• Sandra Howe

Music Lessons: How to Know your Child is Benefiting

As a parent it is difficult to know how your child is doing within their music lessons. Even if you play an instrument yourself, you may wonder what your child is learning, what the teacher's aims are and whether your child is progressing. If you don’t play an instrument you may wonder whether your child is being taught effectively.

Girl Learning beginner piano music at piano

Communication between parents and teachers is important. Teachers need to be able to impart what the child is learning, what the child needs to practise at home and how they are doing. Parents need to know whether a child is lacking motivation or not practising enough. As a parent of a musical child myself, I face the same issues and know there is a fine line between being involved and encroaching into the child’s space. Many children prefer to have their own hobby, something they can call their own and something they can ‘teach’ their parents about. It makes them feel good about themselves and gives them something unique to share with other people. Some children are very private about learning and prefer not to share with anyone. These types of children are often fearful of failing so need a level of respect and privacy so they can explore their talents without fear. How do we, as parents, know how our child is doing when they prefer less parental involvement?

1. Do they enjoy lessons?

I asked my students questions about their lessons and the results were eye-opening. You can see the actual questionnaire results here. 100% of students listed ‘fun’ as their main reason for learning music. Higher than learning new skills or getting better at the instrument which I assumed would be the main reason. When I looked back at my own reasons as a child, I also played and learned mostly for enjoyment. If your child enjoys learning their instrument it is highly likely they are benefiting from their lessons.

2. Are they progressing?

What pieces are they learning at the moment and what pieces do they already know? At our studio we give each child their own practice notes. By reading through you can see what tasks they have been set and what they need to practise each week. If your child is particularly shy you can use this book to see how they have been getting on rather than listening to them play. Our studio also provides student reports detailing how the child is getting on. You can see their current progress, what they are doing well and what they need to improve on with suggestions on how we can do this. Be aware that teaching and learning is a complex process and not all issues can be explained succinctly on paper, in this case it is much better to speak in person and I schedule meetings with parents if the child needs help or support in a certain area. If your child is moving forward, whether slowly or quickly, they are benefiting from their lessons.

3. Are they practising?

Not all children are motivated to practise and not all children need to be. Have a look here for ideas on motivating your child to practise at home. We don’t expect all students to be concert performers and understand that for some students, music is just a fun hobby for them and there are other hobbies or subjects which are more important in their lives. They will still benefit from music in a myriad of ways even with a small amount of practice. However, practice is still required for any progress to be made. Music practice is like fitness training – you can’t run a marathon without training. If your child is putting practice in themselves without you having to ask, you have nothing to worry about. If you need to remind your child to practise quite a bit, that’s ok too. If your child won’t practise at all, it’s time to have a chat with your teacher and see if there is a way to get their interest back. Many adults regret giving up their instrument later in their lives so it’s important to not stop before giving it a decent chance.

If you can say yes to all above, then your child is benefiting from their music lessons. It’s important not to give up on your child if they are not progressing as you think they should. Each child is an individual and their musical journey is unique as are the talents they gain.

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