Ice skating: Suzuki books as metaphor

Most Sundays this winter, we’ve gone ice skating at a local high school’s hockey rink. M has gotten pretty good at skating forwards, but she hasn’t been interested in trying to skate backwards.

But today, she decided — with no prompting — to try it. As I was cheering her on and admiring how well she was skating backwards, she said: “I’m doing Book 2 skating!”

As a Suzuki parent, I loved this: M is organically taking on the identity of a Suzuki student.

Now, this didn’t come out of nowhere: I’ve used Suzuki books as metaphors in other areas (swimming and handwriting come to mind) and described certain skills as “Book 2” or “Book 3” skills. I’ve done so quite deliberately, to try to naturalize the idea that M is a Suzuki student — to make it a background fact, beyond dispute. And today, the metaphor came from M, not me.

I should note that although I use the books as metaphors for levels of skill, we are not trying to race through them. In fact, we probably move more slowly than most similarly situated families would, because I spend much of our home-practice time on review and on exercises from group class, rather than on M’s newest piece in the repertoire.

Every time I see a kid with worse technique play a song further ahead in the repertoire, I try to remind myself that our approach makes the most sense in the long run. (And it is the approach Suzuki himself advocated.)

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