To some parents, the idea of sending their son to an all-boys private school as early as pre-kindergarten seems a bit unusual. They worry their son will be too “coddled” for his own good at what may look like a “country club for 4-year-olds.” Or, the complete opposite may be true. Parents may worry their son will be treated too severely, in a demanding environment that will stifle his creativity and individuality.
As an independent private school for boys from pre-K through ninth grade, we hear these concerns from parents around the Boston area quite frequently.
The truth is, if your image of a private school education comes largely from the media or even your own experiences when you were younger, it probably doesn’t reflect the current reality of a modern all-boys school.
Here’s a look at some of the more common misconceptions regarding an all-boys private school education:
Myth 1: “Private schools are for raising privileged, entitled, silver-spooned boys.”
Attending private school is a privilege but that does not mean schools overly coddle boys or tolerate snobbery. Most private school educators understand the fine line between coddling boys and nurturing them—helping them achieve without doing the work for them. In addition, at Fessenden, we strive to attract a culturally and economically diverse student population that mirrors the diversity found in the world outside our campus.
Good private schools provide a broad range of programs to encourage boys to try new things, take risks, and find their passion. Sometimes boys fail, often they succeed, but regardless of the outcome they always learn. It’s important to understand that just because these schools have a lot of resources doesn’t mean the boys are handed everything; they are, in fact, encouraged to appreciate the value of working hard and succeeding on their own merits.
Myth 2: “All-boy schools are for jocks.”
Athletics can certainly be an important part of the private school experience, but they are by no means the most important part.
If your son is interested in athletics, it is easy to find a private school with a strong program in his sport(s) of choice. If he isn’t interested in athletics, good private schools celebrate their students for their accomplishments in whichever fields interest them.
If you’re searching for a private school for your son, the important question to ask is, “How are boys valued here?” Ask what contributions are important at a particular school. Are the boys who excel in theater or science, for example, encouraged as strongly as those who start on the soccer team?
Myth 3: “Private schools are too structured and traditional”
There is a misconception among some parents that private schools are overly structured and conservative in their educational philosophy and culture.
The truth is, good private schools like The Fessenden School, are actually quite flexible and frequently push the educational envelope. We encourage boys to try things they typically wouldn’t be exposed to in other schools — a first grader learns to create a video game that teaches his classmates Spanish or a middle school boy has the chance to build a robotic arm to help amputees.
While the days are scheduled at a school like Fessenden, they are structured in a way that allows the boys to choose from a range of activity options during recess and choice time. In addition, boys aren’t expected to simply “sit still” and “pay attention,” two of the most commonly uttered phrases in a traditional co-ed classroom. Schools like ours recognize the need for boys to be actively engaged in learning and to use “motor breaks”– jumping jacks in the classroom, changes in the physical learning space, quick outdoor breaks — to keep attention high and transitions from one learning activity to the next smooth.
Myth 4: “Uniforms = rigid school culture”
Unfortunately, too many parents mistake the private school coat and tie for a sign of privilege and rigidity. It’s actually quite the contrary.
For boys, a dress code like a collared shirt and dress shoes in younger grades and a jacket and tie for older boys, create a sense of camaraderie and belonging within a community. It’s a visible sense of inclusion and connectedness that says, “We’re all in this together.” The dress code equalizes, minimizing privilege, rather than emphasizing it.
And, if you look closely, you’ll realize that the blazer and tie look really isn’t that buttoned up, not at Fessenden, anyway. Boys express a lot of creativity in their choice of blazer, tie, socks, hairstyle, etc., and the dress code certainly doesn’t cramp their style throughout the day.
Myth 5: “My son will be unprepared for the “real” world.”
When parents hear our admissions team talk about how our school helps students build an “emotional vocabulary,” sometimes they get the wrong idea and think this means their son will leave unprepared to thrive in a world that can sometimes be harsh and unnurturing.
We believe that the best way to ensure the future happiness and fulfillment of our students it to help them become well-rounded, competent, and compassionate individuals who are prepared to work hard to create success for themselves and to contribute to the world.
Therefore, it’s important to cultivate sensitivity in boys, teaching them to be aware of the needs of the people they interact with and capable of expressing their own needs appropriately.
At Fessenden, we realize that boys are, by nature, sensitive and we want to help them channel that as part of their healthy development.
If you’re still convinced some of these myths are true—or we’ve helped clear up some of your misconceptions and you’re ready to learn more—why not come visit our campus and see for yourself?
Parents often tell us they would never have dreamed of sending their son to an all-boys school, but as soon as they stepped onto campus they realized how their misconceptions had clouded their judgement.
Still Have Questions?
We understand that finding the right school for your son can be challenging. If you have questions about which school would be the best fit for your child, please feel free to contact our Admissions team at email@example.com or call us at 617-630-2300. The team is extremely knowledgeable about the varied educational options available in our area and would be happy to have a candid discussion to help you create a short list of schools that would be appropriate for your son.