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#71 The Roadmap to Success - How to Plan your Practicing

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

By Christy | The Practicing Pro

Are you planning an upcoming trip?

I am and I can't wait! We are traveling for three weeks to 4 different destinations and I couldn’t be more pumped about it!! Those of you who know me - you know how much I love adventures and trying anything new! I just love traveling to a new town, a new city or a new country!

When you go to a new place there is some planning involved. I have been on big trips with limited time and budgets and I had a big specific list of things to accomplish. I have also been on trips that I had a little more cash for and not much of an agenda because I just wanted to see what happened. I let it be a surprise or I wanted to relax and recharge so no planning was necessary but just being in a new location. I have also gone on trips where the reason was to visit a friend or relative.

Let's talk about how to plan a trip:

A quick jump on Pinterest and I found this great checklist of 4 things to do before a successful trip:

  1. Talk about the trip often. Bringing up the trip on a regular basis, helps children to get more comfortable with the idea and it won’t end up being a big surprise. As a family, talk about what everyone’s goals and expectations are for the trip. For example, do they want to try new things, go on an adventure, rest and relax, visit someone special, see a show, or learn something new?

  2. Research! You need to decide on a budget and with that number in mind, do some research and book your flights, hotel, tours, activities, and dinner reservations. Let your child be part of the research process so they feel like they have some control over what will take place.

  3. Make an itinerary. Print or write out an itinerary of the trip and put it up on the wall where everyone can read it easily. Let your kids color it in, highlight it, put stickers on it, etc. If they can’t read yet, ask them on a regular basis if they would like you to read it to them to remind them of what you’re going to do.

  4. Make a packing list. As the time approaches that you need to think about packing, have a packing list ready for your kids so they know what they need to remember. If they have a list of everything they will need that they can check off as you help them pack, it may help them feel more relaxed and in control.

Now, you might be thinking - what does this have to do with my child’s music practice? I’ll tell you! Practicing and planning for practicing is a lot like planning a trip. Let’s compare.

1. “Talk often about the trip and about the family’s goals and expectations for the trip.”

You also need to set aside time to talk often with your player or student about their goals / and the parent's expectations. Don’t forget the teacher's expectations too!

It’s important to write down their goals and revisit them at a later date. Ask them about what they want in their music journey and what they like about playing.

A young teen boy surprised me last week. The week before, we had talked about his goals and he said he wanted to focus on finishing his Suzuki Book 4, learn an advanced fiddle set, and maybe go to a competition one day. But this time, he walked into his lesson and told me he was thinking about his goals all week and decided he would like to someday audition for our provincial Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. Now for the level of playing, he would need to be in Suzuki book 7 or 8 and at an RCM 8 exam completion level of playing! This would be a huge challenge for him with the amount he currently practices each week. Well then, that changes everything! He now needs to budget more time and dedication to see it through.

As a teacher I need to up his sightreading, playing in different keys and rhythms, and with such a big goal, I also need to help him make the most of every minute he spends practicing and help him to have incredible daily habits with his practicing.

As a parent, I would encourage them to take the time to observe what motivates their child. Make opportunities for them to be inspired by exposing them to different kinds of music, attending workshops and camps, playing in groups with other players, going to concerts, etc.

2. “What is your budget for money and time?”

Just like setting a monetary amount for a trip, how much time do you have to practice every day? Are your teacher and the program you are in inspiring and motivating for you and your child? How much time and energy as a parent or teacher are you able to invest in making your child's practice more effective? (You are reading this blog/ listening to this live, so you are invested - BRAVO!)

Are you willing to take a practicing course?

Are you willing to attend a parenting seminar or read a book on practicing?

What about learning how to speak to your student or your child in a more positive way?

Are you willing to spend time or money on a practicing activity?

Will you purchase practicing games and learn how to use them? I have several free ones available on Practicing Pro.

In summary, what are you willing to spend on time and money for your music lessons and experience? What time does your child have to commit to learning? Are they in so many activities they don't have the time to practice enough for the goal they want to achieve? See blog #41 Is My Child Doing Too Many Activities? How do I know?

Just like you plan your vacation based on your goals, time, energy, and finances - plan your music goals, lessons, and practice in the same way.

3. Research and book accommodations, flights, and activities and make an itinerary.

When you practice, you need to know what to practice and how to practice it. Then you will also need to know how to make it fun or not seem overwhelming. This is a whole process and there are many resources to help you with this.

Here are a few tips for this from my blog. You can also join my free weekly email list where every week I send you some tips or a free resource to help have more successful practices.

Making an itinerary is just like making a practicing chart and schedule. It’s important to set your practice time each week and to stick to it. Having a set routine helps children get into the swing of it and not protest as much when it’s time for them to practice because they know when to expect it. Having a practice checklist is also a great tool to help you have successful home music practices. You can get access to this free checklist from my website by clicking here.

If you want to go the extra mile with your “research” and “trip planning”, you can sign up for my Practicing Pro Academy - a 6-week online course for parents and teachers to help have more positive, effective, and fun practices.

4. “Make a packing list”

You wouldn’t go on a trip without the essentials, right? It’s the same with your practice. You don’t want to show up unprepared! Make a list of supplies that you will need for each practice and a list of supplies you will need for any practice activities that you do. Metronome, music stand, music book, instrument, pencil, notepad, etc. By being organized and having everything ready in the child’s music space, they are more likely to pick up and play since it’s all ready to go.

Your final destination in your trip is like the BIG goal you make with your player in their music education journey. It could be something like:

  • - Finishing a 100-day challenge (practicing 100 days in a row without missing a day)

  • - Completing a 70-day listening chart

  • - Doing an RCM exam

  • - Playing in a concert

  • - Getting into a group

  • - Filling up an entire review/upgrade sheet

  • - Playing a certain piece

  • - Completing a book or a level

Just like how you get to enjoy the trip after all that planning, it’s important to celebrate a completed goal after all of your child’s hard work.

Add a celebration to your playing goal that involves a rewarding experience surrounding an item that your child wants.

For example:

After the 100-day challenge is complete, instead of just giving them that new lego set, set the tent up together, and then IN THE TENT put the lego set together with a big flashlight and spend the night in the tent. This deflects from the “purchased object” and “just getting something” and instead makes it a special memory together.

Younger players and beginners might not have an understanding of a “playing goal” yet, or may not be excited or motivated by one. The celebration at the completion of their goal helps them with this. Older players don't “need “ a celebration but will never turn down a celebration if it’s one that they are excited about. WHY NOT spend your time and energy on celebrating their hard work and their music. This is NEVER a waste of your time or money.

For an older teen, go out to a movie together or purchase them a double pass to go with a friend. Take them out for pizza or give them a pizza night out with a few of their friends in their orchestra.

“An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together.”

~S. Suzuki

Remember, learning an instrument is a journey. There are ups and downs and it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. But it can be a FUN experience. By being a supportive figure and being committed to their music education, your child will be much more likely to continue with their newly found passion.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but as long as you put your child’s best interest first, help them along the way, and are an engaged member in their music journey, I promise it will be the best trip you ever take together!

~ Christy Hodder

Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.

Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent or music teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.

INVITATION from Christy Hodder:

Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course, the Practicing Pro Academy. This is for the serious practicing parents and music teachers and is an at-your-own-pace, step-by-step, online course to bring you more effective, positive, and fun home music practices. Registrants receive a special package in the mail from me, and I am with you in person with Q&As to answer all your questions.

Learn more about PPA and join the waitlist HERE for the next Practicing Pro Academy course. It's only offered once a year so you don't want to miss it. The registration will only open for a few weeks and I'll let everyone on the waitlist know immediately so that you can grab one of the spots.

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