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How boarding school offers essential life skills

Beyond academics, choosing boarding school for your child can help develop independence, responsibility, self-care and much more.

In her first few weeks at university, Ashley He noticed something interesting: For the first time, many of her fellow students were struggling with living away from home in ways she just didn’t have. Many of them were unaccustomed to being in charge of managing their lives, from doing laundry to effectively managing their time — and it was challenging at times to learn that while also handling a heavier and more demanding workload and trying new ones Making friends and dealing with the occasional homesickness. But he’d been comfortable with that sort of job for years, thanks in large part to her time spent boarding at Bishop Strachan School.

“The boarding school made the transition to university incredibly smooth,” she says. “Others will freak out about the same laundry/self-regulation problems you figured out in 9th grade!”

It’s true. According to Stephanie Jean-Paul, dean of boarding at the school, “The boarding school encourages the independence of its students through a curriculum based on trust. An example of this is empowering student leaders to show responsibility by guiding younger boarders around the city of Toronto. From planning transit routes to calculating travel expenses to requesting “check-in” calls, boarders are trusted to be responsible for the safety of their fellow students.”

BSS student Ana

Teaching self-reliance with boundaries

And the students not only learn to take responsibility for each other; Thanks to the school’s robust support system, BSS boarders are given the opportunity – and freedom – to learn how to be responsible for themselves. For example, the BSS regularly organizes workshops on time management, organization, exam preparation and study preparation. Boarding staff also help students develop healthy routines and academic study plans. And students in grades 8 through 10 must attend supervised evening studies Sunday through Thursday designed to help them develop independent study skills. For this reason, in the final two years of school, students in grades 11 and 12 are entrusted with setting up their own study schedules and spaces.

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He also praises the school’s orientation approach: “After the first week at boarding school, I felt incredibly comfortable being away from home,” she says. “BSS, in particular, makes every effort to help newcomers get used to getting used to their new home away from home in the first week!”

It didn’t take Kris Martin, a BSS parent, to see how the experience of boarding school – and particularly the opportunity to share the space with people from different backgrounds and sometimes even different countries – benefited her daughter.

“Established boarding schools are often steeped in tradition and certain rights of transition, but good boarding schools continue to evolve and enhance those traditions and rites of passage in contemporary and thoughtful ways,” says Martin. “BSS does this with an emphasis on immersing the student in community, a sense of belonging and family outside of the traditional definition. This all led to progressive awareness, growth, maturity, curiosity and self-confidence and the ability to navigate the world and all it has to offer.”

Pictured here are BSS students in the boarding lounge. Back to front: Anabelle, Nandani, Vivian, Nevaeh, Crystal, Sophia and Ana

The importance of well-being

Of course, sometimes students struggle, which is why BSS also offers plenty of wellness-focused resources. “We have a large foster community; The support goes beyond the boarding staff,” says Jean-Paul.

Students have access to the wellness center’s nurses, as well as school psychologists, chaplains and careers counselors. In 2021, it began offering access to a Student Assistance Program, a totally confidential online resource for wellness services offered by Homewood Health. And because administrators believe individual relationships are key, they often seek to match boarders with other local supporters, such as a day student, local family, external tutors or health practitioners.

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“BSS provides a safe environment for my daughter to take risks with her thinking,” says Martin. “It encourages unconventional leadership, innovation, and an openness to utilizing diverse tactics and coping strategies that facilitate growth and development on a personal, social, and academic level. It offers young people the opportunity to spread their wings and learn about themselves outside of the home.”

For more information on Bishop Strachan School’s programs and offerings, click here.

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