My son Toby started taking piano lessons a few months ago. He's 6 years old and we have seen him start to really show an interest in music this year. We'll probably start Isaac with violin any day now and then I'll have two guinea pigs. Despite being the younger brother, Isaac's a very persistent 3 (almost 4) year old and reminds us often that he has wanted to start lessons "since he was a little boy".

I have been looking forward to starting them for some very selfish reasons. As a teacher, a large part of my job is helping parents and students find ways to make practice a habit at home. What better way to improve my teaching than to experience the daily task first-hand?

In my studio I've seen most families have a honeymoon period with their new instrument, lasting anywhere between 6 to 18 months. With Toby, we are definitely in the honeymoon period. He loves practicing so far. His challenges involve focusing on the task in front of him. He is only good for maybe 20 minutes in a row, so I've been trying to fit one or two of those in a day rather than trying to force him to sit longer. This helps us both keep it productive & engaging.

Through Toby, I've been confirming my belief that more practice sessions per week begets more enjoyment of the instrument. This in turn makes him more likely to practice. Kind of a no-brainer, but still it's nice to have your own kids confirm your methods. The more interesting revelation, though, is that I've also confirmed that this is an impossible concept to transmit to him by anything but his own direct experience. In other words, telling him over and over that he'll like it more the more he puts in regular practice time will not actually help him "get it". We do use a written practice log and lots of stickers. We choose rewards together, and I try to sprinkle them throughout the practice rather than having them be a reward for completing it. We have already had him "perform" several songs for friends, grandparents and babysitters and he is particularly proud when they affirm all his hard work. We've looked for ways to show him other children playing the instrument either online or in person.

One small note about that practice log. At this point, it's at least as much for me as it is for him. If I don't have it in my schedule, in writing, it is very easy for all those little interruptions that make up life to put it right out of my mind.

Toby is still at the very beginning of his studies but he doesn't really register that fact. He looks at piano like all of the subjects he's working on. His job is to focus and improve. My job is to help him learn how to do that job.