anti boarding brigade, he has an excellent loving well adjusted relationship with his parents and significantly better than many day children have with theirs.. He too the other day said he wouldn't have done it any other way (big relief).

happygardening Sat 26-Mar-16 01:42:55

"is a Christian ethos central to school life?"
Most boarding schools will have compulsory chapel at least once a week if not more frequently, at least one resident chaplain and some sort of Christian Union pupils can join if they wish too. But they are also likely to have many children of other faiths and no faith at all so Christianity is unlikely to be "central" to any boarding school..
"we have brought up DD to have Christian values which I hope are shaping her into a "good person"
Values such as decency, consideration for others and tolerance, are generally inherent in a boarding school otherwise so many couldn't live alongside each other although not necessarily linked into to Christianity as such.
Bullying exists in all schools at various times but all the boarding schools I've been involved with over the years stamp on it very hard.

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