Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homeschool Review Crew: KinderBach Review

So! My first homeschool review post of the year - KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership and Teacher Corner. My hope in applying to review this program was that I would be able to temporarily "replace" the fantastic piano teacher we had when we lived in Baltimore. 

Kinderbach Review
I know that no program will likely ever replace a good live instructor, but I wanted to get something in place to keep them from losing the skills they gained while with Mrs. Diane. In Baltimore we had only an electric keyboard for the kids to practice on; once we moved to Virginia, we had space and ability to get a decent wall piano off of Craigslist… and then had no teacher.
KinderBach is geared towards younger children - the 4-7 age range. I had my barely-5 year old Buttercup, 2 year old Mr. Magoo, and (just because he wanted to) 9 year old Bruiser watching the little  3- to 5-minute videos. Let me talk about the videos for just a second - they are frequently done with some bad blue screen work and the music does not stay on tempo, which I thought was odd given that it's a music program. And the videos try a little too hard to be cute, and ended up confusing my daughter, no matter what level we tried working at. For instance they use football imagery to show various patterns (stepping up, stepping down, etc) to use when playing the scales.

Kinderbach ReviewBut the program has a lot of stuff to explore, so don't give up over just the videos. But be aware that as this is a somewhat integrative program, Mom and Pop still have the pleasure of watching the video snippets with the kidlets so you can help guide them through the activities.

First there are books to download - these you'll want to print out because they provide the hands-on arts and craft-type activities that the program relies on. The program revolves around the Piano Pals. These are creatures like Dodi the Donkey, who built his house in between two of the black piano keys. The remaining Piano Pal homes are introduced similarly as a way to teach the kids about the layout of the piano keys. 
Kinderbach Review
video capture
Inside the books are little cut outs of the characters. These are meant to be put on the fingers to teach kids before they are ready to read the music. Moving away from the videos, let's look further into the book pages. The books included activities that helped kids figure out left from right (important when playing piano and trying to figure out which hand and fingers to place where), music notes and how long to hold them, rests, bass vs. treble clef, etc. through various clever coloring pages, puzzles, and so on.
Kinderbach Review
sample workbook page

But this is not a program to just let a child watch and you walk away. The various pieces all need explanation for how to do the steps and put the whole together. Because of the many working pieces that are used - the finger puppet cut outs, the videos, etc, it is also not a program that you can jump into at the middle and try to understand it all. 
Pricing - There are free goodies on the main page, including coloring pages, teacher pages, songs/sheet music, etc. You can get a DVD set to use at home for $40, or the online version is on special right now for $96 a year. The normal price is $130 a year. There is an iPad app, but we were unable to test it because Maestro's screen is cracked and I don't want the younger kids to risk getting glass in their fingers, so I've been keeping it away from them.
Kinderbach Review
What's the bottom line for our family? The program is a decent starter for a child who has no music experience at all, and who has a parent who can sit and work through each step on a daily basis. For our family, my kids are past the point that this program teaches, so we will likely not be using it further unless I can get the 2 year old to better understand what the videos are trying to say.
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