The Choice

I have to remind myself during these post-holiday days, especially when the weather is hot and the pool is calling me, that I choose to work. I find it helpful to focus on choices I have made and their implications – in my case, as a working mother, I have to remember that I work, in part, so we can afford our children’s education.

So as I was reading Timothy Findley’s You Went Away, I was drawn to a choice made by the grandmother in the novel.

The story takes place during WWII, and the father has joined the Air Force, leaving Matthew, the grandson, alone with his mother. The grandmother reflects:

“Matthew was in danger of an entirely female world and required a male environment to provide him with the resources [his father] was denying him – willfully or not – by his absence. School…A boarding school, where other boys and men can offer what is missing from his life. Of course, there was only one acceptable school: St Andrew’s College, where [his uncle] had gone. And [his father], too. A school that [his grandfather] had endowed. A school where academic honours had rained and, though it was incidental, [his father] had been an athletic star. And I will pay. I insist. Matthew is now all we have of the future.”

She chooses to pay for her grandson’s boarding school education to ensure that he will be surrounded by boys and men – a reason that few parents might identify as their primary driver in post-war times today. But I think her other motivations endure: academic excellence, athletic program and legacy.

This grandmother’s choice got me thinking – who is choosing schools today, and what drives the choice to a CAIS school?

An American study of 6000 independent school parents found that they are motivated by the following, in reverse order:

7. Quality of facilities

6. Access to faculty

5. Value for the cost

4. Safety of the school

3. Small class size

2. Academic reputation

1. Personal attention to students

How are our schools addressing this research? And what is the driver from a student point of view? Certainly our finding is that more and more the decision is one made by the entire family.

I hope some of our August planning includes the added-value of CAIS learning environments. Never before has there been a stronger link between the skills developed in CAIS schools and the essential skills children will require to be successful in today’s rapidly changing global economy.  These skills include critical thinking, collaboration, initiative, adaptability, self-awareness and assuredness, independence and ‘leading by influence.’

So as August winds down, and we cover up our pool at night to preserve the heat, I hope we think about what distinguishes our schools and how we can do an ever better job of it.

Really understanding the choice of families who choose a CAIS school and not the free school down the road, will ensure another great year for our 45,000 CAIS students.

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