Have you always wanted your kids to take piano lessons, but you weren’t sure how you could afford it? Maybe you’ve heard of Hoffman Academy and wanted to learn more. Listen in on this episode with Hoffman Academy founder, Mr. Joseph Hoffman, as we discuss the value of music education for your homeschool and how easy it is to add piano lessons into your homeschool.
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Welcome to the show notes for Episode #167 of the Homeschool with Moxie podcast!
As a former classroom teacher, now homeschooling mom of five, I love to equip and encourage other homeschooling families.
On the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast our goal is to inspire and encourage you with actionable strategies to take you from overwhelmed to confident in your homeschool adventure. Listen to interviews with amazing influencers in the homeschool world and beyond.
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Listen to our chat with Mr. Joseph Hoffman
Joseph Hoffman is the founder of the Hoffman Academy and inventor of The Hoffman Method – the innovative teaching approach used in his online piano lessons.
Hoffman Academy offers fun, affordable, and accessible online piano lessons for children ages 5+, homeschool families, and those young at heart. With 300+ video lessons, interactive games, and practice plans, Hoffman Academy makes online learning enjoyable and effective.
In this episode of the podcast, we discuss the importance of music education to a child’s development. Learn about the mission of Hoffman Academy and how it started. Then, learn how you can use Hoffman Academy for piano lessons.
About Hoffman Academy Piano
Mr. Hoffman is like the Mr. Rogers of piano – the kids love him like a teacher & friend.
With more than 256,000 students in 115 countries, Hoffman Academy is dedicated to providing a complete musical education for everyone, everywhere.
Piano lessons are based on The Hoffman Method – a multi-sensory approach to learning music invented by Mr. Hoffman.
Learn Piano with Hoffman Academy
What is the best free online piano lessons for kids?
While you can probably find free piano instruction videos online, Hoffman Academy piano lessons give your kids a proven method and clear plan for progressing. You can even view the lessons for FREE!
What age should you start piano lessons?
Mr. Joseph Hoffman suggests between the ages of 5-7. Take your cues from your child. Some five-year-olds are ready to learn, while some would do better waiting an extra year or two. There is no wrong age to start. So, if your child is showing interest and wants to learn, go ahead and let them start.
Summer Piano Camp with Hoffman Academy
Want to try piano camp for FREE? Hoffman Academy’s annual online piano Summer Camp runs 6/6 – 8/12/22.
Interview with Mr. Joseph Hoffman
Abby: Joseph, we’re so happy to have you here today, we’re going to jump right in. But first of all, go ahead and introduce yourself to my audience of homeschool moms.
Joseph: Sure, Thanks for having me today. I am the creator and founder of Hoffman Academy, which is an online website that provides piano learning to kids around the world. I’ve been teaching piano for 20 years now. I started off teaching neighborhood kids while I was going through grad school for music, and I really fell in love with teaching piano to kids and decided I was originally planning to be a conductor.
I was going to go on for a doctorate and teach at the college level, but I loved working with kids so much during those grad school years that I decided to make that my career focus. I’m also a dad and I’ve been a homeschool parent myself and just really excited to share what I’m doing with your audience today.
The Importance of Music Education
Abby: Cool, that’s an interesting little tidbit to add that you’re homeschool parent to or have been at least? So that’s really neat. So tell us then, why is music education important for a child’s development? I know you probably have a lot to say about this topic.
Joseph: Oh yes, it is so important. We know from brain MRI scans that there’s so much happening in the brain during active music making and it’s a key distinction. It’s not just music listening when you’re actually making music yourself, it’s using hand eye coordination, it’s using auditory processing, it’s using visual stimulus, it’s there’s so much happening in the brain. And studies show increased auditory processing, increased spatial reasoning even.
And on top of all of those brain benefits, I believe that beyond that, even if you didn’t have any brain benefits, I would say music just makes you more human, it teaches you to appreciate beauty. It’s I believe every human is meant to be creative, whether it’s through art or music or being creative with computer programming that we’re meant to be creators and music not only allows you to be creative, it allows you to be collaboratively creative where you get to make music with other people.
And so the social benefits, the brain benefits the emotional benefits and the confidence that I see kids have when they feel like they’ve mastered complex skill, just that pride and ownership and satisfaction. The benefits are extremely numerous.
How Young Should We Start with Music?
Abby: So essentially, is there too young of an age to start with music education? So, someone has a toddler, is that too young to start?
Joseph: I hope that when they’re in the womb you’re singing to them, they know that kids recognize their mother’s voice when they’re first born, so can they hear you sing? Absolutely. And so no, there is no time too early to start from. It should be age appropriate, of course.
I believe that from birth through four years old is a great time to do lots of music exploration with singing, listening, dancing, moving. There are lots of great pre-K music programs and All of those things are getting a child immersed in music and their brain starts to hear patterns and hear ups and downs.
And that’s excellent preparation for when they actually start learning an instrument, which I think can start between the ages of five and 7.
How did Hoffman Academy start?
Abby: Okay, so it’s almost like pre reading before our kids can read, we should be doing that with them. So in the music experience before they’re able to actually make music on an instrument, we’re exposing them to that, right? So it’s a similar kind of thought. So, okay, so let’s jump into Hoffman Academy. How did you get started? What’s the mission? Tell us all about that.
Joseph: All right. When I first started teaching piano lessons, I was really shocked to find that a lot of my new students who were coming from previous teachers already wanted to quit after just a year or two of lessons. And that baffled me because these same kids, I saw that they really loved music, they would talk about pop songs that they liked or movie songs that they were into and I was baffled that they didn’t want to keep going with piano lessons.
And so I really started to question our methods of teaching. I was teaching just basically the way I had been taught and so I started to really dig for other methods and other approaches and I quickly realized that the traditional way of teaching piano lessons out of a method book is pretty outdated.
Kids are wired to learn language through sound and through experience. If you took your five year old to a foreign country, they will probably learn that language way faster than you because their brains are so plastic and they’re wired to learn through hearing through imitation and through just that immersion, it will be effortless almost for them.
And so I came across the teachings of Dr Suzuki of who created the Suzuki method for violin and I read up on him and he was this proponent of an ear first approach for music. And so I started to adopt that into my own teaching, but then I realized, well our kids can play great by ear, but how did they learn to read?
And the Suzuki method doesn’t always produce really great sight readers and I wanted a method that was good at both that could teach by ear, that could get kids making music in that way. Their brains are naturally wired to make music which is by hearing and imitating. But then how do we also teach them to read and be fluent, both in hearing and reading and transposing.
I wanted them to improvise, I wanted them to compose and so that’s when I realized I needed to make my own method because I just couldn’t find one that did it all. And so what I’ve tried to do is take the best of learning science and make it a lot of fun with stories and games and interactivity.
So we’re engaging their senses, we’re engaging their creativity, we’re using real folk music, so the music is actually something they enjoy playing and practicing. They’re not just finger exercises, like you see in a lot of method books and so putting all this together into a method. That’s how the Hoffman Method was born.
And I started a music school to share this method with other teachers and now we have a school here in Portland with 12 teachers and about 250 students. But then to expand even beyond that audience, we about 10 years ago started putting our lessons online and we’ve since grown a team of software engineers to help us build online learning tools and online interactive learning games. And so now Hoffman Academy is all around the world with over 100 countries using our program.
Is there still a place for in-person lessons?
Abby: That’s really interesting that you mentioned that you do have a physical studio, so you do have kids using your method in person. So I’m really curious because you know like the way we all did it of course was an in person lesson, right? Because this is just new technology in the last decade to be able to take this online maybe. So what are the pros and cons of doing it online? Is there still a place for in person piano instruction? What do you think about that?
Joseph: I think there’s always going to be a place for live in person teaching. It’s what we do here in Portland. I love, I would love to see a world where educators are using all the technology tools available to them. I think great teachers do use every tool in their tool belt that’s available to them.
And so what I’m hoping is that our online lessons can complement and supplement what live teachers are already doing.
What does Hoffman Academy cost for piano lessons?
And for those families who maybe can’t afford private instruction because it can be very expensive if you have multiple kids and you want private instruction for all of them, it can cost hundreds of dollars a month and our online program makes it so much more affordable.
Our premium plan starts at $18 a month and we have a free plan to that still gives you access to all of our video lessons. And so we’re trying to make music education accessible and convenient.
Obviously a live in person teacher can give you feedback and give you a lot of personalization. But what are online program can do is give you a lot of affordability, a lot of convenience.
I’ve also found that students really love the autonomy of Learning from a screen. They can pause me, they can rewind me, they can watch me as many times as they need or they can some kids if they’re finding it a little slow because maybe it’s review, maybe they’ve had previous lessons, they can set my speed when I’m teaching on the video lesson to 1.5 speed.
So they get through the lesson faster and I’m talking kind of in fast motion, they get to control that. And when kids control their own learning environment, that creates a lot of ownership and autonomy and independence, which I’ve seen some really good benefits from that.
How do Hoffman Academy piano lessons work?
Abby: Okay, that was helpful. Um very interesting to hear that perspective. So if homeschool moms are listening right now and they’re like yes, I am totally interested in this, what do they need to know about starting?
How does your program work, What does it look like on a weekly basis? What if they have multiple kids? What kind of device do they need to access this? Just kind of walk us through how a homeschool mom would use this with kids in her home.
Joseph: Sure, so one of the features of account which again you can set up for free on the website when you create an account, it will ask you, are you using this for yourself or are you using this as a parent? And if you select that you’re using it as a parent, it will give you the option to add as many kids in your household as you like to your account.
And once those kids profiles are set up when you log in and actually go start to do some of the lessons, it will ask who’s learning today and then there’s a profile switcher so you can choose which child’s profile is learning. And then once you’ve chosen that profile, the website will keep track of where they are.
So if they have no prior piano experience, you should start with less than number one. I’ll teach you hot cross buns. And then after each lesson, if you’re on the premium plan, it will give you very specific practice instructions after each video lesson that will walk you through. Okay play it two times with your right hand. Now play it two times with your left hand. Now try it low on the piano. Now try it high on the piano and will walk you step by step through some practice tasks to do after each lesson.
And like I said, as you’re switching from profile to profile, it will keep track of where each of your Children are in the program so it can guide them along and occasionally say, hey, you’re ready to try this game, now you’re ready for this lesson. And so all the lessons are numerically sequenced.
Most of our families enjoy using a tablet because that sits really conveniently on the music stand of a piano. But you could also use a laptop. You can use a smartphone. I think tablets, probably the preferred device we found and of course you want a piano to learn on and then you’re ready to go if you have an internet connection and our our website is, it’s a web app. So all of the tools and lessons are accessed through the Hoffman Academy dot com website.
Abby: So it’ll keep track of each individual kids progress so they can know where to start each time?
Joseph: Absolutely, yeah. When you log back in after a week or after a day, it will give you, here’s the next up lesson or here’s the next practice session and then I forgot to mention there are also with the premium plan, sheet music, audio tracks and music theory worksheets and activity pages that supplement every single video lesson.
There are materials that complement to reinforce the learning because I believe the more angles you can take, the deeper the learning goes. So yes, they learn through the video, but then we also want them to do some paper and pencil work, there’s audio tracks to listen to again, develop the ear and help their learning go even deeper.
Can Intermediate Piano Students Use Hoffman Academy?
Abby: And so how advanced do you go with lessons? How far do you take kids?
Joseph: I’m adding new content all the time. I’m up to about 320 sequential lessons, which takes a student up through a solid intermediate level where they’re playing Beethoven’s Fury, at least they’re playing Bach, they’re playing, Mozart, it’s really thorough program and I’m going to keep adding more all the way up until they’re at an advanced level, but right now it could take a student through 4-5 years worth of piano study.
How Piano Teachers Can Use the Hoffman Method
Abby: Okay, very neat. Now you mentioned a little bit about piano teachers using everything in their toolbox. And so I’m going to ask a question on behalf of piano teachers. Is there a way to use Hoffman Academy in conjunction with in person lessons? How would that even jive together. Does that even make sense? Is there a connection there?
Joseph: Absolutely, we just recently launched a new account category called studio accounts for piano teachers who want to use the Hoffman method. And with the studio account, it allows you to manage multiple students in different households where they each can have their own unique login.
And as a teacher it allows you to make specific assignments. So you can say watch this video lesson, do this practice session, play this game this many number of times. And then the system on the student side when they log in, they’ll see, oh here here’s my assignment from the teacher. And then as they complete each task on the teacher’s dashboard, they’ll see little check marks indicate what’s been accomplished and then you can reassign the same assignment.
You can make a new assignment each week when you have them in lessons. So we have a few teachers. This is a really new feature and so we have just had a few teachers starting to use it and they’ve been really enjoying it. I really want our lessons again to support what teachers are already doing.
It definitely does not have to be a replacement. It can be a standalone program, but it can also allow a teacher to focus on what they’re really good at. Let’s say you’re really great at posture or technique. We’ll use my video lessons to do all the nitty gritty that maybe you don’t have as much time to focus on in a short half hour once a week lesson.
So I can be a team member with you and we can together, I hope help kids make even faster progress by doing some of the learning through the videos, some of the learning in person.
Is is really possible for homeschool moms to add music education into their day?
Abby: Okay, very interesting. So as we wrap up, tell me if I missed anything that we should be mentioning, but I was just going to say for those homeschool moms who are, you know, feeling overwhelmed about the thought of music education and adding that to their home school, just give us some final encouragement.
Can we do this? Is this possible? Remind us again why we need to do this and then let us know where we can find you online.
Joseph: Absolutely, Well, I there is so much evidence again that music will change the kid’s brain for the better. And so I really encourage everyone if you don’t have music component to your home school education, I hope my website will make it really easy for you to get started.
The curriculum is all sequentially laid out for you. It’s there’s print materials all organized and I hope that it can be a really delightful experience in the videos. At the end of each video, I have finger puppets come out and tell a little joke or do something silly and kids really look forward to that. I want to make music fun engaging, but also scientifically based.
So this actually works, it’s effective and yeah, if you want to try it out, our website is Hoffman Academy dot com and you can also find us on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest if you like any of those social media platforms were there as well.
Try Summer Piano Camp for Free
And another fun way to maybe try it out this summer if you’re interested. We have a summer camp program that’s completely free.
You basically choose a cabin that has different themes, we have one for classical music, one for movie tunes, different themed cabins.
And it’s a self-guided camp where you download a packet of materials that will guide you through doing some of our online video lessons, some pencil and paper worksheets that you can do and some fun summery activities which you can find Hoffman Academy dot com slash summer camp is the RL or you can also find it in the footer of our website as well.
Abby: Oh that’s super great and we will put that in the show notes. That does sound like a fun activity to keep the kids engaged this summer but still learning and also try out Hoffman Academy.
I watched some of your teaching videos just to get a flavor and you are a very engaging and fun teacher. As homeschool moms we like to get stuff off our plates. We like to outsource stuff. So I think this is a great idea for a lot of families to look into for adding that component.
What is the ideal age to start using Hoffman Academy for piano?
Now, one last thing and you probably already mentioned it, but I thought I’d ask again what is the ideal age to start using your lessons? What would you say?
Joseph: I would say that five-year-olds are sometimes ready to start piano instruction formally, I mean if you have a piano of course let them play around and you know, maybe try showing them the video lesson hot cross buns and just see how they pick it up.
But I would say sometimes a five-year-old may benefit waiting a year, I would say almost always by six, they’re ready and I’ve also seen kids really successfully start at seven, so for me 5 to 7, that would be the golden window and it depends child to child again, Try out Hot cross buns are less than number one and see how it goes.
If they seem really excited, we’ve had some five year olds just cruise through the lessons, it really depends on if they’re ready for sequential learning or some five year olds are still just kind of like, you know, I want to go at my own pace and I’m still exploring the world on my schedule, don’t impose your, you know, your timeline on me mom or dad yet, so it really depends on the kid.
Abby: Okay, that’s awesome, thank you so much for joining us today and telling us about Hoffman Academy and just giving us some encouragement that we can add music education to our homeschools and it doesn’t have to be difficult. We appreciate your time.
Joseph: Absolutely thanks for having me.