The Bonding in Boarding

Building Meaningful Connections with Your Child

Hear from an expert on how to enrich your relationship with your child while giving them the freedom they need to grow.

If you are considering exploring the landscape of boarding school options, you are on the verge of an insightful journey with your child. After eight years of interviewing, reading applications, connecting with prospective families at admissions events, running a dorm, coaching teams, and advising individual kids, I realized one of my favorite aspects about the job was observing the various ways in which parents and kids interacted throughout the application process and once enrolled. Regularly being part of these exchanges often evoked a retrieval of memories from my own boarding school experience, specifically related to my parents and how our relationship reached newer, meaningful levels during those years.

In an attempt to contextualize what this relational evolution feels like prior to doing it yourself, some anecdotes from my time as a boarding school student and professional are below. Consider this a resource, a guideline, or a mini-memoir to reference as you explore new educational territories with your child.

  1. Let Your Child Lead.
    While my parents were literally driving the car, I was driving the process. They functioned more as supporting sounding boards and did not pretend to “know best,” which helped me quickly gain a sense of agency in my decision-making. They asked rather than told and made me feel as though my opinions and feelings mattered. So once I chose to apply and eventually enroll, I was free to own that sense of self-efficacy and pride, knowing that the opportunity was one I sought after myself, not one that was curated for me.
  2. Encourage Introspection.
    There is nothing more rewarding for a parent than engaging your child in a way that elicits authentic responses. I felt heard as a child when this happened, and I felt successful as a mentor when a genuine connection resulted out of actively listening. Engaging your child with questions related to their goals, needs, hopes, feelings and preferences is tremendously beneficial both for the relationship to one another and to the process of finding a new school together. Modeling what it means to be introspective often results in your child developing good habits of self-awareness and reflectiveness – critical in both finding a best-fit school and thriving once enrolled.
  3. Lower the Stakes.
    Far too often as an admission counselor, I would find myself sitting across the room from a petrified child who was unable to articulate a response to an interview question or lacking conversational agility. When fear of failing motivates behavior, the long-term consequence is often toxic. My parents approached this process as exploratory and without specific expectations – they assured me that the possibility of being rejected from a school was: a) not attached to my value as a person or b) a definition of failure. They were proud of me for choosing to try to stretch beyond my comfort zone in the process of doing so and did not put any sort of pressure on me to achieve a specific outcome.
  4. Embrace Discomfort.
    I remember calling home (on my dorm landline!) in my first semester at boarding school and complaining about my advisor; at a later date sharing how I felt the hockey coach wasn’t being fair; and another time being frustrated with my grades. You will also get these calls, but your call to action will be in the form of listening, not fixing. Only much later, in my many years as a dorm head, I discovered a correlation between parents who let their kids struggle and child adaptability. By relinquishing a well-intentioned desire to control or restore comfort, my parents gave me permission to sit in my adversity – it made me feel as though they believed in my ability to problem-solve, but also reminded me they were there to offer support. They made me feel independent, but not alone.
  5. Grow Together.
    In a time of adolescence, when there is often a constant push and pull in the parent/child relationship, for me, living away from home actually brought me closer together with my parents. They would make weekly day trips down (three and a half hours each way) to watch my athletic games. I remember looking forward to showing them a new room arrangement in the dorm, sharing my mom’s brownies with my team, talking about my classes, teaching them about the school traditions and inviting them into my life in a way that felt very different than when I was home, seeing them regularly. I loved that they were interested in my friends, my classes, my mentors and who I was becoming. My appreciation for their ability to “show up” for me but not interfere would make me choose the path I did over and over again.

Boarding school is not for every child, nor does it fit every family circumstance. For those who are curious, however, it is certainly worth exploring. Should you want to continue the conversation with someone who has lived it, worked in it and is now viewing it through the lens of an educational consultant, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me at [email protected] or jump on to the new TABS Connect Worldwide platform.

Have fun!


Randi Dumont
Head Educational Consultant & Relational Development Specialist
JSA Education


Staying Connected Through Distance Learning

Forging Pandemic-Proof Bonds

COVID-19 has required our boarding community to pivot education plans like never before. Schools and students are proving up to the challenge.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of our lives. Working and learning from home have become the new normal. For boarders, this has been an especially unusual transition. Being together 24/7 in tightly knit groups is the cornerstone of the boarding school experience, so to have that come to an unexpected and abrupt end has been a hard adjustment for all of our students and faculty. But the boarding school spirit is nothing if not resilient, and our community has risen to the challenge – finding and creating new ways to stay connected and engaged while sheltering safely and educating at home. Here are some of the incredible things our schools, faculty and students are doing: Brentwood College has been live streaming workouts, and giving academic lessons using green screen technology, while their acapella group connected virtually from around the world to sing together in perfect harmony. St. George’s School had to cancel their annual fair, but the Parents Association, students and their families came out in organized shifts to show their support and love for the community through beautiful sidewalk chalk artistry. Western Reserve found a special way to honor the Class of 2020 through a time-honored tradition – with a twist.
Colorado Rocky Mountain School created a special Senior Spotlight on their Instagram page to celebrate their graduating class.
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⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣How long have you been at CRMS ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣3 years⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣What will you miss most about CRMS? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣I will miss the tight-knit community at CRMS the most. Everyone is supportive and looking out for each other.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣Was there a CRMS teacher that had a significant impact on your life? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣Lynn has been my art teacher for three years; she’s the best. AO has also been a highlight of my senior year. I really enjoyed his class. And of course Jim Gaw. He has been so supportive of me the past 3 years at CRMS. I’ve really enjoyed spending lots of trips and an interim with him. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣What are your plans for senior project?⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣I am planning on doing an in-depth study of law through interviews of lawyers throughout the valley. I will also be watching some of Anne Norrdin’s court cases remotely! ⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣What are your plans after graduation?⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣I am planning on attending the University of Denver. I’m hoping to join the figure skating team and major in Criminology. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣#boardingschool #boardingschoollife #readyformore #SeniorSpotlight #crmsclassof2020

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Trinity College School is connecting like never before with newly enrolled families from around the world.
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We will start this week off with two new student introduction given all of the exciting reach outs and engagement initiatives going on with our new families this week. As we have shifted to our world online, it’s actually allowing us to connect more frequently and in more personally then we normally do in the spring with our newly enrolled families. This past weekend, I enjoyed a great chat with Sienna ‘24 and her parents from Bermuda. Sienna is excited to be following in her uncle’s footsteps and continuing the family legacy. . . This week, our new families will hear from their student buddy, our global ambassadors as well as their housemaster. Some of the new students are even going to attend a Grade 5 breakfast or pop in on a house meeting with the current students. #newstudentmonday #community #welcometotcs #tcsprops #trinitycollegeschool #tcsbears #newstudents #tcssaidyes #boardingisbetter #independentschool #boardingschool

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The Peddie School’s very own Madame Letourneau hosted a virtual crepe-making class for students.
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Madame Letourneau brought French cuisine to life, hosting a live crêpe-making class online!

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Miss Hall’s School didn’t let quarantine dampen their Spirit Week – they found clever ways to get the students, alumnae, faculty and staff to participate in team activities to earn points.
We are so proud of the way our community has adapted and embraced this unique time. We’d love to hear from more of you! What creative things have you or your school done to make the most of remote learning? Share your stories with us at [email protected].

A Boarding Message

We’re All in This Together

Though apart, our tightknit boarding school communities are sticking together.

We know that life as a boarding school student or parent has been greatly affected by the impact of COVID-19. No one could have imagined just a few months ago that boarding schools across the world would be shut, thousands of young people would face the stress and struggle of trying to get home, and pupils would be getting their learning online at home instead of enjoying life in their residence halls at school.

It is natural to be worried at this time. Not just about the health and welfare of family and friends, but also the uncertainty of when schools will reopen and “normal” boarding life can begin again.

Until the danger and impact of COVID-19 has truly passed, it is difficult to answer these questions. Yet despite this uncertainty, there are some things about boarders and boarding schools around the world that we DO know.

A Virtual Hangout with students and teachers of Cate School

Photo courtesy of Cate School

Being a boarder means exuding confidence, supporting your friends and community, and being resilient. These are all incredible character qualities that thousands of boarders will be drawing upon to help themselves and others through this challenging time.

Boarding schools were amazing places before this crisis began, and will continue to be when it’s over. No global pandemic will ever daunt the worldwide community of boarding!

And finally…
Boarding school staff care deeply about the young people they look after and support. They remain dedicated to parents and students during this crisis, and look forward to welcoming back their boarders as soon as possible.

We are so proud of our students, faculty and parents who have remained vigilant during this time. Stay safe and healthy. We will see you soon.


Dee, Robin, Richard and Pete

Dee Guillemot-Rodgerson, National Co-ordinator, New Zealand Boarding Schools Association, Christchurch, New Zealand 

Robin Fletcher, Chief Executive, Boarding Schools’ Association, London, England 

Richard Stokes, Chief Executive, The Australian Boarding Schools Associations, Australia 

Pete Upham, Executive Director, The Association of Boarding Schools, North Carolina, USA


Why Ranking Private Schools Is Misleading

Finding the Best School to Be the Best You

You might find websites that rank secondary schools — usually by a single factor — the average SAT/ACT score of their students or graduates.

We believe this is highly misleading.

To start, there are no criteria guiding how schools report average SAT/ACT scores. While schools aim to be accurate, they may measure differently, so comparisons are inaccurate.

But in the larger picture — each school is independent, with its own history, mission, and a rich variety of programs and settings that make it completely unique.

To compare secondary schools by a single measure misses the whole point.

You can’t be measured by a single criterion and neither can the school that’s going to provide you with out-of-this-world opportunities — and the things you need to thrive, grow and demonstrate your abilities.

SAT/ACT score is far from the most important factor in determining how prepared a student is for college or university…

Two girls at boarding school smiling while taking a selfie

Boarding schools build students’ abilities to conquer new challenges, become advocates for themselves, and chart their own paths in new waters.

By the time university comes around, boarding school students are ready to advance themselves creatively, intellectually, athletically, inventively…not simply tackle transition to residential life.

Finding the best school is all about finding the right fit — to help you be the very best you

TABS offers a robust School Finder where you can enter numerous criteria about what you’re looking for in a school.

And we offer the ability to compare schools — by multiple factors — that make a real difference in the quality and character of your experience.

Find Schools Near You

As always, send us a note with your questions at [email protected] anytime!


Boarding Schools: The Antidote to Outsourced Parenting

Boarding School & Mindfulness

Mindfulness matters at every age. Boarding schools provide the support teens need to start healthy habits — for their bodies and minds — early.

There’s nothing more American than branding the strategies, tools and decisions that parents are forced to make each and every day. From the way newborns are fed to the schools and extracurriculars you choose, it’s easy to feel scrutinized. More and more parents are turning to others to show them the way via the aptly named notion of “outsourced parenting.”

The need to do more with less — less time and fewer resources — has mandated that parents become more efficient. There’s an app for everything you need, from carpooling and meal planning to help with homework. For most parents, this is a welcome aid when you’re so frequently required to be in multiple places at once. When does it become too much? When does the outsourcing create an insurmountable illusion that you’re simply not doing enough for your children yourself?

“The need to do more with less — less time and fewer resources — has mandated that parents become more efficient.”

You’ll do whatever you need to support your children’s growth and development, but who has time to be the math tutor, SAT prep guide, lacrosse coach, ballet instructor, college adviser or (and!) youth group leader? As your children approach high school and the years most crucial to setting them up for success in all areas of their future lives, there is no doubt you want to do what’s best for them. With increasing pressure and decreasing time, what’s the solution?

Boarding schools offer the antidote to a complicated, piecemeal compilation of outsourced parenting responsibilities. Instead of trying to vet the right people from whom you can trust your precious offspring will learn, boarding schools offer the best of the best, in one safe and supportive environment.

“Instead of trying to vet the right people from whom you can trust your precious offspring will learn, boarding schools offer the best of the best, in one safe and supportive environment.”

Boarding schools have long been lauded for their ability to truly cultivate well-rounded young women and men — preparing them to enter college and real life with all of the skills they’ll need. Autonomy is encouraged, independence is imperative, and support is plentiful. The combination of world-class academics, impassioned professors and mentors and incredible litany of extracurricular activities elevates the boarding school experience, of course, but the true difference is the ability to find all of this in one place. When you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get your child to ballet or whether he’s prepared for a calculus exam, you’re free to strengthen your parental bond in more important ways.

“…the true difference is the ability to find all of this in one place.”

To be clear, there isn’t anything wrong with outsourced parenting. Asking for and finding help when you need it is an important life skill — one which you can demonstrate to the young minds you’re raising by choosing the right things to outsource. Finding the right boarding school for your child allows you to shift your focus from logistics to forming a relationship that will segue into adulthood.

Outside of your home, boarding school is the second best place for your child to grow, mature and acquire unparalleled confidence, while you cheer them on as their parent: not their Uber driver, project manager or 24-hour laundry service. Ready For More? Sign up to receive helpful articles like this right to your inbox, or explore boarding schools near you.


4 Ways to Beat Homesickness When Away From Home for the First Time

How to Make Boarding School Feel Like Home

It’s easy to miss the familiarity of home when flying the coop for the first time. Here are four ways to make your new school a home away from home.

We get it. The thought of leaving a place that is familiar is overwhelming and may be the biggest reason you’re apprehensive about boarding school. But much like any fear in life, identifying it and addressing it will help you take its power away. Here are four ways to beat homesickness…and get back to enjoying the adventure you’re on.

We know how you’re feeling, and we can assure you—it’s totally normal. The good news is that you’re getting it out of the way before college hits! The other good news is that you can be prepared. For many people, anticipating something is actually way harder than going through it. (Think about what it was like to go to the doctor and get a shot as a kid!) Knowing that you may feel a little sad or out of place, you can devise a plan to make things familiar and comfortable.

Bring along photos or keepsakes that remind you of friends and family. Decorate your dorm room with things that make it feel more like home. Start a blog to keep track of your adventures and let your loved ones be a part of them. Make dates to video chat or a good ol’ fashioned phone call — or hey, even write a letter!

Don’t worry, we don’t mean actual homework. We mean doing some research on what awesome things to expect once you get to school. Excitement for what’s to come can help tame some of that anxious anticipation you’re experiencing. Plus, if you familiarize yourself with the campus and all it has to offer, you can spend less time worrying about getting lost and more time getting involved.

“The great part about boarding school campuses is that they’re designed to be inclusive and make you feel comfortable.”

Whatever you’re most excited about, make a plan to try it out as soon as you set foot on campus. Once you know where you’ll be and what you can do there, you can create little rituals that help you feel more at home. The great part about boarding school campuses is that they’re designed to be inclusive and make you feel comfortable. It’ll only take a few days to start to feel like home!

Sure, Facetime and Skype will help beat those “I miss mom” blues, but you should also use technology to prepare! Ask schools for ways to get in contact with future classmates or current students. Teens who have already spent time at your prospective school can help answer any questions you may have in an honest, candid and way-cooler-than-an-adult-could kind of way.

Many schools also have ways to connect you with your areas of passion and interest. If you’re attending boarding school to pursue ballet or are a STEAM whiz, then you can bet there are a few other people just like you! There is great comfort in familiarity, and even though the surroundings may look different, if you’re crazy about the same things then you’ll feel like you’re exactly where you belong.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about boarding schools are the resources they provide. From the world-class academics to professional-level extracurricular activities, boarding schools take, well, everything seriously. That is especially true when it comes to making students happy, healthy and comfortable. There are physical and mental health professionals — and, of course, a whole new community of peers — who are always available to ensure that you’re adjusting to your new normal.

Whether you just want to talk to someone once or twice or think you’d like a more consistent conversation about your adjustment, the school is there to help. Plus, your fellow students are all familiar with the way it feels to leave home and can offer what worked for them to overcome their homesickness.

Find out what real boarding school students  want you to know about the boarding school experience — or check out what boarding school is really like (#IRL) on our ‘gram.


Bonding While Boarding: Developing a Meaningful Relationship with Your Teen

Boarding Schools Mean Better Relationships

It’s hard to figure out how to be a parent and a friend. Boarding schools help you be both. Here’s how.

It happens all at once — your chubby-cheeked, freckle-faced kiddo has turned into a teenager. Their interests, language and even clothing can change in an instant! But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re your child, and you will always want what’s best for them. As it turns out, they want what’s best for them, too. They may just go about it differently than you.

In Steven James and David Thomas’s Wild Things—The Art of Nurturing Boys, they highlight a notion that is obvious, but often overlooked: teenagers shift their focus from their parents to other areas of influence, including teachers, coaches and peers. That may seem like a huge obstacle if you’re trying to connect with your teens. Enter boarding school.

Respect Goes Both Ways

From the first consideration of boarding school, the decision to attend a boarding school is not accidental or happenstance. Joining forces on this intentional choice is just one step down the path to mutual understanding and appreciation. By demonstrating trust in your student’s ability to thrive in such an independent environment, you’re opening the door for them to reciprocate that trust.

“Without feeling like their parents are breathing down their necks, teens are more likely to open up.”

Renowned adolescent psychiatrist Meg van Achterberg told the Washington Post in their article 7 mistakes parents make with teens that talking to your children in a respectful tone is absolutely crucial to a successful relationship. “Mutual respect is so important to teens,” says van Achterberg. A simple and perhaps obvious concept that still eludes so many parents. When your student steps onto their boarding school campus, they immediately take accountability for their academics, extracurricular activities and daily life in a way that is only possible when living away from their safety net. In that moment, respect is inherent.


You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

Whether you feel ready to ship off your youth (and their angsty attitudes right along with them) now or are grappling with how you’ll feel once your chicks have flown the coop, it’s difficult to imagine what life might be like without them around. One amazing outcome of boarding schools is that both parents and students find that they’re able to forge a deeper connection than if they’d waited for the college years to instill independence.

“…you know that they’re learning independence in a safe space, so you’re more willing to trust them.”

College can be an overwhelming place to claim independence and can often happen at a time when teenagers think that they’re ready to sever ties with their parents. By beginning the process of encouraging independence while still providing guidance and support at an earlier age, your relationship can reach a beautiful balance. They know you’re there to help them and may be more willing to ask for it and, in turn, you know that they’re learning independence in a safe space, so you’re more willing to trust them.

Location is Everything

It’s clear that timing and location are key elements to finding good footing with your teenager, but even the best-laid plans can fail in execution. The failsafe of the incredible staff surrounding your student at a boarding school is one that will help you sleep soundly each night. Knowing that you’re supported by talented mentors who specialize in adolescent psychology and behavior helps you let go of the reins a bit and focus on the more fun aspects of your teenager’s life.

“The failsafe of the incredible staff surrounding your student at a boarding school is one that will help you sleep soundly each night.”

In a study we conducted to reveal The Truth About Boarding Schools, 86% of students reported that they were satisfied with their family lives. No coincidence there. Absence can make the heart grow fonder, while intentional and meaningful conversations can make the relationships even stronger. Without feeling like their parents are breathing down their necks, teens are more likely to open up. Of course, we can’t guarantee that they’ll want to tell you everything, but we sure can provide an environment that will make them eager to share!

You’ve probably got questions, and we’ve got answers! Find the right boarding school for your student or view our FAQs.