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#37306 - 03/09/08 11:46 PM Helping my kids with practice
Lawana Offline
New Member

Registered: 03/09/08
Posts: 8
Loc: GA
I notice that it has been a long time since anyone posted on this forum, but I'll try anyway. My daughter, 11, has been taking piano lessons for almost 4 years and is in PA book 4. My son, about to turn 9, has been taking lessons for 14 months and is in PA 2B. They both take 30 minute lessons from the same teacher. We place a high priority on piano, practicing faithfully 5 days a week. My own skill at the piano is limited, being at the intermediate level.

Each week they are assigned usually 2 pages in the Lesson book along with the corresponding pages in T&A(for 2B), Theory, and Performance. My son also gets occasional assignments from Gold Star Performance and Pop. Rep. The teacher circles some of the directions in the Lesson book, sometimes writes in counting for a measure, circles things like dynamic marks and repeats, but usually gives no verbal instructions or further written practice instructions. She did spend about 5 minutes going over eighth notes when they were introduced. At home, I sit with them while they practice, making sure they are playing the right notes with the right rythm and observing dynamics and articulation marks. When they go to the next lesson, they play the pieces for her, she makes a few suggestions or corrections, they play it again, it's passed off and the whole cycle starts over again.

My question is this. Am I helping them by being so actively involved, or am I taking over the teacher's function? When I've left my daughter to structure her own practice, she'll play through a piece once or twice, dawdle, play something she likes, but doesn't effectively move forward unless she really likes something. For example, she learned and passed off Medieval Fair (Perf. 4) in one week. My son is more goal oriented and will work at a piece until he gets it, but will make some note errors and doesn't always notice dynamic markings. With him my input is more limited, but it does allow him to pass off every piece every week. Does their continued progress justify my involvement? Or should I accept slower progress for my son and a much slower pace for my daughter in favor of letting them work it out on their own?

By the way, we homeschool and they are used to getting instruction from me. They both want me to be with them while they practice and I enjoy doing it. This may be a case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it," but my daughter is approaching the point where my technical knowledge ends.

Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this and especially if someone is able to help me with this issue.

Lawana

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#37307 - 03/10/08 06:33 AM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Lawana]
misslaluna Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 708
Loc: Broussard, LA
First off I think any teacher would be happy to have you in their studio!

Since your kids are older, perhaps helping them once or twice a week instead of every day. You could still listen to their practice from another room.

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#37309 - 03/10/08 11:11 AM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: misslaluna]
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
The teacher should know how much you are helping at home. Personally, I am always grateful when the parent can support what we are doing in the lesson. You are also able to help your child learn what practice really is. But so can the teacher.

However, since you observe that your children are getting little actual instruction in the lesson and you are getting to a point where your knowledge is limited, it may be time to find a new teacher. Turning the page and circling instructions is not teaching. IMO, your children need more.

The local music teachers association should have a referral service. It would be best to interview several teachers and make sure they know what you are looking for in a teacher.

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#37310 - 03/10/08 11:31 AM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Arlene Steffen]
Momlady Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 01/25/04
Posts: 29
Loc: OH
I have been teaching for 11 years and find that children want to stop lessons even before they finish the Primer Adventures. They don't want to practice is the usual reason. I have started using the idea of coloring a part of a picture each time they practice a segment or line three times perfectly. I found this idea in the "Practice Revolution".

It seems like there is this 'hump' that some children need to get over before they find the enjoyment of practicing and playing the piano. Do you have any suggestions? I hate to lose them so early.

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#37311 - 03/10/08 12:06 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Momlady]
xstitch4me Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
Lawana, I'd be thrilled to have you and your children in my studio! First if your daughter is 11 and only taken for 4 years and already in PA4 - that is terrific! It sounds like both of them are progressing at quite a fast pace. Each level usually takes about 9 months. We all wish parents were as involved in their children's practice sessions. I agree to gradually wean yourself out of their practice time. They do need to learn how to practice on their own. If you sat with them their first practice right after lessons and maybe again during the week, eventually, they'll do it on their own. Do you sit in during their lessons? If not, you really don't know what the teacher talks about with your children. If your children love piano and don't have complaints - I'd have to agree with "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Do they participate in festivals? That is also a great motivator.

Momlady, I've never had a student who wanted to quit even before they finish Primer level. If you've had this problem for 11 years, maybe you have to rethink how you're teaching them. I can't believe you're just unlucky and happen to get all of the students who hate piano and just don't want to do it. Do you watch any of Nancy's videos on how to teach that level? She's a wonderful role model. Perhaps, if you showed excitement about the lesson work, your students will pick up on it as well. Maybe you have too high of expectations on practicing at this point. I think we need to hear more about your teaching methods before we could make suggestions.

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#37312 - 03/10/08 01:27 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: xstitch4me]
Lawana Offline
New Member

Registered: 03/09/08
Posts: 8
Loc: GA
Misslaluna and xstitch-
You both have a really good idea to limit my help to twice a week, the first day after the lesson and a few days after that. I don't actually sit in the lesson room because I have a baby and sibling in tow, but I am within earshot of the piano playing, though not the verbal stuff. I always ask what she said, but the reporting usually leaves something to be desired, especially by the 8 year old. I have brought up the issue of more instructions and that is when she started circling things.
And yes! they just participated in Jr. Festival. Dd got a "superior plus" rating and ds a "superior". They do two recitals a year, and used to play in church (we're in transition now). Dd especially is very motivated by performing.

Arlene-
I think that finding a new teacher will have to be our next step, though they both want to continue through the May recital.
When I do call teachers, how should I phrase my questions so that I don't come across as threatening their competence, or as an overly aggressive parent? It's kind of funny, because I'm not pushy at all in every other area. Is it common to have different teachers for siblings? My two kids are so very different and I think they would each respond better to different styles.

Thank you very much for the responces, they have been very helpful. And I would love to hear more.

Lawana

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#37313 - 03/10/08 01:46 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Lawana]
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Well, reporting what went on during a lesson is not a skill most children have. If you are basing your decision on what the children are able to actually tell you, I'd think twice.

If they are producing well and seem to understand what they are doing, perhaps the teacher is fine! It would seem so. Very few children are self-directed enough to practice well on their own.

This week, I would schedule a conference with the teacher. You need to find out exactly what she expects from the children in their practice and how she addresses that during the lesson. Would she be willing to write down specific practice steps for them? Does she write down what the goals are for the pieces during the week? Air all of your concerns.

It could well be that her own learning style doesn't require that, but if your child's learning style does, then she needs to do it.

If you are not encouraged by her response, then start the search for a new teacher. Just be up front about what you are looking for in a teacher. Anyone worth their salt will offer to schedule an interview with you so they can go over their curriculum and policies. I think it's fine to have two different teachers, but don't discount the idea that one teacher can adjust to a different personality.

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#37315 - 03/10/08 04:09 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Arlene Steffen]
luvslive Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/20/06
Posts: 124
Loc: North Dakota
Arlene, what you just said there seems to make the most sense. If the children are getting superiors at festival and moving forward at a nice pace with musical and accurate playing the teacher must be doing something right.
On the point of "written and verbal instructions" - I would think with younger children a lot of the teaching would be demonstration so while there may not be a ton of talking during the lesson perhaps the teacher is demonstrating proper technique, rhythm, phrasing, etc.
Sitting in on a few consecutive lessons would be the best way to see what is being taught. I also think that with only 30 minutes per lesson the teacher may have trouble finding the time to write out detailed instructions, especially at the level your daughter is at...best of luck with your childrens' musical instruction, hopefully you can find the right balance of involvement!

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#37320 - 03/10/08 11:33 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: Momlady]
cecilly Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 04/11/01
Posts: 779
Loc: Illinois
I haven't read all the responses yet, but what may be happening is that the novelty of lessons has worn off and the lessons, assignments, practice thing is becoming predictable and for some less exciting.

I find this to be the case, esp. when the reading demands grow more challenging for the student.

I also find that by the 2nd yr. of study, you can begin to easily see who's gonna stick it out and work their way over the hump, and which ones will eventually poop out and quit.

Now, I'll read what everyone else has said...

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#37333 - 03/11/08 04:18 PM Re: Helping my kids with practice [Re: cecilly]
eaHarris Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/15/06
Posts: 198
Loc: Hicksville, OH
You might want to ask the teacher if you can bring a tape recorder to tape the kids' lessons. This way, she would not have to take lesson time to write out practice instructions, but you and your kids could listen to the tape at home to make sure that they're remembering to do everything the teacher said. Make sure the teacher does not feel as if you are trying to question her ability and "check up on her" by doing this, but that you just want to try to help your kids at home better.

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