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Suzuki’s approach to learning, in a nutshell

Suzuki’s approach to learning, in a nutshell:

Where love is deep, every child and every person can learn,

in the same way they learned their Mother’s language—

through immersion, loving encouragement, and consistent practice in tiny increments, which can be built into marvelous skills over time.

With this loving and human approach to learning, much can be accomplished.

If educators using this method can also adopt the ideal of “character first, then ability,” this learning can not only help a child to achieve, but also to develop life skills like compassion, courage, responsibility, and others.

These compassionate, skillful people could grow up to create a kinder world.

Why kids may dislike music practice (and what parents can do about it)

Not knowing what else to do,
frustrated parents often say,
“If you won’t practice, I can’t pay for this.”

(Which has never gotten a kid practicing in the history of the world)

“Do you dislike music?” ask the parents.

(Also not the most motivating of approaches…)

“I DO like music,” the child often says, 
“I just don’t like practicing.”

Reasons children dislike practicing:

  • Sometimes practice feels lonely.
  • Sometimes practice feels frustrating.
  • Sometimes practice feels like hard work.

There is a smoother way:

  • Make practice more social.
  • Make practice feel better. (Help them learn how to move through frustration.)
  • Make practice more fun.

“How the bleep do I do that?” ask the parents, frustrated again.

We can help.

Join Practice Club. It’s an online social group for kids practicing alone and kids practicing with parents (with coaches there to help.)

It includes practice friends, practice games, practice tools, practice challenges, professional coaches, parent support, and more.

and the best part…

It’s 5 days a week and only $150/month.

*Hosted daily by Heartstrings and Education for Happiness teachers and coaches.

*Supports private instructor’s assignments.

*ages 7 and under must be accompanied by their practice parent

*ages 8-12 practice parent welcome and encouraged to attend

*ages 13+ parent welcome and encouraged for emotional support. Parent drop-ins also welcome and encouraged.

There’s more (and less) to practicing than you might think

There’s more (and less) to practicing than you might think

How your job as a music parent changes as your kid gets older

Guest posted by Gabe Kitayama-Bolkosky from Education for Happiness

Practice is one of the most talked about, misunderstood, and crucial aspects of learning a musical instrument. A good practice involves having goals, perhaps intense goals, but must be moderate enough to invite a willingness to try again each day. For people who might be new to practicing a musical instrument, yogic principles (i.e. not striving, softness, smooth breath, noticing thoughts) can be a helpful model. This is the only sustainable way to get good at something, without sacrificing one’s mental health.

Being a yogi also centers around community. Through our online Daily Practice Club, we hope to build a supportive community of musicians. Sometimes practicing musicians (and their parents) just need a little company and someone to check in with even just for a moment to make sure that the practice stays light and productive.

Practicing looks different through different developmental stages. Practice can evolve delightfully as the body and mind develop. For a parent that wants to connect deeply with their child over the long term, a delightful practice can build a trust that will endure and spread to other things. Here are four stages of practicing that you and/or your child can try out with our community.

Ages 3-6 Do or do not. A child at this age needs to feel a sense of control over their environment. Practice is an unknown and unknowable approach to them, so it is wise for parents and other adults to unfold it in an environment that takes into account what is relevant to them; namely, “I do this when I want to, not because you want me to.” A masterful environment pulls for this daily decision to play the instrument, so if we are rooting for the child to do it, we must make it as delightful as possible. Having a community of similar aged kids, practicing the same repertoire with their parents can have a huge impact on a child’s interest and willingness to participate daily. The long term impact of this type of nurturing can have a profound effect on subsequent outcomes.

Ages 7-10 Doing and understanding. At this stage, coordination begins to refine and develop. Through detailed and loving interactions with a parent and/or trusted adults, a child can develop a sense of confidence in their abilities. Confidence also grows with social interactions and feedback from peers if the environment is nurturing. Prioritizing a nurturing environment makes sure the learner knows at every moment that they are more important than what they do. Learning and understanding begin to be more autonomous at this stage and a mindful adult will be able to support that by following careful practice protocol. Honest praise and affirmation can be a strong mirror for the child as they move into adolescence. All of this is easier to remember when we see others doing it at the same time. Because of the uniqueness of the online community, people can practice side-by-side, feeling encouraged at the sight of others practicing too. Supervised Daily Practice Club can provide a loving online community to work on these crucial practice skills.

Ages 10-14 Doing, understanding, and the rise of complex thought. Pre-adolescence is often misunderstood by many parents. At this stage the child may be mostly capable of autonomous work, but craves the company of another person, especially when they feel insecure. They develop enough self awareness to wonder more about who they are and how they relate to the whole. Sometimes, the isolation of daily practice for someone in pre-adolescence can feel unbearable. Oftentimes, parents feel confused that a child simply wants their attention and company, but not their help. This is crucial because it sets the mental stage for adult life when the child practices and learns without the parent there. An admiring parent fortifies subsequent experiences.

Ages 15-25 Integration. Practicing alone is a very important skill for the adolescent and young adult, but should not be a replacement for what has been learned in the earlier stages. There is still a need for company, a need for admiration, and of course a need for help. If this has been smoothly maintained in daily practice, the adolescent will understand that to be a good musician is to integrate all of the stages of learning. When adulthood arrives, they feel a sense of confidence and joy when working with others because of the deep daily nurtured practice all along their childhood path. Being with others while learning brings a feeling of joy and connection, rather than insecurity and doubt.

Support kids’ practice so they want to do it

This approach:
“if they don’t practice, we’ll quit”
is backwards.

As a professional touring musician, college music professor, teacher of thousands of children, and father of a young soccer player, I urge parents and teachers to consider this way instead:

Support their practice so they want to do it.

The soccer people know this. In soccer, practice happens together with friends. There are lots of games. Parents are often involved. There is lots of cheering. And only one thing is mandatory—that you show up.

Daily Practice Club takes what works so well about soccer and applies it to music practice.


Support their practice, so they want to do it.

*presented by HeartStrings and Education for Happiness

Top 10 Tools for Parents

Top 10 Tools for Parents

helping kids with
music practice, homework, or home learning
(inspired by the Suzuki Method)

Parents, please keep this in mind:
One or two new tools may be plenty to play around with for a week or more!

Avoid forcing too many new tools at once, which can feel overwhelming and discouraging. Instead, encourage yourself by going slowly and celebrating each little step you take!

  • Tool #1 Nurture your relationship with your child first and always.
    Kindness, kindness, kindness. To help your child learn best, you have to woo them. Your delight in your child is your magic key to unlocking their trust in you. Growing your loving bond with your child will strongly benefit their learning, as well as their happiness and success throughout life.


  • Tool #2 Know deeply that every child has great potential for learning in any area. 
    You have to find a way to reach them. Each child learns very differently—at their own pace, and in their own way. Go at your child’s pace (even if it is very slow) and seek out the ways they learn best. Remember, Einstein was a slow learner as a child.

Parents, here’s an easy way to use the “top 10 tools”: 
Before schoolwork, music practice, or any type of learning with your child, just take a minute to read through the 10 tools. Then, go about your normal work together. 

Sometimes after reading through the tools for a few days, a tool might just pop up in your mind while you’re working with your child. If this happens, you can have a little private celebration—it’s a sign that you’re on the right track.

  • Tool #3 Acknowledge your child’s hardest emotions with compassion and understanding.
    We’ve all gotten frustrated with learning sometimes. When your child feels frustrations and anger, show them patience and understanding. This will help them learn to give themselves patience and understanding. Slowly, they’ll grow the ability to self-regulate, and to stick with the hard stuff.

  • Tool #4 Treat your child with great respect.
    If you forget and act disrespectfully towards your child, apologize to them.

Parents, here are two reasons why apologizing can be a wonderful gift to your child:

1) By apologizing, you’re showing by example that “it’s OK to make mistakes.” Fear of making mistakes can become a learning barrier for a child.

2) Apologizing can help you repair your relationship with your child (Tool #2) and restore their sense of unconditional love from you, which is essential for their learning.

  • Tool #5 Adopt a large dose of self-compassion.
    Helping your child with learning won’t always be clear-cut, because each child learns differently. Allow yourself plenty of room for your own learning, which will include mistakes and course correction along the way. Also, allow yourself room to celebrate the many little victories that nobody else notices but you!

Parents, as you try out new tools with your child:
Please remember to give yourself lots self-compassion (Tool #5) along the way! 

  • Tool #6 Nourish your child with 4 different types of learning:

    1. mental (mind)
    2. physical (body)
    3. emotional (heart)
    4. inspirational (soul)

    Nourishment in these 4 areas will help your child learn more deeply than in traditional learning, which often focuses on the mental. Of mind, body, heart and soul—each child and each parent may have one or two of these 4 areas that is strongest for them. Each may also have an area or two that is more difficult to access. Keep balancing all 4—mind, body, heart, and soul—and keep in mind that your comfortable area may be different than your child’s.

  • Tool #7 Tell your child empowering stories about practice (and avoid the common disempowering stories about overnight success or effortless, inborn talent). Lift up the concept of practice by experimenting with how you speak about it. Practice is practically magic!: Take a skill you really want—but can’t do—and after learning and forgetting it many times…for a long time…miraculously, the skill gets easier! Show your child this: Sure, it’s fun when a new skill comes quickly, but it’s honorable, admirable, valuable, powerful and wonderful to practice a skill that’s not yet easy. 

Parents, the word “yet” can be very helpful! When your child says they “can’t” do something, gently let them know that it’s simply something that they can’t do yet. Then, encourage them to keep practicing it a little each day, and one day soon it will get easier.

  • Tool #8 Aim for both excellence and compassion—but lean toward compassion.
    Children learn best when they feel warmly bathed in love, acceptance, and patience. They learn more easily when they feel from you that they are “enough,” regardless of their performance, when they are reassured that you love them no matter what, and when they sense that you aren’t in a rush for them to grow. Show them that you will stay loving when they are doing hard things. From this loving place, the game of “aiming for excellence” can be nurtured.

  • Tool #9 Supercharge your child’s environment.
    It’s your “ace in the hole,” and in some ways it’s your child’s best learning tool. The environment affects your child when you aren’t even in the room!

Parents, environment is a BIG one!
Many parents unrealistically expect the teacher to provide most or all of the motivation for a child’s home learning. This isn’t realistic for the simple fact that the teacher isn’t often there during home learning!

The child’s environment—the equipment, the people, the sounds, videos, visuals, quiet spots, etc, etc, etcis an amazing tool which can hugely support your child! Should you spend the extra $10 on a PURPLE music stand? Definitelyif the purple one increases your child’s enthusiasm for practice, get the purple one!

  • Tool #10 Cultivate social experiences that excite and ignite your child’s learning.
    This is one of the best environmental elements you can provide. Kids love to learn from each other! As you cultivate social experiences around learning, notice which ones light up your child.

Parents, as you notice a new tool bringing happy results for your child:
Gently notice how your old habits will try to creep in again and again.

If you notice any less-than-useful habits returning, simply and gently switch again to the new tool, being kind to yourself about it.

Do this again and again, as a practice—gently notice an old habit, then switch to the desired tool. After learning and forgetting a tool many times, it will eventually become a habit for you.