As Grace winds up her stint as opening act for Imagine Dragons on the second North American leg of their Evolve tour, it’s important to remember that it’s not only her summer tour, it’s also her summer vacation. While most people her age are focusing on the upcoming transition to high school, Grace has to wedge thoughts of course schedules and classroom locations alongside script sides and filming locations, not to mention new song lyrics and modeling engagements. While there is no stereotypical “average” educational journey, and everyone’s experience is different, it’s fairly safe to say that Grace’s school career is more unusual than most.

From the moment her first audition was broadcast near the end of her 6th grade school year, Grace’s life was altered, and the changes to her educational path were a big part. Even within the last few weeks of that year, she noted the changes in attitude and treatment by her classmates. She recounted in interviews overhearing fellow students who she believed would never talk to her before now fighting over which knew her the longest. Even the school assembly documented in the introduction to her AGT quarter-final segment showed her sitting (squirming?) in a seat as the other students stood to applaud.

As a result of the notoriety and demands on her time, the VanderWaal family’s decision was to enroll Grace in online schooling for the 7th grade. For the first few months, she even had trouble remembering to describe herself as a 7th grader when asked, due to the strangeness of her situation. While Grace noted in interviews that she was able to get good grades, she described the period as “disastrous” and mentioned in first her Uproxx Honda Backstage video that the isolation added to her social awkwardness with people her age. For these and likely other reasons, Grace and her family decided she would attend 8th grade in a traditional classroom setting.

Even back in “normal” school, the demands on her time for public appearances, studio time and touring had to have impacted her attendance enough for special accommodations to have been made. While both the Austin City Limits shows and several of the dates on the fall leg of her “Just the Beginning” tour fell on weekends, Grace spent nearly the entire month of February 2018 on the road, and started her part of the “Evolve” tour while most middle schools are still in session. While it’s not public knowledge how much leeway Grace has to supplement her classwork with tutoring and/or doing her assignments before or after the other students, she obviously did not have the typical 8th-grade experience.

Now prior to high school, Grace has the “Stargirl” movie to prepare for and film. Even small budget TV movies will involve several months of combined preparation, filming and post-filming work, mixed between on-location shooting and possible studio work on a Disney lot. The irony of making a movie about a homeschooled girl’s experiences in a normal high-school setting is that for Grace and the other child actors in the movie, they’ll all spend several hours a day getting schooling that is anything but normal. Disney studios have dedicated classrooms on the lot for TV and movie actors to get their mandatory school hours in (California, for example, has a 15-hour a week schoolwork requirement for underage actors as part of their child labor laws). Location shooting in Arizona and New Mexico will have similar requirements, perhaps balanced between formal classrooms and individual tutors. Post-filming press appearances and other duties in the occupation of being “Grace VanderWaal” will likely continue to impact her high-school attendance and participation as much as it did for middle-school.

Another effect of having such an unusual path through her education at this point is the impact it may have on her writing. The old joke is out there about fame, success and riches ruining the blues singer’s career because it took away all the things to have the blues about. In Grace’s case, while she has stated repeatedly that her song ideas spring from her imagination, and many of her topics are more general and universally-themed, much of her work is age-appropriate and specific. Songs such as “I Don’t Know My Name”, “Clay”, “Gossip Girl”, “Burned” and “Just A Crush”, while not all tied to actual events or direct school interactions, spring from a world of concepts and ideas that resonate with people her age. She now finds herself, even when back for long stretches of typical classroom and extra-curricular activity, subject to a sort of social Heisenberg effect. Those around her may end up acting differently to her than they would otherwise, not only for the differences in their social status, but even for the unlikely fear of ending up as a lyric on her next album.

Also looming is where Grace goes from there. High school duties also include SAT testing and college prep, another unknown in Grace’s future. While Grace has stated in a livestream with Blythe Thomas that it is her plan to cement her financial well-being before reaching the age she would attend college, so as to not have to embark on a post-secondary education, the expectation from her parents, both of whom have college degrees, can safely be assumed to have a high regard for the benefits of university. Plans change, of course, especially between the ages of 14 and 18, so let’s not hold Grace to her current goals.

While child actors like Emma Watson, Miranda Cosgrove, and Charlie Korsmo put their careers on hold in order to have the full college campus experience, and others continue with online learning, it remains another puzzle piece in Grace’s education to be put in place.

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: