There’s an image we use in the Suzuki Method to help parents understand the work involved in the method. We call it a “Suzuki Triangle” and at the points are “Teacher, Parent, and Student.” All three roles are necessary for the Suzuki Method to work at its best.
I started teaching the Suzuki Method right out of college in 1992. Unfortunately, I did not grow up learning the violin through the Suzuki Method. I followed a more traditional approach starting at the end of 3rd grade and my parents were not involved at all, except in enforcing the rule to practice each day. But it was “Go practice.” Not “Come practice,” which is a huge difference.
For 20 years, until my daughter started violin lessons with Nancy Jackson, I only saw the Suzuki Method from the teacher point of view. I loved the fact that there was “in house” Teaching Training provided by Ed Kreitman and Nancy Jackson. I loved the training, because I feel like it filled in many holes in the violin lessons I received - even in College!
At the beginning, my students were students who practiced most days, if not all. The mother was not working full time, and she was able to create an environment at home that was conducive to what we expect from our students: daily, thoughtful practice where the child listens well to their parent (the home teacher) and they come to every lesson prepared. (I know…sounds idyllic, right??)
Then my daughter started violin with Nancy Jackson at age 3. The teacher gave clear assignments, and I thought,” No problem, this will be easy!” Then, the real world at home began to come to light. Finding the perfect time to practice was hard, not too early in the day, but not too late. Fit that between all of my responsibilities as a mother and teacher, and between her naps and all her other activities, and it became really hard. I believe that the parent has the heaviest load in the responsibility to practice at home. Teachers see each student once a week. Parents at home have the daily task. Being creative with that task has been a major challenge for me, as a parent.
So I thought I would give each role (parent and teacher) some tips from my experience:
Teachers: 1. Acknowledge the effort in practice at home Sometimes student and parents work all week at home on a skill their teacher asked them to work on. Even if it does not show at the lesson, please acknowledge that the student put their effort into it.
2. It’s really hard to practice with your child at home every day Weekly, or at least monthly, try to provide fresh ideas on how the student can practice their skills and pieces. Now that I’m a parent, I’m able to share various ideas on things that worked for us, especially in the early years.
3. If students are struggling in a certain area in their lesson The struggle can be focusing, paying attention to detail, enjoying precision, or listening and following directions. If your student struggles in an area, do not take it personal. They probably have that struggle in all aspects of their life. The answer to that is more creative teaching and more time attention to teaching that particular skill.
Parents: 1. Go to your private lesson and group lesson every week I know there are times where you just need to miss, either from sickness or vacation, or something else comes up that you cannot avoid, but both lessons contribute to your child’s growth on their instrument and group develops playing as an ensemble and social skills that the private lesson cannot provide.
2. Teachers assume you are practicing with your child on a regular basis If for some reason, you are not, tell your teacher at the beginning of the lesson (not at the end). Two reasons: teachers can then adjust their expectations for the lesson, and they can also help you with any barriers you may be having.
3. Take careful notes If you are detailed in your note taking, i.e. how many repetitions they are to practice a skill or spot in their piece, you can refer back to your notes when there is a question you or your child has.
4. Listen to the Suzuki recording every day Let’s be clear: learning a stringed instrument is very challenging. If you want to make learning a new piece an easier part of the process, listen to your recording with your child every day. Even on sick days! Find a time that works for you! It could be in the car, at home while eating a meal, or at bedtime routine.