Deanna Wysocki wanted her four sons to experience the same sense of independence she enjoyed as a student at a boarding school that taught discipline and responsibility. For Anne-Marie Wielhorski Lyttle, boarding school seemed the only option when her children graduated from Montessori and there were no private schools nearby that would have been a good fit. Her eldest daughter tried public school, but her motivation quickly waned.
Wysocki has seen her four sons—now between 10 and 21 years old—become more independent and gain self-confidence at Robert Land Academy, a private boarding school in Wellandport, Ontario, “It teaches them life skills,” Wysocki says. “If you don’t work hard enough, there are disadvantages. And that is life.”
That sense of independence is one of the main benefits of the boarding school environment, adds Lt. F. Greg Hewett, the school’s admissions officer and a former student. “I think that is one thing a boarding school will always give you over home,” Hewett says. “ At home, you are very reliant.”
Wielhorski Lyttle, whose four children attended Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ontario, says there was an added bonus. When her kids came home for a week every five weeks, Lyttle says she was amazed by how respectful they’d become and appreciative of everything she did for them. “They really appreciate you as a person, and they want to spend time with you,” she says. “I never went through the door-slamming ‘I hate you’ stuff.”
Boarding schools also have a reputation for strong sports and arts programs, along with a different environment for social development, says Rena Upitis, an education professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “I wouldn’t even say it’s better, I’d just say different,” she says. “What students learn when they’re in that boarding school situation is a different form of living in community, that you just can’t learn when you’re not boarding.”
But that environment can lead to strong friendships, Hewett says. “To this day, one of my very best friends was my first roommate from Robert Land. That’s almost 30 years ago now.”