Boarding School - Things I Would Not Say to a Boarding School Mom

Things I Would Not Say to a Boarding School Mom

Being a boarding school mom is not something I talk a lot about online.

Honestly, in part because I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around it yet.

In part because in the year 2019, who tells other moms that this is the chosen educational route for your kids?

What kind of family chooses this as a schooling option?

Especially a family who loves homeschooling, unschooling, world schooling and adventuring together?

I get asked a lot of questions about boarding school.

I get asked how I’m doing, how are the girls doing, how did we make this decision, what impact has it had on our family.

I also get comments and thoughts and opinions, said and unsaid, about boarding school, having our girls away from home and our journey raising third culture kids.

For us, this decision did not come easy.

It wasn’t something we planned for or happily chose.

In fact, it was something I said I would NEVER do.

We’d visited a missionary family in the Congo many years ago before Abby was even born. They were filling out applications to send their two girls to boarding school a few countries away from them.

I sat appalled. I told Jeremy after that trip that I would never, ever, ever choose that schooling option for our girls. How could I send our kids away like that?

Just a few years later, I began homeschooling our girls for the very reason that one day, when we were overseas, my girls would be homeschooled NOT sent to boarding school.

Then started our journey overseas

Boarding School - Things I Would Not Say to a Boarding School Mom

While in language school, our girls went to French public school because I was in school all day as well. Unfortunately, that is an option our girls would never want to experience again.

When we moved to Senegal for our first term, they attended a wonderful British MK school. They loved it. But it was a 45 minute drive from us which meant they left for school at 7am and didn’t get back home until 5:45 or 6pm, depending on traffic that day. If you’ve ever experienced traffic in Africa, you know that this daily trip back and forth to school would take it’s toll on them.

Add in, that as the girls approach high school, being in British school with a British diploma was not going to be the best option for them. They would benefit from an American school with an American diploma.

Before we even finished our first term overseas, we found ourselves considering boarding school for our second term.

To stay living where we were living with the ability to keep building the relationships we’d begun, we had just a few choices.

French school – out.

British school – out.

Homeschool – maybe.

Boarding school – maybe.

We talked as a family many, many times about the pros and cons of both options.

We weighed out what being home all the time would look like. There aren’t many activities, programs, sports, theaters or things to do in our town. As girls, they can’t just walk the neighborhood on their own. Homeschooling would be just that. Home. All the time.

We thought about what boarding school would be like. We toured the school. We talked to kids who’d boarded already. They even had opportunities to board a few times at the British school so they knew somewhat how life would be as a boarding student.

And we prayed.

Boarding School - Things I Would Not Say to a Boarding School Mom

We asked the girls to take a few weeks to pray about it.

As a mom, I labored, grieved and cried over this decision.

I desperately wanted them to choose homeschooling yet I desperately wanted them to have friends, English church, school activities, spring musicals and youth group.

After the season of weighing and praying, we decided we would give boarding school a try. We would give it a chance. We would see if it fit our family.

We would step out on the water one more time and see what Jesus had in store.

That meant telling our families about this decision.

That meant telling our supporters about this decision.

That meant owning it, preparing for it and deciding that we would make it the very best experience as we possibly could for our family.

It also meant keeping our minds and hearts open for whatever would come our way.

Since then, we’ve made this transition. It’s here and happening.

I sat and teared up through “New Boarding Parents Orientation” at the start of the school year. I’ve talked with other moms walking this road. I’ve watched families thrive and struggle with this schooling option.

The good and the bad.

Between what we’ve heard and what other boarding moms have mentioned to me, here is a list of things you might not want to say to a boarding school mom if you were ever to meet one.

{added to the list of things you might not want to say to a missionary mom}

A few of the things we’ve heard:

1} How can you send your kids to boarding school? I learned the answer to this question VERY early in our decision making. I was not sending my kids to boarding school. I was letting them go. There is a huge difference. Our girls wanted to go and they wanted to experience everything boarding had to offer them as middle and high school students. I needed to let them go and free them to take that step for their future.

2} I could never do that. Nope. I could never either. Yet, here I am. I could never be a missionary. I could never live in Africa. I could never take my kids overseas. I could never do a lot of things. But what does Jesus call us to? Obedience. He promises to strengthen us when we are weak, to hold us when we are afraid, to encourage us when we are overwhelmed. Jesus is the answer. He is how I do any of this. And he is there to help you in all of your “I could nevers.”

3} The joking “Oh, I wish I could send my kids to boarding school.” No, you really don’t wish that. And for those of us who are boarding moms, it isn’t a joke any more.

4} It’s like you’re empty nesters! Again, no. I still wake up at 7am because I know that’s when my girls’ alarms go off for school. I text with them before school. I keep my phone close in case I get the call that Elayna has a migraine or Abby is having a rough day. I watch the clock for 3:15 because I know the girls will be back in the dorm soon. I facetime with them to fill out their NHS application or work on history homework or hear about the drama of their day. My day is still quite full of my kids. Parenting from far away, co-parenting with dorm parents and juggling trips to Dakar between our lives where we live. I’ve fully decided that I don’t like the phrase empty nesters at all for this season of our lives.

5} Why don’t you just move to the city? Well, if we fully believe in the Great Commission… someone has to live outside the city. Someone has to stay out in the unreached people of our world. Thankfully, I’m close enough to the girls’ school for day trips if needed. Many of my friends are an airplane ride away from their kids. Should they just move to where a school is for their children? No. Boarding school is a GREAT option and helps so many families keep working right where God has called them to be.

Don’t get me wrong… some families DO choose to move because of this reason and I highly admire them for it. Moving in Africa is no joke. If things don’t go well for our girls and it’s in their best interest for us to move? We would do it in a heartbeat. This decision for missionary families is definitely not just about moving to the city or not. It’s a HUGE decision that many families wrestle with deeply, pray over endlessly and no one makes it lightly.

6} I would worry constantly about my kids! I can’t even describe the temptation to worry over my girls. News articles like this one? Yeah. WORRY. I wake up in the night with my heart pounding sometimes. I have to let go and let God daily. Not knowing if they are sick, lonely, sad… not knowing if they are struggling. It’s incredibly tough. But it’s also an incredible opportunity to trust God with my kids in ways I never would have if they were home. I’m hitting another level of trust, friends. This does not make me super mom or super Christian. Far from it. I’m learning every day how to do this. Learning to trust God is how I survive the loss and the worry and the stress. Trust my amazing God who loves my girls way more than I do.

7} What if your kids resent you for sending them away? This is a tough one because they absolutely could. They could choose to resent us for moving overseas or homeschooling them or letting them go to school. The options are endless. Just like they are for you. Your kids could resent you for forcing them to play soccer or making them do the dishes or making them stay in marching band. Kids get this choice. All kids. Knowing this, we’ve kept our girls as a part of the decision process from the very beginning. They were in on the discussions. They prayed with us. They helped make the choice to go. We have conversations each time we see them about how it’s going, do they like it, what is good and what is bad. They know that we will make whatever change is needed if boarding school is absolutely failing them. But even with all of that, they still could resent it one day. I pray not but it’s true.

8} You seem like you are fine with it and doing so well. #ohdearbetsy I have never in my life cried like I did the day we came home from dropping the girls off at the dorm. Big, fat, ugly cry. Grieving. Heart breaking. I saw Elayna’s flip flops and Annalise’s headphones and Abby’s coloring book left out and I LOST IT. For about a week, all Jeremy ate was cereal and tacos. I didn’t want to cook. I didn’t want to think about what we’d just done. I couldn’t even walk in their bedrooms without crying. But, Jesus dried my tears. He walked me through the process. My girls were thriving and I knew I could too. Our family could do this and make it the very best experience. We could grow and learn and love more because of it. Every single day I make the choice to believe that with my whole heart. Just keep going. One day at a time. Choosing to be thankful that God was in this too.

I can also add that this decision wasn’t made quickly or lightly for us. Because of the long decision process, the time on furlough in preparation for this change and my own personal journey with Jesus, I honestly was ready for it. I’d grieved for two long years, expecting and anticipating the emotions and transitions and challenges to come. I’m very thankful for that preparation time for me and for the girls. On the day the girls went to school, I knew it was the right thing for our family in this season. I had peace.

9} That would be so weird having another mom and dad for my kids. Yeah. It is. It’s very weird! If we want to take the girls to lunch, I let the dorm parents know. From the chores they do each day to getting their homework done to signing permission slips… that’s all the dorm parents. Not me. It is weird. But it’s also a blessing. Their dorm parents are gifts from God that love our girls and have helped them through a tremendously hard transition. They have new little dorm families with dorm sisters walking the same roads they are walking. Their dorm moms are my friends and I feel honored to share my girls with them. That’s a gift. I choose to see it that way.

10} Boarding school seems like a punishment. This has been said to our girls. American movies and TV tend to paint boarding school in a very bad light. So when people have said this to the girls, they say, “Boarding school is like summer camp every day!” And to us, they say, “Mom, people don’t know what boarding school is really like or they wouldn’t say that.” Now that they’ve been in school for 6 months or so, it’s not all like camp every day. It’s hard, lonely, busy and exhausting. But the amount of fun activities, youth group experiences, campus life and lots of friends to hang out with all hours of the day… they still would never say it’s a punishment.

11} Don’t you feel like your family is changed forever? I do feel that way. We’ve all changed in this process. The girls have grown up a bit too fast. They’ve gained more independence than most teenagers are allowed to have. Our family time together is more precious than it was before. I hear them say things like, “Yeah, I’m going to my parents’ house this weekend.” and “Mom, my dorm mom said I could…” and “I’m in a taxi on my way to the mall.” and “I’m so glad you are happy that we love school and that you aren’t super sad all the time.” In those moments, I’m thinking, “Your PARENTS’ house? Uh… your house?” and “Your dorm mom said what?” and “You’re in a taxi???” and “Not sad? Oh, honey. If you only knew.” Our family is forever changed by this experience. Only time will tell how it will all play out but I do know this: Jesus has been in it since day 1. He’ll continue to be in this process with us as long as God has us on this journey.

I probably could keep going with this list, but I won’t. I have so many unprocessed words yet to make it to paper.

Here is another “What not to say to the parents of boarding school kids” list. And, by the same author, reasons why she’s thankful as a boarding school mom. She also has 6 reasons why boarding school rocks. Reading those posts will further explain the mystery of choosing boarding school as a great option for your kids.

Like most things in this overseas life, this is again one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It might end up being the hardest thing I ever do as a mom.

In entering this tiny world of boarding school moms, I’ve realized a lot of what we go through happens in silence. It’s very hard to put to words what this process looks like, feels like and is like… especially when it isn’t a popular option in our day. Often times, these moms journey alone and I’d love for that to change.

So while this list isn’t exhaustive nor is it every boarding families’ journey, it’s our journey. It’s the process we’ve gone through over the past few years.

I can’t at all speak for other boarding moms or families.

But I do want them to know they aren’t alone. There is a team of mighty moms bravely allowing our kids to board at school. Even on the days we feel very much less than mighty, we need Jesus and each other to keep us going.

What do you think about boarding school? What is a question you have that maybe I didn’t touch on here? What is something you would say to a boarding school mom?

I’d love to know. Share and ask away.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing as we are agonizing over this decision as well. When I happened upon your post it gave us so much hope that we are following the right path. It is agonizing and I have already had one friend make a comment about being the mean mom who ships her kids away. That tore at my core! Our girls need the benefits and have earned themselves an opportunity that cannot be replicated at home but we have said let’s give it a year and see where we are. Fingers crossed that it goes as well as it has for your family. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for your transparency. I know God led me to your page in my search for information and advice in our preparation to move to Africa to teach at a boarding school. As hard as it is to leave my adult children to do this thing that God is calling us to, I can only imagine the heartache that the parents of my future students feel as they send their babies to be loved on by someone else. And that is our primary goal as we move forward: yes, we want to help kids like yours get a good education, but more than that, we want to love them as God loves them and encourage their parents in the process. If you have ANY other advice or requests for us on behalf of families like yours, I am open to hearing it.
    Praying God’s continued blessing on your family and your work in Western Africa.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story! I’ll be praying as you prepare for your move. Just being there, praying with them, caring for them and showing them Jesus is such a huge BLESSING to missionary families! Thank you for answering the call to go overseas.

  3. We were mission workers in rural, NE Brazil, with no decent schools near enough. Home schooled till they were 11 yrs, then sent them off, one by one, to England. Like you, they shared in the decision, it was horribly hard for me, especially with the first and the last one. They all had some difficult times. But now they are grown, and they are great Christian people, and are all three grateful for the experience, and the truth is, we are closer as a family than most other “normal” families we know. Even though, now they are all in England, and it’s us who have left again, for mission work in Portugal.

    Wanted to reassure you that it can be good – though hard.

  4. You have 3 amazing girls. Sounds like the best option for them. Hardest for the parents, especially sending all three at once. My oldest is headed to college in Florida soon. I am sure it will be hard.

  5. “Learning to trust God is how I survive the loss and the worry and the stress. Trust my amazing God who loves my girls way more than I do.”

    Yes. This. For every decision we make as parents. Every. Single. Day.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. It is easy to feel alone and to let the critical comments sneak in.
    We are in Tanzania. Like you, I always said I would never let my kids go to boarding school. My oldest is only 7 but we are seriously considering it for all the same reasons. Life in an African village is limited.
    I resonate with what you said about how you started the grieving process even years before they went, I feel like God has started that in my heart. Its a little sad and a little happy-happy because I feel like I dont take this time I have them for granted.

    Thanks for sharing your journey-just found ur blog tonight and I have been blessed:)

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Our girls were small one day and then it seemed like we arrived at the time to start making those decisions very fast. Allowing God to help you treasure the time now is such a blessing!

  7. Boarding school is a hard choice to make. One I also said I would never do but ended up being just what my son needed. It ended up being a great experience for him. My greatest worry was not being as close to him but with technology and intentional breaks, I feel like we are as close as ever. It was also a blessing to see others invest in him spiritually and see him grow in his faith inpendent of his parents. I hope your journey brings some of those same things.

  8. I’m living in Kenya and it’s been eye-opening that for Kenyan families boarding school is incredibly normal. It seems the majority of Kenyan students in high school are at boarding schools. And the parents talk about it as a good opportunity for their kids to become independent. (They do have a month or two off after each trimester plus a week off mid-trimester.) It honestly makes me wonder why Western families have developed a culture of holding their kids so closely, and realize that that’s not something every culture has.

    Some kids even go to boarding school for primary here, and I’ve heard it’s even more common in Uganda.

    All that to say, in some areas boarding school is actually more normal than day school, and that is something I think people at home don’t realize.

    1. That is definitely something some cultures don’t realize. For my girls living and being friends with other third culture kids, they’ve realized that it’s normal, fun, and a great opportunity for them. They look at it even more differently than I do. Something that seemed so shocking prior, now seems like a normal option some families take. The world is a big place and it’s fun learning, growing and being a part of it!

  9. Thank you so much for writing this article. It has helped me understand this issue so much better. I am posting it on my fb page specifically for the ladies from our church in hopes it will also help them have a better understanding of this subject. Your writing always blesses me. Keep up the good work!
    Your partner in Christ,
    Cindy Doss

    1. Thanks so much, Cindy, for sharing! It does help people understand this aspect of missionary life and know how to pray for us mommas who walk this out overseas. Thank you for reading. Blessings!

  10. thanks for sharing! l love reading about your journey and how it has all come together! We sure do love and pray for your family!!!

  11. A post dripping with emotion and heartache – but also with following what you’re sensing God for you in this season of your family’s life, along with honoring the wishes of your kids. My husband was sent to British boarding school when he was 8, the sort of experience I think a lot of the bad cliches come from. But we have dear friends whose kids all went to boarding school and LOVED the experience, and thrived.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. There ARE those stories which sadly, made our decision that much harder. But, I’m thankful for how things have improved today and how amazing boarding experiences can be for this generation of TCKs. Thank you for reading and sharing your story, Amy. I appreciate you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *