The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Hoffman Academy Premium Subscription Review by Susan Anadale

Joseph Hoffman
Hoffman Academy
12660 NW Cornell Rd
Portland, Oregon 97229-5810

An accomplished pianist, composer, and conductor, Joseph Hoffman developed the Hoffman Method of teaching piano, which he continues to use with his students at Hoffman Academy in Oregon. As his business grew and became more successful, he came to realize that the demand for piano lessons was greater than he could possibly satisfy. With a little help from the internet, he was soon able to teach students from around the world with his fun, innovative video lessons.

Mr. Hoffman has a business model that may surprise you: his video lessons are 100% free. In fact, when he first introduced his company online in 2010, it was called In addition to the videos, he sold accompanying workbooks in pdf form. In 2013, the website got a new name, Hoffman Academy, and in 2017 it got an upgrade to become a fully interactive website.

The video lessons themselves continue to be free. For the past year, my two middle children, ages 11 and 13, have been using the free part of Hoffman Academy to learn to play the piano.  It has been a wonderful experience.

Joseph Hoffman is talented, funny, and personable. Each video is short and gives the child instructions on what to practice.  He does an excellent job of teaching children proper posture, technique, and even music theory. All my kids cracked up when he reminded them not to have “T-Rex” arms while playing the piano and they know to watch for the fun finger puppet “Easter Egg” at the end of the video.

The Hoffman Method emphasizes the following areas: ear-training, rhythm, sight reading, technique, improvisation, and music theory. The importance of daily practice is also emphasized throughout. It is a very thorough and rigorous music curriculum, and yet none of my children ever complain about doing their piano lessons. There are currently nine units with a total of 170+ lessons available. 

The site is designed to work on both computers and mobile devices. It works perfectly on my Fire tablet, making it easy to prop it up on the piano to watch the lessons or access the practice sessions.

Mr. Hoffman recommends that children progress at their own pace, but suggests they do two to three lessons per week and practice every day.  My 11-year-old with special needs averages one lesson a week, but is making steady progress. Even with this slow progression he has really grown as a pianist and is working on his own compositions.

With the advent of the new website this year, Mr. Hoffman also introduced Premium memberships to Hoffman Academy. For fee of $15/month or $149/year, not only can you access the free videos, but you can download the accompanying sheet music, workbooks, and mp3s, and you can use the interactive system for keeping track of your practice, get personalized daily practice, play learning games, and earn points.  If you prefer to stick with the free program and just add in the workbooks, these can be purchased for $19/unit.

My rising third grader is using the Premium membership.  While her older siblings do well practicing the free lessons on their own, I felt that she could really benefit from the interactive practice component.

When I log her in to Hoffman Academy, it takes her to a dashboard that shows her at a glance what she completed last and what is next.  At the top of the screen there is a progress bar showing her what percentage of the current unit she has completed.  She can also click on the “Lessons” tab to access the full list of lessons and practice sessions.

After each video lesson, there is a coordinating practice session.  Lessons and practices can be repeated as needed.  Practice sessions have multiple parts with exercises in each.  When she enters the practice, at the top of the page there are links given to download the necessary work pages and sheet music.  Beneath that there is a breakdown given of the practice. At the beginning of the practice for lesson 7, for instance, this page tells me my daughter has one music theory task, five technique tasks, and one super challenge task.

Here is an example of a technique task: “Play D Journey using the Practice Track three times,” with an mp3 file for the practice track embedded in the page. Once the child finishes the task, she clicks the checkmark at the bottom of the page and then “next” to go to the next task.  The whole practice session takes her about twenty minutes or so.

Students earn points for completing lessons and practices.  At the time of this review, points did not “earn” anything, but the folks at Hoffman Academy told me that they are considering possibilities for adding something. My daughter suggested that maybe points could earn special videos from Mr. Hoffman or some other fun extra. 

In addition to the lessons and practice, there are also musical games to play. Students can access these by clicking on the “games” tab at the top of the page. At the time of this review, there were three games with another one coming soon: Alphabet Towers, Mystery Melodies, and Staff Crawler. My daughter loves the games as much as the videos.  She hardly seems to notice that they are also teaching her essential concepts like music theory and ear training.  While my daughter had not trouble finding the games, I think it would add to the integration of the program if they were somehow better incorporated into the routine. Perhaps at the end of a practice, there might be a suggestion or a link to one of the games that reinforces that lesson.

We already loved Joseph Hoffman’s free video lessons, but the Premium membership to his site is a great addition.  While my daughter does need me to download and print the work pages and sheet music for her, she’s able to use the rest of the website independently, which she loves.  Like her siblings, she’s making steady progress, but I don’t have to constantly remind her of what she needs to do next---the program does that for me.  Clearly a lot of thought has gone into making Hoffman Academy’s Premium Membership complete and easy to use.

-Product review by Susan Anadale, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2017