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    Thoughtworthy (AmblesideOnline Camp Meeting, Hoffman Academy, and MORE!)

    October 19, 2018 by Brandy Vencel


    :: 1 ::

    Registration is opening soon for the 2019 AmblesideOnline Camp Meeting! (The AmblesideOnline National Conference.) It’ll be near Nashville in Tennessee, April 4-6, 2019. I’ll be there … will you?

    Click here for more details.


    :: 2 ::

    My children are trying out Hoffman Academy for piano lessons. They just began so I can’t give you a full review yet. O-Age-10 is very enthusiastic! And so far, I really like the style — the way he’s mixing in music theory and solfege from the very beginning (especially since I’ve been a solfege slacker lately!).

    With that said, someone bought this for them, and not all at once. There were problems making the purchase, and it turns out the customer service is really not that great! (As in: seven weeks and still haven’t heard back.) Also, because all the children were not upgraded to Premium (that’s what the paid version is called) on the same day, we were overcharged compared to the advertised price.

    Here’s what happened.

    We were first given a gift card to cover the cost for A-Age-13. That was the $179 per year price (notice: way cheaper than live piano lessons). A month later, when we went in to upgrade the other two children (remember, the advertising is clear: $179/year for the first child and $89/year for each additional child), we were charged $179 for one child and $89 for the second child, even though all three children are in the same account. Our benefactor tried for weeks to not be overcharged by contacting them in various ways. According to her, she never received a reply.

    I say all of this not to complain, but to warn you. First, know that it’s likely that if you have any trouble with the Hoffman Academy shop, you might not be able to get help. Second, if you want to upgrade your children, make sure you upgrade them all at the same time or you will be overcharged. Their system does not automatically adjust for previous purchases within the account.

    It’s funny: a couple years ago, the company contacted me offering their services for free in exchange for my review. I didn’t do it because I say no to anything I wasn’t already considering. (I don’t like feeling obligated.) The benefit of saying no and then going through all this later is that I got to see — for real — what the purchase side was like. I would have missed that.

    So, yes. In a year or so I’ll write a review to tell you what I think. I did a great job teaching piano to my oldest child, but I had real trouble with consistency as life picked up and I’ve failed at passing it on to the others. I hope this will help me remedy the situation!


    :: 3 ::

    After some an unexpected mid-season break due to my flu, Scholé Sisters is back! Listen in to Mystie and I chatting books with Martin Cothran:


    :: 4 ::

    I’ve been sorting out the lineup for the next season of AfterCastIt’ll take a lot of doing for me to have it ready before the end of the year, but we’ll see. I think it’d be fun to have it come out while Scholé Sisters is on our winter hiatus.


    :: 5 ::

    This month in 2010:

    I forgot I did this! In 2010, I blogged through most of Charlotte Mason’s third volume, School Education. While not a substitute (never is there a substitute!) for reading her original words, I thought you might enjoy this little snapshot of the past.


    :: 6 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • A diet guru explains why you should eat dinner at 2pm from Quartz
      • This was interesting, especially since all homeschool moms everywhere want to finish school lessons and immediately launch into making dinner.
      • Adding snacks to our morning solved a number of problems I initially thought were school problems. They turned out to be blood sugar issues. My children have been blessed with my husband’s amazing metabolism and they might die before lunch even if I feed them a decent breakfast. Which I do. Decent breakfasts are not optional around here.
      • His argument seems to hinge on the idea that snacks weren’t a Thing until 1980 or so. The sample size for the survey he quotes is substantial.
      • My grandma has told me multiple times about making snacks for her sons everyday when they returned home from school in the 1950s, and I noticed last night the eating of snacks in Little Britches in the early 1900s. Neither the book nor my grandma seemed to think this was strange. Not that I know what a book is thinking, but still.
      • Snacking and eating all day long are two different things. It seems wise to have set snack times if we’re going to allow snacking.
    • The Habit of Irritation from Faithfully Ordinary
      • Read it and feel convicted. I certainly did!
    • More reading and writing in high school? No time for that. from The Washington Post
      • So sad: “The following statement is not a joke: Many writing classes discourage much writing.”


    :: 7 ::

    I spent about half of this year not working very hard at the food thing. I just had too much going on and so I made a one-week meal plan and, for the most part, we ate it over and over and over. Then, we had some life changes and somehow that woke me up to the need to revisit better nourishment. It’s not that the food had gotten junky so much as I know it’s better to offer more variety.

    So I’m trying. I made a list of every meal in my arsenal that doesn’t take a zillion hours to prepare. Turns out, there’s more than a week’s worth of options! So each time I plan a week, I look at my list and make sure I’m not just duplicating the previous week.

    I’m also trying to make one new … something … a couple times a month. This week, I tried Portuguese Salt Cod Hash because I had Fish Dish Failure two weeks in a row. (We loved it so much I added it to my options list.)

    Next week, after I buy some almond butter at Costco, we’re going to try Northern Nester’s Cinnamon Loaf. (I love this site because pretty much every recipe works for both my gluten-free girl as well as my sugar-free boy.)


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  • Reply CC July 16, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    Hi, I’m just curious if you have any update about your experience with Hoffman Academy for piano, and whether you recommend it now that you’ve had the opportunity to use it for a while? They are having a sale right now, so I’m considering it. Thanks for any input you can offer! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 16, 2019 at 3:46 pm

      Yes! I’m still quite happy with it. I still think their customer service is terrible (we’ve never heard back any time we’ve tried to get assistance) and I’m still being overcharged compared to their advertised prices for siblings. But if you’re prepared to handle those sorts of things, the actual product — the classes, exercises, and printable materials — are quite good.

      • Reply CC July 17, 2019 at 8:00 pm

        Thanks so much for the update, Brandy! I’m sorry for the trouble that you’ve had with their Customer Service, and that does give me pause. But it’s helpful to know that you are still pleased with the program itself after seceral months of use. I appreciate your input and I sincerely hope that they finally get back to you on this!

  • Reply Sarah M. November 20, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Seeing your information about the Hoffman Academy, I’m curious what your thoughts are regarding when to use online teachers vs “real” (in person) teachers? I would like to supplement our homeschooling with online piano and art lessons (subjects I value but which I’m not very confident teaching), but my husband is concerned about the increasing dependence on digital relationships vs in person relationships in our society. He would prefer that our children be taught by people they can interact with rather than just a computer screen. I understand his concerns but also see the benefits of online lessons in terms of cost and time saved by not having to drive all over town. Our daughters are still young (7 & 5), and I feel that if they begin to show a great interest or talent in a specific area, that would be the time to pursue an in-person tutor, but online teaching is good for now. Any thoughts?

  • Reply Laura October 23, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    We’re on our second year of Hoffman piano lessons, and we love it! I’ve just stuck with the free stuff. It takes a little more mama time to come up with practice sessions, but I’ve found that making slips of paper with activities like “transpose ‘Frog in the Middle’ into D minor” for him to pull out of a jar is a great way to give him some control and variety. I’m super pleased with the lessons, my son loves the funny parts and is progressing well, and it costs us nothing. I considered Premium for awhile, but I’m comfortable with having a more active role – and Mr. Hoffman is a much better pianist and teacher than I would be, so this is a great alternative to me teaching my son myself. And after hearing of your experience, I think we’re just going to continue this way!

  • Reply Jen @ Bookish Family October 21, 2018 at 5:47 am

    Our experience with Hoffman academy customer service has been different! We did get immediate responses to issues and we did successfully add another child. I think the “problem” is that all of your accounts have to be simultaneous . . . like if 1 child expires on July 1, and you want to add another year membership for another child, both memberships have to be “renewed” to end at the same time. It is a bit confusing or clunky, but we have been using the lessons for over 1 year and I LOVE what they are learning . . . solfege, sight reading, transposing, and improvisation! And the songs are good.

  • Reply Hayley Beck October 20, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    We started Hoffman Academy, too. Thanks for the heads up about the customer service. My children are loving the piano lessons though.

  • Reply Angelique October 20, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I really enjoyed your podcast with Martin Cothran. My favorite lesser known author is Hilda von Stockum. She’s been kind of relegated to “niche Catholic children’s author,” because most of the families she writes about are Catholic and their faith is in evidence, but it’s a real shame because they are SUCH good books. She was so talented at transporting you into different places and cultures. Her characters are so human and funny and her families are just wonderful, very much the reality of what it’s like to live in a large and sometimes crazy family, but so wholesome and loving.

    • Reply Becky October 21, 2018 at 8:47 am

      Yes! I just listened to that podcast and Hilda Van Stockum lived in all the places she wrote about, too! Our fav has been the Bantry bay series, I think because my hubby loves my Irish accent for the voices! It was a sad day when we finished Pegeen?! A dear friend just gifted my girls with an old doll house and it’s made to look like an Irish cottage, so the story continues! Also love little britches! We need good healthy snacks! Ever tried fat bombs?

  • Reply Veronica October 20, 2018 at 9:31 am

    OMGosh Brandy! I love this weeks Thoughtworthy!! Thank you!!!

  • Reply Jen Snow October 20, 2018 at 7:04 am

    Oh, would you look at that…a link to my little corner of the internet. *Blush* Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply tess October 19, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    LOL Brandy— your snark about the snack guru actually had me chuckling out loud. 🙂 For reals.

    And as someone who is hereditarily mildly hypoglycemic, I also found his advice and historical interpretation to be precious. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 20, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Ha. And YES! I was hypoglycemic in high school and learning to carrying around almonds and eat them in between classes really saved me!

  • Reply Julie Zilkie October 19, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Your link for Schole Sisters is not working for me! I tried both Google and Edge, and neither got me anywhere. Any ideas?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 19, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Oops! The h was missing from https! I fixed it so it ought to work now. Sorry about that!

  • Reply Cristina Reintjes October 19, 2018 at 8:28 am

    We use Hoffman and I agree that the customer service is very poor. We were booted from our Premium membership with no explanation and they were just like, hmm sign up again. No fighting out what went wrong, no fixing the overcharge, not even an acknowledgement that it’s annoying and they are sorry—which would have gone a long way. It is so much cheaper than regular lessons though so…..

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 19, 2018 at 9:13 am

      Oh wow! So this wasn’t just a freak thing. I really think someday they will be sued for false advertising if there is no way to get them to fix the overcharging when it goes wrong like this.

      I hope you didn’t have to pay more to clear up your Premium issue!

      And I know what you mean: it’s still the cheapest way to do piano, plus not having to deal with the logistics of a live teacher, so…

  • Reply Sarah Bruce October 19, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Brandy, do you know if they will be recording the sessions at AO Camp for purchase later?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 19, 2018 at 9:11 am

      I don’t yet know! I think they would *like* to…

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