This blog is for parents of kiddos in that 4-6 year old age range, who need assistance in virtual lessons! I share this with my young students' parents and welcome other instructors to do the same!
Let’s be real. Participating in lessons with your little one can be scary. Especially if you do not have a musical background. And especially if you are learning virtually. I imagine that for parents, who are used to supporting much more high-stakes learning experiences (like passing math class in school, not burning the house down baking cookies etc.) it can be difficult to adjust to co-learning an activity that fits somewhere between boardgames and homework (but more fun than both).
Here are a few tips to make the most out of lessons where your child's teacher is virtual. If you forget, that is fine and to be expected. As a teacher with 10+ years of experience, even I often forget or contradict my own teaching values in difficult learning moments. My hope for you and your child is that you can enjoy 30 minutes a week of uninterrupted time together centered around music, and that you can also weave your practice into your daily lives.
Here is a list of tips to make the most of lessons together.
Kids learn through modeling behavior and through play. Show up playful, curious, and excited to learn.
1) Model and celebrate a beginners mindset
Risk-Taking: Let your kids see you take risks and fail! This can help them feel brave enough to do the same. Risk-taking, failing, and noticing the world keeps spinning when we “fail” is how each of us, regardless of age, builds confidence. Show them that nothing bad happens when you hit the wrong note, even if your F chord makes you want to say the F-word.
“this is hard, and worth it.”
“I’m going to try that again and see if I can get more confident.”
“Hahaha, that didn’t sound right, did it?”
Sharing the experience of being a beginner with your child helps model the courage, playfulness, and humility we hope to foster in them to support a lifetime of meaningful musical connection and expression. You are on a journey together!
Model humility and curiosity: Let your kids see you ask questions! They are so used to your word being the word of God that when they see you ask questions it communicates the expansiveness and magic of music! Let’s go down some rabbit holes!
2) Celebrate when you/they crush it!
Mutual Successes: celebrate when they AND you respectively crush it!
Good phrases: “WE DID IT!!!” “You did it!!” “I did it!”
If your child masters a concept before you, I encourage you to focus on them and learn from them, rather than me on the screen. You might hear me say something like, “Hey, Johnny got it! Johnny, can you show your mom how you make the G chord? Making a big deal of their mastery of a concept does wonders for their confidence and focus.
3) Embrace Authenticity Over Perfection
Did your kid get something wrong, but play with feeling? Forget the mistake. Celebrate the passion and expression. The former is easier to correct later. The latter is a personal, sacred connection to music, and is much harder to build up in kids as they get older.
Silliness is ENCOURAGED! Let’s laugh.
CAREFUL WITH CORRECTING
All caps because this is huge, huge, huge. There is so much I’ve had to learn (often the hard way) in this category in my decade of teaching. Kids often take significantly longer to auditorily process, assign meaning, and internalize information than adults do. Join me in creating a clear, calm, and developmentally supportive learning environment by:
Letting your kid make mistakes. Please do not correct your child immediately after they make a (musical) mistake, as this takes away their opportunity to hear their mistake, and possibly even self-correct. Fostering compassionate self-evaluative skills is a huge priority to me, especially in young students who aren’t yet jaded by our unforgiving educational system. I will jump in to correct when (1) the musical piece is finished and/or (2) if a child asks for help. Correcting doesn’t serve if the child can’t yet hear the mistake.
Letting Your Kid Ask for Help. As a rule, I do not help until a child asks me for help (after clearly explaining to them “If you need help, just say ‘I need help!’ and I’ll be happy to!” I do this so that when I do help, they can best hear me because they want to. This also provides them with the space needed to connect with whatever part of themself says “I really want to figure this out, and that person has information.” I’ve found this also creates a feeling of mutual respect. Your kiddo is building an entire inner musical map in real-time, and I don’t want to interrupt their internal thought process.
4) A Singular Vessel of Information
Kids can get overwhelmed and tune out when receiving auditory information from multiple sources at once. If your child is confused by something I say, please give me a chance to sort it out with them, rather than rephrasing. Especially with zoom lags, multiple people talking to the child at once can get a little sonically chaotic.
At the end of the day, your young child is looking to YOU to set the tone for how to emotionally relate to music learning. The more fun you have, the more fun they have. What a lasting gift you can give!