Monday, February 27, 2017

Piano Lesson: An investment

My parents made me go to piano lessons for 7 years.  I pretty much hated every minute of it.  I hated practicing, I struggled to understand and be understood by my teachers, I could never be as good as my older sister.  Somehow I still managed to acquire a minor level of proficiency.  I guess practicing once a week at lessons is enough to learn something.  I eventually went on to get a degree in music, but not in playing the piano.  (Low brass instruments, tuba, euphonium, trombone.  A blog for another day.)

When my kids got old enough and started showing interest I signed them up for lessons.  The teacher I chose for my kids is a friend of mine who has a gift for working with 8-13 year olds.  (I do not have this gift, and that is ok.)  They studied with her for several years until she was unable to teach anymore.  (She put the needs of her children before the income or the self fulfillment.  Good mom.)

My oldest daughter, Alicia, decided that she had had enough lessons for now and didn't feel the need to let me find her a new teacher or, heaven forbid, teach her myself.  That is ok.  She has the basic skills, no problem.  (She can always change her mind later.)  Fast forward a couple of years and suddenly people are contacting me looking for piano teachers for their young beginners.  I don't really want to teach piano lessons.  But hey, I bet Alicia could do it.  A couple of friends took me up on the offer, sweetened by the fact that you will not get piano lessons that cheap anywhere else.  So started Alicia's career as a piano teacher.  Fast forward a couple more years and now she is employed by a home school organization as a piano teacher and she will interview this afternoon for a position as a piano teacher at the local music store. She's 17, still in high school.  She makes $20 an hour.  How many teenagers make $20 an hour?  (When I was in high school I worked as a custodian at the junior high for a couple of hours every afternoon vacuuming and taking out trash.  They paid me $3.80, minimum wage at the time.  I had no idea I had a potentially marketable skill.)  Somehow all the pain and frustration of taking that kid to piano lessons and trying to convince her to practice is paying off, literally.  I'm so proud of her.

Tips to convince a kids to practice the piano (or whatever they don't want to do):
1. Help them choose a time that they will practice every day.  Set an alarm if that helps them.
2. Remind them when it's time to practice, but don't nag.
3. Set a reward for practicing.  What works will depend on your kid.  My 7 year old loves to play on the wii.  He will do almost anything for half an hour of wii time, even practice the piano.
4. If you make a plan and it works for a while and then stops working, don't just toss it out the window. Look it over and figure out where it isn't working and try again.  Refresh the old plan or make a new one.
5. If your child and the teacher you hire aren't seeing eye to eye, for example, the teacher struggles to understand the questions your child asks, or expects your child to sit still longer than they are able, talk it over with the teacher.  If the problem persists consider looking for a new teacher.  That is ok.  The personality of the teacher combined with the personality of your kid makes a big difference in how much they will enjoy lessons and how much they will be willing to practice.
6. Be reasonable about how much time you expect them to spend practicing every day.  If they are able to pass off the songs they are assigned to learn then they are practicing enough.  Some will spontaneously practice more when they learn to love it.  Be careful about setting a timer.  Most kids will jump up and be done the instant the timer goes off even if they would have practiced longer without it.
7. If you know how to read music then invite your child to ask you questions when they get stuck, then leave them alone and let them struggle a little.
 It is in the struggle that the real learning happens.

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