To get the most out of the Suzuki Violin Method, check out what these parents are doing…
The Suzuki Violin Method requires a huge commitment from parents, students, and teachers. We teachers are always struggling to get our students to practice, and to teach them how to practice properly. Parents are always struggling to fit it in, to remove the obstacles, and to make it not such a fight with their kids. This hands on approach to practicing sometimes drives some parents away from the Suzuki Violin Method. Some parents are doing it though. They’re defying the odds, and making it work. I wondered how on earth they did it.
How do they get their kids to practice consistently and make progress?
I have been hesitant to suggest much about practicing to parents in my studio. Practice falls on their parents’ shoulders in the Suzuki Violin Method, it is a lot of work! I don’t have a child that I am practicing with yet, (my oldest is not even three). I can barely get a shower in, how can I suggest that parents add even more to their very full plates? I don’t even know how they leave the house by themselves if they have more than two kids. (I still haven’t gone to the grocery store alone with my two boys. Every time I think about trying, I burst out laughing and call my mom.) I will say, before I had kids of my own, I had lots of ideas on how to get kids to practice. Ha.
I figured I better go straight to the experts. In my research for this blog post I heard from almost twenty parents who use the Suzuki Violin Method. I asked them for their top tips on motivating their kids to practice, and how they find time to help their kids to practice. Their answers all seemed to fall into pretty neatly organized categories. Even so, there was so much material, and so many amazing ideas, that I had to break it up. So it’s going to be a series! Part I of the “How Pro Suzuki Parents get their Kids to Practice” Series is all about routines. Almost every single parent talked about making music practice part of your family routine.
We all hear about the importance of routines. Everyone spouts how vital they are for productivity, focus, and happiness as adults. Every baby book talks in some way about getting your baby on a routine. Every toddler thrives on routines, and balks when they are changed, even if only slightly. It shouldn’t be surprising that one of the most effective ways to ensure music practice is to make it a part of your daily routine.
I want to share these ideas with you in their own words. It’s kind of a long post, so if you are short on time, just read the parts in bold!
Julia Margaret Nichols says, “I never really thought about it as “finding” time for practice – it was just always a part of our everyday routine. When my kids were younger, I always tried to choose a time that I knew would work for them (often after a meal or snack because I know my kids get cranky with no food!). As they grew older and our routines changed, we allowed the time to change, as needed.”
I thought that making sure that the kiddos were always fed beforehand was an especially good idea! It helps me to have a snack too.
Kadre Sneddon says, “Finding time is a constant challenge (5 young violinists), and so violin has been made a priority. My husband jokes that nothing else may happen, but the violin gets done! If I can’t practice with the kids, my husband does a “review concert” with them, which they enjoy. We practice every day except Sunday, and it just gets done, even if it is quick and a bit of review. They are happy with the routine.”
I think many of us have a tendency of thinking of things in all or nothing terms. It’s only worth doing if we can do a full hour, or get to every practice assignment. This isn’t true at all! (Nor is it helpful.) It is much more effective to be consistent than to practice everything on one day and then be too burnt out to get the violin out for the next few days. Practicing a little bit every day is much better than a two hours once a week. If you are limited on time, focusing on review is especially fantastic. The review pieces are where the progress is really happening, and it is so encouraging and fun to play pieces you already have polished. If you are pressed for time, practicing something that will be easily successful will bring a sense of accomplishment, rather than struggling for ten minutes on a new piece, only to finish feeling unfulfilled.
Obviously, I think my mom is the best Suzuki Violin Method parent out there, so I asked her for her advice, and she said the same thing! Norene Smith says, “The best way to find time to practice is to make it an everyday part of the routine. We get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, practice, etc. It is easier to be consistent if we make practicing part of a routine. Children do better with a familiar routine where they know what to expect.” My Mom has been a Suzuki parent for twenty-two years and is still going strong with my youngest sister and brother.
Angela Yantorno has a similar view, she says, “In our house it’s just what we do.. We practice, we read, we clean.. It’s a choice we have made and our kids are in the routine with it.” If it doesn’t happen every day, children will balk. Why does it have to happen today when we didn’t do it yesterday or the day before?
Alan Duncan, a Suzuki dad who has been practicing with his seven-year-old for four years says this, “In a way, I feel like you have to pay your dues up-front. By being 100% committed to do whatever it takes to make sure practice happens every day, you take a lot of flack early-on; but you have an easier time later once the habit is established. We also decided to make practice an every day affair. I know that some families have schedules that are too busy or chaotic to make that work—this is just our experience. There’s a point in early childhood where kids become very focused on fairness and doing things properly. If you set up a daily practice habit, then the idea of missing a day seems out of the question. They sense something wrong about it.”
Alan blogs about the Suzuki Violin Method from a parent’s perspective at suzukiexperience.com, it is a wonderful resource for both teachers and parents.
Practicing is that million dollar question. As a parent, you struggle to make it happen. You have so much on your plate. My babies are only little, but now I’ve got a little peek into your world, and I’m just amazed you made it to lessons with both violin and child. As teachers, we struggle to know how we can help. We know life is crazy, but want to encourage our students and parents to keep trying. I hope that you come away from this post with a renewed energy and commitment to try to make practicing a priority and part of the daily routine. Even if it is only ten minutes, and mostly review, that’s great! It adds up.
Do you have a practice routine? What is it? Are you a teacher AND Suzuki parent? I’d love to hear about that too! How do make that work? Please share in the comments!
Catch Part II of the series here: How Do I Find the Time to Practice with My Suzuki Student?
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