Saturday, 18 May 2013

Why I chose Boarding School for my son

Elliot, my lovely, funny and incredibly challenging boy has always found school difficult.  He has only enjoyed two years of school in the ten years he has been attending some kind of formal education and since he has been in Secondary education he has been even more unhappy.

It is not fair on Elliot to go into the gory details here of what happened to him at school but trust me when I say we got to a point where we felt we had no choice but to take drastic action to find a solution.  We looked at our options locally and felt utterly perplexed and hopeless.  It was not going to work simply taking him out of his current school and moving him to a similar one down the road.  Private school was not a realistic option either, as the local ones are all highly selective and way beyond our current financial means.

I’m not sure how I knew about state boarding schools but on a particularly horrible day I looked them up to see if there was one near us that was any good.  State boarding schools run on the principle that you receive the education for "free" but you have to pay for the boarding costs.

I found the Royal Alexander and Albert school in Reigate which is only forty-five minutes away on a good run and thought it looked great.  However, I put the thought aside as I didn’t feel ready to take this idea seriously and I didn't say a word to Elliot.  Then strangely, out of the blue, a few weeks later Elliot pronounced that he would like to go to boarding school.

I chatted with him about the idea and showed him the website whilst taking great pains to make him aware of the reality of boarding.  I was a boarder from a very early age and my experience was far from smooth sailing and downright unhappy at times.  It is an indication of how desperate I felt that I was even considering boarding school for Elliot, I had always vowed never to send my children away.

To cut a long story short we eventually got Elliot a place and he is now boarding and coming home at the weekends.  He has some good days and some bad days when he rings us in tears, begging us to come and take him home.  This is heart breaking, but when I compare the way he is now to the way he was, I know I’m doing the right thing, even though, to use David’s words “this feels fucked up”.

When he comes home he enjoys playing on his computer but he can take it or leave it now when before it was all consuming, a place of refuge in a horrible world.  His behaviour has improved massively; he is polite in an un-forced way, co-operative and wonderfully affectionate. I have my boy back again even though it’s for far-too-short periods of time.

There is a massive hole left by Elliot when he goes back to school which can never be filled and it really does hurt like hell.  But I know in my heart that if we had not chosen this path things would have gone from bad to worse, not just for Elliot but for all of us.

I love my son and it is a horrible truth that we have had to send him away from home as we could not find a better solution.  I hope no other family has to go through this, but sadly I’m sure there are others out there who have suffered more than us, who don’t have the funds to do what we have done and are fighting a daily battle to keep their children safe and reasonably well educated.  My heart goes out to them.

Please feel free to comment if this blog has touched you in any way.


  1. I received a very interesting comment from a member of my writing course on Facebook. She said that it would be interesting to understand how this post links into my title of Simple, Meaningful and Free.

    Firstly I want this blog to be "Meaningful" in a very personal way. I want my readers to trust that the topics I talk about come from an honest place and so I will occaisionally be posting about myself and my family but in a way that tries to connect with my readers.

    The school we have chosen for Elliot is not "free" but this blog is about financial choices which are made to enhance our lives and to reach a hopefully happier place for us all. Making this choice for Elliot has cost us very dear and it is a huge financial committment for at least another 3 years but I can't think of a better way to spend my money at the moment. It has also forced me to re-evaluate how I spend what I have left and how I can simplify my life so I can still live a happy and meaningful life. Louise.

  2. This was obviously a very difficult decision to make, and you capture that in the post. I feel for your family. It's sad that schooling is like this, that kids go through some shocking experiences. I didn't have an all too good experience of school, but it sounds like Elliot's experience was taken to another level.
    Thanks for sharing your story Louise. Some financial decisions are worth it, and it sounds like this one was. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Linda for your lovely response. He's come home this weekend in great spirits, he's had a really good week.