Forum Q&A | What is your Policy Regarding Summer Lessons?

I had so much fun reading about what kind of pianos you all have on last week’s Forum Q&A!  And many of you with blogs posted photos of your piano too.  If you haven’t seen all the comments, click here and scroll down to check them out.

This week, let’s talk about something less fun… policies (haha, just kidding).  It’s interesting to hear how different teachers approach summertime.  Some teachers want their summer off.  Others want to keep teaching, or really need the income throughout the whole year.  It can also depend on the students you have.  One of my piano professors tried to require weekly summer lessons, but for years students/parents gave her trouble about it.  Now, she requires them each to take just 6 lessons at some point during the summer.  I’m sure everyone has ideas about this matter!  So, tell us about your situation:

What are your current policies regarding summer lessons? Required or optional?  Week, bi-weekly, or other?  Regular tuition rates, or discounted?

If you don’t require students to take lessons all summer, have you found other ways to keep your income the same throughout the year?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!  Add your comment below.

Photo Credit: athrasher | CC 2.0

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17 thoughts on “Forum Q&A | What is your Policy Regarding Summer Lessons?”

  1. I don’t have much of a choice about teaching in the summer. My studio is my full-time job, so I definitely need the income. For the past five years, I’ve tried to encourage students to take full-time during the summer, as taking off during the summer basically puts a halt to their progress. (This is especially true for younger students. I had some take summers off, and then it takes us an entire month to get back to where they used to be, sometimes longer.)

    At the same time, I make sure to let parents know that I understand they will be missing lessons due to vacations. I just ask that they tell me of their vacations well in advance so that I might adjust my schedule, and not have huge gaps between lessons. This doesn’t always work. Some parents think that “well in advance” means one week, or one days notice. That leaves me little time to adjust my schedule. Overall, I notice at least a 30% decrease in attendance over the summer.

    This year I’m going to offer two options if you want to keep your regularly scheduled lesson time: 1) If you’re only going to be gone once or twice in the summer, you keep your regularly scheduled lesson time, and we reschedule make-up lessons, or you can attend scheduled group lessons to make-up missed lessons. 2) If you’re going to be gone more frequently, you have the option of moving to a less intense schedule – six 45-minute lessons to be scheduled and paid for ahead of time.

    The third option is to take off completely during the summer, however if that happens – they do not have the option of keeping their regularly scheduled time, and I explain that when the school year comes, they might find themselves scrambling for a lesson spot.

  2. I love taking the summer off. But this kind of indulgence requires planning! So I make sure I save enough money in a tax free savings account to cover all of my bills and obligations for July and August.

  3. I teach right till the end of June anyway (to coincide with the school calendars for most schools). July I may or may not offer lessons, depending on my husband’s and kids’ plans. These July lessons are completely optional. August I take off completely. Financially, let’s just say some summers are more of a challenge than others.

  4. I’ve found that most parents want their children to keep things fresh, so we just work out a flexible schedule that works for everyone, usually a lesson every 2 weeks or so. I teach part time, so it’s not as big of an issue for taking time off. I also loosen my policy on paying for missed lessons for the summer weeks only, because I know how fun it is in the summer to take an impromptu day trip. It works!

    1. May I ask, How do you charge client ? It is per class, 4 and 5 weeks each month or flat rate? It is standard rate which now $30.00 per 30 min. Class ?
      Thanks !

  5. I’d love to be able to teach during the summer, but I’m involved in so many children’s clubs and normally travel abroad to volunteer for at least 2 weeks… this year I’ll be in South Africa for over two weeks in June, so teaching is just not going to happen then. I’m a student, so my pupils and their parents do try to take my changeable schedule into account.

    I also teach in a local school of music, which normally has a few summer schemes running but I don’t get paid very much to participate in that, so I’d love to try running a piano club or music introduction club during the last few weeks of August sometime, but unfortunately I’ve got so much to do this year that it can’t happen.

    But wouldn’t it be great to get local schools to hand out your leaflets at the end of this term and offer a free piano lesson in september to any child who attends a music introduction club? It would really grab the parent’s attention and bring in a few new pupils for the autumn, most of whom would probably stay on. (I do tend to use free/half-price lessons as bait sometimes… and it does work! Is that ethical? I’m so ashamed!)

    Of course, I do have some pupils (especially homeschooled) whose parents insist on them attending throughout the summer. Last year I was volunteering in Dublin a lot, but was able to squeeze these pupils into the slots where I was home for a little while. But hey, if I could teach in the summer, I would. Although in Northern Ireland, people don’t like to be told that they have to do something… I’d have to suggest that lessons during the summer are a good idea – although I suppose telling them their time slot is put in jeopardy by choosing not to might be a super incentive!

  6. I have always taught over the summer, and believe that it’s very important for the student’s continued growth and success. While students aren’t required to take, I find that most parents really don’t want their kids to take off, and are happy to have them continue through the summer.

    Here’s how I structure summer lessons:
    I teach over a span of 10-11 weeks (depending on when the spring term finishes up). When students enroll, they sign up for a slot and agree to pay for 8 weeks of lessons. That leaves them 2-3 weeks of missed lessons without penalty. They can miss any time during the term- provided they let me know of course ;). If they stick around all summer and take their 8 weeks all in a row, they then have the option of taking the end of the term off or taking a lesson or two for free.

    While this doesn’t give me as the teacher a lot of time off, the change of pace and the more flexible routine seems to work really well with families and is appreciated by parents.

    I offer morning and afternoon lessons over the summer for my non-homeschooled students who attend public school during the year. This gives me some free evenings- always a treat! 🙂

    I also take a more relaxed stance toward summer lessons. We still have a practice incentive, but I don’t stress practice as much and try to give each student something really fun to work on as a change of pace. We also have a studio-wide party at the end of the summer with lots of outdoor games and ice-cream sundaes as a fun ending to the term and to get them excited about the upcoming fall term.

  7. I always hate to see students take the summer off. They lose too much ground in three months. And it’s way too common for them to get comfortable not practicing, and then opt not to return at all. Here are two things I do that has proven to be very effective:

    First, I charge a non-refundable deposit (usually $50) to hold a spot for them in the fall if they choose to sit out for the whole summer. If they come back, it goes toward their September tuition. If they don’t come back, they’re out the money. I justify this, because if I know they are coming back, I probably won’t take on an additional student in their place. If they don’t pay the deposit, I take on another student to replace the full amount of the tuition.

    Something else I started last summer that was very effective was this: Our summer break from school is 11 weeks. But I only charged for 8 weeks for the summer session. This gave every student 3 free weeks. They could come all 11 weeks, if they wanted to. But there were no rescheduled or makeup lessons (or refunded tuition) for any reason. And I sent a form home with every student for the parents to indicate in advance which weeks they would be on vacation.

    I am one of the rare piano teachers who actually seizes the opportunity to make MORE money in the summer than any other time of the year. Since I have always had the space for it (even when I was teaching at home before I opened my new studio), I offer introductory piano classes in the summer. Details about this are on my website……….. under the “summer classes/events” tab. It’s called Summer Jam Piano Class….because we jam a lot of piano into 3 weeks. These classes will double, or even triple, my income in the summer. So anything I lose from students taking time off in the summer is not even felt. The downside to this is that I can’t take my own vacations in the summer, because I work so much. So, I take some time off during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Breaks, instead.

    Here is an important thing I have learned, that should be considered when thinking about your policies for summer breaks. If you take a lot of time off in the summer, your students will, too. They will only respect their reserved lesson time as much as their teacher does. So, I highly recommend working out an arrangement with a substitute teacher on the weeks you will be gone if you plan to take a lot of weeks off in the summer, rather than cancelling lessons altogether. You will be giving your students mixed messages if you tell them it’s not good for them to take the summer off, and then don’t show a commitment to making sure they have access to those lessons throughout the summer.

    1. Rebecca,

      What materials do you use in your summer classes?

      Thank you!
      Charlotte Childs
      Rogers, Arkansas

  8. Summer in my area is only 2 months off. Me and my family (especially) need a break just as much as the next student, but unfortunately I can’t afford to take a complete break. So what I do is I run summer workshops the last week of May through the first few weeks of June. Students must take a minimum of two workshops if they are to continue lessons in the Fall. This gives me about a 6 week break. When they return all of us are ready to start the new school year.

  9. What a great question, Joy!

    For me, summer is about 8 weeks – July and August – since I continue regular lessons through the end of June. For 3 weeks in July, I run camps which are open to my piano students as well as to the general public. All my students can attend one of the camps free if they continue lessons through the month of July. I’m still getting my regular monthly tuition and during the week they attend camp, that week counts as their “lesson”. My camps run only in the morning which frees up the afternoon for any lessons I need to have. As far as the financial side, those students who want the free camp continue to pay their tuition, those that want the camp, but want lessons off, pay about the same for the camp as a month of tuition, and then of course, I have campers who are not students that pay for camp. The additional money from the camps also helps the lack of tuition in August easier.

    I take the month of August off – for my own family vacation time – and for planning purposes – and maybe a bit for my own sanity! I use this time to put together my incentive program for the new year, as a time to get my studio cleaned and reorganized, figure out what new music I need to purchase and to do general lesson planning. This makes September flow much easier.

    For those students who don’t want to take lessons during the summer, I put together some goals for them and a small incentive for them to meet some of those goals as they go through the summer. Although students who chose not to take lessons all summer lose a little ground, I find that we quickly make it up in September.

  10. I’m so glad that you posted this question because I’ve been struggling with what to do this summer. Last summer I had a baby at the end of June, so it worked out perfectly to take the summer off from teaching. This summer I plan on teaching over a 10 week period and charging a flat rate of 8 lessons. I also stated that taking lessons reserves their spot for the fall. I really debated on whether or not to add that last bit to my policy, but I could probably afford to cut back a bit. Also – if they really want to reserve their spot without taking lessons, they could pay the summer tuition. Before stating my summer policy – I wish I would’ve sent out a survey of some sort to see what my students were planning on doing for the summer to help get a better idea of their plans.

  11. The last two years I have managed to keep 80% of my students throughout the summer with only a few missed lessons due to vacations. I feel that it is more harmful to the student, especially the young ones, to break for very long intervals. I like to also totally rearrange the schedule during the summer to a morning schedule during the first part of the week. I only have about twenty students so this is feasible for me. This seems to work really well and leaves the latter part of the week open for them AND for me! However I do not need the income, as some might. And this makes all the difference I’m sure.

  12. Wow, everyone has different approaches to summer lessons! It’s so interesting to read what you all are doing. =)

    Here’s my own idea, which I have yet to try out. I’ll be putting it to the test next summer (2012) once I’ve moved and gotten my independent studio established. Let me know what you think (is it clear, do you think it would work, etc.):

    Summer Months | During the summer months (June 4th through about August 10), private students are still required to practice and take lessons; however, they will be provided with two options:

    1) Students may participate in monthly summer camps while taking 5 lessons scheduled approximately every other week around the student’s family vacations. Themes for the summer camps vary each year. Possible themes may include a Music Theory Boot Camp, Musical Olympics, Composition Workshop, and Music History Blast From The Past. Each monthly camp is comprised of 2 hour sessions over 3-5 days. Class sizes are generally 3-6 students.
    2) Or, students may continue weekly lessons (10 in total) as normal. Students who choose this option may certainly also participate in summer camps for a nominal fee.

    Not only does the teacher feel strongly about continuing the student’s musical education throughout the summer months, but the teacher’s livelihood depends upon a regular income throughout the summer months because the tuition rate has been determined based on a 12-month calendar. For these reasons, failure to observe this policy means that the student cannot be guaranteed a spot in the studio in September. All students will receive a two week break from lessons August 13-24.

    The above is copied from my Studio Policies. Previous to this explanation I talk about my annual fee and how it’s divided into monthly payments. Basically, I’m trying to have maintain a regular monthly income through the whole year. Regardless of which option they choose (1 or 2), they are making the same monthly payment even through the summer months. Piano teaching will be my main source of income, so I don’t want taking off for the summer to be an option. I plan to open my summer camps to the public too for a nominal fee, so there’s actually the potential of making more during the summer months than during the school year. Thoughts?

    1. How did this format work for you? I have in the past offered 8 weeks of lessons, but only had students pay for 7 weeks, to allow for vacation time. They are welcome to come to all 8 weeks if they are available, but that rarely happens with everyone taking vacations. I have done that for the past 10 years or so of my teaching, and now am looking for a change. Since I moved south, many students don’t take lessons during the summer because they will only be around 3-4 weeks, and don’t want to pay for 3-4 lessons that they are not taking. It was different up north, and I would love to see a different summer teaching format implemented.

  13. Summer lessons are included in the teaching year.
    I state that the year runs from June through May and tuition is XX amount for the year, broken into monthly payments. So a payment is due each month. Lessons during the summer are less tightly scheduled than during the school year, as we work around vacations. Students will get 6 lessons during summer break, with three in June and three in July. Depending on vacation schedules a student may end up with 4 lesson in June and 2 in July, or even 1 in August if necessary. Also, they may have two lessons in one week. I like being flexible in the summer, and as I have no children left at home, I am able to do this.

    I have learned not to expect my students to practice much in the summer, although they all have good intentions. So…..summer is the time to work in areas we don’t spend a lot of time on during the school year. We’re going to work on “fun” music this summer: kid’s songs, pop tunes, etc. many from the Faber collections. And they will “orchestrate” them on my Clavinova. We’re also going to do improvisations and a lot of creativity work. We will begin work on duets for our fall festival, but except for beginning students, the rest will get a break from the lesson books, keyboard skills, and theory work (at least a break from what we do in the school year…they’ll still be learning these things with our “fun” summer lessons). And although i will give them practice assignments…I’m going to plan for them as if they haven’t touched a piano since they’re last lesson. This way I won’t be stressed, and neither will they.

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