Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hoffman Academy Piano Lessons: A Reivew



As I mentioned last spring, we have been slowly working our way through Hoffman Academy’s first unit of piano instruction videos.  After I mentioned this on my blog, Hoffman Academy offered me a free unit in exchange for a honest review.  This was a pretty safe bet on their part because our family already loved the video lessons.  I happily agreed.  I then received the Unit 2 Complete Materials ($29 for the Family License).  This includes:

  • Music Theory Worksheets & Activity Pages
  • Song Sheets with Practice Instructions
  • Piano Listening CD MP3s
  • Practice CD MP3s
  • Parent’s Guide

If you don’t feel like reading much more because you’ve got some cute panda videos calling your name, here’s the short answer:

Yes, we here at the Cyrus Academy for the Chronically Curious heartily recommend Hoffman Academy.

Quick pros:
  • ·         Warm, engaging, effective teaching style
  • ·         Self-Paced
  • ·         Potential for some student independence
  • ·         Very affordable (videos are free!)
  • ·         All of my students (including the just-turned-five year old) enjoy the lessons



following along with the hand motions.

Cons:
·         Ummm. . .? 

The only drawbacks that we have encountered are just the result of having a video teacher instead of a live teacher. I asked the children for their comments (see end of post), and they didn’t have anything negative to say either.

The lessons are pretty short and cover just a very few skills or concepts.  This makes them very accessible and flexible for any family, and (I think) increases the overall practice time that kids can tolerate.  The methodical and gentle approach to teaching helps the kids really feel successful, but Mr. Hoffman’s personality might be why the videos are so appealing to my children.  Kids seem to be able to tell, even on a video, when someone is just trying to sell them something, or when they genuinely are excited about what they are talking about.  Mr. Hoffman is friendly, relaxed, and easy to follow.  He obviously enjoys both playing and teaching piano, and my kids really like him.  Another homeschooling mother referred to him as “the Mr. Rogers of piano,” which is a perfect description.  (For another review and an audio interview with Mr. Hoffman himself, visit Pyschowith6.)

You can just use the videos and will learn a lot that way.  In addition to activity sheets, games, and parent guides, the supplemental material adds a listening and practice (accompaniment) CD which allows for another level of learning.  Another bonus of the supplemental worksheets is that they increase the absorption of musical literacy in general.  I expect we will continue to purchase the additional materials as we move through the units.


Here’s what my kids have to say about Hoffman Academy:
Ava: “I like playing the songs in the lessons.  They are fun songs.  I feel more like I can play other songs I find now too.”
Wyatt: “I like the songs, especially “Frog in the Middle.” I like the puppets at the end too.”
Charlotte: “I like finding C and D.  I like the Piano Street Story.  AND I’m so proud I learned to do (the song) “Frog in the Middle” without looking!”

A few caveats:.  Personally, I can read music slowly and can play a little on the piano (awkwardly).  My kids had not had piano lessons before they began, although they do know a good deal of music vocabulary and are familiar with sheet music due to their years in Classical Conversations’ Foundations program.  Interest level for all of us is pretty high.  Also, my kids are not generally considered extroverted.  They do really enjoy friends, but they are (and I definitely am) happy and healthier with a slower pace of life, so running around to a bunch of lessons is something we just don’t do.  Also, since we aren’t enrolled in a charter school, my extracurricular fund only goes so far.

A few more links:

Hoffman Academy Parent/Teacher support

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