Should I send my child away for high school? Deciding whether or not to send your child away for high school can be a difficult decision. Sometimes, families live out of town and there are not that many choices of high schools or there are no options where they live. Sometimes, a child needs a certain environment and setting that is not available where he or she lives.
This writer interviewed several parents living in various communities and some high school students who live away from home to learn about the upside of going away to high school and the challenges or downside, and also to glean practical advice from parents who do send their children away for high school.
One mother on the West Coast shared that she wanted the best hashkafos for her children. She noted that each child needs his or her own way. Sometimes you need to find a school away if the local school doesn’t meet your child’s needs. The yeshivah is wonderful where her sons attend. The big challenge for her is that she misses them a lot and the family dynamic changes. Her older children who were babysitters for her younger ones are not home and also the other help they did around the house is not available. “It’s hard not knowing our child’s friends and having parent-teacher conferences on the phone.” She would prefer having them in person. A phone relationship is different from an in-person relationship. When you are together in person, you can connect by just being there. In a phone relationship, you have to always have something to say.
Also, there is the hassle and expense of booking flights and transportation, depending on how far away your child goes. For her daughter who is boarding for high school, there is the problem of making sure she has plans for Shabbos and Sundays and also arranging transportation for her long-distance when she needs to go somewhere.
Upsides include that her boys are busy 24/7 and they love their yeshivah, and her daughter loves her high school. The younger siblings become more responsible and get more attention. You see your children blossoming with the right chinuch and friends.
This mother shared the following advice for parents: “If you have younger children at home, you will need to make time slots to speak to your children who are away at high school. Set aside time for their calls. It’s important to speak to your children who are away every day and to say good night. You, of course, should make a trip to the school and sit in on classes with your child to determine if the school is the right fit. Also, you need to make sure your child is ready to go away. She said you will know it instinctively in the same way you know when they are ready to walk alone to a friend’s house or sleep over.
A younger sibling named Yonah shared the advantage of his brothers going away is he gets a room to himself. He noted that it’s quieter in the house. They are a smaller family when they go places. It’s also special when they come home for a visit. The bad part, he said, is he misses them and doesn’t get to see them that often.
This writer asked the high school students themselves. One ninth grader commented that it’s easier to learn when you are living away at school. There are fewer distractions. You also feel more independent. Another boy shared that you should go to camp first and get used to going away from home. Both said they think most kids should go away for high school.
Another mother living in the Southwest shared that her family relocated to the Southwest while her daughter was halfway through high school. They decided it would be better for her daughter to stay in the community in New York where she grew up and in the high school where she was doing well. This way she didn’t have to move to a new place and leave her friends. She had the advantage that her parents lived in that neighborhood so her daughter could board with them.
The upside is that living away helps her children to mature and solve problems on their own. They learn to take care of themselves, and when situations happen they learn to be flexible.
The downsides, she shared, are you miss them a lot. Also, sometimes you wish you could be there to help them with something, and you are too far away. You may also miss some milestones.
Her advice to parents is that they need to find the right school that is appropriate for their child. They need to figure out the logistics. How far is it from the airport and what will the cost be to get to the airport and for tickets. It’s important to have a close friend or family member nearby.
She said that knowing if they are ready means speaking to them, and also each child has his or her own personality. You have to support each child in a different way according to what he or she needs.
A mother in a small town in Florida shared that there was no option of a boys’ yeshivah high school, so they had to send their boys away. Within months, they matured. When her sons came home for a visit, they said, “Now we have a choice of so many friends.” The rebbeim were a wonderful influence and the learning standards were higher. She shared, “Being away from home, they mature. They learn to be independent and to be assertive. Basically, they learn how to take care of themselves.”
She noted that the downside is that you miss your child. “The first time we took them to the airport, I cried.” Also, when your children are at home, you maintain a certain level of control. When they are away, you are not in control of their diet or their bedtime.
Her advice to parents is to find a yeshivah that plans for out-of-town students. She suggested that it’s important to arrange a way to send your child money. They set up a bank account where they can transfer money via QuickPay or Zelle. Also, they have a child with allergies, so if you have some special needs, it’s a good idea to find a yeshivah that will accommodate to this.
A mother in Brooklyn, Etty Kotler, shared that she sent four boys away because they needed to shteig.
I thought, “Let them fly. They needed to spread their wings.” She shared a beautiful mashal. She wanted to do what was best for her children. It was best to let go. It’s like we’re in Hashem’s palace and He hires you to take care of flowers in the garden. If the flowers stay in the garden, they will eventually become ruined. So, you cut them and send them to the King’s table where they will last forever.
This doesn’t mean that every child needs to go away for high school. One of her sons didn’t go away. There is nothing wrong with staying home.
The main downside of their leaving is that you miss them. She said it’s important to bring them home regularly.
Like all decisions in our lives, we need lots of siyata diShmaya. Hashem should help all parents to make the right decision for their children.
By Susie Garber