Friday, December 4, 2015

My Scheme to Get More Pastries

I am forever figuring out the latest way to inspire/require music instrument practice. Many times, my ideas don't work, but my latest attempt was successful (for now) and helped the children learn character lessons.

I printed out the weekly song list, and even showed the categories of each song they're practicing (e.g., this one is in your repertoire, this one is for the Federation competition, this one is for the Christmas recital). Then I added check-off boxes (smiley faces) for how many times I want the child to play that piece this week. If it is a song the child is in the midst of learning, I might put 15-20 boxes for the week. If it is a repertoire song, I might put two or five boxes. The child has some ownership and control over how many songs and which songs he might play on any given day, and whether he might sit down at the piano five different times for short spurts during the day, or for one long session.

Somehow seeing the check-off boxes really helped John finally understand and be willing to practice his songs numerous times, instead of flying through the list, playing each song only one time. As our teachers say, studies show that it takes 80 times (I seem to recall!) of playing a song perfectly in order to remember it.

In order to sweeten the deal, I told the kids that, having just discovered the famed Amelie's French Bakery last week, I am going back, and I need an excuse. My excuse is that any kid who completes the entirety of his or her list by the deadline I set gets to come with me and pick one pastry treat. I, for one, have my eye on the tiny mousse cup with a raspberry daintily perched on top, and I mentioned that repeatedly all week.

John showed remarkable improvement in practicing--both execution and attitude--with this new list. I don't think it was the Amelie's reward that motivated him (as we've tried all manner of bribery and punishments, carrots and sticks) so much as the check-off boxes, so he could see his progress and the end goal of his work. Never, ever had I heard him practice diligently and cheerfully for 45 minutes straight, but that is the kind of performance he gave me all week. John also figured out the wisdom in dividing up his songs by day, e.g., if he needs to play the song 15 times over five days, he should do three per day. Not only was the piano singing, but this mama's heart singing!

Mary learned other lessons, as she is going through a new phase of not wanting to practice (piano or violin). She spent most of the week telling me indignantly that she didn't know most of the songs on her list, which is very much not true. I gave no heated reaction, but just let her know in a detached way that I was disappointed she wouldn't be joining John and me. Mary learned is that I was serious: two days before our date at Amelie's, Mary decided to participate, so she had to spend a lot of time playing piano for two days. Suddenly, all those songs she "didn't know" were floating through our home. Yay! I suggested calmly that maybe next week she'd prefer to play a moderate amount each day instead of cramming in so much in the last day or two. We shall see if she decides to try that.

Kids already chocolatey because they had descended like wolves
upon their chocolate eclairs by the time I finished paying and got to the table

** Milestone note for my "baby book" (this blog): Strangely, Thomas woke at 5:00 a.m. and thought it was morning, this being at least an hour early for his rising when he had gone to bed at least an hour later than normal the night before. Since he was awake so early, he went down for nap at 6:30 a.m., so the big kids and I dashed out without him, my first time being more than a few rooms away from him. We survived.

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