Would You Send Your High Schooler to Boarding School?

Updated on September 26, 2012
G.C. asks from Washington, DC
21 answers

Hi there-
My oldest daughter is in 8th grade, and will be starting high school next year. She has been begging all summer and is continuing to do so that she would like to apply to a Boarding School in MA. We currently go between two homes in Michigan and Washington DC (due to fathers job), all the kids attend a private school in MI however, next year we will be in DC full time. I have already applied to Capitol Hill Day School in DC for my younger kids, and been admitted for next year but I haven't made any plans for my daughter, as shes putting up such a fight for boarding school.

I know that she can do this, and that we can afford it, and that it is probably a very intelligent decision for her to make since the school is such a good educational environment. I just don't know if I can let my BABY go live on her own. It completely tears me up. My husband says if she wants to we should let her. Him and her also both agree that my second oldest (7th grade currently) would most likely join her in a year and she wouldn't be "alone" but that almost upsets me more LOL.

Any thoughts on this? It seems like i'm the only one against this, maybe because i'm "mom" or overemotional, etc but it really breaks my heart to think about her leaving. Would you let your child go, if you thought it was in their best interest?

Really looking for some "mom to mom" input :/

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answers from San Francisco on

I would be nervous (and probably a little sad too) but if it doesn't work out she could always come home.
And look at it this way, she will be WAY more independent and prepared for college than most kids. I think that's a huge plus!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I would feel exactly like you....

BUT if we could afford it and this was in her best interest educationally... I would let her go.

Good luck!

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answers from Albany on

Hi G., my daughter (15) also expressed interest in going away for high school. This may have been brought on by us just having dropped BOTH her big brothers off at college, and now she's an only. I think she feels a little left out.

With two boys in private colleges, we're a little, um, ok, we're totally broke, so boarding school is not an option. However she WILL be going to Europe for 12 days in February with the French club at school, so that's SOMETHING anyway.

If I could and she REALLY wanted it, I would let her give it a try. Of course, I'd also let her change her mind if she hated it at the end of the year too.

Sounds like a wonderful opportunity if the money's there and everyone's on board with it. How exciting!

And you can get a puppy, k?


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

It seems to me that having a 14 year old live away from family full-time and under the mentorship of strangers is a huge decision. And as such, I would consider the 14 year old's opinions in the matter last.

I would have a long, serious conversation with my husband as to your goals in raising your children, the values you wish to pass onto them, and as to whether this particular boarding school supports these goals and values equally, if not better than you can.

At the end of the day, you must, however, be honest with yourself. For example, if you value being a strong presence in her daily life over the particular educational environment provided by the boarding school, then do not send her and feel no regret. If, however, you value the educational environment more, and you are confident that she cannot get the same experience in D.C., then go ahead and send her.

In my personal opinion, I would not send my child to boarding school. While education is important to me (my husband and I share 4 advanced degrees between us) it is not the MOST important thing. Education does not make a person virtuous, satisfied with life, ambitious, successful, nor a good friend, spouse, or parent.

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answers from San Francisco on

I went to a boarding school here in northern CA, and loved it! I made friends who I'm still friends with now, twenty years later. At the time, my parents lived in a small town that just didn't have any great options for high school. The public school district was terrible, and the only private school wasn't exactly wonderful either. So we researched boarding schools. I'm an only child, so I know it was VERY hard for my parents to have me live somewhere else during high school, but it was clearly the best option all the way around.

Here are a few things that I feel were very positive aspects:
1) Excellent academics - because girls came from all around the country (and around the world), there was a LOT of healthy competition academically. (In other words, when schools can cherry-pick their students, there won't be any stupid kids.) There were AP classes for every subject, and in many cases, several sections of each class. Additionally, the classes were much smaller than they would have been at a public school. Many of my classes had fewer than 10 students.
2) Stronger friendships - when you live with your friends, you become as close to them as if they were your sisters. It's harder to do that at a day school.
3) Independence - I learned how to manage my own money (making my allowance money last until the end of the month, planning ahead for things such as dry cleaning, books, etc, balancing my checkbook), learned to manage my time effectively (when you take 7 AP classes at a time, play a varsity sport, do volunteer work, and have lights out at 10pm, you have to make every minute count), learned to respect others' values, cultural perspectives, and ways of living, and maybe the most important of all, I learned how to get along with just about anybody.
4) Learning to appreciate your family - Unlike all other teenagers everywhere, I was soooo happy and helpful when I came home during school breaks! If my mom asked me to clean the bathroom, I'd do so cheerfully, because it was not something I did on a daily basis. If my mom said, "Oh, I think you should change your outfit!" I would do it without complaining, because this wasn't a daily interaction between us. I appreciated my parents for all that they did for me, and I really and truly enjoyed being around them. I really doubt we would have had such a great relationship if I'd lived at home. I'm sure I would have wanted to rebel against them. Because I went to a Catholic girls' boarding school with very strict discipline, I REALLY appreciated being at home with my parents during break. :)
5) College - Not only was it much easier to get into the college of my choice (I went to an Ivy with a huge scholarship, and was accepted early decision), it wasn't a big adjustment when I started college. When my college friends were homesick and struggling the first semester, I was able to hit the ground running. College actually seemed easy after high school! There was nobody there who had had a better high school education (many who had been to boarding schools or who had gone to the NYC private schools who had had an equal education), and I know many of the kids who had gone to public schools did struggle a little to master the skills many of us already had.

In short, I feel so positively about my experience at boarding school, that my daughters (7 and 10) both go to summer camp at my boarding school. My older daughter wants to go there for high school - and I think that's great! I would send my daughters to boarding school without hesitation. Of course, you want to visit the schools you're considering. I would personally only consider an all-girls school, not a co-ed school (there are many well-documented studies on the benefits of an all-girls education). You'll want to check out everything from campus security to the dorms to the dining hall, as well as the academics and sports facilities. You may feel better about it once you've spoken to boarding students and their parents. Good luck with your choice!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Would your daughter consider a boarding school closer to where you live? I think it is a good idea to investigate more than one boarding school option.

Like your daughter, I requested to go to boarding school. But, I was raised to be very independent. I am surprised at how many parents that I talk to who think it is shocking to send their kid away to school, mainly due to how wonderful my boarding school experience was. My parents did not seem distressed at the idea of my living away from home and maybe that is where my situation differed from yours. They did not visit me much, even though I was not far away.

YOU have to be okay with your daughter living away from your family. A family is special, and it is okay to not break yours up "before it's time". Only a parent can make that decision.

In my school, it was very common that students entered in their sophomore year, maybe that would be a good option for you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Yes, definitely, if it were in her best interest. Face it, they leave sooner or later. My older son just left for college last week and I cried for 2 days. It's never easy. The cool thing is that he called on Sunday and we skyped for almost an hour.Even tho he's moved away we still have a relationship. And yours with your daughter may be better with her at boarding school. Girls can be difficult teenagers and being at boarding school might improve the time you have together.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to her about why boarding school is so important to her. Is it that she wants to be near friends and familiar things? Is it THIS boarding school? Did your DH come from a family where boarding school was common and you didn't? It would be very hard for me to consider it unless there was a problem for the child. It was hard enough to drop a newly minted 18 yr old at college.

Friends of ours had a daughter who was just floundering emotionally and educaitonally. They finally sent her to boarding school where she got out of the local school culture, was able to regroup and did very well and graduated on time (a concern at one point). So it can be a good thing, but I would be struggling with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Yes- I would have let my high school age children attend boarding school. It will be a great opportunity for her and they will take very good care of her, as well! All the best!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think it depends on WHY she wants to go. Does she think this the only way to get into college? (It's not.) Does she want to get away? (If so, why? This really needs investigation.) Does she not want to shuttle between 2 homes and perhaps 2 social groups, or is she worried about the move to Washington? (Listen to that and address her concerns.) Does she want an all-girls environment? (Has pros and cons.) Does she have some romanticized version of what boarding school is? (Like it's one big party or everyone is best best friends all the time. It's not.)

Living on one's own can provide a level of confidence and competence, but there has to be a huge level of confidence up front. I don't think there's one answer for all kids. I also think you have to know your own child and what her strengths are, and figure out when you'll be willing to let her out of your sight. It's hard to raise kids with your values when you aren't there for them to confide in and share their lives with. On the other hand, thousands of kids go to boarding school and do well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have no experience of my own with boarding school, but I grew up watching "The Facts of Life", and I wanted to go to boarding school so bad when I was a kid!

If your daughter wants to go, then I think you should let her. I went to college with a lot of kids who went to boarding school. They all felt that boarding school enabled them to be independent and self-sufficient. Even the ones who had unhappy family lives seemed to really flourish in boarding school.

I would probably have a hard tiime letting my own kids go, but that is because they are homebodies and painfully shy. They would never want to go to boarding school, so I don't think it would be a good environment for them.

Of course, kids seem to grow up a little faster in boarding school, so you'll definitely want to make sure your daughter knows everything about the real facts of life :-) But otherwise, I think it could be a great experience for her, especially if you think you'll send your son there too. Good luck with your decision. That must be so hard!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Since she wants to, let her. She sounds very driven.

Girls tend to be more independent, I think. My kids would not have wanted to do that, so it would have seemed like a punishment to them. However, your daughter will thrive.

You will need to work at making time for her. It's not like college when they are supposed to be learning how to be an adult. You will need to skype, visit, etc. Keep good tabs on her and still be her "mama".

Remember, this is about her and not about you. Don't use your child for your emotional gratification. (Not fussing, honestly - just want to put it out there.) She needs this and you are able to make it happen for her. Just make sure that you make the time to be with her as often as you can work it out. (For HER sake, not just for yours.)


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answers from New York on

Never. But it's hard for me to see my kids at that age - they're 1, 5 and 6, so they are my babies!!

But I feel no I would not, I would miss them so bad, I would ache.

My aunt sent her kids to boarding school - a top notch one in RI. They did amazing. One is in Georgetown, the other graduated NYU.

HOwever, there are also TONS of private schools that they can still live at home and go to!!

Anyways it is up to you but you asked for our two cents so there you go.

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answers from Philadelphia on

why did she choose THIS boarding school? i mean i wouldnt have known about a boarding school in a diferent state unless i was talking to a boy online from there.

if money wasnt an issue and her reasons were noble i'd send her and cry myself to sleep=)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I don't think I'd want to but I woudln't think it was out of the question. I know peopel who went and LOVED it. So I think it depends on the kid and the reasons for going. My sister may have to send her oldest bc they live in a very rural area where the HS isn't very good and the one private is tiny. She said people have told her the kids are home plenty bc there's so much vacation. My BIL also says that he doesn't envy anyone's college education but many of his friends went to prep schools and he does envy their experience. He travels in pretty elite circles and apparently the way the prep schools delve into material is very different. So it's at least worth considering... Is there a good boarding school closer? DC obviously has lots of good private schools in the area. It might be easier if it was an hour drive.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

OHHH WOW!!!!!!!!!! I would have a REALLY hard time with that too. It's not that you don't think she can handle it...that's not the problem. You thought you'd still have HS years before you had to send your BABY out into the world "alone". Now this!!!

Part of being a Mom is knowing when to let go. It sounds like you are being asked to do that a bit early. If I REALLY thought it were in her best interest I would do it. I'd have a very hard time doing it, I'm not sure I COULD. (hello sleepless nights worrying)

Is there any way to compromise? She goes in 11th grade instead of 9th?

sorry I have very little info on boarding schools

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answers from Erie on

If she wants to, let her go for a year. Make sure she gives it a full year, unless there really egregious circumstances she needs to fulfill her commitment to it.
I would let my child go.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

This is a good school, right? You've checked it out? Does your daughter know what the other kids are like? I have to assume that you have done all this.

Boarding schools used to be more common in the past than they are now. But I don't see anything against them per se. And the flying time isn't that far between Massachusetts and DC.

Your daughter will have a computer, and you could get Skype, so you all can talk together as "in person" as the distance allows.

To answer your question, if the opportunity had arisen for any of my children, and it was definitely (!) in their best interest, I would have let them go. If worst came to worst, I'd figure I could always bring them back home again.

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answers from Biloxi on

OMG, last night I would have sooooo packed up my 16 year old and sent him anywhere. LOL

Actually, I did look into boarding school for him when he was in 7th grade. There are some great programs - in the end, though, I simply could not afford it.

If your daughter is mature enough and sure of this decision, let her go. With the caveat that she can come home if she is miserable, after she has finished the year.

You will be okay Mom - I promise.



answers from Dallas on

I don't have personal experience with this, but my Quaker friends said that one of the positives was, oddly, a more positive relationship through the teen years, because the typical teen "rebellion" was experienced more at the school. The kids appreciated their parents more and the parents appreciated their kids because they didn't get the angst 24/7. Don't know if that's true, but it may be an additional positive.



answers from Baton Rouge on

If she wants it, then let her give it a go.

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