The first days of school each fall are plump with potential. I remember as a child being excited about the idea of a new school year as a fresh start--a chance to put my best intentions into practice. Through that first week of school, everything was new and held the excitement of the unknown. I would come prepared with the name of my new teacher and the number of my classroom, but those were only introductory clues. Would my teacher be nice? Would the coursework be difficult? Would my teacher encourage me or have me feeling stupid? There is a special energy to those first weeks of school that seem to affect the entire year.
School-time schedules were always an adjustment for me. It wasn't as much having to wake a bit earlier, but having to get ready for school on time to catch the morning bus without forgetting anything important that was a challenge. My mom had a family of eight to guide through the morning. She helped her six kids to get up, dressed, wash our faces, brush our hair, make our beds, and get seated at the breakfast table on time. Yes. We all sat down together for family breakfast. It was part of a rather complex schedule in which each of us had to catch buses at different times. Mom not only worked out the new schedule each year, but somehow, she managed to cook our eight meals, and pack six lunches (she had a special chart over the counter that showed who loved cheese and who hated pickles, etc.) all labeled with our names and often a little cartoon to brighten the day. It sounds nothing short of miraculous to me now.
These days, whatever our morning routines, back-to-school time means a flurry of new people, new tasks, and new schedules! We set routines in September that affect the year to come. Not that they're carved in stone, but we are creatures of habit. This makes September a very good time to think about music lessons and how they will fit into our lives. Certainly, there's the weekly lesson to schedule around school bells and after-school activities, but there's another element to schedule that can make all the difference in a music student's progress and satisfaction. That element is practice time.
We all know that music practice time doesn't just pop its lovely head up and call to us on a regular basis. The best approach is to schedule practice time the same way we schedule everything else that is important to us. Try to find a time that can become a habit. Choose a time that is regularly available, and that generally finds the music student well rested and fed. Practice time should be viewed respectfully by all family members. A bright, quiet place free of distractions is best. I'll write soon about how to practice effectively. For now, though, let's be sure to get our music education an honored spot in our new school-time schedules!