Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Step by Step

I bought the Step by Step books (1A and 1B) with the CD's - and I have to say that I am amazed.

I printed out the practice chart, and figured out what would be appropriate things for review pieces for Delta (who is playing "monkey song", and CAN play twinkle variation A, but strongly resists it, and hasn't been officially taught it from Miss A - but has been taught it in group class - and she said he can practice it...)

Now, I must say that first off it is only day 2 of using the books - so it is probably just the novelty (but if it can bring in a good new habit of happy practice).   Delta's practice has gotten a lot better for these 2 days.  Instead of practice being play the monkey song, and maybe play twinkle, and possibly 1 "review" item....   often (but not always) through coaxing or games.  (some days happy - a lot not).

Anyway, the last 2 days, he has played Var A on E, on A, on E & A, 3 fingers (1/2 of monkey song), on E and 1, on E and 3 fingers on A.  Almost all done happily.  And today he did the "star section" (or bread) of Twinkle.

He loves playing with the CD, and I love that his playing seems to have gotten even better with the CD, and I love that the practice is a lot more business like (no time wasted on picking cards or rolling dice, etc...) - and hope it will help with his problems in his lessons.

And update on teacher situation - we have a trial lesson with my son's group teacher (Mrs. J) later this week.  This week and last week have been spring break, so no lessons.   If the lesson goes good with Mrs. J, we will probably switch.  The one other teacher that has an opening is over an hour away, so I don't think we will try it.   If the trial lesson ends up similar to Miss A's (with Delta not co-operating) , we won't switch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pick a new teacher

So my son's teacher and I have decided to have him have a trial lesson or two with another teacher, to see if that ends up helping the problems he is having in his lessons.    Thanks for everyones help and advice - it was well appreciated - and I'm going to be reading them over again a couple of times because there was a lot of good info.

So, my son's teacher (who is the head of the suzuki program in our city), has given me 2 teachers names that have room for me to contact.  1 is my son's group teacher, which may be a good choice, except her other job means that we will have to be flexible with scheduling - which I'm not sure is the best situation for my son - but may be offset by him being familiar with her.   I also know that her own son had given her similar problems.

I don't know the other teacher.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another lesson

Hm - well Delta didn't do anything at all today in class....  I am so frustrated.

Miss A had said that she had done some research, and was going to try some more stuff with him - so would try a few more lessons - but not sure if she feels the same after today.   

She really doesn't think moving to another teacher will help, but still recommends a long break.....   I am just so tired and frustrated on this by now, and I just don't know what to do anymore.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Goals of our practice

Right now, my main goal for practices are:

1) practice everyday - preferably something involving actually playing the violin, although I have done a few where we mainly sang the "twinkle notes" (aaeef#e...), or "twinkle sandwich" (aaee11e), or the one to the boil 'm cabbage that the group class works on....  

2) try to keep things enjoyable. - play one of our games (snakes and ladders, fishing, giving a concert to stuffies, play together, or just play a few things - generally his choice.)  

3) try not to correct very much - and always try to give a specific compliment.  (and compliment first, if making a change.)  I try to explain why the change would make a difference to the sound (if I know why....)

4) when he is going to play something, suggest something to concentrate on.  (let's see if you can keep the bow on the highway..... - hm, this sounds worse than I think it really sounds - may have to listen to myself to see if it is coming off negative sounding.....)

5) If I'm playing with him - let him be the teacher - he loves that.... and I will purposely make a mistake so he can correct me....

6) try to end always positive.

I think this is the main things I'm doing.....  or trying to do.   It is from stuff I've read, suggestions from my husband, and from what I've seen works best for my son.

His practices have gone a LOT better since I've tried to do these things.

I have considered bribing him - especially for the lessons - but I'm worried about setting up that precedent, as we are going to be homeschooling too, and his sister is watching what is going on - I am really trying to avoid it.  But I do have to admit that it is a currency that kids understand.

Answer to a Question

I've been asked for more information.....
[originally an email on a suzuki group]

Ok, I'll see if I can explain it well.   This is mostly in the individual class, although there has been a bit of it the last 2 weeks in group class, and there used to be more in our practices.

On the day that it is individual class, once Delta realizes it is day for violin class, he will get upset and have a little mini-tantrum.  (jump up and down a few times whining.) - when it is time to go, he will say stuff like "I don't want to go to Miss A's", but will get ready.  When we get there, he may or may not try to avoid getting out of the car.   We go into the class, and he is polite to the teacher, says hello and everything, and gets ready.

The class will vary a bit on various factors - stuff like how he is feeling, and a bit on what he is being asked to do.  Usually (unless he is having a bad day over-all) - it starts out pretty good, and he is co-operative.  Very occasionally, he will make it for most of the lesson (30 minutes) before he "acts up" - which I figure on those occasions it is just that he has reached his limits.   But if something happens that he doesn't like, he will sort of shut down.  He might start by saying his legs are tired, or his arm is tired.  Or he might just pretty much lie down on the floor and ignore the teacher - or may start sort-of drawing on the carpet with his fingers ignoring the teacher.   Basically it comes down to ignoring the teacher.   Or if the teacher is trying to fix his technique, he may just continue to do it his way, maybe shaking her hand off of his shoulder or hand or whatever.

Things that he might not like that can cause this - if playing a game such as snakes & ladders with violin things to do on them --- getting a square that he doesn't like  (either it has a snake, or has a violin activity he doesn't like.)  - same type of thing with the fishing game - getting a card he doesn't like.  The teacher trying to get him to do something differently from the way he is doing it.  Being asked to do something he considers "too hard" (mostly playing with doing fingers instead of open E - although he is slowly betting better at that.)

The teacher generally would end up ending the lesson - which I guess worked with other students she has had after a few times.   But my son just seems relieved.  The last few weeks the teacher has been just using the games instead of trying to teach, just trying to make the lessons a happier experience, and then his last lesson, she tried to gently correct technique, but backed off when he showed signs of resistance - and after that lesson is when she said that she still thought a long break was the best option (but that she would talk to his group teacher to see if she had room to take him, as I've indicated I would prefer trying a different teacher instead of a break.)

For his group lesson, he had been participating happily, doing everything for a whole hour class (which was basically playing the violin for the vast majority of the time) until 2 weeks ago.   2 weeks ago a few things happened.   We had gone to observe a class of another student with his indiv. teacher that day (only day with boys about his age, just a bit ahead of him, that wouldn't get distracted by him) - it happened to be his dad's birthday - and the group teacher started "teaching" all the students to play twinkles using the fingers instead of open E.  (It is an early book 1 class with beginners to kids that are a few pieces into book 1 - but most of them are pretty close to my son's level at this point.)   I think the combo of all of those was just too much for my son, and he spent a lot of that class spinning around on the floor, with me holding his violin and bow so he didn't knock it.   Last class was a lot better, but anything they were asked to use fingers, my son sat on the floor.

What my son has been telling me is basically that "I might play it wrong", or "I might make a mistake".   So it appears to me that I have a boy that has the type of perfectionism that paralyzes him.  He doesn't want to do something until he knows he can do it - which makes it hard to teach him anything new.  I have personally experienced that type of perfectionism, and I know how hard it can be.  I am fairly sure that his stomach gets all tied into knots before class. His teacher is aware of this too.   I talk to him, and I've asked him what he thinks will happen if he plays it wrong - but he can't verbalize what he is worried about.... and I've told him that I'm not worried about him doing it wrong, that I just want him to try - and that this is how you learn, etc.    His teacher is very strong on technique, and seems to require a pretty strong technique before advancing - which I think may be making the perfectionistic tendancies of my son worse - and I think originally made him a bit bored because he wanted to play the violin.  (He was on a box violin for about 3 and a half months - then couldn't play on the violin for a couple more months... etc.)

As for the power struggle - I think he is just struggling to get the lesson over, and to get out of having to have lessons with the teacher.  I'm not sure that he would necessarily be able to verbalize that - but he is basically struggling to play the violin the way he wants to.

I realize that his teacher may have a different viewpoint on things.  Because he is so resistant to any correction on technique, she feels that switching teachers won't help, as any teacher would have to do at least some corrections.  All I know is that there is the student-teacher-parent triangle.  I can't change the student, and I can't change the parent except for changing how I do things.....  and he seems to do things better for me than for the teacher.  So what else does that leave me?

My son was one of those kids that wanted to play the violin on his own idea.  When he was 3 (almost 4), we went into a music store, walked by a lot of instruments - he saw a violin and said it was his violin.  I told him it wasn't, and he suggested it was his "present violin".    He loves music, and really loved the violin.   Of course he wouldn't realize the process to learn to play - but he does still have moments when the love of it comes through still.  I don't want that love totally doused.   He loves to play to visitors to our house, or sometimes for his dad.  He isn't always happy to practice, but they have been going a lot better.

Just one up note here - last night during practice, my son chose to play Twinkle var. A - WITH FINGERS - totally on his own choice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Power Struggle?

I guess I have a few worries about taking a break....  A part of this has had a power-struggle feel... and I don't want Delta to decide that he can get out of something by acting-up.  And he is bright-enough to figure that out.   I feel that a 6 month break is a waste of time.   Also, he has been working hard on practicing every day, so that he can get his 100 practices in 100 days trophy at the spring concert - and that will not happen if we are out of the program.   And his Echo will be starting in September.

I suggested to the teacher her teaching me again, and him watching, and she has said no to that...  and the program here doesn't do joint classes...    

I know that sometimes a break can make a difference, but I really don't think it will - as things didn't improve for long after the summer break - and I don't "buy" that a 5 year old needs to mature more with a program that a 2 or 3 year old can do.

I just don't see Dr. Suzuki having ever said that this child can't do it now, come back in 7 or 8 months.

Not Giving UP

I don't plan to give up, although if I didn't have a strong belief in the benefits of music, and the suzuki program, I probably would by now.   It has been very difficult going, and certainly not the little ideal dream story of suzuki that you hear of.  My sister did suzuki (she was older than me) - but it seems that no one in the family really remembers what the early years were like....   at some point she would cry all through practices, but I believe it was after she left the suzuki program to learn under a teacher that only taught child prodigy's.

Miss A is supposed to be one of the best around, and seems to have very good technique - but I have wondered at times if she is so "strict" with the technique that some of the kids miss out on the fun of it....   I know there is another mom whose boy is in his first year that is starting to wonder if they have the right teacher.    If I KNEW that another teacher would be a better match for my son, then I would feel better about trying a different one....  yet at the same time, I am going to feel bad that we didn't switch teachers earlier (like this summer) if he suddenly blossoms under another teacher.  

I sure hope that we will be able to setup lessons with his group teacher.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Teacher has given up!

Well, the other day was the first day of 2 of trying to do some light correction - and she has given up.   We have one more lesson, but she thinks we should quit until September and start again hoping that he is "more mature".   I have a hard time seeing how a 5 year old could be less mature than a 2 or 3 year old!  She has made me feel like a failure.

She is also the head of the program here.

She doesn't think that another teacher would be any better with him, as he will require some correction with anyone.  And she said basically that if we wanted to try another teacher, that she would only consider placing him with the teachers with a lot of experience.....  And this week, she said that she would only consider his group teacher (so that there would be the familiarity as well) - and that she wasn't sure the group teacher had any room.    I talked very briefly to the group teacher and she generally keeps her studio list small because she is a nurse - so the time of teaching may vary from week to week.   However, I know from talking to her in the past that she has worked with "strong-willed" students before, as her own son was strong-willed - so although the changing time might be a big pain (and hard on my son, who a steady routine would probably be better) - I think it may go better.

I just am so frustrated.  I'm trying hard to be happy and supportive where- ever my son is in the process.... but I feel like either I failed, which makes me feel bad, or our teacher has failed, which makes me very upset because maybe we would have been further on the road if I had switched teachers last year (or over the summer, like I considered - or heck, even last month.....)