Back to School Practice Routine - Advice for Parents
Note: This story is part of our Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning," to help students and teachers make online music lessons and classes work as effectively as possible.
School has just begun, or the first day is right around the corner. This year will be like none other, with so many people working or going to school virtually. At our home we have fresh headphones, lots of pencils, new desks for the kids and a recess pod in the neighborhood. We’re READY.
When everything else turned upside down in March, music lessons were the only thing that didn’t miss a beat. They've been the one constant throughout the quarantine that we could count on. I might not find what I want at the grocery store, lacrosse practice will surely get canceled, carefree days at the pool were replaced with 1.5 hour slots planned a week ahead via signup genius, but music lessons? Business as usual. I’ve grown to take it for granted.
While school will happen during the day and there will be time for practice in the evenings just like in the past, the dynamic will be different. The kids will be in their rooms all day and might not be excited to rush back there in the evening. Socialization that no longer happens at school might have to be replaced during evening hours. We still want time for family dinners. Thinking through how the practice routine will work in our house, there are a lot of things to consider.
- Kids will still need a brain break after school, before practice starts.
- If you have more than one child practicing, select practice spots in your home as far away from each other as possible.
- Choose a spot that will not interfere with a caregiver working from home at the same time. While some co-workers will marvel at Minuet I in the background during a Zoom call, others might not.
- Use the virtual schedule to your advantage. Is their school day 100 percent synchronous or is there some asynchronous time? Who would know if they
played violin at 11 a.m. and did math at 2 p.m.? Maybe that would provide a mental break from school and get some practice in before they are cranky at the end of the day.
- Break the practice into chunks. Before school, lunch, afternoon, evening. Save their favorite thing to play for their least favorite time to practice.
- Is there one theme your teacher wants you to focus on this year? Make sure your routine accommodates that. The rest will build around it.
- Plan when practice will happen every day. A consistent time will feel more like a routine.
- Write planned practice time down on a calendar or daily checklist. Some people find great satisfaction in checking things off a list – even kids.
- If your child is a "tween" (or just an opinionated youngster) have them choose their practice time each day. Listen to their considerations about when they would like to practice and what else is important to them to fit into their day. Help them plan their day so they can see how practice, household contributions, homework AND Fortnite can all fit in the same day, with a little preplanning.
- Be flexible. Some days nothing goes as planned and we have to adapt. That’s not a failure, that’s life. Do the best you can and start again the next day.
- Be flexible again. If your child needs human interaction and a friend knocks on the door to play outside, don’t say no because it’s practice time. Your child will then resent the music because it is now the reason they can’t see their friends. Find a way to practice later that day. Or, better yet, use it as a teaching tool for your child. If you accomplish your responsibilities early in the day, you will have free time later to do spontaneous fun things. What if the fun things come up in the morning? There’s plenty of time to reschedule practice for later that day.
- Don’t be afraid to tweak the schedule if it’s not working or even if it gets stale. Consistency is great, but there’s no need to get into a rut.
In many ways this school year is a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity to try new things and to try new ways of doing old things. Don’t be afraid to experiment, you may be surprised what you learn. Good luck to everyone!
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