It’s been exciting to see everyone taking part in the 50 Days of Practice and we’re already hearing wonderful results! As the parent, clearly the largest part of the
commitment to daily practice falls on you, and so to help you stay inspired through these next weeks, we will be posting a short weekly entry with words of wisdom –and commiseration—on practicing.
Hands down the best book on practicing with
your child is “Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making it Easier” by Edmund Sprunger. I will be shamelessly lifting most of my ideas
from his book but I can’t encourage you enough to buy the whole book so you can have it in its entirety.
Sprunger’s title refers to making practice an easier process for both children and parents, but it is also an oblique reference to the very core of practicing itself—why do we practice? To make things easier. It’s such a simple concept, but to be honest, I didn’t latch on to that until I was in my early 20s as a conservatory student. Practicing is not just to get “better” or “fix” what’s wrong, it’s to make playing easier, and hence more enjoyable.
As Sprunger says:
“When the goal of practice is to “fix things,” then a child’s performance tends to be limited to a hope that all the things you fixed stay fixed—not a set-up likely to give a child’s musical soul the freedom it needs to emerge. Practicing to “correct” things tends to have the effect of making children feel like they themselves are in need of correction for their very being, and they are more likely to be resistant during practice.
You don’t practice something only because the teacher said so. You practice it because some aspect of it is not easy and automatic yet.
One of the biggest struggles is dealing with the frustration that children usually have when they bump into the reality that things are seldom immediately easy, and that merely wishing to make them easier just doesn’t work. It takes practice. Children are not the only ones who face this frustration: parents and teachers do too! For the child, much of the toil comes in the form
of repeating things. For the adults, the struggle is often with figuring out ways to help the child work through the disappointment that accompanies the discovery that the world isn’t magic…The adult who practices with the child needs daily practice, so that over time, he or she gradually learns how to accomplish these enormous tasks.”
50 Days of Practice isn’t just going to make things easier for your child, it will gradually make practicing with your child easier as you consistently, habitually, take part in the process of teaching and learning with your child.