Homeschool Dad : On Chess

Having finished the first year, I’ve been preparing our portfolios for review and giving thought to next year’s curriculum and objectives. It makes sense, then, that I’ve also been reflecting on the year’s highs and lows and evaluating potential changes.

One last-minute subject that I never would have intended to teach were it not for a couple of well-timed blog posts is chess. I’ve long appreciated the game, even if I’ve never spent intentional time considering strategies. I can honestly say I learned alongside the kiddos, and that at this point it is only a matter of time before they far exceed my capabilities.

For a text, I chose two books. The Batsford Book of Chess for Children (book links to Amazon) by Sabrina Chevannes was the favorite. Chevannes introduces the game using the framework of a conversation between a comic brother and sister, top-notch color graphics, and enough humor to engage the kiddos. (Star Wars references are helpful!) Our students (age 9, 9, and 7 at the outset) loved it, understood it, and looked forward to it weekly.

Chess for Children by Murray Chandler became our supplementary text. This bare-boned presentation rests on the same level as Batsford. Though a little cluttered and monochrome, there are tremendous paper exercises throughout this book that proved useful.

For a schedule, we chose Mondays for lessons, and three days throughout the week for individual games. While one of the kiddos would read aloud to me, the other two would face off. As the year rolled on, we added notation to their games so that they could practice writing, reading, and reliving games.

Once we finished the text, we began reviewing tournament matches as a way of introducing opening strategies. Thanks to chessgames.com, we were able to visit a number of classic master matches and see how a variety of players utilized particular opening moves. The kiddos particularly enjoyed meeting Bobby Fischer and his King’s Indian.

Perhaps the nerdy dad highlight of the year was the first time the kiddos responded to an aggressive bishop capture with a boisterous OH!, or a queen sacrifice with a loud WHAT?!? as if they had just watched Randy Johnson blow up a bird.

To sum up, teach them chess. Teach them to think abstractly and strategically. Rejoice when they work together as a team to defeat you. Be afraid when you realize your now-8yr old daughter traps your queen – on purpose. Celebrate when they challenge random college students to games and win. Delight in the development of a wholly different portion of their amazing brains!