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Topic Options
#2048708 - 03/15/13 01:03 PM Parents as teachers???
MrsLois Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/12
Posts: 75
Loc: Manitoba, Canada
I've noticed lately that there seems to be a number of posts beginning with 'I am teaching my son/daughter piano...'. I am just curious as to why a growing number of parents seem to be home-teaching their children the basics of piano, instead of taking them to an external teacher. I am sure there are a variety of reasons, but I've noticed that there is always a concern for something that is seen to be developmentally 'questionable', and then posting on here to receive advice.

I am sorry to have to be the one to post this on the forum, but it is everything I can do to not say 'Go hire a piano teacher!' I am sure for some children it works wonderfully having mom/dad teach them the 'basics', but bear in mind that piano teachers have experience TEACHING, and may be able to make things easier for beginning piano student, as these basics are laying the foundation for the rest of their piano playing days...

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#2048710 - 03/15/13 01:17 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3876
Loc: Virginia, USA
When my daughter was in elementary school, she brought me a cartoon where the text went "Why you shouldn't ask your engineer Dad to help with your math homework" next panel "because you get a three hour lecture on set theory" and she said, "Daddy, this is you!"

I would never have attempted to teach my own kids. Answer the occasional question, check that they practice, maybe once in a great while make a suggestion, but never teach. My kids put tolerate a lot more from a teacher than they ever would from me.
gotta go practice

#2048717 - 03/15/13 01:50 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Nikolas Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 6491
Loc: UK

I teach both my kids now:

1. I'm a piano teacher, a musician, a composer, etc... and probably a better teacher than most in the area where I live.
2. I cost nothing to myself!
3. right now my kids love the lessons with me and pretty much are begging me to have more lessons...

The one thing that I keep saying to myself is that the minute there's any kind of clash or problem between me and the kids they'll get to go to another teacher... That's all. Otherwise right now there's no problem.

#2048722 - 03/15/13 02:05 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
With homes costing a millions dollars easily in many parts of Canada and vehicles costing 50 thousand, it is difficult to believe that anybody could afford to stay home. Both parents have to help to pay the mortgage.

Well, not all parents are good parents and not all piano teachers are good piano teachers, but generally, the relationship of a child to a parent is a difficult one. There is an old expression. Enjoy your children while they are still on your side!

You have to appreciate that some parents live and raise a family in remote locations and so there aren't piano teachers around the corner. Additionally, some people because of religion raise their children at home away from sin, so they kids are closer to God.

#2048844 - 03/15/13 07:30 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014

Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1393
Loc: Cameron Park, California
The way I see it as an adult student is that it's 50% experience as a musician (gotta know what to teach, right?) and 50% experience as a teacher (preferably with others similar to yourself). Even if you have the first part, without the second, you're left with an F.
"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."

#2048920 - 03/15/13 11:21 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1685
Loc: California, USA
Most professional teachers I know send their children to another teacher if they are going to seriously study music.

However I've also met some that have made it work brilliantly. I think it can strain the relationship, however.

A non-professional/non musically skilled parent trying to "teach" their child music is a completely different issue. It's basically just an activity at that point. Like fingerpainting or drawing chalk art on the sidewalk.
Pianist and Piano Teacher

#2049228 - 03/16/13 05:00 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Meilen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Switzerland
I teach my daughter (age 8) and at the moment it works very well. But the minute it stops working I'll send her to another teacher.

The trick for us is that we both pretend I am not her mother. She goes out the door, rings the doorbell, and then I welcome her just like I do all my other students. It's amazing how this helps us both to focus on the lesson. But it does take a lot of effort to keep the right balance of mother/teacher.

But I absolutely agree that if you are not an experienced teacher then you shouldn't even try it. I know for sure that I would not be able to teach my daughter if I wasn't able to slip into 'teacher mode'. She has grown up seeing a stream of students come through the door, and she was the one who asked me if I would be her teacher. So far so good...

I also find it very useful having her as one of my students, as it gives me great insight into how my other students of a similar age/level approach practice, performing etc. Even with all my years experience, it's a real eye-opener to be both the parent and the teacher.

I should add that our situation is a bit different, too, as we live in Switzerland. My daughter therefore does all her schooling and all other activities in either Swiss German or High German. Piano is the only activity she does in English. When she does eventually move to another teacher, it will be interesting to see how the switch goes, considering there will be language implications (terminology etc), too.
Teaching piano in English in Switzerland!

#2049287 - 03/16/13 07:01 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: Meilen]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6161
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Meilen
The trick for us is that we both pretend I am not her mother. She goes out the door, rings the doorbell, and then I welcome her just like I do all my other students.
haha - yes, I did this with my son. smile
Generally I'm in two minds about teaching one's own children. I've seen it work and not work with musicians I know, and my own results can be described as mixed. On the other hand, my father was my teacher for the first seven years and I'm immensely grateful for the grounding I received through his rather laid-back and unorthodox style. smile
Du holde Kunst...

#2049626 - 03/17/13 11:49 AM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1313
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
I am a grandfather teaching my 5 and 6 year old Granddaughters the basics. They asked me to after listening to me and me teaching them 'Chopsticks' and 'Heart and Soul' duet.

The only teachers close enough to consider at this point in our area are just people who play the piano and are trying to make a few bucks. Not trained experienced teachers.

I had very good teachers when I was a kid (I started at 10) so I fully understand the value of a good teacher. There are also a few other issues including finances that I won't go into here.

However, I am being VERY careful to make sure they are starting correctly. Posture, position, hand shape and position, music appreciation, rhythm practice, reading notes etc.

I want them to have teachers at some point but for now this is working out fine.

I have the parents drop them off separately at my house just for 'piano lessons', their parents are making certain they practice at specific times etc.

I would rather they have formal lessons but this is working for now and they are a delight to teach and we LOVE having them around.

With the proper attention I think it can work out.

Edited by Roger Ransom (03/17/13 11:50 AM)
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Yamaha G7 - Roland FP7 - Roland FP80

#2049651 - 03/17/13 12:40 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 559
An analogy is to ask why parents homeschool their kids instead of sending them to professional teachers. There are many, many reasons. Some parents and kids have very good relationships and it works out beautifully for the parents to teach the kids. Some parents are experts in certain areas and develop good teaching skills easily. Some parents may not be so good at teaching but can't find teachers better than them anyways. Some don't hire a teacher for financial reasons or transportation reasons...

I teach my kids a lot both in math and in foreign languages, and my kids always think that I teach them much better than their teachers.

But some parents really shouldn't teach their kids, and it's a pity that they don't realize it. But of course some teachers really shouldn't be teaching anyone, either.

The bottomline is that it probably needs to be examined case by case, because the circumstancesa are so different for each family, and a piano teacher can also be very different from another piano teacher (in terms of competency).

#2049656 - 03/17/13 12:53 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
prenex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 256
Loc: Minnesota
I can't coach or teach mine. I can't get beyond my own biases about learning and I can't figure out how he learns.

But I try, and he figures me out eventually, and still does his own thing.

Where's that parent manual again?

#2049661 - 03/17/13 12:59 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 559
Originally Posted By: MrsLois
but I've noticed that there is always a concern for something that is seen to be developmentally 'questionable', and then posting on here to receive advice.

Parents who teach their kids and don't have concerns won't come here to post questions. So what we see here is biased sampling.

#2049706 - 03/17/13 01:59 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Joyce_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/02
Posts: 194
Loc: Chicago
mmm. I think sometimes it'll work out. Like Leopold Mozart, Bela Bartok. Who knows how many more. There are actually quite a few fine pianists out there who are also quite good at teaching. Give the parents a break. Perhaps they are looking to see if it makes sense to pursue lessons. I, myself, started teaching because I was instructing my son and he would play at his friends houses and before long, they were demanding that I teach their kids as well. 15 years later and many award winning students - here I am. Still teaching. All started from teaching my son.

#2049869 - 03/17/13 07:11 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: Joyce_dup1]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Joyce_dup1
mmm. I think sometimes it'll work out. Like Leopold Mozart

Of course, L. Mozart was a teacher - a master teacher at that. He taught at the University in Augsburg as well as privately. He was also a published music author of the highest level. His book on violin technique is regarded or rather was regarded as the best resource for decades, if not a century or more. He knew his subject well, and of course, if the chemistry worked, he'd be an excellent teacher for Wolfgang and Nannerl.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#2050599 - 03/19/13 01:52 AM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
jampff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/16/13
Posts: 8
Here's my two cents:

I teach several children of accomplished pianists. One of the mothers has a bachelor's in music education. I hear from them very often that their kids DO NOT cooperate with them when they try to help them at the piano. They have given up trying to teach their own kids. If your kids love you as a teacher, consider yourself blessed! In my experience, it's not common...
Piano teacher & church musician
"I'm not the best piano teacher. I'm the best piano teacher I can be right now."

#2050683 - 03/19/13 07:53 AM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: MrsLois]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
Parents teach third kids so many things. I don't see anything wrong with a parent giving their child some piano basics before lessons with an outside teacher (unless they are a music teacher, then it can continue.).

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians

#2050820 - 03/19/13 12:58 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: childofparadise2002]
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 7028
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: childofparadise2002
But some parents really shouldn't teach their kids, and it's a pity that they don't realize it. But of course some teachers really shouldn't be teaching anyone, either.

True. However, in my experience, many parents try to teach their kids extra stuff, or push them ahead in the book, or teach their kids the way they learned piano 30 years ago (or how they remember they were taught piano). It really bothers me that these parents hired me, yet constantly do things to undermine my teaching. I'd rather have them do nothing than to keep on meddling.

Right now I'm teaching a couple of kids who--at one time or another--were taught by their parents. All of them have gigantic holes in their piano education. One is quitting lessons due to frustration and the inability to keep up.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#2050899 - 03/19/13 02:59 PM Re: Parents as teachers??? [Re: Stanny]
PianoByTheSea Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 2
I have been teaching my son, now age 11, to play piano for the past 2 years. Before that, we played the Yamaha fife (a flute-like starter instrument) for a year. It is going quite well and we really have a lot of fun.

I am not a musician; I took piano lessons for about 9 years and played flute and trumpet for about 8 years in school jazz and concert band. My musical training is a strong enough base to get a kid started for a few years.

We didn't want yet another weekly commitment outside the home. My family prefers a lifestyle that has fewer scheduled activities. We had an early and short experience with a professional pianist/teacher who had a really negative impact on my son's interest in piano- I knew I could do much better.

I use Piano Adventures as the foundation, and supplement with other methods/materials. Since I grew up with piano on the John Thompson series, I am delighted with the variety we have available. We play a lot of duets so that my son can learn to play with others (he didn't want to participate in middle school band).

We've had a thing or two to work through. My kid went through a phase when he expected to be able to sightread new pieces with ease and perfection. He would sit at the piano with tears brimming in his eyes during practice time. We had a couple of discussions about expectations- I did some truly awful demos, sightreading pieces that were new to me and above my skill level. We laughed at my mistakes and terrible playing, which eased the stress for him and helped him understand that there is a learning process and learning curve. Once in a while, we review methods of practice and of learning a new piece- looking at the music first, hands apart/hands together, playing slowly at first, practicing difficult sections/measures/transitions separately.

When my son nears the limit of my abilities, we already have a creative, talented teacher identified.


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