Hi Folks, this is my last TOS Review for this Quarter. The next TOS reviews will probably resume in mid-May or June.
The MusIQ Homeschool program is a complete music curriculum that covers theory and practice for ages 4 to 18 years old. It was designed for homeschoolers and is available as a CD-ROM or downloadable from the Internet. The program corresponds to 9 Years of Musical Instruction from beginner to advanced levels. It defines learning objectives per Year so you don’t get lost with all that the curriculum has to offer and you know what to expect in the package that you get.
My family used, for approximately one month, the downloadable version of Children’s Music Journey Volume 1, which is part of the Early Curriculum range. This is designed for Kindergarten up to 3rd Grade children (or 4 to 8 year olds). For system and hardware requirements, please click here.
The Company Behind MusIQ Homeschool
The MusIQ Homeschool software was developed by Adventus Incorporated as part of its Music Learning Solutions offered through a digital interactive platform.
Adventus is innovative in this sense as teaching music, or piano in our case, is often associated with having a person teach musical theory, guide practice sessions and assess performance and ability of student whether in a one-on-one setting, small class or formal music school. Through the software, even a parent with little or no musical background can teach his or her child music as long as there is a computer and an Internet connection in the home. Feedback from a MIDI-capable keyboard connected to the computer is immediate and allows you to assess the student’s progress yourself.
It’s suite of programs have earned numerous awards and accolades from various groups and publications. Now I’m not always interested in awards and I prefer to look at what drove the development of the curriculum I review so I know where it’s coming from before l check out the awards. But in this case a look at the ones that Children’s Musical Journey have garnered will show that it is a worthwhile investment.
Our Reasons for Using the Program
For my First Grader (6 turning 7 this April) – My Dearest Daughter took piano lessons when she was 5 years old. She can read musical notes and the musical alphabet, and knows her way around 1 to 2 octaves of the piano. She likes to play and improvise. But she had trouble with rhythm (following time signatures on the pieces she played).
She also didn’t like her piano teacher. To be fair, the piano teacher was a kind and good woman. It was probably just not a good personality fit between them. Also, because of my daughter’s age, she mostly wanted to play just the easy pieces (all in C major or only with the occasional sharps and flats). She refused to continue beyond the pre-Primer level in classical piano.
The reason I wanted her to try this program was because I thought she was ready to move to the next steps with piano training but didn’t want to hire a piano teacher or enroll her in a music school just yet.
For my 5 year old (turning 6 this May) Kindergartener – My Dearest Son was curious when he saw his older sister taking her lessons and wanted to learn to play the piano as well. He had the same piano teacher as DD. However, he was not as patient or willing to practice as she was. He just wasn’t ready. So he said he wanted to play the bongos instead. But whenever I or my daughter would play the piano he wanted to try it too. I suspected he was still interested and so I thought this program would be a good fit for him.
For my 4 year old Preschooler – My Little Swimmer loves to “pretend play” with the piano. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that he would turn on the pre-recorded pieces on our digital piano and play along on the keyboard. I thought this program would be a good step to getting him started on music lessons without having to hire another piano teacher.
Me – I play a little piano, certainly not well enough for public performances, but I do have a little background on the basics. In short, I’m not too confident in my knowledge to teach music or the piano. This was why I wanted to use this program. I needed help to teach my kids music.
Our Experience With The Program…
We learned something. Yes, we all did. My goals for my children were realized even in that short time span we used it for the review. DD finally learned how to play with rhythm (but not yet with a metronome). DS and LS are learning their Middle C’s and high and low notes. They’re all getting to know the famous composers they have encountered in the lessons and thoroughly enjoyed the activity sheets that supplement the software.
It was fun! One of the joys I savor as a parent is watching my children have fun – yes – thoroughly enjoying their “formal schooling” time. The children would literally beg me to let them do their practice sessions and game times, even listen to the lesson and musical pieces (more than twice!) and improvise. Take note, this is classical music we listened to.
It’s complete. I did say it was a complete musical curriculum. It covers theory, practice, allows improvisation, provides plenty of opportunities to listen to classical pieces, and uses games to reinforce music theory. The Lesson Plans per Year Level (available separately from the software when you choose the monthly subscription plan) provides a guide to the parent or teacher and comes with classroom management tools as well. You know how important manuals and teacher’s guides are to me so I can hit the ground running when it comes to teaching things. The company also has very good customer support to assist you with making the most of the software.
It’s developmentally appropriate. The software uses graphics, language and musical pieces that are appropriate to the developmental level of the intended learner for the program, in our case, pre-K to First Grade. I haven’t seen how the software looks like for other levels, so I recommend clicking the graphic near the end of this review so you can see what other families with older children think of the curriculum.
It’s somewhat teacher-intensive. For young learners like mine, the program still relies heavily on the teacher to ensure that the child has grasped the theory part. For older students, or for those with some background in music, it may not be the case. This means that there is still a lot of prep-work involved for the teacher. The Lesson Plan does make this easier for the parent.
As with any Internet-based program there were the occasional glitches such as the program hanging, not starting up or failing to recognize the digital piano connected to the computer. The solution is to restart or re-launch, and just be flexible. I didn’t encounter any problems with downloading the software program or getting it to run on our laptop and with our digital piano.
I did notice what I thought were occasional errors in the way the characters in the software read wrong notes. I saw the program accept as correct, a wrong note or rhythm played on the keyboard. I was surprised at this and saw it when my younger boys were using the program. My daughter already knows her way around the notes but the other two didn’t so she wasn’t making those errors the boys were making. I hope Adventus will fine-tune the software to detect errors like that. In the meantime, for beginners, it is important that the parent is present to watch out for these during lesson or practice time.
The MusIQ Homeschool Children’s Musical Journey Volume 1 is offered as a CD-ROM (US$ 69.95) or on a monthly subscription plan (US$10.95). That’s a fair price for music/piano lessons. In my part of the world, lessons at home with a teacher or in a music school, average from US $8.00 to $20.00 per 1 hour session.
**UPDATE (March 28, 2013): This is to clarify that the monthly subscription does not include the Lesson Plan, although the activity sheets themselves are available on the link provided.
Overall, I would say MusIQ Homeschool is worth the investment. We’ll continue using Children’s Music Journey Volume 1 in our home school for the rest of the year.