Until we met with the two ladies from Student Services on Tuesday we'd never even thought about commuting as a potentially successful way to ease Ben into university life: commuting for the first term, or even the first year, while he finds his feet and establishes a friendship circle.
This way Ben has the best of both worlds: the security, familiarity and routine of home coupled with the university experience plus the academic stimulation he thrives on so much. It also helps us, as parents, to wean ourselves off his company so we can all learn to be successfully independent without so many shocks to the system.
We only live 35 miles away from Sheffield and there are several direct trains an hour, taking an average of 40 minutes station to station. Then it's a quick hop onto the tram platform at Sheffield railway station and a speedy 5 minute tram ride which drops him right outside his Faculty. No walking to bus stops or hold-ups as buses navigate the traffic - trams have priority. The only spanner in the works is getting from our house to our local railway station which adds another 30 minutes to the journey.
Because his History degree programme has far less contact time than many other degree programmes, he'll only be commuting Monday to Thursday. And lectures don't begin before 10 or 11am, sometimes even later. In between lectures and seminars he'll have the time to find his feet within the university environment and hopefully make friends - and stay on for evening activities if he wants to, with a focus on the kind of activity that will appeal to him i.e. non-boozy / non-clubbing.
If he needs to stay overnight, then there's always the option of finding part-time lodgings. My sister mentioned that she knows a family in the city that take in occasional lodgers. Or even sleeping on a friend's floor!
If it all works out, then he might consider moving into accommodation after Christmas. Or wait until the second year. Or not. Whatever.
The only pressure is that he will need to decide within the first 5 weeks whether he's going to stick with the course - or be faced with having to pay back a percentage of the £9,000pa fees... Up to 5 weeks into the first term, there is no charge.
And, without any accommodation fees to worry about, there's no pressure on that front, either.
Plus, Student Services and the History Department are offering to draw up a full support plan to ensure Ben has access to whatever assistance he needs. Towards the end of this academic year he can visit Sheffield and be physically introduced to the various support services so he knows exactly where to go and who to see if there's an emergency. And, of course, we've already met the lovely ladies in Student Services who couldn't have been nicer.
Or he might decide to take another year off or not go to university at all.
It's early days, of course, but it's fantastic to know that there's this flexibility.
I wish we'd thought of it first time round. Having said that, it's still very clear that Ben isn't ready for university yet.
Meanwhile he has a job interview on Monday and another possible interview coming. For paid work.
Good on him to get the ball rolling so quickly.