If you’re looking for homeschool music curriculum, allow me to suggest our favourite: Hoffman Academy.
Hoffman Academy is known for having free online piano lessons for kids. More than just piano however, the lessons teach music.
I first shared our experiences with Hoffman Academy back in 2014. Since then, Hoffman Academy has added an option for a premium membership which I decided to try out a few months ago. Is it worth it? Well let’s see.
The video lessons are available to all completely free. So with or without a premium membership, your child can learn to play piano (or keyboard) and enjoy this musical education.
I spent most of my childhood taking traditional piano lessons, and I consider the quality of instruction my daughter is receiving from these online videos to be far superior. Right from the beginning, before learning to read notes, the students begin learning to compose, improvise, play a song in a different key, etc.
My daughter is so engaged in what she is learning that on her own she likes to sit at the piano with a pencil and paper composing her own songs. She has composed 3 songs so far that she has named: “Oh It’s An Arrow”, “Rain Blocks”, and “Omee and Me”. As she progressively gains more musical knowledge, she applies that knowledge to improve her songs.
Mr. Hoffman is the piano teacher of these video lessons. He teaches in a way that is fun for kids and captures their attention. A favourite of my daughter are the puppet shows and other funny parts at the end of his video’s.
There are 178 lessons with more being added all the time. Here’s a link to a more detailed look at the skills taught in each 20 lesson unit. It’s quite an impressive list.
Worksheets, Sheet Music & .MP3’s
For a more in-depth learning experience, there are downloadable worksheets, sheet music and practice tracks available for each unit. These downloads can be purchased separately on a per unit basis, or is included in a premium membership.
I have previously purchased many of the printables on a per unit basis. You can totally learn the piano without this, but I found it to be a valuable addition to my daughter’s musical education.
Now that I have a premium membership, you could say I have purchased many of the same downloads twice. It does however allow me a unique perspective on the pro’s and con’s to both methods of purchase.
On the per unit basis I appreciated that I could print out all the worksheets at once. It made things easy.
But the practice .mp3’s, while quite cool in theory, did not get too much use by us. As pathetic as this sounds, the extra step of opening iTunes and finding the .mp3 for each song my daughter was practicing just didn’t happen. Out of sight out of mind kind of thing.
With the premium membership, I find it slightly less convenient to print off the worksheets after each video lesson.
On the plus side, the worksheets have been improved since I initially purchased them on a per unit basis. And as there have been some changes over the years in the order of the lessons, etc, the premium membership ensures I have the most current up-to-date version.
UPDATE: It is possible to print the printables of a whole unit on the first lesson of a unit with the premium membership.
My daughter watches the video lessons on the iPad directly at the piano. This allows her to follow along with Mr. Hoffman and already be at the piano when he asks the kids to try something.
With the premium version, a video lesson is followed by a practice session. It gives kids a series of tasks to complete at the piano. In other words, it tells them what to practice. With the iPad at the piano, it makes it very easy for my daughter to know what to practice at the touch of a button.
Sometimes kids are asked to practice a song together with an audio file. This makes playing the song more enjoyable as it elevates their simple song to feeling like they have a band playing alongside them. But more than that, it allows the student to learn to hear the rhythm and counts of the music. Often my daughter needs to count the beats to herself to play with the correct timing. And if she doesn’t have correct timing, it will be apparent quite quickly.
Having the audio files she needs readily available on the same screen as her practice assignment is a welcome luxury that makes things so easy. It is one of my favourite features of the premium membership.
Another major feature of the premium membership is the games. Currently there are 3 games with at least a 4th in development:
- Alphabet Towers
- Mystery Melodies
- Staff Crawler
- Rhythm Train
As it focuses on a beginning skill, my daughter got bored with Alphabet Towers early on. But she enjoys playing the other 2 games which focus on ear training and beginnings of reading sheet music.
My Final Thoughts
If you’re searching for a quality homeschool music curriculum, then you’ll want to check out Hoffman Academy. It has been an amazing tool in our homeschool.
It is not only helping my daughter learn the piano, but she’s also working on her vocals as well with learning solfège (Do Re Mi, etc.). This in turn has created a ripple effect in other areas. My daughter is not a huge fan of too much writing, but now she is self-motivated to write sheets of lyrics. The printables and the games help her further develop her musical skills, but probably my favourite thing is how it makes learning music so fun for the kids.