Creating a Practice Nest!

practice nest

All last week on the Facebook book, I shared 5 tips courtesy of Teach Piano Today on how to create a special place for your child to practice….so they will want to practice over the summer!  If you missed the posts, or do not use Facebook, here they all are together for you!  Thank you so much to Andrea Dow of Teach Piano Today for compiling these wonderful ideas!

1. When choosing a location for your piano, select a space that is lived-in, welcoming, and well-lit. Keep it close to “the action” but not in the action. Your children will gravitate to the piano more often if it is in a central place in your home. Avoid bedrooms, basements and other “put away” places. Feeling shut-off from the family while practicing will inevitably lead to a reluctance to spend time on the piano.

While choosing an appropriate space, also consider the noise factor; not only from the piano, but also from your family’s day-to-day activities. Your children want to be close by, but not competing with noise from TV’s, dishwashers and washing machines.

2. Make the space warm and welcoming. Your children will be encouraged to spend upwards of 30 minutes every day in this space. Is it a happy place to be for this amount of time? Small adjustments to lighting and heating can make a world of difference. Seek out places with natural light and ensure it is a cheerful and welcoming space that will encourage your child to visit the piano often for their own enjoyment.

3. Ensure your children have all required materials at hand. Help your children put together a small basket or bin of everything they may need for home practice. Pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes will give your children a sense of organization that will then spill over into their practice habits. Your children will also need adequate lighting to see their music, and a comfortable bench at the correct height to practice comfortably and correctly.

4. Make the “Practice Nest” a communal space.  Children of any age appreciate company while they practice. Having a chair, couch, beanbag chair or pillows nearby where family members will be inclined to sit, listen and enjoy the music immediately sets the tone for happy time on the piano. Encourage siblings to stop by and listen quietly, and allow yourself even just 10 minutes to sit and listen with undivided attention each time your children practice. A set-up that is conducive to including the family in home practice will encourage everyone involved to make piano practice an activity the entire family can be a part of.

5. Set the stage for organization. Ensure your children’s practice space is uncluttered and organized. Clear out old sheet music and books from the piano bench, use a magazine organizer to hold current and favorite materials, and minimize knickknacks and other distractions from the top of the piano. If you can, avoid having the piano room do “double-duty” for laundry, toys and other clutter. Having the books your children need at their fingertips reliably ensures that no time is spent searching for lost or crumpled music. Get into the habit of placing the piano books in their appropriate space immediately after each piano lesson so they are ready and waiting.

Plus one more! Adding small surprises to your children’s practice nest (fresh flowers, a hand-written note of encouragement, a small treat, a new sticker pad, a special pen etc.) helps to show that you value the time they are spending on the piano and that you appreciate their efforts and dedication. Preserving the “specialness” of their practice space encourages positive feelings towards their home music time.

 

Aren’t those just fabulous tips!!  Enjoy creating a special place for your child to enjoy their piano practice!

 

“In Summer”…what this piano teacher does with her summer off!

While there are a few piano teachers out there who teach all year long (I like to call those people crazy…er…I mean DEDICATED!), I take the summers off. We (my students and I) work pretty hard all year long with many practice challenges, recitals and exams to prepare for and conquer and taking the summer off seems to save both my sanity and that of my students! 🙂 I’ve often been told I am so lucky to have summers off. Well, luck has nothing to do with it. In fact, I make no money during the summer by taking it off. None. Zip. Nada. And yet, because I have my own music business, I am actually never completely not working. It takes some careful budgeting to be able to have this slightly more relaxed schedule, but it’s worth it. Not only do I approach September feeling refreshed and with new ideas, my students do as well! Actually, to be honest, by the middle of August I am dying to get back at it…and that’s a pretty great way to feel about your job!

So, just what do I do with a summer “off”?

1. I read. I absolutely LOVE reading! I could read endlessly….but my schedule during the year doesn’t often allow this extra time and when I do get the chance to read it is often teaching blogs or pedagogy books or researching new practice incentives. So, when holiday time comes along I devour books like chocolate! So far this summer I have read:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn….a twisted psychological thriller having absolutely NOTHING to do with piano teaching. It was a delicious, albeit somewhat trashy, read! A fantastic start to my summer!

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom…this would be the complete opposite of the above book! Delightful and inspiring. I’ve seen it on bookshelves, known they’d made a movie of it but never, ever got around to reading it until now. Beautiful!

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz…okay, true confession time: I LOVE Dean Koontz! Seriously, really love him! This book I read aloud to my family in the car while traveling on long stretches of Wyoming highway. Reading Dean Koontz aloud to one’s family might seem odd to you, but my children are a little older and the Odd Series is such a fun series. Not to mention, Koontz is an extremely descriptive writer. I’ve always enjoyed the detailed pictures he paints with words, but appreciated it even more once I started reading his books aloud. They are challenging to read aloud, at times, getting your mouth around words like “jacarandas”, “narcissistic self-righteousness” and “paramecium”. And those are some of the easier ones! Sometimes I felt like I should do vocal warm ups before reading all his descriptive tongue twisters…red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather…

I have now moved on to book number four: The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Ted Carhart. Another book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Just like Tuesdays With Morrie, it’s autobiographical and absolutely delightful! It’ll want to make you dust off your piano and play (or buy a piano) eat fresh baguettes, drink French wine….and possibly even move to France! I am about halfway through!
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2. I vacation with my family! What would summer be without a little bit of a family vacation! Dexter’s field lacrosse team was one of two Canadian U-11 teams privileged to play at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado. We took this as an opportunity to do a fun, family road trip and make an extended family holiday out of it. On our way to the Championships we made a stop at my parents in BC, then it was on to Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana and Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming before arriving in Denver. After 6 days in Denver watching his U-11 team play, meeting Team Canada and watching an intense game between the men’s Team Canada and Team USA and making many great memories, we left for South Dakota and Mount Rushmore before slowly making our way home. Two Provinces, Five States, Eleven Days and over 5000km. It was so much fun and the memories will last a lifetime!
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3. I answer emails and phone calls and meet and interview new students! During the summer, I receive lots of emails and phone calls about available classes. My more relaxed schedule allows me the chance to not only answer these emails and phone calls but also to have the prospective parents and students come and see the studio and meet with me. Often when a parent comes with a student, I have give them a sticker or tattoo or coloring page, but I took a day this summer to put together a little “Meet and Greet Goodie Bag” and am excited to give them out to the interviewees (is that a word?) that I have scheduled to come for next week. My little goodie bags will include a pencil, a cute little ring puppet I found at Dollarama, some music stickers, my card and a little lollipop treat. Putting a few together ahead of time, so they would be ready to go whenever needed, was yesterday’s task.
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4. I order, purchase and shop for books and supplies for my students. Then I sort them and get them ready. My studio and the spare bedroom downstairs will soon look like I have my own music bookstore! As I was unpacking and checking my lists, I thought I’d do a bit of a photo shoot with the books for my website. That way, rather than just describing what comes with registration, parents will also be able to see it too! I love visual aids and pictures so this was a lot of fun for me!
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5. I chauffeur! I love doing this “typical parent thing”. Running my kids to daycamps, playdates, water parks and any other fun activity we can come up with in the summer.

6. I learn! I have two teacher conferences lined up for the summer. One this week and one at the end of August and am excited to learn and grow as a teacher even more. And, I have a whole pile of podcasts and blog reading to catch up on from some of my favorite pedagogues. I am looking forward to having oodles of new ideas for the new teaching year.

7. I give lessons to my kids. Have you heard that saying that goes something like, “The shoemaker’s kids go barefoot”? Well, I teach my own children. I always have and, until the day they move out of the house, I always will. Many piano teachers think I am crazy for doing this and I will admit that it isn’t always easy, but teaching my own children has made me a better more understanding teacher with my other students and my kids tell me they wouldn’t have any other teacher….really, I am not making that up…believe me I have offered (threatened?) to send them to another teacher but they refuse. Anyway, because of my hectic schedule, their lessons land on the weekend. I tried Saturdays for a while, but it was so hard to get them up and going on that first sleepy day of the weekend. So, I moved their lesson time to Sunday afternoons as my hubby usually takes supper duty on that day so we can enjoy a full Sunday of church, relaxation and fun and then during the hour he is preparing and making supper, I give them their lessons. In theory, it works fairly well. Especially during the cold winter months when we mostly just want to hibernate at home. But in warmer months, when there is so much fun to be had outside or BBQ’s to attend, or lacrosse season, when we take off for weekend tournaments every other weekend, it does not work so well. So at the end of the year when I opened up their homework books and counted all the attendance sticker MISSING from their treble clef and realized there were TEN out of 34 missing (I hang my head in shame that I cancelled 10 of their lessons when some of you didn’t miss a single, solitary lesson with me this year!), well, I decided that I would have to make up most if not all of these lessons over the summer. And so, once (or sometimes twice) a week, these lucky ducks get to have a lesson with moi! I bet you wish you lived with the piano teacher, too, don’t you! 😉

8. And, of course, I blog, make and prepare videos (in fact, I am working on some technique videos for the youtube channel) and write newsletters and keep in touch with all of you every now and then and put together practice challenges (there’s a SUPER-FUN one coming out for August so keep your eyes on your email!!!)….hoping to keep you inspired and excited for when we meet again in the fall….but for now, it’s time to go enjoy that beautiful Edmonton sunshine!

Summer Practice Inspiration and How to Keep On Keeping On

Summer Practice. Do those words strike dread and fear in your heart? Practice is the key to piano success…and that includes summer practice! In fact, if you are taking the summer off of piano lessons, summer practice goes a very long way in making certain the return to the lessons in the fall in a positive and enjoyable one. Our fingers are muscles and need to be exercised, and so does our brain! Regular practice keeps our fingers dextrous and “in shape” and sight reading and learning a new piece or two keeps our brain and our note reading skills sharp.

Having two children of my own means that I am continually look for creative ways to keep them inspired….especially when it comes to my son who is always trying to tell me now that he is a lacrosse player NOT a piano player. I don’t see what he can’t be both! 😉 Anyway, quite by accident I came across this pin on Pinterest (oh, how I LOVE that site…it’s made me a better teacher, mom and wife….but again, I digress) that was created for summer reading. I looked at this little craft and thought, “That is SO fun, if only I’d seen that years ago when I was sweating so hard to keep my own kids motivated to read over the summer!”….and then it hit me: “That would totally work for piano practice!” So, I took the little poem about reading and changed a few words to make it about practice and this is what I came up with to send home with my piano students at their last lesson:

gumball practice

Into each little bag, I put approximately 20 gumballs…20 little practices are the MINIMUM I hope to see my students practice over the 10 week period of no lessons. I am hoping that maybe the bag might get mysteriously refilled over the summer! 😉 For children who don’t like gum, lifesavers or hard candy could be put in a little bag….I thought of that but had a hard time making the poem work. With a little bit of inspiration I CAN be creative… but there is a limit.

I’m hoping this little idea will inspire students to keep going while enjoying a little treat for their efforts.

Looking for more ideas to keep that Practice Tank full and the motor running? Take a little field trip out to downtown St. Albert and enjoy hunting down and playing on the beautiful street pianos that are spending their second summer out!

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And here’s another post I shared with more ideas to keep practice inspired and fun and a lot more like play than work. Have you made your way through some of these over the past year? Candle light practice was definitely a favourite here!

https://mmmusicstudio.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/perspective-making-practice-more-like-play/