Because I am the meanest mom in the world, I force my two younger kids to practice the violin every day. And I mean every day. They never get a day off, unless it is their lesson day or they are actually throwing up. If there is not enough time for both practicing and homework, practicing comes first.
I have absolutely no qualms about this. The kids think it is a normal part of life — they brush their teeth every day, too. Sure they complain sometimes, but they do it, and they are reaping all those awesome benefits of both brain and character development. It is also quite a challenge for me as a parent, since I practice with them. It is very hard sometimes, but soooo worth the effort.
Even so, there are days when “real” practicing just ain’t gonna happen — in other words, when Mama is fried. This is where dear Béla Bartók comes in to save the day. See, he wrote some violin duets. 44 of them, to be precise, written for children. Not only are they amazingly beautiful, but they are also amazingly educational. The separate parts are extremely simple (especially the beginning ones) but putting them together is challenging and gives lots of opportunity to practice chamber music skills. My kiddos have been working on them for a while, the first half dozen or so anyway. Since they each know both parts we can usually fill up a good half hour with them taking turns. It makes a nice change from the usual practice routine and involves no effort from me whatsoever. Yay, Bartók!!!