This week in my oldest child’s violin lessons, he and his teacher reviewed goals from the past academic year and made new ones for the coming year. Last fall, we made some goals for practice and for the progress we hoped to see. At the time we made the goals, my son (seven now, six then) had been taking violin for two years and was just finishing up Twinkle Variation A. Progress was excruciatingly slow at times.
My goals reflected some of that frustration. I thought we’d be lucky if we learned the rest of the Twinkles and Lightly Row in a year. Fortunately, our teacher had a much more positive view of the situation. She suggested our goal should be to be learning Allegro at the start of the next Academic year. I thought this was straight up crazy talk. There’s no way we can do that.
But we actually got really close. Despite a really slow start, and slow progress through the twinkles, something clicked around January and he has been making so much progress. He’s now learning Long, Long Ago and is a much more independent player. It’s been incredible to watch. Thank goodness for teachers who have a long-term vision and aren’t in stuck in the practicing weeds. As I’ve reflected on the past year, and indeed, the past three years of being a Suzuki parent, I wanted to share some of the mistakes I’ve made in the hopes of making things easier for you. Or at least making you feel like you’re not alone!
Mistake #1: I was too hard on myself. I beat myself up every time we skipped a day of practice (even if we had good reason.) I berated myself everytime we showed up for something and he played poorly. I blamed myself for pretty much everything. This wasn’t useful or helpful. It would be one thing if these internal lectures led to better parenting or practicing, but they didn’t. When I would mentally yell at myself to be better, I would shut down and stop trying.
Mistake #2: I prioritized my role as “teacher” over my role as “parent.” I wish I’d spent more time celebrating each accomplishment with my children, rather than just pushing to make things better at every turn. More hugs, less instructions.
Mistake #3: I compared my children to other students. Don’t do this! It takes all the joy out of the Suzuki experience.
Mistake #4: I let our practice routine become inconsistent at times. It’s much better now, but in the early days we vacillated between practice feasts and famine. I’d have a string of days where we’d practice (long sessions) and then I’d get burnt out and we wouldn’t practice at all for days. It’s much better to just have a short practice every day.
Mistake #5: I sometimes under-prioritized listening. I let our listening routine fall by the wayside, and progress stalled at the same time. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m grateful for the chance to reflect on the year, and re-commit to our family goals for practice and listening. I keep telling myself, I don’t have to be perfect, I’ve just got to keep trying. And that’s what I’ll do. Practice is never going to be 100% smooth sailing all the time, and I’ll probably continue to struggle, but I’ll never look back and regret the efforts I made to help my children thrive in their music education.
How about you? Where have you struggled in the past year? What are your plans to improve in the coming year? Please share in the comments.
Brecklyn Ferrin teaches Suzuki violin lessons and Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes in Kaysville, Farmington, and Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the Suzuki parent of a 7 year old violinist, 5 year old cellist, and 18 month old Suzuki baby.