Getting Children to Practice Their Music || Part 5 in the Mothehood Series

{sibling music practice one afternoon}

Today I am going to address a frequently heard question I often get after concerts:  "How do you get your children to practice their music?" We also hear, "I wish my children were that talented".  Or someone will say, "Do your children  like to play music/practice?"

Let me begin with saying that I truly believe it is only the grace of God that enables our family to take our music on the road to encourage families and lead the lost to Him.  But we need to be prepared and willing so that God can use us.

Following are a few things that we have learned about music.
  • Sing together. Sing hymns, Scripture songs, and songs that will glorify the Lord.   Psalm 100:1-2 says,  "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing." Sing while rocking your baby.  Sit with your toddlers and young children and sing action songs, hymns, and more.  Children love to sing!  Singing with your children is a solid foundation for further education in music.
  • Listen to good music. Collect a selection of quality music that you can listen to in the house and in your vehicle.  For me, that means quiet instrumental music since we normally have an abundance of words and noise; we need the calming effect that classical music or some quiet piano or acoustic guitar cds, has on us all. :)  We do listen to other kinds of music but it is usually listened to with earbuds, in the car, or in an individual room of the house.  Take your family to concerts where they can see and hear good musicians perform.  Take your children up to meet them afterwards and talk to them about what all is involved with the group's music, how they started, etc. Invite the musicians to a meal at your house so you can ask them questions and learn from them.  This may mean getting out of your comfort zone!
  • When you know that your child is committed to playing a specific instrument, buy the best of that  instrument that you can afford.  It is a whole lot more enjoyable to play a good quality instrument than a cheaply made one.  Pray for God to provide.  Sacrifice in some other area of your life so you can invest more money in instruments.  
  • Pray for a good teacher.  When you find a teacher, make sure your child is committed to practicing on a regular basis.  At our house that means 5 days a week, except for short seasons here or there.  Before we traveled, we would take a few months off in the summer.  Now they play year round except for those times when we don't have the place or available time for practice.  Going to lessons without consistent practice is really a waste of money.  We found that practicing on a daily basis taught our children good character.  It also greatly improved their mastery of the instrument.  We have heard the argument that "We want our children to like playing music, so we aren't going to 'make them practice'."  Back when our older girls had their own studios and were teaching violin/piano, they would tell us about 2 kinds of students---those who practiced and those who didn't.  The average student who diligently practiced nearly always played better than the very gifted student who wasn't committed to practicing.  
  • Look for opportunities for your child to share his music.  When our children were quite young, I took them to the nursing home where they scratched out some violin tunes, played simple piano melodies, and sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "This Little Light of Mine" to the delighted residents.  Be willing to have your children play special music at church.  Take them to visit an elderly friend who will be blessed with their singing.  Sing at family devotions or around the dinner table.  
  • Be involved in your child's lessons and practices.  To keep everyone motivated, especially the younger children, do a music motivation chart for a month or two.  For example: the student earns points for 1. practice 2. learning a hymn by ear 3. practicing cheerfully 4. listening to the Suzuki cd (if using Suzuki method) 5. playing a duet with a sibling (2 violins, 1 violin & 1 piano, etc) 6. passing a song 7. bonus practice time.  The points can be used to "buy" items in a treasure box.  The box can be filled with a coffee shoppe or library date coupon, hair bows, sweet treats, a book, coupon for fun event like going to the park, etc.  Be creative!!  Make it possible for the child to earn a gift 1-2 times a week, if they are willing to work hard.  You don't want to make the goal unreasonable but you also want them to work a little harder than usual in order to win the prize.  
  • Love music and do it for the right reasons.  All of our music should be done to bring honor and glory to God.  The Lord tells us in John 12:32,"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
  • In conclusion, please know that none of our children are musical prodigies.  What you see on stage is the product of years and years and years of plain ole' hard work, sweat, and even tears. Over and over and over again, we hear parents/grandparents say things like "I wish my children were that talented!", or "My children don't like to practice!" or "My child lost interest in playing piano/guitar/violin." or "Do your children like to practice?"  Our response?  "We told our children to practice even when they didn't FEEL like practicing. Practice is a discipline, a choice, and a commitment. "  I remember more than one of our children announcing that he/she no longer wanted to play ___________.  I kindly informed them that I don't always feel like cooking meals for them (although I love it very much) but I do it anyways!  :) This was usually for a child who had  begged to play a certain instrument, had a year or two or three of lessons, etc, and had tired of practicing.  I then told them that "quitting" wasn't an option.  For piano, we had most of our children take lessons through the 4th level, at which point they could move on to a different instrument, if they wanted to.  Ask any musician-they will tell you that you need to practice whether or not you FEEL like doing it.  Parents need to give their children a standard of excellence.  Make it a priority.  At our house, music usually is done before playing, reading, or any type of media.  Our aim is to do it cheerfully, consistently, and to glorify God. 
Note: if you would like to hear a few more thoughts on how we "do music", you may enjoy reading Chelsy's post from awhile back,  Life as a Musician || Learning, Practicing, + Mastering an Instrument

"I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. 
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High."

-Psalm 9:1-2

-written by Becky


Family in Iowa || December Recap

December found us at home, running to and fro and trying to take full advantage of our last month in IOWA before leaving on our annual three month tour, the beginning of January. 
The month included field work, farm work, hotel work, company, parties, music practice, and much more! Here's a taste!

We got the month started off right with a big party celebrating Denver's seventeenth birthday!

His dinner of choice---grilled pork chops, garlic potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, and mom's famous salad, along with cake + homemade ice cream for dessert. Potatoes + sweet potatoes were from our garden, and pork chops from our hogs. Yes please.

Some brother has good taste in gifts. =)
Allison + Liz, on their weekly outing of errands, violin lessons, + sister mentoring time.
Then, we had the Live Animal Christmas Play happen. We always have lots of friends/family that come in for that, and often out-of-state company that stays afterwards. This year we had company from Canada, Mexico, and the USA. After the LACP is over it is kind of "crash time" for our family, so we all came home that night and enjoyed staying up late and relaxing  (and eating!) with friends.
Denver continues to work hard anywhere and everywhere to improve his various skills. The current challenge amongst him and several of his friends is to see who can stay upright, upside down, the longest. =)
Mitchell preparing to put away a load of hay.
Brother/sister coffee + checkers date. In a large family, one-on-one connecting still happens-it just takes a little more effort and scheduling when there are so many to go around. We always have wonderful times!
December means Christmas, and Christmas means gift baskets! We love giving gifts, and Allison + mom enjoyed doing gifts baskets + cooking projects for various employees and clients from Dad + the boys' businesses. Above, a few baskets ready for delivery!
Rebecca left these notes for the rest of us girls on Christmas morning. Bless her heart!
We older ones love singing in special music groups with the other young people in our singles' group at church. Here we were performing an acapella arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" for a Sunday night service.
December brought more moments like this one above, than I can count! After the Christmas play was over, we plunged into family music practice, preparing for our upcoming album.
Short road trips = reading + naps in the backseat for whoever isn't driving. =)

At it again...working on a peppy bluegrass number.
Carson, in his element. His hands are pretty much always stained with grease + oil. He loves it!
A few of us went one night and helped some friends of ours who were moving and working on their new house. Here we have a few happy brothers, hard at work.
And then we had Elizabeth's party around the middle of the month. Her birthday party is always such fun, because not only is her love language gifts, but she is also about the easiest person in the family to shop for because she loves SO MANY THINGS. 
Birthday dessert!
Gifts, wrappings, and laughter galore.
Happy girl! And now we have another teenager in the family! 
These girls got to visit and we had the greatest time in the world with them.
This girl (on the left) co-led the retreats in Mexico with Allison, last fall, and was Allison's right hand woman in planning/preparing/running the retreats. It was such a treat to have her visit us in Iowa for a week!
Good times. =)
Chilly winter day work projects at the hotel! We hire friends + family to work as much as possible!
Another highlight of the month was getting to babysit these three little gems 
while their parents were on a couple's getaway.
Snuggles, one in each arm.
Stories with all the extras...=)
Such fun times with babies in the house!
Love this!

Getting ready to do a new cd/new pictures and head out on tour means...drumroll...new outfits!

I spent a day on the town with my favorite co-stylists (Denver + Liz) selecting classy apparel for the band. We stopped for our weekly Costco run as well and grabbed lunch there. Costco pizza is the best...and Denver followed true Bontrager genes by figuring out that it was much cheaper to buy one whole pizza than two slices apiece. =)

                      Bags full of treasures like these made this shopper girl's heart happy. =)

Late night work projects with Carson and these friends

Oh, and did we mention music practice? =)

The last three weeks of December, we also were privileged to have a friend of ours in our home, while he was recovering from an injury he sustained during the Christmas play. Our schoolroom/library was turned into a little "patient room" for him, complete with pills, salves, and other special healing properties. =) It was a great experience to our family to be able to help a friend in need, in this way, and we were all very blessed by our time with him in our home.
We love our monthly get togethers with our extended Bontrager family!
Little cousin's paint party in the kitchen...

Double date with the parents and our pastor + pastor's wife
Some hunting days are more successful than others. On this one, Taylor got one deer....

...and Carson got two!
Not bad for a morning in the woods. =) 
A successful hunt means sausage + jerky are coming up next! 
Here we have Carson in the middle of the production.


"The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. 
All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. 
Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established."
Proverbs 16:1-3


Christmas Day Festivities 2016

Saturday evening (after our Christmas Eve Celebration) we set the tables again for round two-Christmas Day!
We had a full table, full couches, and a full island in the kitchen! Around thirty people crowded into our home to celebrate Christmas and it was wonderful.
Sister selfie before heading out the door for our Sunday morning Christmas service at our church!
We had an incredible service to start out the day and returned home to the smells of ham + turkey + all food Christmas!
Christmas decor
Pretty platter of pineapples, ready for chunky, juicy ham slices to be laid inside.
The Ham Carving Co.
The kitchen was all flurry as many people scurried around bringing out all kinds of delectable foods.
Part of the spread
We have found that buffet lines work best when we have such a large crowd in attendance.
Hungry guys, packing it away...
The lovely line up of desserts...
Our celebration continued into the evening. Most of the guests left but a few "hard core" stayed late for more fun. =) Here we have a group of us riveted to the classic "Ben Hur".

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, there was a rousing game of "how well do you know each other" going on with a very lively set of the rest of the people. =) Sorry, no pictures of that-but it was great fun!

Many memories were made, and it was definitely a beautiful Christmas Day 2016.

 "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, 
and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 
To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, 
even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ 
with all His saints."
1 Thessalonians 3:12+13