By Hugh C. McBride
You know your child's academic experience has been less than successful thus far, and you're happy to consider whatever alternatives can help him achieve at the level that you know he's capable of reaching.
But a boarding school? Thanks, but no thanks – you've seen and read enough about boarding schools to know that there's no way your child could benefit from attending one.
But what if you discovered that everything you thought you knew about boarding schools was wrong?
Boarding School Myth #1: Rampant Misbehavior, Minimal Accountability
Let's call this the "Gossip Girl" myth. Although many boarding school students do come from upper-class families, and many are also likely to have unrealistic opinions of what constitutes "acceptable behaviors,” this doesn't mean that a private boarding school is an "Animal House" for the pre-college set.
In fact, many private boarding schools are designed specifically to improve students' behaviors.
For example, in St. George, Utah, SunHawk Academy combines intensive clinical interventions with an accredited academic curriculum to help teens ages 13 to 17 overcome addictions to alcohol and other drugs while continuing their academic progress.
And in Black Mountain, North Carolina, Stone Mountain School helps boys ages 11 to 17 whose histories of unacceptable behavior have derailed their academic progress and threatened their healthy social, emotional, and vocational development.
At these and other private boarding schools for teens, a high degree of structure is augmented by close supervision and a philosophy that emphasizes personal accountability.
Boarding School Myth #2: Non-Rich Need Not Apply
Unlike public schools, private boarding schools depend upon student tuition to remain operational, and the intensive therapeutic services that are offered at many of these schools result in tuition rates that rival or surpass some colleges and universities.
But the tuition fees do not mean that only wealthy families are able to enroll their children in these schools. Many schools are willing to work with parents to design payment plans or to help arrange for alternate sources of financing, and some schools offer partial or full scholarships to students who meet certain criteria.
Cost may play a role in determining which private boarding school parents select for their children, but costs alone do not automatically disqualify any student or members of any particular socio-economic group from attending any school.
Boarding School Myth #3: A System of Organized Oppression
Films and literature contain many accounts of boarding school experiences in which young and relatively defenseless students are subjected to the bullying and other sometimes cruel whims of older students.
While boarding schools aren’t immune from peer pressures, many private therapeutic boarding schools have controls in place to ensure that all students have a safe and positive experience.
One such school is The Oakley School, a private boarding school in Utah whose mission includes inspiring each student "to respect and pursue educational and moral growth." Featuring a highly structured program that includes an honor code, code of conduct, and student government system, The Oakley School guides students toward healthy and acceptable interactions with each other, and provides for effective means of resolving conflicts in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner.
Boarding School Myth #4: For Older Students Only
When parents think about boarding schools, many envision older teens who are preparing themselves for the self-sufficiency and additional freedoms that they will soon encounter at college or in the working world.
But older students aren't the only ones who can benefit from enrolling in a private boarding school. On campuses in Bend, Oregon, and Hendersonville, North Carolina, New Leaf Academy has established a reputation for excellence as a private therpaeutic boarding school for girls ages 10 to 14. Designed to help young girls who are experiencing academic, emotional, and developmental challenges, New Leaf provides a supportive and nurturing environment in which middle school girls can develop the skills that will allow them to find success throughout their teenage years and into adulthood.
Boarding School Myth #5: An Admission of Failure
Too many parents mistakenly believe that deciding to send their son or daughter to a private therapeutic boarding school is somehow an admission that they have "failed."
Nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, parents fail when they refuse to identify or address problems that their children are struggling to overcome.
When you make the decision to enroll your child in a private boarding school, you are re-affirming your commitment to providing the best possible care, and giving your child the best chance of developing into a happy, healthy, and productive adult.