When we moved to England, my daughter, Emily, started year 5 (equivalent to the 4th grade in the United States). She also entered her fourth school in 4 years. This didn’t make changing schools any easier for her this time though. My husband is in the Royal Navy, but all of this moving around has nothing to do with the military, just from us wanting to see the world and moving around.
Prior to moving to England I was a single, working mom, who wanted nothing but the best education for my, then, only child. I believe an education is the best gift we can give our children. With that in mind, I had to find a suitable school for my daughter. I also had to do it from abroad because we were living in Oman in the Middle East at the time.
I scoured the internet, called and asked questions, read reports, called and asked more questions, waited for and reviewed prospectus’, and finally, narrowed it down to two schools: one government school and one independent, boarding school.
I think we can all agree that every child’s educational needs differ. In addition, every country implements its own methodology and pedagogy; therefore, creating unique educational experiences. For me, there are two important pieces to my children’s education: 1) a well-rounded, educational experience and 2) class size.
My idea of a well-rounded educational experience consists of sports, the arts, languages, as well as, the mainstream curriculum.
I also prefer a smaller class size. After speaking to a handful of government schools (equivalent to public schools in the USA), I was shocked that a primary class in England consisted of 30-35 students. One school in our area had thirty-seven children. A class of 28 is considered small.
Obviously, many students go through this system, go on to higher education and become successful members of society. There is also the argument (well ok, it’s my father’s argument) that it’s not WHERE you go to school but WHAT you do with it. Fair enough. It is our responsibility as parents to raise our children, not the schools’. However, we still want to give our children the best education possible.
In my experience, boarding school is not very common in the United States. I didn’t know anyone who attended boarding school, nor did I even know where one was located. But, in England, from what I understand, attending a boarding school is a privilege. Many boarding schools are among the best schools in the country.
My husband told me he was “desperate” to go to boarding school when he was younger, but his parents couldn’t afford it. All of my friends, here, who attended boarding school, are well-rounded individuals. But, to tell you the truth, so are my other friends who didn’t attend boarding school, so that didn’t make the decision any easier.
In the end, I chose the independent, boarding school for Emily due to the small class size, the French immersion program and the International Baccaulerate. Although it was a boarding school, there was an option to be a day pupil, which is all I ever imagined Emily would be. When she started she told me there was “absolutely no way” she would ever board, and I agreed with her. Our evenings were always quality family time spent together. We chatted about our day over dinner, did homework and played games. Therefore, I was relieved this wouldn’t be compromised.
One day in the spring, whilst I was 6 months pregnant and very hormonal, Emily returned from school and announced that she wanted to start boarding, immediately. I was devastated. I wasn’t convinced boarding was the best option for her. What were the advantages? Would I lose control of my child? Would we grow apart? These and many other thoughts plagued me.
As our children grow, we come to the realization that at some point we have to let them go. This I was prepared to do, when she was 18 and going off to university, not at 10 or 11 years old!!!
After a successful trial night, we discussed the prospect of boarding for the following September for three nights per week. I thought perhaps she would change her mind over the summer, but she stood firm. When September arrived, we packed her things for boarding and off she went.
It was a difficult transition for both of us. The first week especially. However, as the weeks passed we fell into a routine. Three nights per week, instead of discussing our day over dinner, we did it over the phone. The days she came home we did it over dinner, as in the past. We didn’t grow apart, as I had feared. And, as I had always done, I still guided and mothered her.
That Spring she was given the choice to board the following year or become a day student, which meant coming home every night. Surprisingly, it was a difficult decision for her. She liked the independence of boarding but also enjoyed coming back to the comforts of her own home.
After three weeks of contemplating, she decided she wouldn’t board the following school year. Selfishly, I was relieved.
I don’t know whether I made the right decision in letting Emily board. I do know that we both learned a lot about ourselves that year: me, how to let go and Emily, how to be more independent. Our children don’t come with instructions or guidelines. We make the best decisions possible for them and hope for the best.
Do you have thoughts on boarding school or on Jen’s decisions? Share them in the comments section below!
This is an original World Moms Blog post by our British Navy mom, Jen Warren. Jen can also be found at her blog, Children of Chorizo.
Photo credit to http://media.photobucket.com/image/boarding%20school/Cron2/Boarding_School_1395747c1.jpg?o=52. This photo has been used in accordance with the photobucket.com terms.