Welcome to the community area!
Congratulations on learning “The Nearness Of You” and on completing the foundations course. Onto your questions:
You are very much on the right path with breaking down the 3 note 251s into groups of keys to make the task more manageable. The 251 progression really is the foundation of jazz harmony and so learning each key thoroughly will make your life a lot easier later down the line.
In this forum post I give more advice on breaking the theory drills into groups of 3 or 4 keys.
I recommend that you continue with the jazz standard tutorials in the “Beginner Jazz Arrangements” course which you are already working on. I also recommend that students study multiple courses at once and in particular, the following 3 courses together tie together nicely for students who are new to jazz piano:
Much of the theory is interrelated and it will give you more of a sense of progression when you see how the foundational material is applied and developed in the subsequent courses.
Don’t worry if you encounter theory that doesn’t make sense. When I started out I was just copying the voicings that my teacher showed me and at the time the full theoretical understanding was not there. Over time it will all make sense.
Structuring Our Practice Time:
I recommend to broadly split our practice time in half, starting with the theory drills and exercises outlined in our PDF practice planners and then for the second half of our practice time just have fun playing the standards which are listed on each practice planner.
Here is some feedback on a student’s experience with the practice planners which you may find insightful to read.
With your aspiration to play any song create a nice arrangement using your own harmonic knowledge and creativity, I’d recommend to study the jazz standard lessons and the voicing techniques used. Also out these post in the forum where I give a lot of similar advice:
It does take time so be patient with it and aim to gradually build out your repertoire of jazz standards. This will then inform the way you choose voicings for any song you would like to play.
Above anything else Lawrence enjoy the journey and have fun with it. Learning jazz is definitely the most difficult, and challenging, but also rewarding thing I have ever chosen to pursue and it’s a constant learning journey. There is always more to learn which is one of the fascinating things for me.
Enjoy the lessons and any other questions let us know