This blog is dedicated to Cameron Boyce, a light in Disney’s amazing family. He was known for his stellar work ethic, creativity and amazing human spirit. Our sincerest and deepest condolences to his family. Nothing could be more devastating…
My Kid is Smart, Right?
One of the biggest dilemmas facing every set parent is how hard to push on the academics. The child is in the midst of the greatest opportunity to hit him/her in his/her young life and the hours are rigorous and at times overwhelming. Do only terrible, perfection obsessed moms demand academic rigor in addition to the stresses of being a full time series regular in a show?
There are two kinds of teachers, according to most of us. There are set ‘sitters’ who ensure your child works the hours they are supposed to (and ‘pumpkins out’ as the law decrees), gets breaks for lunch, waters, school, etc. and are treated well (as in like the children they are) on set. And, then, there are the teachers that TEACH the students the school material according to the selected curriculum of the child actor. School is a very complicated proposition for a child actor. And it is a dilemma for the production team as well. The executive producer has to decide how many teachers to fund for the child actors and also how to arrange who is in which classroom and how things will be managed. In our situation, the two lead girls Madison and Olivia were in the same classroom, shared a teacher, and were separated by one grade. For Season One, Jake Paul was over 18 so no teacher required for him. Ethan and Devore shared a teacher, Meghan, and the under-18 guest stars also would jump into their classroom as they have to attend 3 hours of school per day by law. Many times, the teachers are assigned based on who the actor shares the most scenes with as the teacher is on set when the kids are rehearsing or taping the episode. Since the teacher cannot be two places at once, this has to be constantly managed and juggled.
In Season one, if Madison and Olivia’s teacher was out for any reason, she would ask Meghan to take her class and Ethan and Devore would get a substitute. Since the relationship with the teacher is so important and Meghan is a teacher who does actually work with the kids (she is awesome at teaching and coaching them), this swap out scenario was not popular with me or Devore’s mom. We were quite happy to have Meghan as the teacher but not have her rotate out and have many kid guest stars of all ages in and out every episode; it is very disruptive for learning. And I admit, I’m academically oriented and wanted Ethan to remain on a rigorous school schedule. My advice is to choose a challenging curriculum, but not so hard that it kills them! Ethan is enrolled in two programs – Stanford On-Line High School (every course is killer hard and amazing) and International Connections Academy (very challenging and has wide offering of Honors and Ap courses). He takes six classes a semester and one additional one every summer, the most rigorous schedule he can handle while working 52 ½ hours per week, excluding travel, promo shoots, commercials and other work. Needless to say, his social life was not robust outside the show, other Disney commitments, and getting home to Hawaii as much as possible.
My advice continues with: push for the academics. It is not about proving that your child is exceptionally bright in addition to possessing amazing amounts of acting talent. The fact is, most child actors are smarter than the average bear as they have so much material to continuously absorb; and, they have to make adjustments and changes on the spot to incorporate the material as the episode unfolds. Challenging academics keeps them on track to have options as well. The child actor may or may not develop into the adult actor and you want your child to be prepared for college if they want that option. You can’t do this last minute. You have to have a four-year plan that is flexible for work projects but does not leave your child too far behind.
This is not to say that the child should be maxing out on all the APs, exams, subject tests, etc. We made a decision that Ethan would take the ACT only and take it only in spring of his junior year. He took AP classes that matched his interests and he missed one of the tests due to a work commitment. We decided to NOT take any subject tests. We could not long-term plan some of the tests given our wild geographical swings. So, we made informed choices NOT to try to do EVERYTHING. We did not know where we would be. He had a lot of stress during the finals period each semester in high school, as he had to have prearranged approved proctors for his mid-terms and finals with Stanford On Line High School. He took tests in Utah, Hawaii, Florida and LA due to the demands of the work commitments. Sometimes it was his first time in a venue and he did not know the proctor (having found them on an approved list). This increased the angst and stress, but he pushed through it! Our motto is the same for auditions, his work on the show, and, other work projects and academics. Prepare and do your best. Then accept the result and move forward! If you leave everything on the table and it doesn’t work out exactly as you want, there should be no regrets!
Thank goodness the show runners and Disney are supportive and encourage academics. Despite this, as a parent, I still needed to advocate for the academic piece, and it is worth it. Whether it is to keep a beloved teacher for continuity or reaching out to other parents to understand how they are navigating the education piece, the time invested in designing an academic plan is worth it.
Do you struggle with how hard to push your child when he/she has a significant passion or talent that is very time consuming?
Thanks for coming back again to read the blogs! More tips and insights forthcoming on parenting versus letting the child actor do his/her thing. Child actors are not known for wanting tips and advice from their parents, but we still need to parent them! Have a great week.
With Aloha, Eileen
Again, this blog is dedicated to Cameron Boyce, a talented and beloved Disney star and person who will be remembered always. And to his parents who raised a brilliant human being.