Seeing a child off to boarding school for the first time is an exciting step in his/her life and it’s important to help them be fully prepared. Most likely you have talked with your child about the decision to go to a boarding school; you’ve researched the school’s focus, mission, philosophy, disciplinary procedures, expectations, privileges and restrictions and you’ve determined which school meets both of your goals. The applications are in and the decisions have been made – now what? Below are some tips to prepare you and your child for this transition.
Have you and your child visited the school?
It is important that you and your child visit the school and have the opportunity to meet staff, ask questions and state any concerns. Visit at a time when you will see the students in both academic and leisure settings. Sit in on a class to observe teaching styles. Pay attention to the student and staff interaction outside of the classroom, as well as how students interact with each other. Note adherence to the formal uniform and leisure dress code. Many boarding schools have “buddy days” where potential students are paired up with current students; this is a great way to get a feel for the school.
Is your child ready for the boarding school’s structured schedule?
Most boarding schools maintain a tight schedule, including structured study time of up to two hours a day. Students are required to use the full scheduled study time. Once their daily homework is completed, they are expected to work on long-term assignments, review information previously taught, and preview upcoming topics. Although acceptance into a boarding school indicates your child has the basic academic skills to succeed, if a student is unable to study independently this study time can be challenging. You can help your child be better prepared for this by modeling a similar structured schedule at home in the months before school starts. Observe and note if your child has the strong independent study skills and higher level writing skills necessary to succeed.
What role will you, as the parent, have regarding schoolwork?
This is also a transition for you as a parent. You may be accustomed to monitoring your child’s homework, helping with the study process and tracking grades. In most boarding schools, the study time is closely monitored and the students have “house parents” as well as a specific academic mentor who will monitor your child’s homework time and grades. These adults will supervise your child’s academics. If a student doesn’t do the work, the school will handle this according to its disciplinary policy.
How will you stay in touch?
It is important to discuss how and when you will keep in touch while your child is away at school. The school may have specific times set aside for making phone calls, emailing, using Skype, and so forth. Encourage your child to become involved in his/her new life by actively participating in classes, activities and building friendships with other students. The less homesick your child is, the more focused he/she will be on school.
What are the last minute things that need to be done?
Don’t forget the logistics:
- Label clothing and other possessions.
- Keep a list of model and serial numbers for all electronics your child is taking to school.
- Prepare a written list of all health problems, allergies, etc. and give a copy to both the school’s nurse and your child’s house parent.
- Make sure the school and your child both have a list of emergency contact information in case they cannot get in touch with you, including names, phone numbers and email addresses.
- Your child will need money! Before leaving for school establish a budget. While he/she is at school, regularly monitor the bank accounts and credit cards to be sure he/she is sticking to the established budget.
- Use the summer time to brush up on study skills, writing, or other academic skills.
As long as your child is mentally and academically prepared for this experience, these things will easily fall into place. This is an exciting opportunity for your child, and with the right preparation it can be an extremely rewarding educational experience.
Cathlene Schwartzbeck is director at Sylvan Learning Center, the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels. For more information call 869.6005 or visit www.SylvanLearning.com/centers/12205
By Beth Krueger
Taylor Garrison and Nagisa Ito discovered it the first week they settled in as new boarding students at Emma Willard.
Taylor, now a junior, and Nagisa, a sophomore, say that’s a special part of their education at the school. “That’s the bonding that forms among ‘Emma’s girls.”
They’ve also found that this connection extends beyond their classmates on the 134-acre historic campus on the hills of Troy. When off-campus, if they mention studying at Emma Willard, there’s often an alumna eager to share their experiences. Garrison recalls such a conversation when she was home on a visit and another while on a train. That also was the experience of Rebekah Layton, a 2001 graduate who served in the military. She struck up a conversation with an Emma Willard student on a plane when returning from Korea. That was one of many such chats during her travels. “It’s a great network of great people,” she said.
Of the 317 enrolled this year, 202, or 64 percent, are boarding students. Flags of the students’ home countries hang over a hallway by the stairs to the dorm rooms, demonstrating that the school has a global reach and experience. This year, girls hail from 20 states and 30 countries. Freshmen live in the same hall, with activities geared toward providing support and navigating the first year. A mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors make up the other halls.
The 15 dorm halls have a cadre of catalysts to create a community, promote social and ethical values, and be guideposts to help students grow in and out of the classroom. These combination adult and student teams offer ready ears and voices of experience to listen and guide. A resident faculty member lives in the dorm as a combination of mentor, role model and houseparent. The team also includes a senior proctor and a junior or senior educational peer, popular leadership positions that require significant training.
“They’re really like sisters,” said Ito.
The alcoves tucked along each hallway are gathering places for spontaneous and regularly planned conversations on life skills, health and other topics. The student leaders also host teas, and along with the resident, they organize weekend events that take place inside and outside halls. Visits to area performing arts venues, such as the Egg at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, and restaurants are among weekend activities.
Now working on a doctorate in social psychology at the University at Albany, Layton enrolled at Emma Willard as a day student, commuting from her home in Rensselaerville. But she quickly made the change to boarding out of a desire to fully take advantage of the school’s community and numerous extra-curricular activities. This included becoming captain of the rowing team – “a sport where you can challenge yourself and learn self-discipline skills that serve you well throughout life” – and joining the science club, where she and other participants gathered on Emma Willard’s lawn, hot chocolate in hand, to view a meteor shower as part of an astronomy project. She found that boarding on campus provided growth and understanding of community that often are not experienced until college. Participating in these and many other activities helped her find out what she’d like to do – she went on to the University of Pennsylvania, served in the Army as a provost marshal operations officer and military police officer, including in Iraq, and she plans to teach after completion of her PhD.
Ito, whose home is in Tokyo, belonged to an organization in Japan that recommended Emma Willard. She’s in her first year here and is enjoying her first-time experience in an all-girls school.
Garrison attended parochial middle school and learned of Emma Willard while researching boarding schools. How long has she been here? In answer, she shows the engraving on the inside of her school ring – “die hard” – signifying students who’ve been enrolled since their freshman year. Layton wears her die-hard ring, as well.
Ties with the Capital Region extend beyond cultural and social activities on- and off-campus. Emma Willard’s community service program offers volunteer activities at museums, shelters and gardens. Students choose between various types of service at organizations with different missions in keeping with what may be good fits for their interests. Garrison, for example, enjoyed tutoring young children at a nearby school. The program is intended to complement Emma Willard’s academic learning, to encourage the girls to take initiative, work with a team, give to the community and hopefully make these lifetime habits.
Students are encouraged to think of means of giving back on a global, as well as local, basis. For Garrison, that’s about being audacious. The school is founding sponsor of Audacia, a girls’ forum for education that, in the spirit of the Emma Hart Willard’s vision, brings together leading professionals in education, human development and other fields to address access challenges for education for girls. She is involved in a student committee developing the logo and branding for Audacia, which will be featured at the forum’s interdisciplinary conference in New York City in the fall and seen in resource information on paper and on screens around the world.
Reaching out across the globe is something that hit close to home for Ito. Earlier in the spring, she was home shopping in Tokyo and felt the ground shifting. They endured a number of aftershocks, but worries focused more on family members located in the area more heavily impacted by the earthquake. It took about a week to be able to reach one relative who they found was safe. Since returning to school, Ito has been developing a project to raise funds for disaster relief in Japan.
On a sunny day last month, students poured out of one of the Gothic academic buildings on campus and across the lawn at lunchtime. They quickly filled the dining hall with talk and laughter. A look through the archives could produce similar scenes over the school’s almost two centuries. While alumnae and current students get together, they share the experience of shouldering rigorous academic course loads and extra-curricular activities designed to provoke initiative, innovation and critical thinking. They also have made fun memories and cultivated friendships through chats in the residence halls, team projects and the sense of community.
Emma Willard student organization awards grants to area non-profits
Four Capital District non-profits received good news last month that they had been chosen to receive grants. Funding support is always a cause for celebration among non-profits, especially in these difficult economic times when need for their services and costs of operation escalate. But these telephone calls brought something special. The grants were from the students at Emma Willard through the school’s Phila club.
This year, the grant recipients are: Community Caregivers, based in Guilderland, Unity House in Troy, Troy Area United Ministries, and Troy Boys and Girls Club.
Phila, which provides academic credit to participants, is designed as a hands-on learning experience. Operating in essence as a student-run foundation, the program’s participants review and make funding selections from applications submitted by non-profits. During the year, the club also organizes activities in the area where students can volunteer their time and talent.
Phila is supported by an alumna and her spouse who saw this as a creative means to teach students about philanthropy.
Emma Willard School
285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180
All-girls boarding and day school; 9-12; post-graduate college prep (1 year)
110 Darrow Road, New Lebanon, NY 12125
Co-ed college prep boarding and day school; 9-12
Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School
330 Route 21C, Ghent, NY 12075
425 Morse Hill Road, Amenia, NY 12501
Co-ed, day and boarding school for dyslexic students; 2-12
131 School Road, Millbrook, NY 12545
Co-ed, college prep, day and boarding school; 9-12
Mizzentop Day School
64 E. Main Street, Pawling, NY 12564
Co-ed; day school K-8
Oakwood Friends School
22 Spackenkill Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Co-ed boarding and day school based on Quaker values; 6-12 (day); 9-12 (boarding)
700 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564
All-boys boarding and day school; 7-12, post-graduate year
Chapel Field Christian School
211 Fleury Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Co-ed, K-12; boarding for foreign exchange students
New York Military Academy
78 Academy Avenue, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY
Co-ed, college prep, boarding and day school based on military model; 7-12
Storm King School
314 Mountain Road, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY
Co-ed, boarding and day school; 8-12
The Hackley School
293 Benedict Avenue, Tarrytown, NY
Co-ed; K-12 day and 9-12 (five day) boarding school
The Harvey School
260 Jay Street, Katonah, NY
Co-ed boarding school and day school; 6-12
The Masters School
49 Clinton Avenue, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Co-ed boarding and day school; 5-8 (day only), 9-12 (boarding/day). Grade 5 co-ed, 6-8 separated by gender.
Academy of Christian Leadership
3429 Route 9, Valatie, NY 12184
Academy of the Holy Names
1072 New Scotland Road, Albany, NY 12208
All-girls college prep day school; pre-K-12
The Adirondack School of Northeastern N.Y.
5158 County Route 113, Greenwich, NY 12834
The Albany Academies
(Albany Academy for Girls & The Albany Academy)
135 Academy Road, Albany, NY 12208
Boys, girls, some co-ed classes
Anderson Center for Autism
U.S. 9, Hyde Park, New York 12538
Year-round day and residential programs for children (ages 5-12) and adults with autism and related developmental disabilities.
Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy of the Capital District
54 Sand Creek Road, Albany, NY 12205
Bethlehem Children’s School
12 Fisher Boulevard, Slingerlands, NY 12159
Bishop Maginn High School
99 Slingerland Street, Albany, NY 12202
Blessed Sacrament School
605 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206
150 Corlear Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12304
Catholic Central High School
625 Seventh Avenue, Troy, NY 12182
Christ the King
Sumter Avenue, Albany, NY 12203
Christian Brothers Academy
12 Airline Drive, Albany, NY 12205
110 Darrow Road, New Lebanon, NY 12125
Coed college prep boarding and day school; 9-12
The Doane Stuart School
199 Washington Avenue, Rensselaer, NY 12144
Emma Willard School
285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180
All-girls boarding and day school; 9-12;
post-graduate college prep (1 year)
Hawthorne Valley School
330 Route 21C, Ghent, NY 12075
Helderberg Christian School
PO Box 164, Westerlo, NY 12193
Holy Spirits School
54 Highland Drive, East Greenbush, NY 12061
14 Pine Valley Road, Hoosick, NY 12089
174 Williams Road, Troy, NY 12180
Loudonville Christian School
374 Loudon Road, Loudonville, NY 12211
Maimonides Hebrew Day School of the Capital District
404 Partridge Street, Albany, NY 12208
Mother Teresa Academy
511 Moe Road, Clifton Park, NY 12065
Mountain Road School
5 Abode Road, New Lebanon, NY 12125
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School
2600 Albany Street, Schenectady, NY 12304
Our Savior’s Lutheran School
63 Mountain View Avenue, Albany, NY 12205
Redemption Christian Academy
192 Ninth Street, Troy, NY 12180
Robert C. Parker School
4254 NY Route 43, Wynantskill, NY 12198
Sacred Heart School
308 Spring Avenue, Troy, NY 12180
Saratoga Academy of the Arts & Sciences
10 Old PLank Road, 1524 Route 9, Clifton Park, NY 12065
Saratoga Central Catholic High School
247 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Schenectady Christian School
36-38 Sacandaga Road, Scotia, NY 12302
Spa Christian School
206 Greenfield Avenue, Ballston Spa, NY 12020
St. Augustine School
525 Fourth Avenue, Troy, NY 12182
St. Brigid’s Regional Catholic School
700 Fifth Avenue, Watervliet, NY 12189
St. Clement’s Regional Catholic School
231 Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
St. Gregory’s School for Boys
121 Old Niskayuna Road, Loudonville, NY 12211
St. John the Evangelist School
806 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
St. Mary’s Academy
4 Parsons Avenue, Hoosick Falls, NY 12090
St. Mary’s Catholic School
12 Sixth Street, Waterford, NY 12188
St. Mary’s Institute
10 Kopernik Boulevard, Amsterdam, NY 12010
St. Mary’s School
40 Thompson Street, Ballston Spa, NY 12020
St. Mary’s – St. Alphonsus Regional Catholic School
10-12 Church Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801
St. Matthew Lutheran School
75 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY 12209
St. Pius X School
Upper Loudon Road, Loudonville, NY 12211
St. Thomas the Apostle School
42 Adams Place, Delmar, NY 12054
Susan Odell Taylor School for Children
116 Pinewoods Avenue, Albany, NY 12180
Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs
122 Regent Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Woodland Hill Montessori School
100 Montessori Place, North Greenbush, NY 12144