A Circus Kind of Life
It's been 15 years since trapeze artist Tracy Daniel flew through the air with the greatest of ease. She no longer spins upside down while hanging onto a braided rope. A wardrobe's worth of colorful costumes has long since been purged from her closet.
But even though Tracy is far removed from the Club Med troupe of circus performers, she still runs her life like it's the greatest show on earth. Traveling throughout the eastern U.S. working as an education consultant, while raising four girls and two boys, (all age 12 and younger), is as tricky to navigate as a three-ring circus.
"It's nothing for me to be grilling steak really early in the morning," Tracy said, her words bubbling with enthusiasm. "It has to be ready when we come home because there's no time left." Tracy's organized chaos begins around 5:30 a.m., but it's hardly the typical routine played out in most households with school-age kids. Instead of choosing traditional school, Tracy and her husband, John Daniel, decided online schooling was best for their children -they feel it will better prepare them for the future.
"I see the kids in the schools who my children are going to have to compete against," Tracy said. "Then I take it one step further. They're not only competing against those children, they're competing against every international student out there, and we're not even on the same playing field."
The Daniel's oldest children (ages 12, 10 and 7) are enrolled at South Carolina Connections Academy, a free online public school. Although there are mandatory classes to watch by way of virtual teachers, the program also relies on parental involvement. Two children (ages 6 and 3) go to the Beaufort Montessori School, about 20 minutes from the Daniel's home in Beaufort. Their youngest child was born on July 4 this year, and is either with mom or her parents.
"We do school work everywhere . . . in the library, on the beach, wherever we want to do it." Tracy said. "We have MiFi (portable wireless router), so if we have an hour drive, they can do schoolwork in the car." Online schooling also offers other freedoms, Tracy said. Last year, the family went to Brazil for seven weeks during Carnival. "We've lived in a tree house in the Amazon, and lived in Costa Rica for a month," Tracy added.
Tracy has always been aware of the benefits of time management. Growing up in Davenport, Iowa, she took up gymnastics when she was 5- years-old, training six hours a day, six days a week. "I maximized every minute," said Tracy, petite and fit at 5-foot, 2-inches. "You'd have to have your work done, otherwise you couldn't compete."
Dedication and talent led her to the elite level, where she won the title of Junior Vaulting National Champion. She also competed in gymnastics for Iowa State University before transferring to the College of Charleston and turning her attention to finishing her degree in physics, while contemplating a career as a doctor.
She met John while working in nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina. But something happened on the way to med school. The circus came calling after a few co-workers returned from a Club Med trip and told Tracy, "We know the perfect job for you!" Tracy remembers getting hired on the phone, after discussing her background as a gymnast. "I packed everything in three days. I told my soon-to-be husband, 'I gotta go.'"
After a year of performing acrobatic stunts and working as a clown, Tracy was off to her next adventure as a rock climbing teacher in California. "But then, after that, I had to get one of those yucky things, What do they call it? Oh, a job." Tracy began working for a college-test preparation company in Iowa City, Iowa, where she traveled to high schools all over the country teaching SAT and ACT testing skills and how to build portfolios.
She soon branched off as a private business owner, and today only travels about 15 total weeks a year, downsizing after her third child was born. "This is great," Tracy said of her lifestyle. "I want to be the person, who, on their death bed, kinda slides in. It's all used up. There's nothing left. That's going to be me. It's time. Otherwise, I'd miss something."
Background: Born in Davenport, Iowa. Has lived in Beaufort since 2000.
Family: Married to John Daniel for 15 years. Children, Madison, 12; McKenzie, 10; Bodie, 7; Cypress, 6; Anson 3; Rugby, 3 months.
Things on Tracy's "to-do" list: Take a trip around the world with her family. See the migration in Africa. Celebrate Chinese New Year in China. Compete abroad in an adventure race.
On the support of her husband: "He makes me look chumpy. He's awesome, he does it all. He's right in there, he buys into it."