From The Ridge - The McCallie Blog

Investing Well

Posted by Robert W on November 09, 2010

By Mary McCandless

I have spent a lot of money over the years on education – money very well spent. First it was pre-school, then pre-kindergarten. Next elementary and middle school. Once I’d experienced the small class sizes, curriculum based on my own values, and staff and administration that recognize who really pays their salaries, I was sold on private education.

When we investigated high schools, they all fell short in some fashion – sports, academically unchallenging, dominated by females. Then we received an information card from McCallie because my son was a Duke TIP scholar. We’d received mail from other boarding schools, and I’d left them unmentioned, but for some reason, I pointed out to David that McCallie had an Honors Scholar program. While I had no intention of sending my baby to boarding school, competing for a scholarship was another matter altogether. David was not interested until he saw that McCallie was a top 100 school in his favorite sport. All of a sudden, McCallie was worth a visit.

We’ve spent a lot of money on education. But the returns are unbelievable, they never go down in a bad market, and they will pay dividends well into the future.

The local information session piqued their curiosity. The benefits of an all male educational environment really excited David. He planned a visit to McCallie in early December. When they were stuck in snow for three hours in the middle of the night outside of Asheville just trying to get to McCallie, I was certain their spirits would be dampened. But when they saw the campus, the playing fields, the sports complex, the dining hall (Power Aid on tap!) they came home describing "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan – you know, the land of lost boys. I was beginning to panic.

David filled out the scholarship application. He rounded up the teacher recommendations. Wrote the essays, gathered all the paperwork. I approached his headmaster for her opinion on McCallie. She felt David would thrive there; it would be an incredible opportunity. Our former pastor’s sons were there and spoke very highly of it. That was not the ammunition I was looking for! I started getting calls from other McCallie moms. (They really are the best salespeople.)

“Didn’t they miss their boys?” - They saw their sons regularly and it was such quality time!

“What about their class work?” - The education was outstanding and the teachers were fantastic. The dorm advisors really watch after the boys.

“What about their friends at home?” - They get so many experiences they’d never receive at home.

Then Honor’s Scholar weekend approached. I had to see this school for myself. On the way, my son and his father role-played questions, talked sports stats and were really excited. I kept playing the numbers in my head – how could we afford to send one child to an out of state college and enroll David at McCallie and still make the house payment? What could be so special about this school to justify spending as much on high school as one would on college? How could I become an empty nester – sending both my oldest to college and my youngest to boarding school – I wasn’t ready for that! His sister had grown into such a great person; didn’t we contribute a lot to that? Didn’t my son need the same time and teaching from us? We weren’t done with him yet.

Once you’ve arrived at Honors Scholar weekend – you’re going to be sold on McCallie. Other parents, the students, the staff and administration all spend time with you – and they all sing from the same hymnal – just in different harmony.

The parents tell you of the benefits of the sacrifice – yes, one will survive without their boys at home; yes, parenting from afar can be mastered, you develop a new and mature relationship with your boys; and how could a parent deny such an outstanding opportunity to their sons. The students will tell you about how they love their teachers, their dorm advisors, their buddies. Chattanooga is such a cool place. The weekends are full of sports and activities. The staff and administration spell out the benefits of male education, the rigor of the program, the colleges where the boys are accepted and matriculate. You leave the weekend making that mental transition from “my baby needs me” to “my son needs McCallie.”

Several years into our McCallie experience, we all made the right decision. Our son has received an incredible education.

He loves his teachers – they are challenging, engaging, motivating and outstanding teachers. There are great teachers in most schools, but there are so many great teachers at McCallie. He loves his dorm advisors – from hanging out in their apartments, walking their dogs, playing with their kids, sharing his meals with them. He has so many adult friends now. Experiences – well, there were not going to be any Senate cases, medical research, TEPS, Duckling Day, or Vestry at a public school. Friends – he has deep friendships at McCallie. I am sure his McCallie roommate will be one of the groomsmen in his wedding; he regularly spends time at local students’ homes; and he hangs with older and younger guys. Personal Development – it amazes me how disciplined and accomplished my son has become. He wouldn’t have observed (to model) such wonderful habits if he had stayed at home. Now he is getting ready for college, and that transition will be such a breeze given the firm foundation he has built here at McCallie.

On that ride home from dropping both of our children off at school in one week, there were a few moments when the tears flowed. (We call it the Reverse Trail of Tears.) Let’s face it, we like our kids. We like spending time with our kids. We had invested a lot of our lives in our kids. But as I pointed out to his dad, we could be proud that they were not tears of regret. We had done all the right things to get our kids to that point, and McCallie picked up the baton and helped us continue the race. We couldn’t have done it without the Honors Scholarship. We couldn’t have done it without people like Chet LeSourd, or Rev. Ed, or Mr. Mancke, or the Nichols, or the Newmans, or Miss Tina in the dining hall, or the nurses at the Infirmary and so many others. It does take a village to raise a child – no matter where they are – but McCallie was the right place, at the right time.

We’ve spent a lot of money on education. But the returns are unbelievable, they never go down in a bad market, and they will pay dividends well into the future.

Mary McCandless and her husband live in North Carolina. She is the mother of a current senior at McCallie School. 

Topics: boarding school, First Person, mccallie, mothers, parents, Posts from the Ridge, The Parent POV

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