Is Military School for Kids?

Is military school for kids? It is important to clarify what type of military school you are asking about when it comes to youth. There are military schools designed for teens wishing to excel in a military career, then there are military schools for troubled youth. Keep reading to learn what type of military school may be the best for your child.

What Is a Military School?

Some people, when hearing the term military school, may call to mind the five service academies for the Armed Forces of the United States:

  • Air Force—U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) Colorado Springs, CO
  • Army—U.S. Military Academy (USMA) West Point, NY
  • Coast Guard—U.S. Coast Guard Academy  (USCGA) New London, CT
  • Coast Guard, Navy, Merchant Marines—U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Kings Point, NY
  • Navy, Marines—U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Annapolis, MD

These are institutions for tertiary (college level), and attendance incurs a 5-year obligation of active duty. These are definitely not schools for kids.

Another type of institution that may come to mind is the enforced training of underage soldiers in other countries, where boys are forced into military service. This training in the art of war is not well-named “schooling.”

Other people may think of reform schools when they hear the term military school. But institutions designed to “reform” kids, even when they claim military discipline and military personnel, and bootcamp techniques are a) usually not an accredited school and b) usually not—with the exception of the National Guard ChalleNGe program—endorsed by the US Armed Forces, and their tactics have been called into question as having any merit for the reform they attempt to instigate, and with a history of kids getting hurt at such places, saying they are “for kids” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But none of these is the usual meaning of the term military school. A military school is generally a K–12 institution designed to serve usually secondary students, but sometimes primary level students, in a college preparatory environment, with a military component.

Let’s look at the characteristics of military schools that are “for kids.”

Characteristics of Military Schools for Kids

Public and private college preparatory military schools are for kids. The private schools, in particular, pride themselves on their long history of providing an education that addresses the whole child, including his or her spiritual life. These schools combine a military style environment, in which there is a hierarchy and students (called cadets) wear uniforms and participate in JROTC programs during their high school years, with demanding academic programs, and usually a well-rounded athletic and extracurricular activity program.

Though most military schools for kids—public and private—are for grades 9–12, you are more likely to find private military schools that include some, if not all, of the middle school/junior high years, and some that accept or focus on younger students. The  private American Military Academy in Puerto Rico, for example, is a PK–12 school, while the public Toole Military Magnet Academy in South Carolina offers grades 6–8, and St. Catherine’s Military Academy—also private—is for students in grades K–8.

Free Military Schools

Before deciding that military school is not financially feasible, it’s a good idea to find out what the cost would actually be. It might not occur to people to consider the terms military school and free in the same sentence when thinking about K through 12 schools, but there are two ways to make free military school a possibility for your child. The first comes with the opening of a number of public military schools: this has made “free military schools” a real possibility for those who live in the areas served by these schools. But it is also the case that a private military school education may—in certain cases—be free or nearly free. Here are the details.

Free Public Military Schools

Like all other public schools, public military schools—whether they are “regular” public schools, charter schools, or magnet schools—are not paid for directly by those who attend them. In public military schools, unlike private military schools, the students’ uniforms are also supplied free of charge.

If you are looking for free military schools, there are more options (though they are still only available in limited areas) for students in grades 9 through 12. Free military schools are almost all high schools, although there is one military school for grades 6 through 8 in Charleston Heights, South Carolina. The places where there are currently accredited public military schools include the following cities, besides the one just named:

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Forestville, Maryland
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Sandy Hook, New Jersey
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Wilmington, Delaware

Free Private Military Schools

Like other private schools, private military schools are not known for being cheap. There are tuition expenses, room and board expenses for boarding students (though not for day students), and the expense of uniforms and other incidentals of school attendance. But, as with other schools that charge tuition, including colleges and universities, where there are charges, there is also financial aid.

Loans have to be paid back, so while they may make military school attendance affordable, they do not make it free. What may possibly make it free or approach being free is need-based grants and scholarships and merit scholarships and schemes that reduce tuition. The scholarship and grant types of financial assistance may come from a number of places, and may be secured from within the school, from the student’s home community, or elsewhere. Schools often have donations from alumni to build a scholarship and/or grant fund. Community organizations such as Rotary and Lion’s Clubs, businesses where students work, and parents’ employers are typical sources of funding for students. When there is financial need, at least some schools indicate that their financial aid awards may be substantial. Students who have a parent or relative working at the school and who are the son or daughter of a school alum (sometimes called a legacy admission) sometimes receive a tuition break right from the start, before any awards are applied. Scholarships may have specific criteria that students need to fulfill in order to qualify, and they may have to compete with others for a limited number of scholarships.

Christian Military Schools

Christian military schools are only found among the private military schools, not the public military schools, as one might expect. What may be surprising to someone with little knowledge of military schools is how many of them have a particular Christian sect affiliation and how many of the rest are non-denominational Christian schools as well as military schools. Even those that do not call themselves Christian have, for the most part, a spiritual element in both their curriculum (for example, a meeting time called “Chapel”) and arrangements for Sunday prayer and/or worship for their students. There are Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic Christian military schools.

The founders of the Christian military schools often had in mind the concept of “educating the whole boy” (nearly all, if not all, of the private military schools were founded as boys schools—those that are coeducational most often became so later).  To the founders, this meant an approach that addressed academics, character, leadership, and the young person’s spiritual life. Of course, the various founders stated this differently.

In addition, many of the private military schools were founded in the nineteenth or early twentieth century, when it was still true that the United States was predominantly Christian. So it is not surprising that the founders did not leave their faith behind when founding schools. The connection is even tighter in the Christian military schools that were founded by religious orders, like the Benedictines or the Christian Brothers.

You can see the Christian-military connection in a few, but by no means all, of the Christian military schools’ names.

• Benedictine Military School

• St. Catherine’s Military Academy

• St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy

• St. John’s Military School

show the faith connection in their names, but most people would have trouble guessing that Fork Union Military Academy or Marine Military Academy had a Christian affiliation, that Hargrave Military Academy had a Baptist tradition, or that Chamberlain-Hunt Academy was either a military school or affiliated with the Presbyterian church.

Another reason that may underlie the Christian faith—military school connection is that faith is assumed in history of our country as being connected to patriotism. This can be seen in our Pledge of Allegiance (“one nation, under God”) as well as in the JROTC Cadet Creed:

I am an Army JROTC cadet. I will always conduct myself to bring credit to my family, country, school, and the corps of cadets.

I am loyal and patriotic. I am the future of the United States of America.

I do not lie, cheat, or steal and will always be accountable for my actions and deeds.

I will always practice good citizenship and patriotism.

I will work hard to improve my mind and strengthen my body.

I will seek the mantle of leadership and stand prepared to uphold the Constitution and the American way of life.

May God grant me the strength to always live by this creed.


Military Schools for Girls

Military schools for girls are either private schools that became coeducational after being an all-boys school or are public schools, and therefore coeducational by definition. Whether public or private, military schools for girls will have an admissions process: because students will be expected to adhere to the Cadet Creed, they are expected to be well-behaved young people of good character and with strong academic performance shown in their record.

Military schools are college-preparatory schools with a mandatory JROTC for girls program associated with one of the branches of the United States Armed Forces, for example, Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines. Military schools for girls aim to provide a high-quality academic program integrated with leadership training in order to provide students with the basis for assuming prominent positions in the private sector or the Armed Forces. There is no service commitment connected to attending a military school, but there may be definite advantages for students who do seek a military career.

The public military schools are part of a public school district and accredited by their state. The private military schools are accredited by one or more of the approved accreditation organizations. You should never consider sending your daughter to any school that is called a military school but that does not have proper accreditation.

Public military schools restrict admissions to students in their immediate neighborhood or vicinity. This means that only people who happen to live near one can attend. There are currently public military schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Chicago, Illinois; Charleston Heights, South Carolina; Forestville, Maryland; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richmond, Virginia; Sandy Hook, New Jersey, Saint Louis, Missouri, and Wilmington, Delaware. Many public high schools have a non-mandatory JROTC program that girls may participate in, as an alternative if you do not live near a public military school and prefer not to or cannot send your daughter to a private military school.

Private military schools for girls include 12 coeducational military schools, most of which include middle school, and one of which begins with Pre-kindergarten. Almost all of them offer a choice of day or boarding school type attendance, and while some of them are affiliated with a particular denomination—Episcopal or Methodist—most are non-denominational Christian. Here they are, arranged by grade levels accepted. The asterisk indicates that a post-graduate year is available:

American Military Academy                           PK to 12           Guaynabo, PR

Howe Military School                                     5 to 12               Howe, IN

Admiral Farragut Academy                           6 to 12               St. Petersburg, FL

Florida Air Academy                                       6 to 12               Melbourne, FL

Georgia Military College Prep School         6 to 12              Milledgeville, GA

Randolph-Macon Academy                           6 to 12 *           Front Royal, VA

Oak Ridge Military Academy                         7 to 12               Oak Ridge, NC

Massanutten Military Academy                     7 to 12 *            Woodstock, VA

New York Military Academy                          7 to 12 *             Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY

TMI -The Episcopal School of Texas            8 to 12             San Antonio, TX

New Mexico Military Institute                         9 to 12 *            Roswell, NM

Wentworth Military Academy & College        9 to 12 *          Lexington, MO

Military Schools for Boys

Military schools for boys may be coeducational public schools with a college-preparatory curriculum and a mandatory Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) component or private military schools that offer boarding facilities, or serve both boarding and day students or is a day school exclusively and accept either boys only or both boys and girls. The JROTC program is allied to different branches of the military at different military schools for boys. So you will find schools with Naval JROTC, Army JROTC, Marine JROTC, and Air Force JROTC.

Both public and private military schools for boys have an admissions process that covers both their academic and disciplinary history. Students at military schools are expected to participate in an academically rigorous curriculum as well as pledge the Cadet Creed, which promises good conduct, exertion of leadership potential, patriotism, and good citizenship. To this end, military schools seek good character and a strong academic record in the students they admit.

Although some graduates of military schools for boys do go on to enlist or to a service academy, most military schools for boys seek primarily to educate their students (called cadets) for entrance into prestigious colleges and universities. One exception to this is the New York Military Academy, which has six “tracks of intention” that students choose depending on their post-graduate goal, one of which is specifically designed to prepare students for a Service Academy acceptance. Nevertheless, attendance at a military school for boys does not in and of itself incur a service commitment of any kind.

The public military schools for boys are accredited by the Department of Education of the state they are in and run by a public school district. The private military schools for boys are accredited by at least one (and sometimes more) approved accreditation organizations. You should never consider enrolling your son in any school that does not have appropriate accreditation, no matter what else it does have, as it may jeopardize both his education and his future.

Public military schools for boys and private military schools for boys that are exclusively day schools only serve students who live in their vicinity, though they draw beyond the immediate neighborhood, and some students may have a commute to get there. This restricts the scope of students who may attend. If you are interested in a public school military school experience for your son but do not live near a public military school, you might consider the JROTC program that is offered as a choice (i.e., is not mandatory) at a local public school.

Our research has turned up 33 accredited military schools for boys, the majority of which accept boarding school students. They are in the states of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico. There are states that do not have any public or private military schools for boys, and states that have only one private military school for boys.