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:

The Impact of Music from Birth [A SECE Parent Interview]

Parent Interview Music from Birth

Teaching Suzuki Early Childhood Education (or SECE) classes is truly one of the highlights of my week. The development in the children we work with happens literally before our eyes and there’s no doubt that music is having a wonderfully positive impact on both the  students and families.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a parent in a SECE class? How young is too young to start attending? What might your child get out of Suzuki ECE that sets it apart from other programs?

I am excited today to share an interview with a parent in our SECE program who started attending classes with her daughter when she was just 7 weeks old.

At the time of this interview, Summer is just over two years old. I was excited to ask Heather, her mom, about their experience in the program, how it has impacted Summer over these past two years and why SECE is still an important part of their lives two years later.

Enjoy!

Christine: What interested you in signing Summer up for the Suzuki ECE class at such a young age? 

Heather:  At around a month old, Summer could be quite fussy and I noticed when we would go out around others it seemed to help comfort her.  We went to a musical instrument themed play date at a friend’s house and after Summer cried for twenty minutes solid in the car, the door to the house opened and a clear triangle sounded out.  Summer stopped crying and was interested and content as she listened to the other simple instruments.

On our first day of Suzuki ECE class, Summer was 7 weeks old.  She heard the instruments and quietly listened and took it all in.

I could tell each week that she had a lot to think about from class.  She was unable to stay awake the entire class time or needed feeding intermittently but we could step out or sit to the side of the room while she napped.

It’s truly amazing to me that it didn’t matter what her mood was like earlier in the day or in the car, when class started she listened and thought. As she got older, she became more aware of and interested in her classmates too. Read more

Enter to Win 3 Books of Martha Yasuda Arrangements

Martha Yasuda Arrangements
This contest has now ended! Please check out Martha Yasuda’s wonderful arrangements here: YasudaMusic.com

Have you heard of Martha Yasuda’s wonderful arrangements for strings?

I use them all the time for fun duets, to help prepare students to play with an accompanist before rehearsals and recitals, and for note reading with older students as they work on their ensemble skills or to play duets with younger students in group class.

Here’s a bit about Martha:

Martha Yasuda is a violinist, Suzuki teacher and has been arranging music for over 15 years. She has arranged an impressive number of books for string instruments including 19 books with duets for all pieces from Suzuki Books 1 through 10, recently licensed by the International Suzuki Association. You can check out her website here: Yasudamusic.com

I find her materials a great resource to have in my studio and think parent and teachers alike will find them useful.

I enjoy them so much I wanted to give you a chance to try them too! 

Here are the details to enter:

Read more

Are You Creating a Positive Practice Environment?

positive practice
This article was originally posted HERE on Medium.com where Christine Goodner is a top writer in Music & Parenting. 

What is the practice environment like in your house?

As a musician, and a music teacher, I know the environment we practice in has a big impact on the kind of practice we can do.

Can we focus?

Can we find something specific to improve and improve it?

Can we work through our resistance to doing the hard work?

How do we get into a state of flow where we get lost in the music and in our practice time?

If you are the parent of a young child, the practice environment is not just the room in the house where your child practices. It is not just the surroundings.

YOU are the practice environment.

This concept totally changed my perspective when I learned about it in my SECE (Suzuki Early Childhood Education) training.

As a parent, you are the practice environment. . . .

You are not responsible for your child’s attitude, their ability to focus, or their behavior.

BUT,

you do set the tone, or environment for them to work in.

Positive practice environment

With my own children I found that practice went the best when:

  • I was calm and relaxed (I would often make a big mug of tea and take deep breaths as needed)
  • I focused on their effort, not the quality of what they were producing
  • I really believed they were going to be successful over time (even if that day’s practice didn’t show evidence of improvement)
  • I ended our practice sessions with something easy or fun

When we set a positive, encouraging tone to practice sessions and praise the effort students are putting out without unrealistic expectations students can relax and really get down to the work of practicing.

Practicing can be messy, it can be frustrating, and it can sometimes feel like we are spinning our wheels.

It can be overwhelming to add a high stress environment to that mix.

When we practice in a positive environment we can work through the music we’re learning and the habit’s we’re building much more effectively.

What do you need to do to improve your child’s practice environment?

4 Books that Should be in Every Suzuki Parent’s Library

4 books every Suzuki parent should own

Practicing with our children can be a challenge.

Understanding how they learn and what we can do as parents to best help them isn’t always easy to figure out.

Suzuki parents have a big job. I would argue that they also have a wonderful opportunity.

I know that my dad and I have a special relationship because he was my primary Suzuki parent and got to know me so well during all those hours of practice.

Even though I really struggled as a Suzuki parent (you can read more about that HERE) I also feel like working so closely with my children gave us a special bond and helped me to understand them so much better.

One of my habits as a Suzuki parent was to read everything I could about child development, the Suzuki method, and parenting. It helped me realize how much of our struggles were just part of deal and totally normal and also when there were things I could do as a parent to better help my kids learn and develop.

One of these days I will do a huge post of all the books that have helped me as a parent and teacher. It would be a long list for sure.

For today, I am recommending four books that I think every Suzuki parent should own, read, and have on hand to refer back to.

I’m also going to share one bonus recommendation at the end of the article that I used all the time as a parent – especially as a parent with a very strong willed child.

Nurtured By Love: 

was written by Dr. Suzuki himself and is a must read for Suzuki teachers and families alike. You can read Suzuki’s personal story, how the Suzuki Method was developed and the philosophy behind it. The book is not long but I think it helps everyone who reads it have a new appreciation for what the Suzuki method is really all about.

I think this book gives an important perspective of what talent education is and also emphasizes Suzuki’s focus on developing students as people and building their character as well as developing musicians.

Helping Parents Practice

is by Suzuki teacher trainer Ed Sprunger. It has short easily digestible chapters that are extremely helpful on topics ranging from teaching rhythm to the psychology behind parent-child practicing relationships. Parents who have read this book years ago refer back to it all the time as a useful resource. One year I read a short chapter before each day of lessons and it really helped me focus my teaching well – the same could be done before each practice session as a parent for sure.

One of the most helpful sections is about why a child may be happy to do practice tasks with their teacher in the lesson but may totally melt down at home when practicing the same thing with their parent. It helped me as a parent and I am always handing the book to parents in the lesson when this comes up and recommending they read it and buy the book.

Life Lens: Seeing Your Children in Color

is written by Suzuki teacher Michele Monahan Horner and is a great resource for helping understand how to work with your students or with your child in practice. It gives great insight into different personalities of children we work with and then specific advice about how to practice with them on their instrument. I know that I and many of my colleagues have really gained new insight from this book and I recommend it to parents all the time.

Just in the past few weeks I used this resource to help a parent find tactics to work with her child in practice and putting Michele’s recommendations into the practice sessions totally turned things around. I really recommend picking up a copy. You can read my interview with the author to learn more HERE

Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families

Yes, I had to add my own book to this list! Beyond the Music lesson was written specifically as a how to guide for helping Suzuki parents learn what it takes for their child to thrive and succeed. It’s what I wish I had had as a Suzuki parent many years ago and it’s what I wished was out there to hand to parents in my program when they started lessons or encountered a struggle.

In the words of Levar Burton “you don’t have to take my word for it .  .  . Here is a 5 start review from a verified purchaser on Amazon: “I’m thrilled to have this new book in my library and to recommend to my parents. I found myself wanting to bookmark every page because it’s full of pertinent information. Parents will learn how to have a great Suzuki experience. This book is good for those starting out or already in the process. I highly recommend it.”

and Here is my bonus recommendation

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime

This book has lots of dog eared pages from my Suzuki parenting days. It has great insights on how to work with strong willed children, how to deal with power struggles and tantrums and most of all it taught me to look at the big picture and pick my battles. And, how to do so in a way that set my child up to do well in life. I really recommend reading it if this is a struggle in your house.

So there you have it! Books every Suzuki parent (and teacher) should read and own.

I would love to hear what you would add to the list!

Why Slow Progress is Not a Sign To Give Up

Progress

You probably signed your child up for lessons excited about what they would learn.

You pictured them playing their instrument with a big smile and steady progress.

You may have observed lessons or group classes and seen children playing music with ease and expected to see your child do the same.

So why is progress going so slow?

Why does it feel like you’re having the same lesson over and over again many weeks in a row.

Why does it seem like you’re practicing, but nothing is happening?

Here’s the thing . . .

Read more

The #1 Gift You Can Give Your Child 

Child

Parenting is an all consuming job.

If you’re reading this then I’m willing to bet you’re a parent who takes that job seriously and tries to be the best parent you can be.

Being a Suzuki parent can be especially intense sometimes, because we’re asked to interact with our children so closely, to understand them well (when sometimes they do things no one can understand), and to help them play complicated instruments well.

Unless you also homeschool, this may the closest you work with your child on a daily basis.

Sometimes it’s not for the faint of heart.

Sometimes we need to take deep breaths and remind ourselves why we’re doing it.

And hopefully many times its also full of laughter, proud moments and exciting milestones that you helped your child arrive at.

As a grown up Suzuki kid myself –

I can tell you that all that intense interaction, when done in a healthy supportive way, creates a really close relationship between the student and practicing parent.

It teaches our children how to be goal setters and achievers.

It helps them learn to tackle other milestones coming their way.

In our culture

we tend to be in a hurry to teach independence. We want our kids to do it themselves as early as they can. We’re relieved when they can start to do things themselves.

And rightfully so!

But, I would challenge you

to keep engaging with your child as they practice.

When they’re a teenager they may shrug and say they don’t care if you listen to them or show up to their recital, but I realized with my own teens they really do care (they just may never tell us that). Even when they don’t “need” you to be there, your presence shows your support.

Long before those teen years as you practice with your child really be present with them. 

Put away cell phones, work and other distractions and give your child your full attention. It can be so hard to do this but there is really just a short window of time that your child wants and needs your full attention. Being fully present is the number one gift you can give them.

.

“The greatest gift you can give your child is your presence.”

– Alice Joy Lewis

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I notice a big difference in families I work with who are really present in lessons 

I would bet they are equally engaged in practice sessions at home.

I see a high correlation between student progress and fully present parents.

Do they take more careful notes because they are so engaged in the lesson?

Maybe they have a better understanding of the way their child learns so they tailor what they are doing more closely to what their child needs?

They may have a different working relationship with their child because the child can see how engaged they are.

I don’t know the answer to why this is but I do see it in action in my studio all the time.

 

I recently came across a great article by Carrie Williams Howe, a mother working to be more present with her children and family (you can read it here). She admits that even though she knows the years go by fast and she should be more present with her children it is still a struggle.

She made a recommendation that I love which is to make a ritual out of connecting with your kids. Don’t just know you should do it, create habit or routine around it so it becomes more natural.

Her family made a ritual around the dinner table of no distractions and engaging with one another.

How can we do the same with practice?

Putting away work and devices and maybe making our favorite hot beverage can be a good start.

We can work to get into a routine, or habit that signals to our brain (and our children) that we are going to give our full attention to them our child and put other things aside for a few minutes.

Beginning with just 10 minutes of undivided attention to our children is a huge gift.

If your child is young and has short practice sessions this is a great time to start. You are really giving your child a huge gift when you can be there fully present with them. What do they need to enjoy learning? What do they need to begin to focus for longer stretches of time? What can you do to help them engage with the assignments from the teacher for the week?

What can you do so your child feels right there with them for those few minutes of practice and treasures the time alone with you?

Alice Joy Lewis goes on in her quote about being present to say: “It’s really a gift to you as well as your child. It’s a way of knowing someone that is pretty special. When parents are not distracted the opportunity for progress to occur is great.” 

It really is the #1 gift you can give your child!

All quotes are taken from Christine E Goodner’s book Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families. Click here to claim your copy!

Beyond the Music Lesson Book Cover

Why You Should Replace the To Do List

To Be List

If you’re like me you have a big to do list.

Being a Suzuki Parent can feel like it’s own big to do list. . . 

Attend Lessons
Take notes
Ask the right questions
Attend Group Classes & recitals
Make sure your child has all the materials & equipment they need
Make sure to listen every day
Practice on the days that you eat!

The list could go on and on and I’m sure you understand how important it is. 

I even wrote a whole book on the habits of successful Suzuki families. There are certainly many important things to do.

BUT

As a Suzuki teacher, parent, and former Suzuki kid, I understand both the importance of doing things well and also keeping things into perspective.

There are days where all of things we need to do seems like too much. When you wonder if it’s worth it or if you’re doing the right thing . . .  I challenge you to replace that to do list you have completely and think of who we’re striving to be instead . . .

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“Having more things to do than time is stressful

Having the chance to develop into who we want to be is inspiring”

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People who stay inspired stay motivated.
They don’t give up because they’re exhausted by the process.
They are excited to see where they are headed next.
Can we all agree we need more of that in our lives? Our Musical lives and beyond?
It’s true for me at least!

So let’s strive to: 

Be present
Be a family that listens to beautiful music
Be a part of the community around you
Be daily practicers
Be our child’s biggest fan
 .  .   .
As a teacher, I am passionate about the idea that if we focus on what we want to be: as a family, a parent (a teacher, or a student) then we can create an environment that helps students thrive.
Having a lot to do is stressful –  having the chance to develop into who we want to be is inspiring! Join me in replacing the To Do list.

What would you add to your To Be List? 

How Do I Know if My Child Will Like This?

How do I know if my Child will Like this?

Parents looking for lessons often ask me this question:

How do I know my child will like it?

Especially if your child isn’t sure which instrument they want to play

or are too young to really make that decision, you may struggle with this idea too.

You may know the research that having parents who are committed to their child playing an instrument long term is a huge factor in student success (you can read more about that HERE)

So, how do I know my child will like this?

Here is the honest answer . . .

There is no way to guarantee your child will like any activity you try long term.

Your child may become a professional musician, they may play through high school with music playing a huge role in their development, or they may study for a few years and develop other time consuming interests.

So what do we do if we’re not sure our child will love this?

I would argue the best way to ensure they do love it later is to treat it as if they already do.

What would you do now if you knew this was something your child would love and still be serious about in their high school years and beyond? 

Find the best teacher you can.

Get the best instrument you can afford.

Practice with them in a way that sets them up for success.

Keep them inspired by taking them to concerts and playing great music around the house and in the car.

Be an enthusiastic supporter of your child and provide them with the best instruction and equipment you can.

We wouldn’t give shoes that don’t fit and give callouses to a child trying out soccer for the first time. We wouldn’t let them skip going to practice when they didn’t feel like it. How will they love it if they never gain enough skills to make an educated decision about it?

Dr. Rebekah Hanson and I ran a parent talk at the Oregon Suzuki Institute last summer where we brought in a panel of teens to talk with parents. One of the questions we asked them was “at what point did you feel like you played your instrument well enough to really enjoy playing it?”

The panel of students was unanimous – it was around the book 4 or 5 level that they felt solid enough in their skills that they even knew if they liked playing. I think that’s fascinating!

So often students (and parents) give up before this point because it’s hard or they don’t like it. That would be like deciding you don’t like reading before you’re past the stage of haltingly sounding out words and before you can read a great story with ease.

The likelihood is that if you can get past the stages where everything feels challenging and start to make music with ease the love of playing will develop.

This is where you come in . . .

What would you do now if you knew your child would love this activity for the rest of their life?

Go ahead and do it.

It is never a waste to strive towards something and work towards developing our skills.

Those skills carry over into other things we will do in life and sometimes they carry us over from what we’re doing now as a beginner to a life long passion for something we love.

Act as if they will love it.

Put the time and resources into it as if it is something they love (or will love)

As a teacher I thank you for giving them that gift.