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I would love some ideas from unschooling families about how to support music lessons in our house. My 7 y.o. dd has a piano teacher that we love (not her first), and overall things are going well. He is relaxed and has reasonable expectations for practicing. She loves him and the lessons.

Lately, though, we've been having some struggles over practicing. Part of this is my fault--our days get busy and suddenly it's late in the day and practicing hasn't happened. I know it would be helpful to have a set time of day when the practicing happens, but honestly our days are so different that it's hard to make that happen.

I will say that it's no problem at all to get her to sit down at the piano--she does it spontaneously all the time--the issue is encouraging her to work on the pieces and exercises assigned by her teacher. I think it's just hard because in no other area of her life are there assignments--she basically just does what she wants. If I try to nudge her to do that stuff, she often gets sulky or complainy. Which leads me to say (unhelpfully, I think) that it's okay if she doesn't want to do her practicing, but that we can't continue lessons if she doesn't practice. So she says that she wants to continue, she loves her lessons, but she wants to play what she wants to play.

My sense is that if I can offer the right kind of support and help for her, we can make this work. I'd love to hear from other unschooling parents about how you've approached music lessons and practicing and what's worked for you.

thanks!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by pinky View Post
So she says that she wants to continue, she loves her lessons, but she wants to play what she wants to play.
Have you expressed this concern to her teacher? It sounds like maybe she needs some new music to spark her enthusiasm. There's always a different piece or a new style that can teach the same technical skill.

I am a voice teacher, and I appreciate when students are honest with me when they don't love the repertoire. I feel like it's part of my job to explore repertoire with singers, so they always have something that 'turns them on' musically. Once you're excited about a challenging piece, the exercises required to master it become much easier.

So talk to your teacher! He may already know what type of music makes your dd light up, but be prepared to talk with him about what she likes to play, so he'll have some idea what would inspire her.
 

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Here is a blog post I wrote a while ago on the topic of unschooling and music practice. I'm a mom to four young music students and so I've been through a lot of shifts in my kids' motivation and orientation over the years.

Basically to me it boils down to viewing daily practice as a matter of respect for the teacher's efforts to teach, and, assuming the child is interested in continuing in the lesson relationship on that basis, working continually and collaboratively towards that ideal. It has helped us to get together on a weekly basis (a hot chocolate date at a café on the way home from piano lesson is a good time to chat, because kids usually feel happy and optimistic after their lessons) to talk about how the practicing is going and how we might be able to adjust things in the upcoming week to make it work better. This turns it from "parent making child practice" into "parent and child working together to solve the inevitable difficulties in maintaining a near-daily practice regimen."

The particular approaches we've used have been countless, but they've mostly come from my kids. We've tried charts, schedules, no schedules, rules about practicing before computer use or outdoor play, no rules, taper candles that get burned during practicing to tally time spent, practicing alone, practicing with me helping, practicing on video camera, practicing right after eating, nagging parents, no nagging parents, stickers to tally up practicing time, splitting practices into two or more shorter stints, rules demanding a screen-free day if practicing was missed the day before -- unless it's made up double, etc. etc..

What's important is not the particular short term approach that might work for a few weeks, but the principle that we are working together to keep the practicing wheels greased. My kids know that I appreciate their efforts in this respect, that I think they're doing something challenging and worthwhile, that I don't have all the answers, that I'm always willing to try something new with them and that ultimately I believe that together we can find ways to keep those wheels greased.

Good luck! It's always a work in progress, but a work that we all learn from at every turn, which makes it invaluable.

Miranda
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
Here is a blog post I wrote a while ago on the topic of unschooling and music practice. I'm a mom to four young music students and so I've been through a lot of shifts in my kids' motivation and orientation over the years.

Basically to me it boils down to viewing daily practice as a matter of respect for the teacher's efforts to teach, and, assuming the child is interested in continuing in the lesson relationship on that basis, working continually and collaboratively towards that ideal. It has helped us to get together on a weekly basis (a hot chocolate date at a café on the way home from piano lesson is a good time to chat, because kids usually feel happy and optimistic after their lessons) to talk about how the practicing is going and how we might be able to adjust things in the upcoming week to make it work better. This turns it from "parent making child practice" into "parent and child working together to solve the inevitable difficulties in maintaining a near-daily practice regimen."

The particular approaches we've used have been countless, but they've mostly come from my kids. We've tried charts, schedules, no schedules, rules about practicing before computer use or outdoor play, no rules, taper candles that get burned during practicing to tally time spent, practicing alone, practicing with me helping, practicing on video camera, practicing right after eating, nagging parents, no nagging parents, stickers to tally up practicing time, splitting practices into two or more shorter stints, rules demanding a screen-free day if practicing was missed the day before -- unless it's made up double, etc. etc..

What's important is not the particular short term approach that might work for a few weeks, but the principle that we are working together to keep the practicing wheels greased. My kids know that I appreciate their efforts in this respect, that I think they're doing something challenging and worthwhile, that I don't have all the answers, that I'm always willing to try something new with them and that ultimately I believe that together we can find ways to keep those wheels greased.

Good luck! It's always a work in progress, but a work that we all learn from at every turn, which makes it invaluable.

Miranda
I was just going to post about this great blog I read which had a post about this a while ago.
Now I know where I got your blog from! It is in my list of blogs I read and every time I read it wonder where I found it. I love your blog!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by birdie22 View Post
Have you expressed this concern to her teacher? It sounds like maybe she needs some new music to spark her enthusiasm. There's always a different piece or a new style that can teach the same technical skill.

I am a voice teacher, and I appreciate when students are honest with me when they don't love the repertoire. I feel like it's part of my job to explore repertoire with singers, so they always have something that 'turns them on' musically. Once you're excited about a challenging piece, the exercises required to master it become much easier.

So talk to your teacher! He may already know what type of music makes your dd light up, but be prepared to talk with him about what she likes to play, so he'll have some idea what would inspire her.
Her teacher is actually really responsive, and very sensitive to not "forcing" any playing (I think he had a bad experience when he was young). I think it has more to do with *anything* that she hasn't initiated herself, along with the dynamic of learning to persevere when pieces are feeling hard.
 

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I find that my kids practice more when they start to get comfortable in a level. This may be a few attempted weeks of practices that don't seem to interest them and then constant playing/practice once they feel that they know their stuff a little better.

I had one piano teacher for my daughter that gave her a crutch by playing the song for my daughter. Then, my dd would play by ear and she wouldn't really want to practice further. Then, when we changed teachers, she got frustrated because the teacher made her play the song the first time and wouldn't tell her the notes. She went through a solid month of not wanting to practice and being frustrated. Then, one day, it all clicked and she's not stopped playing since. She reads music so well now!

So, make sure that your child's teacher is making her learn and not giving her crutches. A kid with a good ear can get by easily without ever actually learning the material!

I'm dealing with my son's lack of interest in guitar practice now. I'm hoping that he'll follow the pattern that my daughter has and take more of an interest once he's feeling more comfortable with the material.
 

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Originally Posted by chaoticzenmom View Post
So, make sure that your child's teacher is making her learn and not giving her crutches. A kid with a good ear can get by easily without ever actually learning the material!
I disagree strongly with your spin on this. A child who has a good ear learns the material brilliantly. The only thing she doesn't learn, if she's always taught by ear, is how to read music.

She will learn technical facility, playing by ear, the skills she needs to accompany and improvise, musical expressiveness, how to play rhythmically, how to memorize and make sense of a piece based on form, left-right co-ordination and differentiation, how to colour tone with articulation and dynamics, good posture, fine motor and gross motor skills necessary for good technique and so on and so on.

If children with good musical ears are held hostage to their lagging sight-reading ability you may lose them. They may not be as fortunate as your dd in having their reading ability click after only a month's frustration. My ds endured over 2 years of piano frustration because he just wasn't ready to read music as his teacher was insisting. He finally quit piano, feeling like a failure. He continued to study viola with a teacher who was comfortable teaching him primarily by ear until his reading readiness clicked. He continued to feel successful on viola and progressed nicely. His reading finally clicked and he's now a rapidly advancing young violist (wanna see?) and a fine sight-reader.

All children are different in when they are ready to read music. Two of mine learned around age 8, one at 7 and one at newly-5. The two 8-year-olds had amassed incredible musical abilities by the time their reading clicked. It would have been a terrible shame to hold their musical learning back until then.

A good musical ear is a musician's best tool, it's not a crutch. Sure, sight-reading is a tool that almost all musicians eventually need too, but it's a tool that can be added later. It is very important to honour a young music student's developmental imperative and not insist on limiting them only to what they can sight-read when they're not ready to do so. Where some teachers miss the boat, IMO, is in not putting enough emphasis on developing sight-reading skills once that developmental readiness is in place.

Miranda
 

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I spent 8 wonderful years playing in band during my k-12 schooling. I was never great, but got to be pretty darn good and loved it the whole time. The last time I played in high school was the last time I ever picked up an instrument. So, realize that your kid is prolly not going to be a career piano player and do whatever it is that she needs to still enjoy it. It might be that playing in a band with another instrument would really get her going, or being in another kind of piano class that's a group class that uses keyboards and computers. You could get her 2 lessons a week, so it has not been so long between lessons.

The kids I knew who were really good at musical instruments needed no reminding to practice, they just did it. Keep your dd loving the music for as long as you can, maybe one day it will click, maybe not.
 
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