Noah has fairly decent note-reading skills but he will not access them while learning to play new piano pieces. Instead he will fumble around trying to learn a new piece by guessing at what he thinks the left hand ought to do while the right hand is playing a remembered melody. I'll wander by the piano and discover that he hasn't even got the book out ... it just never occurred to him to use it as a reference while trying to learn to play a new piece. He's learning tons about harmonization and composition and improvisation in the process, but what he's not learning (and what's annoying him to no end) is new pieces. And after a few seconds of trying to sound out an acceptable bass line and not getting it quite right, he's fed up. I don't know where he thinks the notes are going to come from... it's as if he expects them to materialize at his fingertips out of thin air. Pieces with patterns in them he can learn in about 5 minutes, even if the patterns are fairly complex. He learns easily by ear, but we (he, I and his teacher) all agree that the piano is where he ought to be learning note-reading, theory and transcription skills. His teacher has made an effort to build his confidence with pattern-based pieces, but the confidence doesn't carry him forward when he meets any sort of challenge. He's really at the stage now where he needs to make an effort to tackle things he can't learn in 5 minutes. Perfection paralysis.
His teacher has been very creative and flexible, but the bottom line is that he needs to be able to make a mistake and work through it, rather than leaving the piano for 3 days after eachwrong note.
I've written a few thoughts lately about Noah's piano paralysis, and it caused me to remember many of the creative and resourceful strategies I used when Erin was at the same stage. I realized that I hadn't given Noah the benefit of that kind of support. Sometimes because I'm a less neurotic and obsessive parent to my younger children they get the short end of the stick :-P. So last night we tried out some ideas I'd used with Erin. Amazingly enough, 18 hours later the Minuet he's been stuck on since April is now pretty much learned! This morning he's been jubilantly playing it over and over and clamouring to start the Bourrée that follows it.