Our girls' school has a music programme that allows every child in Grade 3 (aged 7-9) to try a musical instrument for free for 6 months.
They can choose between a violin, viola and cello. The school lends them the instrument and provides lessons once a week for this time.
Our eldest participated in this programme when she was in Grade 3, and now our younger daughter has a violin and is practising each week.
For both girls there was an initial excitement of something new, and the violin came out of it's case at every available opportunity, but the interest waned very quickly for our elder daughter. I must admit to not pushing her to continue to practice, once she lost interest, it was all too easy to just let the violin sit there and focus on things she was interested in. In hindsight, I wish I had encouraged her to continue to practice regularly, at least for the 6 months she had the opportunity to learn the violin. Learning new things is never easy - and does require a certain amount of determination to get past the initial stage of not knowing or being able to do anything!
Our younger daughter is still practising each day she remembers, and we are now into week 4, so she is sticking at it quite well. I want to encourage her to continue this throughout the 6 months and so let her see what is possible to learn with a musical instrument in that time.
Do our interests as parents influence our kids' interests?
Neither Euan nor I play a musical instrument so we cannot lead by example in this case. This got me thinking about how much our interests as parents influence what our kids do. Both Euan and I go running, and enjoy keeping fit. We spend a lot of time encouraging our girls in their various sporting endeavours. We have encouraged them to participate in active events, and try out several different sports. Both girls are now quite involved in sports and I wonder how much of that is due to our influence?
In so far as music goes. We listen to lots of music, we have a karaoke machine at home and enjoy having fun singing with that sometimes with family and friends. When the girls were very young, I took them to some music fun classes, and then continued using music and games in our activities in our mother's group get togethers each week. The girls also got various musical instruments for Birthday and Christmas presents over the years - recorders, harmonicas, tambourines, drums etc.
Both girls sing in the school choir and play the recorder as part of their regular class music lessons.
So as you can see - I think that they have had a fair amount of musical education in their lives. However, neither has shown a particularly strong interest in learning an instrument. This 6 month opportunity to learn the violin is a great opportunity to bring out and encourage any interest they may find they have when they actually try something new. I must make the effort to encourage our daughter to practice - and so she can see her own progress over the weeks and months and she can make an informed decision as to whether or not it is something she wants to continue to pursue.
Learning life skills
It is not necessarily just a matter of whether or not kids are interested in playing the violin - but there is also the commitment they have made to learning the violin for 6 months. If the girls join a sporting team or club, we have stressed the importance of sticking with it over the whole season and seeing out their commitment, even if they find early on that it may not be something they want to continue long term. When they were asked if they wanted to try learning the violin and they said yes - this should be the start of their commitment to give it a proper try for the full time period it is available. It is teaching them to stick at something even when it gets hard. It is teaching them the benefits and rewards of practice and giving them a boost in self confidence, showing them what they can learn when they put their mind to it.
Kids need to have the opportunity to experience lots of different activities and a wide variety of things to help them find what interests and excites them. To discover what they have an aptitude for and an interest in themselves. Of course as parents we are likely to provide our kids with opportunities to experience things that we ourselves enjoy, but it is also important to help them to experience things that we perhaps don't like or have no interest in. School, friends and clubs provide endless opportunities like this. I believe it's important to take advantage of every opportunity we can to give our kids the best possible start in life and open as many doors as possible for them to see the possibilities.
Do you encourage your kids to try everything? Or can you see that you encourage them more in things that you have a personal interest in?