Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For The Love Of Piano

A musically inclined family we are not. Especially gifted with an ear for music? Not so much. We do enjoy music, but do not stimulate our senses with Mozart and Bach tastefully dancing out of hidden speakers within our home.

I know, what kind of homeschool family are we any way?

It was with that thought in mind that we began Lily with piano lessons last winter. I do believe that even she was BEGGING for us to let her begin. I think at some point I longingly watched the Duggar children joyfully play their instruments beautifully and gracefully as their parents looked on lovingly, maybe too many times. Because, wouldn't that be blissful? Wouldn't that be music to my ears?

Somehow it hasn't turned out that way. Don't get me wrong, I was in no way expecting a fully perfected pianist in our household in six months. Not at all. I was thinking long-term beauty. Many years from now, hearing Pachelbel Canon (my favorite) being played by my perfectly postured, eager, Bach-in-training.

We started the lessons knowing that it would take both commitment and sacrifice from all of us. We knew it would take determination, practice, patience and tenacity. We wanted to instill those things and also give her the option for the lessons to encourage her abilities and musical expression.

The first months were met with eager displays of learning and satisfaction in accomplishment. In time though, we began going through the ups and downs of daily practice and routine. All of that easily led to daily frustration and constant reminding of the need to 'get to your practicing'. Being that I'm here most every day, I'm mostly the bad guy and play piano cop and it's wearing on me. Those days that practicing is still not accomplished before daddy steps in the door, he gets to join in and we can play the (seemingly) endless game of badgering the little pianist. I know she enjoys playing at least some of the time. I know she is doing well. I'm just not getting where the eagerness is and where the responsibility lies.

How DO you do it in your household? I know so many of you who run numerous children to lessons and recitals, so I know it can be done. Are your children reluctant? How do you schedule practice time each day? I want our children to love music and responsibility and not hate it because we pushed too hard and were drill sergeants about it.


  1. Ahhh, piano! Nathan loves it yet... he doesn't want to practice it. We started piano with the requirement that he had to try it for one year and then if he didn't like it he could quit and do something else. But, we're almost through our second year and he still enjoys it and doesn't want to quit. That doesn't make him want to practice any more though.

    I've found it works best to have a set time--first thing after breakfast or lunch for instance--five days a week and then we don't worry about it on weekends. But, I still do end up being "piano cop" as well. But I have to be no matter what--did you practice piano? did you feed the dog? did you, did you..... I think that children are so busy just being busy that we still have to keep up on them or they forget.

    That being said, does she like it? Would she rather do something else? If she likes it, then carry on and don't worry about always reminding her. If she doesn't like it, you'll have to find out why. Does she feel like she isn't making much progress, etc?

    whew! long comment.... :)

  2. For Nicholas, he needs routine, he practices immediately after breakfast and sets the timer for 15 minutes. Only 15 minutes a day and he's great at it!

    Katherine practices anytime, and she could go for much longer times. The only requirement is 15 minutes/day though.

    Nicholas is also in Band and plays the trumpet, which has added a 20 minute (the minumum, he won't do a minute more) time immediately after lunch.

    We've found if there's not a set time, it's forgotten!

  3. I took piano for 5 years when I was little. I think it is a great skill for kids, and adults! Learning notes really helps in the future, Steve wishes he knew notes since he never took any sort of music.

    Anyways, I hated practicing. I was probably like Lily, I wouldn't practice unless I was badgered. I enjoy playing, but not practicing. Unfortunately, you don't just get good by not practicing.

    So I think that you should ask if she enjoys actually playing (not practicing) if she does, well then set a ground rule that she needs to practice for x amount of time each day. If she doesn't keep up with practicing then take away the ability to play.

  4. I do not have a degree in music, but I did take lessons for 12 years. Now I teach my kiddos. When I first entertained the idea, I spoke with a professional music instructor and she gave me the best advice I could receive.

    Wait till they are in the second grade. For two reasons:
    1. They can actually read it
    2. If they are still "dying" to learn, then they really want to learn.

    I made my girls all wait and they have been doing really well. I sympathize with parents who haven't had lessons and find it hard to help their kids out. I'm lucky where I can help them during their weekly practices when they get stuck.

    We do put in 20 min's a day...with a timer. No computer or outdoor time until they get in their practice. That inspires mine.

    Just my 2 cents...not sure if it will help you out at all.

    On a side note: we do not do much with sports. I have to limit our househole somewhere. For some families, it is music. For other families it is sports. You are not a BAD mother for not doing lessons and chosing a different route for your children :)

  5. Wow! I love all these comments and the advice. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your thoughts/dilemma here. I anticipate this being a part of our schooling future (if we ever get a house with room for a piano). I'm glad to know that I don't need to feel bad for not having started lessons yet, because I do occasionally feel guilty that we haven't added music to our curriculum yet - and my oldest is just in 1st grade! :-)

  6. Excellent suggestions ladies!! So glad I threw it out there and you commented. Very helpful. Glad to know it's not just me.

  7. First of all, a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!!!

    Now for piano - so much depends on the teacher and style of teaching. Is she taking Suzuki or traditional note reading?

    Our children started with Suzuki only and added note reading after a year or so. This was a great help in training their ears and offering easy success at playing real music. They can also practice using repetition/copycat and that is more fun and less frustrating than reading notes.

    Remember too that the first year lays the groundwork - builds a foundation. After the first year or two students really progress. In the beginning stage there is nothing wrong with external rewards: candy for a good attitude or using a 100's chart for practicing with a reward at the end.

    If I make this too long blogger won't let me comment so please email if you have more questions!


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