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Non-traditional High School routes for academic-minded dancers?


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Does anyone have any thoughts on the how to decide whether to choose a non-traditional high school route or not? DD wants to dance professionally but also go to college, one way or other. For high school we would not be choosing a residential program, but are open to homeschooling, since older dd - who is not a dancer - had very successful experience with it. Then there are the performing arts charter high schools. And there is a very well known/respected ballet school that has its own hs program where she could attend as a day student, but we would have to give up our dance school, which we do not want to do. The latter two options seem to sacrifice some of the rounded education experiences that the first option could offer. Just wondering, to those who have made this decision, how you came to make the move and how you found the transition to work. :)

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My freshman daughter went with the magnet performing arts high school this year. She found the ballet sub standard and non challenging. So she will go to her regular high school next year and back to the studio she has been at forever. Don't be afraid to try something for your daughter and change it if it doesn't work out. My daughter learned alot this year about life, made good friends, so it was a successful year.

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She must have grown a lot just adapting to all those decisions in a short time. It probably helped her really value her own dance school and learn about herself. I have heard the performing arts high school in our area does not offer the best ballet training, but those who go to it also come to our studio after classes. Academics-wise, I don't want to compromise . But I stlll want her to have time to dance as much as she needs to pursue that dream and be around others during her school day who get it.

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This is a complex question as there is no one answer that fits all. So I would consider several points before making a final decision:


1 What are your dancer's utlimate goals?


2. How possible is it to achieve them in her current placement considering the number of course offerings etc.?


3. What options are there for home based schooling and you have you evaluated them?


4. Is she really self-directed enough to do this?


5. Is the dance training she would receive worthy enough to alter her education options?


6. Is a good residency out of the question? There are several who more than adequately provide excellent academic opportunities while providing an intense ballet experience.


There are students who are home schooled and dance 5 hours a day and manage it all. There are others who don't.


Just my perspective as we went through all the same decisions before we agreed to send my son away.

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These are great points to consider and helpful to keep in my mind as we think about the future. Thanks! We would not want her to leave for a residency program now. If something amazing was offered in a few years - maybe I would consider. She is very self-directed and makes the most of any learning opportunity at school and always has. She has asked to homeschool because she knows it was an option for her sister and would give her more time to dance with less stress. Private school too expensive. We may end up doing a combination of things. I know there has been a forum for that. It would allow her to stay with her current studio for a while longer at least. It's so helpful to hear how other serious dance families make decisions, knowing there is no one size fits all solution.

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My advice would be that if your child has spent their entire school life in a traditional bricks-and-mortar environment, and has thrived, then there's no real reason to change it, unless they are an unusually talented (extremely rare- like, one of those on the planet every 4 years or so) dancer and have a contract waiting for them, if they could just arrange their schedule to be available during company hours.


However, if homeschooling/virtual schooling/arts magnet schooling is something your child has expressed an interest in doing, then it can't hurt to try. Make sure that the child can still get back into traditional schooling without having lost any perceived "academic" ground, should the alternative method not work out.


Rest assured that kids from non-traditional schooling can and do get accepted to colleges, many even Ivy league (if that's important to your child) so it can work out fine.


I am a homeschooler/unschooler, by the way, so my personal preference (for my kids) is non-traditional. :angry:

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When my non-dancer son was 13, just entering high school and thinking about non-traditional routes, we went to his small private school and negotiated so that he could take just one class (AP Bio) with his classmates, play soccer with the school and be part of the chorus. He then did most of the rest of his classes via homeschool and two classes at the local college. We kept our toes in all 3 types of schooling just so we had options if it didn't work out. The staying at the private school part of the day helped him remain with his peers and allowed him to share the same frame of reference with them. The homeschooling allowed him to take classes that weren't necessarily offered at the high school and the college courses permitted him to accelerate in the areas he needed to. Many private schools are willing to negotiate and offer drastically reduced fees for kids who only take a few classes. It also gives you a break from being "the boss" of everything. When you are the teacher AND the parent, it doesn't give you any time "off" to just spend with your kid. For me, it was easier to let someone else take a bit of that burden.

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Some public schools will also offer the optiosn that D1S1 mentions, though this is a recent development for many of them. Our county schools now allow homeschoolers to take up to two classes per semester. Originally this was so that homeschoolers could get lab science and year 3 or 4 for foreign language, but the options have been expanded in recent years. Options vary by school district in our state, but the general theme is that the student still is listed as home school, must provide own transportation, and students still don't qualify for sports.

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The two above options sound interesting! Our older daughter who homeschooled took community college classes, starting at age 15, which took much of the worries off me. A school accepting a student part-time for high school level science or math would be great, but I am not sure she would want only one foot in the door. I heard her school friends giving her a hard time about the homeschooling idea when she mentioned it to them this weekend. Her one friend who also attends her middle school and is from her dance studio is not serious about dance for the long term and so, of course, couldn't imagine it. In fact, only one or two of the older students at the studio are thinking this way and go to a magnate school in the city. One of the best dancers in the studio's mother rolled her eyes when referring to families who are that committed to dance, giving the extreme version of those they meet at SIs who homeschool so they can do the competition circuit. That's why I am finding this discussion forum helpful!

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My daughter started making academic compromises in grade eight the first year she moved away to residential school. The first year it was only one language course. By grade twelve she was attempting to complete three grade twelve courses by internet from Europe while doing a rigorous dance program and an academic program in a foreign language. She managed to complete only one of the courses she had signed up for and instead got credit for courses she did in Europe ( thanks to a creative and supportive dean back in Canada). I would say that most of her teachers al through high school took into account the amount of time she spent on ballet and adjusted expectations accordingly. She did not receive the same level of education in high school as non-dancing peers. I am absolutely convinced there was no choice but to be open to a less rigid, non-traditional education in our DD's case.

I like to think we are parents who know the value of academics. Our older daughter did full IB and has finished her first year of a master's program in Public Health and Epidemiology at age 21. Same gene pool- totally different goals and paths - both equally intelligent and driven.

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I think I am concerned that she will lose some of her discovery of or momentum with non-dance interests, which will be so important in her future as a secondary or parallel vocation, if the high school academics aren't offered in a way that works along with her dance training. Yet, she doesn't want to sacrifice the dance training. Can you just not have it all? Am I making sense here? Maybe one just has to trust that whatever way you go it can turn out to work, if you want it to. Sounds like it has for your dd.

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When dd was offered a trainee position for this, her high school senior year, we had some difficult and challenging decisions to make.


Her first three years of high school education took place in our local brick and mortar school with a competitive academic program. She commuted after school each day to the ballet studio. Most days she returned home late from ballet and then spent several hours completing homework. It was rarely possible for her to participate in much else. Each year the work of juggling school and ballet became harder. Somehow she handled it all; including the recovery from two surgeries last year. Despite being friendly with classmates at school, over time her social life was primarily with her ballet friends. They had similar schedules and a common bond. At first I was saddened by what I thought she was missing out on in high school. Then I truly understood that my dd didn't feel that she was missing out at all, and was doing exactly what she wanted more than anything. It was really a problem for me to overcome - sometimes it still is.


With the help of some very supportive people in her public school, we arranged a schedule and coursework that would allow her to dance full time as a trainee this year. However, some academic sacrifices had to be made in terms of some courses she simply couldn't take. This would not have been the case were she not dancing.


It hasn't been an easy year for any of us. At times her stress and exhaustion seemed unbearable. We are all relieved the end is in sight. I am more impressed than ever by her drive and determination. But honestly, at this moment I'm not sure I would agree to do it again. She has been accepted to several very competitive colleges, but will defer next year to continue her training. She will graduate at the end of the month with high honors. We are immensely proud of her.


I hope our experiences may be of some help to others.

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Did she apply to colleges with a dance major in mind or with a major that would help her pusue an additional interest? She soundsi like she has made herself ready for anything, You must be so proud and also relieved at her options, which she's managed to keep.

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Another option that might be available to your DD - and one I literally just found out about - are correspondence/online courses offered not by your district, but by your state. I just accidentally came across a state site that allows guidance counselors the option of enrolling students in online AP courses. Several courses were available. This is yet another option that might provide additional flexibility for someone like your DD who wants to pursue all the higher-level courses. And another way to perhaps stay in her local school. She could spread out work over holidays and other school breaks (our state somehow manages to have at least one - usually more - days off per month.)

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Dancerdriver's post has excelent questions to think about each year.

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