Barb said: Jun 4, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I have siblings who are a year and a half apart in age: 9 and 7 1/2. The younger one began lessons about six months behind the older.

The older has more difficulties with the physical aspect of playing, and I feel I would like to hold him back in repertoire to fix basic bowing and hand positions. I did this with another student—told him he could not move on until he changed his bow hold—and for that student it worked. I think when he is learning new music he just can’t concentrate on technique, and he is much more interested in new pieces and likely is not reviewing enough. He seems to have more trouble than most knowing what his body is doing, and has complained that “there are too many things to think about,” though I encourage him to think about one thing each time he reviews a piece.

In the mean time, the younger one is gaining speed in progression and is right on the heels of the older in repertoire, with better technique. He has the added advantage of hearing his brother’s pieces before he reaches them, and he doesn’t have the same difficulties with physical technique (though is by no means perfect). I feel lately as though I am delaying moving him ahead in the Suzuki repertoire a bit—doing more supplementary repertoire—so that he doesn’t catch up to his brother.

Not long ago the older one broke down in tears saying he couldn’t remember The Happy Farmer because his brother was practicing Etude so much. He felt that the younger brother was trying to make him forget.

I plan to discuss this with the mother to see if she has any suggestions, but would like to ask you all if you’ve run into a situation like this, and if so, how did you handle it? Even if you haven’t, you may have some ideas for how I should handle it.

With my own boys, two and a half years apart, we had the situation of the younger working at the same level in math (homeschooling) for a while. But we talked about how each had things they were good at. One was much better with language arts and social studies, and one better with math and science and sports. It never seemed as though one felt threatened by the other.

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions!

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Carrie said: Jun 5, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

My experience growing up with a brother 11 months older is what I think about when you bring up siblings. Ronnie’s birthday is in July and my parents should have waited until he was 6 to start him in kindergarten, but there I was with a June birthday and ready to go. Ronnie struggled all the way through school, while I breezed through. Neither of us are competitive and I don’t think having us in the same grade would have been a problem. Also, I have met many who are sorry they started their child too young. I’m never met anyone sorry to have waited a year or kept a child in kindergarten for a second year. I think putting us in the same grade or holding us both back a year would have been acceptable solutions. I think you can do the same with music lessons.

I have two boys 2 years a part with a similar situation that you describe in homeschooling. They have different styles of learning and it was hard on the older one. He thought he was stupid, which was far from the “problem”. He just needed more repetition than the younger and he needed to know something thoroughly before feeling that he knew it, whereas my other children were more content to “know” something at face value. We continually affirmed their strengths and worked on their weaknesses. They got through it and the older one graduated from college last spring with a triple major, while the younger is just starting to get serious about college after taking a couple of years off. With thoughtfulness on the part of the teacher and parents, it can be done, and done well.

But…. here is where some choose a different instrument for one of the children. Perhaps there would be less stress for the children, less frustration for the older child.

Blessings on you and this family as you work through this situation.


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