Youngest Child in Group Class/Siblings

My Boys' Teacher said: Sep 10, 2011
 2 posts

Hello, I am hoping that someone here has experience with their child being the youngest in group class.

I support the idea of children learning in multi-age,multi-level environments and it is part of what drew our family to Suzuki. However, our group classes are not seeming to be true multi-level environments. It was my understanding that after pre-twinkle that kids would be in a “level one” class for quite some time. That would mean that there would be kids at the beginning of book one, the middle, and the end all in one class.

My youngest son (just four) was in the “beginners” (pre-twinkle) class this summer. At four he was by far the youngest in the class. His brother, 5.5 yo, started at the same time and was the closest in age. All of the other students were 7. For the fall session the 5.5 yo is moving up to level one with the rest of the class, all still technically pre-twinkle kids who are just starting working on putting the first finger down. My youngest is continuing in the “beginner” class. There are six kids in his class. The other students are all 7 and 8. Another wave of new beginners will join the class in a month…all first graders.

I’m a little concerned about having 4 yo and 8 yo’s in the same class. It would be different if there were a variety of ages, but a consistent 3-4 yo difference at my son’s age doesn’t seem right.

Am I setting him up to fail? Does anyone have experience with this?

I had originally thought that my older child would stay in the beginner class until he reached “twinkle” but what they call “level one” has all pre-twinklers in it. Is this usual?

I’m trying to decide if the four yo should just discontinue until he is older, if we should ask to continue the private lessons without the group classes, or just keep hanging in there.

I guess this question is also tied to the problem with siblings starting at the same time. If I have them in separate classes each child has to wait for an hour before or after their lesson for the other child to have his class. They are already waiting doing this on lesson days as well and I don’t want to push my luck.

Advice?

Laura said: Sep 10, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Been there! Sadly, I believe part of the “problem” is that there used to be a lot of 3-4 year old Suzuki beginners out there, but nowadays, more parents are waiting to 7-8 years old, when a lot of the Suzuki “magic” is sadly lost. True, you’re never too old to Twinkle, but so many of the benefits of Suzuki method are realized when the student begins very young. It could be that parents don’t start thinking about music lessons until their child is in grade school, and then find out about Suzuki after the fact. But for reasons too numerous to mention, I believe it’s harder for many of today’s North American families to “do Suzuki” in the way that it was truly meant to be done.

But I digress—that editoral comment doesn’t deal with your problem!

In our experience, a gifted group class teacher will make even the youngest child feel welcome without making the oldest feel bored or patronized. But regardless, it sounds like they are trying to keep your little one with the youngest group possible, because his learning curve at the pre-Twinkle stage, and possibly his social skills, will likely be lower than for the older ones (4 vs. 8 is a huge gap in all respects!). But because of his early beginning, he may eventually be playing circles around them when he is 7-8 himself!—sorry, not trying to introduce a sense of competition; just wanted to make a point about the benefits of starting young.

I’d keep him in that class as long as he has someone/something to look up to musically, if even just the teacher. He will be getting most of his real learning from the private lessons and home practice anyway, so the group class will serve mostly as an encouragement, motivation, and extra enforcement—well worth being there.

I remember our child staying in the beginner class, even when playing pieces beyond those of other students who had moved up. I don’t think it was that bad, since there was still a lot of development needed in terms of “group class skills” i.e. following a teacher in a group setting. By the time it was Book 2 class, none of the issues with age and level really mattered anymore.

Rachel Schott said: Sep 11, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts
  1. I think it’s true that most of us name our groups ‘level whatever’, but in reality organize them in a way that’s the best social fit, and use the title only as a guideline.

  2. Is your 4 year old enjoying group class? If he plays happily, joins in when he can, has a friend a two, feels okay with everything, why risk changing? Also, he has an older sibling so being younger (slower, shorter, whatever…) might not be upsetting to him at all.

Phyllis Calderon said: Sep 13, 2011
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

I agree with Rachel’s post. Don’t pull him out. If he is enjoying the experience, keep it up. I also have mixed-age groups and find ways and do games/activities to keep them all involved, whether it’s theory, a posture technique or a listening game.

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio
www.atouchofclassicalplus.musicteachershelper.com

My Boys' Teacher said: Oct 31, 2011
 2 posts

Thank you to everyone who commented. The encouragement was much appreciated. I let my older child move up to the next class and it has worked out well. Both are not having a problem keeping quietly entertained during the other’s class. They usually just participate in the other’s class during the ear training portion or music and movement portion.

The youngest is currently about to be surpassed by his “beginner” class yet again and will likely have a new batch of 1-2nd graders join him in January when the current crop of 1-2nd graders graduates to the next class without him. He seems to be overcoming some hurdles however and hopefully it will be smoother sailing from here.

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