Is an All-Boys School Right for Your Son?

By Meghan Vivo

A growing number of boys are not succeeding in school. This news has left parents questioning the source of the problem – is it my son, his school, his teachers, or something else altogether?

Research shows that part of the problem may be related to co-ed schooling. Though there are many wonderful public schools and private day schools, there is a growing body of research that suggests co-ed schools may simply be unable to meet the unique needs of both boys and girls.

A recent report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicated that the parents of nearly one of every five boys in the United States were concerned enough about their sons’ emotional or behavioral problems that they consulted a doctor or a health care professional. Only about one out of 10 parents of girls reported these kinds of concerns.

Moreover, the NCHS reported that:
  • Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school;
  • Girls outperform boys in elementary, secondary, high school, college, and even graduate school in terms of grades and homework;
  • Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and
  • Women outnumber men in higher education (women are awarded 56 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 55 percent of graduate degrees).

The Benefits of Single-Sex Schools

Is an all-boys boarding school worth the financial cost and difficulty of physical separation? Scientific research, as well as reports from grads and their parents, indicate that the answer is a definite yes. 

Never a Dull Moment. Boarding school is an adventure full of calculated risks and rewards. At every turn, students are encouraged to try new activities, push themselves, meet new people, and adapt to unfamiliar situations. Challenge produces personal growth and marked increases in self-confidence, and makes the experience of being away from home an enjoyable one. Living in a home with new friends helps students build an immediate support network and establish friendships that they’ll remember for life. 

Individualized Attention and Hands-On Learning. Boys not only have more fun at all-boys’ schools, they learn more. Small class sizes, one-on-one tutoring, and an impressive list of course offerings are just the start. At all-boys schools, boys get more of what they need – hands-on, active learning that doesn’t require them to sit still for long periods of time; more visual aids and props to hold their attention; and teachers who turn ordinary reading and writing assignments into an adventure.

“Every day is different at a therapeutic boarding school,” says Thomas Ring, the fine arts coordinator at Stone Mountain School, a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 11-17 who are struggling with ADD, ADHD, nonverbal learning disorders (NLD), and other learning and behavioral issues.

After a few years teaching in public schools and charter schools, and 10 years of educating students in therapeutic boarding schools, Ring vows he’ll never leave the boarding school setting. “Each of these boys has different talents and struggles, and we’re able to tailor the program to suit each of them,” he says. “If I have an idea about something that could help a student, I can implement it that day. Nowhere else can you find that freedom to cater to what the student needs at any given moment.”

Stone Mountain School uses a wide range of assistive technologies in the classroom, including special software that lets students arrange information visually and organize their tasks, and tools to assist with reading and writing. Whatever interventions the boys respond to best, the staff has the flexibility and resources to give the students more of the tools that help them succeed.

Unlike public schools, where physical education programs have given way to more classroom time, therapeutic boarding schools like Stone Mountain School ensure every student has time to play and exercise. Set in the woods in North Carolina, the Stone Mountain campus has a lake, large grassy fields, and tons of open spaces to play. Half of each day is spent in core academic classes, while the other half consists of hands-on electives that frequently take place outdoors. Every weekend, students head to the forest for experiential trips, camping, hiking, and outdoor adventures.

“One reason this program is so effective is that we have so many ways to reach students,” says the school’s academic director, John Steele. “Young people need active, creative outlets to stay energized, motivated, and challenged. The confidence they build in the adventure challenges translates into academic success, a willingness to take on more responsibility, and better social functioning.”

Freedom to Be Yourself. Boarding school isn’t exclusively about academics; other important goals include improved social functioning, better focus, organization, and commitment, and becoming a well-rounded adult who has not only experienced academic success but also personal and social achievements.

Without the pressure of gender stereotypes and girls around to impress, boys in single-sex schools are free to explore the arts and languages as well as sports and other extracurricular activities. With fewer distractions like video games, television, and other forms of escape, boys can focus on school and friendships, getting organized, and improving their communication skills. They gain confidence in their ability to learn without being compared to girls who tend to mature more quickly and enjoy earlier success in school.

“It’s my personal opinion that all high schools should be single-gender,” says Susan Hardy, the executive director of Stone Mountain School. “Though it’s great to have shared mixers or lunches for social networking, co-ed classrooms can do a great disservice to both genders. For females, all-girls schools help them come into their own sense of power and build self-esteem. For males, all-boys schools give them the freedom to define success by their interests and accomplishments rather than their popularity with girls.”

“For boys who are struggling with learning issues or behavioral problems, sometimes a ‘back to basics’ approach is best,” adds Steele. “In a single-gender environment, they can get their peer and family relationships under control before entering the more complicated co-ed setting.”

Accomplished Teachers and Role Models. There is no shortage of role models at all-boys schools. Both the male and female teachers and counselors have experience working specifically with boys and developing lesson plans that are effective for young men. Teachers, counselors, advisors, and other trusted adults are also more accessible at boarding school, which helps foster meaningful bonds. These role models demonstrate teamwork, healthy communication, and effective coping strategies that ease the transition into adolescence and adulthood.

“Many young boys with learning differences or ADHD taste failure and frustration early on at school,” notes Steele. “One of our early goals at Stone Mountain is to reverse that cycle and get the students reinvested in education through role modeling and giving them frequent opportunities to succeed.”

A Smooth Transition into College. Boarding school grads tend to be more prepared for the academic and personal challenges of college. These students are accustomed to taking responsibility for their own actions, belongings, and personal well-being because they have already experienced living away from home. While boarding school is highly structured and students receive constant support from teachers, advisors, and peers, they grow leaps and bounds in terms of self-sufficiency and maturity.

All-boys private boarding schools have one main goal in mind: to create a program designed specifically to meet the educational and developmental needs of young men. To bring out the best in your child, find out if an all-boys boarding school is right for you.