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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dance Training and Academics


dancindaughters

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I'm sure this has been discussed elsewhere on the board, but I don't know where! If someone knows, please move and combine!

 

I am faced with the realizaton that my dds (the older one especially) are not doing as well academically as I believe they could with a reduced dance schedule. Although they are doing quite well, (A's and Bs) I believe they could do better with more available time and energy to put into their schoolwork. It seems that they are always caught in a last minute time-crunch to finish a project or study for a test. I don't believe that lack of time-management is the issue. Currently, dd1 (age 11.5) dances about 11-12 hous per week. This is reasonable to me except that with all these hours being concentrated on 3 days, most school nights she doesn't get home from school and dance until 9:00. By the time she has a bit to eat it's 9:30 and she is exhausted. She never complains and is very good at getting started on her work, but she is so tired that she is only doing the minimum to get finished, rather that really making a great effort. I also wonder how well she will retain information covered when she is so tired. She loves dance so much that I would hate to make her cut back, but I really feel that I would be irresponsible to let her compromise her academics.

 

Younger dd (9) dances fewer hours, and does not have as much homework, but I know that there will come a point where she will have more work. She is considering attending a new dance school one hour away; I'm not sure if the commute would make things unbearable. She would dance about 2.5 hours everyday, and be home by 8:00 most nights. Although I know that it is important to get the best training available, and I do believe she has the potential for a dance career if that is what she chooses, I really don't want her to compromise her education at such a young age. I know we have to let our kids lead in these decisions, but is it really responsible parenting to allow dd to "choose" dance over academics? Or is that like allowing her to choose cookies for dinner? It's so hard to know what is right sometimes.

 

I have noticed that many parents here homeschool, and I'm curious how many were homeschoolers already and how many made this choice because of the difficulty in balancing everything. It would be very difficult for me to homeschool because of my job. I also want my kids to have all the varied experiences that schools can offer (that is not an attack on homeschooling at all, I think it's great for some families). I'm also interested in hearing from families who have dks in early-release programs. Do you find this gives your dk's more time to work on academics? Or are the kids still really only focussed on their art/sport and just see the academic portion as something to "get through"? :yes:

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Guest costumier

Hi dancindaughters,

 

This is a topic very near to my heart, as we have been through similar anxieties. We have come to the conclusion that the kids have a small window of opportunity when they can progress in ballet, whereas academics can be learnt at any time in one's life. Some people would think it irresponsible to let the kids "coast" in their academics, but I guess it depends on the circumstances. For example:

 

How easy is it to pick up on academics later in your country? Here in NZ it's pretty easy. Mature students over age 21 can enter university without any particular qualifications, as experience has shown that they generally do as well as or better than younger students regardless of qualifications. Just about every dancer trains for a second career anyway, recently a dancer from the RNZB retrained as a police officer! However I know in some countries mature students are pretty much unheard of. That would be more of a concern.

 

How able are your kids? Are they the kind who can learn what they need/want to know by picking up a book? Are they naturally curious? Some kids need to be frogmarched into learning the basics, for others it will happen anyway, just because they want to know things.

 

If your kids don't make it as dancers, how likely would they be to want an associated career in the ballet world? Is there something else they are seriously drawn to that requires heavy academics?

 

Is the arts seen as a normal way of making a living in your family? I come from a family of professional musicians so it seems quite normal to me, but to a lot of people it's a bit weird and not quite kosher.

 

What are your aspirations for your kids in terms of material comfort as opposed to pursuit of passions? If it is important to you that they are "successful" in the material sense, then ballet probably doesn't make much sense however you look at it!

 

We have homeschooled on and off when things got too hectic for our older dd's energy levels to tolerate. The decision to homeschool wasn't just about the ballet, it was a combination of factors which ballet was a part of. You can work a lot more efficiently at home because you cut out a lot of the time-wasting stuff. We haven't had to homeschool with the younger dd at this stage because she's only just now moving into an age where homework becomes more of an issue, and she has naturally higher energy levels too. I just wish the government would ban homework! There are much more important things kids could be doing with their time, IMO. Sports, music, etc, or how about just reading a book? Or having time to play? I think if teachers were doing a good job they should be able to get kids through the curriculum during school hours. But then I have some pretty radical ideas about education anyway ... :yes: (By the way, I'm a teacher myself, :flowers: )

 

I don't think you have to let your kids lead in these decisions, that's entirely a matter of your values and parenting style. It is our choice to let our kids follow their passions unless we think they're leading themselves towards disaster, but other families would see more guidance as essential because parents have so much more life experience. I don't think there's a "right" answer to that question.

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Both our kids have high-commitment extracurricular activities that they started very young.

 

Our dancer typically got out of school between 3:15 and 3:30, was at the dance studio by 4:00 returning home around 9:15, Monday through Friday. Saturdays varied, but some years it was 9:00 a.m to 4:00 pm by the time rehearsals were added.

 

Our other daughter ( now age 14) is currently practicing her sport 27 hours a week--Monday through Thursday, 4-8; Saturdays, 7:30-3:00, and Sundays, 2:30-7:30.

 

They didn't always carry these schedules, but their activity schedules have pretty much always been more than their classmates. Nevertheless, their academics have never suffered. They have never missed practice or class because of homework or projects. They both have been able to go to bed, with their homework complete, by 10:00 each night.

 

They figured out what they needed to do by themselves. Once they hit middle school and high school, the teachers were willing to post a week's worth of homework at a time. Projects were assigned with future deadlines in place. Thus, our girls would plan ahead and do the bulk of their homework on the weekends, work along on their projects, and use their study halls or study time at the end of classes for actually doing homework instead of chit-chatting. By doing their planning this way, they only had a very small amount of homework to complete each night during the week. The only time they'd run into a crunch was when they had to do a "group project". But they've even figured out how to handle that.

 

Their classmates have often commented on how they are "boring" because they do their homework when the opportunity presents itself at school and seem genuinely amazed that they get their work done on time. These are two girls that have never complained or requested additional time in order to complete homework that other kids whine about not being able to get done.

 

I do think it is possible to continue to dance and still do well in school. It does, however, take some planning and self-discipline. Not all kids are able to focus as well as others, so it may take more time for them to complete the same amount of work. One of mine is a speed-reader, the other is a much slower reader. I do think one spent more time on her homework than the other, but not a great deal more.

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I know we have to let our kids lead in these decisions, but is it really responsible parenting to allow dd to "choose" dance over academics?

 

I think dancindaughters was speaking of years prior to high school graduation and costumier was speaking of years post high school. The answers and decision made will be totally different given either time frame.

 

However in my humble opinion, It would never be appropriate to allow a student younger than high school to choose dance over academics unless of course you're someone being picked up by a major company by 16. And frankly, I'm not sure you forego it even then. There is internet schooling these days to accomodate even that. No matter which decision you make about how to school: public, private, home, residency student, etc. There is a realization that Dance has no guarantees even if you spend all day doing it. Schooling comes with at least a few. But, I don't think A's and B's is choosing one over the other. I think it is balancing them.

 

However, as a former teacher, I can also say however, that in some cases grades will in fact rise if the schedule is lightened. But for just as many, the lesser time does not actually equate to a rise in grades. What I found with my students was that those who had less time managed it more wisely and spent basically the same time on studies as those with lesser time consuming activities. When a parent would express concern about a student in my program with B's and needing to drop to make their grades rise, I always asked them at what point their other child with more time actually started studying? Most would reply 8 or 9pm. When asked why, they would state that after school the child would hang out with friends for a bit, come home and watch TV or get on the phone/internet and start school work after dinner and family time. Or many would get a small job which was also considered to be less stressful than the activity. I'm not so sure that these students actually spent more time on schoolwork. The answer may be that they tended to their school work in a less stressful environment and a more rested mind.

 

The choices for each student and their grades are so personal that there will be no "pat" answer. I am happy with my daughter's A's and B's given the schedule she keeps. It is a trade off that we as parents are happy with. And more important, she is happy with. Again, that is so personal because my answer might be different if when dancing is done she wanted to be a surgeon or get into an Ivy league school. But that is not her goal nor her drive.

 

vj

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Dancingdaughters-

I feel your pain. We have tried a variety of solutions that in combination SEEM to be working, but who knows for how long. We have not homeschooled outright and really could not. I am the full time salary and Dh and DD do not do the homework scene togteher well.

 

We have worked (although work makes it soudn cooperative and it feels more like a war) with DDs school - an arts school no less- to convince them they must get teachers to plan homework in advance so kids can work on it when they have free time, not the day to day stuff. In general this has met enormous resistence but we still try. We eventually pulled DD out of math at school. THis frees up one period a day for a study hall and significantly reduces the day to day strain of mth homework. I do math with her at home using a school agreed to corespondence program. I figure I can teach her math up to calculus (she is now in algebra) so that is an important aspect of it, and I now know what she actually knows in math and her strengths and weaknesses, so we can taylor how long different assignments and chaprtes take.

 

Like Dancemaven I have nagged (well it doesn't sound like Dancemaven nagged her kids into this) my DD into being proactive on long term projects, making use of free time in balacne with seeing her friends and looking at the weeks ahead in her schedule as she makes time management decisions. At this point, I don't think she even realizes that she does this. DD has also formed a pretty strong school network with kids she can call to pick up assignments from or get extra explanations if she jas to miss school for performances.

 

DD is not an academically demanding school - it is adequate- so this of course plays into whole issue. We have found that it required in the early years pretty constant vigilance to make sure DD had her work and was doing it. And it required programing the school into doing their part, by providing work in advance, making sure teachers stick to the schools homework policies, and when necessary acting in DD learning interest rather than having faith in the school. I am currently trying to do less and less of this organizing. DD will enter high school next year and is pretty well set to manage her time and workload.

 

The one thing that I would say has been important in all this scheduling is to help DD find the time she can play and go out with friends. This is rarely spontaneous, but if it doesn't happen it all seems like such a grind.

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We homeschooled from k onward and I found that it worked out well in the long run. The dance of some of the kids and the other activities of the others expanded to fill our schedule rather than the other way around. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but I do know families with 2 fulltime working parents that were able to make it work. The kids really only need about 2-3 hours a day to cover academic subjects, especially if you work on a year round schedule as opposed to 9 month one. I have had 2 that have gotten into multiple colleges on this type of schedule and it does seem to work. The hardest part is getting the kids used to self imposed work. From other people I know that the first year is the hardest because they are so used to constant supervision at school.

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Dancindaughters, I certainly feel your pain! And dancemaven, I envy your childrens' time management skills. My older DD is much older - a senior this year -- and she seldom gets to bed before midnight. This is because she, too, doesn't get home until a little past 9 pm, has dinner, and then starts her homework. She is very driven to do well on it, and it's not just a matter of getting a good score on a piece of work that counts for about 0.02% of her grade. It's because at her very-high powered, fast-paced school, if you miss something today, you won't have the foggiest idea how to do tomorrow's work.

 

I don't know how it is in Canada, but in US culture we are shortchanging sleep. Do try to look up some of the research on the importance of sleep, and the amounts that are needed. I know my DD gets way too little, and that worries me. Not only is it hard to get anything into the brain when you are tired. Sleep is profoundly important to learning, because it is during sleep that the brain cells physically form the connections and networks that constitute learning. Babsaroo can probably tell us more.

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This is a great group of people!

 

Treefrog, I agree with you about the importance of sleep. I used to insist on lights out at 10:00 whether the work was completed or not. I had to discontinue this when I found older dd would just lie in bed awake for hours worrying about not being finished!

 

I agree that time management is important. I wish the teachers would have better management as well. Older dd's teacher frequently will give no homework on some days and then huge amounts on other days. Sometimes it is the type of thing I consider busy-work: coloring (in Grade Six!), posters, etc. Of course, dd being very creative and also somewhat of a perfectionist, has to do it all with meticulous care. :D

 

I guess my biggest worry is not the time-crunch, but the attitude that schoolwork is just something to get through. They USED TO be the type of kids with tons of natural curiosity who would research things on their own, but that's pretty much gone now :thumbsup: It's hard to say if it would come back with a reduced dance schedule; maybe they would just fill the extra time with tv and socializing!) I'm also saddend that they don't have much time for reading.

 

My husband does in fact make a (minimal) living from the arts. So he fully supports them in their pursuits. I see how difficult our lives are, how insecure. I do want them to find careers they love, but I also really want them to be able to have financial security. Their friends are beginning to talk about becoming doctors, etc, and I can't help but worry when my own dd's goals are to be "a ballerina" or be discovered on Canadian Idol!

 

I'm going to try to help them each to find a back-up career plan, and help them to research the education they will need for these careers. I know that they would both love careers which involved with dance in some way.

 

I hope this doesn't sound to negative towards dance training; my dd's have gained so much from their dance studies. I wouldn't change that for anything.

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Sounds to me that you are doing a good job with the 'balancing act'. It's the old 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink'. With DD, I feel I have to continue the mantra about having a back-up plan and a post-dance career plan. She voices interest ONLY in a dance career---and we all know how unpredictable that is. I definitely feel like a nag on that issue! She rolls her eyes and shuts down--and I feel more and more like my own mother :( She's at a residency school this year and far away from my course load meddling.

 

However, it was her idea to look for an online AP course for second semester because she was bored with her school classes at the high school and also to ask to accelerate it so she can take the test this year. She's the one who did most of the research and did the negotiating with the Head of Guidance Counselling to get it all approved. And she's the one who chose AP and honors classes for next year---after yanking my chain all first semester about how she didn't want to worry about extra homework next year.

 

My point is only that at some point the values you worked hard to instill in them about the importance--and fun--of academics will surface and they won't be able to stand not achieving at their potential.

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Dancing Daughters, could part of the oldest DD's lessening of focus on academics be her age? Grade 6 is a really tough year for girls with all types of distractions such as boys, friends, make-up, clothes, music etc. playing a part where they might not have in Grade 5.

 

My DD was much less focussed in in Grade 6 than 5 and got worse through 7 and 8 and is finally back on track in Grade 9. Now I don't mean way way off track but there were so many new experiences to navigate and think about that sometimes academics took the back seat. We had tears and mark reductions and all the rest of the drama but lately a new maturity has appeared along with the ability to schedule things for herself, which she couldn't have done before. She now e-mails herself a list of homework from school every day so she can prioritize and get to work when she gets home or decide which work to take to the studio with her. I think her dance training is trickling over to her school work, both improve with increased maturity and the ability to identify strengths and weakneses in oneself.

 

We have talked to the school about scheduling homework better, some teachers make an effort to help, others don't. We insist on bed by 11 at the latest as she has to be up at 6:30 am to catch the bus at 7:30. TV watching can be non-existant for weeks if she has projects to complete and luckily her best friends are at ballet. We've had the talks about post-secondary education but that changes all the time as to what she wants to do. We insist she keeps her doors open for education while encouraging and supporting her to pursue her passion for dance. Having a DD's is not easy but sure has been interesting so far. Tutumonkey :(

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Treefrog, I agree with you about the importance of sleep. I used to insist on lights out at 10:00 whether the work was completed or not. I had to discontinue this when I found older dd would just lie in bed awake for hours worrying about not being finished!

This is an issue that I grapple with almost every week with my dd who's now in high school and still has a M-F ballet schedule. Even with her not procrastinating and using her time wisely on getting her school work done, there are nights when she has to stay up until 11p or midnight in order to finish writing papers, lab reports, study for tests or quizes, etc. Then, there are other nights when she's able to get everything done by 9 or 10pm. It just seems to come in waves.

 

Though, as a parent, I know that teenagers are suppposed to get 8+ hrs of sleep a night, sometimes that just doesn't happen in our house. I almost laughed when an admissions director from a highly selective east coast college came to dd's school to give a presentation to the parents on the college admissions process, and admonished the parents to make sure their kids get 9+ hrs of sleep a night (yeah, right).

 

For now, we are taking it one day at a time, letting her catch up on her sleep on the weekends, and letting her know that it's OK to not go to ballet on those days where she needs extra time to get her work done, knowing that she can do class makeups later when she has a lighter homework load. (And keeping in tune with her thoughts & feelings and making sure she's still doing ballet because she loves it and wants to do it, not because it's something she "has to do.")

 

But, I don't think there's one perfect solution for all families when it comes to balancing school with something like ballet. Each family is different, each solution is going to be different too.

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My dd is 13, almost 14 and has been homeschooled for 7th and 8th grade. This was a decision that took a lot of planning and thought. I do stay at home and that contributed to the idea that homeschooling would be possible. Next year she will go to high school. Her brother goes to this very academically oriented school and has been coaching her on homework strategies.

 

Next year will be different and exciting. She has done well homeschooling. She still has homework to do and often will cart books to ballet to study for tests or finish an assignment. Homeschooling was an answer for us to a difficult question.

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Guest costumier

Hi Dancindaughters

 

I think if your kids now find school "something to be got through" that probably has nothing to do with their dancing schedules and everything to do with school. I really think most schools beat the natural curiosity out of kids.

 

I agree with tsavoie that 2-3 hours a day on academics is fine for a well-organised homeschooler, in fact they probably get more done in that time-frame than most kids do in a day of school.

 

This is a very interesting discussion! I think these sorts of issues are faced by so many parents, not just in dance but also elite sports etc as well. It's wonderful to have a supportive group to talk things over with, so many people don't understand. I've found trying to talk to non-ballet-parents, they either think you're mad, irresponsible, "stealth-bragging" or whatever, so I don't talk about dance-related issues with most people now. It can make you feel very isolated. So a big thankyou to you all. :(

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dancindaughters, I have homeschooled and am friends with others who do so, however I am no longer in that 'field'. The one concern that I have is that your daughters are very young to be home all day alone if you are working outside of the home. Not sure if your husband would be there to enforce the lesson plan.

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I had not noticed the age of the girls. They are too young for home all day alone. I forgot I was on the under 13 forum. Mea Culpa

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