A Legacy of Independence
Boarding schools have been a central feature of American society, and in some ways predate public schools by more than a century. The education of youth in the Colonial Era happened mostly in "old field schools," shaped around the agrarian calendar and attended by children who weren't engaged in planting and harvesting. Eventually, more formal "Latin Grammar Schools" emerged, offering a curriculum based on the classical works of thinkers such as Homer, Socrates, and Cicero. As the European influence expanded within the colonies, small, private, often one-person schools with a decidedly broader focus appeared. These "English Grammar Schools" emphasized a range of subjects including mathematics, modern languages, geography, rhetoric, accounting, and English grammar.
Many of these private schools foundered for financial reasons, as one teacher often attempted to serve as headmaster, faculty, and trustee. These schools were replaced in time by the more robust "Academy Movement," which successfully blended the better elements of the Latin and English Grammar Schools. The first academy opened in 1763, a century before the public school movement began in America. A central aspect of academies was the fact that students often lived with faculty masters or local townspeople who took them in as boarders. The notion of in loco parentis—or the idea of surrogate parents—emerged naturally in these environments and formed an educational model that endures in boarding schools today.
As the densification of American cities evolved, and they were subjected to the often dangerous complexities of early modern urbanity, many city dwellers looked for opportunities to place their children in another environment. Academies often offered an ideal alternative. Today's boarding schools showcase a tremendous variety of emphases—from arts-driven to military-focused—but also a common foundation, a proven model of educational development that promises exceptional academic training for students, along with the development of an independence, character, and maturity that few if any other environments can deliver.
Download a full history of boarding schools here.