Looking for ideas for parent education

Alexandra said: Jan 21, 2015
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

I’m hoping to start a parent class in the fall, and I wanted to get some ideas of what has worked (and not worked!) for different teachers. At the moment, I work parent education into the child’s lesson the best that I can, and I’m finding that I’m not able to teach the parents as much as I would like. It would be great to have a class where I can get all the parents together, teach them about the method, prepare them for lessons and practice, and hopefully teach them how to play Twinkle as well. I do worry a little, though, because no other Suzuki teachers that I know of in my area require a parent class in their studio (I could be wrong), and I wonder if parents would instead look for a teacher that doesn’t require as much work up front to start lessons.

At the moment, my idea is to have 6 weeks of parent classes at the beginning of each semester for parents of new students, and the new student will not start private lessons until the parent classes are over. Parents will still pay the normal tuition rate during that time, there would be no extra fee for parent classes. I’m also thinking I will ask them to rent a full size violin for the duration of parent classes, and then trade it for a violin in their child’s size once the parent class is over, so they’re not paying for two violins.

So, what has/hasn’t worked for you? I’m open to any ideas. Even if you don’t have parent classes for a certain reason, or have tried parent classes and it didn’t work, I’d like to hear what you do instead. Thanks!

Heather Figi said: Jan 22, 2015
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

Best wishes with your parent class. I think these are really important and I regret not being more consistent with my parent classes when I started my program in Oregon. Please do move ahead with this portion of your program even if it is NOT YET standard in your area. Be a leader in this development and offering.

1- A first place to start is viewing the movie Nurtured by Love together. Even if some parents have viewed this, the content is rich and a double viewing will be of value.

2- A second place to start is to hand out index cards and have parents write their concerns and questions on an index card at the first class, collect and then answer as the course progresses over the weeks. This will be directly serving your parents’ needs and give you valuable insight to what is on their mind.

3- The shear needs of the instrument and the experience of being a beginner are full of rich things to explore so I love that you are going to let them be hands on!

Things to consider when designing this class:
1- What would you like to know when you start a new field/program ?

2- What makes your time feel valued as a busy adult (or what would make your time feel wasted) ?

3- Can you bring in a more experienced teacher and/or a parent of children who have completed a Suzuki program as a guest for one of the sessions to offer advice and council?

4- I would use a portion of one of the classes to clarify your studio policies.

Reading List: My go to book is Ed Sprunger’s Helping Parents Practice but of course there are so many incredible books to suggest.

Listening List: (As you see fit)

Online Links: This site and forum, Facebook & Pinterest Pages, others, etc…

Supplies List: Catalogs, Stores, Etc…

Performances: List of performances in your area

And, everyone that walks in my studio gets a copy of 20 Memos from Your Child (link):

Also, send me a message if you want a link to youtube videos of my recent parent lectures where I explored some topics in the environment that influence our success.

Robin Johnson said: Jan 22, 2015
Robin JohnsonViolin
La Crescenta, CA
14 posts

janis shah created an outstanding parent ed class which was given during the southern california suzuki institute many years ago, when she was co-director of the institute, and she modified it to be a parent ed class given as part of the suzuki music program of los angeles (smpla) workshop program. she taught the class many times, and i have also taught it many times. please contact me and i can give you the information. too much detail to include in a post:)

robin johnson

Christine said: Jan 22, 2015
Christine Goodner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Hillsboro, OR
68 posts

I am realizing my studio needs something more formal too—I would encourage you to go for it! Loved reading the responses you’ve gotten so far.

Christine Goodner

Studio Website: Brookside Suzuki Strings

Blog: The Suzuki Triangle

“When Love is Deep, Much can be Accomplished” ~ Suzuki

Meghan Coil said: Jan 22, 2015
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Portland, OR
16 posts

I’ve been doing something similar since I started my studio in Oregon, but far and away the most valuable resource to recommend is Ed Sprunger’s newer book, Building Violin Skills. It is incredibly thorough, and even though it is big, parents love every word of it.
I charge a registration fee and in exchange provide this book (and Joanne Martin’s Magic Carpet) to beginning families. Then, the first seven weeks of lessons are just for the parent. I normally see students twice a week, once for group and once for individual lessons. So during the Parent Orientation period, I see the parent to work on violin/physical skills in the individual lesson slot, and during the group lesson time, the other beginning parents and I discuss the readings from Ed’s book. (I have come up with a what is essentially a workbook of reflection questions to make sure they’re getting out of it what I need them to get out of it.) I also add in a few other topics, such as instrument care and introduction to music notation. Tuition is exactly the same as when the student starts their lessons. We invite the student to observe the last three parent individual lessons.
Trying to start beginning families in groups is herding kittens, but very worth it. It’s usually been a group of two parents plus me, but that is still a much more interesting discussion than if it were just one-on-one (especially since I’m not a parent). The cohort effect builds camaraderie, trust, and friendship between beginning parents and the time without the child in the room allows parent and teacher to get to know each other and build a relationship. When the parent is more comfortable, the kid will be, too.
I used to kick off the session with a viewing of Nurtured by Love, but now we just watch the first seven minutes together and I loan out my copy for parents to watch at home on their own time, so their spouse (and maybe child) can see it also. (I found out the hard way that the war images are too graphic for some children.) I felt a little funny about charging them for a session in which we basically just watched a movie.
As far as scaring parents away, I think I’ve only had one family go elsewhere because of the upfront parent commitment. More have expressed appreciation. Make it a selling point. (Here’s how I sell it on my website. Soon, I’d like to add a “sample syllabus” so they can see how much content we’ll cover in those 7 weeks.)
The violin rental situation is something I haven’t quite solved. I want the parent to hang on to their rented instrument even after the child’s lessons start because the child doesn’t usually use the whole lesson at first, and I can continue working with the parent in the leftover time. So they do usually end up with overlapping rentals, which I feel bad about.
What I love most about doing my parent training this way is that all of my parents and I are on the same page. There’s none of the drama that comes from differing expectations and priorities. I love teaching more than ever, and this is a huge part of the reason why. Good luck!

Sue Hunt said: Jan 23, 2015
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

I love the practicality of Ed Sprunger’s books. It’s all very well filling parents heads with the vision, but we have to show them how to bring it about.

I successfully use Susan Kempter’s book, Between Parent and Teacher. It’s full of ideas for beginner parent education.

My parents also enjoy First Class Tips For Parents.

From my own experience as a parent and a teacher, I have found that there is a huge temptation to get through this stage as quickly as possible, in order to get started with the “real business” of teaching the child. In my case, as a parent, the information went in one ear and out of the other. This is quite normal—unless new information is reviewed and internalized, it gets forgotten.

Nowadays, I keep the initial education to a minimum and reinforce it with the 100 Day Practice Journal which drip feeds the information, by email, one point every day. This really helps parents to get it right from the beginning without becoming overwhelmed.

Laura said: Jan 29, 2015
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

The way it has been done at my community arts school is:

Students start their private lessons in September.
The parent class is run for 6 weeks INSTEAD of the child’s group class. (It meets at the same time, so it gets them into the routine of coming to group.)
The students then start their group class in the 7th week of term.
The pros of this I think are: the student has lessons before joining the group and has an understanding of posture with box & bow. All the new parents meet each other and can help them build a community with other families.

The cons: I think that Parent class is something that parents would appreciate more and also have more input with after the first (or second or third!) year of study. This is when they’ve really worked with their child for awhile and seen the areas that they may have trouble with or things that worked for them that they could share with other families.

We also try to offer some kind of parent talk when we have a workshop each year, but not all the parents end up coming.

Alexandra said: Jan 30, 2015
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions! There’s some really great ideas that I’ll consider as I’m planning. I have Edmund Sprunger’s books, and Susan Kempter’s book, too, and they’re great. I’ll be referring to those a lot, and will probably have all the parents get a copy of Building Violin Skills.

Meghan, I really like how you use the individual lesson time to teach the parent violin skills, and have a separate class for discussion. I may do something very similar, to avoid having super long parent classes once a week. I tried clicking the link to your website, and it’s not working, though. It could be a problem with my browser.

Thanks again for all of your help!

Christine said: Aug 10, 2015
Christine Rewolinski
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
6 posts

I made it mandatory that my parents have their own violin, attend parent classes and play the violin (pedagogically). I’ve been teaching professionally for 30 yrs, and I have never regretted that decision. The parents ability to be successful as the home teacher is greatly enhanced when they can play with and for the child rather than just tell the child what to do.

Garland, TX

Emily Morgan said: Aug 12, 2015
Emily Morgan
Suzuki Association Member
Wilmington, NC
14 posts

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I also love Ed Sprunger’s book. I didn’t know Nurtured by Love was on DVD. I’ll have to check that out. I recently bought the revised version but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Carol Rohan said: Sep 9, 2015
Carol Rohan
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Voice
San Diego, CA
5 posts

When I opened my email this morning there was some teacher who brought up something called the “emotional card game”. I would like to buy it, but now I can’t find it again to purchase.

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