Mother and Son Sharing Lessons
Stephen R., California
I have a mom and her 12 yr old son sharing a lesson. I notice she progresses quite a bit slower than him. They are up to Fur Elise in Level 1. It took her quite awhile to get Family Dreams relatively smooth and Bishop St still needs to be smoother.
So, I’m wondering if them sharing is going to work out ultimately. I feel like I’m spending more time helping her get things smooth and even while he’s waiting. I find myself asking him if he’d like more (I think he could use more) in terms of starting another arrangement or composition, but he often says he’s fine. I wonder if he’s being polite, because he’s sharing with his mom. He also plays clarinet, so he has more musical experience than her. I also find she’s more sensitive to critiquing and feels nervous playing in front of us.
Any advice from teachers that do more shared lessons or larger groups? At what point should you really separate students?? This is a tricky situation for me to figure out, because it’s a mom and her son. I have a hard time reading them and i know privately they would probably progress at completely different speeds. They might be accommodating each other, because they’re sharing (she has to work harder, but he’s being patient)! I might be over-analyzing this, so maybe it’s me. What do i do?
Vicki G., Western AU
I have the same situation with father and son – then add another younger brother in the mix – AND I go to their home to teach! So I have dad who’s never had lessons, 13 year old son with prior traditional lessons who picks things up very quickly, and 10 year old son also with prior traditional lessons who is very spacey (I suspect A.D.D.). It’s like teaching 3 different lessons in a group setting. Sometimes the dad wants me to come back for private tutoring. I try to bring in more variations and arrangements for the 13 year old. It is hard. Also will appreciate hearing from other teachers!
Joan H., Canada
I have a couple of family lessons with 3 siblings progressing at different paces. We have stayed with a joint lesson (I appreciate the challenge for parents logistically to attend more than one lesson/week), and my goal is to start with common ground and spend about 10 minutes together, and then I do spend some time with each of them, giving them what they need for where they are at. BUT I still aim to include the other siblings at all times – if they are not as far along, they can observe and have an idea of what is ahead for them, and if they are ahead, I try to use them as part of the teaching/coaching process – they can show off what they have already learned. That is challenging, as they quickly want to “check out” if they are not the focus, but it’s still a goal and something I try to to do.
Hilary C., Australia
Have you thought of getting him to play melody on the clarinet while his mother plays the accomp? I would do this in class – it’s about making music which is what we are about. And it gives her a bit of breathing space. Also get her to play the accomps and him to improvise – clarinet or piano – over as a way of giving her more time on requirements.
I think she is very brave taking lessons with her 12 yr old son for a lot of reasons….
Why don’t you just talk to them about it? You’re looking out for what would be best for them after all. If it’s just a matter of mom not wanting to make 2 different trips for lessons then I guess you’d have to explain to the son what to expect….giving him more arrangements, acc projects, etc. Also, remember that even though it may not take much for you to teach certain pieces in class it may take a few weeks for (some) students to process them at home which I think is fine. Everyone’s different. Her son may just need to practice once a day. She may need to do more than once a day. You may want to ask her that. How much practicing does she need for a piece to sound “smooth?” I hope this helps.
Darla H., Kansas
One of the things I struggle with all the time is how to deal with groups where some can learn and pick things up much faster than others. I have found over & over that going slower than one CAN, is not bad. Often it is a very good thing. I’m often afraid that these quicker students will get bored, or the parents will become impatient, but it has never been a true problem–only in my own head. Most families seem to accept this as normal, it’s what kids deal with in public school all the time. And I rarely have students that want extra, even when they could probably handle it. They don’t seem to mind taking it easy and having plenty of time to process.
Obviously, being a parent and child adds another dimension to this whole conversation. But, I would talk with them, or even with the Mom on her own and just say what everyone knows. Her son is picking things up faster, and you know that he will still learn a lot and have lots of advantages from going at a slower pace than what he could manage. But, it’s also possible to split them up and have them move at different paces. What works best for their family?