Practicing Music During the Grade School Years

Practicing Music with Grade School Child
This post is first in a series about working with grade school students as they learn and practice their musical instrument.

How do we work successfully with the development of our grade school age music students, both as teachers and parents?

I meet people every week who tell me they wish they hadn’t stopped playing an instrument when they were younger.

Usually they stopped playing during the middle or high school years. This is when life gets busy and it’s hard to keep going with the instrument unless it’s a big priority in the family or there is a good social outlet for music by that age (more on that in a future article!)

If we value learning music as a part of our family’s culture and as an activity we want our children to grow up with long term the groundwork for being able to, and wanting to,  stick with it long term is built for most students during the grade school years.

Working with the developmental stage our children and students are at as they approach the instrument is so important.

Without keeping this in mind we can get into all kinds of power struggles and difficulties that might be avoided with a little more perspective about what children at this age need.

The Center for Parenting Education has a great article outlining the basic developmental skills being developed at this age (read the article HERE).

The article has great suggestions about how to encourage emotional and cognitive development at this age. I’m going to share some of them below with my own thoughts about how they apply to studying a music instrument. (The headlines in bold below come from the article).

When we keep our children’s development in mind as we practice and work with these big tasks they are learning at this age, we are much more likely to be successful long term!

Praising them for trying to do things

Research shows that when we praise our children for their effort on a task they will work harder on such tasks in the future. Praising for “talent” or how smart they are really has the opposite effect. As parents we help students this age best when we notice the effort they are putting in and encourage it. Even if there is just a little bit of initiative and they are willing to keep trying when something isn’t easy right away, this is huge. Praise the effort!

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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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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.


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