Homeschool Siblings acting as Coaches
Kristin I., Illinois
I have a homeschool family that I taught traditionally up until January of this year, when they went on a sabbatical. They are coming home soon, and when I talked with the mom about piano and told her I was now teaching SM, she asked about her oldest son (11 years old, has taken many years of piano and is a very responsible kid) being the coach for her 6/7 year old daughter that she is thinking of starting with piano. My immediate thought was no, but I also realized there is probably no way this 11 year old will start over with Simply Music – even though I know he could benefit from it tremendously – and coaching his younger sister would be a way for him to get those benefits.
Although there is more I could share, and have more of my own thoughts about this, I was wondering what all of you more experienced teachers might have to say about this. Has anyone ever had a sibling be a coach? How did it turn out?
Patti P., Hawaii
I have not had a sibling as the primary coach, but I do have siblings who step into that role from time to time. How well it works depends a great deal on how those siblings interact. Some children seem to be quite naturally adept at helping and teaching, others not so much.
I’m looking forward to hearing from others on this topic.
Carla R., Texas
As a homeschooling mom, I have the perspective of a Simply Music teacher, as well as a mom. Homschooling families are very different (if they’ve been homeschooling all the way up, or for a long time). Siblings learn how to cooperate together, help out a lot with younger siblings, household chores, etc. as these things are necessary, because mom can’t do everything and be everything. Homeschooling kids tend to be much more mature because of this.
However, there is one concern that I would consider and discuss with the family. That is the issue of authority. No matter how mature and helpful an older brother may be, he will not have authority over the sister without the mom’s direct oversight into the coaching relationship. The sister will have to obey what the coach says, and that could be a difficult thing to manage. There would have to be some consistent consequences for arguing, not listening, etc.
If these things are planned ahead, this may work, depending on the family and how consistent, amicable, and cooperative they are. Having a sibling coach would not be the best plan, in my opinion, but having the sibling’s input could be very valuable to the mom, if she were the coach. Older siblings also don’t have the wisdom that a mom would have, to know how to present instructions or how to handle various situations. Mom’s involvement would be very necessary, but probably that is already assumed, since she is a homeschooling mom. Just things to consider. I think there would need to be a good discussion about it before proceeding, but I wouldn’t say never and be unwilling to give it a try.
Sandy L., Nebraska
Although I think it’s fantastic that the 11yo is a responsible kid, I am not sure this would qualify him to take on the responsibilities of life coach for his sister’s piano learning. The two things that would concern me most in the situation you describe are:
1) The 11 year old’s lack of experience with non-traditional piano methods, specifically Simply Music; his lack of experience with handling long-term relationships (yes, I know he has had piano lessons, which could be considered a LTR–still at his age this is limited experience); and his traditional piano experience. I would be very concerned that he would not trust the process as much as he might had he not had the prior traditional experience; that he would not have the maturity to understand the weekly conversations that are so critical to the student’s success with SM; that he would not have the maturity or authority to coach; and that he would not have the maturity to resist using the music book to teach his sister at home, rather than using the SM method to support her. (Of course, as recently mentioned on the Forum, you could keep the music book at your house but that still does not solve all the other issues.)
2) the mother’s experience of traditional lessons–either her own or her children’s or both–these, as well as our society in general, set her up with a completely different understanding of piano lessons, and thus possibly completely different expectations of the outcome of the lessons; the mother’s absence from the critical weekly conversations; and possibly the mother’s inability to support the process at home, if she is so busy she cannot attend the lessons with her child or feel that she can serve as the child’s coach at home. There is a season for everything; if she is overwhelmed with all her other responsibilities, this may not be the right time to start her 6/7yo with Simply Music. That is not to say the time will never come, though.
You ask if anyone has ever had a sibling be a coach and how it turned out, so I will also answer that question. (I could also share several stories of moms who just didn’t want to attend lessons and my attempts to accommodate them early in my Simply Music teaching days–those were generally not successful–but each result varied depending on family/student/so many factors…) Anyway, with attempts at sibling coach, I have this experience:
I have a homeschooling mom who wanted a teenage sibling (17 year old) to serve as coach to a much younger sibling 8/9 year old)–so in this case, a far bigger age difference than the one in your case. Also, both of these kids were starting out together with Simply Music, so were both completely a part of the lesson together and had the same expectations of learning, playlist–because both were students in the class. Neither of them had had traditional lessons, so it was much easier for them to grasp and agree with the Simply Music method. However, I found the teen to be wholly inadequate as a coach for all of the reasons I listed above. In fact, he was much in need of a coach himself–yes, even at 17, and even with his family/homeschool experience of shouldering responsibility. Even though the traditional music learning history was not present, society still had its impact–especially on the teen. Even though, as I said it was easier for them to go along with Simply Music, it was still a pretty big learning curve.
Ultimately, we have found that in the case with my students, the mom is indeed the coach. Her health issues prevent her attendance at lessons, but all the conversations must still be had with her, whether by phone, e-mail, or in person when I go to her house. This has been a challenge, but over 2 1/2 years later, these are still my students. Do I recommend this approach without unresolvable health issues in the mom that will never change? No. If the mom in your case is healthy and capable, but just too busy, I would recommend waiting