“To be or not to be-that is the question.” In this famous quote Hamlet is mulling over whether life with all of its misery is worth continuing. Would death be better? Fortunately for Suzuki parents the choice doesn’t involved such finality. None-the-less, the question is important to answer thoughtfully. What is at stake is the success of your child’s and family’s Suzuki journey. The decision is between attending and attending to your child’s lesson, or leaving them to flounder on their own.
I grew up floundering with the Old School Learning which was this: Be dropped off at the lesson, listen to the teacher, (maybe) try things out then and there, go home and practice what you happened to remember, which was usually not much. Take notes? Huh? Recording? Isn’t that found on a round, black disc with grooves? The younger I was, the less I understood, remembered and improved. At that time this method was considered full use of the tuition paid. But no longer. A Suzuki parent makes full use of the tuition by attending all lessons, taking detailed lesson notes, and listening for practice ideas, assignments, what is easy, difficult, frustrating and beyond the present ability of the student and how to address these challenges. When they are confused parents ask questions about anything related to lessons.
Let’s face it: in this Covid season, you are probably with your children 24 hours a day which makes for a lot of kid time. It is easy to skip the lesson and the teacher might not even know if you normally are quiet and out of the camera’s view. I can imagine that the lesson might be calling to you saying, “You don’t have to drive! You are off the hook! A free 30 minutes … HIDE!!” If only this was a great suggestion. So often what is easy with children is not what also good. Oh, how well I remember, though my children are now in their forties: sometimes it seems like parenting will never end. They are such needy little buggers. Children will drive you crazy, but light up your heart over and over. Even if you could fill that lesson time with a myriad of other “doing” things, or the all-important catch-your-breath time, the fact is that this is a non-productive way to enact your critical role in the Suzuki triangle. You are in effect wasting the money that you put into lessons by not fulfilling your pivotal role.
Suzuki parents, like those of old, are still the chauffeur, tuition source, and the Enforcer of Practice. But these roles are easy compared to the important and central role of a Coach. Guess what? Surprise! Lessons are not only for the student. You, the Coach need them too. Now I will be the first to admit that a lesson has its dull moments. Going over and over how to make a lovely circle bow doesn’t rank up there with a thriller movie, does it? However, over time attentive parents discover that there is more enjoyment to a lesson than is apparent. By engaging in a lesson you learn: what your child struggles with and how to address that struggle; how to introduce play and a light hearted presence while at the same time being serious; have an opportunity to ask questions about the lesson’s details; learn technical details pertaining to the instrument and what is particularly useful (or not) for your child’s learning and more. You may learn new ways to react when your child is balking. You should learn simple games and their vital importance. You will be given very specific assignments for home learning. Parents who observe lessons, learn too! And you get to silently enjoy your child. The important point is: How can you guide the home lessons; how can you be a learning coach if you don’t know what is going on?
What is the answer to the question? BE AT THE LESSON with all you’ve got, even if at times that is not as much as you would wish. Get the full value for your dollar. Get the full experience of your precious child as he or she alternately struggles and rejoices with challenges presented, fought with and defeated. If the lesson is important and valuable enough for you to invest in fully, what does that convey to your child? To be or not to be at the lesson? Which will it be for you?