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Pros and cons of sending a child to a music specialist school?

(28 Posts)
eliphant Wed 16-Nov-16 18:29:30

I have a 10 yr old DD. Homeschooled all her life. My husband and I used to be musicians and we're a very musical family. DD started violin age 8 and is now at grade 5 and tackling some grade 6 material. Her violin teacher is a very accomplished musician in his own right. A bit posh compared to us, but a very kind friendly man. Anyway so we know that being a musician can be a tough life and the money isn't that good for the amount of work you do. We already know that. DD knows that. DD isn't very academic. I suspect dyslexia and there is a bit of family history with this condition on both sides of the family. She does not like reading so much and make a heck of a lot of careless mistakes in her work and skips lines of work because she just couldn't "see" them etc. but from the mock SATs and bond papers she has tried, she seems to be scoring pretty decently at 75% or over for bond and the upper levels for the SATs. One thing is she is extremely strong-willed so if she doesn't want to do something, she will not do it. Or will rebel some other way. And she can be quite introverted by nature though she socialises with peers almost daily with peers in homeschool groups and afterschool sports activities.

Anyway so she is very taken with the idea of boarding school as she is a Harry Potter fan. And a doctor mum friend of mine from the local junior orchestra she attends whose daughter made it into a very selective choir school locally told me my daughter definitely stands a chance of being accepted if she tried auditioning for it, being that our daughters both seem to be on par as far as musical aptitude goes. This friend also really feels uncomfortable with homeschooling so I know she would wish I would put my daughter back in school.

The thing is I've been thinking about this for a long time. My DD isn't academically inclined and has some learning issues. She will hardly pick up a book to read for leisure and I highly doubt she will be able to cope academically if she did go to the local selective choir school as from everything I've heard locally, it's a bit of a pressure cooker and high teen pregnancy rates (secret info from my doctor mum friend of course). I think with my DD's personality and strong will she will rebel and don't think it's good. I am helping my older child through GCSEs now as she is now homeschooled. Similar learning issues. It is quite a challenge handling the subjects at GCSE level even though she has tutors for it.

On the other hand I think maybe a music specialist school might be right for my DD. She loves music. Finds it easy to get the hang of it. And if she's not going to be academic, might be a great fit, as it seems the music specialist schools like Yehudi Menuhin do not select based on academic performance and the pastoral care seems excellent. We live about an hour from London. It would be possible to pick her up from school for the weekends home. I checked the bursary charts and it seems we will qualify for a substantial bursary as DH isn't a higher income earner.

Well I'm worried she might rebel if she hates the place eventually but we will simply homeschool her again. In fact if she does not end up going there anyway, she has expressed to us she would rather continue homeschooling as she would not like conventional school anyway. She likes the freedom of homeschooling.

So I'm stuck here wondering what would be good. If I decide to let her have a go at auditioning, I'll approach her violin tutor about it. I'm sure with his coaching she'll do well. But I am so torn about this because I know boarding school is such a different thing from what we're doing now. I'll miss her and perhaps she'll miss me (or not! Which would be a good sign she suits the school then!) And she'll lose her wonderful teacher and won't be able to keep in touch as often with her current homeschooled and schooled friends.

She is uncertain what she wants to be when she grows up. Understandable so. Many kids don't know either. She doesn't hate practicing. Currently only does about an hour or more a day. But she is crazy about animals and also wants to work with animals. My pragmatic husband and friends say she should be a vet then. Haha... but I say well if she's not that academically-inclined and if she isn't going to any selective academic school, it would be very difficult to go the vet school route anyway. I just prefer to be more realistic about it. She is really excited at the idea of going to a specialist music boarding school though. But as the parent I need to think carefully about this...

I'd like to know what others think about sending children to these types of schools. Will help me make up my mind more.

drummersmum Thu 17-Nov-16 19:21:50

Come to the music thread:

Plenty of people there to guide you, including gillybeanz whose daughter used to be homeschooled and now attends a specialist music school and is very happy there. Or you can post your thread in that same section (Extracurricular) where you may get more advice.

callmeadoctor Fri 18-Nov-16 21:03:20

I would be tempted to question my choice of home schooling, given that both your children now seem to be academically challenged!!

Moominmammacat Sun 20-Nov-16 14:06:24

Are you thinking of a choir school? Or a specialist music school?

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 04:31:02

Hi Moomin, a very academic choir school is within 2 miles of our house so might seem more convenient. As per my OP it doesn't seem suitable for her.

There are 2 music boarding schools in London which would be most suitable distance wise.

Do you have any tips for me?

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 04:31:35

Please everyone no trolling. I will simply not respond to that.. I am posting here seeking those who genuinely wish to support and empathise and help me in my journey. I am not here to pick a fight.

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 04:32:50

Thank you drummersmum. I have posted in the music thread.

stringsenthusiast Mon 21-Nov-16 08:23:25

My experience is second-hand, but I have the impression the music boarding schools are more selective than the choir schools I know. As a family of musicians you'll know if there's more to it, but in itself grade 5 on one instrument at age 10 doesn't sound like the right ballpark; every prep school will have a few children at that level. Granted she only started recently, but against that, she's had plenty of time for practice which will largely account for the rapid progress.

You have to think not only about "will she get in?" but also about "does she have a career path?". Not much fun bumping along the bottom in a specialist music school.

Moominmammacat Mon 21-Nov-16 10:01:33

Eliphant, I hope this advice can be of some help ... liking Harry Potter is not a good reason for applying to a specialist music school! They are not for everyone (I decided against for mine) but they have their place. They are heavy-duty, single-minded and disciplined and that doesn't not sound like the sort of place your daughter would thrive. A choir school (is this a day school?) can save you a bit of money as a chorister but all the points above apply. Without knowing the individual school, or child, I am stabbing in the dark but having had two choristers, it is not for the faint-hearted or undisciplined. I don't wish to sound negative because both sorts of schools can offer wonderful benefits but you need a co-operative child. Technical standards in music schools are immensely high and the work load is heavy. It is more about potential than exams at 10 but both mine had two Grade 5 distinctions at 9 and while I suspect they would have got in, they would have been very much bottom of the heap. Why not find lots of music things for her to do ... look at Saturday conservatoires and if she does take off, you can always move her later. Good luck!

Moominmammacat Mon 21-Nov-16 10:06:10

PS ... you could take her for a consultation lesson/assessment at music school/choir school/conservatoire to see what someone independent thinks ...

Paulweller11 Mon 21-Nov-16 10:15:18

I would send her in for an advice audition and see how it goes.
If she gets in, try boarding and see what happens. If she really doesn't like it, either boarding or school then you can always take her back out, and home school again.
She's only young yet so why not try and see.

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 14:20:59

Thanks all. Lots to think about. I have concerns about her ability to cope yes. She is a very laid back child and doesn't like to be pushed. An advice audition sounds like it is worth going for as it wouldn't be a real audition and I hope they can see whether she will suit this kind of school life or not, and if not, say so, to her, so she knows that.

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 14:23:50

How do you get an advice audition? I can only find info about the official auditions on both London schools - Purcell and Yehudi Menuhin - websites. And do you need to prepare beforehand or can she just go and play whatever she wants and wing it? And who usually conducts the advice auditions? Is it the same person who does the official auditions?

Paulweller11 Mon 21-Nov-16 14:37:29

See photo re:Menuhin

Paulweller11 Mon 21-Nov-16 14:40:44

Purcell also has an academic test, as well as the audition process.

eliphant Mon 21-Nov-16 15:23:21

Ah okay I see. I didn't know the preliminary audition is the advice audition. Thanks Paulweller.

stringchild Mon 21-Nov-16 19:59:34

Eliphant - i have a dd the same age, and we have booked an advice audition (not for the london schools); it can be used as the prelim audition too for some schools with agreement. my dd is a higher grade standard then many at this age, but many don't take exams at specialist schools so don't be put off by that - but i am sure you are aware there are some serious prodigies out there (we are not one of them!)

i would let your DD have a go at that and get a feel of the place; it may not suit you or her once you see the reality of the day. DD's good friend goes to one, and practice is a serious business and academics have to be done on top of a lot of music, academic music and practice. And he has def had to learn to be organised!

i don't think we will end up going the specialist school route until 6th form (if then) in truth; we do JD, and a lot of school and external music. DD is not ready to commit to music as a career, but is interested enough to see what the schools are like, and think about them a little later.

Good luck - i would say one step at a time, and start with the advice audition

eliphant Tue 22-Nov-16 12:03:20

Thanks stringchild. Yes I do think that even if they would take her, and even if she stubbornly insists that is what she wants, that it would be preferable for her to go in when she's older, say for sixth form. Now is too soon in my opinion for her to board. I will book an advice audition and see what they say.

gillybeanz Wed 23-Nov-16 14:57:42

I think it depends on the child tbh.
Mine took a while to settle to boarding after being H.ed but she is fine now.
It is hard work and they have to be very well organised, but help is there for children who struggle with this.
We have found the SENCO to be second to none at dd school and even though there are some very gifted children academically as well as musically dd has never been made to feel bad about her disabilities and difficulties.
I think if it comes from the child, like it does in your case and mine grin then it can be the best education they will receive. especially if they know they want to enter the industry after attending a conservatoire.

gillybeanz Wed 23-Nov-16 15:01:24

Oh, I forgot to say. When dd is describing what they do at her school, she often says it's music with extra curricular Maths, Eng, Sci etc.
"Hogwarts for Musicians" is her favourite description grin

I have pm'd you. thanks

callmeadoctor Sat 26-Nov-16 17:22:20

Im not sure why you suggest that I am trolling? I am simply suggesting that as both your children seem to be struggling academically, the home schooling does not seem to be working! As you have said she is laid back and does not want to be pushed, going to a music specialist school would (I imagine ) be a bit of a culture shock. I am absolutely not having a go at you, just commenting on the facts! confused

eliphant Sun 27-Nov-16 02:07:42

I'm sorry. Thanks for clarifying. As difficult as it was for me to hear your judgment on me and my family's abilities, I am now still going to acknowledge your contributions to my thread callmeadoctor, and thank you for your time.

Blu Mon 28-Nov-16 08:43:16

Your dd is doing extremely well with music, and it is good if she gets specialist music support to continue progressing.

I am not sure whether boarding school is essential for this - do you have a good youth orchestra in your area? Playing with others seems key to all-round development, musically.

I don't know much about specialist musical education, but I do think that whatever you decide for her, it would also be good to get some specialist support for her dyslexia. There are methods and techniques that can help, and I have seen several dyslexic children of friends find ways round their dyslexia, which in turn increased their confidence and enjoyment of reading and other areas of learning.

It will stand her in good stead whatever path she takes in life if she is able to fulfil her potential all round. I work in the arts and do not see it as a basket which is safe for all eggs!

eliphant Thu 01-Dec-16 17:47:23

Hi Blu, I was told that dyslexia assessments are not free on NHS nor are they given in school and would cost me a few hundred quid just for 1 child to be assessed. It sounds very expensive as I have 3 children who all have symptoms some way or the other. What would you suggest I do? I am open to hearing options. There is a youth orchestra locally that my daughter is already involved in, and a new Saturday music school of Guildhall open quite near us. Unfortunately my daughter refuses to give up her Saturday Taekwondo sparring lessons for attending the Saturday Music school. That's another reason why I am uncertain about her going to boarding school. She has so very many interests, none of which she devotes all her time to, and she refuses to give them up. She said she would give up everything to go to music boarding school and perhaps the school might help her focus on one thing more but I am sceptical.

I did try buying coloured overlays for her reading but she said they only help marginally and she didn't bother using them often. Not sure if it is dyslexia she has. She shows signs however she can spell well now because I have been using Orton Gillingham-based homeschooling spelling curriculum for her. And reading aloud is fine though she skips lines and words and can self correct most of the home but she had said before she sees lines of words jumping around. She had eye tests and vision is fine, no need for glasses, so doesn't seem to be a vision issue.

Blu Thu 01-Dec-16 21:13:18

elephant, sorry, I am not in any way a dyslexia expert, but I have friends who have children with various dyslexia-related conditions, and they have managed (I don't think it is easy) to get some assessment of what exactly is going on and some support strategies.

There are loads of dyslexia-experienced parents on MN though, if you start a thread about it.

It sounds as if you have done well with her though.

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