I am both a violin teacher, a performer, and now the mother of a 5-year-old studying the violin. Totally uneven, misshapen Suzuki triangle anyone? This blog is about us finding a practice routine with her in kindergarten this year.
I watched my daughter’s interest in violin really skyrocket last summer and participated in it as much as I could knowing she was off of school and free as a bird in scheduling. It was exciting and really heartwarming to watch her grow joyfully and since I am a teacher, I was able to help her every step of the way.
As the school year approached, I felt dread enter my heart wondering how we would keep up our practice. She clearly was ignited with interest and yet as her parent, it was my job to find and schedule the time. At five, she hardly knows what day it is let alone what time she will be playing the violin next.
My teaching and practice schedule is such that the house is not always free or quiet. And I am not quite ready to send her to another teacher or a separate space to practice. We are bonding well over violin for the time being so I am soaking that up as long as it lasts.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that a prime time might be the morning. Unfortunately, I am not a morning person. In addition to that, like most moms with three kids getting off to school, mornings are not stress or noise free. Quite the opposite, actually! So I took some time to strategize. If I turned every other task into something more streamlined or simple, would practice become more of a possibility? Clothes set out in cubbies, lunches made, breakfast simplified, I approached the first week of morning practice with a fair amount of trepidation. To my surprise, she was all for it. Bright eyed like most 5 year olds in the morning, she thought this was great and brought her sippy cup of milk in with us. I decided we would start each day with scales, etude, and a review piece. I make them as fun as possible with games.This way when we are tired and challenged for time in the evening, we would have a better chance of picking up the violin again. The second session would be when we would do her current pieces and those are the ones that captivate her the most! In the event we were sabotaged by traffic, rehearsals, or another kid’s needs in the evening, we were getting the basics in for sure and that helped my violinistic head. I know very well that those are the most important things for her to be doing long-term. And she doesn’t seem to be tracking days as much as just enjoying herself.
By the end of the first week, she coined the term “Violin Breakfast”. She will now head in on her own and call for me when it is time, watching for it on the clock. And the progress is continuing. I no longer feel stressed about that second session in the evening. If we don’t get to it, we have still done a solid half hour in the morning and she loves it. I try and focus instead on the week’s worth of practice and the quality of it. I compare this to the way my pediatrician told me to track our kid’s nutrition when they were at their pickiest and I was worried they weren’t getting what they needed to grow. Most days, perhaps because the stress level is lower, we DO get a second session in so this puts us at about an hour a day. Somehow making this time in the morning has offered us two happy sessions together and I don’t see us turning back.
We have been going strong on Violin Breakfast since the beginning of the school year. This includes weeks I am performing concerti and even days when I have been sick and my husband has taken over. There were a few days in the first few weeks where I had to really cajole myself into the room. But she was always steadfast. I take in my favorite coffee in a nice mug and I do my best to engage genuinely, trying hard to mirror the energy she has in the morning. This has served as an important reminder to me of how important my role is to her in this endeavor. With any habit taking at least 21 days to make, I feel we are over the hump and sailing.
Best side effect to violin breakfast for me? I am warmed up and ready to practice on my own once she leaves for school. Our practice together starts my day off right and I feel technically and musically grounded and plugged in. Now THAT I didn’t expect!
Next up: Violin Dessert!
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More entries: July 2015
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