Teaching and coaching your own children
Nancy B., Kansas
I am desperately seeking help for teaching my own daughter. She is 14, and we have been doing SM in a group for 5 years now, and are in the midst of Level 6. Even though she does not like it, she mostly has been diligent. But lately she has fallen way off of that. Mostly I stay calm and rational and remind her to view it as taking vitamins (“but mom, those actually taste good”) or a wise life lesson that often we need to just DO things even if we don’t want to. It’s notable that she does love to sit and play songs from the radio. She’s basically resigned to completing Level 9, and I’m potentially open to see how it goes and reevaluate from there (which is a long way off yet), but I would LOVE to hear how any of you have handled teaching your own children out of a deep valley or any such situation.
Rochelle G., California
I teach both of my daughters, aged 14-1/2 and 17. In a group for 4 years. The key to their “success” (besides the awesome curriculum) is that their piano group is made up of their closest friends. They spur each other on, play piano together, and even through valleys the previous musical fun and potential future fun is an anchor to hold to.
Playing fun music of their choice has also been a key factor lately. Their toolbox of playing-based strategies has given them the ability to learn songs from YouTube videos. Using fake books of their choice to play accompaniment and have fun singing together has been absolutely fun. Also teaching each other different songs they’ve learned.
I always tell my students (and children) that one of the personal reasons to learn piano is to one day be able to play whatever it is that you want to. This journey will get you there. Being able to play personal choices along the way makes it all applicable. Find the fun! Also, I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted learning to play the piano. I have, however, heard plenty of people regret quitting lessons, or say they wished their parents hadn’t let them quit. Those are some things I also say. I’m sure you have, too.
Patti P., Hawaii
Once my students are reading, they are all working on projects of their own choice most of the time, alongside the Simply Music projects. I really give a lot of time to these other pieces because it is where their heart is musically. We keep moving forward in SM curriculum, but at a slower pace. There is so much to be learned there, but the main thing is to get them playing and creating music they love, in my opinion.
I taught my own kids piano (years previous to being a Simply Music teacher) and it’s a really tough thing to do since you are the music coach and the life coach.
Carol P., South Carolina
My 11-year-old is taking lessons from me and I’ve convinced my husband to be her piano life coach. So I’m teaching her once per week, or as often as we are both receptive, and he makes sure she gets to the piano every morning before school. This is working for us and she likes to learn and play much more when she is practicing regularly.
Ruth P., North Carolina
Ask her questions. Listen deeply to her. Let her feel heard. Sometimes we just want our feelings (good, bad, ugly) validated by those who love us most. Also – let her play songs she loves too.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I’d like to share my experience. My 15-year-old son has wanted to quit for some time. I have always told him it was simply a non-negotiable part of his education. We set up a recurring practice time in the morning (we homeschool) so he could be done with it early in the day. He used to try to argue with me about wanting to quit, but after enough of the same (non-emotional) response from me, he gave up that ghost several years ago. He’s now in Level 16.
When he was younger, he would sometimes get horribly upset at the piano when a song was challenging. I set up a ‘system’ for when that happened. He went into his room for 5 minutes to settle down (too emotional to listen to direction at the piano). Then I would be happy to help him – we would then master just a small section so he would feel successful. Or, he could choose to finish practicing later. He resisted this at first, but I insisted. He couldn’t have his privileges (playing with friends, etc.) until all his school work was finished. That included piano. I think this process helped him learn how to cope with frustration. It wasn’t too long before it was no longer an issue.
Now, at 15, he still would like to quit, but he does enjoy playing and has been in the same group of teenagers for several years who have kind of bonded. He is in such a routine of practicing that I hardly ever have to remind him. One thing that has really helped is learning songs he loves. All four students in his class bought a Harry Potter music book. He plays those songs a lot. Right now they are using a Fake Book to play a solo arrangement of ‘He’s a Pirate’ from Pirates of the Caribbean. He LOVES this song and plays it all the time. It is fairly advanced.
One more thing – we sit down at the piano together and play stuff. Blues improv, him playing accompaniment while I play melody, duets, or just goofing around which we are both quite experienced at. I think it helps to make it more relational where possible.
Julia B., California
Any time my boys and other students have an opportunity to play somewhere for people, their motivation gets reactivated. I have taken students to a fundraising event for the past three years. Only four or five students have been able to come each time and we need to fill a half hour slot of background music. Inevitably they play all their favorites and still have 15 or 20 minutes to go. They start pulling from their playlist, and finally see the purpose of having one. They feel really great about what they can do by the end of the experience.
Playing at a senior’s residence is also very good for this, because inevitably there are a few people who are very appreciative. I think there is something about getting the music out of the home that’s significant – at home it starts to seem like it’s just about practicing when they’d rather do something else. Once they share their music somewhere, they start to recognize they have accomplished something – they have a skill, or craft, that they have developed and it enables them to do something not everyone can do. They see others acknowledge it, and appreciate it. I think that experience contributes to a “growth” mindset: I want to – and can – do even more.