How to get your kids to practice

 

Moravian Academy

Instrumental Music Program

 

Suzuki Violin Website

 

You are a Suzuki parent. You have begun to take on the role of the home teacher.

At first your child is excited. Mommy (or Daddy) is now giving the young Suzuki violinist their full attention daily for minutes at a time. They are also getting THEIR OWN VIOLIN-just like the one the instructor has (only smaller).

Practicing is easy now. But after a few months, practicing becomes more of a chore. The child doesn’t like the fact that they could be playing with toys or going outside to be with friends, but first they must PRACTICE!

How are you, the “home parent,” going to make practicing something that is productive and engaging?

The answer is going to be different for different families and different learners. Some children have a stronger desire than others and every family’s dynamics (the interrelationships of its members) will differ as well.

Your job then, will be to use this “Practicing” portion of the website to support you as you design an environment that is right for you and your family.

 

 

Dr. Suzuki says…

All parents of Suzuki students (for that matter all parents trying to teach a child) are faced with the same challenge: to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Shinichi Suzuki said that children’s habits, attitudes and behavior are learned in large part through their environment.

Your job as the Suzuki “home teacher” is to establish an environment that supports success as a student of a stringed instrument. This website will help you to better understand your role and give you information and examples of what has worked for other Suzuki parents



Environment: Establish a Practice Plan…and stick to it!


It is extremely important to sustain practice by creating an effective practice plan. You should re-evaluate your plan from time to time as well. Every year or two, you as the home teacher need to do the following:

Discuss your plans for practicing with:

  1. Child (Suzuki student)

  2. Spouse: Do they support what is going on?

  3. Other members of the family: What will they do during that time? Will it be distracting?

When and where will practicing occur and for how long? You should have:

  1. A time of day set aside to practice when the child is fresh and energetic.

  2. A quiet place with few distractions (no ringing phones, pet distractions, fewest interruptions, etc.)

  3. Proper equipment (violin, books, music stand, etc.)

  4. A plan for listening: necessary audio equipment and a plan for where, when and what pieces to listen to.

 

Lastly, be sure that you, the home teacher, are prepared. Have time set aside that is devoted entirely to practicing. Find a time of day when you are fresh and energetic; practice when you are not overwhelmed or stressed out. The home teacher/parent will need to remain patient and calm even when the child is tired or uncooperative.

 

 

 

Out of Love: Be Your Child’s Advocate…Help them to Learn!

Shinichi Suzuki said: “If love is deep, much can be accomplished.”

Nothing says more about Shinichi Suzuki’s views on learning and the child/parent relationship than this quote. It also presents an awesome responsibility for the parent.

If we augment this quote with these below, it helps to give us an idea what he had in mind:

“I often tell parents that they are much too demanding towards their own children.”

“Parents should reflect upon their arrogance”

These quotes tell us that we need to be gentle and loving when instructing our children. We need to provide encouragement, not criticism and shame. We need to build up, not tear down the child’s self-image. Dr. Suzuki was always able to find something positive about a student’s efforts and comment in a positive manner.

However, the child is not in charge of the lesson or practice sessions. They are merely in charge of learning. The instructor and parent (home teacher) have the responsibility to create an environment that will help the child to learn naturally. A child will learn to speak their native language in an environment that encourages them and supports them. They are praised as infants by parents and other adults as they speak new words.

So too the violinist should be praised and not criticized as they begin to make music as a beginning violin student. Parents and instructors must foster an environment that helps students to learn.

If you’ve been teaching for a while, re-examine your child’s learning environment. Is your child receiving praise? How could some things about your child’s environment be changed to help the practicing environment?

 

 

 

The Nitty Gritty: Help Children to Learn…and Have Fun!

There are ways to help your child to overcome the “practicing blues.” Everyone gets tired of practicing at one time or another. The parent’s job is to be flexible and resourceful.

Ask yourself: What interests my child? What amuses him/her? How can I use my child’s own interests, likes or desires to support practicing?

Listed below are several examples of techniques used by successful parents/home teachers. What these parents have done is to make practicing fun and interactive.

 

 

Teddy bears ‘n more

One young child (5-6 years old) had a number of stuffed animals that he played with frequently. The parent incorporated them into practice by:

Having the animals give the instructions.

Having the animals help the practicing by observing and encouraging the child.

Have the animal demonstrate rhythms.

Having the animals listen and tell what they liked about the child’s performance.

Have the child ‘teach’ the stuffed animals.

 

 

Crate Concerts

Provide frequent opportunities for ‘crate concerts.’ A crate concert is an informal recital; the child stands on a sturdy (but not too tall) box or makeshift stage. The audience can be family, friends, parents, siblings or stuffed animals. The concert is made up of the repertoire that they are currently assigned or review pieces.

If done in an environment that is supportive and safe, a young violinist will be motivated to practice hard as they prepare for these mini-concerts. This can be done with younger or older students. Older students often like to impress their non-playing friends with the songs they are learning and their developing prowess.

A tip: keep it simple and fun. Crate concerts can backfire if the child feels pressured or is criticized.

 

 

Suzuki Board Games

Another child and his mother developed a board game to help them to practice. They took piece of cardboard (12” by 18”) and designed a game board. On this particular board there were two tracks made up of 5 boxes each. The tracks wound around the board and both ended in a box marked finish. Both Mom and the child helped to color in and decorate the board.

To play, the child selected two small toys (or figures such as people or animals) to use a s tokens, and moved them around the board on the tracks. Movement was regulated by repetitions of a particular exercise that was assigned by the violin instructor. For example, every time they played a particular passage five times, they could move the token one space.

The tokens ‘race’ toward the finish line.

 

 

Your Assignment

What are your child’s special interests? What are their favorite toys? How can they be incorporated into their practice? Creating an environment that encourages children to practice can be a challenging task. It requires patience, information, support and creativity. The payoff could be a lifetime of music. 

 

Help Others

Help others in their journey as home teachers. If you have a special tip or some technique that was successful in helping you and your child to practice, then share it with other Suzuki parents!  Please enter it into this website's Discussion Board. It could help to make a difference in other people's musical pursuits.

 

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