How homeschooling turned into Hollywood

Those of you who know me in real life have no doubt heard about our family's grand plans to homeschool for the year.

A variety of things brought us to this point.

For starters, Adam earned a two-month sabbatical from work several years ago. It seemed like high time to take it. And then Lucy wasn't having a great experience at school, a situation that was eating up huge amounts of mental energy.

And then there is my conviction that the kind of conformity that is necessary to the running of schools really isn't all that good for individuals (as useful as it is for society as a whole). It makes it all too easy for kids to think that learning is tantamount to doing the work that's assigned according to someone else's standards--and the less effort expended to get a good grade, the better. I don't want to get all political or mouth-foamy here, but I think in an ideal world, kids (and the rest of us) would follow their curiosity to exciting and inspirational places. We'd learn for the love of it. And we'd put these individual passions to service for the good of the world, something that's really hard to do when everyone is studying the same thing at the same time.

Also, and most important, I said I'd never homeschool. Ever. And you know what happens when you say "never."

Part of this reluctance came from the old bias against homeschoolers that lots of people have. Homeschoolers are those kids in prairie skirts. The ones who think carob is chocolate. Homeschooling consigns kids to permanent weirdo status.

I was once behind a one-way glass at a client's office when a group of homeschooled kids was testing a board game under development. The client had provided snacks and juice boxes, and at irregular intervals, the kids kept shooting geysers of juice through their straws.

Someone finally asked, "What's up with those kids?"

A seasoned tester said, "Homeschoolers. They can't handle the juice boxes."

I never wanted to raise kids who couldn't handle juice boxes. It's a metaphor for not being able to handle real life.

But fast-forward a few years and I have kids who 1) don't even like juice boxes; and b) are now part of the homeschool club. We're weirdos and we like it.

So that was to be our plan for the year. I'd teach them math, writing and science, and we'd travel as much as we could to show them the wider world and the different ways people live in it and have lived in it over the ages.

We made it approximately zero weeks without having everything derailed.

In August, I wrote about someone (LUCY!) signing herself up to audition for a Hollywood talent agent. She did, and made it through a couple of callbacks. (Read that post here.)

Meanwhile, someone at the audition place had also noticed Alice and asked her to read a commercial. Alice did pretty well, apparently, because she made it through the callback rounds, too.

The day came for the girls to face the agent. When Lucy read her lines, Adam could tell from her body language that she was nervous. We assumed the experience was just that--an experience to learn from. Afterward I watched Alice recite her commercial for the agent, but I couldn't tell one way or another from his reaction whether she'd made any sort of impression.

We were suprised, then, a few weeks later to learn that both girls got callbacks in Los Angeles with the agent, who really does represent real actors on TV shows you'd recognize. (We checked. Several times.)

He also said some very appealing things to me on the phone: that he wanted to work with actor's actors, not cute kids and hot twenty-somethings. For him, it was about working with people who wanted to learn and improve their craft. He also said that Hollywood can eat you alive, which is why it's important for kids to take acting classes that were playful and fun.

All of this sounded great to me. There was a catch, though. We'd have to be willing to live in Los Angeles for six weeks at a time. 

If we were still in school, this would be a no-way kind of experience. You can't just leave a traditional classroom for that period of time and hope to catch up. But our classroom is wherever the kids and I are: the kitchen, the library, the attic. Why not Los Angeles?

So we flew down there, met the agent in person, and the next day received an offer of representation for both kids.

In the week since--our last few days in Seattle before we head off for a long-planned trip to Italy--we have been finding temporary housing, unplugging ourselves from art, dance and music classes, and taking care of all sorts of business that keeps our lives running. In a month, the girls will start auditioning for whatever roles seem appropriate. And in the meantime, the classroom life will continue, as I figure out how to get my freelancing and children's writing work done.

It is one-hundred percent insane to turn life upside down this way. It's equally exhilarating. I probably will blog about it from time to time, though I'm having to give some thought about what becomes public now that Lucy and Alice are potentially making their own debut into the wider world.

And now back to the grind. It's just about time for morning math.