by Ann Montzka-Smelser
Have faith in your child, your teacher, and yourself.
Every child grows at a different rate. It is important to respect your child's efforts and not compare his rate with the rate of others. Put your child first by focusing on the quality of the journey more than a destination. One of the best ways to demonstrate faith and respect to your teacher is by allowing one teacher at a time. Be a silent observer during group and private lesson. A child hears the quietest parental sigh much louder than anything his teacher could say or do. Give the discipline up to the teacher at lessons unless they ask you to step in. Follow through with assignments and listening at home.
YOU are the most important and influential teacher your child will ever have. One of the most important lessons to help learning is that it is okay to make mistakes. Give yourself the many tries needed as you learn to play the instrument you are helping teach to your child. The more proficient you get at guitar, violin or piano – the more confidence and empathy you gain.
Be consistent with listening, practicing and lessons.
The more you play the recording, the more internalized the music, the easier it is to produce a beautiful ringing tone with expressive musicianship. Students that consistently listen learn and memorize pieces with much more ease than those who do not.
When practicing is a daily habit, much of the struggle is eliminated. Do not say, “we will make the practicing up tomorrow.” Five minutes is better than nothing... and you can always find five minutes.
Treat private and group lesson as a special event... not to be squeezed between many other activities (where you might come late and leave early). Your child will know this activity is important if you treat it that way.
Communicate with your teacher and other parents.
Let your teacher know if you are struggling in the practice sessions at home. Since some conversations should not be had in front of your child, use email or phone (ask your teacher which method is best for them).
Be sure to talk with your private or group teacher if you have questions or concerns about assignments, behavior, expectations, anything! We know you want the best for your child; we do too!
Other parents are vitally important for sharing joys and struggles and solutions together!
Take notes and mirror your lesson in practice.
Though you should not interrupt the flow of the lesson (and break important focus) it is important that you are clear about all assignments so you can follow through in home practice. Have your teacher check over your notes before you leave and reiterate the instructions for the practice week ahead. You are the “home teacher” but are expected to do only what is covered in the lesson. Your teacher is very careful not to move forward before a specific level of mastery is achieved. Do not move your child to the next step until your teacher gives the green light to do so.
The practice packet is extremely helpful for the teacher to know what the child has been doing all week, and asses and adjust assignments accordingly.
This is also helpful for a parent and child to see what is ahead and stay on task with daily expectations.
Be creative and enthusiastic in practice!
It is hard to be creative and enthusiastic when you are tired, hungry, stressed, rushed, etc. This holds true for your child as well. Find the best time for both of you to enjoy some time together. Many families find several short practices are more successful while others find one dose a day does it. Be sure physical needs are met so you and your child can focus. Your enthusiasm will be contagious... here are some creative ways to begin practice since “once begun is half done.”
- Treasure hunt: write pieces or practice assignments on popsicle sticks then hide them around the room and have your child find them and do them.
- Beat the clock: Who can be ready to practice by a certain time each day?
- Practice candle: let a candle burn during practice time. Agree on a celebration of time together when the candle is used up.
- Set a goal: of 50 (or 100!) days of practice in a row and celebrate with a family activity of your child's choice.
- Count repetitions: with raisins, peanuts, or skittles.
Some other helpful tips in working with your child and keeping them actively engaged are to “ask” rather than “tell.” Praise the effort. Look for what is working, and most importantly, focus on one point at a time. (This usually means ignoring other factors).
It is easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. Taking a breath and remembering why we want this for our children can center us. Thank you for letting us work together for you and your family. Enjoy the journey!