As parents, we always want to believe that our children are prepared to excel in school – and capable of doing so – without any involvement on our part. We want to think that they will be hard-working and studious, that they will have a desire to learn, and that they will responsibly navigate their years of education so as to maximize career opportunities down the road.
Of course, this ideal is not always a reality. Some children simply don’t have the discipline, capacity, or motivation to naturally excel in school. This doesn’t mean that they are not great people, children, and friends; rather, it simply shows that they may need some outside support. A parent should not be expected to metaphorically hold a child’s hand and force educational excellence upon them. But, as parents, we can still take steps to right the ship and improve performance before it is too late.
How can this be done? One of the best approaches is to provide your son or daughter with a structured academic setting – a setting that offers students the resources to grow and to thrive.
Such a setting can often be best found at private boarding schools. While history and Hollywood may have painted boarding schools as bastions for the super-rich or outposts for the highly-troubled delinquents, in reality these institutions often provide an educational community that public schools cannot match. For example, places such as the Army Navy Academy, a college preparatory boarding school for boys, grades 7-12, offer personalized academic counselors, after school tutorials, scheduled study time, peer counseling, and regular homework tracking. All these programs have the aggregate effect of encouraging students to work and learn – and of providing them the resources with which to make that happen.
We were also pleased to find out that we weren’t the only parents who considered sending our child to a military academy. In a study published by the Journal of School Choice, research showed that a surprising number of parents were electing to send their children to military academies or private schools. In a time where public schools are struggling to provide a well-rounded education due to the demands of No Child Left Behind, military academies have thrived because they don’t have to rely on NCLB funding, and are instead allowed to focus on providing education founded on personal responsibility, community, loyalty, and discipline.
In addition to a more well-rounded education, we believe that a military boarding school was the most appropriate for our son because of the focus on character development and leadership skills. Like many kids at the school my son attended, our son was doing okay in public school and was moderately involved, but there was no real focus on motivation, goal setting or self-discipline. At the military academy, he was able to prove his own self worth without having to worry about family wealth or achievements setting the bar for his success. The creation of self-governance and self-reliance was incredibly important to us and he quickly learned to be accountable and responsible for his actions through a merit/demerit system.
If this sounds like an environment that may be suitable for your child, it’s definitely worth discussing and exploring the issue further. My husband and I did just that several years ago, when our son was struggling to reach his potential in the local school system.
Although none of us were thrilled by the idea of him living away from home at a boarding school, we realized that it was a short-term solution with potential long-term benefits. And we were right; after just a year in a military boarding school our son had acquired the necessary tools necessary to succeed on his own, in any setting, in any institution. He returned to public school and excelled right off the bat. Now, he can tackle his coursework on his own – he really doesn’t need his parents or his school to find motivation for him.
In retrospect though, I wish I had kept him at the boarding school until he graduated. Attending a small military boarding school comes with unique advantages: college planning services at no extra cost, life-long friendships that can become a powerful professional network, and leadership skills that really set a student apart from other college applicants. If you can afford the full 3-4 years, it can really pay off in the long-term.
This post has been contributed by Becky W.