Parents are often drawn to military schools in hopes that the “discipline” that is central to their focus will get their child’s behaviour in line. The “modern” version of military schools, meaning military academies that operated outside the sole focus of training officers for war, combined education with a military theme in the early 1800’s and is still in use today.

Military schools are typically academically focused and use military code of rules, regulation, structure, discipline and a level system. Military schools are not solely for troubled teens, although they do have a history of admitting and educating at-risk youth.

What are the Benefits of a Military School?

  • Rigid, strict discipline
  • Highly structured, regimented environment
  • An emphasis on physical fitness
  • Traditional or advanced academic program
  • An emphasis on leadership skills and following an honor code

What are the Downfalls of a Military School for a Troubled Teen

While different military schools provide their own systems, programs and education are typically not individualized and there is typically no assessment, recognition or accommodation for students with diagnosed disorders, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, Aspergers, etc. All youth are exposed to the same programming and same reward/consequence system just like the military, which can be appealing to some parents.

There is typically no treatment specific for any diagnosed (or undiagnosed) challenges, and thus some students continue to suffer and decline, even with the structured environment. While the focus in military schools is “do as you’re told” which appeals to us as parents, students are not necessarily learning how to manage their emotions and behaviours, nor think responsibly and independently.

As an alternative to the military school experience, we have heard from many parents that their child, based on their emotional or behavioral issues, sunk further into depression or social isolation as a result of never being able to earn rewards at military schools, and just accumulating infractions which left them out of fun activities and trips that other students were earning. Remember – military schools are NOT just for troubled teens, and therefore many troubled teens get left behind as the “non-troubled” kids succeed. Of course, some troubled teens do well at military school, but assessing and knowing which will and which will not is easily assessed.

Venture Academy is not only an alternative to military schools in Canada but can serve as a starting point for youth to address pre-existing behavioral issues so they are better prepared to handle the structure and discipline that a military school provides. Having a thorough assessment followed by focused treatment of emotional and/or behavioral issues helps parents make the “next school” decision, and can help the student be ready for the rigors of a traditional military school, and enjoy the benefits they can provide.