On Routines, Schedules, and Methods
I've just recently read a short biography of Susanna Wesley, known most famously as the "mother of methodism." Her sons, John and Charles, were the founders of the Methodist movement, now known as the United Methodist Church. Charles also wrote hundreds of hymns, many of which we still sing today. These men brought a profound impact on the world at-large, and they couldn't have done that without their mother's influence of discipline.
In reading about Mrs. Wesley, she was a woman of exacting methods when it came to child-rearing. She educated all of her children at home, ran a busy household, and helped run her husband's church. Not only that, she went out of her way to secure one hour a week of one-on-one time with each child. And finally, she maintained her own well-being by scheduling daily times of solitude and prayer.
Mrs. Wesley provided a most excellent example of how routines, schedules, and methods help mold and shape the next generation into becoming well-rounded human beings. In fact, she raised world-changers based on her laser-focused routines.
So as my students begin their back to school schedules that are packed with studies and sports, here are a few tips to help your students get back into the routine of music. I think Mrs. Wesley would approve.
1. Schedule piano practicing six days a week.
This may seem like a lot, but teaching your kids the value of practicing six days a week with a day of rest will encourage the routine and understanding of how the Sabbath works. It also show them that piano practicing is just as important as after-school sports activities.
2. Schedule practice for 20-30 minutes for those six days.
Again, this may appear like a difficult thing to schedule, but establishing this amount of time for focused practicing and review of their flash cards will help them settle in and stay focused throughout an entire piano lesson. Make it easy on them and say the first 10 minutes is flash card review, the next 15 is practicing assigned songs, and the last 5 is improvisational play. Use an egg timer if you need to to break up the practice.
3. Be creative in scheduling times of practice.
A lot of kids are busy with soccer, golf, and football practice this fall. Which means that their evenings are usually spent outside for 60-90 minutes a night. Why not be creative and have the kids practice in the mornings before the bus arrives? Or right when they get home from school before the activities begin? Or how about before bedtime as a relaxation tool to ease them into sleeping?
4. Help them find a sense of accomplishment
Whether it is putting a sticker on a daily task sheet or checking off piano practicing on a hand-written to-do list, giving your kids the ability to mark off piano practice as a completed task will give them a proud, daily sense of accomplishment. That positive feeling will encourage them to practice again the next day, and the next, and poof! you have a routine.
5. Test these ideas for a month
Studies have shown it takes 21 days to establish a healthy routine. Give your kids a month to adapt to these methods and see how they respond in a month's time. The first week may be rather difficult, but by week 3 of this system, they will treat piano practice as second nature.
Do you have other suggestions to add to establishing a solid piano practicing routine? Let me know!