It’s almost October…really?! Where did the time go? Weren’t we just camping, swimming, and boating at the lake just last week? Well, it seemed like we were, and time goes quickly, especially between music lessons, and especially when the day for your child’s lesson arrives and…. you remember they were supposed to practice! Ooops. Then you are trying to cram a week’s worth of practicing into the morning before the lesson. How many times has this happened to you?
When you signed your child up for music lessons you had a great idea. You are most likely aware of all the cognitive benefits of music lessons and the academic and social benefits as well. In fact, I don’t know of an extra-curricular activity that gives more lasting benefit to a child and family than music lessons does. But, big rewards come with lots of consistent effort, and because your child is…a child, that consistency has to come from you.
I recommend 5 practices each week for my students. This is for my Let’s Play Music students and my private piano and harp students. This is optimal, and none of us achieve optimal levels 100% of the time, but we shoot for them as often as possible. And now that it is almost October, and the novelty of starting piano lessons for the first time, or starting them again this school year has worn off, you may be encountering the practicing struggle. The practice struggle is the #1 reason parents give in and let their child quit piano lessons. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve had an adult say to me, “I wish my mom had not let me quit taking piano lessons…” then I would have lots of nickles.
One way to avoid much of the practice struggle is to establish good habits and routines from the very beginning. Establish these habits and implement them early and you will avoid a lot of conflict:
1. Establish a time to practice and make it the same time every day. What is your child’s most productive time of day? Is she a morning person? A night owl? Does practicing right after school work best? You know your child’s body clock and rhythm and let it work for you and him. Don’t try to practice at a time when your child has brain fog because they are tired.
2. Practice right after your lesson or at the longest, the first day after the lesson. As a teacher, I can only write down part of what we covered in the lesson. The sooner after the lesson your child practices, the more he will remember.
3. Don’t worry so much about the length of time practiced. Twenty minutes can be used wisely, or it can be wasted and pittered away, but either way, 20 minutes has still passed. Focus instead on the number of times your child has practiced each piece, and whether the trouble spots for that particular piece have been the main focus and properly practiced. I will have another blog post soon about how to learn and practice a piece, but that is for another day and another post.
4. Actively practice with your child at least the first 2 days after the lesson. The younger the child, the more they need you to be active in their learning and practicing. Sit together and go over the lesson-identify things that might be new or hard that week and work through them together. If you don’t read music or play an instrument, attend lessons with your child and learn it together so you can be your child’s greatest asset at home.
5. Make practicing fun! Children learn through play! If a child has fun while practicing, you better believe she will want to come back and “play” again another day. Again, I will address the “fun” aspect of piano practicing in another blog post. You are anxiously waiting for this one, aren’t you?
6. End on a positive note. Studies have shown that if you end an activity with a good feeling, the challenging part of the activity will not be remembered as much as the good feeling. The feeling your child has when they leave the piano is the same one they will bring back with them the next time they practice-make sure it’s a good one!