Monday, May 15, 2017

So You're Thinking of Breaking Up With Us?

This post isn't for everyone.

But if you've nearly completed one or two years of Let's Play Music,
and if it's registration time,
and if you're hesitating or dreading or refusing to register for next year,
we can tell you're thinking of breaking up with us. 

And this post is for you! This post is my love letter telling you not to leave. 
This post is my way of telling you maybe we can work it out!  

You're My Karate Kid!

Do you remember the 80's movie, The Karate Kid? Mister Miyagi promises to teach Daniel karate, but whenever Daniel comes over to his place, Miyagi has him do chores like painting the fence or waxing the car, with the famous instructions "wax on, wax off!"

Daniel gets frustrated. He wants to learn karate, not how to do random chores. If Daniel leaves Mr. Miyagi right then, he will forever be stuck thinking that he had not learned any karate. Or maybe he will think,  "karate was not exactly what I expected, but I gave it a try for a while. Oh well."

But no! Daniel doesn't quit and I don't want you to, either. Mr. Miyagi shows him that the chores were actually building muscle strength and muscle memory that laid a foundation for the karate skills he was teaching.  

In Let's Play Music, we've been:
* Learning to recognize chords and chord progressions
* Learning to sing on pitch
* Learning to sing correct intervals, with the help of solfeggi
* Learning to read notes on the staff
* Learning to play music with chord progressions in time with other musicians

If you came hoping to learn to play awesome piano pieces and write your own composition, YES, that is coming. We are doing it the right way, which means this fantastic foundation has got to be solid, first. 

If you leave NOW, your child will be good at doing some random chores. 

She will  be a better musician for her time with us, but you're missing out on the awesomeness of the fulness of the program. It takes 3 years to pull it all together. Come on, Karate Kid! You WILL LOVE what's coming next! 

Just Tasting?

If you're a parent like me, you want your kids to try a BUNCH of different things in life. Just because they take one or two sessions of rock climbing or pottery or lacrosse doesn't mean that we plan to put thousands of hours into it (unless it turns out to be her thing, in which case that could happen.)

If you came to music class with the idea, "let's try this out and see if music is her thing," I don't blame you one bit because I actually did the same thing with my kids, and I'm the teacher!

HOWEVER! When you give soccer a try, would you consider letting her put on all the gear, go to one practice, and then quit? 

Or would you use this conversation (this DID happen to me), "Honey, we're giving soccer a try. In order to really get a feel for what it is and to find out if you like it, I expect you to go to games and practices for a whole season. If it's not your thing after that, we can try something else next season."

The thing is, for Let's Play Music, a season is three years. You cannot get the whole benefit in a shorter time. We structure activities that stretch over all 3 years, building up and coming to their fulness. 

I told my kids (and many of my students), "Stick it out for three years of Let's Play Music, and then you'll have a pretty great musical foundation. After that, you can go on to do whatever you choose."  

A big percentage of my students go on to play instruments OTHER than piano. Because they have a good ear and can read music and can improvise, they are amazing at their instrument of choice. 

Yes, help your child try out a ton of different activities by doing a season of each. No, music doesn't have to dominate their life. Yes, you should finish your season of Let's Play Music. There is time to be awesome at (insert other activity) very soon, but LPM has to happen now.

Did You Learn to Swim?

Speaking of trying out activities, I have a few requirements for my kids and I wonder if you have something similar for yours. 

For example, water safety is important to me, so I required all of them to learn to swim (but didn't force swim team if they didn't choose it).  

I also require that they each complete Let's Play Music. Playing piano at an intermediate level, having basic ear training, and understanding basic music theory is TOO valuable and fundamental to go through life without.

If your darling is only lukewarm to music, it's okay to be the parent and say, "You don't have major in music in college, but I do want you to finish Let's Play Music before you move on to other things."

Want to know a fun story? 

My first son finished LPM at my request but didn't want to take private music lessons after that, so I didn't force him. He was lukewarm about music.  In his junior year of high school, he played in the band and suddenly spent more time hanging around with other musicians...and improvising. And experimenting. And having fun. He started picking up other instruments. He started learning more piano pieces of his choice. He joined the advanced jazz band. He took a lead part in the school musical. He agreed to sing solos and quartets and in church. He agreed to play piano for hymns. He was assigned to be the chorister.  This kid adores music!  I didn't force him there, but when the setting was right, he had the musical foundations and ear training to confidently play with music and come to love it. Side note: although he didn't love swimming much as a kid, he now has a job as a lifeguard and plays water polo.

Don't let your kid find himself lacking when his musical opportunity comes. 
Also, water safety: think about it.

Not a Drop-Off

Maybe you are thinking, "sure, LPM is great, it just doesn't work for me right now. This is too much effort." I can see what you are getting at.

In other activities and programs, you get to drop your child off and pick them up an hour later. End of commitment. Phew.  (Unless of course, you are the coach of the team, in which case THANK YOU  for your service!)

In Let's Play Music, we ask you to:

* Get childcare for your other kids, so you can attend class every other week
* LEARN what your child is learning and understand her homework
* Be a student in class: clap, sing, dance, and be a role model
* Remember to play the CD to her, remember to help her with homework
* Make singing and practice part of YOUR daily routine (piano will take practice!)

Wow. That's a lot. You basically ARE the coach of your child's team. YOU are your child's number one, essential, irreplaceable cheer leader.

Let's Play Music is inconvenient. Anything important, anything that makes a lasting change, is bound to feel inconvenient in the early stages.

WHY!? WHY!?  Why does LPM demand so much from parents?  Because it works.  Time and time again. It's been proven. Kids that succeed long-term in music do so because they have involved parents behind the scenes. Kids that learn to practice at home do so because they have parents helping them get the routine to work. 

We're not trying to make parenting harder. We hope we can guide you through this somewhat painlessly. But it is going to be inconvenient. It is going to be more work than a drop-off experience. We do expect you to work on your relationship with your child.

Many other programs are still trying to get by without significant parent involvement, and parents find great ease in that, but they're not having the same life-changing results that LPM has.

I've been in and out of sports and music and activities with my four kids, and I have found that I always want more parent involvement. 

Because I want results! When parents can give gentle, loving help at home (in ANY subject) results are fantastically better!

My daughter and son begged me to let them join a martial arts studio, but I held off because the price was exorbitant. Eventually I managed to let them each do a few sessions (a 6-month commitment each time).  Parents would drop off weekly, then come to watch on specific advancement days.  I like martial arts, and I wanted my kids to do well, but I hated that I could never figure out how to help them practice at home. And so they didn't really practice at home.  It was my opinion that, if this is my one chance to give martial arts our full attention, we can find ten minutes/day to do something at home. My little kiddies were not always sure what to do as practice, and the coach was not of a mind that parents needed to be involved.  As a result...I didn't understand what they learned, I didn't get involved, and I didn't help. There was a family with an amazing kid- his parents were also experts, and he did practice at home as a family. I wanted the coach to take a few minutes to educate me just enough so I could be useful. It would have made a world of difference.

One of the great BLESSINGS of LPM is that it is a 2-for-1 deal: Parents get FREE music lessons for themselves right along with their kids. One of the tough parts of LPM is that parents really need to pay attention and learn it.

Can you make a fresh commitment? A new-year's resolution? 

Decide to do another year of Let's Play Music, and commit to be the involved parent. JUMP IN! Dedicate ten minutes each day next semester for you and your child to learn music together and strengthen your relationship. That's enough to get you on the right track!

Is Everything So Hard?

How did we get here?  
Let's see if any of these has happened to you, and maybe we can work it out:

*You didn't listen to the CD. This is a tell-tale sign that you didn't bring LPM into your life. What happens in music class must not STAY in music class, otherwise it dies during the long six days between classes.

Let's Make it better: Families that really internalize LPM are listening the CD in the car or at bedtime or at other regular/frequent times.  They dance to the puppet shows at home. They get the bells out and just to play with them during the  week. They sing songs from class while standing in line at the grocery store. You get the idea. YOU can be this family.

You don't even have to wait until next fall to fix this. Find your CD (or download it- ask your teacher if you need a new code). Set it up so your child can turn it on whenever she wants. Set it up so it's ready to play in the car or at bedtime. Welcome this music into your life. Over the summer, make a point of playing the LPM active games with your family. Make a point of learning the words to the songs.  Next year, the words will have even more impact- you will get your music theory questions correct if you can sing the songs!

* YOU were not in class on parent day: It is not impossible to have a nanny or friend go for you, but it means more work because you suffered if you didn't get the information about what was learned during class and how to help. All of a sudden, you don't know how to help with homework or practice. Parents who never attend forget that we are teaching real, fundamental skills. 

Let's make it better: In year 2 and 3, you'll attend class only once/month, so the time constraint will be less (and the babysitting for your other children will be less). Decide now that YOU are a student, too. Carve out 10 minutes/day to spend time with your child on music- helping her learn and helping you learn. That is all it will take. TEN MINUTES DAILY to help both you and your child have an amazing start to music. It is NOT TOO LATE for both of you to get on track and be awesome students. 

YOU need to attend your lessons, and YOU are worth it. Give this to yourself as much as to your child.

* Your child missed 4 or more classes this year. That number may seem small, but missing class always makes it harder to jump back in and cover missed material. Students end up lagging in knowledge and feeling frustrated.

Let's Make it Better: I always feel super sad when I find out a child missed class for not having a ride to class! Or because they forgot it was class day!

Decide that going to class is important. Make sure your spouse knows. If you can't drive your child, connect with other parents to find a ride, or call your teacher for help. We WANT to see your child in class. If you can't go on parent day, send the student anyway. If a family member is sick but the student is okay, send her! 

When you schedule activities, avoid skipping music class if possible. I've known students to come to class in fancy dresses, telling me, "There's a birthday party going soon as class ends I'm going to dash over and catch the rest of it!"  

* Your financial situation has changed. It's true- life happens to all of us. Maybe the resources you had this year are not going to be available to you next year. Money can be tricky.

Let's Make it Better: Before you assume that music class must be cut, talk to your LPM teacher!  Open and honest communication is a win-win for everyone. Some LPM teachers have been known to offer different payment plans, scholarships, or barters for services they need. Maybe a solution can be found.

Even if one cannot, it is far better to part ways after an honest and friendly conversation.  I once had a family VANISH from class, and not answer phone calls or was mysterious and frustrating. Five years later I found out they had a financial issue and decided to hide instead of tell me. Just call your teacher!

* You are moving. Yep, this happens, too. 

Let's Make it Better: Don't assume that Let's Play Music is over, forever. If you are lucky, there's a LPM teacher close to your new home.  Because our lesson plans are so well designed and because all teachers use them, I had a student move after Yellow lesson 2, and join with a new teacher in a new state for Yellow lesson 3.  

What if there is no teacher in your new home? Help us recruit! Parents of students are a huge driving force in finding (and becoming) new teachers.

Because We Love You!

Okay, student. Did I hit upon anything that resonates with you? Leave a comment below to tell me why you are thinking of breaking up with LPM if I missed it.  

The Let's Play Music family LOVES YOU and your family. We really do want what 
is best for you. This program is the best we have to offer. We work hard to create something that can strengthen the bond between you and your child and leave you both with a lasting and impactful musical experience.

Please don't be flippant or casual if you decide to leave. 
We take this seriously. You should, too.

And a gentle reminder: Did you know that because you have been in class with your teacher, she cannot replace you?  Teachers aim to accept families that will commit for the three year program. If you leave after one year, she cannot put any other child into the hole created in her roster (and her family income). You reserved that spot for three years.  

Most teachers ask for a drop fee if you leave early. Be kind and just pay it, or seriously try to work through any struggles before harming her studio by walking away for a small reason that could be resolved. The drop fee was designed to protect her, but also to protect your child

Since games and activities were designed for groups of a certain size (to create the optimal learning environment,) the entire class is less effective if, year after year, the group keeps getting smaller!

The entire class will sorely miss your child if you decide to go.

All the best!
- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

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