When we send our children away to boarding school believing they will get a better education, what are we setting them up for? Can an education away from the parental home be truly supportive in developing us as fully rounded human beings? School is not the only part of our education – our living environment makes a difference too.
So, how was life at boarding school? I can remember the good bits and tend to forget the bad bits, but I do recall that I was terrified of the nun who looked after us, and even more terrified of the Mother Superior. I survived by being a ‘good girl,’ always looking for acknowledgement from the teachers and nuns that I was ‘OK.’
I was born overseas in Baghdad, Iraq, and when I was 6 years old, a few months before my 7th birthday, my parents sent me to a Catholic boarding school run by nuns in the UK. There were three of us, so I was not completely alone as I had my two sisters there, but when my own daughter was seven and we were enjoying lots of hugs together, it made me wonder what had I missed by spending so many of my younger years away from my parents.
Baghdad is 3,000 miles from London and in the 1950s that meant three plane hops, so we only travelled back home for the summer holidays. I only saw my parents for 8 weeks in each year until I was 12, when they returned to England to live. After that I lived at home and attended the same school as a day student until I left at 18.
I don’t think we were ever a particularly close family but there was a great ex-pat social life in Baghdad and my parents would attend loads of parties. During the day we spent most of our time at a club that had lawns, an outdoor restaurant, a climbing frame and three swimming pools. We had some fun times, but my mother was always chatting to her friends and we played with ours. Dad was at work.
Once we were all together in our house in England, we were still distant.
As a family we would eat together but I don’t remember them as particularly momentous occasions — the radio was usually on, and then we kids would wash up together then go outside and play with our neighbourhood friends. There were times when my parents would argue and my mother was always convinced she was right. My father would give up and go outside to smoke his pipe. I used to argue with my middle sister with whom I shared a room, so our life together was not particularly harmonious.
Moreover, my parents were not really huggy people, whereas I love hugs. When I first went to the boarding school I do remember the Italian maids, who were always up for a hug and, as I was one of the youngest and probably cute at that age, I had loads of attention from them. Despite that, and because of the lack of physical affection in my own family, I grew up feeling like an alien, distant from all humanity. I felt unlovable and instead of being open and friendly with everyone, I created a hard shell of mistrust and a spikiness that stopped anyone from feeling my true vulnerability, including me.
The combination of the separation from my parents, boarding school and the Catholic upbringing, left me with a few emotional scars, such as feeling unworthy, constantly guilty that I might be doing something wrong, needing to be good and wanting to do everything right.
At school we were encouraged to compare and compete, with everyone being streamed into class groups according to academic ability. In the senior school, we were also split up into four houses that competed in sports and we’d get house-points for good behaviour, so comparison and competition was encouraged in all aspects of my schooling.
The attitude of competition stayed with me as an adult: in sport playing squash, and with friends, comparing what jobs we were doing and how much we were earning. At work I would measure myself against more experienced colleagues and put myself down for not performing as well as them. Both comparison and competition leave me feeling very tired, so it is something I have recently been learning to observe and let go of.
Thanks to the many presentations of Serge Benhayon and healing sessions with Esoteric Practitioners trained by Universal Medicine, I am also learning to let go of the hard shell of protection that I developed in my body and to let people in. I am getting lots of hugs from fellow students, which is lovely, but I still find myself being distant at times, and I find it hard to express my love in words. If someone expresses their love and appreciation of me, I often find it hard to accept, not really believing it to be true.
I now know that it is important to appreciate who I truly am, to feel how tender I can be, moving gently, being calmer inside, connecting deeply with people, making good eye contact and speaking from my heart instead of my head. These days I don’t need so many acknowledgements from anyone outside of myself. I don’t need to try to be good or right because I can enjoy simply being me.
When families do not freely express their love for one another, it does not provide a great foundation for us in the future. My experience was compounded by being separated from everything I knew and sent to a Catholic boarding school. It gave me a good education, but I have realised that what value is mental intelligence and achievement when it stops us from truly loving ourselves and our fellow human beings, and from living in harmony with each other?
It is 60 years since that first day at boarding school and the scars are only now truly beginning to heal. It is not ‘time’ that has healed me, but deliberate healing through self-care, learning to nourish and nurture myself and to appreciate that I am so much more than my education.
What I bring is more than my brain’s intelligence and what I know; I bring a warmth, love, tenderness, and caring for all humanity that was never taught at school, or even in the Catholic Church.
Schools and religions often tend to pick up on our faults and try to make us ‘better’, so we grow up thinking we are not enough and ‘need to try harder’. Instead of that approach, I am now learning to appreciate the amazing woman I truly am and, as I let go of the hardness, I am appreciating the absolute fragility and delicateness that is my natural and true way of being.
It has been a long journey that has highlighted to me the importance of loving all our children in full right from the start, spending time with them, expressing our love and appreciation to them, and encouraging them to be loving and open without fear so that no matter where they are, they can enjoy being beautiful, tender, expressive beings.
If that loving service can be offered in every family, every school, every boarding school, and in every religion, then perhaps we as a humanity can be secure in the knowledge that our children will be fully ‘educated’.
Published with permission of my family.
By Carmel Reid, Ocean Shores, Australia
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“Schools and religions often tend to pick up on our faults and try to make us ‘better’, so we grow up thinking we are not enough and ‘need to try harder’.” – It does not feel like a coincidence that both schools and religions have imposed a system on children based on them needing to constantly prove and ‘better’ themselves. Telling people they were born a sinner would certainly start this process off that is so similar to the modern schoil system that makes kids prove their ‘intelligence’ via constant testing without honouring what the child brings to the world naturally.
I like what you have written here, Michael, especially the words, ‘honouring what the child brings to the world naturally.’ yes we need to do that with all our children and for those of us adults who missed out, we need to do it for ourselves so that we can appreciate the natural quality of our being that underpins everything we do.
I agree Michael that it does not feel a coincidence that education and religion are bedfellows when it comes to schooling our children. If children didn’t feel good enough before school starts at the age of 4 they certainly will be at the end of it, as we are constantly telling children to do better and to keep going for more. Add the religious doctrine that you are a sinner and will always be a sinner due to the fact of being born, not much space is left to be the whole you, the full you with everything you innately are. We start school at least 20 steps back before we are off the starting line.
All children need to be treated with tenderness and there is no reason why this should stop – the more we treat ourselves and each other tenderly, the more loving the world will feel.
You certainly do bring warmth and tenderness, which is lovely to feel, and great that you are now claiming yourself more and more, ‘I am now learning to appreciate the amazing woman I truly am and, as I let go of the hardness, I am appreciating the absolute fragility and delicateness that is my natural and true way of being.’
It reminds you of the warmth, love and care that we all need to be treated with on a daily basis.
When our early experiences of our care becomes perfunctory, a paid job that someone has to do not because they love, cherish and adore you, it lays a foundation that takes time to undo.
The level of care at any age is important, I am currently volunteering in a residential aged care home and it is heart-warming to see the respect with which the staff treat each resident who all have different physical and mental capabilities. Any caring job cannot be done as ‘just a paid job’ because the level of care requires such deep interpersonal connection if it is going to be true care.
I remember first meeting you Carmel, about 15 years ago, and yes I understand why you said this in your blog, ‘I created a hard shell of mistrust and a spikiness that stopped anyone from feeling my true vulnerability, including me’, it is lovely to now know the vulnerable, warm hearted and loving person you truly are.
Hi Lorraine, I’m sure the same can be said for many of us, because we were brought up to believe that vulnerability was a huge weakness and we felt we simply wouldn’t survive by being vulnerable. I was teased in my early days at school but not long after I arrived it stopped so I must have developed that hard shell pretty quickly.
I can so relate to your experience of describing things are intense Otto and it is refreshing to hear another deeper perspective on this – that our relationship with life and its events and circumstances and how we are with everything that occurs is what makes a huge difference.
I grew up in a family that was not very affectionate with each other, there was no hugging or embracing of each other and I always felt jealous when I saw other families who had this closeness. Even today I still find it hard to fully open up and embrace people, I hold my body in a guardedness and protection that I am learning to let go of.
Yes I agree, Suze, it is hard to open up to love when we are not used to it in our base family
‘The combination of the separation from my parents, boarding school and the Catholic upbringing, left me with a few emotional scars..’ I would say Carmel that the 3 together must have been a bit of a whopper to have dealt with! So gorgeous therefore to know where you are at today and how far you have come, with such a very grounded lived wisdom too.
It’s amazing isn’t it that healing can occur on a deep level that dissolves the scars and protection of childhood hurts and leaves the beauty, wisdom and open heartedness of the person for all to see. This has certainly happened in your case, Carmel.
A warm welcome to true intelligence that never separates mankind. In true fact, when we have an “intelligence” that is better than another, we must urgently ask ourselves: how can we call something intelligence when it actually separates human beings from being love with each other and within themselves? As love is love no one will be less than that. So no body has more intelligence than other, and if said that there is: it can only be the bastardisation of what true intelligence is. True intelligence is love. And everyone knows love. Deeply so. Fact.
I think many of us grow up feeling like aliens regardless of how much we see our parents or what school we go to unless we are truly met for who we are. I certainly felt like I came from another planet both at home and at school!
Yes Nicola I felt the same, the way I saw life did not fit in, so I fitted into life.
The alien theme runs trues when we are met with so many ideals and beliefs of how to be in all aspects of our life. The Inquisitive, loving and open child is often left to create levels of protection just to survive.
Sending kids away to boarding school is a great example of people making decisions based on what they think is the best thing, not what is actually the best thing for the child. I know parents fall into many ideals and beliefs about what is best for their kids. Wanting to give their kids the best education and sometimes give them what they missed out on seems to be a strong one. But all the kids I have spoken to who went to boarding school found it traumatic and they lived for the holidays when they could come home again.
Some holidays I didn’t go home because it was too far a distance and our parents sent us to stay with cousins or on a farm in Hampshire. Half terms I stayed at school and that was fun because there were no lessons and not many boarders left either. Yes my parents definitely thought they were doing the best they could for us, in those days you showed love to your kids by providing them with an education. They never really knew what true love was.
In thinking about connection, you would think that a bunch of boarders living in close quarters with each other for most of the school year would develop bonds and intimate connections, but in my experience everyone was wrapped up in their own dramas or engaging on other people’s dramas and at a very shallow level in order to avoid feeling the deeper hurts.
“I now know that it is important to appreciate who I truly am, to feel how tender I can be, moving gently, being calmer inside, connecting deeply with people, making good eye contact and speaking from my heart instead of my head. ” Appreciation through our every fine movement made is not only a step in the right direction but offers us so much more in terms of learning who we are from our essence and seeing that we are always learning and exploring from our honesty to share our hearts with the world and how wonderful it is to connect in this way.
There are many patterns of behaviour we learn as children that follow us into adulthood, particularly our way of relating to others – how much trust we have, how much we are prepared to be open and intimate, and that is reflected in how much people trust us – we all put up barriers and these remain until we are willing to let them drop. That willingness is what helps us to evolve because all our relationships offer such beautiful reflections of our selves, exact mirrors that we can choose to look in or not.
A great point you have shared here Carmel Reid. Our children are a clear indicator of how trust is often associated with being accepted and shared with family members only. How constricting can this be with a child who is innately open and loving and has an enormous level of natural presence that we condition to control at such an early age.
‘I felt unlovable and instead of being open and friendly with everyone, I created a hard shell of mistrust and a spikiness that stopped anyone from feeling my true vulnerability, including me.’ I cannot but wonder how many of the adults in the today’s world have grown up just as you did Carmel lacking the love that provides the solidness to our foundations that we build our lives upon.
I agree Suse and what effect does that have on our ability to be intimate with another? Massive I would say. How can we be intimate with another – and I don’t only mean in a sexual way but really open to other people in conversation, in care, in kindness, when we have a hard shell of mistrust and spikiness?
Even though much of the spikiness has gone, there is a still a residual way of being that, rather than being vulnerable and honouring what I feel, I can still go into judgement of others, projecting out rather than going within. So my work now is to allow myself to feel and to express what I feel in the smallest detail, to override the hesitation and go for it. It makes a huge difference in my relationship, because when we express what we feel it helps others to understand us more clearly.
Clearly our current model of education is not working. As you have shared there is much more to education than what we are offering. Would it not be a truer form of education to learn and understand the value of our relationship with our selves, and how living in connection to our bodies and who we already amazingly are is where our real power lies?
Everything in life stems from our relationship with ourselves and yet we teach kids to first undo their relationship with themselves and then to corrupt it to such an extent that by the time they leave school they are no longer themselves in truth but a corrupted version that bears little or no resemblance to who they were born as.
When we connect with our hearts there are no emotional scars, no matter how deep that can not be healed.
It’s quite fascinating reading about another’s childhood. The boarding school system feels so limiting and retarding of children’s natural expression – mostly because there is no time away from the schedule. You are constantly living and breathing school, and for any child, that is simply exhausting! It’s so important for children to have a home or space that they can come to, relax in and be themselves so they are not owned by the schooling.
One of the biggest lessons I learned at boarding school was to harden up and just get on with it and that has come up again recently with a move to a new country. I didn’t realise I was doing it until a friend observed how my body was feeling. It was a bit of a shock to feel how much I have shut people out for ‘protection’ and shut myself out in the process.
There are situations in life that make us feel specially vulnerable and when they happen, we come back to old patterns of searching protection, which harden our body and it’s easy to reproduce past experiences. Being aware of what is happening in our body is a great way to come back to the present and heal the hurt that we are escaping from.
Yes and it can be years or even lifetimes later
This is a very touching sharing Carmel! I have not attended a Boarding school nor any of my siblings or my children but I remember hearing a threat “you’ll be sent to boarding school ” if you don’t behave! . Sounded like a pretty scary place to a young person! In my opinion children need the family support and love ,( including hugs) in their own secure family environment
” It is not ‘time’ that has healed me, but deliberate healing through self-care, learning to nourish and nurture myself and to appreciate that I am so much more than my education.” To me this is an important revelation as it is so normal in our everyday conversation to say that time will heal all our wounds, but actually it does not. In truth, if not investigated, deeply felt and healed, our wounds get only buried deeper into our bodies so we can forget about these while they are still influencing our life from deep within.
This is a good point you make, Nico, that our wounds get buried deeper but still affect our behaviour – I only recently noticed how the ‘you’re on your own get on with attitude’ still exists deep within me.
As I read the comments, I have a rapid play back of the film of my school days, both before and at boarding school. So much emotional pain and hurts come to the surface for healing, yet I thought these were done and dusted! My children were sent to boarding school, against my wishes but at the time I had no choice!
It is great that we are opening the can of worms, letting go of all the hidden hurts, in order for changes to be made in education now, for all children everywhere.
Carmel, this is so true; ‘Schools and religions often tend to pick up on our faults and try to make us ‘better’, so we grow up thinking we are not enough and ‘need to try harder’, no wonder so many of us come out of school with low self esteem and not knowing who we truly are.
To me you hit the nail on its head Rebecca with your statement that schools and religions often tend to make us better humans while in truth we are reduced to a consciousness in which we believe that there is a way of being at fault and a way of being better while in fact both concepts are not true. There is no right or wrong as all life is a learning in our return back to Soul and the right and wrong is just a humanly created concept that does not exist in the consciousness we belong to.
I feel that as a society we have to get more honest about the emotional scarring that occurs from many of our childhood experiences such as family dynamics and school life.
“School is not the only part of our education – our living environment makes a difference too.” very true. Educational experiences don’t seem to appreciate who children naturally are. Its all about achievement. Some home environments may have a similar attitude – on account of the education the parents received too – and so the cycle continues…. until we start to value each individual for who they truly are.
It is so true that time does not heal, it only makes you to forget and bury the hurt deeper into the body. Only when you allow yourself to face the hurt for what it is and to go to the root of it brings the true healing in which you can let go and free the body of its imprisonment.
I agree Nico, time doesn’t heal, healing can only come from a willingness to address the hurt feelings, the emotional pain or whatever has occurred that has affected us. Time may make it seem less raw but the energy of an event remains in the body unless we proactively address and clear it.
This is an important point, Stephen, that the energy of the hurt remains in our body and burying it does not clear it, we just can’t feel it and then wonder why we are sick further down the track.
True healing comes from re-aligning to a consciousness that’s true. We can talk to therapists for thirty years and we can spend just as long having healing sessions but if those sessions are constructed out of the pranic consciousness then it’s just like throwing wood onto a fire, it simply fuels the original hurt and pain whilst all the while masquerading as something else.
Education needs serious reform and must start again from the principle that children already know Everything.
This is key, Michael, education starting from the principle that children already know everything, the education can then help the children be able to deal with their awareness, how to express and be able to deal with reactions, all about relationships, love and people.
This is a really beautiful blog Carmel. We are ‘educated’ in so many ways but there is not much of a focus on how to have truly connected, purposeful and meaningful relationships. Countless studies show that this is one of the most important things human beings can have. You have shown what is possible when one takes responsibility and educates themselves.
‘Purposeful and meaningful relationships’ hm, yes, I think many of us were brought up with shallow social chit chat but never really trusted anyone enough to be fully open with our feelings.
‘Schools and religions often tend to pick up on our faults and try to make us ‘better’, so we grow up thinking we are not enough and ‘need to try harder’.’ I was raised in a catholic family, and I vividly remember one Sunday in church watching and feeling my mother repeat the words ‘I am guilty, I am guilty, I am guilty’ whist she banged her fist on her chest, as all the adults were doing. In that moment I understood not only the deep, disturbing beliefs that were being embedded and reconfirmed every Sunday by this action alone, but the way in which it kept every adult in the congregation from ever feeling like they were enough. The impression I walked away with was that these words and actions were specifically put in place to prevent every person in the congregation from ever making a connection with who they truly are, from ever feeling the true, Soul-full beauty that is within.
Yes, the Mea Culpa became part of everyday English language as people would admit their guilt in wrong doings – now I am learning to feel less guilty over my mistakes and use them as opportunities to learn. But the not being enough – that’s a hard one to shift.
‘Not being enough’ – is an echo I’m constantly getting in my mind……. Set in from my boarding school days too. But becoming aware that those pesky thoughts of not being enough aren’t the true me (rather than accepting them as real) has been a good starting point.
‘Schools and religions often tend to pick up on our faults and try to make us ‘better’…’ I would agree with you here, Carmel. I am sure most of us leave school with that feeling of not being enough and certainly the organised religions I know of leave us with the same type of feeling. To be truly loved and confirmed is a great counter to the emptiness the above fosters.
Yes it is, Rachel, and we have to be willing to let in that love and confirmation otherwise we are indulging in the same hurts that created the emptiness in the first place.
We definitely need parents to understand that they are very much part of a child’s education and that creating a loving environment is crucial to that child’s wellbeing now and as a foundation for the future. Sometimes as parents we feel inadequate because we do not have the role models that could support us, but gradually that is changing and true role models are all around the world as we develop our awareness and are open to seeing them.
Indeed Carmel, you can say that we have missed the role models for supporting us to be a good parent, but it only take a few generations to change this pattern as what you say, these role models are there if we are willing and open to seeing them. It is just a matter of choice and each and everyone of us can make that choice at any time in our life.
If families choose to deal with what happens at home instead of avoiding the responsibility and giving it away to schools or boarding schools, there would be a difference in how our world will be. Imagine a child having a solid foundation of support and knowing what being loved feels like, this child is much more equipped to deal with life in a less harsh/hard way than they would attempt, if they thought they were alone and have to fend for themselves. I have had the thought of sending my child to boarding school but before this choice I wanted to experiment really connecting with him again, to not give up in any and every way without expectations but just honoring my changes in life, and opening up myself more. Now I do not have the thought of sending him to boarding school anymore, for what I did not want to face before, is really just a deeper responsibility I have to live.
Carmel, I can’t imagine what it was like to be sent to a boarding school at such a young age. What you’ve shared really highlights what a harsh environment boarding schools can be and it doesn’t feel like a very loving place for young children to learn and grow. If we ask children what they would prefer, staying at home with their parents and going to regular schools or going to boarding school, I can imagine a lot of young children would choose to stay at home.
I went to boarding school and was away from home for about eight weeks at a time and I found that hard enough. I quickly hardened up to it though and the way of life and it was all seen as character building, but wouldn’t it be great if the only thing we had to build was the love for each other.
Our greatest education is the world around us when we open ourselves up to being aware – we have this as children and it is our responsibility as adults to return to it – we can always feel what is going on and we can feel whether anything we do is true or not.
Absolutely Carmel, we have this knowing from birth and sometimes we override it because of many reasons, but at the same time it can feel devastating that our current world doesn’t support this form of intelligence and level of trust with what we can sense and feel.
Our Generational patterns past on have a lot to answer for in our lives which keep perpetuating when a real change is needed bringing truth from love and our true knowing from within .How beautiful it would be if we all were able to love appreciate and honour each other and ourselves as we innately know inside and the reflections this would allow in the world .
I am starting to understand that when we have not experienced hugs and love as children, we do not necessarily know what we are missing, we simply see it as normal. There is a protection of a fragile space inside that had to get used to not being met and loved in that way. It is for each and every one of us to reflect that level of love and care to each other so, even if it was not our normal, we can redress that balance and be that love and care for ourselves. It is NEVER too late.
The beautiful thing is, Lucy, that deep inside that love is never lost and it is always there just waiting to unfold so, as you say, it is never too late – there is nothing to learn how to do, except be.
I agree Lucy, it can’t ever be too late purely from the point of view that love is the fabric of the universe, it is quite literally who we are and so we can’t ever have missed the boat because technically we are the boat and always have been.
Redefining the word ‘education’ or bringing it back from its current brink. Thank you, Carmel. How gorgeous will it be when we educate our children beholding them in their qualities rather that trying to morph them to suit a flawed social framework?
Awesome blog Carmel, so many different elements that it touches on and how when we connect, heal and let go we are open to have the space to have true relationships.
I think that in boarding school I was very stuck on the image I projected – of being strong, not crying, being a ‘good’ girl. It was years before I could allow myself to be seen crying in public – I still find it hard. So many men and women are afraid to show their vulnerability and yet that is what is needed in all true relationships.