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Interview with Churchie Boarding families

Read about the Donaldson family and the Butler family and their Churchie boarding experiences.

The Donaldson family

Churchie Boarding Donaldson familyAinslie and Scott Donaldson (1985) live on a property an hour outside of Goondiwindi with their three boys, two dogs and three budgies; not to mention the chickens, cattle, lambs and the odd emu or kangaroo. Their three boys, Sam, Jake and Will all board at Churchie.

With farming being in the Donaldson family for more than 130 years, they love the land while at the same time appreciating the benefits the boys have boarding in the city.

Eagles’ Wings spoke with Ainslie and Scott about Churchie Boarding.

Best part of boarding

Ainslie: ‘Churchie’s recreation programme; it’s fantastic. I love that the school insists on cultural activities being part of the programme.’

Scott: ‘When the chance to see a show comes up, the boys say they don’t want to go; yet they always come away thankful for the experience. It’s something Churchie can offer being so close to Southbank and Brisbane’s cultural precinct.’

Hardest part of boarding

Churchie Boarders at home on their farmAinslie: ‘Definitely leaving them. It’s very hard. It’s amazing when the boys come home… I feel complete.

When Sam started at Toowoomba Prep I walked away crying. The Headmistress gave me a hug, reassuring me, ‘he’ll be alright’.

Although you know that, you still worry. Many of the boys are in the same boat, so that makes it a little bit easier.’

Scott: ‘For me it’s missing out on things. When they are playing sport you just can’t get there.

Despite this, boarding was never a question; the alternative is three hours on a bus each day. In their senior years, with the increased study commitments, three hours travel would become completely unmanageable.’

Why Churchie?

Scott: ‘The main reason for sending the boys to a school in Brisbane was to give them the chance to see what happens on the other side of the fence. The networking opportunities after they leave school are far greater than anything available locally. If they have any chance of doing something other than farming, they have to step out of their comfort zone. For example, if Sam wants to study engineering, he has a better chance of achieving this having gone to Churchie.’

Ainslie: ‘I really like the discipline and appreciate the structure at Churchie. I wanted that for my boys; I wanted them to have boundaries and guidelines to follow. It’s a great approach.’

The Butler family

Churchie Boarding Butler familyKate and Peter Butler live on a property half an hour from the Donaldson family. This year their oldest daughter Annabelle is away from home studying at university. Their daughter April is in Year 11 boarding at St Margaret’s and the baby of the family, Harry, started boarding in Year 8 at Churchie in 2014.

After spending his primary years in co-educational settings, Harry quickly adapted to and is thriving in the all-boy environment at Churchie.

Kate and Peter talk with Eagles’ Wings about the ups and downs of boarding.

Best part of boarding

Kate: ‘Harry has two sisters and has been at co-educational schools until 2013. Going to an all-boys school now was great timing for Harry; he is really coming into his own. It’s nice for him to have close mates and to have teachers who are focused on boys and how to teach boys.’

Peter: ‘Churchie boarding provides amazing opportunities for Harry to meet a vast variety of people from all different backgrounds – boarders and day boys. The best thing about Churchie is the discipline.

I love seeing how the boys conduct themselves; they’re taught to have and appreciate good manners. It’s lovely to see how they talk with their teachers and guests at the Churchie. This is a skill they will have throughout their lives.’

Hardest part of boarding

Harry Butler home from boarding at ChurchieKate: ‘I miss the kids every day. The hardest thing is not having everyone around when we are cooking dinner; I miss the noise. It doesn’t feel the same when it is just the two of us. This is one of the reasons we save cattle work for the school holidays; it gives us a chance to all be involved.’

Peter: ‘One of the things I miss the most is seeing Harry’s sport each week. We loved going to Harry’s soccer games.

I can understand people not wanting to let their children go when you live in the bush; it’s a sacrifice and we miss our children but the exciting thing is the boarding house environment and what they get out of that.

It’s exciting to go to Brisbane and see all the kids together; they are a family of kids. It’s a fantastic experience. I don’t think the kids are missing out on much; we are the ones missing out.’