My daughter is away with school on her first summer camp. At 9, I have packed her off with toothbrush and teddy, and lectured her about proper use of her asthma inhalers. For the first time she is learning to manage (and remember!) her own health needs. And I am learning to let go. As I nurse a coffee and wonder for the thousandth time what she might be doing right now, I remind myself to be grateful for the opportunities my girl is getting. For it is these experiences away from home, without me to guide her boss her around, that will help her to explore who she really is, and what she wants from the world.
Of course, these 2 nights away are just part of a gradual build-up of experiences that will prepare both of us for her eventual transition to independence. From her first solo venture to the playgroup toy box, right through to moving-out day, all of these adventures will create a backdrop of learning that will inform her adult decisions and enrich her lifestyle with choices.
Over the years we have seen her character grow through her focus on various activities, and her Stagecoach classes have been pivotal to some of the most important aspects of her development. So I was given to wondering about the learning curves and opportunities she is yet to come across as she continues her Stagecoach journey.
I asked 18 year old Edward, a Stagecoach Southgate student for the past 7 years, what he feels he has gained from his time with the school. When he joined, aged 11, he had been enjoying acting, but was keen to add singing to his activities. Stagecoach was the best option for an all-round performing arts class. Edward says:
"Stagecoach gives every child amazing opportunities, whether they want to go into the arts professionally or not."
He says that he has had so many opportunities that wouldn't have been possible without the classes, from performing in the Shaw Theatre in Titanic the Musical, to a spot in the West End, playing Huey in the Medley of Memphis in Her Majesty's Theatre. In terms of professional coaching, he is quick to praise his musical theatre development, which has expanded and strengthened his vocal range so much. He puts this down to some of the amazing teachers he has had, and makes special note of Jodie Oliver:
"A good teacher should be confident, in control and a fun person to be around."
One thing that has struck me about the teachers in our Stagecoach school is how much fun they have. They are professional, and control high spirits well, but fun is high on their agenda. There are never any moans about getting ready for Stagecoach on a Saturday!
Whilst many children begin classes at a young age, 17 year old Maddie, also from Southgate, shows that it's never too late to join Stagecoach. She was 14 when a friend recommended she try it, and 3 years later she was playing Velma in Hairspray, her best Stagecoach moment so far. Like Edward, she puts a lot of that achievement down to her teachers:
"My favourite stagecoach teacher is Rob Anderson because he his hilarious, but pushes us as much as he can to fulfil our potential and improve our skills."
As well as having fun, experimenting in a safe environment, and gaining invaluable skills in how to relate to others, there are quite simply some once in a lifetime experiences to be had as part of a Stagecoach school. Like Edward, Maddie had the "unbelievably amazing" chance to perform in the West End, declaring it the "BEST DAY EVER!"
But she says the biggest thing she has gained from her classes is a confidence boost she never would have had without Stagecoach. When I asked her what she would say to a parent weighing up whether to enrol their children in performing arts classes, she was resolute:
"Definitely! Definitely send your child to Stagecoach. They will have incredible fun, their social and general confidence will skyrocket, and they will make incredible permanent friends."
Now that's something I know dozens of parents would wish for their child!