We chose to begin with Children's Music Journey Volume 2 which is geared towards students 4-8. While Gess is older than that I did not feel she was quite ready for the Piano Suite Premier software due to her special needs.
Children's Music Journey is an interactive computer program that not only teaches your child how play the piano but also teaches music history and exposes the children to great classical music during each lesson. They even learn to read and write their own music. Let me tell you how it works.
First you will need a midi keyboard that hooks up directly to the computer. Most electronic keyboards these days have a midi port. I had no idea until I needed it for this program that mine even had that capability, so if you have a keyboard it will probably work but be sure to check first. All I had to do was purchase a very inexpensive midi cable. If you find out that yours does not have the midi capability or you do not have one at all, Adventus does sell them.
Once we got our keyboard hooked up we were ready to try it out. Gess was tickled when she discovered that the computer could play notes on her keyboard and that it could also recognize what she played. It is pretty cool! After you log into your user you get to the main menu screen which offers access to the five areas of the program: Lesson Room, Practice Room, Game Room, Library, and Improv Room.
I was so excited to begin that I just hooked it up and tried to get started. We got through the first lesson OK but I didn't really know what to do from there. I also couldn't figure out how to get it to go on to the next lesson. To do that you have to go into settings and move it ahead. The program has 3 modes that you can use. The default setting is Normal which restricts the child from moving ahead until after they have completed the lesson. Then they can go to the practice room and game room when that is complete. There is a Free setting which allows you to go anywhere in the program, but from what I can tell you still can not move on from the lesson unless you manually go into the settings and move it forward when you are ready. I am not sure how restrictive the Restricted setting is. I keep it on the free mode since Gess does have more piano background than where we started.
I found it really helpful to use the MusIQ Lesson Plans I was also given to review. It comes with great instructional material which also teaches the music history and information about some of the great composers. The manual offers detailed instructions for the teacher as well as some great visuals, coloring pages and activity sheets.
A lesson takes about 30 to 40 minutes and is divided into segments. You start with about 5 minutes of review and game time and another 5 minutes of history. Then you spend about 20 minutes on the lessons portions of the program in the lesson, practice and game room. After that you there is about 5 to 7 minutes in the improv room and library. Here is Gess during one of her lessons. I love how she gave herself a thumbs up when she did it successfully.
One of her favorite games is Cliff Hanger where she has to help a jungle boy jump across vines by playing the appropriate pitches on the keyboard.
The Library is really cool because they get to listen to all of the composers they are introduced to in each lesson. Each lesson actually has the child listen to a bit of music by the composer to expose them to the music. Then during their free time they can go listen to that music anytime they want.
The Improv Room is really fun. There is a section on the manual about getting the most of out of the improvisation room. I recommend you read that. This is where the child gets to go and be creative and make their own music. They can even record their music and then later go back and listen to it. At first I thought I was not doing it right because I could not really hear her play on the recording. I finally figured out you just had to really decrease the background music volume. While she played in the improv room quite a bit she just recorded her first song today. I wish it let you title them. She wanted to call it Ocean Wave.
Here is a nice little video that helps you see what it actually looks like in practice.
I do really like the Adventus program. I particularly like how it includes history and develops an enjoyment for classical music as well as encouraging creativity in the improv room. It certainly is much more than I thought it would be. While I love the teacher manual because it really helps me know how to teach the program I feel it could also use an instruction manual for how to actually use it. It just does not seem to be intuitive and I feel that more help is needed. A tutorial would be great. Now that I am becoming more familiar with it I think I will enjoy using it more. I just had to invest quite a bit of time to get started. I did like that Gess could do most of the lessons on her own. All of the "musical" instruction is done in the program. I basically get it ready, introduce it and let her go play.
Gess really loves the animation and follows the instructions well. She seems to enjoy each aspect of the program and never complains about having to do it. Most of her struggle is with keeping rhythm and she will sometimes want to quit that part because "it's too hard" but that is due to her special needs, not the program. It is actually helping her in that area probably because it has games for it which is a pretty fun way to learn.
Children's Music Journey is only part of what you get as part of the MusIQ Homeschool curriculum. It comes with Children's Music Journey Volumes 1, 2 and 3 for ages 4-10, Piano Suite Premier for ages 10+, and the Ear Training Coach 1, 2, 3 and 4. You get access to all of this and can use it for more than one student for $10.95 a month. The Lesson Plans are sold separately and cost $29.95 for each volume. You can also purchase the actual program on CD as a package or individually with or without a keyboard. Visit their website for full pricing options and to learn more. You can also see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below. I am sure they will have more to say about the other volumes of Children's Music Journey as well as other parts of MusIQ Homeschool that I haven't gotten to explore yet.