Why Boarding School?
A Parent’s Perspective
by Thomas Bahler, father of Quincy
Los Angeles, California
The answer to the question, “why boarding school” is, in a nutshell, “the village.”
My son Quincy is one of those kids who likes to do it all. He’s a combination academic, jock, and artist with an emphasis on architecture. When you’re fourteen, having to choose doesn’t seem like much of a choice at all. One day, he got in the car, obviously frustrated, and said, “Dad, there’s got to be a school where I don’t have to choose. It’s not that strange to want to do more than one thing.” And that’s when he first suggested the idea of boarding school.
Did I miss Quincy when he went off to Hotchkiss? Sure, terribly. But something
interesting happened. Like most teenagers Quincy used to give me
one-word answers to my questions. How’s math? Fine. How’s chemistry? Fine.
At the first Hotchkiss parent meeting, a faculty member said, “You are used
to your children getting A’s, but at Hotchkiss they’re not going to get
immediately. Don’t fix it.” I took that to heart. With me no longer saying
things like, “maybe if you studied a little harder for that test,” instead
of one-word answers, I got, “Dad, I wrote this paper. It was about so and
so and I found out such and such.” Twenty minutes later, he’s still telling
me about it. When we talk, and we do often, it’s meaningful talk. My son
hasn’t “gone away;” we are closer than ever.
What enabled me to trust Hotchkiss so fully is when I realized Quincy was moving to a village of 500 students and 110 teachers, all focused on a single purpose. What makes this village work so well is that, while there is certainly a difference between teachers and students, there is no “we/they” dynamic. Students and teachers interact as human beings working together toward common goals.
I had a conversation with Quincy’s advisor, whom I know well because we talk quite a bit. Jim told me that Quincy did very well in his circle of friends, but he thought that perhaps he needed to expand that circle. Quincy and I talked about it and agreed, but I don’t think either of us would have realized it without Jim’s prompting. The “village” makes this kind of thoughtful guidance possible. What it has meant for Quincy is that he has gone after even more than he ever did before -- JV hockey and football, acting in plays, dorm proctor, and pursuing his interest in architecture. Now, we are looking at colleges with architecture schools. Hotchkiss has freed my son to focus on the doing, and in the process given him the tools to find his own success.
Tom Bahler’s essay “Why Boarding School?” is one of a series appearing in the Hotchkiss prospectus. Request a copy.