Every year about this time of year, piano teacher Facebook groups are flooded with the same question… how do you handle your summer scheduling? And the question is a good one because none of us like to lose income over the summer. I get it and 100% agree! Yet, this is the time of year families want to take a break. I am a big believer that those breaks are important. Some may disagree with me saying breaks are not good because students lose their momentum or come back and have forgotten what they learned. What I found over the years is mostly the opposite.
While some students do need a little adjustment period to get back in the groove of things, most of them come back excited for the new year. They are refreshed and renewed and so am I. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t encourage students to still play and learn new pieces over the break. Quite the contrary. In fact, you may enjoy this blog post Motivating Practice Over the Summer to give you some ideas for that.
Now back to Summer Scheduling… I mentioned before that I absolutely agree with not wanting to lose income over the summer. It is always my goal with any problem that may come up, that I find it’s win-win solution. Let’s explore some of those win-win options…
For many years my win-win was simply to run a summer camp that replaced 2 months worth of lesson tuition. Summer camp was mandatory for students who wanted to continue in the fall. I can count on one hand how many times my families tested that. And each time, they had to be placed on my waiting list because I did not have a spot for them when fall came. Let’s just say, they never tested that one again. 😉
Summer camp scheduling was based on when I was available. I always held summer camps sessions in late May/early June. Families would then choose a session that would best fit their schedule. I always included an after school session so there were no excuses because a family was taking off for the summer as soon as school was over (which is common here in sunny AZ). After all the sessions were complete, I was officially on a teaching break.
If you are interested in some camp lesson plans already done for you. Here is a roundup of summer camp resources.
SUMMER PRACTICE PACKETS
Fast forward to 2016 and summer practice packets were born. I have written quite a few posts on this subject, but let me direct you to this music teacher tip on the subject for later viewing. In short, students could choose to participate in the summer camp/workshop or choose a summer practice packet OR for an extra fee BOTH! This created a win-win of extra summer income! So then the summer requirement became choose at least one of these options to hold your spot for fall.
With the practice packets, scheduling was completely invalid because once those videos were recorded and everything was ready to go, I “delivered” and they “received”. Now it was up to them to determine when to learn those new pieces.
YEARLY FLAT RATE TUITION
I cannot recommend flat rate tuition enough. If you don’t already have some kind of flat rate tuition, let me quickly explain what it is and then I’ll get back into how it will benefit you in the summer. Flat rate tuition is when you determine how many lessons you want to hold in a year and divide the tuition amount equally within a year. Simple and very effective. This means that a month may only have 2 or 3 lessons but tuition is the same as a month with 4 or 5 lessons.
In the past while I had a flat rate tuition, it did not include summer. Instead, as mentioned above I just made summer camp or a practice packet mandatory to continue in the fall. But a couple years ago, I decided to make a BIG change. One that I had wanted to do for years and now kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I increased my tuition so it would now include a summer workshop or practice camp divided into the same 10 months. (August-May) Now families do not have a tuition payment in June or July for summer camp or practice packet UNLESS they opted to do both summer camp and a practice packet. Last summer that ended up being a HUGE blessing for families.
Because I include my summer options within the yearly tuition, I set aside that summer percentage and stick it into a summer savings account. That way the income is there, when I need it in June and July. I should also mention that when families sign up for lessons in my studio, I require a semester commitment. Fall semester includes a number of regular lessons, group lessons and Christmas camp or practice packet. Spring semester includes a number of regular lessons, group lessons and Summer Camp or practice packet.
Another option that I hear teachers do is what I am going to call, lesson bundles. This means during the summer, families need to sign up for so many lessons. Some teachers may require it for families who want to continue in the fall, while others may include it in the yearly tuition.
May I suggest if you hold regular lessons in the summer that you change things up a bit? This is the perfect time of year to do some outside of the box activities. Compose a summer piece, learn how to read lead sheets, add some creative left hand patterns to those lead sheet melodies. I highly recommend Jerald Simon’s 100 Left Hand Patterns book, which will give you both (affiliate link). Play some games on and off the bench, focus on improving a students weakness. (note reading, sight-reading, rhythm, etc), learn student choice pieces, etc.
WHAT IS YOUR WIN-WIN?
Regardless what you decide to do with your summer scheduling, it’s good to explore options. My win-win is the yearly flat rate tuition that includes the summer option as I mentioned above. Your win-win may look different. Do you have another option that has worked well for you? Please share it in the comments, we would love to hear about it.