Meet the Beyond the Music Lesson Podcast

Episode 0 Beyond the Music Lesson

I am so excited to announce a new podcast that I am hosting with my friend and colleague Abigail Peterson.

On the Beyond the Music Lesson Podcast we will talk about learning music, teaching music and parenting music students.

Our first intro episode, where you can hear about who we are and our vision for the podcast, is now live.

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Secrets to Successful Practice with Preschoolers

Secrets to Successful Practice with Preschoolers

There are many great reasons to learn an instrument as young as the Preschool years including: a child that shows interest, time to practice as part of the routine before school & homework begin, and that students this age are at a developmental stage where music will become part of who they are, just as learning their native language will be.

A big key to a student’s success at this age is for parents to know that they have a huge part to play, especially when it comes to practice each day.

If you are practicing at home with your preschool child you may be encountering practice challenges that are unique to this age. Also, if we as parents try to practice with this age group the same way we would with a 10 year we’re very likely to encounter resistance and problems. 

If we instead work with the developmental stage of our child, and keep in mind their own personalities we can have a lot of success and a great time spent together doing it.

Here is one of the secrets to success for practice with this age:

A successful practice with a preschooler may not look anything like your definition of practice. What counts as practice at this age might surprise you.  It might look totally different than you remember practice being when you were growing up. Or it may be totally different from your preconceived ideas about practice if you’ve never studied an instrument yourself. 

It actually  may look a whole lot like play (although a structured form of it).

When I was getting my education degree I took a whole class on teaching science to preschoolers using play. My daughter who is studying to be a Speech Language-Pathologist is learning to use play combined with Speech Therapy when working with this age group. And, often in lessons I use little games and activities with this age to teach music and the violin.

I invite you the parent to do the same.

There are some students who this will appeal to more than others & specific games and activities will be more interesting to your child than others. Experiment and try out different ideas (there are many if you search on Pinterest or Google for “practice games”).  I also recommend putting together a practice toolkit (Read my post about that HERE) so that if your practice session needs something to make it a game you have it right on hand when you need it.

Here are some of the main concepts about practicing with Preschool aged children that I have found to be helpful to keep in mind:

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  • The preschool years characterized by lots of play and lots of imagination.

Act out a story with your music. Draw a picture with one part being added after each little chunk of practice. Add a block to a tower that you build over the course of practice. Throw a ball into a bucket for each part of practice you complete. The ideas are endless and don’t have to be complicated. Experiment and see what appeals to your child and be sure to change things up from time to time to keep it interesting. 

  • Be creative.

Preschool is the age where creativity and imagination are a huge part of life. If we fight it during practice it can cause a lot of conflict. Maybe one day we bark the twinkle rhythms like a dog, and the next day we quack like a duck. Maybe we imagine the bow is a rocket ship blasting off into space. Go with the imagination and fun. It isn’t a waste of time, it is connecting positive feelings to practice. It is engaging your child fully in what they are doing. It’s how they learn and interact with curiosity. Even if it seems silly to you – as a teacher let me reassure you, this is still practice.  

  • Do the least amount of talking possible

I find this to be true in lessons and I hear from parents all the time that it’s true for them at home in practice. The less we, as adults, talk and explain things during practice the better practice goes. Demonstrate. Roll dice to figure out how many times to practice something. Most of all, remember to keep directions very very short and to the point. Kids this age are very physical – keep them doing things in order to keep them engaged.

  • Stop before your child is begging to stop or is melting down

Start with short practices. Do them a few times a day if you can. One of the secrets of practicing with this age is to stop before they ask to stop. I know in some cases your child may ask to stop before you’ve started – if that’s the case work on the other tips in this article and keep practice short. When I teach a lesson to a preschool age child (especially when they are first starting) I am often working with a child who can focus for a couple minutes at a time, at best. At first I give breaks between what I ask the student to do and talk with the parent about practice or have them do an activity that is unrelated to their instrument and then we do another small chunk. Over time we string these together and the attention span grows. Keep it short! Your child is more likely to be a willing participant in working on something hard if they know it won’t go on forever.

  • Use lots of positive reinforcement and enjoy the process

Sometimes it can seem like nothing is happening because development is happening in the brain that we can’t see. Sometimes our child is growing or ill and is not at their best. Don’t worry about the results when you hear them play on a day to day basis. If you’ve been playing awhile go back and look at a video from 6 months ago and notice the progress. Growth is happening and if your child is willing to participate in practice (at least most days) and enjoys their instrument, then it is going great!

  • Finally, find the most ideal times to work with your child

Older students may be able to concentrate whenever they put their mind to it. Preschool age children who are extremely tired, hungry or have used up their ability to concentrate for the day may not be able to concentrate at all. Don’t take this as a sign they won’t be able to learn an instrument or that you the parent is doing something wrong. Play around with practice times so you work with them when they are at their best.

An important note of caution: practice should not devolve into fights with your child on a daily basis. As a teacher, I always like to know right away if there is a challenge like this so that we can work together to help solve it.

Who our children are developing to be is much more important than what we practiced today. We cannot control our children’s strong emotions or their behavior, but we can set up the best environment for them, personally, to learn in. That may look really different from one child to the next. Your relationship with your child comes first and there are often many ways to solve practice problems so it becomes more pleasant for everyone if you are struggling. Ask your teacher to help if you are struggling.

Wishing you all many happy practice sessions!

Is My Child Ready to Start Music Lessons?

Is my Child Ready to start Lessons?

“Is my child ready to start music lessons?”

This is a question I hear all the time as a music teacher.

It’s a good question. How do we know if our child is ready for lessons?

There are many factors involved but I am going to touch on 3 things to consider before starting.

First, can your child focus for short periods of time on a task.

It can literally be 30-60 seconds at first. What I’ve found is that if a bit of focused concentration is there, we can build on that attention span. At first we might be stringing together little tiny bites of concentration, with built in tasks in between. Overtime we can stretch that out and your child will learn to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time.

Many years ago when I took training with Susan Kempter she recommended asking parents to observe their child doing an activity, like a puzzle. See how many minutes, or seconds, your child focuses on the task before looking away or getting distracted. This gives you the baseline for what to expect with practice and where you’ll start building from as practice sessions start.

A long as some concentration is happening you are on the right track for getting started.

Will your child interact with another adult who is giving them instructions?

The nature of music lessons, even for very small children, is to interact with another adult who is giving instruction. For many students this is the first time they will work in a close one on one interaction with someone who is not a parent or relative. Depending on the child, this may be no big deal or may be something that you will need to work on before lessons start.

For very young children I love to have parents take Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes before starting lessons because it sets up this framework of cooperation and interaction with a teacher, in the context of music.

Older students may just need to have an understanding that the teacher is going to work with them to learn the instrument and that both you, as the parent, and they as the student will listen and try out the task assigned in order to play well. This seems obvious but I have had students who have not been ready to take instruction and learn from a teacher, so it’s something to keep in mind and work on.

Finally, the most important consideration for if your child is ready to start music lessons is:

Are you the parent ready to undertake music lessons with your child?

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When I polled other instrumental teachers about what indicated to them that a child was ready for lessons there were various answers about little details –  but the overwhelming answer, which I agree with wholeheartedly, is that you, the parent, have to be ready.

Research shows that one of the biggest indicators of a child’s long term success in music is actually the parents long term commitment to music. (Read more about this in Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code).

I think it’s because we approach activities our children are “trying out” much differently than those we are committed to them doing long term. We put more time and emphasis on helping them form habits and stay disciplined about something we want them to still be doing years from now, for example.

Music lessons, and especially practicing with your child daily, takes a lot of time as a parent.

You will have a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child, understand how they learn, and help them to flourish and thrive. You will also need to find to make room in your family’s schedule to practice and perhaps sacrifice time for other things in order to practice daily with your child.

As the parent of grown children, I can tell you the time and effort is worth it. But I can also tell you it’s not something to be taken lightly.

  • Can you get your child to a lesson, and group class, each week?
  • Can you make time for listening to music at home and in the car?
  • Can you carve out time to sit with your child and help them learn to practice, with your teacher’s guidance?
  • Can you commit long term to this process? (You can read about why short term commitments to music don’t work here)

If your child otherwise seems ready, I hope the answer is yes.

If it is then your family is ready to start taking lessons.

Find the best teacher you can, create a positive practice environment, and enjoy the process of seeing your child learn to play an instrument.

It is so worth it!

Best Suzuki Triangle Resources of 2017

Happy New Year!

I’m excited to start a new series on the blog this month about different ages and stages and how they affect practice, communication with students and children, and how to help music students thrive at each of these developmental stages (preschool – high school).

Before launching into the new year I wanted to highlight the top resources of 2017 from the Suzuki Triangle Blog in cased you missed any:

Free Resources:

Ebook: What You Practice Today is Not Important: But Who You Become Along The Way Is

This is a quick, motivational read that explores the biggest stumbling block to families continuing with lessons long term and how to set and meet long term practice goals with your child in practice. This is a great read for teachers & families alike and you can have it sent to your email by clicking HERE

5 Day FREE Email Course on Working Productively with our Children in Practice

Join hundreds of parents & teachers in taking this short email course that helps you identify the needs of your unique child, your own goals for learning music and how the two can work together to help your child thrive in learning a musical instrument. I have heard back from many, many parents how helpful this course has been to them, sign up today to go through it yourself >> Course Sign Up Page

Ebook of 5 Day Email Course 

By popular demand, I created an Ebook of the 5 day email course so that it would be easier to go back and refer to the information in the course. People who sign up to take the course now get the ebook at the end, but if you already took the course and want the ebook click HERE 

Practice Rules

Practice Rules

This was a fun project! Blog readers in the Suzuki Triangle Community shared practice rules from their house and we put together a fun, frame-able graphic that you can have sent to your email. Click here to download

You can also support the blog by purchasing some fun products with the practice rules printed on them from CafePress – 10% of sales come back to the blog. You can find practice notebooks, posters, and other products HERE.

Book

Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families

This book is full of useful ideas from my own experience as a Suzuki student, parent & teacher as well as current research, expert interviews, and parents like you.

Here’s some of what you’ll learn:

  • Practical tips to make lessons & practice sessions work for your family
  • How to have a great family experience with music lessons
  • How to set up a practice environment that helps your child succeed
  • The tools you need to overcome roadblocks to practicing
  • How to work effectively with your child in practice sessions at home
  • How to get your child set up and off to a great start from the first lesson
  • What expert teachers have learned about what helps families thrive
  • And much more . . .

Beyond the Music Lesson is available in paperback and Kindle versions. Grab your copy today and start making the most of every music lesson!

Beyond the Music Lesson Book Cover

Buy it on Amazon,

Book Depository (for free international shipping), 

or get a signed copy sent to you direct from Christine (U.S. only right now) by clicking here. 

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I hope you have a wonderful start to 2018 & that some of these resources are helpful to you as you teach and/or practice in the new year!

 

Favorites from 2017

2017

It’s that time of year again – time to make plans for a new year ahead, and reflect on the year that is coming to a close.

Part of the process for me is coming up with list of favorites for the year, related to teaching. There is even a favorite from The Suzuki Triangle Community included as well. I hope you’ll share one of your 2017 favorite resources or memories in the comments below!

Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you buy through my link. I promise to never recommend anything I don’t already love myself!

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Favorite Books

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3 Winter Break Practice Ideas

3 Winter Break Practice Ideas

In many studios, there is a week or two around the holidays with no formal lessons. It is always discouraging to come back at the start of the year and feel like progress has been lost and we have to spend a few weeks catching back up to where we were again after winter break. Don’t let this happen to you!

In an ideal world you can see this break from lessons as a time to share music with visiting family members, listen (and maybe even practice) more with the break from school and many activities, and a chance to have extra time to make progress on material you have been working on with lessons.

Sometimes a little extra motivation to get the instrument out daily is really helpful. The following ideas are geared to those who need a little extra motivation or dose of fun during these weeks off from classes.

3 Fun Practice Ideas for Winter Break:

1. Paper Chain Practice

There have been a few years when I handed out colorful strips of paper to students to take home over the break. Each day of practice they would add one link to the chain. Then everyone brought their paper chains to hang in the studio in January.

You can do your own version of this at home and even keep the paper chain going through the month of January!

2. Review or Listening Project

Winter break can be a great time to make the skills we already have easier. It’s a great time to make sure your review pieces are all easy without having to juggle new assignments from the teacher.

Make a goal to play each review song a certain number of times over the break. Make it a goal to watch youtube videos of 10 great performers on your instrument.

Choose some ideas for review from this list of 20 ways to review your pieces.

3. Winter Break Bingo

This is something I have done the last couple winter breaks. The bingo squares are a mix of listening activities, informal performances, and ways to practice specific assignments.

I have a few versions to address different ability & skill levels.

The Beginner version includes things like: have a 100% happy practice, make 10 bow holds, watch a video of Rachel Barton Pine playing Happy Birthday on Youtube. 

Make a goal with your students, or your own children, about how many Bingos you want to get over break. Two, Three, Blackout? This may depend on your travel schedule and other factors but, I have found almost everyone can get one bingo and it keeps them thinking about their music over the weeks off.

You can download my bingo cards or use a blank template to make your own.

When I first started doing this the squares were hand written and over time I have typed them up to look more professional.

I love hearing the fun and creative ways students have been able to do the activities over break. I have also gotten thank you’s from parents because this activity has made it easier to motivate their young child over the break.

Here is one place you can download your own blank bingo card to start building your own ideas: BlankBingo (1)

You can also get a copy of the bingo cards I am using this year sent to your email by requesting it here >> Suzuki Triangle Bingo Cards 

That gives you a few ideas of how you might keep practice going over the winter break. I would love to hear what your family or studio does in the comments below.

For some additional ideas about practice during this busy time of year you can read the article 5 Creative Ways to Keep Practice Going During December

Rules for the Practice Room

Practice is a daily activity for musicians and music students everywhere.

Practice Rules

What spoken and unspoken rules for practice do you have in place to make sure it goes smoothly at your house?

Thanks to readers in the Suzuki Triangle Community for sharing your ideas and helping this list take shape! See which rule didn’t make the cut at the end of the list!

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5 Creative Ways to Keep Practice Going During December

Keeping Practice Going during December

This is the time of year when it’s easy to get focused on the new year coming up.

We tend to take stock of the year: What were our goals this year? What did we accomplish? What are our goals for the coming year?

It’s a process I love and encourage you to try.

But today I want to talk about something else.

Something that we can lose sight of in the shuffle of all the holidays and all the reflecting we do this time of year.

There are still 33 days left of this year at the time I am writing this article. That’s just over 9% of the year that’s still left.

33 days is plenty of time to: improve a skill, complete a month long practice challenge, or prepare for an upcoming performance. There is still time to make real progress before the year is over and finding a fun way to keep momentum going is really important during this busy time of year.

It’s too early to throw in the towel and decide we’ve accomplished all that we’re going to this year.

With that in mind: here are five creative ways to keep practice momentum going and make the most of the 33 days left in the year:

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Advent calendar Practice Reward:

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20 Important Concepts Parents Learn in Suzuki ECE

Concepts Parents learn in Suzuki

Last week’s article was all about skills that young children learn in Suzuki ECE classes (Read it here). It created lots of discussion about what parents also learn over the course of attending classes with their children. So, today we’re talking all about the benefit of SECE classes for parents!

When parents ask what the best thing for them to do to get their young child ready for lessons is, I always recommend these classes to them – they really are the best way to prepare for the instrumental studio.

And that’s not only true for the students.

SECE is also the best way to prepare as a parent for your child to begin music lessons.

It can’t go without being said that SECE classes develop so much more than music readiness skills, as you’ll see from the points below.

As Suzuki taught us “Charactor first, ability second” and that is reflected in all we do in classes each week.

We are developing musical skills, language skills, and small motor skills (to name a few) but even more so, we are developing wonderful people with empathy, sensitivity, and the ability to treat people and instruments in class with care.

That parents in class develop the concepts below, is both a natural consequence of the class, and also something we quite deliberately work to help develop as teachers. Parents start to discover these concepts through the things we say as teachers, careful observation of their child through our example, and through the journaling process at the end of each class.

SECE really is an amazing source of development for children and for us, as their parents.

Here are 20 important concepts that parents learn in SECE Classes:

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20 Skills Developed Through Suzuki ECE

20 Skills Developed through Suzuki ECE

The longer I teach Suzuki ECE classes the more amazed I am by all that children ages 0-3 (and their parents) are learning from week to week.

There are so many amazing moments of seeing a children grasp a new concepts during each class!  Below are some of the most striking examples of skills children are developing in SECE classes. You can read them below and also I’ve made a word art printable of them that you can get by email HERE.

 

The ability to keep a steady beat

Pre-Literacy Skills

Counting

Social Skills

Ability to focus & concentrate

Musical Timing

Turn taking

Pitch

Awareness of the musical scale

Creativity

Interacting and cooperating with a teacher

Bonding with parent/Caregiver through working together in class

Sharing with classmates

Sensitivity

Beginning Group/ensemble skills

Vocabulary & language skills

Confidence

Singing on pitch

Crossing the mid-line of the body

Fine motor control

Suzuki ECE

Special Note:

Sometimes people think that all ECE classes are the same. After teaching others I disagree . . . you can read my article about what makes Suzuki ECE unique HERE.

I think that others have the perception that  SECE classes are just a lot of singing and tapping a steady beat, and wonder if teacher training is needed to really teach the class well.

As Suzuki instrumental teachers we tend to bristle when people say they are Suzuki teachers and also: “I use the books but have never taken any training.” If this is you, please don’t be offended, but it’s just that Suzuki teacher training is about so so much more than the music in the books.

In the same way, SECE is so much more than a list of activities done in class each week. Trained SECE teachers use these activities in a complex way that weaves together their in-depth knowledge of: child development, musical development, parent education strategies, and activities to develop social-linguistic skills.

To watch a class in action is wonderful and as someone who had a degree in Early Childhood Education, and years of teaching experience (both instrumental and in other ECE music programs) when I watched my first SECE class,  I knew right away that this class had something way beyond what I had seen or experienced before in classes like it.

I can’t recommend getting training enough. And, if you’re a parent I can’t recommend finding and joining a Suzuki ECE class enough if there is one in your area.

I’d love to hear in the comments what you would add to my list of skills above and if you’d like to download a printable PDF of the word art used in this post you can do so here: