When you live rurally the options for secondary education declines the more rural you happen to be.

While small country primary schools can be extremely positive for children, given the community feel they support, that becomes a disadvantage when it comes to secondary schooling. The realistic options most parents face are either to make their children endure long hours travelling to and from school, or to examine boarding school options.

There's another pressing need in considering a boarding option for your children - the breadth of subject choices being offered by your nearest secondary school. While local schools do a super job they are constrained in the more specialised subjects, let alone that long educational commute which limits extra-curricular options.

At the inaugural Virtual Learning Awards it was said rural school students have unrestricted subject choices, but we mustn't forget that learning is only one part of growing up. While e-learning is increasingly mainstream as rural broadband gradually improves, it still leaves a socialisation gap. Simply put, you cannot electronically learn social skills.

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Deborah James of the Independent Schools of New Zealand has noted, "Many parents look for a boarding school environment for their children. Historically boarding schools catered predominantly to rural families in New Zealand but with today's demanding professional lives of many parents, the boarding school students come from wide and diverse backgrounds."

Boarding schools, whether state, state-integrated or independent, provide children with not just educational opportunities but a vital place to grow. That extends to sporting, technological and cultural options which are all unlocked when travel time is eliminated. Boarding these days is about developing the whole person.

It also provides a chance for children to mix with people that they would not normally do. In other words, boarding becomes a melting pot and the gate can swing both ways here; it gives the sons and daughters of city folk a chance to learn about the real rural New Zealand.