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.

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“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.

15 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Music Lessons

Help Your Child Succeed at Music Lessons

Do one of of these descriptions sound like you?

You signed your child up for music lessons because they have begging you for years to play an instrument.

Or, you play(ed) and instrument and couldn’t wait to get your own child started too.

Maybe, you always wished you could have taken lessons as a child and are excited to provide the opportunity to your children.

then reality sets in . . .

After the honeymoon phase is over, you realize that this is hard .

Making time to do anything everyday with our kids can be a challenge. When my kids were young, brushing teeth and combing hair could sometimes become an epic battle (who knew these things were such torture!?)

Developing the discipline to play an instrument? That is a whole other level.

We are choosing to do something hard everyday –  in order to achieve an end goal that children can’t really grasp. It certainly seems less important to their well being than teeth brushing and that makes it easier to quit when the going gets tough.

When everything is going well studying music is invigorating, exciting and a fun process to be involved in.

When things get tough what can we do as parents to help our children be successful in music lessons?

Here are 15 Ways you can help your child succeed:

 

  1. Make a long term commitment. Studies show this is more important than any other factor in music students long term success.
  2. Believe they CAN do it.  Suzuki teacher Alice Joy Lewis says that families she sees be successful are the ones that believe their child absolutely CAN learn to play well.
  3. Find the best teacher you can. A good teacher will help coach you through the rough patches and has the tools to help you turn things around when it’s feeling hard.
  4. Buy or rent the best instrument you can afford. Playing on a bad instrument is like trying to run in bad shoes. If it’s really hard to make a beautiful sound, playing the instrument is not that motivating!
  5. Find out what motivates your child and do that thing. When your child gains more skills on the instrument the music they learn will be their motivation. At first they need help to want to practice. Figure out what motivates them and do that thing a lot
  6. Be Encouraging. Don’t point out the 10 things your child is doing wrong. They likely know they are not Joshua Bell yet, encourage them with something they are doing well. Even if that thing is simply how hard they are working or concentrating. Children do more of what we praise – use that to your advantage.
  7. Help Build ownership. If practice = an adult tells me what to do, children tend to dislike it. Coach them through practice while also letting them feel like they are making some decisions. Ask questions. Give them two acceptable choices of what to practice next. Let practice become something that is for them.
  8. Find time in each day’s schedule for your child to practice. Children are not good at time management. They will need your help to find time to practice.
  9. Don’t give up! Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes our kids fight us on practice. Don’t give up. This is really normal. Your child can do it (see #2)
  10. Go to live concerts. Seeing performers play music live is so motivating! Many communities have free or inexpensive events to attend if you seek them out. Ask your teacher for recommendations.
  11. Connect your child to a social outlet for their music. Working on something hard, alone in a practice room is not the point of music. Play with and for other students. Join an orchestra when your child is ready. Attend a group class or simply invite a friend over who plays an instrument for a musical play date.
  12. Be your child’s biggest fan. We cheer when toddlers learn to walk (even though they hobble around and fall all the time). Cheer on any and all progress. Make sure your child knows you are their biggest fan no matter what.
  13. Make listening to music part of your family culture. When children are surrounded by music in their lives they are much more successful. Just like when we are learning a language immersion is the best way to pick it up quickly.
  14. Connect to other parents. Whether it’s in online groups, other parents in your studio or a friend whose child also studies music – connecting with other parents on the same journey can make us feel less alone and we can learn from each other what works best.
  15. Do something every day. Literally everyday. Play something, listen to music. What we do daily becomes part of who we are. What we do once in a while can be hard to follow through on. A daily habit is makes a huge difference.

What would you add to this list that has helped you or your child succeed in music lessons?

Here are some other articles on practice you might enjoy reading:

3 Minutes a day to radically change your practice sessions

You are Your Child’s Practice Environment

5 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy the Process of Learning Music

For In depth reading on the subject get your copy of 

Beyond the Music lesson here: 

Beyond the Music Lesson Book Cover

Back to School Practice Problems

Lessons have just started for the school year here in Oregon.

As a parent this can be a hard time of year for practicing with our kids.

Here are some things you might be experiencing at home right now:

Your child is getting used to long structured school days again and it feels unfair to make them practice at the end of the day.

Your child is tired after school and doesn’t have much energy left for practice.

Your teen is trying to figure out how to organize time for homework and practice is falling through the cracks.

You are exhausted by the frenzy of back to school activities and to be honest practicing with your kids is less than appealing right now.

Here’s the good news . . . 

Read more

Working Productively with our Children in Practice

In the Suzuki method we work with our children very closely in practice. The younger a child is, the more parents are involved in the process.

As a teacher I depend on the parents in my studio to help their children practice and complete listening assignments at home. Without their help very young students would not remember all the details I am asking them to practice all week long.

Practicing with our children isn’t always easy though. You can read more about my struggles with my own children in this article: Confessions of A Suzuki Parent.

As a young mom and new teacher I had a pretty idealistic and unrealistic idea of how to practice well and it certainly got in the way of helping my own children learn their instrument to the best of their ability. At least until I started to learn more about how to do it well.

Ever since I have been trying to learn and share as much as I can to help parents and students work together successfully.

As parents we all have our own reasons for signing our children up for music lessons. It also becomes clear very quickly that one size does not fit all when it comes to practice tips and ideas.

It’s important to make sure we’re practicing in a way that works with the unique child in front of us.

How do we work together with all of this in mind?

Read more

3 Suzuki Podcasts Everyone Should Subscribe to

Listening to Podcasts is one of my favorite ways to learn new things and get inspired. Especially while exercising, cleaning or driving.

I listen to a variety of podcasts including shows about writing, creativity, business, books, and of course Suzuki teaching and parenting.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite Suzuki podcasts. They are great resources for parents and for teachers looking to fresh ideas and new perspectives about teaching and the Suzuki philosophy.

Suzuki Podcasts

I am not getting any perks for sharing these resources, although I do know a few of the podcasters who make them. My goal is to share great resources with readers of the blog. I also hope to hear from you (in the comments below) what podcasts you would recommend!

Here is a list of my favorites:

 

Building Noble Hearts  is a podcast produced by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. The production quality of this podcast is amazing. Each episode includes great stories about Suzuki himself and amazing Suzuki teachers in our community. My favorite episode is the one about Suzuki ECE. The episode includes the history of this program and how it benefits families –you can find that episode Here.

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The Teach Suzuki Podcast is another great resource and is produced by Suzuki teacher and blogger Paula Bird. I love the information the podcast shares for parents to use in order to work with their children effectively in practice and to better understand the Suzuki method. In each episode Paula shares her wisdom and many useful resources for parents and teachers alike. Here is a great episode about how to beat burnout – click here to listen.  

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 Chili Dog Strings podcast is another great resource. This podcast is actually hosted on the Suzuki teacher duo’s Youtube Channel where you can find all sorts of teaching and Suzuki parenting inspiration. I really enjoy Neil and Rachel’s style and their love of teaching shines through everything they do. I had the pleasure of being interviewed on one of their podcast episodes – you can listen to that episode here. 

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Another podcast worth checking out is Rachel Barton Pine’s Podcast Violin Adventures. The most recent episodes are from 2013 but you can still find all 80+ episodes online. They are really good! You don’t have to be a violinist, or be the parent of a violinist, to enjoy this podcast. It’s worth checking out.

What podcasts (Suzuki or related) do you listen to regularly? I hope you’ll share your recommendations in the comments below!

Scheduling Your Child’s Fall Lessons

As a parent I know all too well what it feels like to get children’s schedules lined up for the school year.

Your child may be involved in many different activities and it may feel like a puzzle to get them all to fit together.

Alternately, your family may limit activities to a couple each season but getting signed up for the right ones before they are full and making the schedule work for your family may be a challenge.

What about music lessons?

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