"There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself". —Johann Sebastian Bach
I have always known my children would play the piano. No questions asked. I know you're thinking this is a rather militant attitude, and I agree with you. You require your children to learn math and learn to read, don't you?
I happen to believe reading and understanding music is just one of those things my children should know, and it's an integral part of our homeschool. Learning to play the piano helps us achieve the goal of becoming musically literate.
For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on children and piano (or any instrument for that matter) lessons:
1. Each child in our home is required to take piano lessons as part of their homeschool music education.
My daughter started taking lessons from me at age seven, and once I saw that she enjoyed it, I found her a teacher. She still takes lessons and loves it. My son just started a few weeks ago with me, and so far, so good!
What if they want to quit? Any skill worth mastering takes time, patience, and, yes, sometimes a parent's nudging. I have personally seen many students of mine go through the "I want to quit piano" phase, and normally it is just that—a phase. Maybe the key is finding music that is more exciting for them, or working out an incentive system, but I have witnessed peaks and valleys with my students.
What age should my child start? After almost 25 years of teaching piano I can recommend that your children start when you feel they are ready. Generally, I have found this to be around the ages of five to seven, but my older beginners have also been more motivated and progressed quickly. It depends upon the child!
2. Knowledge of piano skills helps a child learn to play any other instrument.
Once a child can play the piano and read music, he can visualize those as he is learning to play other instruments. Playing the piano gives children a foundation for further musical study.
3. I require daily practice. I also require participation in recitals and competition when they are offered.
Perseverance at a skill produces success, and success produces confidence. The skills gained through public performance (and, yes, a healthy amount of performance anxiety) are valuable and will help my children later in life.
4. Traditional piano lessons can be expensive, but sometimes you can find student teachers at a cheaper rate. A good place to look for a piano teacher is through the National Music Teachers Association.
Click on the link above to learn all about what questions to ask of a potential piano teacher; you can also search for a teacher in your area. Don't forget to utilize your local homeschool group; sometimes a simple e-mail to your group inquiring about good piano teachers will be successful.
Be sure your piano teacher incorporates music theory into the lessons. You would be surprised at the number of children who learn to play piano, but cannot tell you the names of the notes or the values they receive!
5. Try your hardest to have a real piano!
I owned a piano before I had living-room furniture. I know not everyone wants a piano that much, but you can also rent pianos, check on Craigslist or in the paper, or (again) consult your local homeschool group. If you decide to purchase a digital piano or keyboard, do your research! This article might help.
As with anything, I do believe some piano skills can be self-taught. Check your local music store for method books, and see what you like.
Exposing our children to great music and affording them the opportunity to play an instrument is a gift. I hope I've given you a little to think about.
Mary Prather is a homeschool mom and former public-school music educator with a master's degree in education administration. She enjoys teaching, learning, blogging, and all things music.
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