There are probably about as many ways to manage the question of school as there are families trying to manage it. Parents whose kids are professional actors generally have to be a bit more flexible than those who are simply having a more normal childhood. Luckily there are options.
It’s actually easier in some ways to keep your child consistently in school if they are working. This is because there are laws requiring set teachers for minors who have not yet graduated from high school. The studio pays for the teacher, who coordinates with the child’s regular school on subjects and lessons. This is where your work permit comes into play: your child is only allowed to work if their grades remain acceptable. Working with a set teacher and work permit allows absences to be excused.
Conversely, absences are generally not excused if your child is auditioning (vs. “working.”) This can be really challenging. We were successful in having Dove’s agent schedule most auditions for after school, but sometimes casting directors are not available in the late afternoon. In that case, you’ll have to decide whether the opportunity is worth the absence. These can quickly add up and jeopardize your child’s grades, ironically jeopardizing their work permit! Many kids who pursue acting are home-schooled for just this reason: the flexibility can’t be beat.
Homeschooling is not for everyone however. I love the idea of it myself, but was not a very successful teacher when we homeschooled Dove in the 7th grade. In our case, her Dad and I were both working and I was in grad school, and we just underestimated how much oversight was needed. She essentially read whatever she wanted to all day with occasional algebra lessons from her Dad.
At the end of the year we administered the Iowa Test to check her achievement levels, and to our relief she had very high scores. Emboldened, we had her challenge the 8th grade Iowa test after a little more math coaching, and she scored even better! With test results in hand, she succeeded in skipping 8th grade, and we enrolled Dove in online high school.
Online high school is a great idea for a lot of kids. It tends to have more structure than homeschooling, and is a popular option for those who are juggling auditions and acting gigs, but they have to be genuinely motivated and have consistent parental support. Still in grad school and at that point getting divorced, I was not the most demanding parent when it came to making sure Dove was on top of her homework. She coasted through 9th grade online, again spending much of the year reading whatever interested her, which luckily, seemed to be everything. There is a philosophy/educational method called “unschooling,” and in some ways that is what those two years really were. For a naturally bright and curious kid, this can actually be a very meaningful way to learn.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, Dove was 14 and entering her sophomore year. We both agreed that a normal high school experience was a good idea at that point. But by the end of that first year it was clear that juggling regular high school and an accelerating acting career was not sustainable. She was missing too much school for auditions, and it was causing her a lot of stress and affecting her grades. Some private schools are much more flexible with young actors than public schools are, but we did not have that financial option. So we looked into some alternatives: a charter school popular with young actors called Options, and the CHSPE.
Options for Youth is a tuition-free, accredited, open enrollment charter school with a very flexible program, serving grades 7-12. Options has a number of locations throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. It allows kids to work at their own pace under the guidance of teachers with whom they meet twice a week. It makes a lot of sense for a kid who is in and out of auditions frequently, which can be so disruptive to a regular school schedule. Still, it looked too much to both of us like homeschooling and online high school, the two other alternatives that had not been a great fit. So we checked out the CHSPE.
NEXT: What is the CHSPE? And Should My Kid Take It?
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
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