How can you best help your child during their Suzuki violin lessons?
Do you know what your teacher would like you to do during your child’s Suzuki violin lessons? Are the expectations clear?
If you are a teacher, have you explained the importance of the parents’ role during the lesson?
Whenever I start to become frustrated with parent behavior in my studio, I remember, these parents may not know what they are supposed to do! I take full responsibility for this collapse of communication in my studio.
In almost every other after-school activity, parents are expected, even encouraged, to relax, take a load off, and almost ignore what is happening.
As a parent myself, I understand just how easy it would be to plop down on the studio couch and break open a book or surf the web.
The Suzuki Method, however, encourages, even requires, parents to take a more “active” role during the lesson. Your child is not going to be able to recreate the lesson assignments at home without your help. You aren’t going to be able to recreate those assignments either if you are distracted by texting, making phone calls, or looking at Pinterest.
Your child’s 30-60 minute lesson only represents a small fraction of their week. If we want to set the child up for success (which should be every teacher and parent’s goal), the parent needs to leave the lesson with a clear vision of what that week’s practice sessions should look like so that precious practice time has direction and purpose.
Intentional, goal-oriented practice at home leads to true progress. Progress is essential for your child’s motivation and self-confidence.
I try to give clear directions about what I want to happen at home. I tell my students “This spot is a practice challenge. Next week, can you play that measure ten times in a row with beautiful tone?” I give three to five of these challenges each week depending on the age of the child.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or extra hands to write these challenges down when I am helping the student in the lesson. I expect the parents to write down these practice challenges, and most do.
I also try to let the student and parent know what their “technique of the week” is. The technique of the week is the technical aspect of violin-playing that I would like them to focus on during their etudes, scales, and review. The parent should make a note of this focus area in their lesson notes. Occasionally I forget to verbalize these things, but I really make a focused effort to remember.
Teachers can help set the student up for success by being very clear about what they expect to be accomplished during the week.
How can parents set their children up for practicing success?
1. Take notes during the lesson.
Your teacher is quite often helping your child with posture, holding their own instrument, demonstrating, etc. Taking notes is often physically impossible while you are teaching the lesson! This is especially true during young children’s lessons. If you are not sure what you should be writing down, check out this wonderful episode of the Teach Suzuki Podcast about this very subject.
2. Turn off your phone.
I will be the first to admit that I am addicted to my phone. Every little vibration in my pocket will set my mind spinning. Turn your phone off and leave it in your purse, or the car. Give your child the gift of your full attention during their lesson. Make note of what they do well. Share these observations on your journey home. They will notice your attention and interest, and may be motivated to do even better next time.
3. Resist the temptation to help or correct your child during the lesson.
After all of your hard work at home, you want your child to show the teacher that they really practiced! It makes sense that you would want to quickly remind Johnny to bend his knees, or say, “No, that’s third finger, we worked on that!” It’s perfectly natural to do. However, it is incredibly distracting and overwhelming for your child to receive direction from two sources. As Dr. Suzuki said, “One teacher in the lesson.”
If you have not been taking notes or paying focused attention to your child’s lesson in the past, don’t despair, it’s never too late to start! Just as an airplane is rarely on course during its journey, we can’t expect to be “perfect Suzuki parents” all the time. We can, however, make subtle course corrections every day so that we reach our destination.
What suggestions do you have for Suzuki parents in lesson? How do you set your children up for practicing success? Please share in the comments.