Music can help with learning languages. Do you agree? Have you seen a connection between the two?
Helen Doron English wrote a post titled “How Music Helps Children Learn” where she clearly explains all the benefits music can bring to children’s learning:
“Music is one of the few activities that involves using the whole brain. It is inherent in all cultures and can have surprising benefits not only for acquiring language, improving memory and focusing attention but also for physical coordination and development. Music encourages learning and enhances communication. In recent years, we’ve learned a lot about how the brain develops.”
I plan on writing more posts in the future on how music assists in learning Chinese, and I’ll create some printables or games as well. Sound good? If you have any ideas or suggestions, please leave me a comment below or email me.
* Disclosure: I was asked to review free of charge from the Hoffman Academy. All opinions in this post are my own. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
How Did I Find Hoffman Academy
I started learning piano when I was 6 years old. I love playing the piano. Besides badminton, playing the piano has been one of the activities that relax and rejuvenate me throughout my life. Music truly fills my soul and makes me happy. I am a confident person because of it.
I really want my children to start playing the piano while they are young because it is the most basic musical instrument, and is one I can teach them.
However, with a little boy and two daughters in our tiny Hong Kong apartment, I can’t find time or room to teach them the piano. I was not sure when I would have time, so I kept procrastinating, thinking it would be easier when they were older. We also didn’t even have a piano – we only have a tiny keyboard. Every time I tried to teach my oldest, her brother and sister would fight to play on it together too. If I waited until my husband was home, we were usually so busy getting ready for dinner, taking baths, having family time, or getting ready for bed, that there was never time for piano. My husband works on Saturday as well, so that option was gone too! The only thing I could do was put my other kids in daycare. But that was not easy, nor something we wanted to do.
One night, a friend called and told me that she found a piano sitting on the curb, so my husband went to check it out. It was actually in good condition. Everything worked and nothing was broken. It didn’t even have a scratch on it. He used some blankets, rope, and a hand truck to pull it back home.
It was a miracle, but we got the piano home, and it fit into our kids’ little room. Now, one of my biggest concerns was gone.
My kids were super excited just playing random notes on the piano every day. I wondered if I should go to a music store and grab a piano textbook for my 5-year-old and teach her now. I didn’t know how to get started.
I didn’t want to teach my kids the same way I learned. After I studied aboard, I realized I didn’t agree with the traditional Hong Kong piano teaching style. In Hong Kong, people usually pay about $50 USD for four 30-minute piano lessons for a beginner, and this does not include textbooks. I remember in my first piano lesson I just played the note middle C – one note for an entire 30 minutes lesson. The whole song contained five middle Cs. That’s it! At the next lesson, it was the same but the note was D. It was so boring! As a little 6-year-old, all I was asked to do was to play and memorize the first 7 notes for the first 3 months.
I didn’t want my kids to learn this way, so I decided to find something better to invest my money and time into. I started searching all over the internet, and one day an advertisement for Hoffman Academy popped up, so I clicked it. It changed everything.
Background of the Hoffman Academy
Hoffman Academy was founded in September 2013 with the purpose of providing free online piano lessons to the world. All the piano lessons focus on developing kids as a “whole musicianship” with ear training, sight reading, improvisation, music theory, rhyme, solfege, and technique.
My Experience with the Hoffman Academy
My 5-year-old and I started learning piano with Mr. Hoffman for just one month. I am including myself because I even though I already know how to play, I am learning this new method with my kids. It has been an amazing journey. This week we are in Unit 1, lesson 13. Since my kids are very young, I sit next to them and go through the lessons with them. I explain, pause, repeat, and practice with them, and I also go back to past lessons and watch them again and again until they fully grasp the concept. By repeating the lessons, my kids enjoy it more the second or third time because they can follow along and answer all the questions correctly.
As we go through these lessons, I am amazed that we are not just learning to play piano pieces. We are also doing rhythm and dictation activities, and memorizing the musical alphabets. We are also doing fingering power practices, and learning to play a piece of simple music while singing solfege. Here are the Unit 1 Lesson Plans. All the musical elements are connected and help strengthen our knowledge of the piano pieces and techniques on a deeper level.
My 5-year-old enjoys all the lessons. She will sing the songs that she learned all day. She even reminds me to have piano lessons every day. I notice her singing ability has improved through the ear training during the piano lessons. She is able to practice for longer periods of time, focusing on making changes and taking criticism in a better way. Now, whenever I am playing any classical pieces on the piano, my kids will sit around the piano giggling and dancing together. We are excited to use the Hoffman Academy lessons.
My Opinions of the Hoffman Academy
This online piano program not only solves most of my problems, it is also a complete set of piano lessons that reach the goal of developing whole musicianship for children. The downloadable materials are organized, use fun, motivating teaching methods like high-quality video clips, and include tips and news for parents to help them support their kids.
Here are the reasons why I like the Hoffman Academy:
1. A solution to my problems: I need to stay home 24/7, and I don’t want to pay a huge amount of money for my kids to take beginner piano lessons. At the same time, I need a way to keep my other young children busy. With the Hoffman Academy, we can have piano lessons at home whenever we want. Also, the Hoffman Academy is super cheap. You will be a thrilled when you look at their PRICES. My other children never get bored with the videos because they enjoy them as much as us. Also, all the videos are only around 10 minutes long. Perfect!
2. Whole-Musicianship: This program includes all the musical elements that a musician should have: ear training, sight reading, improvisation, music theory, rhyme, solfege, and other techniques. It is not hard to memorize all the notes and be able to play the piano, but it takes more time and interest to know and understand the music theory, and these lessons not only do that but also make it interesting. I wish I learned piano with this program when I was young because whenever I watch Mr. Hoffman’s piano lessons with my kids, I discover how limited my music knowledge is. I’m excited that my kids can become a true musician with all these wonderful music elements.
3. Organized Materials: The complete materials, Units 1-6, Lesson 1-120, have 200 pdf pages and 12 MP3 albums, sheet music with practice instructions, music theory worksheets & activity pages, piano listening MP3s, practice & play-along MP3s, and parent guides. It is totally different than other YouTube piano lessons because those video lessons are free but the materials to support them are not. With Hoffman Academy, it’s all free. My kids especially love working on the music theory worksheets and activity pages. We are able to print out some rhythm flashcards, so my kid can use the flashcards to practice or to make their own songs. We also listen to Mr. Hoffman’s advice and play the listen and practice MP3s at home while they are playing toys or reading books to help the old and new piano pieces of music sink in.
4. Motivating and Fun Teaching Methods: Mr. Hoffman creates stories to help kids to learn all the keys of the piano. I love those stories too. He also practices different skills and music theory with games, and teaches students to sing solfege while playing the piano pieces. Most of the piano pieces are children nursery songs. There are a lot of fun ways to teach the alphabet to preschoolers, but how about teaching them the keys of the piano? I don’t think we can say “A” for “apple” and point to the key “A”. It would be so confusing. Or you could just give them a poster of all the basic keys, but you can’t expect a little kid to memorize them that way because there is no meaning to them. Mr. Hoffman created a piano sheet with different animals or characters on it in Unit 1, lesson 4,6, and 17, so students can imagine and create a real piano sheet in their minds with different neighbors who names start with C, D, E, F, G. My 5-year-old found it easy to learn and never forgot them.
5. High-quality Video Clips: I have no technical problems with their videos. You can access them through their website or Youtube. Every time, the quality of the sound and images are perfect. Also, there are interactive questions between the audience and Mr. Hoffman. I think the videos are great because Mr. Hoffman included “Pause” time, so the student can pause the video and practice certain sections until they are ready to move on. This is very important for teaching little kids because they really need time to practice.
6. Provide Useful Support for Parents: There are pages for SUPPORT and also a BLOG on their website to provide additional help and updates for parents as well. I especially love all the tips and methods of how I, as a parent, can encourage positive and uplifting piano practice every day. Also, I can throw in my own questions and comments. I know that I am a part of this worldwide community even while I am sitting at home.
How Can I Use this Program in my Homeschool
As a pianist and a homeschooling mom, I personally think this is one of the best online piano programs. It is great for everyone who has little kids like me, or anyone who wants to learn basic piano skills themselves. Although the videos are more geared for little kids, the lessons, piano techniques, and music theory are perfect for any beginner.
Honestly, if you are looking for piano lessons where you don’t have to work with your kids, and the piano teachers does everything for you, this may not be the best program for you because for little kids, you must watch with them, and explain more. You are basically using this program to home-teach piano to your kids. If you want to keep your little one interested in music or make sure your kids will practice every day, you have to do it with them. Once they grow up, you will most likely use a different approach to encourage them to practice on their own, but until then, you will have to be very involved in their lessons.
The only downside is that I’m not sure how far this program will go. Unit 8, the newest unit, is coming out soon, but I don’t know how many total lessons there will be.
For me, this program is perfect for my kids and helps them build a strong music and piano foundation. If I want my kids to be pianists, I may need to hire another piano teacher to teach my kids privately in the future, but for now, it’s the perfect piano program for me and my family.
If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave comments below or email me.
You Might be Interested:
- How Music Helps Children Learn Languages (Helen Doron English)
If you are wondering how much music can really benefit to your kids’ development, this is a perfect article for you to read. After I read this article, I am totally planning to put more effort in providing music lessons for my kids.
- Learning Languages Through Music : 3 Keys to Unlock Any Languages (FluentU)
It is a great article for language learners to understand the connection between languages and music. Yes. There are connections. Isn’t that cool?