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Monday, 22 August 2016

Let's talk about setting a regular time to practice

From my last post, I stated that one important thing a parent can do, is to set a regular time for practice.  Why is this so important, and why does it seem to be something every parent struggles with?

Teach your child to be responsible for being prepared for their next lesson. The very best thing you can do for a beginner student is to make sure they know that part of their responsibility in having the privilege of learning an instrument is to go into their next lesson, prepared for their teacher.  Instilling this idea of being prepared early on, will save a parent a ton of issues as the years progress.

The parent must set the routine. We set routines for our children all the time.  Get up at a certain time, dress, wash, eat, brush teeth and head off to school where there are more routines that are set in place to create an efficient environment for learning.  Then, catch the bus at a certain time to get home, and then, that is often when things begin to fall apart.  Perhaps Mom and Dad are not home and a babysitter is in charge.  Perhaps there are other activities to get to, homework to get done, supper, and a bath and bed in good time  - all to get up and do it over again the next day.  But routines, help us to get many things done in an efficient way.

Balancing other activities with piano is always an issue.  Piano is not a "once a week" activity.  It is an every day activity. It seems many families do not realize this.  But daily practice is a must when learning this particular skill.  A person can learn to swim by going once a week... a person can learn to play soccer by going once a week. But you cannot learn an instrument by just going to your lesson once a week.  It just will not happen.  That is why daily practice is important. And you cannot cram all the practice into one day, either - our brains just do not learn that way. Having that regular time, just makes it easier to "get it done".   Each family will have to find that sweet time when practice fits in their routine.  It might be early morning before school, or right before supper, or right after school, or right after supper....

So what is a practice goal?  Seven days a week?  Well, in an ideal world, that might be possible.  However, that doesn't usually work.  I ask my students to aim to practice 5 days out of 7.   One day is their lesson day, so they do not need to practice on that day.  One day should be a day of rest - that might be a day when there are other activities that take so much time that it is impossible to practice.  That leaves 5 other days, two of which might be the weekend - which hopefully allows more time for practice.

Every family has to find their own routine - but it must be a routine and not random "whenever"  - because then practice is left to the end of the day when the child is tired and really just wants to either chill out for a while, or head to bed. And of course, that is when the parent will find that the child balks.  First, the parent is tired and suddenly realizes - yikes! we forgot to practice AGAIN!  Sometimes, in our frustration, we end up inadvertently placing the blame on the child - "you didn't do your practice - go get it done now before bed!"  We set our kids up for failure when we do this, because we raise our expectations that they should have remembered themselves.  Well - reality is that they are kids.  They are not going to remember.  It is up to us.  They "might" remember better, if we have a routine - and they know and we know that at 4 pm, after a snack, they need to sit down and practice for 30 mins.

Be kind - make that time for your child to practice.  Schedule it into your day.  Help them by making sure it is a time that they are fed and somewhat rested.  Help them by not over-scheduling them with other activities.  And you will find that they will progress quite well, and there won't be so much fighting over whether it is time to practice or not.  And then both you and they, will be much happier campers!

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