Parent involvement in practice—how long?

Barb said: Oct 20, 2009
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I am curious low long, or to what age or level, Suzuki parents are directly involved in their child’s practice times. Are their signs that it’s time for the parent to give more independence? Have you ever had a student’s attitude improve when the parent stepped aside?

Thank you in advance for your replies.

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Diane said: Oct 20, 2009
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

Barb—From a teacher’s standpoint here’s a basic outline of how I handle parent involvement. I expect parents to attend 100% all lessons throughout the elementary school years. When a student is in 4th or 5th grade I begin training them to take their own notes. By middle school the kids most likely will be attending lessons alone and taking their own notes—unless I specify otherwise (depending on the student). Kids are all unique and it’s difficult to generalize.

Parents are trained to have hands on help and practice in a big way when students are ages 4—7. As students get older and more experienced the parent’s job is less hands on and more about helping to keep track and making sure practicing is done and executed well.

Here’s a video about practicing I made that may have information that applies.

Happy Practicing and Parenting!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Laura said: Oct 21, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

So much of it depends not only on the student’s age and relationship with the parent, but also their stage of learning.

For the full benefits of Suzuki, all beginners regardless of age need adult supervision regarding the more detailed points of technique, posture, musical expression, etc., not to mention how to properly learn the pieces (before reading is introduced). Also, unless the student is highly self-motivated and self-disciplined, parent involvement is necessary to build good practice habits.

For very young beginners, this works very well for at least several years and/or several books.

By the time they are around Book 4, regardless of age, they often “know the drill” in terms of achieving good tone, having at least a half-decent technical foundation, knowing what sounds they are trying to achieve on the instrument, and how to repeat a section X times over until improved. In those situations, I don’t mind certain portions of their practice being done independently, particularly if they clearly show that they know what to do. For example, Mom doesn’t have to babysit the student drilling a phrase 50 times over (assuming, of course, that the student is willing to do so); she can supervise the first 3-4 to make sure it’s being done right, and then can leave to go fold the laundry or whatever.

Older beginners (roughly 8 and up) tend to want to practice independently, but they often miss out on certain key points. I either gently ask/remind them if they wouldn’t mind their mom or dad being their coach at home. If not, I simply continue to nag on the same points lesson after lesson. Sometimes they eventually accept more help from their parents, and other times they eventually mature enough to be responsible for proper practicing themselves.

Older students with some experience (Book 2 and up) need to demonstrate readiness to be responsible for all points taught, before they can be left to their own devices over practice. That is the ideal situation. However, some parent/child combinations get particularly stormy by a certain age, so it can be a wise decision to ease up on the learning expectations and reduce them to what the student can handle on his/her own.

In a nutshell, I believe that one has to read each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Timothy Judd said: Jul 21, 2010
Timothy Judd
Suzuki Association Member
Glen Allen, VA
56 posts

I would also take this on a case by case basis. I feel that most students younger than 13 lack the discipline to really practice effectively on their own. Children need to be SLOWED DOWN and focused on repeating small sections rather than playing through. I also find that the extra set of eyes is helpful. Children often cannot tell that their bow is not straight or that the elbow is not under. The parent can see this and address it immediately so the bad habit does not develop.

My hope is that by teaching the parent and student HOW to practice effectively, it becomes second nature by the time they hit the teenage years and go on their own. As a teacher I consider it part of my job to show them just how fussy they must be. I want them to know that careless practice actually could teach bad habits.

One frustration is the fact that no matter how much I stress the importance of the parent I often get the sense that some parents are “too tired/busy” to really do the best work at home. Parents must understand that the partnership between parent, child and teacher is essential to success.

On a personal note, I can tell you about my experience growing up as a student of Anastasia Jempelis at the Eastman School’s Community Education Division. My mom tells me that one day around the time I was 11 or 12 Miss Jempelis and I were talking about a playing related issue in a lesson and my mom had no idea what we were talking about! At that point it was decided that she could begin going out for a cup of coffee during my lessons!

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