A couple of years ago our family was gifted with a new-to-us piano, and like most kids, mine enjoyed plunking on the keys, making their own “music.” After the initial novelty of the “new” piano wore off, my elementary-age son showed particular interest in learning to play real songs, so I enrolled him in beginning piano lessons.
The lessons went well, and he really enjoyed them, but we needed to take an extended break when our piano teacher had a new baby. Then I had a new baby, and schedules became more difficult to coordinate.
My now 9-year-old still sits at the piano occasionally, making up his own songs, and asking if we’ll ever start piano lessons again. But most of the time the piano sits lonely in the living room, collecting dust (and school papers that need to be filed).
And so when given the opportunity to try Hoffman Academy and then write an honest review, I jumped at the chance, thinking that online lessons and setting our own pace would be a good fit for our current season of life.
How Hoffman Academy Works
Hoffman Academy has a very through website, with well-written explanations and details on the nitty-gritty of the program. But as a quick overview: you begin by watching a short (5-15 minute) video lesson. The videos are all accessible for FREE on the website and can be viewed as many times as you wish, with no purchase required at any time.
During each lesson, kids are given specific practice instructions and goals so they know what to focus on between lessons. Lessons are self-paced, so they can go as fast or slow as needed, and can always go back to the video lesson if they need to review.
Kids can further and apply their learning with optional but recommended supplemental reinforcement materials which include printable activity pages, sheet music, practice instructions, and MP3 listening tracks. These supplemental materials cost $19 for each unit of 20 lessons.
Why We Liked Online Piano Lessons
Piano lessons are expensive. Where we live, lessons for my three oldest kids would cost $60-75 per week – quite an investment for our one-income homeschooling family. While I don’t mean to undervalue the work and expertise of a piano teacher, taking a more affordable route for this beginning stage of piano lessons works better for us. (At least until we know how the kids like playing and if we’re going to keep pursuing lessons.) An entire unit of Hoffman Academy online lessons and supplemental materials costs me less than one lesson for one child.
The online, self-paced format of Mr. Hoffman’s piano lessons was a relief to this busy mom. When we tried the traditional lesson method early on, loading all the kids into the van to drive-and-drop-off took more time than the actual lesson. And then there was that much needed break through my very sick pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
As a busy homeschooling family, I get that sometimes life just “happens.” Sometimes you can’t get to a lesson at a set time. But with the Hoffman Academy, there’s no calling to cancel. You just pick up where you left off, when you can. While testing out this curriculum, it definitely worked best for my son to have a set day/time for our online lessons (to keep things consistent), but since we were testing it during the summer, there were days we just didn’t get to it, and it wasn’t a big deal. The flexibility of self-paced lessons was much appreciated.
Joseph Hoffman is a natural teacher. My son thought he was hilariously entertaining and I was impressed with how creatively Mr. Hoffman explains the complex concepts so clearly and simply. Lesson three’s “eating a bowl of cereal” and “Tyrannosaurus arms” piano-posture explanation literally had us “LOL”ing and is just one example of the way Mr. Hoffman engages kids through the lessons. The short, interactive lessons often include a game, joke, or silly explanation–making them fun and kid-approved.
I’m learning to play the piano right along with my kids! Expanding my own education is by far one of my favorite benefits to homeschooling and parenting. As a young child, I took a handful of piano lessons, but my mom says I threw such a fit about practicing that she pulled me out and ended my piano career. I’ve always regretted not sticking with it, and occasionally top-hand tinker through a few beginning piano books we own. But I suppose pride has held me back from pursing lessons in my older years. Mr. Hoffman’s lessons have allowed me to quietly learn along-side my kids. Maybe you really can “teach an old dog new tricks.”
What We Didn’t Like
In order to round out this review, I thought I should include some “cons” of this program as well, but honestly, I couldn’t think of any. So I asked my son if there was anything he didn’t like (knowing an honest answer would come from this glass-is-half-empty 9-year-old) and the only thing he said was, “I wish I would have learned more.”
Considering the context, this is really more of a positive than negative! He enjoyed learning through Mr. Hoffman and is ready to move onto Unit Two (and “learn more”) which we plan do to (and no, we’re not being paid to do or say that!), as soon as our new school year gets underway in the next few weeks.
If piano lessons is something you’ve been considering, or if Hoffman Academy sounds like something that would work for your family, be sure to check out the website, try a sample lesson, or find Mr. Hoffman interacting on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
I hope your experience with piano lessons through Hoffman Academy is as positive as ours was.