Whenever there is a school exam coming, I would tell the piano teacher to take it easy on the kids with the piano. Sometimes I wanted to stop the piano lessons for a while as well. She told me "You can't do this you know, in a child's life there will always be exams etc. You can't stop the music lessons to make way for other things. The kids will learn bad habits this way. They will think that music is not important." I guess she is right about that.
Well, ideally it would be good if the kids could do both, school lessons as well as music but if you tried to do everything too hard, something has to give. I believe that pushing them too much on the piano would make them hate it. I know that practise makes perfect, but in reality it just can't be done.
So we prioritize. When school exams are near, piano takes a back seat. When piano exams are near or during school holidays, piano takes a front seat. Perhaps this way, the kids will also understand the meaning of giving priority ie doing the important things first. Lessons in life are important. Not only academic lessons or music lessons and learning to prioritize is one very important lesson in life.
So I still insist the teacher take it easy on them and I always inform and remind her of their school exam schedule by placing a calander on the piano. :P
I know that the kids can do their music at a much faster rate if I pushed them harder at it but I will not. Music should be enjoyed after all. Some say that I am doing it wrong. They say that I should push them during the early years so that they complete their music studies before their schedule gets even heavier and heavier in later years while the music lessons get harder and harder too. I know a mum who pushed her children to complete their Grade 8 by the time the kids are in Std 3. It can be done but I will not do it.
This year the girl will be sitting for Grade 3 and the boy Grade 1. I think they both play rather well, not like robots. They play it with feeling and expression. They love me to watch them play especially the girl. She often says... "Mummy, see me play" then proceeds to play very proudly when she has mastered a piece. She passed with distinction for Grade 1 practical and Grade 2 theory so I guess we can keep up this "practise only when we have time" method for the time being.
I tell the teacher that I want them to learn for the long term, not give up after a few years. I hope that they can keep it up. I don't want them to see piano lessons as a chore and a dread. I want them to enjoy music lessons because I think that is what music is all about. It should not be yet another homework to already overtired, overscheduled kids.
The kids do complain sometimes but I still see them enjoying it for now. They go around the house singing their pieces loudly at the top of their voices and when given a little praise and encouragement, I can see their sense of pride and achievement in being able to play a new song.
I have stopped my piano lessons after two years because it is expensive to have 3 people learning in the house and I do not have time to practise my own songs while making sure the 2 kids practise theirs. Anyway, I have learned enough to tinkle whenever I like and learn on my own as well as to guide the kids in the early stages. Most importantly, I have fulfilled my dream of being able to play the piano and I have my husband to thank for that. :)