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Music Lessons/Playing with Younger Children

Q: Our 6-year-old son has taken accordion lessons for almost nine months. He loved it at first, but his enthusiasm has recently waned. I now have to tell him it's time to practice, but when I do, he's cooperative. He's also started playing the piano on his own, even making up songs. His accordion teacher has recommended that we upgrade to a better instrument. Because his interest was falling off, we decided not to spend the money. However, when we told our son that we were thinking of switching him to piano lessons, he almost began to cry. He said he would like to continue accordion lessons and take piano as well. Should we stick to our plan, or should we buy the new accordion and inform him that he has to practice every day?

A: Your son is obviously musically talented. If he wants to take both accordion and piano, bully for him. Concerning the former, however, you've got it backwards. You need to tell him that BEFORE you will buy him a new accordion, you must see him practicing on his present accordion every day, without being told, for a month.

Q: Our son, a high school sophomore, continues to play with neighborhood kids that are still in elementary school despite us asking him to hang with kids more his age. We have offered to take him to his classmates' homes or invite them over, but he has declined. We worry about his maturity level. Are we wrong to be concerned and what, if anything, should we do?

A: This is certainly out of the ordinary, but in the absence of complaints from the parents of the younger kids, I am unable to use the word "inappropriate." If the younger kids' parents thought there was anything untoward going on, they'd surely have told him to not come back and/or told you. He's probably a nice, if somewhat immature kid who would be described as loving, sensitive, gentle, and so on. I can think of, and have certainly heard of more problematic things for kids this age to be doing. You might thank your lucky stars that your son's social immaturity is not expressing itself inappropriately, whether with younger or older kids. At this point in his life he is more comfortable with younger kids. As he gets older, I would predict that his social awkwardness around people his own age will gradually diminish and that he will begin to find peers that he can relate to. In the meantime, if this is your biggest worry, you have next to nothing to worry about.

From the "What'll They Think of Next?" Department: A recent issue of the journal of the California Teachers Association contains an article asserting that a "back to basics" curriculum isn't exciting for children, and that pressures to perform at proficiency level are creating behavior problems. In effect, CTA is saying that teachers should not be pressured to work, and students should not be pressured to learn. California residents should keep that in mind the next time a school bond referendum comes up for a vote. "Edu-babble" of this sort is all the explanation one needs for the fact that home-schooling is the fastest growing education option in America.

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