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Boarding or day: which is better in this particular case?

(15 Posts)
Boardingorday Wed 08-Jul-20 18:44:22

Hi, I have name-changed in an attempt to keep this anonymous. I badly need advice please as I'm unable to decide. Apologies for the long post!

My son, age 11, has just been offered places at two boys-only schools for secondary, when he's 13. One is day, a 25 minute walk away from where we live. The other is full boarding, a 40 minute drive away from us. The schools are equal in reputation - the day one is a bit more academic but the boarding one is also academically great, just a bit of a broader intake. Both schools have good extra-curricular/sports facilities so that is pretty much equal too.

The main issue is whether or not to board. My son is completely happy either way - he loves the idea of boarding but he also is happy to continue life as now, at day school. I work but DH works from home so childcare isn't a problem. DS is sociable with plenty of friends, isn't at all sporty and spends all the time he is allowed on the computer playing games with his mates.

I can't work out which would be a better choice for him. At boarding school he would be with his peers all the time and given lots of extracurricular opportunities, but the school allows pupils a lot of independence - I've heard that sometimes boys retreat to their rooms and game online in their spare time, avoiding the activities on offer. And as he's not sporty, the additional time allocated for sport may not be a benefit.

However, if he's at day school, I can imagine his time at home would degenerate into a constant shouting match as I try to get him offline and into real life. I'm worried our relationship will suffer - we're not great at discipline and he's very strong-willed, so he might be happier benefiting from the skill of a wise housemaster who's more experienced with tricky teenagers than we are. At the moment home can be a bit of a battlefield at times.

If he boards, he'll hopefully make good friends with the boys in his house and enjoy having them around the whole time for company, as opposed to going home each night to do homework on his own. But then in the holidays his boarding-school friends would all go away back to their homes (we live in the country), whereas if he stays at day school they'd still be nearby and he could meet up with them easily.

Any advice welcome - with a plea for this thread not to turn into an ideological boarding/day discussion. I'm neutral either way: my daughter is staying at home for secondary whereas I think boarding might really suit my son. So I'd be grateful if we could stick to which option you think might be best in this particular case.

OP’s posts: |
OxfordMum1983 Wed 08-Jul-20 21:32:03

Is weekly boarding an option? That might give some positives of both options.

TheBlessedCheesemaker Fri 10-Jul-20 19:05:51

The boarding experience for my DC that chose that option (not all of them did) was wholly positive. My youngest still spends all his holidays on his Xbox playing with his mates (who now log on from all over the world), but I know that for 30 weeks of the year he is at school and doing no gaming at all (its not banned at his school, but just not considered a cool thing to do in the evenings). The social/collegiate side of boarding has been the making of my ‘boarder’ kids. It may just be their personalities anyway, but I feel the ones who boarded are slightly more tolerant and more open to stuff. And they seemed to be far more worldly-wise than their old school friends.
But boarding would not suit some kids at all, and be careful if he actively hates sport - apart from timetabled stuff, there will often be lots of house competitions based around sport. Ask the qn if you aren’t sure, and be careful about house placement as not all houses will be created equal and it matters hugely.
And don’t underestimate how much you will miss him. It hurts like hell, and if the choice between the options is marginal anyway, then you may want to take that into account.

PerditaProvokesEnmity Fri 10-Jul-20 19:20:34

I'm very curious as to why you all went through the relatively arduous process of applying to and getting in to a boarding school (and I only know one with individual rooms ...) if you weren't already committed to that choice.

Tbh it doesn't sound as if boarding would offer your son anything he desperately wants that he couldn't access at a day school - so the additional fees would be a pointless expense.

HairyToity Fri 10-Jul-20 19:22:29

Personally I'd choose day.

happygardening Fri 10-Jul-20 23:44:01

Firstly there are a lot of anti boarders on here who will with great delight write lots of very negative comments about the effects boarding will have on your DS and you and your relationship. Almost without exception they will have no understanding or experience of what boarding in the 21st century is all about.
My DS at three choices at yr 9, one of the top 5 grammars in the country, obviously a day school an impossible journey (for me) I would have to have driven him to a small town 1/2 an hour away and he would then have got a bus and a 50 min journey, and the same journey at the end of th day, He couldn't have stayed behind for any after school club and I couldn't have gone to work,
A top London boys school who have handful of boarders 30 when we looked most were in the 6th form, he could have weekly boarded, we could meet him in London in the week and go out for dinner the theatre etc, the journey home on Friday would have been a bit crap we would have to drive 40+ mins to pick him up from our nearest station and the school were insisting he came back on Sunday night, and a full boys boarding school (Winchester). He had boarded at prep. Surprisingly (in retrospect) we spent a whole year agonising over our choice but eventually choose Winchester.
Why? The opportunities were simply better than any he could get at the other two, for example we live in aural area his chosen sport was not available anywhere within any kind of sensible driving distance from our home, at Winchester he could do it there times a week, the range depth and type of activities was simply a millions times better, no state schoolman can ever offer the same range of activities and I don't believe any day school in the independent sector can either there simply aren't enough hours in a school day. I like the fact that our relationship never "degenerate(d) into a constant shouting match as I try to get him offline and into real life", that I wasn't shouting at him to get I the car or stressed excuse we were going to miss the bus. From talking to children who I work wit this causes them a lot of distress. The atmosphere and relationship between the staff and pupils at most boarding school is considerably less formal than that found in day schools (Ive worked in both )and we are hopelessly informal so it suited us. The pace of life at a boarding school is less frenetic because basically you've got all day to do things. Life is frenetic enough as adults why inflict on our children? The camaraderie between the pupils was pretty special (I acknowledge that this doesn't happen at all boarding schools). I'm a hands off parents I'm proud that Ive ever owned a flash card in my life boarding suits me we paid the school to educate my DS because thats what they are good at Im not. It doesn't work for "helicopters parents"who have a need to know what their DC is up to all the time and what grade they got for X. It does obviously promote independence. A full boarding only school is a totally different animal from a school with weekly/flexi/day pupils Im not good wont words so cant really explain what I mean but its just different.
Not all children enjoy boarding, you've got to be fairly robust, it's communal living not all enjoy it. But for those who do and many children love it is I believe a positive life changing experience.
People will tell you that it will irrevocably damage the relationship between you and your DS, this is absolute bullshit. I work with children I sadly see endless broken relationships between parents and children (not one has ever boarded). I can categorically tell you that boarding has not damaged the relationship between my DS and myself in fact I and everyone who knows us would say the absolute opposite.
I will say that the holidays were difficult for us at times, most of his friends lived in London and the home counties, we have zero public transport here so meting up with people wasn't always easy and I think there were times when he was lonely, But having said this my older DS went to a state school in a small town none of his friend lived in the town and to get to see then he relied on me driving him there. But if you live in London you wont have this problem.
"but the school allows pupils a lot of independence - I've heard that sometimes boys retreat to their rooms and game online in their spare time, avoiding the activities on offer. And as he's not sporty, the additional time allocated for sport may not be a benefit."
I too only know of one school where boys get single rooms, I don't know how internet use/gaming is monitored there and I agree that what you're worried about could happen but schools aren't stupid they know the attractions of gaming etc and I would have thought would strongly discourage boys from spending all their spare time gaming especially in the early years. If your friend is going the the astronomy club or whatever then I would have thought your DS is likely to go along too rather than sit gaming. I'm also but pretty sure that that many of the extra curricular activities offered will not just be sport so hopefully he'd find and Im sure be encouraged to find things that interested him. Ultimately the phrase "you can take horse to water but you can't make it drink not" applies to horses and boarders, some will fill their every waking moment with this clubs and that taking advantage of everything that the school offers inevitably others will game or go flop around chatting but as Trent we have to accept this and would it be that different if he went to a day school? As parents I think we struggle with our children gaming, my DS went through a bad patch with it during his gap year and 1st year at uni but now he doesn't game from one day to the next and Im reluctant to admit it but I don't think the time he spent gaming has actually done him any harm!
We dismissed that day school pretty quickly but struggled to choose between the other two, we'd virtually decided on the London boys school when we were invited to a meeting with the head at Winchester, we went one summer afternoon, the atmosphere there is pretty special it is a peaceful tranquil environment, I looked at my then 12 yr old DS and realised that it would to put it simply suit him. I think he realised this too so made his choice. As we came to to the last term of yr 13 I asked him if he regretted it? After a long pause (he always thinks carefully before speaking) he said no if he could have his time over again knowing what he knows now he would make the same decision.
Look at the two schools can you visit them again best on a normal day not an open day (I suspect you can't) as your not overly bothered of he boards or not instead try and work out which one you think would suit him the best.

NameChange84 Fri 10-Jul-20 23:46:47

I used to work as a House Parent.

I’d never choose boarding for a child of mine. I had huge levels of mental health problems to deal with amongst the children in my care. It was a really unhealthy environment.

happygardening Fri 10-Jul-20 23:48:33

"but as Trent"= but a parents.

happygardening Sat 11-Jul-20 00:20:17

"NameChange84" I'm extensively involved in Childrens mental health sadly there is a huge and ever increasing level of mental health problems in all children from all types of school and backgrounds, In my personal experience and in the professional view of myself and my colleagues , amongst the many contributing factors are academic pressures/expectations (which are often unrealistic) by both schools and the parents. If I had a £1 for every child who sat and told me they feel exceedingly stressed and unhappy at schoolId have retired already. I hear the same stories day in day out I listen to stress tearful anxious children many of whom have are struggling with school and feel unsupported and are fearful that they want achieve. These children come from all types schools from low attaining comps to high achieving independent schools both day and boarding. When I listen to the sort of schooldays that day school children experience I can see why they are so stressed. There simply isn't enough time in the day, days are or at least were before Covid19 getting longer, break times are getting shorter and shorter, each lesson is more jammed packed, non or less academic subjects are being sidelined for academic subjects, yr 7;s and8's are stressing about GCSE;s and getting top grades. I can only talk from my experience of the boarding schools I'm familiar with. But I think in general it fair to say that most boarding schools are aiming to provide a more rounded education as I said above the day are less frenetic, children are given the opportunity to be just that;; children. This can only be good for their mental health. Of course many still fell under pressure to perform and this pressure comes from the school and parens but at least in a boarding school there are lots of other opportunities. I now work almost solely with day children (I used to work mainly with boarders) and frankly the more I see and hear the more I worry for the future of our children and their mental health. Im just so glad that one are now in their 20's.

happygardening Sat 11-Jul-20 00:22:29

Sorry lots of typos!!
"Im just so glad that one are now in their 20's"= Im just so glad that my DS's are now in their 20's

Murmurur Sat 11-Jul-20 00:53:01

so he might be happier benefiting from the skill of a wise housemaster who's more experienced with tricky teenagers than we are.

I wonder how much of this is about low confidence in your own parenting. You're putting these people on one hell of a pedestal, and that's not a good reason for boarding. I think that if you are worried about discipline, that is a good reason to "lean in" and spend more time with him, not less. I'm not saying it's the easy option.

happygardening Sat 11-Jul-20 01:35:50

HM's are not replacing us as parents they are working with you. They can and do offer support and advise and many will have developed the skills and had training to work with difficult/tricky teenagers. Often the children themselves find this support very beneficial especially if the relationships between child and parent is fraught, but they are not replacing you. Not all HMs are good, and amongst the good ones some may be good for some children but not others. Most HMs stamp their personality on a boarding house, we looked at one where the HM was a clearly a neat freak, even my most ardent admirers would not describe me as tidy, I just knew that his approach to life wasn't compatible with ours!
I work with some difficult teenagers and where possible their parents/guardians I don't know if I'm "wise" but I have extensive experience/training and am objective and I hope this helps. But I don't want to replace parents Im pretty sure most HMs would say the same.
I'm a no news is good news person I never wanted regular updates from my HM but if there was a serious problem I would expect them to get in contact with me immediately and I think he would have expected me to get in contact immediately too if I had a serious concern and that we would find a way forward together.

Boardingorday Sat 11-Jul-20 11:45:11

Thanks for your messages, they're helpful. I boarded myself so I know how rewarding it can be for the right child and I think DS would benefit hugely from it in ways he wouldn't from a day school. But it seems madness to pay extra to send my child away from home when there's a brilliant day school on my doorstep. His current school says it's a lovely problem to have but I disagree as I'm tearing my hair out trying to decide! DS himself, and the staff at his current school, think he would be equally happy at both.

OP’s posts: |
Hoppinggreen Sat 11-Jul-20 11:50:35

I am anti boarding, I am telling you that so you know my view will be biased
If you have a perfectly good school on your doorstep why would you send your child away? Why do you think that a member of staff (no matter how good) would parent better than you? And if that is the case maybe look at your own parenting? You can’t and shouldn’t try to outsource parenting. We can’t just send out teens away when they are being a pain in the arse
Well actually if you can afford it you can, but you shouldn’t

PerditaProvokesEnmity Sat 11-Jul-20 12:08:11

I assumed you had boarded, OP, when you said I think boarding might really suit my son.

I know for certain that boarding is brilliant for the right child - and you know your son best, so you must feel he'd thrive. But in my experience boarding should bring added value - some aspect of quality of life that can't be had at home. I don't mean academically, necessarily - maybe a broadening of horizons, or friendship opportunities for an isolated child, etc. I've read and posted on hundreds of similar threads - and been quick to press home the benefits of boarding. I just don't get the feeling from your posts that it would add anything significant to your son's life or your family life.

Btw, if it's the school I'm thinking of, housemasters cannot be everywhere at once. Obviously things vary between houses and some will be more restrictive than others - but, bottom line, yes he could spend a ridiculous amount of time communing with devices. They have to learn to self-regulate ...

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