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Monday, May 22, 2017

Free Piano Lessons, Review of Hoffman Academy

Music can be neglected very quickly in homeschooling. Our curriclum has some great learning materials for Music history, but the practical playing is not covered. Unfortunately I am not a musically talented person, so I am not capable of teaching themselves, and for awhile lessons were just not an option financially. Thankfully, we found a solutions three years ago with free music lessons through using Hoffman Academy

Hoffman Academy is the solid musical foundation along with piano basic;  learning scales, note reading, and even musical composition.  We started when the boys were in second grade and could read fluently. 

Mr. Hoffman is also a fun teacher, and understands how kids learn.  My kids look forward to the videos, he is educational and entertaining with fun puppet shows and jokes.

 In the beginning units, the parent might want to  to sit with them during each video lesson and practice, but they are only ten to twelve minutes. I am amazed at how much the boys have learned through these lessons in just a short time. We are currently in Unit 3, and they are able to practice pretty independently. I have printed all the songs and a practice schedule, and put in a binder for easy access during practice. 

The free lessons from Hoffman Academy have been a huge blessing to our family. There are now two levels of membership, Basic for free and Premium for $15 a month.  We use the basic free membership, and then spend the very small amount they ask for PDF of the printable materials &  practice MP3s ($20 for 20 lessons), and it is so worth it! So far, we have not felt the need to buy membership, and are still just enjoying the free videos and buys the printed materials each unit.  In the future, I may upgrade because $15 a month for two kids is still a great price.

You will need to an internet-able device to show the videos, preferably much bigger than your phone.  We tried the laptop, but a tablet that can put on top of the keyboard works much better. You don't need a huge scene, we just use our little Kindle  Fire HD 8 Tablet and it works great.
We use our  Kindle Fire   and a  Keyboard  for lessons.

We have a small home, so we don't have room for a real piano.  Thankfully Mr. Hoffman says a keyboard works just as well.  For Christmas two years ago, we bought the boys a very budget friendly Keyboard Package , that even came with stand. Mr. Hoffman stresses good piano posture, so we also bought a small padded bench  Padded Keyboard Bench that went perfectly with our keyboard!  The boys love exploring on the sounds on their keyboard!
Three years later and we still love this keyboard !

I hope this helps someone looking for a music education option for your homeschool. 

Contains affiliate links

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Emotional Journey of Decluttering

Decluttering is not an exercise in cleaning, or even organzation.  If you go into decluttering process treating as such, you may not have the success you want. 

 Decluttering is emotional journey; a walk through memories, an assessment of priorities, and readjustment of want versus need. This journey has taught me that  stuff wasn't just stuff; every item in my life has power to affect my mood and life.

Marie Kondo, a guru of decluttering, believes everything in your house should give you joy. I had actually never heard of Marie Kondo, or read her book, until she was mentioned in a Gilmore Girls Revival episode, and  I was already knee deep and several years into in this journey of decluttering, which began in 2015 for me.  I still have yet to read a book on decluttering, but I have learned a lot through experience. 


My husband I  married when I was 19 years old and he was just 20 years old. We worked full-time while putting ourselves through college. The the year after my husband finished college a lot happened:

1.) My husband began an entry level job as a social worker
2.) We bought a starter home of a 900 sq ft bungalow (which we are still in 10 years later)
3.)  I had twin boys and  became a stay at home mom

Now fast forward several years. We had struggled to make ends meet  for so long at the beginning, I never said no to anything given to us; including hand-me-downs, giant pieces of furniture (headboards, entertainment centers, etc), and old school tube TVs. 

We had no money to buy anything new, so second items gave me the illusion of security. In reality, they added to my anxiety and discontentment in our small house.

The real push to change came with a gifted Willow Tree Nativity Set.  It was a very expensive full set that my estranged mother had given me years before. It was worth hundreds of dollars, and my husband and kids loved it, but I always felt a little odd bringing out a gift given to me by someone who had abused me for years.  It truly was beautiful, so I brought it out the first few years of my kids' lives, then slowly stopped bringing all the pieces out each year , claiming there wasn't enough room to set it up....then it stayed in storage three Christmas seasons because I couldn't bare to have it in my house.  

I still don't know why it took so long for me to finally see this set as something other than decor out of our price range that we could never financially replace, but after years, I saw it for what it was. It didn't bring me joy, it brought me painful memories. 

Once I finally decided that my feelings were more important than the supposed  value of this set, I finally had the courage to give it away.  In the end, God gave me a very clear direction for a specific person who needed the encouragement of the set. 

 The weight I felt lift when that set left my house was AMAZING. The joy of seeing the other person enjoying the set replaced all those years of negative association.  Now when I see a Willow Tree Nativity, it reminds me of when God transformed my hurt into joy.

The process of getting rid of the Nativity made me examine WHY I owned each item in my house. 

The key to my decluttering has been this question:


Was it a gift I feel guilty getting rid of?
 Is it's monetary value too big that I'm afraid to get rid of it?
 Am I storing for a future life (different  house, different  body, etc) that doesn't exist?

This new examination of my motivation meant purging things I was storing out of guilt or obligation. Slowly, but surely, I began to get rid of anything that wasn't kept for pure motives. 

It wasn't overnight, but this first step gave me permission to make a big change in my life.    My people-pleasing tendencies mean that guilt was a big motivator in my life, and this guilt was tangible by piling up stuff in my house! 

 I had four giant Pie fancy dish/displays given as wedding gifts, and had never baked a pie in my life. 

I had 14 sheet sets, because I kept receiving them as Christmas gifts from family.  Two/thirds were uncomfortable or ugly, and I never put on my bed. 

I sold the big dining room table I was storing in my basement for my "dream home",  because it was keeping me from enjoying my present home.  We turned that new found space into a basement movie theater area.

Once I got rolling, I finally had the courage to I donate clothes I had been given, or ill-fitting clothes I bought at garage sales, but felt ugly in. I gave myself to permission to buy clothes I actually feel good wearing.  Now I have less clothes, but I like how I feel good in all of them.

 Decluttering wasn't just tidying up, it is a practice in courage and being true to myself. 

This is where I must  urge you to pray, or bring a friend alongside you when you begin decluttering. If you plan to purge photos, bring a friend. If you plan to purge your kid's baby clothes, bring a friend.

  It will bring up emotions you may not expect, but need to be dealt with.  The feelings may not be guilt like me, but fear for the future, or a myriad of other things we attach to our stuff. The other side is beautiful, keep going, but don't go alone. 

It took me almost a year and half to get rid of the equivalent of seven full van loads (all seats down and stacked to the top) of stuff. 

After the nativity set, I decluttered ONE DRAWER AT A TIME. DO NOT try to declutter a whole  room at a time. I would do my jewelry box one day, and my sock drawer the next. 

I now love my little house again, and everything it in is useful or brings me joy.

Good Luck if you are beginning this journey. Take your time, start small, and don't go alone.

Give yourself permission to put yourself before your stuff.  

You might be interested in my other Decluttering Posts: