|Samuel, age 4, pretending to play Chopin|
How many times have you heard someone say,"I wish my parents would have never let me quit piano lessons?" As a piano teacher, I hear it all the time. I believe piano dropouts could have been piano success stories had their parents approached practice time in a disciplined way. I firmly believe that discipline will produce a love for the instrument and lifelong skills.
So, as a homeschool mom as well as my son’s piano teacher, I wanted my son to practice as much as I asked my students to practice.
My son was ready to begin piano lessons at age six. Living with a music teacher gave him a few advantages because singing, listening and moving to the music have always been part of his environment. Early on he would sit at the piano and reconstruct melodies he’d heard and play pieces that were advanced for his age. He did this just for fun.
But practicing piano for 30 minutes a day, five days a week was no fun at all. Sitting with my son at the piano, I discovered that it’s not easy! We struggled with it daily. I also discovered how much discipline and commitment is required for parents to teach children to form good habits and develop discipline within themselves.
As I read up on the Charlotte Mason philosophy, I discovered the concept of short lessons, and I realized that’s why my requirements were so frustrating for parents and students. Asking a child to sit and repeat songs over and over for 30 minutes was just too long. Shorter, successful time slots at the piano seemed more attainable and enjoyable.
When my son was finally able to participate in his first group piano lesson, he would come home and play his songs above and beyond what was assigned. However he would play too fast, with incorrect fingering and without the required "sing as you play" instructions from the teacher (me!). So here are the steps we have been implementing, for the last few years.
- Practice a minimum of 5 days a week.
- Take out your assignment and follow it in order.
- Mom sits with him during practice. (I no longer have to do this, but always stay very close by)
- Practice everything on your assignment at least once (still working on this!)
- Listen to the class audio CD often - it is an excellent example of "living" music.
- Play the piece/scales slowly and without mistakes or you must repeat.
|Samuel, age 8 at a piano recital|
Pleasing his parents (and other encouraging family members) with beautiful music, is a reward he enjoys. My expectations and disciplined routine has netted other benefits as well. At age 8, he can distinguish between a good and a bad performance of the same piece, formulate musical ideas (which he adds to his pieces) and employ the attentiveness needed when attending a recital or concert. Our goal is not for him to become a concert pianist but have the knowledge necessary to understand great music.Who knew that discipline in such a small area of his life could produce so many benefits!? (Charlotte Mason did.)