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Sometimes I think the word teenager should be classified with those other, unspeakable (at least in polite company) 4 letter words. I don't say this because of the actual child - my teenage son is one of the biggest joys in my life. Of course there is the moodiness, snappiness, questionable decision making, etc., but the majority of my time is spent marveling at the personality, intelligence, unique problem solving, and wit (and the wit is my FAVORITE) of this man child as he heads towards adulthood.
No, the "four letter word" classification comes from all of the pressure I feel to make the right decision in every instance so that I don't ruin my first born. My younger son has definitely benefited from the trial and error my husband and I have engaged in as we have navigated the un-charted waters of teenagers. The sleepless nights, the worry, the stress of hoping that you did everything that you could to make sure your child is ok can be overwhelming at time. And then there are the factors that are completely out of your control - the people in the outside world who aren't always fair or nice and who just don't like your child as much as you think they should (we have learned to accept that people don't always like us but it is just not possible someone doesn't love our little one right). In fact, I think it would be interesting to see the statistics of wine purchases in this country as it relates to the age of those people's children 😏🥂.
We sent my oldest to the school that I went to as a child - I knew it, I was comfortable with the environment, I felt I could navigate the system and that would result in the best outcome for my child. The thing about time - it tends to change things. The school that I went to is there in name, however, the world our children live in is so much different than what I grew up in and as a result the school is vastly different from what I experienced. I am not saying that different is good or bad. It is just different and that means that I made assumptions about what I was sending my child into and I didn't ask questions. I proved the old adage, "You know what happens when you assume...."
As I look at my teenager, I wonder what I could have done better and what advice I could give to my younger self and all of those with young teenagers looking towards high school. I think that the best advice I could give is to keep an open mind. Explore all of your options. Even if you think private school, parochial school, public school, boarding school isn't for you - do your research. Learn about each of your options and listen for the information that really hits home with you as to an environment that is going to work best for your child. You have watched your child navigate school thus far, you know their strengths and weaknesses - there is a place for all of them, however, you have to be willing to listen out for the school that is speaking to you and your child to find the best fit.
My son's school is K-12 and I really didn't consider another option for him as we went through his 8th grade year. I NEVER considered boarding school and now looking back I wish I had at least looked at what boarding school was all about. I NEVER considered our public school, however, researching public school would have informed me about their classes and programming to be able to evaluate the opportunities my child has. At the end of the day, I don't know that I would have made a different decision, however, I could have alleviated some of that "what if" stress and worrying knowing that I made a truly informed decision.
“Don’t tell my parents that you went to boarding school.” This was the one rule I gave my now husband before he met my parents for the first time. Growing up in Georgia, the only people that I knew that “went” to boarding school where those who really got “sent,” and it was usually because the school and/or parents felt that a change in scenery would be beneficial for all parties. Clearly, there was a much wider audience than that who considered the option of boarding school back then, and there most certainly is now! What still remains true, however, is the mystery around boarding school and what exactly takes place once there. To pull back the curtain a bit on it all, we reached out to one of our favorite boarding school graduates to get his perspective on: A Day in the Life of a Boarding School Student.
6:45 AM- My alarm goes off and I quickly jump out of bed to brush my teeth and throw on some clothes to head to breakfast.
7:00 AM- Along with four of my friends, I enter the dining hall. Breakfast is an essential part of my daily routine, and as far as I am aware, I am the only person to never skip breakfast throughout the entirety of my boarding school career. As a result of my frequency, I developed a relationship with chef Ben, who made my favorite omelet every morning. Following breakfast, I go back to my room to get ready for the school day.
8:00 AM- Four times a week the school community comes together for chapel. While my school is an Episcopal school, the services cater to a variety of religious beliefs. A normal chapel service includes a reading, a prayer, a hymn, and a speech from someone who is usually a member of the senior class or faculty.
8:30 AM- Students move to their respective classrooms for first period and gather around the Harkness table for intense discussion on the topic of the day. I especially enjoyed humanities conversations around the oval table, as they encourage all of the students to participate since there is no hiding in the back of the classroom. My classes ranged from 4 to 16 students, but were usually around 12 students, which allowed the teacher to connect with each student individually.
11:45 AM- I join in the mass exodus from the school buildings toward the dining hall. We had a few different lunch options, but the most popular was certainly at the main dining hall. I usually made a panini and joined some of my friends for conversation ranging every possible topic imaginable.
12:30 PM- I quickly stop by my dorm room to swap out my books before returning to the academic quad for my afternoon classes.
3:30 PM- Following classes, I hustle to the athletic facility to get ready for sports practice. I played football and lacrosse, but there are a wide array of different sports and levels of competitiveness that students can pick from. When not playing a sport during the Winter, I loved being able to go to the Hockey rink on game day to support my friends as they took on teams from other schools in the greater Boston area. Sports provided me a great avenue to meet students from across the world in a setting outside of the classroom.
6:15 PM- After practice, the boys’ locker room is full of students trying to shower and quickly change into coat and tie for seated meal, which happened twice a week. Seated meal randomly assigns students of all grade levels with a faculty member to share a meal together for three weeks. Seated meal serves as a great way for students to meet each other and faculty when they would not otherwise connect due to living in different dorms, not being in the same class, or playing on the same sports teams.
7:30 PM- I bring my backpack down to the study room in my dorm in order to start working on my homework for the night. While my school did not have a regimented study time at night (although most do), it was generally expected that students would be working by 7:30. Most students choose to do their homework at their desks in their room, but others like to go to the library or meet as small groups in open classrooms. One of the best parts about boarding school is that the teachers are readily available, as they live on campus and usually spend the evening hours in a dorm at least once a week. This allows students to go and see them if they are in need of a little bit of help on their homework, or if they have questions when studying for an upcoming test.
9:30 PM- I walk down to the common room of my dorm to tell the advisor on duty that I am in for the night, signifying that I will be in the dorm until breakfast the next day. During check-in time the common room can be a very social place for students talking to the teacher and each other about the happenings of the world and telling stories from their past. Once I finish my homework, I head down to one of my friend’s rooms to watch TV or play video games for a little prior to heading to bed.
11:30PM- I get in bed ready to do it all again tomorrow.