Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to get your kids to practice

Practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes. When it comes to learning an instrument, perfection may not be the goal, but practice is certainly a sure path to success. 

But even kids who love music don’t always love to practice, as Sue Chung can attest.

Sue’s son Josh is an 8-year-old Suzuki violin student at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.

When Josh was in kindergarten, he got the opportunity to try violin in school, which prompted him to ask him mom for violin lessons. He started private lessons at the Conservatory last summer and enjoyed it so much that they continued through the school year.

“I’m just thrilled because I want him to love and appreciate music and art,” said Sue. And she knows that his violin lessons have academic and social benefits. The Suzuki program incorporates both a private lesson and a group lesson once a week. “It’s a fun time for them...They make friends and it’s a great motivator.”

But even Josh, who genuinely enjoys violin lessons, doesn’t always stay on track when it comes to practice. Here are some things Sue does to keep him focused.

Get involved
A large part of the Suzuki teaching method is parental involvement. Sue actually took a couple of violin lessons herself so she could help Josh with his technique and practice at home.
“That was really nice, just learning how to hold the violin. It’s helpful to learn the basics so we can prevent them from creating bad habits,” she said.
Practice is bonding time for Sue and her kids, including her two-year-old daughter Hana who enjoys humming along to the music.
"The little ones really benefit from listening in."

Set specific goals
Josh’s Suzuki instructor Catherine Michelsen created a chart which outlines goals for the week, said Sue.
The instructor notes things she wants him to do, and Sue take notes during lessons to keep track of what new things he went over and what he should practice. She keeps the chart on Josh's bedroom door so he can check it himself and stay on track.

Make it fun
Josh practices while younger sister Hana
pretends to play along.
“I don’t want to burn him out from practice early, so we try to keep it fun,” said Sue, who plays lots of games to encourage practice.
One game she plays with Josh is a point system. If he loses his concentration, mom gets a point. Then she takes a turn on the violin and gives Josh a chance to win a point.
“Another thing we do is a coloring chart,” she said. She created a pyramid, and for every practice, he colors in a piece of the pyramid. “When he fills in all the pieces of the pyramid, he gets a treat.”

She and other Suzuki parents are constantly exchanging ideas.
"You just have to see what works best for your child," she said.

Be patient
While getting your kids to practice may be frustrating, staying patient and consistent helps kids achieve the long-term success and benefits of music education.
Sue says Josh’s teacher truly exemplifies that.
“Catherine’s so good with the kids. She really represents Suzuki teaching, that’s just who she is,” said Sue. “It’s all about teaching them through a nurturing environment. It’s all about kindness.”

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