It will be one year next month that we commenced using PianoPhonics. There are a number of reasons why I chose this curriculum, and I intend to juxtapose those reasons with the results I’m seeing. This seems to me the best way to communicate whether
PianoPhonics is meeting my requirements, and will also allow those of you who have inquired (you know who you are!) to see whether it will fit your own situation.
It could be, after all, that you are looking for something a little different than what I was looking for.
As a disclaimer, I am only using this with our oldest. He was eight-and-a-half when we started. I have told my other children (who have requested lessons) that they must be eight in order to begin. This isn’t anything suggested by the curriculum, but it is my decision. The book progresses quickly, and I think little ones would have trouble moving along as things get more complicated. I have difficulty “making” a child younger than eight practice daily, and yet I know that daily practice is imperative. I also have trouble envisioning a child younger than eight practicing correctly, and I have no wish to babysit practice times. But poor practice does not develop the player; it is a complete waste of time and detrimental over the long term.
Here is what I was searching for when I finally found
- We didn’t want to pay for lessons when all I needed to do was learn to teach. I took piano lessons for years, and I briefly majored in music in college (piano was my secondary instrument; voice was my primary). I am not an amazing pianist by any stretch of the imagination, but I can read music and play, and I think I know enough about it that I have something worth passing on to my children. We do not really have the money for music lessons, especially when I consider eventually paying for lessons for all of the children. I would rather save our funds to pay for things we cannot teach ourselves, rather than things we should be able to figure out. What I like about
PianoPhonics is that the website includes hints for “self-teaching” — it is these hints (combined with other information in the book itself) which have slowly made me into a piano teacher.
- We wanted him to learn to play “real” music, not silly children’s songs. My poor parents had to listen to me play uninteresting versions of Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star over and over for at least seven years before I played anything worth listening to. Some of this is unavoidable when you start a child at the age of three, as my parents did (and I’m grateful for that, by the way — I do think there is a place for starting young children, depending on the goals you have for your children). But some of this is because most basic piano books are silly. Mystie’s family also uses PianoPhonics, and when I asked her about it, she said that Alfred’s, for instance, was more “fun” than “real.” In a lot of ways, this situation is akin to the Charlotte-Mason-versus-Almost-Everybody-Else debate in the world of reading. Some folks want children to have fun while reading, and they drag out the Easy Readers and related twaddle over years and years. In the Charlotte Mason philosophy, yes, we learn the basics — one must, after all. But the goal is to get the child to real books containing living ideas. In the same way, the point of teaching a child music is not for them to play simple, fun pieces. The goal is for them to slowly master the liberal art we call Music. I could go on, but for the sake of this review, let’s just say that PianoPhonics (in my opinion) is more liberating in that it frees the child up to begin to play — and think — as a musician ought.
- We wanted him to learn to read music. This is a huge bonus — my son is already reading real music. Each new piece adds a concept or two. First, we add proper notes to a staff. Then perhaps we add a sharp or a flat (not at the same time). We vary the notes so they have different beats. We learn about first and second endings. And so on. Each piece builds a little upon the old. It is a lot like teaching reading in this regard.
- We wanted him to learn to play properly from the very beginning. The emphasis upon proper fingering is something I was really excited about. As a child, I developed bad habits that later teachers had to un-teach. I am unsure whether this was the fault of the books I was using, or the teachers themselves, but either way I know from experience that learning to do it correctly— and practicing it perfectly — is like anything else: much easier over the long term. Again, I tie this to the Charlotte Mason approach to learning–let’s take writing. Instead of allowing them to write sloppily for years on end, we teach them to write perfectly only that of which they are capable. When they are tiny, that means a single stroke. But rather than attempting to unlearn poor habits (which some of us never can do), they build good upon good and attain to virtue in writing.
PianoPhonics not only fits our family and our goals, but it also fits our pocketbook. I hope Mr. Freer completes the second book soon, because we’ll need it in a few more months! The website says that the second book will end where Bach’s Two-Part Inventions begin, and that is something I look forward to! So far, I have no reason to think that any of my children will be professional musicians, but I do hope to enrich our family with music — something easily accomplished, I believe, with this curriculum.
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