Print this page
Friday, 18 October 2013 02:07

Finding the Time to Practice

“I didn’t have time to practice this week.”

When I started what was then Wayland Violin Studio back in 1997, I didn’t yet have children, and wasn't aware of how packed with activities kids' lives are these days. So the first time I heard that statement, I asked my student, “Well, what time do you get home from school?” and then “How much homework do you have, and what time do you go to bed?”-  naively expecting to lead the student gently to the realization that yes, endless free hours were available to fit in that little bit of practice!  

Well……you can guess how the rest of that conversation went. By the time I had heard about twice-weekly religious school, soccer practice at least twice a week with traveling games every weekend, and after-school math tutoring, I was wondering how this child managed to practice at all, in any week! 

But if you’re wondering the same thing – be reassured that there is hope, and a way to make everything (not just practice) seem much more manageable and less overwhelming. It’s the useful skill of time-chunking. 

If you can chunk your time and set up a workable plan, half the job is done. Once practice becomes a predictable and routine item like brushing your teeth and doing your homework, it tends to get done without complaint - or at least with less complaint! Yes, it takes a bit of planning - but that planning is an investment that can actually help your whole evening go more smoothly, not just the practice.  Here’s how to do it: 

First, make a table like this one with your child. I’ve done this one with 30 minute increments, but you could do it with 15 minute increments if that suits your situation better. 

 

Mon

Tues

Weds

Thurs

Fri

 

Sat

Sun

3:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To fill out the table, we’ll use an imaginary student named Joey. Joey is in 4th grade. His violin lesson is on Friday at 5.00. His teacher expects him to do about 30 minutes of practice, 5 – 6 times a week. Let’s see if that is practical.

On school days he gets home at 3:30pm, and his bedtime is 9pm. He has up to an hour a night of homework. He also has an after-school math tutor on Mondays and Fridays. 

On Monday and Wednesday he has soccer practice from 5:00-6:30, and on Thursday he has religious school from 3:30-5:00 (he goes there straight from school). He has dinner (which takes 30 minutes) at 7 on M and W, and at 6 on the other days.  

Probably your head is already spinning! But once we put all this in the chart, it’s much easier to wrap our minds around it: 

 

Mon

Tues

Weds

Thurs

Fri

 

Sat

Sun

3:30

 

 

 

Religious Ed

 

 

 

 

4:00

Tutor

 

 

Religious Ed

Tutor

 

 

 

4:30

 

 

 

Religious Ed

 

 

 

 

5:00

Soccer

 

Soccer

 

Violin lesson

 

 

 

5:30

Soccer

 

Soccer

 

 

 

 

 

6:00

Soccer

Dinner

Soccer

Dinner

Dinner

 

 

 

6:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7:00

Dinner

 

Dinner

 

 

 

 

 

7:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, how can we fit in his homework and his violin practice? Looking at the spaces that are left on the chart, here’s a plan that could work for Joey. 

Monday is his heaviest homework day, so he could take that as his day off from practice. On Tuesday, he could relax for an hour on arriving from school, do his homework before dinner, and then practice after dinner from 7:00-7:30. On Wednesday, he could do homework before soccer, and again practice after dinner - or the reverse if he prefers. On Thursday, he could practice between religious school and dinner, doing homework after dinner. And on Saturday and Sunday, it should be easier to fit in 30 minutes of violin.

Now Joey’s schedule looks like this: 

 

Mon

Tues

Weds

Thurs

Fri

 

Sat

Sun

3:30

 

 

 

Religious Ed

 

 

Practice

Practice

4:00

Tutor

 

Homework

Religious Ed

Tutor

 

(flexible

time)

4:30

 

 

Homework

Religious Ed

 

 

 

 

5:00

Soccer

Homework

Soccer

 

Violin lesson

 

Home…..

(flexible

…work

time)

5:30

Soccer

Homework

Soccer

Practice

 

 

 

 

6:00

Soccer

Dinner

Soccer

Dinner

Dinner

 

 

 

6:30

 

Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

7:00

Dinner

 

Dinner

Homework

 

 

 

 

7:30

 

 

Practice

Homework

 

 

 

 

8:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There we go: 5 practice sessions of 30 minutes accounted for, and he will be making excellent progress! Also – and this is very important – he still has some downtime every day when he can play or just vegetate. 

It’s important to involve your child in this planning process, and to allow some choices. The more input s/he has, the more investment s/he will feel. Perhaps you feel that homework should always be done first, but if your child argues for doing practice first on some days, consider giving it a try and seeing how it works out. Learning this skill of time-chunking, and following through on it, can be a very empowering experience for your child.

What's more, getting good at time-chunking will not only help your child to feel more in control of his or her time right now. It’s also a valuable life skill that kids can use to manage the increasing responsibilities that come their way as they move on through school and college, and into adult life.

 

Enjoyed this post? Please consider emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Facebook!