Sunday, July 24, 2011

Teaching in Students’ Homes

As the summer begins to wind down, I find myself finalizing plans for a new year in my piano studio. With the decision to move to a new location comes lots of excitement as new students are preparing to begin learning about piano playing. My former students are just beginning to contact me about their future plans. One option that is available to them is the possibility of continuing lessons in their homes. When I initially made the offer to these students, I honestly didn't expect that any of them would opt for that. I am happy to say that I have a student who plans to continue studying with me and I will teach her in her home. I feel perfectly comfortable with this family so I am not terribly worried about the process. However, now that I realize this is a valid option for many students, I have begun to consider the pros and cons of teaching private lessons in student homes.
Here are the positive aspects
that I have come up with so far.
  • Stable schedule.
    If a cancellation is going to occur, there is a greater responsibility on the family to notify me so I don't arrive unexpectedly.
  • Fewer cases of forgotten music.
    Although they may not be able to place their hands on the music immediately, there will be fewer opportunities for losing music by transporting it from piano to car to studio.
  • Community awareness.
    I anticipate other families noticing that I am visiting at the same time each week and associating my presence with the sounds (hopefully pleasant) coming from the house. It's just another opportunity to publicize my studio and possibly secure additional lessons.
  • Teaching on the home instrument.
    Students sometimes have difficulty transferring the concepts learned in the studio to their home practice environment. By teaching in the home environment, I anticipate that we can establish some routine to follow for the remainder of the week that we have demonstrated in the lesson.
  • Parental presence.
    Parents are always welcome in my studio (as long as they are not distracting to the lesson), but few of them actually take the opportunity to observe. Teaching in the home creates a greater likelihood that the parent may be working in a nearby room, hearing the comments and instructions given to the student. This scenario offers increased inquiry from the parents about assignments and progress. It also insures that I will have solid face time with parents each week; no more drop offs of a student without at least seeing the adult.
  • Increased pay.
    Let's face it – earning a higher rate for the lesson is one of the primary reasons any of us would consider teaching in the home. Parents are aware of the cost of gas and are willing to pay an additional fee since they do not have to travel. Additionally, they are thankful that you are fitting their home into your busy schedule.
There are a few negatives
that are a bit of a concern to me.
  • No control of the learning environment.
    Since I will be teaching in a student's home, I will have little sway over the established environment of the home. Will the television be blaring in the next room? Will an older sibling be listening to an ear-piercing CD upstairs? There are additional concerns as well including traffic in the area, pets, and lighting.
  • Quality of the instrument.
    It has been my experience that many parents of beginning students give significant consideration to the financial cost of an instrument with less emphasis placed on its quality. While I understand that some families are doing the best they can to simply have an instrument at all and pay for weekly lessons, a student can be significantly hampered if they never have the opportunity to play on an instrument of the highest quality.
  • Use of technology and manipulatives.
    I am looking forward to adding computer-aided learning to my bag of tricks this year in my studio as well as recording students' lessons for their personal reference. In-home students will miss the benefits of these lesson aspects since I won't be packing up all the equipment to carry in for a single lesson.
  • Student isolation.
    There is simply something to be said for watching students leaving the studio before your lesson time. It was always a thrill to me to catch the last few minutes of the lesson prior to mine and to compare myself to their performance. It's also a great way to be introduced to new repertoire. In the home, the student will miss out on that sense of camaraderie and community generated by being in the studio. I will attempt to alleviate the isolation by making personal invitations to participate in group classes and outings throughout the year.
Do you teach students in their homes? What bullet points would you add to my lists? Tell me about your experiences as well as the positives and negatives you see in the comment section below.