The “Home Teacher”—your thoughts please!!

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Rebecca said: May 22, 2006
 Piano
23 posts

Parents, I am a teacher, hoping to get a better idea of how a parent understands, applies, and values the role of being the “home teacher.”

In my studio, there are a few parents who have significant musical experience; enough to really help their kids!! And it feels great! There are some who have no musical ability and/or interest at all! And I have to wonder why they picked Suzuki.

Advise me, please. Should this aspect of Suzuki learning be more emphasized prior to beginning lessons, so that the parent knows what they’re getting into? In Japanese families in the fifties, the mom stayed home and had time to help her children with daily practice. Modern American families, not so much!! (Don’t get me wrong, I completely believe in women having careers, but that does make it more difficult to do all this.)

What are your thoughts?

“Life without music would be a mistake.” -Nietsche

Donna said: May 23, 2006
 Violin
4 posts

Pianobeck,

I think the most important element is the commitment factor on the parent’s part. A parent (who works for a paycheck or not) must be willing to make time early in the morning, the afternoon or sometime in the evening to work with their child, despite all of the distractions that are inevitable in the life of a family in today’s world. He or she must be clever and focused to help the child continue his or her studies, no matter what else beckons. Kids will try all kinds of ruses to escape practicing, but a motivated parent keeps the child on the steady path to progress. Practice time must be planned just like a dental appointment, or a birthday party, or it is very unlikely to just happen.

Sarah Bradley said: May 23, 2006
 Violin
3 posts

This so difficult!
I have two young children in their third year of Suzuki violin study. I myself played violin through high school, and have a bit of musical background. I don’t know how parents with no musical background do it! The hard practice sessions (my daughter yelling,”I HATE the violin!) I can endure because I have experienced the rewards of having music in my life, though I am “just” an amateur. And there are days when I just want to pack it all in. So my hats off to the parents who keep their kids motivated when things are tough.

I think parent education is crucial. Our program required a parent to study violin the first year their child was a pre-twinkler. I think having group classes, festival classes and even a Suzuki Chorus is very helpful to keep the kids and parents engaged. Just being able to speak to other parents to discuss the ups and downs of the process is so helpful.

At the private lesson, if a teacher takes time to go over the points of the lesson, repeating if necessary, can make practice efficient and effective.

I know teachers have problems, but I wonder if they recognize the challenges we parents face, whether it’s having to work outside the home, or kids being exhausted by the demands of school.

Sally

said: May 26, 2006
 9 posts

I would imagine, though perhaps I am wrong, that Suzuki parents who hang out at this site have either musical experience or great interest in music, so I don’t know if you will get any responses from parents who are neither musical, nor interested in music. I am a parent, and I certainly find myself amazed at the Suzuki parents who don’t “attend” their child’s practice time, who drop off their child at the beginning of group lesson and disappear, etc. Yes, I think that it is appropriate and beneficial for the teacher, before signing on the student, to do parent education. Surely it’s easier and less awkward to do so right from the start. I am impressed with the teachers who require that the parent learn up to a certain point. (I believe one teacher on this forum even suggests learning through Book 2. ) This certainly shows the parents that active participation is a requirement. But, then again, if one of the tacher’s goals is to spread musical ability to those who might not otherwise play an instrument, requiring a parent to learn might effectively keep that family from enrolling the student at all, perhaps due to time constraints or financial ones (renting/purchasing a second violin, e.g.).
I imagine parent education can take many forms. Some teachers might prefer doing the educating about the Suzuki philosophy themselves. Others might want to direct parents to resources such as Dr. Suzuki’s books, this forum, or Helping Parents Practice, etc.
I have heard that “traditional” piano teachers sometimes repeatedly ask potential students whether they REALLY want to play the piano before taking them on. It seems to me that Suzuki teachers might want instead to ask the parents if they REALLY want to devote the time and energy required to help their child learn an instrument.

Melissa said: May 29, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

I hear you Pianobeck.
I have one student in particular whose parents have really dropped the ball, when it comes to being Suzuki parents.
What can we do??
What I have done is revised my next year’s studio info/policies. I state what I expect. And boy, it sounds pretty strict. I require, of course, parents to be at the lesson through age 13. They are required to be at the lesson through 18 years of age, if I see progress is not being made at home.
I am requiring six days a week of practice; anywhere from 5-minutes to 2-hours depending on age and level of study. I can go on. But I have had it with parents not being there for their children when it comes to their musical education. Oh… another new thing that I have listed in my policy is that piano lessons are not and extra-curricular activity. Piano practice is jut as important as schoolwork. Piano is academic.
I am also going to be giving parent ed classes. At least 2 private and the family must observe at least 4 times before starting lessons.
Hopefully this will help. Or maybe I will lose everybody. I doubt it though, the funny thing is most families appreciate this. Parents are like children. I’m a parent too!! So I hope no parents get mad at me with this accusation. But it is true. It seem to me the more strict my guidlines are with the parents, they seem to become more serious and take me and what I do more seriously. It really seems to help them know they are getting the very best in teaching and musical parenting.
This sounds like I am this mean old strict teacher, but I’m really not and they know this. I am truly a lot of fun. But at the same time, studying music does require time and effort. Which means sacrificing and setting priorities.

said: Dec 12, 2006
 56 posts

i’m a new suzuki parent of about 3 months. I have no music background, but am very interested in playing the violin myself.

So during suzuki group lessons, i take lots of notes, so that I can know how to practice with my kid at home. I practice every day with my kid, and my home practice sessions closely mimic what the teacher does during the weekly lessons. (i hope :D )

For a parent with no musical background, I am very dependent on the teacher’s input during the weekly lessons. I will rely heavily on the teacher to teach the parents how to practice correctly at home, as well as to correct mistakes that the child makes.(preferably 1 at a time, so that the child does not feel discouraged, and he/she can focus on correcting 1 mistake at a time).

My view is that parental efforts to practice with their child daily at home is also just as important, if not more important that the weekly 45 min lesson at the school. Just like what Sensei Suzuki says, if we practice 100 times wrongly, then the child is simply just trained to play wrongly.

Talent is not born, but created

said: Jan 29, 2007
 7 posts

I think it is important for the Suzuki teacher to make the parent role clear to the parent from the start. For 99.5% of kids, the parent is the biggest key to the child’s success. The parent needs to understand that s/he is the leader, has to set the rules, and with most kids, has to manipulate the situation so that the child understands that s/he is required to practice. The parent does not persuade the kid to practice; the child has no choice—it must become part of the rules of the house, like brushing teeth, doing chores, hanging up your coat, doing homework. Consequently, the parent has to review the child’s schedule and determine when the child and parent have time to practice- best is same time every day so that there is no discussion as to what time. Most parents use rewards such as allowance, toys, or TV time to ensure that the rules of the house are followed and they have proven effective.
I also think that the teacher should make it clear that the study of music is also the study of excellence or artistic mastery. The pursuit of mastery requires a more concentrated effort than gaining a skill such as reading—you’re going after a much higher standard. Ask the parent if they’ve ever tried to master an art before. If not, they are in for the biggest challenge of their life…they should know this from the start. If their child can learn how to put in the quality of effort required to play an instrument well, than this child has learned a quality of concentration and self discipline that will help her/him in all life’s endeavors. The parent will be grateful for his child to have this unusual opportunity to excell in life. Regardless of what the child says, the parent must be absolutely resolved that his/her child gets this opportunity. It is the parent’s choice, and if they choose it for their child, it is their MISSION—period!

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