A couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that Fiona was doing an awful lot of violin practicing. She has three pieces she's polishing for the music festival (where she's registered in the Junior Recital Group, meaning she's in the same under-14 class as Erin ... which is funny and sweet, but doesn't matter in the slightest as it's a non-competitive festival). She has an ensemble piece she's learning and memorizing. And two Book 2 pieces still in the polishing phase, and her two recently-learned Book 3 pieces. And her sight-reading work, plus early shifting and vibrato exercises. And scales. And supposedly some review in there too. Her practicing was taking a good 45 - 60 minutes -- with lots of giggles and hugs mixed in, but the better part of an hour nonetheless.
So much of this is goal-oriented work -- aiming to master new skills, to move ahead in the reading book, to polish old pieces to a higher level of mastery for specific performances. If a lot of it was just review and delight-driven playing, that would have been fine. But this was hard work she was doing the whole time. I just couldn't shake it out of my head that this simply must be too much for such a little tyke.
We talked about ways to nip and tuck on her practicing. We cut back on technique work and have put reading almost on hold, and have begun an alternating rota with her most recent pieces so that she doesn't need to work on them all every day. We can get everything done in only 30-40 minutes now, and she's doing more playing through and less picky detail work. I feel better about the balance we're achieving. Another idea we talked about is having two shorter practices a day. This is something I'd find hard to pull off, organizationally speaking, but maybe we'll try it at some point.
Oddly she doesn't seem to care whether we spend 30 minutes or 75 minutes at the practicing. She really cherishes the one-on-one time she gets with me and practicing is just part of that. Now that we're doing less, she's determined that we should spend the surplus time working on piano. I've suggested that this should wait until next fall when she'll likely start lessons, but she is intrigued by the prospect of figuring out note-reading on the piano, now that it's working well for her on violin. So she managed to drag me to the piano this afternoon.