A Chat with Kelly Hoffman, Co-Founder & CEO of Hoffman Academy

Kelly Hoffman and her husband founded Hoffman Academy, an award-winning provider of online piano lessons for kids. The delightful mom of two got us up to speed on the Hoffman Academy’s approach, the ideal age for kids to start learning an instrument and the hardest part of living in a musical family.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Tell us why families love the Hoffman Academy.

Families love Hoffman Academy because we make music education accessible, affordable, and fun.

At the heart of Hoffman Academy is the Hoffman Method – a complete music education system focused on learning by ear before learning by eye. Our method encourages students to first experience music so they can begin to understand music. We call this “Experience Before Explanation.” The experience of music – from singing notes to patting out rhythms – connects directly to kids’ natural love of music and prepares them for the sight reading, dictation, transposition, and other aspects of music theory featured in later lessons. We find that if a student can sing a song, it’s much easier for them to learn to play it on the piano. We focus on real music making and fun from the start (students play their first song in the first lesson!) because students who are having fun want to keep learning, lesson after lesson, practice session after practice session.

Is there a certain “ideal age” for kids to begin learning an instrument?

Our lessons are perfect for kids between the ages of 6 – 12. Some kids as young as 5 can start piano lessons with a lot of success. That said, we often say somewhere between 6 and 8 is a good place to start. In our years of teaching piano, we’ve come up with a few tricks to check for readiness – one of our piano teachers put together this fun video to help.

 

 

What’s the most surprising thing about living in a house full of musicians?

With all the music, it’s really hard to think sometimes! Someone is always on the piano playing or practicing. We have a very open floor plan home and it’s tough to find a spot where there isn’t music!

If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be? 

Laundry. Everything about it. Collecting it, washing it, moving it to the dryer, folding it, putting it away. Sorting through it, culling through the boys clothes for things they’ve outgrown. It’s endless. And don’t even get me started on matching socks after they’ve taken a mystery tour through the washer and dryer!

What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?

I love the time and space walking provides. I dream about a room of my own where I can blast music and dance my heart out – someday!

What is your best parenting hack? 

When Issac and Eli were little I realized texture was everything in eating. I used scissors or a food processor to cut their salads really finely. At 3- and 4-years-old, they would eat gigantic bowls of salad! And they do to this day.

 

 

One more parenting go-to: 

I always let my kids cry when they feel like crying. I did this even when they were little. I didn’t shush them or tell them “it’s okay.” If they took a tumble, I didn’t try to convince them that they weren’t hurt when they were clearly hurting! I’d let them know that I understood that they needed to cry and would say, “You cry all you want until the hurt goes away.” My boys would take a few minutes to regroup, then push me away, running off to play again. I have tried this approach with other kids and found that they stop crying on their own once they feel like someone understands them.

What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?

I don’t like lying! Even tiny lies. That said, Issac was relentless with his questions about Santa when he was barely 3 because he could sense I wasn’t answering his questions with the whole truth. Seriously, what 3-year-old asks how Santa gets heat and water at the North Pole if it’s a barren wasteland?!!

If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be? 

Fascinating.

What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?

A few years ago, when my son was about 8 or 9, I was painting a huge fence we had put up in front of our house. Rain was in the forecast and I had to get that fence finished before it started. I was outside painting until 10 or 11p.m. two nights in a row! My son snuck out of bed to help me. At first I was mad and then I realized what a beautiful gift he was giving me. I was so proud of him for his helpful nature, and I was also proud of myself for not getting stuck in a “you’re supposed to be in bed, you have school tomorrow!” mode.

 

 

What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?

Don’t do anything to please others. Do things because they are good, and right and kind. And do them because they make you and those around you truly happy.

What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?

Don’t expect yourself to do everything well. Play to your strengths. This can include finding helpers for childcare and household tasks who are great at what they do. Be the best mom YOU can be without getting too caught up in your own expectations or the expectations of others.

How do you tackle the work/life balance? 

I think the balance is impossible. Every moment of my day, I’m paying attention to either business, family, self, friends or service. I can’t balance that. Instead I try to allocate time for each. I like to schedule the most important things for each of those categories first, and then the trick is to not to get too distracted! Some days things in a particular category have to slide a little bit, and that’s okay. I do what I can and I try to let that be good enough.

What was the last book you read?

Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Joseph and I also just took turns reading The Rosie Project aloud to each other. We laughed out loud for days ! I highly recommend it.

 

Fun Facts

Favorite Beauty Product: 

Better than Sex Mascara by Too Faced. (Terrible name, I know!) I love it for my lashes, and I also use it for quick eyebrow touch-ups! I went through chemo a few years ago so I’ve noticed the difference full eyebrows can make.

Favorite Form of Exercise:

I love all kinds of exercise from crossfit to yoga. If I had to pick one, it would be walking. It makes me feel peaceful and calm, and I don’t need special equipment to do it!

What is on your DVR?

I just finished the latest season of This is Us. My boys and I watch The Flash and The Great British Baking Show together, and I love that time together. I have a weakness for any British murder mystery series, and that all started with the BBC series Hercule Poirot.

Favorite App:

I have a dream of becoming a surfer, not an “I-can-stand-up-on-a-board-look-at-me surfer” but a real surfer, with all the surfer confidence and grace. I have the NobodySurf app on my phone to watch for inspiration and to surf vicariously through all the surfers who make it look so easy!

Favorite Kids Store:

The Lego Store!