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Seeking views of parents who have boarded their children at schools

(62 Posts)
coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 17:14:22

Hi
I know that boarding is a contentious topic and I am looking for views of parents who have boarded their children at schools recently please, or professionals working within the education or children fields who can offer a professional viewpoint please.

My daughter (13) really wants to board and knowing her as I do, I know she would thrive. She would give everything a try and be on the go as much as she wanted.

She's now been offered a couple of places for September. Both are great schools with great pastoral care and would suit her.

But.....now the offers are in, and I look at the actual logistics and implications , I feel sick at the thought of it.

She is my only child, and I am not well (MS). I do depend on her to help me at home as I am a single parent. The likelihood is that during her tenure at boarding school, I will die. The school is two hours away by car. By train it's longer and involves a change that I can't really manage, and I won't be able to drive at some point so train may be my only option.

It's too far for me to go there and back in one day to watch her eg play a school netball match as I do now to the local school.

So for me to go and see her at the weekend or for her to come home (after Saturday school), we would only have 4pm Saturday to about 4pm Sunday together.

There are also attractive boarding trips on at the weekends which she will want to stay in school for.....so I envisage that sometimes I will see her once every three or four weeks for 24 hours.

That's not much for anyone, let alone for a mum who knows she is unlikely to see the end of my daughter's education.

Both these boarding schools have similar set ups. Even the closest boarding school to us is an hour each way, but the closest ones didn't really suit her.

The alternative is that she goes to independent day school near me; she has a couple of offers for these as well. They don't actually suit her as well as the boarding schools do, and she wouldn't get the social and co-curricular activities that he would get at boarding school because I am not well enough to take her. Local day schools also involve a commute for her of an hour each way.

What would be your views on this situation? I want - and she wants - to remain in the independent school sector and I had a critical illness cover which paid off the mortgage so that's not too much of a factor.

I am concerned mostly about her welfare and education; how would she feel if she hadn't seen me for a month and she saw a real deterioration? Or if I died while she was away at school? Would she carry guilt with her about his sort of thing? But I am also concerned about my welfare and how much she helps me and how much I would miss her. I would feel bereft, lonely and scared. Try as I might, I can't get over this feeling now that the offers have made this all real.

Please be kind.

OP’s posts: |
TulipCat Sat 22-Feb-20 17:19:13

What an incredibly difficult situation to be facing. Would it be possible for you to move closer to her preferred school?

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 17:19:25

Sorry for typos! It should say she not he!

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coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 17:21:09

Thanks @TulipCat .

I have thought about doing that. The trouble with that is that I would have no friends locally then. As a single parent I do rely hugely on my friends for help, lifts, pepping me up etc.

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whyisitsocold Sat 22-Feb-20 17:28:29

You say you rely on her to care for you and that's one reason why you don't want her to go. I appreciated you have a difficult situation but that seems a selfish decision. If your daughter wants to go to a boarding school, and you can afford it, then let her go to the school she wants and stop restricting her.

user1480880826 Sat 22-Feb-20 17:32:51

Why is she so keen to go to boarding school? What specifically does she like about it?

I hope this doesn’t appear insensitive, but could it be to escape the stress and pressure of having to care for a sick parent? If it is that, then perhaps there’s more you can do to relieve the pressure so that she doesn’t feel the need to move away?

Does she fully understand that you won’t be able to visit her and you may die before she finishes her school career? She needs all of the details so that she can make an informed choice.

Railworker Sat 22-Feb-20 17:41:44

I think for the right child, modern boarding can be great.
You seem to have thought things through and it sounds as though your daughter would have a lot more opportunity and a less restrictive life if she takes up her offer.
Does the school have a transport service? The one my child attends runs escorted trains and coaches for exeats and is much more useful than I imagined it would be. So possibly worth investigating?
Good luck with your decision - v tough choices here!

NotYourHun Sat 22-Feb-20 17:51:43

What will happen to your DD if you pass away whilst she is at school? Who would be responsible for her, and would feed still be covered?

Xiaoxiong Sat 22-Feb-20 17:53:37

I'm so sorry you're ill thanks I appreciate you're in a hugely difficult position. However I would approach it like this - and apologies for the plain speaking but it is cards on the table time - if you know you are likely to die in the next 5 years wouldn't you want to see your DD settled in a wonderful boarding school where every opportunity is afforded her before you really go downhill? If she is in a day school and you are a single parent what is your alternative for when you need more and more care and eventually do pass away? I think this is the time to see her fly the nest - a few years earlier than if you didn't have MS but she will learn independence and be in a caring pastoral environment sooner, with you there to support her settling in, and you'll be there on the end of a phone, WhatsApp, FaceTime every day for years. She will be at home for long holidays (usually a month at Christmas, 3 weeks at easter, double half term in Michaelmas, 8 full weeks in the summer). You might actually see her more than if she were at a day school!

And I say this as someone who has had someone very close to me decline extremely quickly and then pass from Ms in the last year so I know how unpredictable and difficult it can be. You may just have to make the decision that is right for her for when you go downhill, rather than what is right for you both now.

Much love to you both - you are a wonderful mother, your love for her and wish to do best for her shines out of your post thanks

Xiaoxiong Sat 22-Feb-20 17:56:36

PS I also know lots about boarding, DH is in this area and my DS is flexi boarding one night a week at the moment, after literally months of begging. For the right child, and especially when it is led by the child, it can be an absolutely wonderful experience and a lifeline in times of trouble to have a home away from home.

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 17:57:54

Thank you to those who have replied so far.

I am of course aware that it is a selfish decision to try and keep her with me. She helps me a great deal physically. But also emotionally; life is really hard emotionally and I would appreciate it if posters could try to place themselves in my shoes for a minute before saying I am selfish. Imagine you have a terminal illness and have been dealing with it for ten years and trying your utmost to do the best my your children before saying I am selfish. Like I said, pls be kind.

OP’s posts: |
TalaxuArmiuna Sat 22-Feb-20 18:00:46

this is a difficult situation and I sympathise.

but tbh the very fact that you said you rely on her for care means that it is probably best that she should go. its not good for her to be combining caring responsibilities with her education - she needs space to grow and thrive without that adult level weight on her shoulders.

the best thing you can do is find ways to manage without her and never let on for a moment if things are trickier with her gone. she needs the freedom to find her own path.

Railworker Sat 22-Feb-20 18:01:39

💐

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:02:13

*"but could it be to escape the stress and pressure of having to care for a sick parent? If it is that, then perhaps there’s more you can do to relieve the pressure so that she doesn’t feel the need to move away?
**
Does she fully understand that you won’t be able to visit her and you may die before she finishes her school career? She needs all of the details so that she can make an informed choice."*

I think it's worth trying to relieve the pressure here, but I don't know how to do so. Social services have been appalling and have basically offered me "signposting for other services" after their full assessment. So that's pointing me in the direction of other services, whom I have contacted and they don't get back to you, or my illness or age or situation doesn't apply etc etc etc. It is exhausting trying to find appropriate help.

No she does not understand that I may die before she finishes her schooling. I think that's a huge ask to make: tell a 13 year old that your mother may die while she's away at school......so she will then not want to go away to school. I have tried not to be selfish enough to tell her that as it would be guilt-tripping her.

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TulipCat Sat 22-Feb-20 18:03:20

I have been thinking about this. For background, I went to a boarding school four hours away from home, and my mum had beast cancer whilst I was there. She is fully recovered now, thank goodness. I found the feeling of being powerless to support her very difficult whilst I was at school, and I think you're right to consider the effect of this aspect of your illness on your daughter. I don't think there will ever be a right answer. Offering your daughter the best opportunity you can, though, is a wonderful legacy for you to leave her with. Perhaps the best thing would be to go with the best fit school and see how it goes. Forgive the sensitive question, but I imagine you have appointed a guardian for your daughter in the event of your death before she is 18? Would they be able to help either her or you with the logistics ahead of that time?

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:04:59

@Railworker I will check out the transport options that school offer, thank you for thinking of that.

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PaquitaVariation Sat 22-Feb-20 18:05:32

That’s a really tricky decision. It would be incredibly freeing for her I think, to be away from her caring responsibilities/role and I think you should give it a go and work out some way of replacing her support with paid carers if needed. School might also be a good source of support for her, if you do die whilst she is there. Can you plan to spend the weekends near her school rather than bring her home for 24 hours? Some of my children’s friends families do this because it’s too far to travel on exeat weekends.

GolfForBrains Sat 22-Feb-20 18:06:28

I would let her go and give her a place she is settled so that if/when you are no longer there, she has some continuity. I am so sorry - an incredibly tough situation for you.

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:07:26

"if you know you are likely to die in the next 5 years wouldn't you want to see your DD settled in a wonderful boarding school where every opportunity is afforded her before you really go downhill? If she is in a day school and you are a single parent what is your alternative for when you need more and more care and eventually do pass away? I think this is the time to see her fly the nest - a few years earlier than if you didn't have MS but she will learn independence and be in a caring pastoral environment sooner, with you there to support her settling in, and you'll be there on the end of a phone, WhatsApp, FaceTime every day for years. She will be at home for long holidays (usually a month at Christmas, 3 weeks at easter, double half term in Michaelmas, 8 full weeks in the summer). You might actually see her more than if she were at a day school!"

@Xiaoxiong all of this was why I applied to the boarding schools in the first place. It's all true. But now the offers have come in it seems too real and I feel really sick at the thought of it.

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SD1978 Sat 22-Feb-20 18:07:43

The horrible thing with MS though is there is no real rules- you equally may be ok for many more years, or may deteriorate- I don't think it's fair to assume you won't survive the next 5 years unless specifically told this. Your daughter wants to board, your had her as your career up until now. She knows the impact her going will Have and wants to go. Would this mean services could be put in place as you no longer are relying on her? If you think you are better suited to staying where you are, then why not try for a year? Both of you can reassess after that. This doesn't need to be a permanent decision, but she does seem to want to from what you're saying.

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:10:11

@TulipCat thank you for your own personal experience. It is invaluable. It's this reason that I have chosen deliberately pastoral schools. To support her during my demise and they will take the pressure off her etc. They're known for their pastoral care.

I have appointed a guardian.

School will keep her on if I die, on a bursary.

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SurpriseSparDay Sat 22-Feb-20 18:11:53

Honestly?

Boarding is ideal for just this situation. Your daughter needs the regularity and stability of boarding - without the day to day worry - at 13 - of looking after you, however much she loves you.

And, if she were at a day school, how much disruption would she face if you don’t get to the end of her school years? Perhaps you have family members living close by, but otherwise she might face having to leave a day school for purely domestic reasons.

I don’t think you need fear that you won’t see her. Boarding pupils spend an enormous amount of time at home. And while it’s true that exeat weekends can be frustratingly short, you do get used to the rhythm of things. Might it be possible for you to spend a couple of nights in a hotel near her school occasionally?

One thing you might do is find out from the school if any other pupils travel at least part of the same route and could share the journey with her sometimes. (This might happen organically once she gets to know people anyway.)

And, of course, I imagine you’ll need to look into getting or increasing outside help for you.

I do completely understand the negatives you’re seeing - but if you can be happy for her you’ll be doing a great thing.

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:13:01

@SD1978 I have never thought about it that it could be a temporary thing. It's worth some thought.

I don't know how long I have. I refuse to ask but I have deteriorated so ....More than likely less than five years.

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Notverygrownup Sat 22-Feb-20 18:15:38

Oh my goodness. What a challenge you have to face! I hope that you have rl people to support you emotionally, but also know that you can come on mn and talk about you/build up a network of online support too.

Some practical questions: if the worst happens, financially, would your dd be able to stay at the boarding school, if she chose to? The worst thing would be for her to lose you, and then to lose her school/support network too, so it would be essential to know that she was funded until 18 if the worst comes to the worst.

I am an older mum, with little or no family support and have prepared carefully for the what-ifs. DS1 did go to a fabulous school, which was not right for ds2, but I know that I would have been a lot more at peace, knowing how happy ds1 was at school and what fabulous support he would have had. That gave me a lot of peace of mind, in anticipating how they would cope if he worst came to the worst.

Can you cope practically without your dd with you on a day to day basis? Or can you plan how to cope, if you do decide to let her go.

Have you talked to the schools about your situation? Would she have the option of skyping you daily? It would be important for her, as well as for you, to maintain close contact. You do not want her to feel that you have sent her away, and for her to feel cut off. Would the school facilitate visits/cut her any slack and let her have a longer break at weekends now and then on compassionate grounds? Talk to them. They would need to manage this carefully in your daughter's best interests too.

Remember, if she does go away to school, she will have longer holidays and fewer local friends, so you may well have a lot more quality time with her in the holidays if she does go, than if she is at a local school.

In the end, however, I cannot imagine how you feel, or how you will make this decision. All you can do is reach out to make sure that you are well informed, and that you are doing the right thing for you both. You both matter, enormously. Best of luck.

coughcoughcoughcough Sat 22-Feb-20 18:15:53

@SurpriseSparDay "*Boarding pupils spend an enormous amount of time at home."*

Really? if you are a current boarding school parent, do you find that term time goes quickly? Are you not feeling bereft sometimes?

It would help a great deal if I could work and take my mind off my illness and how I would miss her, but my illness makes that really difficult.

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