Thursday, July 8, 2010

music lessons?

I’ve been thinking about music lessons for River lately. He shows a definite interest in music and musical instruments. While visiting family, he sat at the piano and while he did a bit of random banging, his exploration of the keys and the sounds they made were quite methodical.

So I called about lessons yesterday. I was considering violin (which I could help him with, since I used to play the viola) and piano (which seems to interest him). The Suzuki method starts at age three. I found a not-too-expensive place that could offer piano lessons. And I found that the local music conservatory offers classes, but you have to commit for a year.

Part of me says yikes, you are becoming the uber-schedule parent. He doesn’t need lessons at 3, it’s expensive, and what if he ends up not liking it. Mark tends to think this too.

Another part says, well, now is when he’s not uber-scheduled. In fact, he has pretty much nothing scheduled, beyond going to the wading pool twice a week and regular visits to library story time. So wouldn’t this be a good time to help him develop a skill? And wouldn’t the development of the skill at this early age do good things for his brain development? It’s once he gets into school and other organized activities that I think overscheduling is an issue. Right now he has space to pursue an activity and still have loads of down time.

I do tend toward the overscheduled side for myself. I’m not much for sitting around and “relaxing” with nothing to do. So I know I’m definitely at risk of overscheduling my kids. I try to keep in mind the need for downtime to create and explore and I thought I’d make that a priority. Then I saw some kids over this weekend who didn’t have much planned this summer and they were bored. One in particular complained frequently about boredom. I remembered back to those days.

Yes, it was nice to sometimes have time to write in my journal in the woods, to read lots of books, to do silly exercises, to make tapes from the radio. But sometimes it was just boring. When I recalled that heavy, sticky feeling of nothingness, it didn’t seem so attractive to me. I started to think that perhaps half a day of structured activities would probably be a good goal for summer, with another half for downtime and family time.

But the more I read, the more I thought it might not be worth the investment, at least for another year, if not longer. Perhaps he doesn’t need one-on-one instruction on a particular instrument right now. But I would like for him to have exposure to more instruments, and to some musical ideas, so that I can see how strong his interest is and what he gravitates toward. I’d like him to have some exposure to music that is more playful.

Plenty of my friends take their kids to the infant/toddler music classes that are so popular now. I’m sure they are fun, but I’ve been a bit doubtful of their effect, beyond being a fun (and pricey) social hour. I see the local conservatory offers a music class for toddlers that seems playful, but perhaps is a little more focused. It requires the parent to participate until age 3.5, then the child can attend alone. It’s also within a couple of blocks of home, which is a bonus if we’d keep it up longer term.

I think I’ll attend the sample class in early September and see how it goes – to see whether it’s worth the money and my time (unfortunately, I don’t think Mark would be up for taking him, though I’d really rather he do it – especially since it’s in English) or if we should just hold off for another year or more.

When did your kids start music? What age do you think is the best time to start?

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