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Reading my last posts, I think that it is time for something more light hearted. Let’s talk about a British invention: boarding schools. You see, here, when your kids are seven, you can send them to a boarding school. This means that you are only going to see them during week-ends -if you are lucky- or during holidays-when they are not holidaying with their friends.

This is the main reason why British people tend to have only one child if they are not insanely rich. You see, for the privilege of not seeing your child any more, you will have to fork out more than 3500 pounds a month. Yes, you read that well.
Apparently, boarding schools are back in fashion. My daughter, at some point, even wanted to go to one, because all her British friends wanted to…it made my French blood boil. The phase passed, which is good -and we won’t have to remortgage the house.
I asked one of her classmates why she wanted to go. She answered me that “it was going to help her independence”. I was gobsmacked. She was ten. I must have missed a trick.
What is the impact of going to a boarding school? Well, it depends. Most kids seem to survive, find themselves and even thrive, but some are emotionally damaged for a long, long time. Going to a boarding school shapes you for life. It leaves subtle marks: a certain distance when you speak to others, a will of perfection in everything you do, a fierce independence mixed with extreme vulnerability, and a sense of having been through something, a real accomplishment. Oh, and boarding schools are single sex, I am convinced that it might explain why over here so many men are into cross-dressing. Weird.
Most of the time, it’s not too bad for the kids. But for all French mums, the result is the same: lots of tears and anti-depressants eventually. Wine might help. Some friends of mine started drinking in their forties, when their kids left for boarding school. And they had to spend more money in rehab, cleaning their act. They ended up almost broke, and sometimes single. Tough.
And then, a lot of Brits want to make it look like they went to a posh and expensive boarding school, when they weren’t. It is a pretend game. One day, they are all posh, the next, they are chewing gum and swearing as if there is no tomorrow. Why can’t they just accept who they are?
As for me, I would only send my children to a boarding school if I had no choice (i.e. If I was sick, or living far from a city). Call me a French Mum!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Oh my! For 3200 pounds a month you could send your child on a nonstop cruise around the world where they’d be allowed to sleep in, eat to satiation, dance to exhaustion and learn a thing or two about the real world with its real life places and real life people. The *real* facts of life!

  • I couldn’t bear to send my children to boarding school. As it is, they are only “ours” for a little while. They grow up so fast and the time will come when they will spread their wings and fly.I will not stand in their way. Heck, I will even shove them out of the nest if I have to. But not today. I intend to share as many experiences with them while they are young so that all of us will have a treasure trove of memories to draw from when we are older and live apart. đŸ™‚ Have a great weekend!

  • My Papy was sent to boarding school in Paris for secondary school(but only because his parents lived in Vietnam). I don’t know how much he enjoyed it but he did acquire the filthiest and richest lexicon of profanity.

  • Wow! My daughter is only starting preschool in September and it’s two minutes down the road from my house. I’m still panicking over it! I could never send her to a boarding school.

  • Sending a child to boarding school is nothing short of insane in my book, but I do have a cousin who went to one in high school and has done very well in life – she is now the head of a Math Dept. at a High School. To send a child to boarding school at seven years of age is beyond tragic, that child will be scarred for life. I believe that children were meant to grow up in families.

  • The boarding school experience is a unique one. I did not go to boarding school, but there were many boarding school kids who went to our college. They definitely carried themselves differently than the rest of us. I could never put my finger on whether it was because of the boarding school, the indifference of their parents or the great affluence that shaped them. I love being around my kids too much to even entertain that idea…plus we could never afford it!

  • @ Cathy – you are so right. travelling would be a much better (and cheaper) way to find oneself…
    @Sam – It comes faster than I thought. My older one is becoming a teenager..
    @Isabelle -It was a different time I suppose. Believe me, your Papy had a lucky escape. Some are traumatised for life…
    @ Elizabeth – Most kids usually do OK after a boarding school. They usually are quite tough. glad it went well for your cousin!
    @ Meagan – Same here!

  • I just love the time I have with my kids. I love watching them grow and I love being a part of their lives.

  • I can’t imagine sending my daughter off to boarding school at any time. I do understand that its “the thing” in Britain but I just can’t imagine. Found you through the Happy Monday Blog Hop and am now a follower. Love the blog

  • First let me say I love the term gobsmacked!
    I was telling my co-workers about this post. I found it so interesting. The prospect of not seeing my children for long periods is unfathomable. My daughter left for college and I miss her daily. I could not have let her go off at 10 when I could barely let her go at 19….anyway the only thing my co-workers and I could agree on was the thought of liking not having to cart our children off to their various activities. If they were away at boarding school their activities would probably be part of the curriculum.
    I love reading your blog its an education(for me) in cultural differences and it is so very interesting!

  • How did I miss this post?! Wonderful French eye on one of our very British things. Can’t believe the 10 year old who was aiming for boarding school to get her independence!
    Well I did it – I went away at 13, leaving my mother weeping (thanks to being stuck in Staffordshire, in a veritable desert of decent day schools). I was desperately homesick for a few months, missed my cat (although less my family!), but I had so many brilliant giggles with many of the wonderful women who are still my best friends today. Sometimes good things come out of the situations which seem dire from the outside.

  • @ Meryl – I love spending time with my kid, but between a job, a hubby, a business, time is sometimes scarce…I think I might be becoming British!!!
    @Yankee Texan – Looks like American Mums are like French Mums…
    @ Jenn – Thanks, I have to admit that it is a steep learning curve for me…Sending your kid to a boarding school might have its benefits (no more taxiing around London…)
    @ Accidental Londoner – You did it! Impressive! I love your comment about your cat (so very British :-)) I can’t help feeling a bit sad for your Mum…

  • I was a day pupil at a co-ed boarding school – around 20% of the students boarded, many of them Cantonese, and most of my friends were boarders as opposed to the day pupils. One of my friends there had been boarding since she was 3 (there’s a school in Cumbria which takes pupils as boarders from 3 to 14).
    I wasn’t aware it was just a British thing – most of our boarders weren’t British, many were German, three French, a couple of Japanese students and a couple of Americans – their parents all still lived in their home countries as did the parents of the Cantonese students. The British students were the children of ex-pats living in places like Korea, Dubai and Hong Kong.
    Only one of the British students I knew had parents still in Britain – they were, in fact, around 6 miles from the school – but he boarded because he preferred it.

  • This is a very interesting post. I have never understood the point of having children only to palm them off! The thought horrifies me of sending my child away. I know there are obvious reasons for some and particularly so for families in the forces etc, where disruption to schooling can be a problem. I am not surprised some Mums end up on anti depressants. Our kids aren’t little for long and then they are gone! so sad…