Boarding Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • We have a 15 year old daughter who was recently diagnosed as dyslexic. She struggled through her freshman year at the public high school. She decided in May that she would like to go away to boarding school for her sophomore year. We started the process of looking for the right school for her very late in the game unfortunately. We hired an educational consultant who quite honestly has not been overly helpful. Dunn School has been recommended to us. Since they are not in session this summer, it is difficult to get a real feel for the vibe of the school.  We are also open to any other schools anywhere else in the country with good programs for dyslexic kids. 

    Hi- I'm sorry I can't offer any specific information about Dunn school, but.... my son just got back from Boy Scout camp and saw a boy from his troop who hasn't been to meetings this year. Turns out he now goes to Dunn school. I'm not sure if he has LDs but he's sensitive and has been bullied in the past. He talked to my son and apparently had a terrible freshman year at Acalanes HS (we're in Lafayette) and is very happy at Dunn.  Kind of wished I'd known about it a couple of years ago, might have been option for my son at the time.  Best of luck to you and your daughter- it's hard to find the right HS fit out there for our LD kids! 

    My son will be a sophomore at Dunn this fall and also attended the summer academy a few years back.  The Learning Strategies Program has made the difference in restoring my son's confidence and after some painful years in middle school.  The small class size allows for the students to get the individualized attention that students with learning differences need.  If you are willing to make the drive, their summer program is in full swing right now and while not the same as the regular school population, will give provide some sense of what it's like with people about.

    Happy to expand if you'd more information offline.

  • My high school junior is completing his first year at boarding school.  He was sent to boarding school for a better academic fit (support), because his behavior at home became untenable, and to put some distance between him and an unhealthy social dynamic.  He's doing much better academically. His behavior at school is very good. He seems to be making better social choices. Much to my relief, our relationship is improving as well.  However, when he comes home or travels with me or my husband over school breaks, all bets are off and he quickly reverts to old patterns.

    With the end of the school year fast approaching, I need to find a summer option for him that does not involve living at home.  Staying at the boarding school or with relatives are not options available to him.  Best would be something that involves paid work or an internship.  Any suggestions?


    I’m sorry I can’t help with your question but wondered if you could share your process for finding your child’s boarding school. I have the same kind of kid as you describe and I think boarding school will have to happen in the next year. I’m worried his negative behavior will just continue in a new location though. It sounds like that didn’t happen for your child. Would you be open to sharing where your child is boarding and/or how you chose the school?

    Best of luck to you  I feel your pain  

    The summer after my jr year I went to summer college, sleepaway.  Many colleges do this, from huge UCSB to tiny Lewis and Clark College.  This might be an option for him.  There were great courses to choose from as well as a supportive environment to practice independence, explore outdoors, try radio DJing, etc.  In the meantime, if your kiddo is at all self reflective, you might ask him what triggers him to the prior behaviors once back home.  My partner had these troubles, still, as an adult when returning to his parents' home.  After realizing they couldn't recognize his maturity and still treated him as their child, instead of as a maturing/mature adult, he was able to not be triggered.

    This is a response to Jean as requested below.

    We have been through years of educational testing and various therapies and therapists with our son.  A lengthy process (years of considering) lead up to the boarding school decision.  We've looked at and tried various educational options throughout his education, beginning with our own research and ending up utilizing the services of a school placement consultant.  When considering boarding schools, it is important to know they cover quite a range from traditional college-prep, to traditional with supportive services, to therapeutic.  If therapeutic is a consideration, I suggest (recommend with some reservation) The Bodin Group in Los Altos.  For tradition college-prep schools, I recommend NextStep: School Selection LLC in San Carlos.  We pieced together information from both, layered on our own research, selected a small handful of traditional with supportive services schools to visit, and let our son decide which to attend from that small group.  Our son was reluctant to attend boarding school.  However, he did not have the choice whether to go, but he did have the choice where to go. 

    It is very hard to send a reluctant teenager away and I would only suggest doing so if all local options have been exhausted.  Good luck to you on your journey and may there be better days ahead for both all of us.

    This answer is for your question and the other poster who asked about boarding schools. Your situation sounds so tough.  I have a couple suggestions that are maybe too much of a stretch.

    1. YMCA Camp Campbell has a 4 week Counselors in Training Program or a 2 week Leader in Training program(you can sign him up for 2 sessions extend it to 4 weeks). My son goes to camp campbell when we live in the states (we are usually living overseas) and it is just spectacular. Gorgeous setting in the redwoods, really nice cabins, nice pool, little stream all sorts of activities to do. Most important is they develop this real sense of community partly by all these chant songs that they sing back and forth, yes the even the teens love it.  Very good atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance. It's really impressive, well run, no electronics. It will help with responsibility and behavior. Oh and compared to other camps, it's affordable.

    2. If you feel a little more adventuresome, you could consider a Danish Folk School  (for summer) or Efterschool for boarding (this also is for the gal who was thinking of boarding school - as we are in the same boat, a very difficult kid and I have already decided to send my son to a Efterschool as I have a Danish friend who raves about the experience her daughter has had who had difficulties in regular school and that quite a few foreigners/Americans who do this, it's very popular.  These schools have different focuses - sports, music, personal development etc. Most are in Danish but some are in English or German.  There is even one for kids with ADHD and other issues. The kids live together in a big house, they have some responsibilities for their food and they work closely together with each other. The teachers live there too and Danish teachers are really well-trained and good. It's affordable and seems to give kids a chance to thrive and become more independent. You'd have to google Danish Folk School or Efterschool for more info but here's a brochure.  These are also affordable compared to American boarding schools. .

    Just a few ideas. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Boarding school for very active middle school extrovert?

Feb 2016

I'm wondering about sending my son to boarding school when he starts 6th grade (or maybe 9th grade). I don't mean the kind of boarding school for kids with problems, but the regular kind. I have no experience with this at all (husband and I both went to regular public school) and so the concept is foreign to me, but I keep thinking my son would actually be much happier there.

The thing is he's an extreme extrovert burdened with two very quiet introverted parents. And to make matters worse he's an only child. We try to arrange play dates and after school things for him, which he likes a lot, but as soon as he gets back home he is kind of miserable with us. We are a terrible match for him in terms of what he needs to feel engaged with life. The best analogy I can think of (this is going to sound weird to a lot of people but I think the dog people will get it) is that we have brought a trained working Border Collie to live with us in a small apartment. We love him and he loves us but he will never be happy with this life. It is just too contrary to his nature and to keep him in the apartment is going to crush his joie de vivre.

The first year my son went to sleepaway camp (which was for 2 weeks when he was 8) he was THRILLED. He didn't have even one second of homesickness. He's 10 now and I can't stop thinking about how happy he was there. It wasn't just that camp was fun, it was that he was surrounded by other kids, living with other kids, and was constantly active, that meant so much to him.

It seems wrong in some vague undefined way, to send my child away at age 11, or even age 14, but maybe that's just because I live in Berkeley. I know boarding school is a very common East Coast thing to do. If you have experience with this (either your own or your kids) could you let me know the pros and cons? And some of the details like what age you think is best and what kinds of kids do well there?

Guilty Mom

Back in 1989, the earthquake broke my San Francisco cousin's local Catholic school. They, steriotypicaly guilt ridden people that they are, ''had'' to send their kids to Catholic boarding school in Marin. (Saint Rose) 2 things:

#1- The kids loved it and made lifelong super close friends. #2- They (the parents) got tisk tisked and roughly dissed for ''sending their kids away'' and ''booghieness'' by relatives, and some by the kids themselves, who actually LOVED those years.

So while they had a good excuse (except why not use the public schools? but I judge!) they did put perfectly functional kids in sleep away school and it turned out really well for the two working parents and the kids. They are all REALLY close. When they (the girls) need something to complain about, they have the 'you put me in boarding school' and they all get together for every holiday, take trips together, meet for drinks....

I think your reasons are good.
One story.

My daughter went to boarding school starting in 9th grade and I had a sister who years ago in the 70s went to boarding school for 11th & 12th grade.

It can be a great experience for certain kids. My daughter went to a very small, sports-focused boarding school for 9th and 10th grade which had 60 kids, not all boarding, and her program only had about 12 kids in her grade. She thought it was too small, but the academics and sports were great. She was close by so we saw her on weekends, so we still felt like we had a lot of contact. She was injured in her sport in 10th grade, so for 11th grade she wanted to go to a much larger boarding school on the east coast. We worked with a high school placement counselor who had a lot of great recommendations. In touring different east coast school, I definitely felt they were a lot of fun for the kids, they have a lot to offer, sports, academics, and the ability for kids to grow in independence while still having adult relationships. My daughter is very happy at the east coast boarding school, has done well academically and has her eye on college.

The positive and negatives: The positives are that the kids become really independent. Our relationship has less drama (I was a difficult teen, fought with my mother and was worried about repeating this when she became a teen). My sister's experience with boarding school was good, but she was ''sent away'' (wasn't getting along with mom, parents didn't like her friends, not doing well academically). My sis had a great experience, did well academically, said it was the best thing for her. Negatives: I already feel the ''empty nest'' and am not as close or have as much influence or authority in the relationship with my daughter. As a senior, she is spending a lot more time off campus with her day-student friends, (hard to know where she is and what she is doing). She says there are plenty of kids doing things that aren't good (parties, drugs, etc.) and luckily she has taken on some leadership roles (proctor in the dorm) so is responsible and says she wouldn't do those things because she doesn't want to get kicked out (but I think also knows the ''ropes'' to get away with what she wants). When she comes home she has no friends because she hasn't gone to school here since 8th grade, so she is extremely bored and unhappy, and our relationship is somewhat awkward because I don't what she needs from me. The other down side is the expense, as the east coast school is around $65K per year in tuition, so that it like paying for private college starting in high school.

I would recommend boarding school starting in 9th grade, but some schools offer 8th grade and I know parents who have started their kids at that age. Maybe for middle school it's better to have them attend an 8 week overnight summer camp, and then by 9th grade try boarding school.

I would recommend working with a high school placement counselor, as they know the schools and what might be right for your child. Already an empty nester

Our son went to Athenian in Danville as a boarder in high school. As a boarder he was available for all campus activities and enjoyed being so nearby the east bay where we live. He made and has kept many of those friends even though he has been out of HS for 6 years. He was also close enough to come home on weekends to be part of family life.He received an excellent education that led him to a superb college and an excellent job.He went there not as the best student but came away an A student . That said the boarding facility is for high school age students.Your son is just a few short years away from being of age to attend.925-837-5375

Both of our kids went to sleep-away camp, sometimes for a month at a time.It was wonderful.I believe they are both much better people than we(parents) are as a result. Summer is coming and you should sign him up now so he has something to look forward to. Camp Winnarainbow has a goofy name but is staffed by exceptional people who care about your child and everyone else. Without hitting them over the head with it , they teach conflict resolution, compassion, life skills and how to get along with anyone. My favorite is all the circus skills like juggling, stilts,trapeze, unicycle, tightrope , acting and song composition.Every 2 weeks there is a BIG SHOW you can attend so you don't have to go the entire summer away from your child.They have an open house very spring.

I think it's great that you're thinking about creative ways to get his social needs met. Boarding school is a big decision-it's actually living away from your family. Maybe this would be awesome for him, but he loses out on his day-to-day connection with his parents, so maybe he wouldn't actually love it as much as you anticipate. You have so much to offer him other than the purely ''social.'' Please don't read this as criticism-it's ultimately up to what works best for your family. Have you talked to him about it-I'd find out how it sounds to him. Also, I don't think you'd want to send him off to the East Coast necessarily, because if you're at all unsure you can see him more often if he's closer. Kids at the ''preppier'' boarding schools are very privileged, and the atmosphere exclusive. Might be tough, socially. What about having him attend a longer camp, or several camps over a summer, and see how that goes. Certainly do research on schools, visit, get feedback from families whose children attend boarding school (or who attended themselves). Former East Coaster

I grew up in Berkeley and went to boarding school (starting in 10th grade). I loved it!! Had a good relationship with my parents beforehand and that continued. My niece grew up in the Bay Area and is going to boarding school right now (also starting in 10th grade, but that is just a coincidence). She loves it too. I say definitely check it out!! But only for high school. I think starting in 9th grade is fine. Some of them have summer programs for the summer before.

You asked what kinds of kids do well there--your kid sounds like he will be fine. I saw some problems with kids who were booksmart but emotionally immature. And then there were some parents who dumped their kids there bc of work or whatever--that didn't turn out so well either!

In the meantime, longer summer camps (the east coast camps are typically longer) and more after school activities! Another summer option is swim team. That seems extremely social and engrossing (my kids didn't do it, but from seeing others...). Sleepovers are great too, though I recommend just one per weekend as the next day can be a grouchfest. Also, back to boarding schools, look at Thacher. It is near Santa Barbara so close enough that you can visit often. best wishes

A good place to start looking could be the Athenian School in Danville. It is a day school from 6-12, but they have boarding students starting in 9th (I think). You could take a tour and talk with the Admissions Office--they can probably provide some helpful insights. It is a terrific school. Good luck

Dear Parent of the ''well-trained Border Collie'' --

I'm responding from the point of view of a boarding school graduate, and then as a parent.

First, I also was an only child, and when I was your son's age I dreamed of going away to boarding school, but never thought I'd get the chance. However, in 8th grade I was so unhappy at home (and to a lesser degree at school) that a sympathetic teacher convinced my parents to send me to boarding school. It was an all-girls school, and despite the strict rules, I absolutely loved it! Like your son, I didn't experience one minute of homesickness (and as far as I know, I was the only student in my four years of boarding school who didn't).

So on that basis I would HIGHLY recommend a [non-therapeutic] boarding school for your son. You would need to select the school carefully, of course, but there are many good schools available (mostly on the East Coast, as you note).

Now, what about TIMING? You wrote: ''It seems wrong in some vague undefined way, to send my child away at age 11, or even age 14, but maybe that's just because I live in Berkeley.'' In my opinion, 14 is the perfect age to go away to boarding school, but no younger. My first boarding school accepted students starting in 6th grade, but in my opinion -- and this was my observation as a teenager -- they were simply too young to be living away from home. My second boarding school didn't even accept students younger than 14.

Your son is only 10 now -- what to do in the meantime? You mentioned a 2-week sleepaway camp that he attended at age 8; I hope he was able to return there last summer. How about sending him to camp all summer, starting this summer (2016) and continuing until he starts boarding school in 9th grade? If he has these long summer ''sleepaway experiences,'' and knows that he will be going off to boarding school in 9th grade, it will give him something to look forward to.

You have many options for camps in California, but I would highly recommend Camp Winnarainbow. Our child went there for two wonderful summers, and only stopped because she got too old (and they hadn't begun Teen Camp at the time). As you can see here, you could send your son to Camp Winnarainbow for up to nine weeks. Or you could send him to a camp where more of the campers would be present for an extended period of time, and he wouldn't need to make a new set of friends every two weeks.

During the school year, I would involve him in more after-school activities where he could spend time with a large group of kids on a regular basis.

Your son is lucky to have such sympathetic parents as you!
~ happy boarding school alum


Boarding school- very bright girl/ horses/ethical

March 2013

My daughter is longing to go to boarding school for high school, and though this is totally out of our experience, we think it might well be a good match for this particular child. She has good social skills and is comfortably very independent. Are there schools you can recommend to us given the following elements:
1) Prefer an inclusive, values-based school where character development, work-ethic, and community/ world citizenship are prioritized \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c Could be religious if non-dogmatic. Perhaps a Quaker school?
2) Child is an excellent student and tests as profoundly gifted (Davidson Young Scholar) so a challenging academic/ artistic exploratory community would be great.
3) This kid really needs a firm structure in terms of routines, expectations, etc. to thrive.
4) Prefer West Coast of USA but are open to other places. We are also willing to consider Central/ South America or Europe (or....) as learning another language and culture would boost the level of challenge for her.
5) She loves horses and being outdoors, in nature and is very skilled at working with her hands.
6) Must offer very considerable financial aid.
We'd also welcome other outside-the-box ideas... like going to apprentice with a textile artist or woodcarver in Mexico and living with a family there.
Many thanks for your collective creativity and imagination. A seeking Mom

There is a wealth of boarding school advice and info on college confidential's prep school parents discussion board. Also boarding school review will help you find schools that have the progrms you want including info about financial aid. Good luck! Boarding school mom

Look into the Thacher School near Santa Barbara CA or Putney School in Vermont. like outdoors too

Hi there, You're already thinking of Quaker schools, but I wanted to chime in as an alum of George School, which is a Friends school in Newtown, PA. I graduated there 20 years ago and had an incredibly positive experience. I was also a bright, inquisitive girl who was into horses and thrived in a school community that was deeply rooted in an ethical/spiritual practice. My time at George school came at a point where peer mentorship was really meaningful, especially as it related to the Quaker practices threaded through the community and curriculum. There's no question it was a really strong place for academics, and every student was required to not only serve the school community in some capacity throughout heir years there, but to do a service learning project in order to graduate. Many of my classmates did things like Habitat for Humanity in Central America, or service work closer to home. I also adored horses and was really happy to be on a campus where I could ride. Keep in mind that equestrian programs are an additional expense, and not a part of the general tuition. I know boarding schools on the West Coast are few and far between, and I'm not certain there are any Friends schools, but if you're interested in George School and would like to talk further about it, please don't hesitate to get in touch through the moderator. I have lasting friendships from my years there. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Ultimately, I think it was more impactful to my academic, emotional, and spiritual growth than was college. Aonymous

How about Midland School, north of Santa Barbara? It's rural, with a focus on rigorous academics and living ethically and in tune with nature in a gorgeous rural setting. I grew up nearby and always looked longingly at the corrals of horses when we would drive up into the nearby mountains. Nelcie

Not many horses on campus, but I recommend Atlantic College in Wales, UK, for its ethical approach to education. Also, it's in a castle! I knew two alumni of this boarding school at college and have encountered several over the years. All speak very highly of the transformative experience they were given. Lots of sailing and community service, and the school is academically rigorous with all students graduating with an IB. If your child is exceptional and has a record of commitment to ideals of peace and international cooperation, and if you have limited funds, they have scholarships (bursaries). If your child is artistic and has a portfolio to demonstrate their talent, then what about Interlochen? The standard is really high, but as your child is gifted, maybe it will be a good fit? Also Looking Outside the Box

I went to Scattergood Friends School in Iowa for my last 2 1/2 years of high school. I could go on and on about how wonderful it is. I think it may meet most of your daughters needs. It has a prairie reserve and a working farm that are used directly in correlation to schooling. The classes are very small and unique. For a history class for 4 months we just studied the 1960's in America. I learned to fence and do tai chi. There is a huge emphasis on community. EVERYONE has a ''job'' that rotates each month. Even the teachers and the director. It could be anything from helping to make dinner to working on the farm to cleaning the classrooms. I could go on and on but I think you can get all the information you need from their website. They are a Quaker boarding school with a spiritual rather than religious emphasis. Also feel free to email me directly for more information. -Merry

Check out The George School (northeast of Philadelphia; actually closer to Trenton, New Jersey):


Boarding school for smart computer addict?

April 2012


I am considering this & want to hear from anyone who used one. How did it go? How strict are they? What's the housing & food like? How much access is there to computers?

My son had been A student with academic awards but not at BHS. He is too addicted to computer & getting worse.

Often he comes home from school and gets straight on it then goes to bed until about 10:00, then gets up, does homework for 1 classes, then stays on computer until some unknown time. If I lock it up he will simply go to bed & boycott everything, not eating, showering, doing homework, etc. He is way too computer savvy for ''parental controls'' so don't even suggest it. It'll make him howl with laughter and slap his leg. He can (and will)put them on me & can literally take a computer apart, program it, install (or remove) software, disable flash player so you can't watch Youtube, or do anything else. We have OSX version 10.8 & the tecchie at Apple said ''But that doesn't exist yet!'' I said ''Well somehow he got it!'' He insists on having it for any homework including math so he can have earphones with I-tunes going (of course he's sneaking lots of looks at the screen so minimal amount of work is done). Getting rid of computer would be like cutting off my hand. I need it for email, homework, job assignments, international communication, etc.

Cost is a big factor, as I don't have huge amounts of Money. But if he doesn't shape up I don't see any alternative. I can't whip him with a belt and talking isn't working. If I tell him ''Do homework; think about future'' he says I'm Lecturing. I'm telling him of this idea and saying ''You need to improve or I have no choice''. We don't like idea but I can't see any other way.

Please no hostile, smug, judgmental or hateful email, only recommendations & reviews. Thanks. Frustrated

For the mom wondering if boarding school is the solution for her computer-savvy kid, I would say no, unless it is a therapeutic boarding school that is very restrictive about physical access to computers and gadgetry. Our daughter is withdrawing from a New England Prep school as a result of cyber-bullying that the school is at a loss to deal with. After talking with the Dean of Students and the Head of School we have learned that the boarding school world in general is struggling to find effective and creative ways of teaching teens how to responsibly use social media and new technology. The administrators who are honest will admit that they can not monitor or keep up with how kids are using and abusing the school's bandwidth. In a typical boarding school there is not as much supervision as one might think when kids are alone in their dorm rooms with their computers. Last year my daughter's room mate stayed up all night watching movies on her lap top. Unless you as a parent direct the dormhead or the school, ''take away my son's laptop every night at 10 PM, give it back to him when he needs it for homework the next day'', he'll have more unfettered computer time than he does now at home. Prep schools have so much to offer, so many great facilities and opportunities, small class sizes and devoted faculties, but they are not a cure-all for computer/internet addiction. frustrated boarding school parent

Could you put the computer in your room so he can't use it? Or consider getting rid of it if it is a home computer and getting a laptop which you keep close to you. Tell him he has two hours to do his homework on it and then take it physically away. I don't think you will find a boarding school in Berkeley. Most of them are either for troubled teens and are not in Berkeley, or are for smart kids who can behave and cost a lot. Karen


Boarding school for bright, at-risk teenager

August 2010


I am a mentor to a 13-year-old girl in Oakland, who is very bright, but has an overwhelmingly difficult home life with significant emotional abuse that affects her academic performance. She spent this past summer running away from home for days/weeks at a time just to get a break from it all.

The situation is not bad enough to warrant foster care, and there are other siblings in the home. Additionally, I just don't think foster care is the right solution for this kid. Boarding school seems like the best option. Does anyone know anything about boardings schools that might be able to provide a scholarship? Or, can anyone recommend an educational consultant who might be willing to work pro-bono to find the right situation for this kid? Trying to help a kid in need

I too am helping an at-risk youth. In my case, it's an impoverished, learning- disabled young man, with long-standing emotional abuse at home, who was about to drop out of high school. I found a terrific resource to help teens: Youth Uprising, a state-of-the-art Youth Leadership and Development Center in Oakland that serves youth between the ages of 13-24. It's a one-stop, friendly place that can help kids with employment, housing, health and education services. Best of all, a youth can have a case manager to serve as a confidential support system and hook the youth up with appropriate services. Lots of teens just hang around there because it's a safe place (no violence, gang activity, racist, sexist, or homophobic slurs), and it offers classes in the media arts (such as digital arts and video production) and physical & performing arts (such as an art studio and hip hop dance classes). Amazingly, all of this is free, because it is funded by Alameda County. Their service area is Alameda County, but youth from other areas are welcomed too (my daughter from Orinda joined). We are working with Jason Williams, lead case manager, and Kobie Kennon, their educational adviser, both of whom are superb. This young man has gone from being chronically depressed to optimistic about his future, an amazing achievement for a kid with this background. I recommend you contact YU at 510-777-9909 and ask for Jason Williams or other case manager. Best wishes - you are doing a wonderful thing that can help this girl turn her life around. Nancy


Daughter is asking to go away to boarding school

August 2008


My daughter is asking to go away to boarding school, and looking at our public high school, I don't blame her. We are looking at the Hyde School but my sense is that it's a school for troubled kids, and my daughter doesn't have those sorts of issues: she is sweet and kind but we've really seen her grades falter; she works half-heartedly at school, and last year got her first F. Is there a boarding school for girls that is good academically that she could get into even with that F, that is not for troubled teens but somewhat wholesome? I would appreciate any advice of school recommendations. Thanks so much. Anxious Mom

I am not well-versed in the admissions process for boarding schools but I do know that there is a fair that occurs every fall in Walnut Creek or Oakland (can't remember, I've just seen the ad in the paper) and in San Francisco for certain on independent high schools that are local and boarding. This would be a great opportunity for you and your daughter to meet representatives from the schools and see which ones are of interest, etc. You may want to contact the East Bay Independent Schools Association ( as it may be the sponsoring organization for the east bay one. Martha

I am not sure how far away your daughter is looking to go away to school for boarding school, but I do know of a very nice and small, as well as equally safe all female boarding school in Staunton, Virginia. It is called Stuart Hall. I went to Mary Baldwin College (all female and in the same town), and many of my classmates went to Staurt Hall for school, and loved it. From what my classmates said this school was not known to have troubled students or really bad apples. e


Placement for smart, depressed 16-year-old?

May 2008


We have a 16 1/2 year old boy with severe social anxiety disorder and major depression. No friends at all. He is very smart (scored a perfect 80 on a portion of the PSAT) but now will not leave the house and sleeps all day and stays up at night. He has NO history at all of substance abuse. His Dr. is suggesting a long term placement (12 months) but does anyone know of a place for a scared, depressed non-drug teen where there is also a good academic progam for 11th grade? Thank you.

Google the Hyde School in Bathe, Maine. I think they work wonders. In the same boat

I think that you must think carefully now what the best step will be for your son. I empathize greatly. l faced this same decision when my daughter was 15. Here is what I learned and some points to consider.

If you are looking for academic excellence in a therapeutic, residential program you will be disappointed. The emphasis in these programs is on the therapeutic, emotional issues; academics take a back seat. Know this as part of your decision. Then too, there are some good programs out there and ones that are, well, awful.

I suggest that you call Heritage School in Provo, Utah. It is a very good, highly therapeutic program, one that is intensive. However, it is a residential treatment center, the highest level of intervention and some of the kids are quite ill. Know this too.

I also suggest you contact the Hyde School in Maine. I know both programs personally. Hyde is at the other end of the spectrum. They do not have therapists on staff. It is an excellent, very supportive program but not a therapeutic one. The admissions directors are warm, caring people. Call them and talk to them about your son. If he is not right for them, Hyde will be the first to tell you. Hyde emphasizes character education, connection, responsibility, caring for oneself and others, family, and making good choices. Classes are small and faculty relationships with kids are close. Parent involvement is part of the program. Hyde is well structured but not the structure of a program like Heritage. At Heritage, your son cannot leave. Home visits will have to be earned. There are levels for privileges. And, kids are stripped search for contraband after home visits and parent visits. This will give you a feeling for how serious this program is.

Which brings me to the last point. Please seek a second opinion on whether or not your son needs to be placed. If his safety is at risk and the threat is serious, you may not have a choice. Then Heritage is a good choice, with excellent therapy services and a decent school. Otherwise, please check with another professional whether intensive outpatient therapy and wrap around support can keep your young man at home with family. Finally, do you know the cost of these programs??? They are beyond expensive.

I wish you the best in a difficult decision. anon

If depression and social anxiety are the reason that your son is not leaving the house then call The Center for Cognitive Therapy and try to get a consultation with Dr. Michael Thompkins. If your son can do an intensive cognitive therapy program with daily house visits he could make a lot of progress. He might not get this treatment at a placement because this is specialized treatment. judy


Is boarding school a good solution for low motivation?

Nov 2007


I would like to receive comments or suggestions regarding boarding school for a high school student. My son, he is 14 years old, his academics is good so far, but he is kind of lack of motivation for anything, and he has problem in controlling his emotion and angry, which resulted in a lot of fighting and arguments in our family. The situation seems getting worse, and I don't know what to do. I read a lot of parenting books about adolescence, but none of them is working. The boarding school might be a solution for our family but I also heard some bad stories regarding boarding school, for example, addict to drug and alcohol ... My son also resists my idea of sending him to boarding school, I think that he might feel that he is abandoned if he is sent to boarding school. Please provide me any suggestion or comment? Thanks a lot. A desperate mom

I have two step sons who are both in boarding school, so I have a good amount of experience in this arena. First of all, do not feel guilty at the idea of sending him. If life continues to be difficult at home, I suggest that you meet with an educational consultant (there are many listed on BPN) who will discuss your family and your son's needs/wants/issues. They will then make a recommendation for you and you can then go and visit the schools to see if any of them feel ''right'' for your kid. If this seems too much, there are also summer programs. That might be an easier wayto start and you could all get a feel for how he does away from home. My 15 yr old stepson loves his boarding school. It provides structure, discipline, and a family type atmosphere. You mentioned availability of drugs/alcohol as a concern. Most boarding schools have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy around this and if a kid is caught with it, they are expelled. Some of these schools are gorgeous; like mini college campuses. The kids get many more breaks than kids in a regular school so you would get to see him often. It is a big decision but know that it works really really well for some kids. mom of 4

Boarding school seems like a wonderful solution when you have a difficult teen - I have had that idea running through my mind many times! However it doesn't always seem practical...especially if your teen is not keen on the idea. I hope you have looked into private school alternatives. My son was having a difficult time at a public high school and we opted for Holden High School in Orinda. They offer a caring relaxed environment to kids that find it hard to make it at traditional schools for whatever reason. One of the aspects I like most is that each student meets with his or her R person (counselor) once or twice a week to see what is up in thier lives and to help them through things. It is a small alternative school that may not be for everyone but it can be a very positive experience for some. nancy (Holden High parent)

Has the family been to counseling? Have you tried more than one therapist? Why would ''sending your son away'' solve a family problem?

I personally think of high school boarding school as an educational option for those who can afford it, and students who really are ready and want the challenge and the options afforded by it.

If you are thinking about a therapeutic situation, it would seem that option might be best reached at the end of a long investigation of local options to improve your family relationships and son's well being. There are many stories of horrible deprivation and inhumane treatment handed out in such situations of children being ''sent off to straighten them out.''

If you have the money to send your son to one of the reputable places, I would think you would be using those resources to engage mental health and learning specialists in the Bay Area. Start with your school counselor, or family pediatrician and look at your insurance benefits for therapists of various types. He may be having social or learning handicapps that are expressing themselves thru ''acting out''. You may unknowingly be playing a role that is habituating these recurring situations.

The '' Nanny type'' television shows can actually be helpful in role modeling consistent communication. Therapy Believer


How to find the right boarding school?

Sept 2006


My daughter isn't very happy with middle school and has expressed a desire to go away to boarding school for high school. I agree that it would be great for her but we definitely could afford it only if we got a huge scholarship. Before I say no way, I want to do the research but don't know where to begin re finding the right places to with lots of money for starters! Are there hs counselors for this? Any insights would be appreciated.

You may need the help of a professional consultant. My first suggestion is Sharon Rudnick 510-848-9350. She is located in North Berkeley. Sharon is helping us with the college selection and application process. We found her through a recommendation on Good luck, Nathan

Hi. I refer you to an article, which I believe was published in the NY Times a few years ago about boarding school, why the number of applicants had dropped, and why most boarding school alum were not sending their own kids on to boarding school. If you are a good ''googler'' you can probably find it.

The concensus of the parents seemed to be something along the lines of their not being an objective group to counsel and calm the student since parents were taken out of the equation and a lot of house advisors, not very much older than the boarders, fell prey to trying to be cool with the students. Parents were quoted as saying that when ''tragedy'' struck--a busted-up romance, poor performance on a test, an embarrassing moment--the kids serve to exaccerbate each other's angst instead of mitigating and calming things down much like most reasoned parents would. Anyway, I thought it interesting, and it might help you form some realistic expectations about what boarding school can and can't provide.

I am a product of summer boarding programs at Choate-Rosemary Hall and Andover, and I can tell you that Choate, particularly, is a wonderful school academically and its administration is kind and caring--very !! hard to get into. It also has a day population, too.

Best of luck to you and your daughter. Anon

Our son who was a student at Montera has just begun his freshman year at a prep school in new england. he decided to go to prep as he could concentrate all his activities in one place and already had a very clear idea what he plans on studying at college. we choose new england primarily for academics and the sport he plays.having said that all the schools are very different and visiting as many as possible with your child would be a very good way of finding which one she would be most comfortable at and to get a really good feel for the school, its objectives, how well will they prepare you child for college, could your child cope academically,is it going to challenge her enough? is the school too highly pressurised?-the schools are also looking at how well each child would fit into their school community, not just grades, ssat, etc. schools generally have presentation evenings in the san francisco bay area, usually in october and november. however we have found these evenings are not particularly helpful given the constraints they are under. as for financial aid all schools offer it -some substantially so. there are still the added expenses of weekly allowance, laundry service {which is not mandatory, but i highly recommend}, books, travel back home, etc. the general consensus at most schools seems to be that the child knows where they want to go. we allowed our son to choose the schools he visted, applied to and finally accepted. we could not be happier with his choice. he is thriving and is so happy and is having so much fun, inspite of the fact that he is at a highly academic school. this is one of the best decisions we have ever made. i cannot tell you how thrilled we are. i highly recommend it for any child who wants to do it and is ready. it is a huge committment for the child, the parents and the school. i could go on forever. good luck lily

Previous Boarding School reviews are below. I rely on Google a lot, try searching ''high schools boarding''. This one looked very useful:

Some schools are segregated by sex so make sure your are making the right match for your child, you will see all-boys, all-girls, co-ed. Also the schools may have a focus: college prep, therapeutic, military etc. The website also has info for each school that is helpful in financial decisions. It lists each schools' endowment, costs, percentage of students on financial aid and average financial award, and some financial calculation tools.

Also check with your current school's principal, and classroom teacher. If you are in private school some of the boarding schools will be visiting as part of their recruitment. If you are in public school the principal and teacher may be able to share information about other students who have gone onto boarding school - if there is a neighboring private elementary/middle school you might call them to see if you could participate when boarding schools are visiting: or at least find out when the rep is coming so you can contact the rep on your own and arrange a meeting while they are in town. Helps to ask questions and set up an interview without having to travel the miles.

Your student most likey will need to take either standardized or the school's own entrance/placement exams so you need to get that organized now.

If you are really poor - disabled, single parent, rent your home etc you may get a full or close to a full scholarship. But if you just feel poor because you did not buy a new car this year, and you had to cut back the European trip to four days instead of the 10 you did last year, etc they may expect you to dig pretty deep to come up with the cash. Good luck, I think a great high school experience is very, very important, many of the boarding schools are superlative places to go to school High School Parent

The assumption has been that you are referring to an academic boarding school. Previous posts have contributed considerable information. I am responding as a parent who has been through the process as well as in a professional capacity as a secondary school and college admissions advisor.

Two years ago, my middle child indicated his displeasure with middle school and stated that he did not want to attend our local (academically well regarded) public high school. We have a loving and close relationship. Together, we researched both local private schools and boarding schools on both coasts. At each boarding school we visited, there were dedicated, supportive adults (often faculty - certainly not 20-somethings as one post suggested) living in the dorms and responsible for the students. My son was drawn to the intellectual stimulation, sense of community, opportunity for independence and the beautiful campuses. Today, he is doing well in his second year at an academic boarding school in New England. Yes, you give up time and experiences with your child. Frequent cell phone calls and e- mails are not the same as hugs and kisses. But you are giving your child the loving gift of freedom to pursue an academic path; the experience for your teen can be invaluable. If you do, be prepared for the following: incredible growth and maturity from your teen and some social inquiries and speculation as to the \xc2\x93quality\xc2\x94 of your relationship and whether there are \xc2\x93disciplinary\xc2\x94 issues in your home.

While there are many similarities, boarding schools are quite different; they do have distinct cultures. They have varying degrees of diversity. I agree with a previous post that it is invaluable to visit the schools to which you might apply. However, if you can\xc2\x92t visit, then do significant research on each school\xc2\x92s web site. Read everything beyond the academic pages including parent and student life pages, alumni news and athletic pages even if your daughter has no interest in athletics. It can be quite informative. For schools to which you will apply, admission rep interviews and alumni interviews may be available locally. Request one as soon as possible. Some of the top academic schools have local receptions in the homes of current parents.

Just as in the college admission process, there are many factors to consider, not the least of which is your daughter\xc2\x92s level of maturity and independence, academic proficiencies and interests, the closeness of your relationship, her experiences away from home and family, and the relationships she has with close friends. What are her (and your) criteria for a school? What are her preferences for gender based education, dress codes and geographic location? You can find statistics about boarding schools, make searches and comparisons at (The Association of Boarding Schools) and

Once your daughter is admitted to boarding schools, there will be a week or so in the Spring when each will host an Open House Day for admitted students. She can sit in on a few classes (you also may at some but not all schools), sample the food and talk to students and faculty. To assist her in her final decision, it would be important to visit the campuses.

Boarding schools do expect parents to contribute a substantial amount toward the cost of educating your teen. However, several factors including your family\xc2\x92s financial need, the number of students in your home attending private high school or college and the school\xc2\x92s endowment, all enter into the consideration of financial aid (note: some schools' admissions are not need blind). At a handful of schools, there are financial scholarships that are designated for students from specific geographical areas such as the SF Bay Area. One cannot apply for them, but the schools use them in the aggregate award of financial aid packages that could include institutional loans. Often, the well-endowed schools have statistics for the previous year regarding the number of families in several different income brackets that received aid and the average aid amounts. While the bulk of financial aid is awarded to families in lower income brackets, it is not uncommon at schools with large endowments to see some aid provided to families with incomes from $75,000 to $150,000. Private K-12 education loan financing is another option.

There are two Boarding School Fairs in our area. The first will be on Wednesday, October 11th from 7:00pm \xc2\x96 9:00pm, at The Seven Hills School, in Walnut Creek. The second (and more crowded) will be on Saturday, October 14th from 10:00am \xc2\x96 1:00pm, at the Town School for Boys in San Francisco. These are good opportunities to meet admission reps and obtain information.

Wishing you and your daughter much success. Dorothy


Boarding school options

Jan 2006


I'd really appreciate learning about boarding schools, especially those in (but not limited to) California. Interested in reviews of those schools where kids are superbly cared for; where they are well-educated; where academics do not dominate to the exclusion of the arts; where the whole child is nurtured, socially, academically, physically, psychologically. We're not interested in religious schools, not interested in military or East coast prep schools (like Andover) and not interested in schools with a conservative social agenda (we're from Berkeley after all).

I'd also love to hear from anyone with a kid currently at Athenian (either as a boarder or day student), since that school has come highly recommended and we really resonate with its philosophy of developing citizens of the world.

Our prospective boarder is our daughter, a very creative, smart, student who is particularly gifted in the literary arts. She is still in middle school, loves to learn, and really thrives in a peer group of similarly motivated, thoughtful learners.

Have checked the archives but didn't find current responses to this issue. Many thanks,
Thinking ahead to high school

Our daughter is currently a junior at Athenian. She is a day student and we love it! She has attended since ninth grade. Athenian teaches to the whole child. They require community service, have a ''no-cut'' team sports philosophy, and there are a lot of theatre arts options. Athenian also offers many student clubs, study abroad options as well as having international boarders on campus. The classes are small and she has wonderful relationships with her teachers. We feel that she is receiving a wonderful education as well as experiences that many children her age don't get. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Leslie
More reviews of Athenian here


Boarding school for unmotivated 14-year-old

Nov 2005


I've just started exploring the option of sending my 14 y.o. 8th grader to boarding school for High School.Like many his age he's pretty bright but blowing it as far as motivation.I've stopped the micromanaging and don't really see him picking up the ball.I've tried many things (counselors,teachers,my own attendance at parenting classes,etc).I think that maybe the boarding school option may engage him more and get him interested in learning.In my research online I've seen nothing but positives and I'm sure there are negative experiences out there.Can I get some feedback as to some experiences regarding this?Thanks so much.
Wanting the best for my kid.

Dear Parent, Wondering if you have asked your son what he thinks of boarding school? You might call The Athenian School in Danville and ask if he can visit. The Athenian School is a private high school with a boarding option. Even if this is not the school you would choose it will give you both an opportunity to walk around the grounds and look at the dorms.

Have to say you need to decide if this is something you are just thinking about or really plan to explore. Most boarding schools are in process now for selecting their freshman classes from eighth grade students right now. It is a bit easier to get into boarding schools in other parts of the country than in California - there is very tough competition here. You should also try to visit the schools or school you will be applying to.

There are many different schools with a variety of focus and settings. Some are well endowed and offer full scholarships, many offer no scholarships or only partial. With boarding your costs could run from $20,000 per year to $35,000 much like college. There may be exceptions out there - but check what the ''full year costs'' are since some schools combine the tuition and various fees and others break it out so you need to know what you need to provide.

Another school in California that friends have enjoyed is The Thacher School, it has a large endowment and a fairly high number of students on scholarship, also all students have a horse their freshman year that they must care for and learn to ride. We have family members that are alums of The Putney School in Vermont, ($34,300 for boarding per year). It is in a farm rural setting.

I am not sure what kind of program you are looking for - finding one that your son can get excited about is important - most of the academic schools are looking for motivated students rather than viewing themselves as the source of motivation. Smaller classes in the private schools make a big difference. It is very hard not to participate in classes that have 12-18 students. You might also look at The Orinda School - small classes, motivationally based curriculum, in Orinda, nice students and teachers.

Good Luck! We are very happy at The Athenian School ourselves. claudia

I wanted to recommend The Hyde School , which has campuses in Woodstock, CT and Bath, ME. My son went there for four years and it was such a transformative experience -- for not only him but our whole family -- that my daughter decided to go and teach there for two years to ''give back'' some of what our family gotten out of the experience. You can reach them at They also have a day school campus in Oakland. If you would like to talk to me in person about the Hyde experience, please feel free to call me at 415 420 2960. I can't recommend this school highly enough. Leela

My son dive bombed in his junior year. He was failing academically, even though he's really smart and knew the material. He just wouldn't hand in his homework or labs, and didn't participate in class. He also started smoking pot, drinking, and experimented with mushrooms. We did tutors, counseling, depression counseling...the works. And nothing seemed to alter the downward spiral. So we sent him to a character-based boarding school on the east coast where he's doing his junior year over. It's been an incredible experience, not only for him, but for us parents as well. The program is challenging with regard to personal growth, values, hard work, and honesty. If you want to know more, just email me. lynn


Considering a girl's boarding high school in the East

Jan 2004


We are considering a girl's boarding high school in the East because it seems like a wonderful fit for my daughter. It's not because she's a problem kid or I want to get rid of her. I welcome suggestions, advice and hearing about experiences from families whose high school students have gone to boarding school. Thank you. Barbara

My daughter entered an East Coast boarding school this last September because of the outstanding educational opportunites- not because, as many West Coast people assume, we are having family troubles with her [because most boarding schools are in the East Coast, many East Coast families are more knowledgeable about and accepting of boarding schools].

She loves the school, the feeling of independence, her new friendships with people from all over the world, and the vast academic course, arts/music, and athletic offerings.

We of course miss her, as she does us, but she (and we) feel that the fantastic educational and social opportunities outweigh this concern. Additionally, we see her often on lengthy school breaks, all summer, and the occasional trip back to see her (using very low off-season flights on the ''discount'' airlines).

We talk everyday (we have a cell phone ''family plan'' with free long distance phone calls among family members), and by AOL instant messenger.

We get constant feedback from the dorm counselors, and excellent communication with her teachers- first by email (which is so easy) and if need be, by follow up calls.

No school, of course, is perfect. And inevitably when your child has a bad day, they will cry about wanting to come home and you will feel wretched. But, as the school counselors advised us, in the vast majority of cases, the kids are fine the next day- busy with their activities, and have forgotten about crying on your shoulder. One thing that is very hard (but tolerable) for a Calif. kid is the harsh New England winters.

In talking to the parents of our daughter's 8th grade classmates when we were all looking at prospective high schools last year, most (but of course, not all) would not consider boarding schools because the parents' first thought was not about whether the school would be good for their child, but about what they thought *they* would miss out on -the kids' proms, first date, athletics, etc. Of course, those concerns are not totally trivial, but in our case we decided we'd forego those for the other benefits our child received.

Whether boarding school is a good fit depends on your child. My daughter was pretty outgoing, mature and adventurous. She is not a straight-A student, but a good student. She is not super competitive, but is intellectually curious. Shy, insecure teens will likely not do well at boarding school. Also, the teen must want to go himself or herself- it should not solely be a parental decision.

Despite our intital absolute refusal to even consider boarding school, and our friends and families' exhortations about ''How could you!'' (which continue even to this day!) our family and our daughter are extremely happy with our choice.

One thing I would defintely advise is to actually go and visit the school if you haven't already done so. Also, visit more than one school.

Many boarding schools have very large endowments and provide significant financial aid to both low income and middle class families.

Good luck with your decision.

A loving mom

We sent our son to boarding school Back East for the 11th and 12th grade. There are no boarding school experiences (or even private school experiences) in either my family or my husband's. But we are converts. The prep school that my son attended had a dress code (imagine, after Berkeley High...), a serious sports program (absolutely motivating for my son), classes no larger than 10 students, a beautiful campus (OK, in the middle of nowhere), and truly wonderful, dedicated teachers. The facilities and resources were really astonishing. (And, by the way, the endowment was very large and financial aid much more readily availble than from colleges.) We also liked many of the kids and families we met. I was worried about the boarding school kid stereotype (wealthy, wild)--but these kids were the exception rather than the rule. I don't think that my son took advantage of the opportunites this school provided. But he did get a good secondary education (despite himself), played on championship sports teams and learned how to navigate cross country travel. If your daughter is interested in doing this, go for it. It was clear at my son's graduation that students who had engaged in all the school had to offer had had a profound experience. anon

Can Boarding School be Good for a Kid?

March 2001

I am entertaining an idea to send one of my daughters (12 years old) to a boarding school. She is very unhappy at home and doesn't get along with her siblings (middle child syndrom). She seems to function well outside of the family, is independent and self-assured. Any experience (yours or your child's) or recommendation with boarding school would be very appreciated. Can boarding school be good for some kids or is that just a last resort for bad parents who can't seem to muster their emotional resources and deal with the child, so they decide to dump him/her and make them someone else's responsibility? I know this sounds like a loaded question but I can take an honest answer. Anonymous

I went to boarding school in Connecticut for 11th and 12th grade. It was my idea to go. I figured I was the only kid to beg to be sent to boarding school, but maybe not. I did not get along with my parents during high school (how unique). I wanted the feeling of being independent. I was also a middle child, but I never connected that with my issues. Anyway my experience was a good one. I don't think the kids there were bad or last resort situations. In the east boarding schools are just often family tradition and thought to be the best education. I did receive a much better education there than I was getting in my particular public high school. There were probably more rules and supervision at the school than at home, but all the kids around me had the same situation and because we lived together, away from our parents, we had a sense of being on our own that I was really anxious for. My problem with sending my own child to boarding to school would be that I would miss her to much. I believe you can still be an involved parent, provide guidance and let your child know you care about her even if she attends a school far away. My parents and I have a good relationship now, and I have always appreciated what they did for me. A not so far away school which has boarders and impressed me is the Athenian school in Danville. But there the boarders are the minority. Where I went the day students were the minority, which may make a difference as the kids tend to segregate down this line. Good Luck Lynn

I went to boarding school throughout high school, and I personally feel that it was the very best decision for my family and our particular circumstances (we moved around so frequently, often internationally, that my parents wanted us to attend one school for the high school years). Many years later, as my own daughters grow up, and hit the adolescent years with a vengeance I am beginning to feel that boarding school might not be a bad option if I had the resources at this time.

There are lots of wonderful schools, and I would be happy to answer any questions about some of my own experiences (I did end up in two different schools - one in the United States, and one in Switzerland, which had an extra year of school, i.e., a 13th year of high school). There certainly were plenty of children at both schools who were dumped there by frustrated parents, but both places were nurturing in their own ways. The schools provided students with an opportunity for development and independence as well as the chance to establish friendships that would endure for years. It is not for everybody, and can take some time for adjustment, but there are definitely positive reasons to send a child to boarding school. Kelly

Boarding School can be very good or very bad depending upon the kid and the school. I'm from the east coast, where a lot of people go to boarding school, my family included. Six out of the seven of the kids in my family attended boarding school, my father attended boarding school and his father before him. One of the big reasons we attended boarding school (I say this in retrospect) was that my father was a single parent of seven children.

I don't believe any of us thought of this as a punishment or an abdication of responsibility on the part of my father, rather we thought of it as a really cool opportunity. This isn't to say that there weren't kids in our classes who thought of it that way.

The kids who did particularly well were socially adept, self driven kids who could make their own way well. The kids who did less well were less well organized (NOT less bright) and less self directed. A couple of us were asked not to return to school after a summer, mostly for academic reasons.

Academically, the schools the kids in my family attended tended to be quite rigorous. Interestingly, it made very little difference in our final academic success whether we graduated from boarding school or a local school.

In any case, I'd ask your daughter and see what she felt and look at schools to see if there might be a hook for her, or whether you wanted her to be local so she could come home weekends (Athenian has a boarding program and so does a place in San Jose whose name escapes me)

To the parent asking about boarding school for an unhappy daughter:

During the bad teen years, I ended up sending my older daughter to a boarding school. The person who helped me find the right school was Miriam Bodin in Los Altos. She is quite expensive (but so are most boarding schools), but in my opinion she is very much worth the expense.

The particular boarding school was non-voluntary for my daughter, focused on behavior modification, somewhat psychological in nature, filled with fairly arbitrary rules, relevant punishments and rewards, etc., and was exactly what my daughter needed. Needless to say, this is only one kind of boarding school; different kids need different kinds of boarding schools.

Is a boarding school a last resort for bad parents? Maybe. But, if this is what your daughter needs to be happier and do better, then good parents will send her there (if they can afford it), and bad parents won't. I think being a good parent means doing the best you know how to do at the time. You always gain more experience and learn better ways of doing things. Don't beat yourself up for what you did in the past. Just do the best you know how now.

Good luck!

Like with so many other things in life, there are two sides to this coin in my family's collective memory: My boarding school experience was one of the highlights of my life, and a total low-point for my mother, who to this day is upset every time she hears the name of my boarding school (see below). To amplify: I moved to the Bay Area from LA during my mother's sabbatical year. I was thirteen, the year was 1970, I fell totally in love with Berkeley and didn't want to return to Hollywood. And my folks basically went along with the decision. So off I went to Athenian School for three years (10th - 12th grade). Athenian today is - apart from the bucolic landscape - unrecognizable from the institution it was in the early 1970's. And all for the better, especially academically.

But I think it safe to say I can venture an opinion on a few things that haven't changed. For many of my peers, it was indeed a dumping ground, for some incredibly gifted, talented, non-conforming kids whose parents had no idea what to do with them. It was an incredibly bonding, socially important time for us - small, intimate campus, everyone knows everyone, etc. For all us of, and I am in touch with quite a few of my classmates, leaving for school was the last time we were ever home. Which is to say, I really feel that I left home at the age of fourteen and never returned. Which, in my case, I could handle. You as a parent of a kid in boarding school really need to prepare yourself to surrender all control to another authority, in this case, the school. Boarding school isn't just school, it's a complete way of life, with its own very consuming culture. I would deem it absolutely imperative that you get to know the school as much as is humanly possible, and definitely talk to alums about their true experience. Find out where graduates go to college, read alumni newsletters, learn whatever you can about the school's philosophy regarding sex, drugs, smoking on campus, hitchhiking, curfew, dorm life, and so on. What steps does the school offer to help students with issues and to those students without issues who are coping with the ones who are struggling. I personally would really assess the faculty, their tenure, their backround and expertise, and personally I would consider their age and maturity levels. One of the problems in the early days at the Athenian was very poor teacher-student boundaries, and for us young teens these waters were just treacherous to navigate. The teachers weren't much older and not much more mature that we were and boy, you can just imagine the trouble that caused. Also, coming from a small boarding school, it's very important to take into account the transition to college. I went on to UCLA, and spent four years feeling absolutely lost in this huge metropolis (after the shelter of my small high school campus life). And Athenian had no college-prep support back then, which led me to my poor match, and that of course has been completely revamped and kids now go to the best schools in the country. But for me UCLA was totally a default school, and I attribute that directly to my lack of any college counseling whatsoever.

So, boarding school can be wonderful for the independent, composed, self-directed teen, who is ready to spread her wings and leave home. Or it can be out of the pot and right into the fire for the student who is not yet mature enough to handle the demands of great autonomy and separation from family. If your daughter does leave for school, do not let her think she has fallen off the family planet. Go visit, make calls, stay connected at every possible turn, even when she seems most disconnected from you and her original world.

Finally, in defense of and support of my alma mater, I will always be an Athenian at heart. I had a great time and would send my own two kids there in a heartbeat, after I win the lottery. Deborah

In response to the question about Boarding School. I don't think that boarding school is only the resort of a bad parent - its starting to sound good to me! Another option to consider might be sending your teen to live with an aunt or uncle, if possible or even with one of your close family friends. Both of my brothers lived with our aunt at various times when things got too hot at home, and my brother seriously considered sending his oldest son to me for a year or so in high school, and I would have welcomed him. It is difficult to live in the same house with YOUR OWN teens, who seem to have to challenge you, but other people's kids are often much nicer to be around at this age, since they don't have issues with you. So your daughter would probably do fine with a relative until she grows up a little, or things settle down at home. Good luck - its a tough situation! Nancy

More reflections on boarding schools, to do or not to do.... Well, though my observations are unfortunately completely out of date, thought I would jump into this delightful discussion....

I attended boarding schools in Europe, and so did my younger stepbrother because my family lived and worked there from my freshman through junior years of high school in the early 60's. Our family was actually pretty disorganized, so I think in retrospect it gave my stepbrother and me much better coping and life skills than had we home stayed with the family---our younger siblings did, and two of the three of them have never quite recovered, or made it easily as adults. I tend to think this is more than coincidence......

At the boarding schools we attended, there was a full range of kids that you would find in any day school===misfits, smart, not so smart, well adjusted, happy, unhappy---some clearly were being dumped by families, but many were there on a year of special scrimping and saving by a struggling family who felt it was the best treat they could extend for one year to a worthy child.

A corollary of all this is that I sought out surrogate families throughout that time, and throughout college years, but was very adept at going off to universities in communities where I knew no one. However, most serious boyfriends had to come with a good nuclear family, to which I bonded intensely.

Years later, neither my stepbrother nor I sought to send our teens away to boarding schools, even when they were at the height of their teen troubles and crises---and in retrospect, I believe two things: being a boarder in my teens made me want to keep mine at home and nearby---. However, for one of my two sons, it might have actually helped to have let him board somewhere for a couple of years, and in retrospect, I wish we had investigated the possibilities and borrowed the money to try it---he even asked and I rejected the idea completely.

I do see that there is an ebb and flow to all of this----letting them go away, explore, take risks, drive you insane with worry, sometimes seems to bring them back closer and happier after a while. There is no right answer; it seems to be all hunt, peck, luck, pain, love, prayer, friends, and time.

Keep reading, talking to friends, working with school and therapeutic support systems, deep breathing, treating yourself well, and good luck. The kids have their own clocks, and sometimes it is absolutely irrelevant what we think, plan, or do-------they are mad and miserable for weeks or months, and then turn a corner and can sort of make jokes about it themselves. We are still in the thick of it with 18 and 26 year olds....

best wishes, a fellow nameless parent..... (to protect the innocent).

I want to second the comments about sending your daughter to a relative. While I was growing up we had the teenage daughter of a close friend for a year and then each of two cousins for a year. They had been in conflict with their own parents but in our home were amazingly (to their parents) well behaved. It was their opportunity to transform themselves and they did. One thing that family and close friends offer is that they know and LOVE you. They also love your parents, so you can complain all you like, get lots of sympathy and know that you aren't really hurting your parents because these people love them TOO. Then too, my cousins had an investment in proving themselves to my parents. So they did chores and helped out much more willingly than we four kids -- setting rather a good example for us! They also applied themselves in school. Perhaps having your parents called is not as intimidating as having your aunt and uncle called. Anyway, family is something to consider if boarding school is financially out of reach. Dawn

I didn't get to the Teen letter until now but I was particularly interested in the boarding school input from some readers. Both myself and my husband (and our respective siblings) went to boarding schools, and we all feel very grateful for the experience now that we are adults. We are all very close to our parents and siblings with a strong sense of family. I met with 6 of my fellow boarders a few years ago and we all felt it was probably the main reason that we had done so well in life as adults. None of us felt that we had been sent away, but rather that our parents had made big sacrifices to provide us with a great opportunity. My daughter had expressed lots of interest so after alot of thought we let her go in 6th grade, to a wonderful school in England. It was a tough year emotionally as we missed her dreadfully but we always felt it was the right thing. It was very expensive but probably no more than Head Royce with a few extras like music on top. She chose to return after the one year but during that time we all 'grew up'. School, life and the weather are much easier here in California so I understood her decision. She has such special memories of that year. deborah

Affordable Boarding Schools?

Help!! There has been quite a bit of discussion on boarding schools. Now, can you please provide some referrals to check. We are considering boarding schools for our at-risk son, preferably in California or at least the West Coast. What is affordable? I can't spend $4,800/mo. and this seems to be normal fee for some of more reputable schools.

I heard about the Midland School from a woman in my S.F. community garden, who was not really looking to send her son away to school, but they both found this to be just right for their needs ( from what I could gather, bright kid, on the quiet side). They received a generous scholarship.

A similar school( in that working in gardens, fields, etc. is part of the experience) for those going on to college, is Deep Springs, a working ranch/alfalfa operation. Tuition is free if your are accepted. Men only.



Wasatch Academy

Nov 2007

I want to give huge praise to Wasatch Academy, a co-ed, college prep boarding school in Utah. My son struggled through middle school, with ADHD, poor grades, and a bad attitude. We originally put him in NAWA in California (which did not have the structure, support or supervision we feel is necessary with teenagers), then thankfully found Wasatch. Wasatch is not for troubled/drug addicted kids. It does, however, have a program for kids with minor learning issues.

The teachers are incredibly caring and supportive, the school is beautiful, and they really focus on the whole person, not just the academics. There is an outdoor component to the school that appeals to kids like my son, with optional trips on the weekends to go camping, mountain biking, rafting, you name it. With the small classes and individual attention, my son is thriving. I really can't say enough about the school. julie