Why do families send their kids to boarding schools?

I’ve read many web, newsletter, and magazine articles related to the advantages of boarding schools or why you should send your child to boarding school. The content contained in these articles is not wrong, but they are generally lacking in real-world information for reasons why families send their children to boarding schools, and instead read more like an advertisement.

Today I will veer off the advertising reasons and provide some of the reasons I’ve heard from parents, sometimes through their children, about why they decided to have their child attend a boarding school, instead of opting for local public or private schools.

  • Child wants to go to boarding school. In my experience this was the most common reason. This reason may stand on its own or be combined with any of the reasons listed in the following bullet points. It’s rare that a student who does not want to attend a boarding school will be successful in such an environment.
  • Difficulty with fitting in at local schools. Many boarding schools have a particular niche which will cater to the student’s needs, making the school a better option than local public or private schools.
  • Not all areas have good local public or private options. Many public, charter, and private day schools are woefully underfunded and can not provide the needs for all students. They may lack a particular sport, interest, or academic support that the child desires. Poor leadership can also cause local options to not be suitable for all children. For these families, desire for a stronger academic program or other program offered by the boarding school is a great reason to attend. This is greatly illustrated in The Truth About Boarding Schools infographic.
  • Health related reasons of parent or sibling whether physical or mental, which does not enable the parent to adequately support the child in the home environment. This can also include the child’s parent not being available due to having to spend a majority of time visiting with and caring for an ailing relative.
  • Difficult or unhealthy interactions with siblings or one or both parents, including step-siblings and step-parents. The cause may be the parent, sibling, the child, or a combination thereof.
  • Networking and a desire for child to go to Ivy League style universities. These children usually attend schools located in the New England area.
  • Parent employment factors such as traveling a lot or having long work hours that wouldn’t allow for them to provide the level of developmental support that a boarding school can provide.
  • Parents going through messy divorces or other life-changes.
  • Behavioral issues that the parents can not adequately handle on their own. These students will often go the therapeutic schools, but may try traditional schools first in order to determine if a simple change in environment will help the child more successfully manage their behaviors.
  • Distance from local schools that can provide an appropriate education for the child – especially common for students living in rural areas.

Again, the above is just a sampling of reasons. If you were to ask the parents of 100 boarding school students, “Why is your child in boarding school?” they would probably give 100 different answers. In the end, it’s what they have decided is best for their child at this particular time in their lives. If you have other reasons you’d like to share, please do comment on this post.

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