3rd and 5th grade slump

Annie Nixon said: Nov 14, 2019
 3 posts

My two children are Suzuki students. My daughter is 9 and she began violin at age 4. My son is 11 and he began cello a year ago. Both children are exhausted after school and complain about practice this year. The increase in homework responsibilities is taking up precious after school time. I am looking for two things:
1) New ideas for practice games and routines for older, more established students
2) Reasons why music education is important so that I can help them understand why I think we should continue with their lessons.
They both enjoy music and their instrument but we are in a rut.
Any thoughts or help is appreciated.

Vanamali Medina said: Nov 15, 2019
Vanamali Medina
Suzuki Association Member
Minneapolis, MN
7 posts

Any way you can move practice to the morning? After school is no good in our house—they’re just too fried. I don’t think a list of reasons will get you too far, I would focus on experiences. Having them play together, you playing with them, going to concerts, jamming with friends, playing at a retirement center, etc. Give them something they’re invested in doing vs “just” practicing.

It’s the season for high school musicals here and as usual, a couple of my students have decided to take the plunge. Nothing really gets done on lesson materials for a month or so because they’re rehearsing 20 hours a week during tech/dress rehearsals and then have two weeks of performances. They gripe about it the amount of work the whole time. Agonize over the clarinet songs they have to transpose or the really exposed piccolo solo. And they also have a blast, feel incredibly proud of themselves, and usually sign up again the next year. I hope you find something that works for your family!

Annie Nixon said: Nov 16, 2019
 3 posts

Thank you for your thoughts. It’s true we need more fun in our playing. Thanks

Hillary Nordwell said: Nov 16, 2019
Hillary Nordwell
Suzuki Association Member
Bellevue, WA
2 posts

Sometimes the simplest things can make the difference! As a Suzuki teacher, and now a Suzuki parent, I have learned that breaking up the routine in any little way can redirect my daughter and help her get through the practice with less complaining. Most recently, after a horrendous practice week around Halloween, time change, etc, I asked her what kind of cello game I should make. She said something about animals, so I went and bought some animal crackers.

For the first practice, we got out the hot glue and she glued one cookie onto her paper “scene” each time she completed a practice task. The next day, we wrote her assignments on a white board with an animal cookie next to each one and she got to eat the one next to the task she just completed. After that, she liked the whiteboard list (and erasing the ones she completed!) so much, that we continued doing that.

When she was younger, we made board games (which she still enjoys, but those are a lot of work up front!), which randomized the practice a bit- that always makes it more exciting. We also still occasionally use our ping pong balls with the names of review pieces on them, or cards. When she was younger (she’s 8 now), I wrote practice tasks on the back of puzzle pieces, and she got to fit in the pieces she had completed. We also sometimes collect legos through the practice and she gets to build something as she goes with the ones she’s earned. Hope some of those ideas help!

It doesn’t have to be ellaborate to break up the monotony- and these games do sometimes cause the practice to take longer. But when things get negative, anything to switch the energy to “fun” is worth the time!

Hillary Nordwell

Alan Duncan said: Nov 26, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
81 posts

What a dilemma!

My daughter, a violinist, is an 11 year-old student in Grade 6 at school. Thankfully she does not regularly have homework but in other respects, I sympathize with what you are describing.

Your two questions:
1) Games and other ways of maintaining enthusiasm: It depends on the child’s personality. I have a list-maker—so we keep lists, colour charts, etc. Games become trickier at these ages because almost anything I could think of is too simple.

The after-school fatigue is an issue. For us, the first 4-6 weeks are tough, then it gets better. I modify our practice routine a bit; but I do encourage her to push through her fatigue because I think they can develop some perseverance in the process.

Are they at a level where chamber music or junior orchestra is a possibility? That is a plus in terms of commitment to peers.

  1. Reasons why music education is important: It can be difficult breaking through the STEM obsession that has infected education systems particularly in the U.S. but I’m skeptical that kids of this age will latch onto that.

What keeps us going is that it’s just completely enmeshed in our family life. And I guess if I had to explain it to a child, I would tell them that they’ve invested countless hours developing a beautiful ability that only a tiny percentage of the world can claim and that it’s part of their very identity. They owe it to their future selves to push through the slumps. No one, having reached adulthood, regrets learning music. Plenty regret not learning music.

Anita said: Nov 27, 2019
 40 posts


Parent of two string players, older, high school age teens. Check this site for previous discussion threads on how to keep tweens interested in practicing. It’s not really about games, not for the 11-year-old, or it very quickly won’t be in a year or two. I know 12 was when I started backing off and out of my kids’ practices, allowing my son and daughter to take control—at first, to keep a record I could check—of their practices, in their rooms or the living room. I had to learn to trust her, and only make sure it occurred, not sit in on it, or anything. Mum was the word for a few years (I cooked dinner and listened, but said nothing. It was hard.). There are postings on that, here, too, if you search for them and I think Parents as Partners had some great postings from teens, themselves. Practice typically dips when tweens and teens are first given control of their own practice, but … the benefits, as a mom of 17 and 15 year olds who manage their own practices entirely now, is well worth the effort. Also, for the older child, expanding the repertoire may be a way to spark interest and keep it. We always had several string teachers—school orchestra teachers, fiddle teachers, and our wonderful private Suzuki teacher (9 years and running! She’s amazing!!). The variety in the repertoire showed them applications for lesson-learned skills, and I think that was key to getting them through this tough time period. Also, if cello is not your child’s “currency,” don’t be afraid to use whatever is his currency to get him to practice. My son is / was crazy about basketball, but it comes with a “You can’t go to practice / game unless 1) homework’s done first and 2) You’ve given me a decent practice.” I don’t define “decent,” he knows what it is, by this point. Your oldest will be asked to audition soon, if he hasn’t already, and that brings with it a whole new world of preparation, support and guidance on your part. You’re at an exciting time; enjoy it and keep seeking guidance! This can be a great place to get ideas and definitely join Parents as Partners, when it comes around again. Good luck!


Annie Nixon said: Dec 1, 2019
 3 posts

Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. I really appreciate them, and will give the a try.

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