How to Get Children to Practice
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How to Get Children to Practice
In summer, it falls to parents to keep budding musicians at the piano as routine and classes take a break
The End of
Ink Cartridges
For Printers,
At Last
Krista Forsgren encourages jam sessions to
help sons Ari, 10, keep up with piano and
Na’im, 13, practice violin. Na’im plays guitar,
right, while Ari and their sister, Mae, 3, are on
drums. Na’im plays violin while mom plays
piano, below. A basket in their Decatur, Ga.,
home holds instruments, above.
Tips to K
Keep a Y
Young M
Practicing in Summer
✦ Set a practice routine, but don’t go all or nothing.
Moderation is key.
✦ Create one bite-sized, realistic task every day.
Ma it like a game, such as learn to play the first eight
measures, or learn to play them while reciting the
✦ Put serious music aside for a little while. Download
pop songs, or whatever kind of music your child likes to
listen to. In summer, the only bad practice is no practice.
✦ If your child hasn’t practiced in a few weeks, 30
minutes may be too much the first day back. Set a timer
fo seven minutes.
✦ Play favorite pieces learned during the school year,
but add another element. Make up a dramatic story to
go with the music.
✦ The practice session should end when the task is
accomplished, not after a certain period of time.
Ari Ahdieh, a 10-year-old who lives in Decatur, Ga., understands the fundamental unfairness
of summer, his mother says.
“Ari says, ‘I don’t have homework, but I still
have to do piano,’ ” says Krista Forsgren, an educational consultant. So in the summer, Ms. Forsgren encourages Ari to play along with his 13year-old brother, Na’im, who plays the violin and
is teaching himself the ukulele.
Recently, Ari was playing a bluegrass tune on
the piano, when Na’im picked up the ukulele and
attempted to decipher the chords. A 15-minute
jam session followed—a small victory, Ms. Forsgren says.
“It was hilarious and ridiculous,” she says.
“His brother let him, which is awesome. That’s
what I want for my kids.”
With summer in full swing and school-year
routines a distant memory, it’s easy for music
students to let practicing fall by the wayside.
Music camps are a great way for children to immerse themselves in music, but few last all summer and many children don’t attend until they
are older.
Unless a child is lucky enough to have a private teacher who offers lessons in summer, it’s
up to parents to enforce or entice a budding musician to stay in shape musically and keep practicing.
The first problem, according to pianist and
teacher Philip Johnston, is that dreaded p-word.
It’s too nebulous, he says.
“We send students home and tell them to
practice,” he says. “That verb is somehow supposed to cover it.” But unless someone teaches
them, young children don’t really understand
what it means or how to do it.
Practicing lacks the defined steps and pathways of many videogames, Mr. Johnston says. In
videogames, “you’re given instructions: Collect
10 of these mushrooms, or kill 10 monsters.”
Mr. Johnston, who lives in Canberra, Austra-
lia, has devoted 20 years to writing about practicing. He is the author of a 300-plus page book,
published in 2007, “Practiceopedia: The Music
Student’s Illustrated Guide to Practicing.” Now
he is focused on an approach he calls “gamification,” or applying the principles found in games
to the daily practice routine.
In summer, parents can turn practicing into a
game-like quest, he says, identifying the equivalent of mushrooms or monsters by creating bitesized, realistic, clearly defined tasks every day.
On Monday, a child practices until she can
play a certain passage without mistakes. On
Tuesday, she has to be able to play the passage
while reciting the alphabet. And on Wednesday,
she performs the passage in a video created for a
The practice session ends not after a certain
number of minutes, but rather when the task is
For Meg Romano, who works in the banking
Please see PRACTICE page D2
It was after midnight, and I was
facing a ticking-clock real estate
transaction. All I had to do was print
15 pages of black-and-white contract,
sign it and fax it back. Only halfway
through, my printer ran out of ink—
magenta ink! Thus began a chain reaction culminating in my nearly
throwing the printer out the window.
I ended up at Kinko’s.
We all have a printer story. They
run out of ink at the worst possible
time, or worse, nag us about running
low on ink when there’s plenty left.
So how much would you pay for a
printer that doesn’t run out?
Epson, the maker of my nightmare
printer, has finally put an end to the
horror of ink cartridges, at least for
people willing to
throw cash at the
problem up front.
The five new EcoTank series printers
look like normal
TECHNOLOGY models, only they
have containers on
their sides that hold
gobs and gobs of ink. How much?
Years’ worth. Enough that your children—or at least mine—could go on
a two-hour coloring-page-printing
bender and you wouldn’t even notice.
Printer technology has been
pretty static for years. Epson and
competitors Hewlett-Packard, Canon
and Brother make frame-worthy photos and spit out page after page of
text at a decent clip. It’s now standard for them to connect to Wi-Fi
networks and work with mobile devices.
Most people buy printers by price:
$100 is the magic number for anybody but a photo enthusiast, and
printer makers like it that way. They
lose money on the hardware and
make it up on ink.
We don’t love paying through the
nose for the ink, and the arrangement means that at the first sign of
printer trouble, many of us just dump
the thing and buy a new one. But
we’ve continued this way for years.
Now, though, ink alternatives
throw ink-onomics off balance. Major
retailers sell off-brand inks dirt
cheap. Printer makers say this ink
can cause printing problems, but the
price differences are staggering.
A basic Epson model, the Expression XP-420 all-in-one scanner/
printer, lists for $100 and sells for as
little as $60. A set of standard replacement ink cartridges, however,
costs around $40. Epson’s XL cartridges give you a little break—nearly
three times the ink for around $80 a
set. But in a search for XP-420 ink on
Amazon, most results are for offbrand competitors selling XL cartridges for a third of Epson’s price,
and sometimes even less.
As a parent who doesn’t want to
padlock the printer, I turned to offbrand ink. And while I have had one
of their cartridges fail, the economics
still favors the knockoffs.
Epson’s new move is a sly one.
Please see PRINTER page D2
Europeans are clamoring for a
blender that also cooks—and weighs,
grinds, steams, chops, stirs, whips
and kneads. It also has a color computer screen to walk cooks through
digitized recipes.
The Thermomix, a $1,200 German
kitchen appliance, now has a wait-list
of more than two months.
Producer Vorwerk & Co., known in
Germany for its durable vacuum
cleaners, says a surge in orders for
its latest model, launched in September, is forcing staff to work around
the clock every day. Runaway success
in Europe has Vorwerk cooking up
plans for a U.S. relaunch late next
The Thermomix automates food
preparation, going beyond existing
soup-making blenders from Cuisinart
and others that also heat their contents.
The latest model’s screen displays
step-by-step cooking instructions using coin-shaped memory chips which
hold digital recipe collections. Cooking time and temperature are preset
for each increment so users just add
specified ingredients. The machine
weighs them and indicates the proper
mixing speed. Recipes are also available through a smartphone app that
generates shopping lists.
The company sells the Thermomix
through private gatherings like Tupperware parties, where self-employed
representatives prepare a multicourse meal. Similar to companies
such as Amway in the U.S., Vorwerk
also recruits customers to be part of
the company sales force. The machine isn't available in retail stores.
In the U.S., Vorwerk distributes
the Jafra brand cosmetics through direct selling where consultants host
parties to showcase skin care and
fragrances. For Thermomix, Vorwerk
says it will establish its own direct
sales organization independent from
Other home appliance makers
have in recent years launched sophisticated machines that can blend and
cook, including SEB SA’s Krups
brand, De’Longhi SPA’s Kenwood
unit, and Whirlpool Corp.’s KitchenAid brand.
Vorwerk launched its first heating
food processor in the early 1970s in
France, and expanded to other markets including the U.S. It decided to
stop selling Thermomix in the U.S. in
2004. The company said it went in a
different strategic direction at the
time. Nowadays, some U.S. cooks order it from Canada despite different
electrical wiring.
Thermomix enthusiasts say the
appliance is worth its price and the
kitchen counter space because it replaces several other appliances such
as blender, food processor, mill,
steam cooker and scale. The company
also pitches its ability to make fresh
produce into a finished meal in a
short time.
Tina Müller, a mother of two in
Berlin who got a new Thermomix in
April, recently invited four friends
over for a sales evening, for which
Ms. Müller received a EUR50 (about
$55) rebate from Vorwerk.
Thermomix rep Brigitte Heyde
started by whipping up rolls, a
cheese spread with herbs and a
salad. The main course was steamed
chicken breast, vegetables and rice
with onion sauce. Dessert was strawberry ice cream.
Baking the rolls was the only task
beyond the Thermomix, though it
ground the flour for the rolls from
whole grain. It boiled the rice in one
bowl while simultaneously steaming
the chicken and veggies in a separate
bowl on top.
Ms. Müller’s friends said the food
was delicious but would have preferred the chicken sauteed or fried,
rather than steamed.
“The Thermomix can’t fry and it
also can’t slice,” conceded Ms. Heyde,
who has sold the machines since
Please see APPLIANCE page D2
Germany’s $1,200 Thermomix cooks, steams, stirs, grinds and chops.
The Kitchen Appliance With a Two-Month Wait List
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