What do Oak Hill Academy and Thoreau have in common?

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It’s time for a philosophical post.  In On Walden Pond, Thoreau explains his motivations for wanting and needing to live the simple life:  “I went into the woods to live deliberately…”  The quiet of Walden Pond enabled Thoreau’s self-reflection and development of a self-discipline he saw as essential for a fulfilled life.  It occurred to me recently that this is very similar to what I experienced as a student at Oak Hill Academy and one of the themes I explain to prospective students as central to what will be their “Oak Hill experience.”

                                            running pic meadow

Oak Hill Academy’s setting in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Soutwestern Virginia is one of the things that contribute to our student’s success.  No matter how busy they get, or if they are feeling academic pressure, they can breathe here. That setting, coupled with the structure and size of our school means that life is pretty simple here and the important things in life emerge for our students.  Let me explain:

At Oak Hill Academy, relationships matter:

I often point out that, with no “mall across the street,” our students realize pretty quickly that we are a community and we better take care of each other.  They do an excellent job of this – I see it in how they study together, become invested in each other’s success and happiness and, in general, become very close-knit.  No doubt our cell phone policy (and social media policy),which place healthy boundaries, contributes to this investment.  Our students get really good at talking to each other and not about each other.  The notion of conversation, that is fast becoming a lost art among many teenagers, is alive and well at Oak Hill Academy.

                                 michelle bike

At Oak Hill Academy, students discover new interests

Being surrounded by such beauty means that our students can participate in a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, mountain biking, trail running, zip lining, and canoeing to on campus activities like horseback riding and paintball.  Our students try new things and are quite busy when not in class.  Our weekly small group outings with the ski-club (it really ought to be called the “snowboarding club”) offers students a way to enjoy the area in the colder months.  For many students, Oak Hill is where they discover new interests that don’t involve a screen.

                                   Oak Hill Academy Boarding School

At Oak Hill Academy, structure leads to self-discipline and maturity

Being in a small class (average size of 10 students) means that students can’t hide.  No matter how busy our students get outside of class, our mandatory evening study hall from 8:30-10:30 means that they get good at turning off the “busyness” of the day and taking care of business.  8th period tutorials offer an opportunity for both extra help or time for academic “coaching.”  There is a rhythm to the day that allows students pockets of time to make choices, but with an intentionality of schedule that promotes good habits.  At Oak Hill, there is a great balance between the “want to’s” and the “have to’s.”  This is the deliberate life of which Thoreau speaks.