The real scoop on boarding

I had the opportunity to give a presentation last year and Prince Andrew was in the audience. Afterwards, he pointed to me at lunch, and said, “You! Sit here! I want to grill you!” And what did he want to ask? “Tell me something… What is wrong with today’s parents who don’t want boarding?”

I had the chance to share a few thoughts about what is different – or wrong! – about today’s parents at the TABS Conference, as I was asked to speak about the parent perspective on boarding.

We have two kids – Jacob and Kathleen – and we chose a boarding school experience for them for high school. This was a huge decision, and it has not always been easy – especially for a mom!

Let me start by telling you what I miss:

I don’t get to watch Jacob play soccer or Kathleen play field hockey. On Saturday mornings? I don’t get to make crepes for my kids when they wander downstairs in their PJs. And I don’t get to curl up with my daughter to watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It bugs me that I don’t know their friends well, and I wish I could have them over. If you follow my blog, you will know that I rarely hear from them, and when I do? It’s a one word text – and that word is ‘good’ – or it’s a question, something they need. I don’t know what they have for homework, and I don’t even know exactly what happened when Jacob hurt his arm playing rugby last spring, but he wore a sling, which I only saw in photos.

Let me also tell you what I hear:

When I say my kids are away at boarding school? I get one of four reactions:

  • I’ve never heard of that, really?
  • We have strong, very innovative schools in our neighbourhood.
  • That’s a lot of money – are there scholarships?
  • I would consider it, but my wife would never send the kids away.

So as a mother who values family and relationships? And in a society where women define their self worth by their contribution to the development of their kids? Where parenting has become a bit of an obsession and the best word to describe their behavior is anxious?

It feels crazy to chose boarding.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in boarding…I know of the transformative effect it has on students. As a working mother? Boarding works well for our family. But more than that – I actually believe that I can be a better mother when my children board, for they are supported, challenged – and loved – by professionals who share my values, who are passionate, good, and even a bit quirky.

TABS is launching a North American Boarding Initiative (NABI) and 80% of our Canadian boarding schools are supporting this new effort to better tell the story of why boarding is great for children. I was honoured to share the reminder that boarding is also great for parents.


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