Instrumental Practice, Part 1: PRACTICE FAIRIES

From one of our music moms, Jenny Stanger…I grew up listening to my Grandma fiddle with my Grandpa on harmonica and guitar. I LOVE live music and have a few thoughts on why we are learning to play string instruments in our family.  We have 4 daughters and one son ages ranging from 10-1 yrs old.  They play the viola, cello (2 cellists) and violin. They are also learning to play the piano from age 6 and up.  We feel it is part of being a member of our family to play the piano.  It is so needed in our church.  We chose different instruments for our kids so there wouldn’t be sibling rivalry.  It is said that most people play violin for 2 years and quit.  I was determined that would not happen to us.

Music is something you can share your whole life. When you are 80 you can still share it!  You learn discipline, learn to set goals, it helps brain development.  Learning music at an early age creates a beautiful heart. Practice is a GIFT we give our kids.  It shows them they are important, teaches consistency, it is valuable and constructive and it gives us time and opportunity to praise them. Unfortunately, it takes a LOT of practice. But I agree with Dr. Suzuki that children are not lazy. They RECEIVE lots of energy when they are playing or being creative. So, my challenge this summer was to find fun ways to work on hard things. Brittany Gardner gave me a list of words to use that are creative and fun. I love it!  Having Practice Fairies come has been brilliant, too! I can see us really pick up the pace now with our progress.  Music education is a gift we can give our children now before it is too late.  It will never again be as easy for them as it is now during childhood, and they will never again have the time it takes to master an instrument that they have now.  My mind is blown by how quickly children memorize music when they are young!

Application of PRACTICE FAIRIES . . . The Practice Fairies brought a bucket for each child of mine for practicing and it has taken our 15 minutes of practice to 40 minutes with smiles! Can you believe it?!!  I was overwhelmed when I first learned of the Practice Fairies. I thought there was no way I could practice longer with my kids.  How was I going to get 4 hours of that in my already very busy day?  But I did it and we love it.  It is the quality time my kids need with me one on one, and we are doing something that will bless their life.

What is needed: -a simple bucket,

-a small “reward”

-index cards (Write each item on the child’s assignment on a card. Also make 2-3 cards with fun things on them like “3 minutes of sunshine with mom” or, “hug your sister” or, “Popsicle break.”)

How to use Practice Fairies:  The Practice Fairies secretly leave the bucket on the piano with these instructions:

1-Choose your first card, and then “practice” what it says.
2-Continue with the rest of the cards.
3-When you are done, enjoy your reward!

From Nan…This game is effective because it gives the child a say in the order which things are practiced, and, because the Practice Fairies leave the bucket already set up for the day.  Now, the child doesn’t feel like Mom is calling the shots.  Also, the Fairies know what “needs” to be practiced and have already prepared the bucketthat way (and always include something the child ENJOYS playing/doing).  Keep in mind, some items may not need to go in the bucket every day, like a listening example or writing assignment, and since the bucket is prepared and left for the child BEFORE practice time, it is easy to gauge the amount of material according to the kind of day your family has planned.  This way, the child can still be successful at being CONSISTENT, even on days that normally would have seemed like there wouldn’t be time for practice.

Again from our Music Mom…It’s amazing how cooperative children become when they feel they have some control over decision-making.  I also put a little prize in the bucket for when they are done like a bouncy ball or little roll of colored duct tape. (They like things to do better than treats.)

Result (from Jenny):  This has been SO unbelievably successful!  The kids are begging to be first to practice, waiting by the door even. And it is more like a game, great one on one time with me, too. I highly recommend it!