Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Extra-Curriculum Actitivities for Children

There must be activities or hobbies that we wanted to do when we were younger, but we could not do those activities because of our parents' financial constraints or simply the course place was non-existent or nowhere near home.

Our childhood dreams might become a dream that we want to 'channel' through our children. It is certainly not a bad thing to want something for our children, which we could not have ourselves as a child. However, would our dreams also be the dreams that our children dream about too? Or, would we be pushing them into doing something that is less than their 'favourite dream'.

Every parent must have an idea or two about the ideal activities for their children. 'Ideal', after putting financial budget, time, distance and, most importantly, the child's talent/interest into consideration. What if the 'ideal' activities in the parents' minds do not match the 'ideal' activities in the child's mind?

Parents must always remember, it is the CHILD's life we are building, not ours! Financial budget, time, distance, we can compromise. Child's talent and interest.. NO! Every child was born with their unique talents and interests, which can grow multiple times if nurtured properly.

If you are still not sure about which activities to introduce to your children, this post might give you an idea of how to choose the 'ideal' activities for your children.

My 9-year-old son, Ariq, always tapped in rhythm, with anything he was holding, a pair of pencils, chopsticks, or even his fingers. Even when he was just 3 years old, he already made simple but nice sequence with his tapping. He loved watching a drummer playing. He always asked us to stop whenever he saw a band was playing, at the mall, wedding receptions, and other places. When I asked him if he wanted to do a drum lesson, he agreed straight away, and he wouldn't stop asking me, when his drum lesson would start.

It was a struggle for me finding a suitable drum lesson for Ariq. First, because he was very young and most music courses that I knew only took students starting from 5 or 6 six years old. Until one day, when Ariq was 4.5 years old, I heard about a music course that accepted children starting from 4 years old. I went to the course place, and, YES! They said they actually accepted students as young as 3.5 years old, as long as the children is interested in learning and ready to do course sessions. They did one trial with Ariq and decided they could accept him. Ariq was so happy.

Ariq was very happy and excited, what about me? It was a totally different story..

I had a less than happy experience with my music lesson as a child. I started off loving the feeling of sitting on a piano bench, but then, it all changed.. At that time, the mostly favoured piano lesson was the Classic Piano. Most piano courses offered it and children who could play classic piano arrangements were highly respected.

The course I was enrolled in was quite strict. I wasn't allowed to touch the piano before I could read music partitures well. I had to do a lot of writing exercise, while watching other (older) students playing on the piano. I was only about 5 or 6 years old at that time. I was still learning to read and write alphabets at school, now I had to learn reading musical 'alphabets' too..

For a few years, it did not bother me, except the fact that my teacher kept reminding me that my progress was very slow and I was never on track for any scheduled exams!

When I was around 10 or 11 years old, some of my friends at school took the Pop Piano lesson, and they learned to play popular songs. At the same time, whenever there were family gatherings and people asked me to play the songs they loved, I always answered that I couldn't play the songs because I was learning Classic Piano, not Pop Piano.. That was when it started to bother me.. I had been doing the course for a few years, but people see me (and I started to see myself) as not being able to do anything yet! I didn't have any exam certifications, I never had any performance with my piano course.. and I certainly couldn't play any songs that I (and other people) liked!

I decided to ask my parents if I could change my piano course, but it turned out that the piano lesson that offered Pop Piano was quite far from my home.

My mum had pop songs piano book, but learning to play the songs by myself, on top of practicing the required songs from my course, turned out to be more challenging than fun.. I ended up torn inside and stopped liking playing the piano..

When I was 12, school exam was coming up. My mum asked me if I wanted to stop my piano lesson so that I could focus on my exam. I agreed right away. It felt like a great relief.. After exam, my mum tried to find a teacher for a private piano lesson for me, but, I had lost interest, since all the teachers were all more 'Classic' than 'Pop' ..

In Senior High School, a few of my friends who have been learning Pop Piano, kindly taught me the basic chords and some songs that I liked. I started to like piano again. I could also teach my friends how to read musical partitures, as learning Pop Piano, they read the chords more often in alphabet and numbers, not partitures. I felt quite happy about that.. Still, I never actually took a 'real' Pop Piano lesson until now, worried that it would burden me if I can't progress as fast as I expect to..

Anyway, back to Ariq and his drum lesson..

I obviously looked worried every time I took Ariq to his lesson, that the admin staff kept trying to reassure me that he was doing fine.

Ariq was always curious about the practice rooms for other instruments. He wanted to try the piano, guitar, violin, etc. I was worried that he might drop or break something by accident. The staff kept saying to me, "Don't worry, Mum.. Students are encouraged to try the musical instruments here.." .. Then, his drum teacher showed him how to play the other musical instruments, which made Ariq a very happy boy!

When we moved home, Ariq had to move his drum lesson to. I had to ask him to have a rest for about a year, trying to settle in with school and everything else. Once he felt settled enough, he started asking me to start his drum lesson again. So, I searched for a suitable one for him and found one near home.

After a few months practicing, Ariq's teacher told me that Ariq is progressing well, but considering he was still very young (he was only 7 years old) and has a very strong hearing (Ariq has 'audio-learning style' as a toddler), the teacher asked for my permission to teach Ariq the combinations and improvisations first, before moving on to the books. I remember how reading partitures were such a burden to me, and I agreed to Ariq's teacher's suggestion right away.

Ariq had no problem learning different types of beat combinations in short times. After one year of practicing, he was allowed to performed in his music school concert! WOW! Ariq was so happy.. and I was almost in tears, watching him perform..

I always think that a drummer is the best member of a band, that's why I love the fact that I have a son who plays the drum. Then, the challenge for me suddenly started when Ariq chose to play Metal and Punk songs..

I used to imagine Ariq playing nice rock, pop or jazz songs at home and lull everyone into calmness. However, Ariq had a completely different idea about the drum.. He started playing 'One' (Metallica), Chop Suey (System of A Down) and Toxic City (System of A Down)..  At first, I tried to persuade him to change his choices (and Ariq's drum teacher agreed with me to a certain level), but then, I realised, that these Metal and Punk songs really improved Ariq's drum playing skills. Playing this type of songs, he can switch his playing speed and rhythm without much difficulty.

I remember how I wanted to change from Classic Piano to Pop Music, and not being able to, had cost me my interest towards the piano. I don't want the same thing to happen to Ariq. I believe that as he grows, Ariq will go through different phases in his life again, and he will want to try different things again. Let time shape him so that he could be a great drummer in the future..

As Ariq's mum, all I can do is to support him in every way I can. As Ariq is more confident in practicing without much supervision anymore at home, I can choose to listen to him practicing from my room with my door closed (Ariq has a headset to cover his ear with), and give him my comments and advice after he finished practicing. I only sit next to the drum when he asks me to (when he wants to show me his new rhythm or wants me to record a video for his father to review later).

A few things that I learn from Ariq and his love for his drum playing are:
1. We can see children talents from their early ages, and we should look for activities that support their talents.
2. We should not give up in supporting our children activities, even when supporting them means that we have to face our fear and challenges.
3. We should keep good communication with the instructors and other staff in our children course place, to make sure that the course is delivered in the best interest of our children.

Have a nice day, Everyone :-)

by: Indri Hutapea