Military School Benefits: Routine and Structure

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Celeste M. Brooks P'12, '21, Director of Communications

As a longtime R-MA employee, I have seen the program here benefit students in a multitude of ways. There are the students who thrive with the personal attention and small classes available in private school. There are those who blossom in a smaller environment where students are encouraged to get involved in multiple activities, and they get to try things they couldn’t before (not because they didn’t have the talent, but because they didn’t get experience at an early enough age). There are some who are challenged in new ways, either academically to think critically and analytically for the first time, or to lead others for the first time in Air Force Junior ROTC. There are still others who find success just because of the sense of security that the routine provides and the time management they learn through a structured day.

Military schools emphasize routine and structure in an effort to help cadets develop self-discipline and positive habits that will serve them for life.

“Boarding school provides two key elements in which children grow to become independent, cooperative, and ultimately successful adults,” says Pam Cole, Middle School and International Student Admission Counselor. Ms. Cole’s two children graduated from Randolph-Macon Academy. “I believe that routine and structure provide the predictability which helps lessen anxiety and boredom. Routines allow a child to feel safe and focus their energy academically and athletically; as well as enjoy their social time with like-minded friends. Structure helps children to become productive and engaged because they are aware of the expectations which helps them to feel ready to take on new tasks and challenges. They learn constructive habits such as academic strategies, time management, and self-discipline, to name a few.”

Routine and structure are often associated with military schools, but what do people mean when they say those words? After all, every school has some sort of routine and structure--don’t they? 

When we say routine, we are talking not about having the same exact schedule every day, but having consistency in life. It means knowing what time you need to get up, when you have time to clean your room, what time class starts, when your meals will be, when study hall is, when you will get some exercise, and what time you turn your lights out. However, here’s a very important note: while we are a military school, our routine is not rigid, because life is not rigid. We have sleep-in days on Fridays. When the weather is going to be bad, out of respect for our off-campus teachers and day students, we delay opening to give them time to figure out if and how they can get to campus safely. When we have a guest speaker, we might change the schedule to accommodate their schedule. 

Structure is the real buzzword associated with military schools--many families call our school saying, “My child needs more structure.” What are they looking for? Most often, they are looking for boundaries and rules. They want lights out at a specific time and cell phone access limited. They want their children to have a set study hall time so they get their work done, and they like the idea of a uniform and room inspections. And they expect firm consequences for failure in any of these areas, tempered with empathy and a reasonable level of kindness. 

Military schools use a variety of physical activities to build teamwork and camaraderie, and also to help cadets develop good habits for their own physical health.

The fact is that Ms. Cole is right. With routine and structure as usually verbalized by parents considering military schools, teenagers often find success. 

“Years before I chose Randolph-Macon Academy as the school for my kids, I could clearly see the progress and growth of the students who were attending, since I worked on campus,” says Ms. Cole. “I could not be more pleased and proud of the success my kids have achieved and the good citizens they became. I attribute much of their ‘power of rise’ to the routine, structured environment and the caring people implementing all aspects of the program.”