My husband and I decided to try something new with our children’s music lessons this year. In past years, our kids have been going to piano lessons with an awesome teacher. The problem with that was we found it difficult to find someone to get them to town on time. I work at home and couldn’t leave the house during business hours and he wasn’t always able to drop what he was doing at work to come and get them just to turn around and get them home an hour later. My oldest son, who no longer lives at home, helped out as much as possible but I always felt bad asking him to donate his spare time to my agenda. On top of that, the kids (mainly my youngest) had a hard time stopping mid-subject to go to lessons and finding his focus again when he came home. It is very important to me to have my children learn music so the sacrifice was worth it. I keep thinking about the phrase, ‘Work smarter, not harder’. There has to be a better way!
Online Piano Lessons
And then it hit me… like a rock in the head! It must have been the rock that I was living under! Well, maybe it didn’t happen quite like that, but none the less it hit me! I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. Living in a day and age with limitless on-line resources, there had to be on-line lessons, right? I started looking and was blessed to find quite a few free websites. I was willing to pay whatever I needed to just for the convenience, but it’s nice to not have to. I bookmarked a few websites and had the kids choose which one they liked the best. After all, if they don’t like the teaching style, they might not get as much out of it. They chose The Hoffman Academy and are loving it so far. Because my son was more of a beginner but not just starting out, I had him start in unit 2. He might have been able to start farther into the units, but I would rather have him review a concept than miss a theory lesson. The website is nicely organized and it is easy for the kids to pick up where they left off. The lessons are totally free but if you want to print the sheet music to go with the lesson plans, it costs $19 per unit (every 20 lessons).
Here is a quick video about The Hoffman Academy if you are curious to learn more.
Lessons from Books
My daughter has been in piano for about 5 years now. Needless to say, she is intermediate at piano and a very independent learner. She doesn’t feel like she needs the online lessons as much, but instead, has been continuing using the books that she has been learning with in her lessons from the teacher. She just picked up where she left off at the end of last year. It has been going great! Alfred’s Premier Piano Course comes with a lesson, performance, and theory book that all coordinate with each other. They make it easy to figure out which book pages coordinate by telling you at the top of the song page.
Choosing a Song to Learn
Aside from the lesson, the kids are always working on a song. They get to choose whatever song that they like. My daughter likes to look up her favorite song (piano version) on YouTube to see how it sounds on the piano. Sometimes the kids don’t think that the songs sound as good as they thought… and some songs sound even better! After they choose as song, we order the sheet music from musicnotes.com. They have songs for different levels so be sure to find music that your child can play. The sheet music costs $4 on average but my kids work on their songs for at least 2 months so it is worth a few dollars to me. In my mind, having a goal (song) is just as important as knowing what book that they will be reading next. My daughter has been working on ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger (oh, how I love hearing her sing along!). She mastered one hand (aka the top line of the music notes) but couldn’t seem to add the second hand at the same time. She really wanted to give up and begged me to let her just start a new song but I wouldn’t let her. I have seen what she can and can’t play. No matter how hard things are, we start what we finish! Perhaps we have a few more things to learn before we finish, but WE FINISH! Within a few days, I noticed that her hands were coordinating and her song sounded awesome. Oh, sweet music! She learned a valuable lesson in determination. Try a little and you get a little… try a lot and you get a lot!
Show it Off
One big down side of not going to a piano teacher is that we don’t get to participate in the recitals. I think that it’s important for the kids to be able to show their progress. It can help boost confidence and give them more of a goal to learn the song well. Besides, people like to hear it (well, some people). Instead of a recital, the kids will be playing at the nursing home in town. I think that it will be a win, win situation. The sweet little people love company, they love kids, and they love music! The kids will be doing a community service and getting some public playing time in. Love it!
The kids practice music for an hour a day and they are learning to play guitar and the Low D Whistle in that time as well. We saved so much time from having lessons at home that we were able to squeeze in a few more instruments. They are few months into it and all of their hard work is paying off. I will be sharing our tricks to learning guitar and whistle at home so check back soon.
For some reason, practicing piano in mismatched pj’s seems to help my son learn the music. 😉 Do your kids take piano lessons at home? Let me know what works for you in the comments below.