September 9, 2006 at 6:13 AM"I don't want to play the piano, I want to play FOOTBALL!" my six-year-old son implored. "You said I could play FOOTBALL!"
I suppose I had. But football... it's so violent. I envisioned a much bigger Brian barreling toward my boy to tackle him, prematurely ending his piano playing days. It's yet another activity, and homework has to come first, and we have to practice piano.
We've tried not to over-schedule our kids with activities. A friend, in contemplating possible activities for her three-year-old twins, looked to us for affirmation by asking, "You guys don't Orange County your kids, do you?"
It was the first time I'd heard "Orange County" used as a verb, but you could insert the name of any community where parents are trying too hard to give their kids too much: piano, violin, Girl Scouts, karate, horseback riding, soccer, football, tennis, art classes...
Somehow I'd have to get him to practice, and to games. Where to fit football, with his school and piano? With my teaching all day Saturday and Thursday, orchestra gigs in several far-away towns, quartet rehearsal, teaching Suzuki group class....
Wait a second, who is it that's overscheduled?
"Buddy, you're going to play football this fall," I said.
I'm making it happen. I dropped some things, and I completely rescheduled my students, fitting that puzzle together differently to free up Saturdays. Because on Saturdays, I'll now be watching first graders play flag football. I really don't want to be doing anything else!
A few nights ago I went in to check on my sleeping son. He had cast aside his stuffed bear: he was sleeping with his new football.
Music isn't the only thing in life, is it?
After a not-so-great lesson experience last year (for many reasons--bad personality fit between teacher and student, logistics, price), I made a pretty radical decision to "homeschool" my daughter in violin this year. I've never taught before, I'm not certified or credentialed, so I people here might (justifiably) think I'm crazy. I want the arrangement to be temporary; her public school starts a string program next year and I'm hoping just to tide her over until then.
But the experience has highlighted two things for me: one being your point that "music isn't everything." She's also doing karate, and given her shy, sensitive temperament and that she's not a "natural" with gross motor skills, she's really learning a lot and getting a lot out karate that's important.
The other observation was more unexpected, at least for me. At her age, what seems to be most important to her in music is the relationships that she forms while she's doing it, with the teacher and with other kids. It doesn't seem to matter to her that much exactly what, musically, she is learning. She got very bored with "Mississippi stop stop" and her attitude, which had been so sparkling at the beginning of the year, really deteriorated to the point that practicing became a chore for everybody.
The biggest thing I've noticed with me is that now she's back to begging to play/practice. Her motivation has returned. Again, I don't expect this to last forever, and if she continues with violin she will need other teachers. But I really think the lesson experience she had was too much, too soon, even though in other ways she's quite mature. There's more variation in what kids are developmentally ready for than people might expect--especially parents who want to "Orange County" their kids.
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