How Boarding School Provides Essential Life Skills

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

During her first few weeks at college, Ashley He noticed something interesting: Many of her peers were struggling to live away from home for the first time in a way that she… didn’t have any just not. Many of them weren’t used to being responsible for the administration of their lives, from doing their laundry to managing their time efficiently – and it was sometimes difficult to learn to do this while juggling with a heavier and more demanding workload, trying to make new friends and coping with the occasional homesickness. But he had been comfortable with these kinds of tasks for years, thanks in large part to the time she spent at Bishop Strachan School as a boarder.

“Boarding school made the transition to college incredibly smooth,” she says. “Others will freak out about the same laundry/self-regulation issues you discovered in 9th grade!”

It’s true. According to Stéphanie Jean-Paul, dean of the boarding school at the school, the boarding school “promotes the autonomy of its students by offering them a course rooted in confidence. An example of this is empowering student leaders to demonstrate accountability by bringing young boarders to the city of Toronto. From planning transit routes, calculating travel costs, and requesting “check-in” phone calls, boarding students are held accountable for the safety of their fellow students.

BSS student, Ana

Teaching autonomy with limits

And students not only learn to be responsible for each other; Thanks to the school’s strong support system, students at BSS boarding school have the chance – and the freedom – to learn to be responsible for themselves. For example, BSS holds regular workshops on time management, organization, exam preparation and college preparation. Boarding school staff also help students develop healthy routines and academic study plans. And students in grades 8 through 10 are required to attend supervised evening study sessions Sunday through Thursday, which aim to help them develop independent study skills. That’s why, in their final two years of schooling, 11th and 12th graders are tasked with establishing their own study schedules and spaces.

He also praises the school’s approach to orientation: “After the first week of boarding school, I was incredibly comfortable being away from home,” she says. “BSS, in particular, really goes out of its way to orient new residents during the first week to settling into their new home away from home!”

It didn’t take long for Kris Martin, a BSS parent, to see how the experience of boarding school – and especially the ability to share space with people from different backgrounds and sometimes even countries – has benefited his daughter.

“Established boarding schools are often steeped in tradition and certain rights of passage, but good boarding schools continually evolve and improve these traditions and rites of passage in a timely and thoughtful way,” says Martin. “BSS does this by emphasizing the student’s immersion in the community, a sense of belonging and a family outside of the traditional definition. All of this resulted in gradual awareness, growth, maturity, curiosity and self-confidence and an ability to navigate the world and all it has to offer.

Pictured are BSS students in the departure lounge. From back to front: Anabelle, Nandani, Vivian, Nevaeh, Crystal, Sophia and Ana

The importance of well-being

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

Students have access to the nurses at the wellness center, as well as the school psychologist, chaplain, and guidance counsellors. In 2021, it began offering access to a Student Assistance Program, a completely confidential online resource for wellness services offered by Homewood Health. And since administrators believe that one-to-one relationships are essential, they will often try to match boarding students with other local supports, such as an external student, local family, external tutors, or medical professionals.

“BSS provides a safe environment for my daughter to take risks with her thinking,” says Martin. “It encourages leadership, innovation, and receptivity to leveraging different tactics and coping strategies that enable personal, social, and academic growth and development. This is an opportunity for a young person to spread their wings and learn about themselves outside the home.

For more information on Bishop Strachan School programs and offerings, Click here.