Summer is just around the corner. Both my kids are already counting down the hours. Daydreams of school free days and freedom from responsibilities is forefront on their minds.
While I too look forward to spending some extra time with my kids I also become concerned that the time off may bring some unintended consequences. My wife and I have made some real progress helping my kids develop better practice habits and my son even has an award to show for it (Sorry I had to brag. We’re so proud of him). But the summer time presents a risky time for those hard earned habits and skills.
In my decades long experience teaching music I’ve witnessed many students make great leaps during the predictable and consistent school year only to fall behind or totally lose interest during summer break. Like any change in pattern staying consistent with disciplines can be quite challenging. Over time we develop certain grooves in our everyday routine and when that routine changes we can easily let things slip by the way side.
So the question is how do we develop a strategy for the summer that allows for the much deserved break yet still maintains our skills and habits as musicians. Here’s the plan that my wife and I are implementing this summer. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you or the young musician in your house stay on track this summer:
Plan Ahead: Develop a practice routine that fits into the new summer pattern before the summer even begins. We had a school year routine that involved practicing immediately after school that helped my son develop a good daily rhythm and get his after school hours off to a good start. We plan on doing our summer practice in the morning leaving the rest of the day open for summer fun.
Priority System: The best strategy we ever implemented was requiring our kids to practice before taking part in other daily recreational activities. For us the big one was video games. We had a strict “no video games until you’ve practiced” policy in our house. We almost couldn’t believe it when they started practicing without us asking. We’re going to keep this going for the summer.
Slow Down: Lightening up on the frequency and length of practice is okay to do as long as there’s consistency to the plan. Vacations and camps are also a time to slow down and get refreshed before returning to the routine. The most important part in slowing down and taking short brakes however is communication. It’s important to let your son or daughter know that they’re receiving a well earned break or a lightening up of their routine. Let them know that they’ve earned it but they’ll start up again come September.
Lessons: Staying motivated and on the right track is a difficult task even with a consistent weekly lesson but with no lessons at all it’s virtually impossible. The guidance and accountability of a music instructor can prove to be the most powerful tool to staying on task. Lessons don’t have to be every single week but a few sporadic lessons spread out between vacations and camps can be a crucial motivating factor. Here at the school we do offer a more flexible attendance policy and packages that fit most student’s summer schedules. We’ll be announcing our summer lesson plans shortly so keep an eye out.
Again, I hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful and are able to find a good balance between a summer vacation and maintaining good habits. I’m looking forward to it myself. I love the summer!
As always I’d love your input on this or any other topic. Feel free to drop me a note with any questions or suggestions that you may have.
Looking forward to the music you’ll make!,