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Siblings close in age


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#1 zwhe

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Posted 25 September 2021 - 17:41

This summer I took on two very young children - despite his age the older one had already had lessons for over a year. They have now just started year 1 and reception. As the older one didn't seem to know much but had a good grasp of basic concepts, I started him on MFPA B, and the younger one with MFPA A. My issue is that the older one has not really made much progress, but the younger one has nearly finished her book. His concentration wanders, but she is able to listen and learn for the full half hour despite her age. At some point it will be obvious to them that she is much better/more interested than him, but I am not sure whether to just address it now and give her the next book or delay the inevitable and do something like tunes for 10 fingers instead.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Does using a different book really fool them into not noticing one has progressed further than the other - children aren't stupid?!


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 26 September 2021 - 06:50

They're not stupid so I would imagine they already know the younger is keener and practising more. So I would just progress as you would if they were unrelated. If the older one sees his sister catching up with him, it may spur him on. But if he is just uninterested it's probably better to find that out now. Even year 1 seems very young to me especially for boys who in my experience seem to be less ready at that age. When I first taught most teachers wouldn't let children start lessons till they were at least seven. Things have changed now because there is so much attractive material available for very young children but I still find most children don't really get going till they are around seven and those that start then cover the beginning books very quickly compared with 5 year olds. It sounds like your younger sibling is an exception to this but not the older one.
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#3 maggiemay

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Posted 26 September 2021 - 07:58

Yes - much that I agree with in LP’s post.  I wouldn’t feel justified in holding the younger one back - it could be doing her a big disservice. 

I still have colleagues that are reluctant to start children before 7 - although they are in the minority now.  

As long as she is forming solid understanding, I would let her forge ahead. 


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#4 HelenVJ

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Posted 26 September 2021 - 10:14

Tunes for 10 Fingers and MFPA are like chalk and cheese - entirely different approaches. TFTF keeps the thumbs sharing middle C until well into the second book, so unless the teacher has used plenty of supplementary material( rarely, in my experience), transfer students often arrive never having read in a different position, typically for 12-18 months, using only 9 notes. 
MFPA on the other hand starts with black keys and with the LH using different positions, so that the student reads the notes rather than associating a key with a finger. MFPA uses landmarks for bass clef reading with different fingers, moving to Bass C during the 2nd book. Intervallic reading is used rather than the individual letter approach in TFTF. Also MFPA has attractive duet accompaniments and CD backing tracks, while TFTF didn't ( the last time I looked) as well as complementary Writing Books ( not all that much writing, but plenty of excellent musicianship and technical activities). 
MFPA is far from perfect, and Piano Adventures even less so (although I still use it for supplemantary work) but it's a good starter book for ages 4-6. 

I currently have 2 siblings aged 18 months apart. I started them off at the same time using different materials ( Irina Mints Hello Piano! ) but then younger one moved into MFPA B and was romping through it, partly because he was playing mainly by ear, having heard his elder brother. The elder one is now using MFPA C along with supplementary books ( Little Monster Vol 2; Jane Sebba Piano Magic)  and the younger is using a mix of Irina Mints Vol2, Denes Agay, and Hal Leonard. The boys are now aged 6 and 7 and have 45 minute lessons with Mum sitting in. They don't compare their progress with each other, but if and when they decide to take an exam I will probably let the elder take Grade 1 first.
You could either let your elder student move into an alternative series when he finishes MFPA B, in which case the younger one will probably play most of his tunes at least partly by ear, or let the elder move into MFPA C and find an attractive alternative for the younger (preferably not TFTF for reasons above  :) ).


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#5 zwhe

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Posted 26 September 2021 - 14:56

I'm probably going to upset two groups of people here, but I've never found using TFTF or MFPA to be that different until you get to bass C, apart from the fingering (and I have no problem changing that in books!). I prefer MFPA because it introduces bass C and has duets, and I like PA 1 as it progresses slowly and steadily. Most parents never remove the CDs from the cover anyway. It is easy to teach reading by interval using TFTF and easy not to using MFPA - it is the teacher who has to teach it, not the book as young children don't read the instructions. I try to do a mixture of pitch, interval and finger numbers and always encourage them to work it out for themselves. I don't use the reading books much as I have a collection of flash cards and games that I prefer to use. 

The older one is nowhere near MFPA C - he's just done my favourite, Gallop Pony. I suspect the younger one will have sailed past him before christmas (don't worry - I have no intention of holding her back). 

There's been a big change in the last few years in the age of children wanting lessons round here. I used to have very few young children, with many beginning at secondary school. Now most of my beginners are in year 1. They do progress slower but I haven't yet found any who aren't ready to learn. Reception is a bit young though and I don't often take them at that age. I have another on trial at the moment who probably won't continue just yet. I've had several teenagers in the past where I've stopped lessons as they weren't interested in listening/practising but thought they would have the knowledge magically transferred to them by sitting next to me once a week so I'm not convinced its purely an age thing.

I think I will have a word with the mother and if she is happy, I will keep them both on the same books. 


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#6 Latin pianist

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Posted 26 September 2021 - 15:14

I like Tunes for ten fingers but no one would be on it for 18 months let alone 12. More Tunes for ten fingers logically teaches new notes and then it’s on to Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1. Works for me and my pupils. 


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#7 Aquarelle

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 22:06

I teach several large families of from seven to nine siblings.  Almost everything gets passed down the line – so that by the time number five or six comes along I have seen the same sets of clothes several times! So whether or not I change the book depends on how scruffy the current copy has become!! If I do decide to change it I sometimes, but not always, change to another series. I sometimes wonder how I would have felt about always getting hand-me-downs but these children seem very proud to have the book that an older brother or sister has used. It’s a sort of normal growing up process for them! I’ve only once had a couple of older brothers get annoyed because a younger sister overtook them.  I made it quite plain that I don’t compare pupils, that everyone is an individual and everyone is different. It took a bit of time to get the message over but it worked in the end. It even made one of the older brothers work harder.

 

There is an old fashioned but sound series "Step by Step" or sometimes the older version "Mini Steps to Music" by Edna Mae Burnham which I have found useful for supplementary material when two  young siblings are sharing the same book. Both the Lesson books and the Pieces to Play Books provide very short, imaginative pieces which young children like. The print is a bit on the small side and the pictures (black and white so I suggest they colour them)  are a bit quaint but the children seem to enjoy the pieces.


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#8 agricola

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 07:38

They're not stupid so I would imagine they already know the younger is keener and practising more. So I would just progress as you would if they were unrelated. If the older one sees his sister catching up with him, it may spur him on. But if he is just uninterested it's probably better to find that out now. Even year 1 seems very young to me especially for boys who in my experience seem to be less ready at that age. When I first taught most teachers wouldn't let children start lessons till they were at least seven. Things have changed now because there is so much attractive material available for very young children but I still find most children don't really get going till they are around seven and those that start then cover the beginning books very quickly compared with 5 year olds. It sounds like your younger sibling is an exception to this but not the older one.

 

I was one of those teachers who thirty odd years ago only took 7-year-olds.  Since then I have taken on children as young as four, but I have found the same thing as Latin Pianist -- that in many cases progress is very slow and it is better to wait until they are nearly six.  However, there is some advantage in starting young in that the habit of practising can be well established before school work gets too heavy.  I always have a free meeting now, (not a trial lesson) before taking on any young children so I can assess if the child is really ready to start. 

 

I have taught two sets of identical twins in the past where in both cases one progressed much faster than the other, but they didn't seem to be bothered by it, they just accepted that they had different levels of commitment.


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#9 Aquarelle

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Posted 30 September 2021 - 10:42

I think six is a good age to start. I have taken younger children but I am an infant/junior trained class teacher so have not had any problems - and I have only taken them if I felt them ready. In my case it's sometimes been an older sibling doing 45 minutes and mum wanting an hour to get some shopping done so could I take the next in line for 15 minutes? So I usually know the child in question befroe I start.  One thing I would like to say is that some 6 year olds may seem slow to learn and that I know some people like to take them on at seven plus. But I think we have to bear in mind that tiny childtren learn a lot through their bodies.I have also found that getting rhythm and melody and reaction to music into their bodies and minds forms a very firm foundation for later work and that those who have missed out on that often show signs of it later - a typical difficulty being in taking a long time to establish a regular pulse - or bering unable or reluctant to sing.

 

We used to be able to rely on schools and homes to provide the very earliest initation to music but this is mostly no longer the case. Sometimes there are local initiation/ nursery groups who can fill the gap  - but not always.  I quite like the challenge of having to do this and seeing the change form "playing around" on the keyboard to the first steps of playing.. Nothing like "My First Piano Adventure" to catch their interest and place music as part of their routine. but it does require a very different apporach from what can be done with older beginners. It never matters how slow it seems as long as the quality of what is happening in the learning process is good and appropriate.


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#10 Cyrilla

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Posted 30 September 2021 - 22:41

@Aquarelle ^^^THIS^^^

 

:wub:


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