Stephanie Day from Wagga Wagga is a mother of three children – Harry (finished 2014), Lachie (finished 2016), and Sophie (who will finish this year). In the transition to becoming a boarding parent, she opened her gallery, Paper Pear, clocking up an undisclosed number of kilometres as a boarding mum and ‘Art Gypsy’. Loving it all, life got hectic.
As our guest blogger this month, Stephanie talks about what the boarding school experience has meant to her family and how it really isn’t the easy option when choosing a school for your children.
The boarding school experience has brought so much to all our lives and having not been a boarder myself, I had no idea what lay ahead. Yet, it’s been an amazing experience and brought friendships and opportunities I’ll always treasure.
It’s hard to stay away even two years out
Choosing St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill for our boys was quite an easy decision. The boys’ father and grandfather had attended the school and with both boys being sporty it seemed a great fit. The big country contingent was also a drawcard but it was listening to now Wallaby, Ned Hanigan speaking about the school at a parent information evening that sealed the deal for me! He epitomised what I wanted for my boys – he was laidback, confident and clearly happy as a Joe Boy.
The boys both began in Year 7 and though it was hard to say goodbye, regular trips and phone calls made it easier. Joeys have an open gate at lunchtimes to facilitate parents having lunch with their kids and friends and it wasn’t uncommon to find a hundred school boys scattered across the front lawns basking in the sun and keeping the local Gladesville KFC and Dominos in business.
My time there was full of warm fuzzy and goosebump moments which made leaving them a whole lot easier to bear. It’s such a welcoming place that families have a real sense of belonging. It’s hard to stay away even two years out.
The complete city immersion
With Sophie, we were flying a little more blindly but through school visits, and talking to friends we narrowed it down to two schools. It was the intimacy of the boarding school, proximity to both the city and her siblings…and, OK, maybe the harbour views…that swayed me to Kincoppal – Rose Bay.
I remember a good friend saying to me – “Well if she’s going to board, you may as well give her the complete city immersion.” She’s had that at KRB, where she will complete her schooling and four years of boarding this year. We did choose to wait until Year 9 to start her boarding, and in hindsight, for me and Sophie, this was early enough.
Saying yes to whatever you can
I think there’s a perception that sending your children away to Boarding school is the ‘easy option’ – to let someone else deal with the teenage years and the homework – but it requires a level of dedication that I constantly witnessed.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to wake up and leave home in the dark on a Friday in winter to reach Gladesville in time to pull together lunch for ten boys and hit the school gates at 12.48pm, dish out lunch for a handful of each of the boys friends, then meet them again after school and deal with some washing and homework woes. Then, up early Saturday for sport with one via the Caltex for the Powerade and Killer Pythons, race to the next venue to watch the other one before whatever school social fixtures commenced for them or me – and there were many – then turn around drive home late Sunday or early Monday and be back there on the following Friday to do it all over again.
I wouldn’t change a thing. If you want to feel part of something then I can totally recommend saying yes to whatever you can.
Stephanie Day’s 3 tips for getting the most from a boarding experience
- Look for a school whose students epitomise what you would like for your children.
- Start your child when they’re ready.
- If you want to feel part of your children’s education, say yes to whatever you can.
To talk to St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill or Kincoppal – Rose Bay, along with dozens of other schools from NSW, ACT and Victoria (at Wagga Wagga), as well as ICPA NSW, join us for a Boarding Schools Expo in Griffith on 14 June (a half-day pop-up) or Wagga Wagga on 15 & 16 June. Admission is free and you can pre-register here on the website.