Student Retention & Parental Involvement
Winnie B., Colorado
I’m noticing that when the parents are learning the materials at the same time, as partners or on their own, it seems to naturally support the parent / child relationship that we want. I think it has additional benefits as it leads to possible duets (blues, etc) and a chance for a student to experience what it is like for an adult to learn something new–not the usual thing they get to watch.
I’m thinking that there is often interference when a parent has a background of traditional lessons, and that they often do not “get” what Simply music requirements accomplish, since they are not involved in the experience.
One idea I’m probably going to try this fall is to enroll up to 4 parents and 4 kids in a class together, with everyone learning the curriculum. Obviously the faster students (which MIGHT be the parents) would need the usual additional materials to stay involved. But basically
the parents would learn in the context of supporting their children in the Simply music way. Suddenly, I hope, the playlist requirement would make more sense, through experiencing it, etc.
Besides, I’m a big fan of family music. I hope this will be a step in that direction. Of course, as always, it depends on the people who actually enroll as to how well it will work!
Please write if you have thoughts or experience with parents who are involved in learning the curriculum concurrently, and what are your ideas about whether it supports the student in a positive way!
Janita P., Nebraska
I agree with you, I think when parents learn right alongside their children, the music learning lasts much longer for the child.
I had parents of a young girl realize early on in Level One that she wasn’t ready for piano lessons, but mom loved the method so much she took her daughter’s place. They are moving to Utah in May and will hook up with a new SM Teacher in that area. She has a great story to tell as her mom was a traditional piano teacher, but she never “got it” and always felt like music-making was missing in her home.
During this track season I have a mom who is sitting in for her daughter while she is in track. Mom learns all the material at the lesson, goes home and watches the videos with her and teaches it all to her daughter. It’s a great situation, esp. for mom! She’s thriving with this method, and she has a college vocal degree.
I like having the parents gather around the piano with their child during lessons, hop on the piano bench to learn the Arrangements, and sometimes I teach the Arrangements only to the parents so they have to go home and teach their child, esp. so they can play duets at home.
I also have an opposite situation where the adult daughter attends lessons with her 91 yo dad to help with his new piano skills. She is a great life coach as she learns all the arrangements in class and plays with her dad at home.
Recently I had to “fire” two teenagers who attended lessons alone. In a state of regression, I caved in to letting two teenagers attend lessons alone without their parents, and true to form, they both faltered with practice and attendance. It pays to be a “stick-in-the-mud” on non-negotiables.
Even in our own household, the more I practice piano, the more my children do. If I participate with their music-making, they are more apt to do it willingly and more musically.
Winnie, me too, I’m a big fan of family music! I was mesmerized from an early age by the “Partridge Family” TV show!
Victoria S., California
A Life Coach who learns the program along with the child not only tips the scale in favor of the child retaining music as a companion for life, but for themselves as well.
I have a number of ‘closet Life Coach learners’ who are very shy about anyone knowing they are learning or listening to them play. Whenever I have a Piano Party I have a 3 hour time frame. The first hour is for adult students and Life Coaches only. No kids allowed. The safe environment gives the adult permission to risk in front of their peers knowing most of them feel the same way. They really look forward to this time together. Afterward, they are invited, not only to stay for the rest of the party, but to participate if they feel so inclined.
In class I encourage the Life Coach to ask questions, and if my verbal explanation is not enough, I have them come to the keyboard assuring them they will be able to better assist their child at home. While this is true, I wonder if it is obvious that I am equally concerned that they will be able to learn the song themselves. I notice that parents will often do something they consider good for their child long before they will do it for themselves.
The bottom line is that the students who have parents who learn to play alongside them do far better than those that do not. I see individual confidence grow and a strengthening of family bonds. It just doesn’t get better than that!
Vee S., Florida
When my parents want to learn along I do not charge them. I explain that the child is the student and you are welcome to watch and learn so they do not actually get a lesson. I have some parents that have enjoyed doing this. Now if a parent wants their own lesson then I would charge them.
Terah W., Kansas
Well, so far I have taught all my parents along with my students as a non-optional aspect of taking lessons from me. I figure that without realizing it, the parents are ‘on-board’ with so many new thoughts and ideas with Simply Music and the kids see it and have to deal with it. If I say to a parent, “I want to see your playlist” then the child without anyone uttering a word is going to feel pressed to have his playlist in at least as good a shape as the parent. I don’t have to worry about ‘ragging on’ the parent to keep him in the game with the child as a Life Coach when I have never even given him a hint he had any other choice if his child is going to be my student.
So far this has worked wonderfully. I don’t ‘charge’ the parent separately, but I hold him accountable on every front I can think of and this helps make my fees no big deal altho I charge a good chunk more in my area than the traditional teachers are charging. That works for me and especially so since all my parents are playing for others like the kids do—no better advertising than that! And it costs nothing.
So on the overall front:
I make it a requirement for my parents to listen, play (round-robin) and I have even smiled and told them they need to be paying attention and they don’t even think twice; they just come around the piano and jump in.
I don’t have to pay for any of the advertising I am getting from everyone I know and then some hearing younger and older people playing all this great music.
It circumvents the whole request/requirement issue for me because I just start at that point and make it clear up front that this is the way I run my Studio and if they want to do it some other way, then that’s fine with me. I can offer to help them find a traditional teacher. (I have been known to add; ‘it won’t be hard; they’re a dime a dozen. I know because I used to be one.’) I am not unhappy with this so far. Of course, things may change, but I am so thrilled with this method and the potential for growth (and profit) that I will probably leave it this way.
Hope this is a catalyst for some creative thinking in this area.
Ethel S., Arizona
As a new Simply Music Teacher, I am still learning how to keep my parents involved to such a high degree compared to traditional lessons. Do you address the need for them to be involved, and making it clear that essentially they will be “taking lessons” in your FIS, at the first lesson, or exactly how do you do this? I have some parents who have no desire to learn themselves, but they do want their children to learn. They are making sure that practice time is done, but they don’t want to be part of our weekly class. They just want to observe.
I think the most consistent thing I hear myself saying is that “I’ll teach you both to play, given half a chance!!” (smiling, of course) and use that as my springboard to build my case making them see their Life Coach position. That way they can get back as much as they put into it as well but at least I have underscored the Life Coach aspect. I try to be very low key and positive in class and we often applaud one another. I am positioned to bring on another 2-3 classes here as soon as I get them lined up so I am sure I will add to my experience and keep learning. But that was my whole goal from the beginning; teaching any one else is just gravy:) Besides, sometimes a person can circle back around later–you just never know!