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Ballerinamom2girls

Residential school at 14 in hindsight

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Ballerinamom2girls

Hello.

Parents who have sent their kids away at 14-

Do you regret it?

I've been reading a lot about boarding schools (ballet taken out of the equation) and I'm not so sure that it's a great idea for kids to not have parents at 14.  Yes they technically still have parents...but they're not being parented (I don't consider chaperones to be the same thing).

Maybe you disagree and it was great for your child.  In hindsight could you share some of the pros and cons?  

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dancemaven

I believe we have had previous discussions on this topic.  I would suggest a search so you don’t miss out on valuable hindsight/insight.  I know I contributed to some, but am not inclined to recreate my posts/thoughts.  🙂

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learningdance

Yes DD did elect to attend (and still attends) a residential program.  We talked of it for 2 years prior to sending and discussed AT LENGTH the skills needed.  DD is mature and was highly motivated to attend and LOVES IT. 

I would say in 10 years, even if my DD never dances professionallly, that I did NOT regret it. It was a door that was opened.  She wanted it and chose it and we were able to afford it (just barely, but we could). And she has gained so much outside of dance as a person.  It deeply developped her faith, her level of maturity, her outlook, her time management skills. She really VALUES her family. 

I would say pay close attention to the values that the school has around the person who is being trained. (NOT just the "dancer" who is being trained.) Many residential programs give lip service to anything other than dance training. 

And, in my opinion, you are wrong about students "not being parented."  My DD was and still is VERY parented but it takes a lot of work. E-mails, texts, daily Facetime calls, visits whenever needed, trips home when needed, being a fierce mama bear advocate with the school when required. Being clear about choices and values.  I have PARENTED a lot--just not in the same way that people do face-to-face.

And, I will say that Americans mostly believe that boarding schools or residential high schools are "weird." It's much more acceptable in Europe but people have said all kinds of really weird and offensive things to me about our family's choice--even when they thought they were being supportive. 

I would say DO NOT do it if you have reservations at the beginning--WAIT

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julisha

Hi Ballerinamom2girl,

I think I was typing while learningdance was commenting and I agree with her points. 

I should say that I NEVER thought any of my children would ever attend boarding school (too elitist, too expensive, could never be away from my babies, etc), thus never planned for such a thing.  But then our DD left home for a performing arts high school/boarding school at 14.  Do we regret it?  No, because it was her decision and it has brought her to where she is currently (rising sophomore in a college conservatory program, still dancing with no signs of stopping, and a very happy, mature person).  She had come to a place, yes at age 14, where she realized she had outgrown the benefits of her local pre-pro, which she had attended since age 5.  She was ready for a new environment where she could still dance at a very high level and have great academics to prepare for college.  But she has always been an independent-minded kid with a fairly thick skin.  Boarding school is not for every kid and I can only speak for my own.  Every child is different and requires varied parenting intensity.   Please don't assume that there is no parenting.  DD was still parented with constant communication and frequent visits from us, but she just wasn't living in our house.  The dorm parents at her school were very supportive and more than just chaperones.  I was particularly impressed with the way our DD was cared for by the dorm when her grandmother, my mom, passed away last year. It was certainly the right choice for my DD.

With that said, I would echo learningdance's point about researching boarding programs that support the WHOLE dancer and that are not just focused on the dance training.

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skiptomylou

It may be too early to say (DD went to her residential program at 13.5 and has been there for 3 years), but at this point we certainly don’t regret it.  As learningdance said, it is different to parent from afar, but certainly no less work!  We are usually in touch by text or FaceTime multiple times per day for advice, support, homework help, etc.  In fact, I think she talks to me more in some ways than she would if she were living at home!

One upside has been that there is very little nagging in our relationship, unlike for a teenager at home (we have another teenager, so I am feeling this acutely right now!).  She and I both know that ultimately it is up to her to get her homework done, eat well, sleep enough, do her PT exercises, keep her room clean, and so on.  She is fortunately very mature and responsible, so this has never been an issue, but she has certainly gained a lot of independence.  The school provides excellent supervision, but I don’t think it is their responsibility to monitor her to that degree, so I would not have sent a child if I did not feel she was ready to handle those things.

It can be challenging at times to decide when to let her handle something on her own, vs when to be in touch directly with the school to intervene, but I think this is true for teenagers at home as well.  They have to gradually start taking on more responsibility for talking to teachers, etc.

It helps that we love her school and are very happy with their philosophy and attention to the whole person, but that does not at all eliminate the day to day worries about injuries, difficulties with friends, academic stress, etc.

One the most stressful parts for me is that many residential schools (including ours) have the potential to assess students out yearly.  Fortunately this has worked out so far, but it is hard to make a commitment to training away from home and have uncertainty about being accepted back each year.

I appreciate that our school encourages the students to continue to consider their “Plan B” in life— this might be what they will do after a professional dance career or might be what they would consider if a dance career does not work out.  The academics are also taken seriously, which is important to us in terms of keeping non-ballet doors open as well.

All in all, it has been a tremendous growth experience so far, and I would not say that either of us regret it, no matter whether the path leads to a professional career or not!

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Ballerinamom2girls

Thank you so much for your feedback; you've changed my mind about the parenting aspect.  I suppose it's a choice that we make on how involved to be.  I didn't attend a boarding school but I did live with two different host families starting at age 15 and I felt like I no longer had parents.  So that's where I'm coming from, but I think a ballet school is world's apart from what I experienced, so I'm just trying to think it through carefully because it's a real possibility for my dd's future.

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Mdballetmom

My DD also left home for a residential program at 14. And for her, it was absolutely 100% the right decision.

Was it perfect? No.
Is any school?  No!! 

There were academic teacher issues and an injury and very long hours in rehearsals with challenging school work causing late nights and too little sleep. But, these things could have/would have also happened if she had stayed home. 

I could even argue it takes more parenting... more trust and more communication ...between you and your child to make it work. That said, I've witnessed it not working... Students who did not have the maturity to manage their time, responsibilities, expectations and relationships. Students who did not have the emotional development to handle roommate issues, independence issues, money issues and more..should not have been there... and many left.


It is difficult as a parent... its hard enough learning to let go as your children grow up... when you go weeks and months at times without seeing them face-to-face you will notice jumps in maturity and development... things you may not have noticed had you seen them every single day. 

Do not think that just because your dancer has spent summers away dancing since s/he was 11 or 12 that a residential program will be a piece of cake.  A 5 or 6 week ballet intensive is VERY different from a boarding school environment. 

That said, you know your child. Try and look at them objectively... and if you do not think, for whatever reason(s) they are not ready, then trust your gut. You are raising a child, not a dancer. 

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learningdance

THIS: Do not think that just because you dancer has spent summers away dancing since s/he was 11 or 12 that a residential program will be a piece of cake

 

An SI is like an extended sleepover, with no school demands.  

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Monet

I think the first and most important question to ask yourself is why?  Why are we thinking she needs a residential program?

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iceberg*lover

Monet, In our case, there was just no decent training available locally, not even a marginal prepro. It was a geographical reason. 

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Ballerinamom2girls

No one who's looking to become a professional stays past age 15 at our local school.  

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labrador

Ballerinamom2girls,

I understand your situation. It is good that you are seeking advice. It is a big deal for a 14 year old to leave their family in pursuit of a dream.  

If the residential program you are considering is a boarding school setting, it probably has  more safety features than sharing an apartment with other aspiring dancers. 

[. . . ]

A lot depends on the personality of the DK and the environment into which they are moving. It is a risk.

Edited by dancemaven
Removed non-first-hand experiences per BT4D Rules and Policies.

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Mdballetmom

one more thing... after moving one child away at 14, its a bit anti-climatic when your other children leave for college... at the "normal' age of 17 or 18. :)

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Eligus

One thing that hasn't been mentioned here (yet) and which every ballet parent needs to address within themselves at some point is the societal judgment about "allowing children" to pursue their passions.  For some people, the idea of allowing your child to move away from home at 14 seems to be misguided (or poor) judgment.  It's the same judgment that may come out when these other social parents realize how much of a time commitment ballet requires.  And it shows up with schooling choices, as well. 

As it is said up thread, the choice must be a very personal, individualized one, based on your child and family's needs, and every parent needs to grapple with their own expectations/roles and worries, as well as how that parent will handle any societal pressure, expectations or roles.  I always thought I was supremely independent, and my "tribe's" approval was unnecessary.  I was wrong in the extent that I had to argue through their thoughts and expectations to be comfortable with our decision. 

I kept my DD home until she finished high school (which she did so "early" -- at 17, so she could leave).  That was an individualized decision based on her.  She wanted to move away earlier, (at 16), but then collectively we decided another year at home to finish high school and mature a bit more would help her.  But she only agreed to that decision because we could work out the ballet training, as well.  If she felt she could not receive adequate ballet training, she would have insisted on leaving earlier. 

I believe, as a parent, it is our job to guide, but get out of the way.  Ultimately, their life path is not up to us.  But where that transition occurs can span several years and require lots of thought and discussion as a family.  It's good to think about it now.  There are several discussions in the past on this topic, so -- when you have time -- gather in the varied points of view.

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Mdballetmom

You know, another thing to consider (and I know many will not want to hear this) is that the passion your child shows for ballet,  clearly an activity for which s/he  possesses great talent and commitment, and has been vocal in not wanting to live without...  may fade.  While I'm sure that there are some among us (adults) who are pursuing the career/passion that we loved as teenagers... there are more of us who are not. 

Before DD left at 14, we had many conversations, and have had many since, that this was HER journey, not ours. And that we, as a family, would take it a single step at a time and the situation had to work for all of us. Every year we re-evaluated and while she did recommit, she knew that it was her choice. 

The other big piece of advice I can share is that you should not compromise on education to pursue dance. There are too many dancers I know personally who have struggled with graduating from high school, taken a GED route or something else... If/When that sidelining injury does occur, or the passion fades, your child needs something to fall back on. And having a Plan B does not mean that you are any less passionate about Plan A. It just means that you are realistic. 

 

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