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how to navigate traditional school and a working child actor

Navigating a traditional school system with a working child actor

When my child first started acting, I assumed all the parent-managers were stay-at-home moms and all the children were homeschooled. My assumption was largely correct, but that’s not the case for all momager/child duos –including me. My son is enrolled in a traditional public school and I have a full-time job. Yes, you read that correctly! My son loves his school environment and being around his friends. It is my desire to keep him in the environment that he is currently excelling in until his work is so consistent that he can no longer remain in a brick-and-mortar school.  While it’s not always easy, there are ways to manage a busy audition and work schedule for your child actor while they are in a traditional school setting. Here’s how we manage:

Know your child’s capabilities

Your child needs to be strong academically in order to keep up with the demands of auditioning, working, and completing school work. Your child needs to be organized, responsible, and able to make up work in a timely fashion. The more of a model citizen your child is, the more inclined the teachers and administrators will be to assist with alternate classroom arrangements and making up assignments.

Partner with your employer/school

In the beginning, my son worked so infrequently that attendance wasn’t a problem at school. He also had fantastic grades so there was never any fuss when he missed school for “appointments”. If your child is a beginning performer or usually books non-union work that only requires a day of work this is a very good strategy. In recent years, as he picked up more work I grew tired trying to keep up with his imaginary doctor appointments and just decided to come clean.

There was a particular project which the school needed to sign a permit for so I emailed his homeroom teacher and the principal with the details. They were both in full support of him missing a few days of school and thought it was cool that he was going to be on tv. Since he’s now in middle school, I have a plan in place with the counselor so that he can access assignments online and she can disseminate information to teachers in a timely fashion so that I don’t have to contact his various teachers individually. It is extremely important to have a partnership in place so that everyone can collaborate on a plan that best benefits your child.

Research your school’s attendance policy and local child performer permit requirements

It is critically important to know your school or school district’s policy on excused and unexcused absences. I try to avoid sick days, extended family vacations, etc.  so that I can have wiggle room for any days my child may miss school due to working. When possible, I let him at least start the school day and then pick him up early. This way he’s not marked absent from school but as a tardy or early dismissal. Although this method can circumvent the absence rules, missing particular classes excessively can impact your child’s performance (and all teachers may not be on board). Again, this is why partnering with your child’s school is key.

Prior to working on a project, you will sometimes receive a work permit that needs to be filled out. I keep these state-specific and job specific work permits in a folder for ready reference. If it requires a signature from a school official, I use this as another opportunity to partner with the school. It’s usually just a statement that says your child will be working during the day and ensures that the child is in good academic standing. The work permit spells out details such as work hours, breaks, and other protective measures for your child performer.

Exercise your judgment

I don’t jump at every audition that comes along. Usually, I reserve missing school for gigs that are already booked or a MAJOR audition. You have to use judgment and discretion so that you’re not pulling your child out of school multiple times a week to audition for something they may or may not book. I also block off dates that are definite “no’s” for missing school such as mandatory testing dates.  If a Skype audition or self-tape audition can be submitted, utilize that option rather than an in-person audition.

Flexibility is key

Although I work full time, I also work from home. This gives me the flexibility to work alternative hours or take my phone and laptop wherever I go. I’ve spent quite a few days in the corner of wherever my child is filming, working on my laptop or listening to a conference call. Non-traditional jobs or non-traditional hours come in handy if you need to be on set or at an audition at the drop of a hat.

 

Of course, this is a system that has worked for me and my child. Do your research and do what’s best for your situation. The main point is that its doable but communication and partnership is key for this arrangement to work.  Good luck!

 

For parents still on the fence take a look at our homeschool resources as well.

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