I am at Suzuki cello camp. Again. Somehow I gave birth to a child who loves being with people. I don’t think there are any genes for this on either side of his family. For generations. But still, I am trying to address his needs, and he loves getting together with swarms of young kids playing string instruments.

I want to tell you that he is gifted. He is. Who else has a six-year-old who practices cello extra each day, on his own? But what I also want to tell you is that I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I hate talking to the other parents. I hate the stress of looking at the bow holds of prodigies and thinking: I’m not doing enough for my son. I always forget to check his bow hold before he plays Minuet.

I know I’ve done a good job of helping him to find something he loves. But I don’t know how long I can keep it up. He should go to group lessons but he doesn’t. I don’t want to drive the two hours each way for the extra lesson. If I don’t want to do that, should we just stop lessons? Should someone else drive him? Should I stop worrying so much?

Yes. Of course, the answer is to stop worrying. But how do you homeschool your kid and not worry? Because you homeschool by turning your back on the team effort of the whole school system. It’s just you: making a fresh, new, maybe-bad decision every day of the week.

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9 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    You may want to consider and check out something closer to you. I’m thinking Dubuque, Iowa. I googled the keywords “dubuque cello group lessons” and found many entries including the Northeast Iowa School of Music (NISOM) at http://www.nisom.com/whatwedo/overview.html . This mission and general overview statement page includes the following sentence – “Goals include offering private and group instrumental and vocal lessons, as well as group music classes for preschool children, home-schooled students and adults” – as well as other good pieces of information. It’s still a long way to travel but less than two hours each way.

  2. christy
    christy says:

    You know, the folks in the school system are just as capable as you are of making maybe-bad decisions every day.

    They are (perhaps) just not noticed as much, because they’re in a larger group – except by those who watch them closely every day. (Eg. The Farmer likely can notice an ailing animal on the farm from within the herd, because he knows the herd well. You probably can’t unless it’s pulled out on its own. Maybe not even then.)

    I think that the folks in the school system have been taught to be fearful, and are acting out of fear most days. Fearful of litigious parents. Fearful of being accused of abuse (particularly sexual). Fearful of being judged a “bad” teacher, simply due to standardized test results.

    When fear rules any system, that system weakens and eventually fails.

    How do we remove fear from the school system, restore bravery, and reward those who make a successful conversion?

    The corollary to the meta sense of your post is: How do you (Penelope) disabuse yourself of your fear of interacting with other people so that you may allow your gifted child to grow into the artist he may very well be?

  3. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Yes, let go of as much of your worry as you can, because you are doing the best you can to help develop their gifts. Do your best, and then relax and let yourself off the hook for all the other stuff that you can imagine that you maybe should also be doing…

    Of course, look into creative solutions like closer group lessons. But if you can’t manage a particular “solution” – then it isn’t really a solution. I certainly couldn’t drive my kids 2 hours each way on a regular basis (unless it was literally a matter of life and death, I suppose).

    I was given so much advice about what I HAD to do to help my kids develop their talents, and I ended up following only a tiny fraction of that advice. I took seriously what my kids said they wanted in the present and didn’t worry over-much about the future, and I took seriously the experience for the entire family, because commutes and schedules can impact everyone. Not only did things turn out fine, they turned out great – my kids did find passions and are achieving in those passions.

    Trust yourself and trust your kids. I believe it was John Holt who said that nothing could be simpler – and nothing could be more difficult!

  4. Dina
    Dina says:

    Yay…a homeschool section, too! Yes, one maybe good/maybe bad decision a day but a little more hope when it’s you making them and not someone else. This way we can make the need adjustments instead of trying to move an entire school to meet one child’s needs, eh?

  5. Gustavo
    Gustavo says:

    I think you shouldn’t define how good a parent you are by how closely your behavior aligns with other parents. You write about this all the time, people’s strengths and idiosyncrasies are varied. At a parent-child Cello camp, of course you’ll see mostly parents who make great Cello coaches; the rest have already quit, or never tried to begin with.

    But you’re still there, and as a result your kid gets to learn the Cello. You’re beating the odds already if you ask me.

    Re-define your parenting success by asking yourself, what are the really key things I’ve learned in this life, that I maybe know better or as well as anyone else? And then hold yourself to the highest standards when finding effective ways to transmit that wisdom to your kids. Evolution of the human race depends on your success there.

    But everything else? Cello practice? Don’t worry so much, overcoming those hurdles is part of your kid’s challenge and you have to accept that. Besides, like your good friend Tim Ferris might argue, many of the things those parents are doing probably don’t even fall under the subset of ‘things with the most impact’ anyway, since so much of our teaching customs are ritualistic in nature.

  6. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Gustavo – I love the idea of taking all the productivity stuff I know from my work life and applying it to my homseschooler life. I’m sure you’re right that there’s a lot of suzuki parenting stuff that I don’t even need to be doing. I just haven’t even looked at it that way to figure out which parts are which. Thanks for the fresh approach.

    Penelope

  7. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Group lessons are great, but don’t underestimate the sacrifice of driving for that length of time, not just for you but for your child. You do what’s best and only you know.

  8. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Hi Penelope,
    It’s great your son’s loving making music so much he chooses to practice on his own initiative! That right there is a sign he’s getting out of it just what Dr.Suzuki had in mind when he set up the method; a joyful sense of fulfillment from making music.
    I started studying cello in the Suzuki Method when I was 5, (and homeschooled) and ended up doing tertiary study at home (New Zealand), then abroad (London for a Masters’, Juilliard in NY for an Artist Diploma, Berlin to study with the Alban Berg Quartet) and have been a fulltime professional musician for the past decade.
    None of that would have happened if it weren’t for the social and personal enjoyment I found in making music from a very young age, which wasn’t solely dependent on how many group lessons I made it to!
    Part of that fun as a kid is knowing that the people around you enjoy the experience too, so I wouldn’t force yourself into epic journeys for group lessons if it’s essentially going to reduce your joy in the process and make it feel like a burden rather than an adventure.
    The ride-sharing is a good idea too. For a few years I was with a teacher who lived 2hrs away from my hometown and I used to travel for lessons with two other kids from different families whose parents took turns driving us up. One of us would have a lesson while the other two did school/homework, practiced or played with the teacher’s dog and generally goofed around in the garden until it was our turn. Yes, it took a fair chunk of time, but isn’t flexibility one of the joys of homeschooling? And all of us are still friends 25yrs later.
    How often was my Mum the one who took us? Who cares? I know she was proud of my progress and interested in and supportive of my development, that was all I needed to know. And I imagine having most of a day to herself at least once a month wouldn’t have been bad either.
    Sharing the transport can work wonders, but if it’s not going to stretch to group and lessons just relax and let him get the social playing fix at the camps instead.
    You aren’t turned on by the sitting-watching-taking notes aspect of the camps? No problem, find another aspect to get involved in while he’s in group that actually taps in to your special interests and abilities- that’s what your son will absorb from the process; a sense that you’re in “It” together, and a demonstration that everyone has their own special talents that can be turned to a positive common purpose. Don’t let anyone guilt you into feeling you have to do things a certain way!
    Let someone else check his bowhold.
    Maybe you’re the Mum who takes photos for the camp Facebook page or the Mum who holds the “Back from Camp” party/concert for friends and family when they get home.
    Most of all, realise that whatever you do you have already given him an awesome gift in introducing him to music in the first place- he’ll have that for the rest of his life.

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