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How do you know if it is time to take a different path


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My daughter just turned 14 and is having the most amazing summer at the two intensives she has/is attending.  She has the option to audition as a year around student at one of them.  They are a very strong studio who turn out amazing dancers consistently.  We are fortunate enough to live near NYC so commuting is an option, however, I'm not sure I want her to give up her high school experience.  In order for her to attend, she would have to be home schooled.  Dancing is all she has ever wanted.  She has been asking to be home schooled since she was 10. Public school has been like  putting a round peg in a square hole. Middle school was an absolutely horrific experience.  She has been accepted into a magnet high school program where she can major in dance and I thought that was the answer to our prayers (even though it is mostly contemporary and she is classical ,its good to diversify :) ) but now....... I have never seen her this happy. I feel like she is taking on this whole new quality being with dancers of like mind, ambition, work ethic and working with such high quality teachers who understand her.  I know for certain if I ask her if she wants to audition, it would be an unequivocal YES, but as a parent I am looking at the whole picture.  UHG, we are definitely at a cross roads.  I was hoping to put this off for at least a year, maybe two but seeing how she is flourishing as a dancer  and seeing her truly happy since she was a very little girl makes me question what the right thing would be for her. On one hand it could be an amazing opportunity.....on the other hand, she is only fourteen, there is always next year and the year after. I would love to hear from you who have walked this path.  When did you decided? What were the factors in your decision? Thank you all in advance.  PS. Of course this is all contingent on her being accepted.  

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It's hard to imagine paths different from the ones that we traveled as we grew up. 

I suppose we were fortunate in that we began the homeschooling process for reasons other than ballet. I think it might have been harder to make that decision if ballet had been the driving force. A horrific middle school experience, as you mentioned, was our driving force. We were paying a lot of money to a good private school and decided to investigate other options. I met some homeschooling families at the ballet studio, some who had older children who were homeschooling because of ballet and others who were homeschooling for a variety of other reasons. They introduced me to the concept of online schools and that began our homeschooling journey. We live in a state where homeschooling is not heavily regulated, so while we started with an online school, that was not her only source of her education as we continued. 

One of the struggles is the concept of all the things they will miss- the football games, the dances, the social activities, the interactions with other students. DD has already finished her high school education and she will tell you that she didn't miss a thing because she didn't care about those things. Possibly the only thing that she might have missed in her mind is prom simply because she loves to dress up. However, attending a few galas in NYC more than made up for that (we are also close enough that dd was able to commute into NYC, though she did not do this until she was a bit older). The football games and dances? She won't have made it those anyway because they would have conflicted with dance or she would have rather been spending time with her dance friends. 

This is not to say that I did not try to keep all doors open as long as possible academically. I still insisted on a college prep/honors level high school education. Though, we replaced AP coursework with college coursework to show academic rigor in case she changed her mind and chose a more traditional college path. Removing the social aspect from her education was also beneficial, in my opinion. Her academic education became separate from social pressures. It was customized to her, which I feel was an incredible gift. If a class came easily for her, she was able to complete more rapidly and use that time for a class that was more difficult for her. She was also able to work ahead so she could take breaks during busy seasons like Nutcracker and then work over the break that followed. 

Working this way has also set her up for success in her college studies. She dances full time now, but still takes a college class on line so she can work on her plan B, whatever that may end up being.  

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Graceful711 -- I think it would help you figure things out if you actually wrote down what your worries were.  At least, it has helped me in the past when we made those types of decisions.  Is part of your concern that you see the reality of her (at 14) leaving your family cocoon?  That is a really hard transition to make as a parent, and it happens very early for parents of ballet dancers.  But regardless of what the fears are, take a hard look at them AND discuss them openly and honestly with your DD -- you might be surprised at how steady and clear-sighted your DD is.

Like MelissaGA, we made the decision early (4th grade) to homeschool and then cyber school, and my DD NEVER looked back with any kind of regret or longing.  In the beginning, I was very worried about "balance in life," ("what about injury...? thoughts nagged at me constantly).  But looking back, I realize she NEEDED to focus and concentrate on what she loved to the extent that she has.  Those fears about "balance" and "social life" and "what if she fails at this" were my fears, not hers. 

There are posts on BT4D about "life after ballet" that helped me put her passion (and my fears about her life choices) in perspective.  Reading them, I realized that it wasn't really my job as a parent to "put the brakes" on her dreams -- those brakes or changes in direction would come naturally and organically on their own, if they were needed (they haven't happened so far, although this summer when she is now 17 and taking tentative steps into the professional world is a HUGE test of that faith/ability to let things happen).

My gentle advice is not let YOUR fears and worries get in the way of helping her decide what is best for HER.  You cannot structure their lives to the extent that you are able to protect them from pain or disappointment.  And you wouldn't really want to, anyway, because that is when they grow the most. 

What you CAN do -- and what has helped us make decisions -- is establish important, bed-rock "priorities" that you want all your children to keep and recognize as foundational -- touchstones, in their life, if you will.  I think of them as "foundational pillars".  One of those pillars (for us) is family connection (siblings/parents/grandparents).  Another might be "faith" and yet another might be rigorous academic learning.  I don't know what yours are because they are individual to each family.  But knowing those priorities helps to "filter out" the dross from the gold when you are helping her make decisions in her life.

In the end, though, you can only make the best decision you can with the information you have.  And please remember that  no decision is truly "permanent" -- if you try something and it doesn't work for any particular reason, figure out which of your pillars is being shaken, and chose a different path. 

Good luck to you and your DD on your journeys.  

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MelissaGA and Eligus,  Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me. Deep down I always knew the traditional route would not work for her, but I think I hoped it would. Honestly,  traditional is easier but not necessarily better for her.  I am seeing my daughter this weekend and we will have a serious talk about what SHE wants both short and long term. There is so much to consider.   Thank you! You're insight is invaluable.  

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As a parent of a child who finished HS early so they could train at a year round program, I will throw out that the school year portion of the program may turned out to be far different than the summer program.  The program my child attended was a very reputable program but as the year went on, the cracks began to show. Disorganization, last minute rehearsals scheduled, no time given to go to the doctor/eat/get a haircut, lack of communication, etc.  I encourage you to talk to parents and kids who are in the year round program for their insight as to the differences and then see if the cracks are something you and your child can deal with.   

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May I ask about her current training?  Is there a problem with it or a lack of classes?  

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Dinkaina, very good point.  Thank you!  

Monet, she is currently in a pre-pro school.  Training is fine for now. The possible change stems more from her personal and emotional needs rather than the training per se.

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Let me share our experience.  My DD went to a montessori school through 6th grade and then did 2 years at our local public school before moving away to dance where she did an online program combined with a personal turor because I wanted her to have some human educational contact.  I think online or homeschool is great for some students and not at all for others.  Also there is a big difference in online school and if you plan to homeschool her on your own, our family has done both and since they are so different I would look into both.  Online and homeschooling is becoming more and more common not just among dancers but with many students.  I can also tell you my daughter would say she did not feel like she missed out on the "high school" experience, but those are just not things she was really interested in.  But this is different for all kids.  Keep in mind if she is just going to be doing an online or homeschool program and not moving away from home it will be much easier and she will still have contact with all her friends.  Like I said we have done both online and homeschool with our kids so feel free to ask me anything!  Good luck!!

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Thank you so much Monet!  If we do decide to take that route this year,  I will have lots of questions.  We would likely do on line school.  I don't think I am equipped to be her teacher.  She already is smarter than me.  LOL!  I think one (of many) of my fears is that if the year around ballet school doesn't work out for whatever reason, she will have lost her opportunity at the magnet school, they only accept incoming freshman after a pretty grueling selection process and traditional high school would never work.  Thank you so much for sharing your story and offering your help.  This is such a wonderful resource for those of us navigating without a map. :) 

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We are in the same situation. My dk's had an amazing summer with true peers. They were blissfully happy to fit in and be in a place where they seemed true to themselves. We opted not to stay year round at the program they were in this summer because it was too challenging logistically. I agonized over the decision  

We are one week back at the home school where the training is excellent, but most kids are rec dancers and the schedules do reflect that.  So the school supplements my dks with individual private coaching. There is an older group of very serious female dancers, but my dks have no classes with them yet, although they are in the second to the highest level at the school. The school has been generous with scholarships and coaching slots. But I know they don't belong here.  The peer group is missing, and the positive intensity that comes from being around like minded kids. 

DS will start high school and now we are making some changes to his schedule and start going partially independant  study.  This will be to prepare for next year  , because next time I will let them stay year round  at the school they were at this summer.  

I think if you can swing it with the changes, you should do it. What you write resonates so much with me and if I could have let them stay year round I would have.  Good luck!


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My dd took this plunge last year(her junior year).  She came to me and calmly laid out why she needed to apply herself to a pre-professional program, now.  She let me know that her mind wasn't going anywhere but her chance to train her body into the dancer she wants to be would only be now.  She was in a brick and mortar IB high school.  I worried over losing the academic rigor that I have always felt she needed as plan B (college).  She had her first online school experience last year and her first year with a pre-pro program schedule.  It wasn't easy but she was determined.  She has blossomed in both arenas.  She was right.  This was perfect.  Learning at her own pace, on her own time made perfect sense.  It can be done. 4 AP exams and an SAT later, I no longer have worries about this year.  

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NYNYDancer and Ballet_Mage.  Thank you so much for sharing your stories.  I figured there would be others who have been in this position and could lend a guiding hand.  I am very appreciative of it.  I am visiting with DD this weekend and will see what her ideas are for a long range plan and together hopefully we will figure out a game plan.    

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You have GREAT instincts-- pay attention to that.  You SHOULD be looking at the whole picture--she can't and doesn't know it.  She doesn't have the experience that you do.  So, pay attention to your gut--you are right to do that. You are raising a person who might become a dancer but who must  become a grounded person who is socially, emotionally, psychologically, and cognitively well developed.  Do not confuse purposes.  You are in charge of her development as a person, who happens to dance, learn, love, etc.

My  DD is 15.  We made the decision to do a residential program when she was 14 and entering 9th grade. She had been thinking about it for 2 years.  So, there was a very long build up to that and lots of discussions.  Previously she had attended a bricks and mortar public middle school and it was fine.  But she dreamed of going to a full time program for some time.  And honestly, her social life has improved at her residential school because she is not a pariah.

If she never dances professionally I can tell you that neither of us will regret her doing this for high school. 

We choose a program that was less intense (about 20 hours/week) but that gave more attention to the whole dancer.  It's still quite stressful. She got injured and was out for 6 weeks.  Think about how that would work in the setting you are pursuing--it's really hard because they are not just sitting out from dance--they are sitting out from their social relationships.  Injured dancers are sidelined in many other respects.  Friends kind of "forget" about them.  It's very, very isolating psychologically.

Most of our stress has come from the residential side.  The program doesn't really do well with parents--they kind of just want to completely take over that role :wacko:, in every respect. They want to call the shots with school, health, everything.  Been a shock.

I have concerns as well and still do and I am not going to tell you that "it's all worked out."  My current concern is that, at 15 her life is very quickly being narrowed down to dance, dance world, dance friends. I am trying to expand her connections to include a youth group, and possibly some other cohorts that have nothing to do with ballet--it's too insular to me for a young girl. That said, my DD is probably more on the introverted side.  It takes a lot to get her to push outside of her established circle of friends and environments. (She does really LOVE her school and her friends and is very close to her suite mates who are really lovely and nice people--a huge blessing.)

I don't like the online school thing even though we are doing it. It takes the truly amazing parts of schooling out of the picture--rich discussions, fun projects, interactions--at a time when social relationships are paramount from a developmental standpoint. So you won't hear me rationalize about how "online schooling" is better--it's not IMO.  It gets the job done.. The program is rigorous but I don't like online schooling. That's my biggest question/concern/worry.

In terms of "giving up normal high school"-- here's my opinion.  I have a son who is going into his senior year.  The biggest benefit for him in "normal" high school has been top notch academics at our well rated local high school, very strong teachers, and a place that has truly turned his mind on. In terms of dances and football games etc.--He has not participated in that much.  He is an attractive, polite kid who will do well in life but has not been accepted into the "popular" kids group (Can you read my resentment and hurt?).  He is on the outside. Doesn't drink. Does several clubs but not an athlete. Does not have a girlfriend.  So, my point is that (and this is my opinion only)-- this whole "myth of normal high school", to me, is simply an American idea that is perpetuated by the Disney channel and pop culture stereotypes.  What is comes down to, is what does your kid think?  Also, I think that as an experienced adult, you need to share your concern about missing out, so that your daughter can make a decision.

I do not know which program in NYC you are pursuing.  I will say that there are several that are very strong. They produce great dancers and they also produce other things. Some look really good from the outside-- amazing technique, people winning ballet competitions, 30-hour per week schedules but there is a cost. Pay attention to burnout rates (what's going on with the award winner from 2 years ago?), who was kicked out before company auditions because they weren't likely to get a job?  what are the injury rates, and are there cases of ED?  Do the kids have time to do school during the week or do they have to do that over 12 hours on the weekend?  IMO even online HS takes a MINIMUM of 4 hours per day.  We looked at places that were only scheduling 2.5 hours per day for high school and doing so in really weak online programs.


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Learningdance touched upon my DD's biggest hesitation about going to a residential program. DD, a huge introvert, enjoys her small private school classes, full of interesting discussions, teachers who care about learning and people to collaborate with. She didn't want to give that up and only do online classes. She's known we'd support her if she chose otherwise but that wasn't something she wanted to give up. Will that hold her back from a dance career? Who knows. If it does, at least she chose for reasons that were right for her. 

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dancingjet. . honesty is important. . Thus, I'm not going to tell people that the whole online thing is "great, fine" etc. It has costs and benefits.

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