Updated: Dec 16, 2022
By Christy | the Practicing Pro
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Last night I watch the sweetest Hallmark Christmas movie. I must confess, one of my favourite parts of Christmas is all of the feel-good Holiday movies!
This one was about a single dad with two children. He was finding it hard to balance his work and spending the time he needed and wanted to with them. He made a few big mistakes that hurt his family in his time management, where he really fell short in his mind. He met a professional organizer who said she could help him balance and organize his life to give him the time he needed with his family and hit the deadlines he had at work that he needed to.
It was so fun to watch the dad and the things he learned with the organizer to make him successful. It was because they all related as well to the things that can help make practicing successful too!
But - what I really loved about the movie was that, of course, they fell in love - and in that process, they started to teach each other about their worlds. The Dad needed to be more organized and to put the most important things first and how to do that and be successful. The Dad, though, also had times and places in his life where wonderful things happened because every minute wasn't planned into little boxes of time in clean empty, organized spaces. These special times were often spontaneous and even a little chaotic. The professional organizer got to experience these wonderful moments and learned that things don't always have to be perfect and ready and worthy for display.
How does this all relate to a successful practicing Holiday?
Find Balance in Practicing
Use a Holiday practice activity
Plan unstructured times to enjoy music and share it with others
Guilt-free practicing Holiday
Find Balance in Practicing
Like the Dad and the organizer, you can find a balance during the Holidays for your children’s practice. Decide the days you will and won't practice.
Do you usually practice 3 days, 5 days or every single day in your regular week? Christmas is not the time to decide to “practice every day” if you don’t already have that habit. If you practice 3 days, then keep it at 3 days. Wait until you are back to a regular schedule and join me to make new practicing goals for the New Year. For now, keep things the same.
Use a Holiday Practice Activity
Make some progress but also be flexible so that bad feelings and arguing do not happen this Season in your homes.
I have a new easy tree activity to share with you today. One that I am doing with my whole school of over 200 students is that easy. I'll also share some other Christmas activities with you so that you can pick one perfect for you and your family. (See down load below)
Plan unstructured times to enjoy music and share it with others
Has this ever happened to you?
After a wonderful Christmas dinner with family, Grandma exclaims, “Johnny, play a song on the piano for your grandma”.
Johnny replies, “Do I have to? I am not good at playing the piano!”
Playing spontaneous musical requests is very popular during the Holiday when others come to visit, especially the piano since it's a visible instrument right out in the open. It can be difficult to be put on the spot to perform at Christmas for visitors.
Be prepared! Like the organizer, anticipate this happening. Choose a song ahead of time that your child chooses themself and loves to play. Help them make a choice that will leave them feeling good about themselves if needed. What kinds of songs do people like to hear? At Christmas, it’s usually a Holiday song followed by your favourite song of choice. Choose an easy-for-you Christmas song that others can sing along to.
At our school, we learn “Jingle Bells” as the staple. It's easy for a beginner to learn the chorus, and more advanced players can learn the verse, harmony and accompaniment. We start it in November so that by Christmas, request time is old news for them, and they have the confidence they need to play in front of someone, with singers, or on an unfamiliar instrument. Jingle Bells is also great to sing along to, so if you know your child is uncomfortable as an adult, you can jump in and say,” YES, they will play it but let's all sing along,” and that way, it's a win-win.
Plan times beforehand to play songs for visitors and to sing along that are really comfortable for your child. That way, they are not caught off guard when a spontaneous time to perform comes along and have already practiced!
For example, You can call Gramma, who lives far away and play your Christmas sing-along song with her, and she can sing on Zoom for a practice run at the start of December. Then when your Auntie or Boss comes to the house, they already have practice.
Guilt-free Practice Holiday this year
How to not feel guilty this Christmas? Put a focus on listening daily, reviewing daily and making it your main focus to play music for others to bring them joy. Teach your child that by sharing their talents and hard work with others, they can make them happy. Make the focus on this, and the guilt to “progress” even during the Holidays will disappear. I also love to emphasize sight reading during the Holidays. Buy a great Christmas book. My current favourite for strings is the “Christmas Kalidescope” series. But really, it can be anything. Invite over other musicians and play music together early in the season and again at the end. Practice for the first get-together and then in between for the next one. Again focus on the results of the music and how it makes others feel happy instead of focusing on perfection.
First, decide how many days you will practice, what you will practice and when.
Print the tree on Cardstock or glue it to a poster board. Post it in your practicing space.
Pre-decide what you will do for each ornament to put on the tree. Here are a few suggestions from me. You can also ask your teacher.
Examples of what one ornament could equal :
Listen to your book CD or listening assignment
A review song with a special focus
A complete practice list is done (maybe you decide that this is worth 3 ornaments)
Presents under the tree
These each represents a gift you gave by sharing your music with others.
Star for the TOP
For playing on Christmas day for yourself your favourite song or for others. I think NOT giving a time limit, or a list “to-do” for this one is important. Let the child plan the best for Christmas. If they say “Nothing,” then try to find something special. An example can be to record ONE song each Christmas and then, after a few years, make a video compilation of how they have grown and improved. This can also be an amazing gift for their teacher or grandparent. This will also undoubtedly be a treasure for them someday when they have children themselves.
Tips for using this activity in a Studio
Print multiple copies. You can also put a small sheet of coloured CIRCLE stickers from an office supply store, as shown below. I have included a fast instruction sheet for you to include on the back. I like to have them write the concerts on the back of their sheet and bring them to me when they come back, and I fix the star on the top as a bonus for all players that bring their sheets back, and I attach the presents and display the tress returned in the hall for all to share. This gives accountability to the parents to complete the activities which they appreciate. It also gives your school the feeling of “community” and gives your students a sense of energy to practice in the new year. If you don't ask them to bring them back, then you can also send the star and presents home with them.
Holiday Practice Activity:
Other Resources / Christmas practicing Ideas:
A list of ideas for practicing and making music during the Holidays.
A fun Santa beard to fill
A fun Charades practicing game
Big Advent Christmas Tree
This is a more involved Christmas tree I love that can be an activity you do with your whole family!
Hope you enjoy these Holiday activities, and that they bring you successful practices this Season.
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
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Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
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