I know I have written before that there is no set formula when you have children with pursuits in the professional performing arts. I am learning this to be more true every day as I raise my own children and as I get to know many more supportive families in the industry. Sometimes it is easy to look around and see other families and compare ourselves and think, oh I should send my child to that $250 a session voice teacher, or that dance class, or I should quit my job to tour with my child, or oh I would never allow my child to do x, y, or z….Just like anything we do in raising our children, one size does not fit all, and many ways can work. This applies to every facet of show biz.
Firstly, lessons and training. There are many fabulous coaches out there that I even recommend for others, but they aren’t the right fit for my children for various reasons or they are just simply too expensive for our budget. And that is completely o.k. It doesn’t mean one teacher is better than another, it just means what can work for one child might not work for another. But, the results can be the same regardless.
Schooling is also another area of concern for many families. We are told in our society that children need to be in traditional schools, several hours a day to gain proper instruction. As a teacher going into my twenty-first year of teaching, I can say with certainty that not every child needs this type of education. One thing that I do know from experience is that traditional schooling can work for performing children, but they might not be in attendance 100% of the time, and again that is o.k. There are so many good options that parents may choose from now such as homeschool, online school, private schools, and public school with a tutor provided by production. A parent need not feel that any one educational path is the only option. I have had three kids on a myriad of different shows and have done ALL of the above for what worked in each circumstance with each child. (In fact, I have one doing online school right now.)
I have heard parents over the years say absolute statements such as, “I would NEVER send my child on tour with a guardian. I would NEVER pull my kid out of her expensive, elite private school for a show. I would NEVER allow my child to stay up until 4 a.m. I would NEVER put my career on hold to support my child. I would NEVER leave my other children while I toured….” And the list goes on. This business is one of the most unpredictable, unstable, trying, yet thrilling businesses there could ever be! ( And just imagine what this must be like for a child?) There is not a right answer to those absolutes, but again, I have done ALL of the above at different times. I have been on five separate tours with my three children, and each and every one has led me to do things that others may say they will NEVER do. It’s not a right or wrong decision, it just is what worked at the time. Some parents are able to bring another child along on tour. I know one family who turned tour into a family adventure and bought an RV to follow the tour for a whole year around the country! Our solution was to fly home as often as possible and to fly the family back and forth as much as possible and hire guardians as needed to travel with which ever one of my children I was leaving at the time. There is not only one way to make this work. I even hire guardians at times for local work and auditions when I am unavailable. It really does take a village, and there’s no shame in that. There’s not one way that will work for everyone, and there’s not one way that is better than any other.
I wish there was a magic step by step guide that could make navigating showbiz pursuits clear, but there really isn’t. Every child and family has different wants and needs, and every project has different guidelines and requirements. The best advice I can give parents, having lived this now for eleven years, is that you should do whatever works for your family and your child, and don’t worry what anybody else is doing. You know your child better than anyone in the world! There truly is more than one way to skin a cat!