|Boot Camps vs. Boarding Schools
Juvenile Boot Camp -- or Boarding School?
In recent years, short-term juvenile boot camps have often been the new threat over long-term
military schools. Before you send a troubled teenager with behavioral and emotional problems to a
juvenile boot camp, it's important that you understand what these boot camps are and how effective
(or not) they are in transforming angry, unhappy, struggling teens.
The theory behind many juvenile boot camps is that if you scream enough at children and discipline
them, they will "get in line." Angry, defiant, oppositional teenagers may fall in line while in the
intensely overwhelming, military-like environment of a juvenile boot camp, but in most cases these
short-term "scream camps" do not create lasting changes in troubled teens. It is more likely this type
of setting will create more hostility and resentment toward authority figures.
Most troubled teens need structure, strong guidance, therapy, and the discovery of natural
consequences of behavior. For this reason, if your adolescent is truly struggling with behavior,
emotions, and academics, they need something that is more sophisticated and sensitive than a
tough drill sergeant in his or her face.
Parents need to locate schools and programs that excel at finding an individualized plan for children
and teens with special education needs. Behavior modification and therapy not only help with social
behaviors, but also can improve your child's academic performance. Here, you can locate programs
for children, teens, and young adults, ages 9 to 26.
Short Term Boot Camps--
The length of stay in short term boot camp is generally from 30-90 days. Boot camps are physically
and mentally challenging. Generally boot camps are in a wilderness type environment where
participants live in military type tents. Boot camps will help strip away old attitudes and change to
new attitudes. Boot camps are very confrontational and take teens out of their comfort zone. Boot
camps work best for students with mild problems that just need to gain some appreciation,
motivation, and respect.
Boot Camp Alternatives--
There are a number of Specialized Schools and Behavior Modification
Programs that provide an effective alternative to Boot Camps. These
boarding schools and programs can be utilized on a short-term or
long-term basis. These alternatives like boot camps are very impacting,
but in a safer and more nurturing environment. While under 24-hour
supervision students learn appreciation, respect and accountability.
These boarding schools and programs are not as harsh and tend to be
less punitive then boot camps. These boarding schools and programs
provide a greater emphasis in academics, relationship skills, emotional
growth and character development.
Boot camps offer a short-term "wake up call/reality check", but it will not give you long-term
solutions found in a behavior modification program.
Most troubled teens who are struggling with behavior, emotions and academics will require a longer
stay at a behavior modification program or Specialty Boarding School. Boot camps are not designed
for long-term solutions were behavior modification programs offer long-term solutions and get to the
root of problems. These boot camp alternatives offer an organized and structured environment where
high standards exist, they participate in emotional growth and personal development and the teen will
be academically challenged. These behavior modification programs and specialty boarding schools are
specifically designed to help teens replace inappropriate attitudes, behaviors and habits with long
term productive ones.
Why Teen Boarding Schools?
Of 1,500 private boarding schools worldwide, some 370 are boarding schools in the United States
from New York to Florida, California, Texas and all the smaller states in the USA. These private
boarding schools are responsible for educating more than 42,500 students in the US alone. Although
the typical boarding school has been in operation for more than a century, it is not the stodgy
experience you might imagine. Certainly, the most prestigious schools maintain a recognizable
tradition. But even among them, each school has its own personality. Diversity is a widely sought goal
for most college prep boarding schools. In fact, 10-12% of the students in the typical boarding school
are from non US countries. 15% are students of color (among National Association of Independent
Schools surveyed 2003-2004, this ratio was nearly 20%). And the denizens of even the most
hallowed halls are not all from wealthy families as once was uniformly the case.
Financial assistance is widely available. Nationwide, $400 million in need-based scholarships and
other financial aid goes to private school students, and an additional $12 million is awarded to
non-needy students. 20% of private boarding school students receive some financial support. The
greater portion of this aid goes to boarding school students, almost 2-to-1. Among NAIS boarding
schools surveyed, 31.5% students received aid. Some teen boarding schools are religious, others are
non-sectarian, and some of the sectarian schools eagerly welcome students of other backgrounds and
faiths. In some cases financial support from the religious body may be the major significant difference
between a parochial private school and an independent private school. As far as the student is
concerned, the difference may be nil.
Things you should consider and compare:
If you're considering local options besides
boarding school, compare these important
· Attention to students - boarding schools
generally have small class sizes that help
teachers engage every student in the classroom.
Classroom settings are often specifically
designed to encourage student participation
and eye contact among everyone in class.
· Quality of faculty - the majority of boarding
school faculty have advanced degrees in either
education or another specialty.
· Quality of resources - student resources at boarding schools - such as the library, theater facilities,
or athletic complexes - can often be superior relative to local options.
· Challenging academics - academics at boarding schools operate at high standards. Students are
pushed to "ask why," become inquisitive, and tackle challenging problems.
· Broad and diverse offerings - course selections at boarding schools tend to be quite diverse, have
plenty of AP options, and offer a wide range of topics. Athletic and extracurricular options tend to be
broad as well, which encourage students to try new things. Many boarding schools also offer
opportunities to study in different countries for a term.
· College counseling - college counseling departments at boarding schools are generally well-staffed
and taken quite seriously. Counselors often have plenty of experience in helping applicants identify
appropriate schools and advising them on getting-in at competitive institutions.
Benefits unique to boarding school:
In other ways, however, you'll find that boarding schools are strictly
unique. In your boarding school research, you'll likely hear that
"boarding school is an education in and of itself." While a little corny,
the phrase is true - living in a boarding school community leads to
learning that is just as (or more) valuable than the education you get
strictly in a classroom.
Boarding school alumni say that they've really liked:
· Making choices that matter and taking responsibility for yourself - living on your own isn't always
easy. There is, of course, plenty of support from faculty, advisors and peers. But still, you need to take
care of yourself and take responsibility for your own actions to a much greater degree than if you
were living at home. While there's definitely structure within the boarding school day, you still need to
make choices around how you spend your time, what activities and opportunities to take, and how to
create a reasonable balance between work and play. You'll be able to make choices that have a direct
impact on the things you learn and the life you lead at boarding school. For parents: this roughly
translates to increased maturity, greater self-sufficiency, and superior preparation for college.
· Being in an environment where trying new things is encouraged - going to boarding school means
venturing into something unfamiliar. Going to boarding school, like any new adventure, means taking
a risk because you think the reward will be worthwhile. The good news is that everyone else who goes
to boarding school is also taking that risk. You'll be part of a community where the willingness to
explore new things is inherent in the student body, and where lots of people will also be trying new
things. During boarding school, you'll repeatedly make ventures into the unknown. You'll meet new
types of people, find your place in a new community, learn new skills and subjects, and challenge
yourself to a higher academic standard. With every little challenge that boarding school presents,
you learn a little bit more about yourself and become a little bit more comfortable with yourself.
For parents: this means that students often experience a lot of personal growth and increased
· Having a lot of fun and forming intense friendships - boarding school can also be a lot of fun.
Imagine living in a house with a bunch of your best friends. It's common in boarding school for your
dorm mates to become your closest friends and support network. The friendships that you make in
this environment will be ones you will remember for life.
· Having a wide range of friends - boarding schools actively aim to recruit students from a wide range
of geographic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds. Many schools have students coming from all
over the United States and dozens of different countries. At boarding schools, you'll be exposed to a
relatively wide range of individuals and cultures, whereas local options may expose you to a narrower
background of students.
· Having faculty as friends and having them regularly available - students are exposed to faculty in
plenty of settings throughout the day - e.g., the classroom (as teachers), athletic fields (as coaches),
extracurricular groups (as advisors), and dorm settings (as dorm supervisors). Since faculty are
accessible throughout the day, getting academic help is usually a lot easier. Also, relationships with
faculty members and adults can better thrive in these multiple settings, creating learning and
mentorship opportunities that are hard to find in other environments.
· Being part of a proud community - boarding school alumni are generally very enthusiastic and
proud of their boarding school alma maters (in many cases, more so than their college alma maters).
The traditions and history behind many boarding schools drive the character of each school, and
influence each student who goes there. The shared experience of this tradition and history creates a
strong network of people and a feeling of community that lasts for life.
Education takes on a broad meaning at boarding schools. Boarding schools
recognize this - they often have an explicit mission to not only educate
students in the classroom, but to also help them become better-rounded
individuals. So while boarding schools often do very well at educating
students academically (in ways that may be better than local schooling
options), their less directly measurable benefits should be considered as
well. Keep this in mind as you research schooling options. As you look at
various boarding schools, see if you can also picture yourself there.
We wish you the best of luck!