On a whim, I suggested one evening that we sit down and write a "hate letter" to Etude. Here is what Erin dictated:
Dear EtudeAnd so we began work on Minuet 1. Within two weeks, there was good progress and we decided it was time to schedule a lesson with Grandma again. At that point I reminded Erin about her behaviour at her last lesson, and explained that it was because of this behaviour that we had gone without a lesson for so long. This appeared to really sink in.
I understand that you are an important piece. You are the first G major piece but I don't like you very much right now. Right now I'm a little frustrated with you. I promise I will come back to you sometime later, but right now I am planning to move ahead to Minuet 1 and leave you alone. I hope you will understand. Right now I think you are nasty and awful and bad and yucky and mean and a rascal too.
In the six weeks since that first lesson, Erin has done very well. We've only managed to squeeze in a couple of formal lessons, but she is working well with me at home. The posture troubles are beginning to improve a little. Minuet 1 was easily learned, without any difficulty with the G-major fingering and intonation. Soon she was teaching herself new repertoire: Minuet 2, Chorus (despite my requests to the contrary: it's a Book 2 piece she shouldn't yet be learning), and, most recently, a successful return to the once-hated Etude, which she has mastered in two days.
Most interestingly, her improvisation has continued, but has slipped into the keys of G-major and E-minor. She's had a successful performance as a "guest soloist" on a piano-teacher-friend's student recital. She played Allegro and Minuet 1 with confidence, pleasure and reasonable posture to boot!
This year Erin has learned very little in a tangible sense. She's mastered three or four pieces, a new fingering position and some new bowing patterns. Her posture skills have deteriorated a little. But she has become infinitely more comfortable with playing by ear, she now thinks of the violin, I believe, as something she does, not something I coddle her into doing. I have learned the importance of trusting her own sense of readiness. I have become more humble. I now know that I cannot motivate my own child, I can only create the conditions under which she might motivate herself. I have learned to honour her unconventional learning path. At least I hope I have learned these things. And I hope she has come to trust my commitment to honour her sense of readiness.Erin is five now, still playing on a sixteenth-sized violin. We will be attending a medium-sized highly reputable summer institute this summer, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her brother will be enrolled in an infant music class for under-threes, but he is already studiously playing Twinkle rhythms on A and E, asking for daily lessons, and showing signs of having learned tremendous amounts from his sister. I suspect I will be treading the pre-Twinkle path again soon!