Oak Hill Blog

Oak Hill Academy – Providing Structure in a Non-Military Boarding School

We often encounter families who’ve looked at military schools, led by the desire for structure for their student, only to find that the military school approach may not be the right fit. 

We often encounter families who’ve looked at military schools, led by the desire for structure for their student, only to find that the military school approach may not be the right fit.  Whether that is because there is resentment on the part of the student, or some other factor–it’s not the right fit.  Many families find Oak Hill Academy as another option offering similar structure with additional nurture.

Structure:  In comparison to a military school environment, there are many overlapping elements of structure at Oak Hill Academy that support the goal of defining boundaries and fostering personal growth through responsibility and routine.  We wear a school uniform (albeit a uniform packet that gives a lot of options, so we are not dressing identically–think polos and khakis with several different pullovers available).  We have a scheduled day that culminates in mandatory study time in the dorms, and set times for “lights out.”  We have consequences for failing room inspection or missing homework.  This means that our students don’t find it easy at Oak Hill Academy. Our cell phone policy limits (available during designated times for “packets of use”) and internet access are two significant adjustments for our students. We also incorporate half-day Saturday school schedule a couple of times per month as another part of our structured routine.  It all serves to have our students becoming comfortable doing more than the minimum and experiencing first-hand that they are indeed capable and resilient. These rules are not designed to make Oak Hill “tough,” but to facilitate the type of structured environment that leads to the development of focus and a greater capacity for grit.

Accountability:  Our approach focuses on providing coaching through teachable moments that are dependent on being relational, including positive peer pressure.  An accurate impression of our approach is that we do not lead with the punitive, but with coaching instead.  There are several preliminary steps before a student is corrected with things like work detail, social restriction, or a loss of certain privileges.  This provides valuable accountability that is also couched in a supportive relationship. Students here don’t have authority over other students, but are coached to be positive influences through our leadership program and in countless informal teachable moments with our faculty, staff, and resident managers who live with the students in the dorms.

Student Buy-In:  Our small, coed, student body is full of students who were involved in making the choice to attend Oak Hill Academy.  One important criterion for admission is that student applicants must be able to articulate that they see an opportunity for growth, on some level, in attending Oak Hill Academy. That doesn’t mean that everyone enrolls with a huge smile on their face. We completely understand the difference between apprehension and opposition. Making a change to boarding school can be intimidating or even scary at first. A campus tour, however, will reveal that our students are not resentful about being at Oak Hill Academy. Not every day is a walk in the park–our students bump up against their areas of weakness and are pushed to grow. And it’s all outside their comfort zones.  The game changer for most is that they recognize the opportunity to grow and make the kinds of changes they, deep down, want for themselves.  And they are doing it in an environment where they feel truly supported.


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