Why choose an all-boys school for your son? There are myriad reasons: to minimize distractions; to help him focus on academics; to expand his interests; to remove gender stereotypes.
Still, it’s only natural to wonder if you’re making the right decision by enrolling your son in a single-sex environment. Being able to work and play alongside women of all ages–to respect the opposite sex, and not just coexist–is crucial for young men. So it’s important for parents to understand the following:
The junior boarding school environment isn’t truly all boys.
At a typical junior boarding school, the greater community of teachers, coaches, advisors, dorm parents, and staff comprises dozens of women. These women are accomplished scholars, educators, athletes, musicians, artists, professionals–as well as sisters and mothers. As many faculty and staff members make their home right on campus, boys have the chance to observe strong females within family systems. The women on campus are role models, acting as leaders, supporters, and nurturers. The men on campus fulfill these roles, as well; see, that’s the thing about an all-boys boarding community: there are no predetermined gender roles. Students are exposed to role models of both genders, while they also learn and explore their interests in a setting that removes the need to “posture” for peers of the opposite sex.
While some parents may worry that the all-boys’ environment creates a rough atmosphere or is more conducive to braggadocio, competition, and/or bullying, we find it’s just the opposite.
Roles traditionally assumed by girls (the nurturer, the star of the school play, the poet) are filled by boys–because they have to be. There are no “boy things” and “girl things,” because everything is a boy thing. There are no stigmas (in fact, we find the female roles in our drama productions are the most sought-after!). Boys have the freedom to focus fully on their school work, and build self-esteem through athletics, art class–or whatever they’re into.
Additionally, boys at many junior boarding schools have many opportunities to interact with girls their own age. At Fessenden, for example, we’re fortune to be located outside of Boston, in close proximity to three girls’ schools and many co-ed schools. Our older boys perform community service projects with their female peers. We host girls at our socials and dances several times a year, and our boys get invited to these events at other schools, as well.
We find this measured interaction with girls gives boys the independence and focus they need to thrive academically, experience a variety of roles and interests, and build confidence in these formative middle school years. This confidence follows them to secondary school and beyond, and helps them better navigate interpersonal relationships as they become developmentally ready.