I was speaking on the phone with the mother of a potential new student the other day. It is difficult to cover all the pertinent info in a single conversation, but I try to cover as many bases and topics as possible while at the same time not overwhelming with too much verbiage…
One of the important things to talk about is the role of the parent(s) both during the lesson and at home. In a perfect world all students would have two parents/guardians who would each be performing a separate but equally important role in the student’s musical education. Obviously we don’t live in a perfect world and often there aren’t two adults involved in the process. As with all things, we still strive to do our best and keep on trucking with a smile. I will, however, outline here an “ideal” situation.
Parent #1 - Home teacher
THINGS TO DO DURING LESSON
- Take notes on what teacher says so concepts aren’t forgotten when you get home. If you do miss something, don’t worry - it will no doubt be reviewed in the future
- Try to be a quiet observer. Do your best not to interrupt or give students direction - this is often confusing for the child as they don’t know who to follow
- Try to hold questions until the end of the session to keep from interrupting the flow of the lesson. If it’s important, definitely ask right away, but if it can wait that is usually preferable.
- Work to be an active observer. Students typically know whether a parent is involved/invested during a lesson and that can play a part in home practices.
THINGS TO DO AT HOME
- Smile! Students learn how to smile from their parents and a positive attitude goes a long way.
- Work in short, focused practices with your child. Remember that in the beginning we only need a few minutes a day. The important thing is consistency from day to day
- Remember that the only job the child has is to be a child. You must lead the practice session and review concepts introduced during lessons. Be supportive and positive.
- Try to work with students at “smart” times. Home practices are typically the hardest thing for students and parents. We can set ourselves up for success by avoiding trying to work when students are: tired, hungry, upset, etc.
- Keep practices positive. Get creative about ways to keep things positive and fun for students. They have a different perspective on learning their instrument. The good news is that young children love to learn!
- Remember that 90% of what we do every day should be review. If you are having trouble with the new concept of the week, focus on review - that’s often a good way to keep things positive.
- Don’t forget that the oak takes a long time to grow. If we want to build a strong foundation for the study of an instrument, keep in mind that it is a long process and each student is different. Some children need 3 steps to learn a new song, others need 20 steps for the same song. Dr. Suzuki said that all children can learn - it’s important to remember that every student CAN learn, but that every student is DIFFERENT and a UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL.
Parent #2 - Cheerleader
- Support and encourage your student and provide lots of motivation!
- Support and encourage the home teacher!
As students get older the job of the home teacher shifts to more of a note taker during lessons. Additionally, the student can start to take more responsibility over their home practice.
There’s lots more to consider beyond this list, but it’s a start…