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Are you pursuing a Busy Badge?

Let’s take a little informal survey: when someone greets you and asks how you are, what do you say? I’ve recently been paying a lot of attention to the responses to this question, and have noticed a slightly disturbing trend. More often than not, the answer goes something like this: “Oh, I’m so busy!” Or, “We're just so busy this year!” Or, “Our kids’ schedules are just crazy – we’re always so busy!”

My husband and I raised three children, so I get it – we all want to expose our kids to a variety of activities, looking to find the one that will be their “thing.” It’s important that children have a chance to try out different instruments, sports, and other activities, both in and outside of school.

But sometimes I wonder, what is the price we pay when every day is overscheduled? What kind of message are we sending when we are constantly urging our kids to “hurry up and get in the car”? And, I suppose the biggest question might be, how are they supposed to get “good” at something if they are too busy to practice? Do we feel a nagging sense of guilt if every afternoon and evening isn’t filled with enriching, challenging activities for ourselves and our children? Do we even have a secret sense of pride in how busy we are? Are we unknowingly in pursuit of earning a “Busy Badge?”

One of the things that has changed the most over the many years I’ve been teaching is the difficulty in scheduling lessons. Some children have one or more activities scheduled every week day, followed by extra activities on the weekends. Pair this with busy parents who are involved in a variety of other pursuits, and you find a family that is constantly on the run. When do kids have time to do their homework, relax and play with friends, enjoy family time – and, practice the piano?

As parents, one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to achieve balance in life, and how to manage their time wisely. As a teacher, one of my biggest jobs is to help students know how to practice at home, how to use their practice time efficiently and effectively, and how to set reasonable practice goals. I ask my students to aim for a minimum of five practice days each week. Their practice time varies depending upon their level, anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, perhaps an hour for older students.

When a student tells me they didn’t have time to practice, I am pretty concerned. Is it possible that they were so busy that it was impossible to find even ten minutes each day to go to the piano? Even a little bit of practice is better than none at all. Could it be that maybe parents themselves are not aware that practice isn’t happening? Are they maybe too busy to listen?

I’ll be writing a number of blog posts beginning next month that focus on making the most of practice time at home, and how to maximize your investment in lessons. But, in the meantime, I hope you will take a few minutes to reflect on your schedule, and help your child learn to find some down time to relax, unwind, and enjoy making music.

And, put that Busy Badge in a drawer for awhile.

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