What is life like at a typical youth boot camp?

If you’re considering sending your child to a youth boot camp, you might be wondering how they’ll spend their days. Do they awake at dawn to a bugle and march in circles outside? No, that would be military school. Boot camp is a somewhat misleading nickname for that are designed to fast-track a teen’s personal development and rescue them from self destructive habits. So what goes on all day at a boot camp boarding school? Do they get any free time? Do they watch TV? Are they allowed to make phone calls? It’s important to have an accurate picture of the activities your child will be involved, in so you know that they’re safe and nurtured, growing academically and emotionally.

The day begins with breakfast. Since mealtimes are served at specific times, everyone eats together, either at small tables, like a cafe or at a large table, like a big family. Residential counselors and teachers often dine with the teens, and the environment is familial. Food served is generally nutritious, designed to meet the nutritional needs of growing kids (we all know teenage boys have some serious nutritional requirements) When people have the nutrition that their bodies require, they’re able to make better decisions, sleep comfortably, and handle emotions well.

School is clearly part of a boot camp. Some boot camps re-create a classroom environment, while others engage in one-on-one tutoring. An individualized approach to academic education allows each child to succeed at their own pace, and removes the negative social environment that occurs when children are pitted against one another in the name of education. Instead of being: “The class clown,” or “The shy one,” the teens are allowed to just be themselves, and to learn without the games of social learning.

After school, residents are able to participate in long term cooperative projects, attend field trips, and sometimes watch movies or read books in a common area. Some programs allow for youth to volunteer within the community, work on arts and crafts, take additional classes, read books from the library. Teens are often expected to keep the common areas clean, and to make their bed each day and keep their rooms clean. Also, teens are given a time each day to shower and do their own laundry.

Most boarding schools allow youth the opportunity to enjoy the out-of-doors, as time spent in commune with nature can be therapeutic. Some schools have gardens, walking paths and benches where kids and counselors can walk and talk, or just relax. Instead of chasing the recess bell, many programs allow teens to enjoy the natural world whenever there’s free time.

If you’re looking into a boarding school program, see what their days are like before you enroll your child. Learning how they spend their days will help you picture you troubled teen growing and succeeding in their structured environment. While teens might balk at this, as being strict and boring, behavioral psychologists know that a structured environment allows teens the luxury of knowing what to expect and when. Removing the unpredictability of family life in a regular home, where plans change and kids with behavioral problems can be “set off” by the most trivial things, kids in a boot camp are able to enjoy a predictable and balanced structure each day.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Should your child be sent to a teen boot camp?

Are boot camp for teens the best way to discipline teenagers?