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Could Ballet Class Affect Grades?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 12-year-old daughter has been taking ballet since she was five. She is very passionate about it and her instructor wants to send her to New York to study for the summer. She has classes four nights during the week and one on the weekend. I drop her off at 5 p.m. and my husband picks her up at 7 p.m.

She arrives home at 3 p.m. gets ready at 4 and we leave at 4:30.

This is her first year in middle school and although she is very intelligent, her grades have dropped to near failing.

Do you think that ballet is affecting school? Her teachers say that she socializes too much. Is this because she cannot talk to these friends in the evenings because she is not home most days? Will this affect her attitudes later in life?

A: It would appear that ballet is at the core of your daughter's life. My guess is that most of her out of school time is spent either studying ballet or thinking/dreaming about ballet. On the one hand, it's wonderful when children can experience passion about learning and doing anything. On the other hand, when that childhood passion consumes most of a child's waking, non-school hours, there may be a significant drop-off in other areas of her life - academic, social, recreational.

Your bright daughter's near-failing grades may be the result of the difficulty of her subjects in middle school and her need to put in more study to learn new, more difficult material. Middle school is one of those major transition years for kids, both academically and socially. Many kids who never had to worry much about getting top grades now find that they must really work at understanding new concepts and juggling a much more time-consuming academic workload. Although some kids may be able to handle your daughter's academic workload and her intensive ballet schedule, I would say that her dramatic drop academically indicates that she is having great difficulty making this adjustment. Have you spoken to her teachers and talked with your daughter to discover what is at the root of her academic problems? I guarantee you that the core of her severe academic decline is not that she "socializes too much". She may be starved for more of a social life than her ballet schedule allows but that alone would not account for her poor grades. You, she, and a counselor need to examine why she is experiencing academic problems. Guessing what the difficulties are is not good enough.

Your daughter may also be internalizing the notion that she does not need to focus that much on school because she is going to be a ballet dancer. With this attitude and orientation, she certainly could be viewing school as more of a social meeting place than her "workplace". I would guess that a summer in New York studying ballet would further intensify her balletic passions and aspirations. I fully understand that ballet dancers are developed through exhaustive daily training and focus on their craft. I think that you now need to be seriously discussing how your daughter's travelling this road is contributing to or negatively affecting her overall human development. This is not an easy debate. Please let me know if I may be of further assistance.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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