Savvy Asks About Educating Child Actors in a Touring Show

Les Miserables comes to Robinson Center Nov. 29-Dec. 3. Savvy asked the touring show's tutor, Jess Balun, how the Les Miz kids make the grade.  

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How many hours per day/week do students devote to school? We typically do 15 hours of school spread over a five-day period, usually four hours per weekday and one hour on a weekend day.  

How do you tackle hands-on activities like science projects or art while on the road? Science projects are the toughest because we are traveling every week and can't bring a lot of equipment. I look for experiments that have simple ingredients and will still allow students to engage with the scientific method. One of my favorites for them to do is soaking an egg in vinegar overnight.  

Are the kids able to work in groups together, or is it all on a one-on-one basis? The Les Miz kids are all in fourth or fifth grade, so we try to work together whenever possible. But, since they all come from different schools and follow different curriculum, there is a lot of one-on-one instruction.  

Do parents get report cards? Parents get a weekly report of the student's completed assignments and quarterly report cards.  

What is the biggest challenge elementary-aged students face? This type of schooling requires a lot more independence than many students are used to. One of my former students used to motivate herself to work independently by pretending she was in college. 

What's the biggest challenge high school-aged students face? Most of my students have been elementary of middle school-aged, but high school students have the added challenge of final or state exams and, of course, grades being on their transcripts for college.  

Are kids able to reintegrate back into traditional schools once the show is over or do most participate in home school? It's a mix. If the student continues to have a lot of auditions or booked jobs, many parents prefer the flexibility of home schooling. Others go back to their traditional school. One former student returned to school and said, "They waste so much time!"  

What happens if a student is not making good grades? I've been lucky to have very bright and conscientious students. Most of these kids have been in multiple shows and know how to manage their time and work hard. The kids really have one of the toughest schedules in the company. One huge benefit of the small class size is that when I see a student struggling with something I can work with them one-on-one before any assessments. 

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