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Is an All-Boys School the Right Fit for Your Son?

Judy Koutsky
May 12, 2015

Here are some pros and cons to consider in making your decision.

Are you wondering about whether to send your son to an all-boys school? What are the pros and cons of a single-sex education? If you're trying to make that important decision for your child, here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros
Many experts agree that boys and girls learn in different styles. "A boy-friendly learning environment, whether a classroom or a school, allows teachers to make slight but significant changes in volume of speaking voice, frequent checks of understanding to maintain focus on the topic, incorporation of motion into learning activities and use of mild team-based competition -- the cumulative effect of which is to increase boys' level of engagement with the class material," says Dr. Kevin M. Miller, the associate head of academics at Blue Ridge School, a boys' boarding school in St. George, Virginia. "Boys who are engaged in the class are more likely to feel genuinely connected to the teacher, and as a result, will work harder for that teacher and take more educational risks in that class, leading to true academic growth."

Another benefit is that boys may participate in activities that they may have previously deemed more girl-focused, such as drama, singing and dance, explains Alina Adams, an admissions consultant, author and mother of two all-boys school grads.

"In a co-ed school," says Dr. Miller, "the balance of power -- social, extracurricular and academic -- isn't a balance. Boys' sports may get more attention in the press, but student leadership, academic honors, school clubs and societies are very often naturally dominated by girls." He says this is because girls tend to "stay more organized and get things done better than boys, and boys cede this dominance, retreating instead into a more narrowly defined sphere of power -- almost always sports." He adds that "this tends to disempower all those boys who are not natural jocks. In an all-boys school, all the power -- and all the responsibility -- must rest with boys, and they respond well to that challenge."

Cons
"Some boys will feel that they are missing out on a normal high school life because they are not around girls 24/7," says Dr. Miller. Other experts feel that co-ed schools are better preparing students for the real world.

"Research shows that boys and girls do learn differently, but being in school with students of the opposite gender builds acceptance and tolerance for different learning styles and different ways of thinking," says Peggy Dettlinger, the head of lower school at University Liggett School in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan. "Co-ed schools better reflect the diversity students will ultimately experience when they enter the work force. Since they have learned to respect each other's feelings and viewpoints from an early age, students are more comfortable communicating and interacting with the opposite gender as they get older."

How Can You Decide if a Single-Gender Education Is Best?
Sit with your son and make a list of what's working for him at his current school and what's not. If you and your child are seriously considering a single-gender school, Dr. Miller suggests that your son "try out" an all-boys school by shadowing another student for a day, so he can experience the atmosphere for himself. That way he can compare it to his current co-ed school and together, you and your child can make a list of pros and cons. There's no one answer that fits each child and what is right for your son may not be for another boy. With careful research and open discussions, you can find the right choice for your family.

For more on single-gender education, read Is an All-Girls School the Right Fit for Your Daughter?

Judy Koutsky is the former editorial director of "KIWI magazine," a green parenting publication. She was also executive editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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