Friday, July 18, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: HomeSchoolPiano

Adding music to a homeschool experience is always a treat but somewhat hard to implement. Unless the parent knows how to play an instrument they need to find other outlets for their children to try to learn. HomeSchoolPiano is offering a solution that will allow your students to learn piano in their own home. While Gess takes private lessons, with her special needs I thought she could use some extra help at home so I wanted to give this a try.

For the purpose of our review we received the HomeSchoolPiano Complete Set of Books.

This package includes lifetime access to the entire program for up to 5 students, video instructions that can be streamed online and are also downloaded for offline use, workbooks in PDF form, and interactive quizzes which are a great way to see how well the student is following along.

These lessons start with the very basics with what they call CorePiano. These lessons are for those who have never taken piano before and do not know much at all about music. They cover the musical alphabet, the notes of the piano, high and low notes, finger numbers, five finger scale and even how to sit at the piano. They also had one lesson about the grab technique which was a new one to us. I really love how he explained how to grab at the keys when you play, which made it easier to move on to the next key. It was really helpful.

Other than the grab technique we did not do any more of these lessons as we already have the basics down. After CorePiano there are 3 levels of Lesson Books. We played a bit with Lesson 2 to see where Gess was since she has some piano background, but it was clear he was moving too fast so we started back at Book 1. Each book is divided into units so we went ahead and started at unit 1 since his teaching method is different than what she is used to.

He presents each lesson in 6 steps. Techinque, Rhythm, Ear Training, Reading, Song, and Improvisation.

Each lesson starts with video instruction where he sits in front of the piano and explains the lesson. Sometimes you play along with him, other times you just listen. He will go over the workbook sheets that correspond and explain how to play them as well as demonstrate them for you.

While you can watch the video on your computer it also functions well on a tablet and smart phone. We have a generic tablet that often has trouble viewing lots of things but I was glad to see that it worked really well with this program. I was impressed. Here is Gess using that during one of her lessons.

The Rhythm, Ear Training, and Reading Music lessons also have interactive quizzes which I thought were helpful. You had to recognize which bar of music was actually played, match the rhythm to the notes, identify the music notes and other things like that. Gess enjoyed this part of the lesson.  I really liked that you could take it again and improve your score if you missed any.  That was important to Gess as she hates not getting a perfect score.  Of course it is also important that the child get the concept accurately.

As a parent you can go in and see your child's progress. They will tell you which lessons are complete and any scores given on the quizzes. Make sure they are logged on their own user to track this information. When we first got it I was using only mine until I figured out how to add a student so this does not show that she watched the first video, even though she did.

We would do one lesson a week viewing it and then spending the rest of the week practicing what was taught. You can move faster or slower, depending on your own needs. I was also going to try to learn the piano myself and did play around with a few lessons but I am not disciplined enough to stay with it, especially this summer.  While we have had some fun stuff going on, we have also had some minor surgeries we have helped our parents through. With that in mind you do have to have the discipline to do these lessons on a regular basis. I would place a high priority on it during their school day which is easier to do in the fall than it is in the summer when things are so busy.

While I liked his teaching method and online quizzes I did not really like the implementation of the lessons. The gentleman is friendly enough and enjoyable to listen to but he is definitely talking to someone who has a grasp on the material. He goes too quickly for our needs and sometimes makes mistakes or presents things in a way that is confusing. I got to the point where Gess only watched his video away from the piano and then went to practice afterwards so it wouldn't confuse her as much. That did seem to help. There are two examples that really stood out to explain what I mean.

The first one is where he is teaching rhythm.  He will say it, then play it, and then have you play it with him. One time he said it, but played it wrong. He realized it and mentions that, but since this is a recorded lesson you would think they would do it again until they got it right. It was distracting for me, as well as Gess.

Then another time he was going over rhythm and teaching how to find the upbeats. He goes through the entire sheet saying the rhythm with you but he doesn't always say it like it is on the sheet.  For example he would have this rhythm.

But instead of saying what you see on paper, "Dah dee ba Dah. Dah dee ba Dah." He left out the first Dah and said, "Dah  de ba (). Dah dee ba Dah."  After he has done all of the examples (or at least most of them) he then explains why he didn't say that first Dah. Since it is attached to the ba with the line you could just hold the ba instead. That is information that would have better been nentioned at the beginning, not end of the lesson. I spent the entire time trying to figure out if I had the right worksheet or not thinking the book had an error.

I realize we all make mistakes, but as I said before, since these are recorded lessons I would expect those mistakes to be corrected before publishing it. It really made it difficult for me to concentrate. If you can get past that he is engaging enough to listen to and does explain what you need to know, but I am not sure if he is quite kid friendly enough. I would definitely recommend this for older students.

I ended up watching them with Gess and then slowly going over it with her myself. I actually love how he teaches rhythm and that is where Gess needs the most work and his technique seems to be good. Gess does seem to be improving in that area. His encouragement for improvisation is helpful as well. In one lesson he recommended changing sounds on the keyboard if you have one, just to make it more interesting while you practice. Here is Gess doing that while trying to keep the right rhythm.

The best part about it is that you can pay one fee and own it for life and teach 5 students at a time.  Knowing that large homeschooling families might struggle to afford private lessons for all their kids, this is one way to do it economically. They do offer a sample lesson and I recommend checking it out if you think this might work for you.

HomeSchoolPiano is for all ages.

Success Package - One payment of $299: This includes unlimited life-time access along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

Payment Plan - Payments of $99.97 per month for three months: This includes unlimited life-time access along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

To learn more visit the HomeSchoolPiano website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below. 

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From all of us at Jazzedge, we thank you for your unbiased review. Hope you enjoy the lessons!


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