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The Right Fit: What Kind of School?


Your daughter is struggling in public school. She’s bright, so that’s not the problem. But she doesn’t focus in class and she blows off her homework. You worry that the empty time she could fill with schoolwork will be filled instead by the kinds of self-destructive behavior to which teenagers are often drawn.

Your solution? Private school. Public school teachers mean well and they’re well trained, but the numbers can overwhelm them. Your daughter will receive the individual attention she needs in a private school’s small classes, and her life will turn around.

Except that private schools can be poorly equipped to deal with the wide range of problems that teenagers may carry as baggage. A private school succeeds by carving out and fitting itself into a niche; it seeks the “mission-appropriate” students that the school is specifically designed to educate.

A school like Idyllwild Arts Academy might be ideal for your daughter. If she has a quirky, artistic personality, she may feel like public school wants to force her rough edges into a smooth, round hole.

Or she may have different issues. It’s a judgment for you to make as a family, because that’s where your daughter is best known. But if her issues go beyond mere artistic quirkiness, her best option might be a therapeutic school, which can “handle students who are facing challenges such as behavioral/emotional problems, substance abuse, or significant learning differences” (

Therapeutic schools can be found through NATSAP, the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs ( A therapeutic school must be chosen carefully. The point is not to hide your daughter out of sight and out of mind. The point, since you love her, is to get her what she needs. That includes the right kind of school.