4.5-year old rarely practices—should we stop lessons?

Wei Fen Chu said: Jan 10, 2018
 8 posts

Our daughter will turn 5 in May. Due to our hectic weekday work schedules, she only gets home from daycare at 6ish PM. After dinner and bath, she’s too exhausted to focus on her violin practice. She only practices on weekends, but I don’t think it’s frequent enough to reinforce the new things she’s learnt. So far, she gets by in her lessons, but I’m wondering if we should just wait until her schedule improves to resume formal lessons? (perhaps in a year or two, when hopefully, we have a babysitter to pick her up from school where she’s able to rest and practice in the afternoons).

She’s also learning the piano, which helps with the note reading and rhythm, but I don’t want to burden her unnecessarily with her time split between violin and piano, and not forgetting her need for free play! She’s still keen to resume her violin lessons and doesn’t want to stop, but if she’s not having sufficient time for practice, I’m not sure if it’s going to be problematic in the future.

Can someone advise on what’s best for her at this stage?

Kurt Meisenbach said: Jan 11, 2018
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Plano, TX
45 posts

Your problem is not unusual. Many children at your daughter’s age either don’t have time to practice, or more frequently, don’t yet have the discipline to do so on a regular basis.

You said that your daughter is keen to resume violin study. In my experience this indicates that she should continue. Edmund Sprunger has written an excellent book, “Building Violin Skills” in which he states that even one minute a day of practice can make a remarkable difference in the progress of a 5 year-old. Sometimes, we as parents want too much too soon for our children. Patience and consistency are the critical success factors here.

Try the following: Every day, either first thing in the morning or in the evening when she gets home, make a date with your daughter to practice one minute. Practice more on the weekends. Once you have established a good routine, sometimes ask your daughter, “Would you like to practice one more minute?” if she says yes, do it. If she says no, don’t. It’s important that it is her decision. You role as a parent is to provide her with good options. You can ask her teacher what is best to practice during her daily minute. I know that a one minute practice seems so small and insignificant, but it will make a real difference.

Try this for four weeks. You may be surprised at the results. You may want to make a weekly practice chart and place a sticker on each day after she has practiced her minute. Unicorn stickers are the thing these days for young girls.

I need to remind myself as a teacher that a great deal of a young child’s learning is taking place on the inside where we can’t see it. If I do my job right as a teacher—give the student the right inputs—he or she will digest this information in their own way and in their own time. Your daughter will do the same.

Joanne Shannon said: Jan 12, 2018
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
140 posts

Don’t forget the practice value of listening to the recording. This can be done during dinner and while getting ready for bed. Also listen to it first thing in the morning and while eating breakfast.

Kiyoko said: Jan 12, 2018
 95 posts

Recordings on the way to school or on the way home. How much time are you thinking “isn’t enough?” In my opinion, at 4 years old, a 15 minute practice daily can be enough.

Sarah Cote said: Jan 13, 2018
Sarah Cote
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Nashville, TN
11 posts

Some practice can be done even in the car. Besides listening, How many bow hands can you make on this marker before we get to the next stoplight? Can we sing the finger numbers for lightly row? Can we sing the note names?

Sarah Cote

Rose Lander said: Jan 16, 2018
57 posts

you are very fortunate your child is enthusiastic about violin. as you say, if she is studying 2 instruments, when can she relax, play, and be a kid?
as a very experienced violin teacher, with many years of studying and watching the best, every teacher I studied with says that children should only study one new instrument at a time.
did you explain your situation with your child’s piano teacher? do you have the time and patience to teach her piano as well? why not postpone piano to a much later date in your child’s development? she should be learning notes and rhythms reading on the violin. rhythm reading in piano is much different from rhythm reading on the violin.
good luck, and congratulions for picking a wonderful instrument for your daughter. it will be a wonderful companion and a magic door her whole life long.
rose lander

Joanne Shannon said: Jan 18, 2018
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
140 posts

One instrument at a time! and………..if she is a Suzuki student she should be learning to play her instrument and not be concerned about reading music yet. That’s one of the main reason for this method! The only time my students see printed music is at the monthly group lesson when we play music games. There are no short cuts in the Suzuki method. Remember, we are working with very young children. My older students, book 2 and above, are very good readers and most of them did not start formal reading until they were 6 or 7. Making things difficult for children causes them to think about quitting and who wants that? Music was meant to be enjoyable. Save the difficulties until they are older and can understand what it takes to progress.

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