May 2020

This Spring has been like no other. The summer will also be different: disagreements about wearing masks, cultivating hand washing, weekend drives just to get out of the house, crossword puzzles, daytime TV, gardening, vlogs and online learning. Each Childbloom family, though, has something special – something they have always had – a budding analog musician in house.

Each year at this time I write an essay about how difficult it is cultivating practice in the summer when there is “so much time on our hands.” This summer will be worse. Vacations are limited. Summer sports and camps are sputtering to get started and may not start. Airline travel is risky and overseas travel for our H1 families is now a profile in courage – or foolishness (except we don’t really know which because the science is confused and the medical care is only palliative.) Grandparents are either isolated and longing to see the grandkids or stuck with the family and can’t wait to be rid of them. Who would have thought that the hero riding into our households to help us through this miasma would seem to be that devil…the internet?

Childbloom began in the 80’s. We had no internet. Published music was lead-engraved, typed on converted Olympia typewriters, or hand written. There was no such thing as “cut & paste” except actually cutting and pasting. We used the innovative cassette tapes to hear the Step 1 Childbloom music. The information world was basically analog and Gutenberg. It didn’t matter, though, since the world of music began in analog times, where all music was live, publishers were few and publications expensive. There were no shortcuts to learning. But now?

Even though there are more tools to help us learn more things, there are still no shortcuts for learning. Learning still looks like many different things: work, play, focus. experimentation, foolishness, tears. If a child doesn’t wish to learn, then regardless of the tools available, he won’t learn. But if a child wants to learn, regardless of the tools available, he will learn.

With the internet, a willing student has unparalleled resources and aids to help with that learning. But the unmotivated child may ignore them without parental guidance. And, now, more than ever, the kids need parental guidance. Because we parents know what the internet brings.

The problem I see many parents face (and this is a problem being recognized by research) – that the medium of the internet – screens – may be harmful when dominating a toddler’s growing brain. However this is a war that parents rarely win. Child #1 may have screen time monitored, but child #2 or #3, is getting cereal on his ipad. As long as we see the cyber “world” as a tool to the real world we can remain balanced. This is a lesson my parents didn’t have to encounter. You do. Its brand new. You are the first generation of parents to really have to contend with this.

Until that time technology is able to upload musical skill and knowledge directly to the child’s brain, practice will still be associated with learning and skill. And until that time, the role of parents in helping their kids learn will also be necessary. A parent will always be much more influential than a computer in a child’s life. Children put down their screens easier when the parents put down theirs.

Students, especially younger ones, need parents to help more than ever.  The help is analog – especially within the digital world. This is the help they need:

     • Students need to be asked if they want to learn and what they want to learn. The older the child, the deeper the introspection is necessary. Communication is the key and the recent sheltering brings  the renewed value of the dinner table to many families.

     • Parents need to offer help with devising a plan to reach the child’s goal – as simple or complicated as it may be. A parents question of, “How can I help,” should wait, demand an answer and then respond to the answer. The answer will often surprise.

     • Depending on the age and concentration of the student, the parents may need to organize the child’s time; to schedule (or limit) practice times; to set timers for reminders or to schedule household events (shopping, dinner, work, etc.) around that time. That time may change as the student changes.This honors the child’s endeavor and reinforces the importance of the learning upon the student.

    • Parents must ask to listen to the child’s accomplishments, regardless of how little it may be, and learn how  to validate the student’s work. This is specially important for older students whose performance opportunities have disappeared amid social distance. Although the cousins and grandparents may not be able to attend a student’s recital, they can, now, through the internet.

    • Parents must still be involved in whatever way works for the child. Despite the presence of screens in our child’s life, for a child, the best facetime is with the parent’s face.

   • Online instruction provides a great opportunity to create a history of your student’s playing. Even when you return to studio instruction, you will have the capacity to record easily. Last month we described how to record. But younger students will need parental support to figure this out.

   • Without audience or recital performances clever students have developed other performance opportunities. In sheltering neighborhoods that now teem with walking families, some students provide  “lawn concerts” for passerby’s. This is definitely analog.

  • All students who have grandparents should know the grandparents’ birthdays. Sending a birthday recording lets the child know that music is important and their skill is a valuable gift. And of course, grandparents should love it!


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