** Monday through Friday we practice in the afternoon after school and homework. On the weekend we try to practice as early in the morning as possible. Usually we have a better practice in the morning. Generally, our practices are different every day, as far as order, we mix things around a lot. Some days we roll a dice to know how many times to complete something or to choose a song. Usually on Friday, we play the Twinkle Little Star game and try to work in as much of the other practice stuff during the game. Every other day we try to work on what we did in lesson that week, except if a problem arises or something just needs more work we focus on that for as much time of the practice as we can.
**We have three violin students in our family. One has a school schedule which allows him to be able to practice during the day. The other two practice in the evening after football. They go down their list of assignments from the lesson and generally practice in the same order the notes were taken. Occasionally all 3 will review their pieces together, which is quite fun (even if they would never admit it!).
**We have split our practice into two different parts, one happening before school and the other after. Left hand exercises, tonalization, bow exercises, and review pieces all happen in the morning before school. These are all things my daughter is pretty independent with and can therefore do on her own while I finish up getting everyone ready for school. I have written on notecards her different assignments for each day of the week, Monday – Thursday, so she knows what she needs to do each morning. After school, once she’s had time for a snack and a little down time, we work on her new piece, note reading and anything else that is new or that I need to be present for like watching that she plays with a straight bow. Occasionally we will build our listening into our practice like practicing the bowings with the recording. We also aim to get listening in while eating breakfast or driving in the car. Flash cards for note reading are thrown in randomly throughout the day. On Friday, we play a dice game. She rolls the dice and whatever number she lands on she plays the corresponding piece in the book with the piano accompaniment. On this day, I try to just let her play without me jumping in to correct or remind her of things.
**My daughter always usually practices at night after dinner. Sometimes on the weekends she practices later in the day. She usually practices what she was working on in class for the week. I started taking notes during lesson and that has helped her focus in on that week's lesson and what she should be practicing. She usually practices a couple of older pieces also and just picks them at random. She does her bow exercises first then progresses to her songs.
**I had always worked really hard to get our violin practices done first thing in the morning. I found my child’s mind was more alert and aware at this time and emotions (both hers and mine!) were more at bay. However, once school started I found this nearly impossible. With two children now taking violin and me wanting to allow my child as much sleep as possible I knew I needed to make an adjustment to our practice schedule. My husband and I made a plan to do it in the evening after our youngest were in bed. I would take my 4 year old and practice in one room (with no other distractions) while my husband would be in another room reading books with my 6 year old. Then after the practice was completed they would switch spots. This has really worked well for us. My husband and girls love that individual time together and they keep me accountable to practice so that they can get this time with their dad.
I try to write down in my notes during my practice with Sumer what exercises to do and focus on that week and do that to begin. Then I do almost exactly what Sumer did in the weeks lesson with a few tweaks here and there to keep it exciting. Usually, I will add games, challenges, or incentives to get through the tasks without fits or attitude. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t but have found it to be the best route with my kids. But we do try to go through everything from the weeks lesson every day of practice with a different emphasis. For example: on Monday I would spend the majority of the times on the different twinkle songs but then just run through lightly row and song of the wind once without too much critique. Then Tuesday I would pick two twinkles, quickly run through song of the wind and then spend the rest of the practice time on lightly row. Wednesday I would focus on Song of the wind and then briefly run through the twinkles and lightly row if we had time. I would continue through the week similarly. My minimum practice time is 30 minutes but allow them to keep playing if they are happily doing so.
The biggest thing I have found to be helpful with my practices is to take a minute before starting and getting my own head in the right frame of mine. If I am short with my kids and grumpy it shows in how they play and their ability to practice the whole time. I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t want to do something if I felt like I was being put down the whole time either! So, I really try to go into it with a positive and excited attitude. Sometimes that is really hard and draining but it always feels worth it afterwards because the practices go so much better.
**We always practice after school after my daughter has done her homework and AWANA verses and sometimes after dinner. I take notes during her lesson with you and pretty much do exactly what you did with her. So that means we usually start with bow exercises and then move to independent finger taps and then get bigger with twinkles and then her recital piece is the big finale. However, if there are days where we run out of time, I just have her pull out her violin and play the twinkle rhythms and call it good. We don't practice on Thursdays or group violin days. We have to practice in her bedroom so there are limited distractions.
**My granddaughter’s first week of practice was pure unadulterated fun. She had waited a year to begin lessons, and was anxious to get going. We didn’t have a set practice schedule. I (Grandma) would follow my notes, and she would do several repetitions of each exercise. My focus was on just getting a practice in for that particular day, whatever it took. By the third week she was resisting practice, and when we were able to complete all the exercises it was a relief to us both.
After reading Sumer’s blog post “21 Days of Fun and Games”, and reviewing Suzuki’s books again, it was clear to me that I was taking the fun out of it for her by not spending more time on creative, enjoyable ways for her to learn. Also, I think my disorganization made it difficult for her to find any clear guidance. Now I list everything we want to do on the Practice Guide for Pre-twinkle chart. My granddaughter signs-off on completed games, and chooses which category we do next. We practice each task together, or I ask her to help me out because I can’t remember, say, “Here is the Beehive”. She is more than happy to teach Grandma what she has learned, and we usually end up laughing. We have started using finger puppets (to ride along on the top of a bow), and making up our own jingles. (Dragon dragon, hop hop hop, hang on dragon, hop hop hop). Consequently, we have not missed a practice at all this past week, and her initial joy has returned. I have ordered a train load of game accessories from The Practice Shoppe.
Our new practice schedule is daily at 10:00 a.m.. My granddaughter comes to my house for Grandma days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 anyway, so this is a convenient time for us. On the remaining days, her Mom brings her over for practice, and afterwards we play some sort of unrelated game, i.e. Chinese Checkers, or a Match game. During good practice sessions, we can yuk it up for an hour or more, on most days we practice 20-30 minutes. Our practice sessions follow the games and exercises I have listed on the pre-twinkle chart. Also, my granddaughter listens to a lot of violin music, Suzuki, Hilary Hahn, Mark O’Conner, Leahy, etc.
The short video clips we have filmed at violin lessons have been so helpful that we plan to do much more of this in the future. We have not yet incorporated a distinct plan regarding exercises vs. review