Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chess Classes from Chessology: Will Loved Them!

For the past couple of months Will has been a beta tester for Chessology, guinea pigging the development of a new online chess class. She took the class with the other children also beta testing, giving her teacher a real-world model to work through technical issues and develop strategies, and I provided feedback about her experience, to help him troubleshoot and make improvements.

The final result was a chess class that I just can't say enough about.

Willow LOVED her teacher, Coach Atkins, who was really personable and great with the kids. He teaches all the classes, using a webcam and a large wall-mounted chessboard:
Will's class ran from 9-10 on Saturday mornings--hence the doughnut!
The kids also use their webcams for a portion of every class, so that they can see each other and Coach Atkins can see all of them, but mostly they communicate through chat--one of the first skills that Coach Atkins taught them was algebraic notation, so that they can answer his questions and offer solutions to his puzzles and propose moves in demo games without having to have too much keyboarding ability:

One of my biggest pet peeves is the kids missing an activity that I've paid for, and I always try to route vacations to avoid missing activities as much as possible, so my favorite thing about this summer Saturday class was the fact that since it occurred online, Will could attend class wherever we had an internet connection. She attended class in hotels in Arkansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and if they hadn't had internet, I was prepared to drive her to Starbucks and just drink a giant coffee while she had her class--the sacrifices that we're willing to make for our kids' education!

Parents are expected to sit next to their kids and supervise during class which, while it means that I'm chained to the table for an hour doing paperwork (and the crossword puzzle!), it does turn out to be really useful. I've never formally studied chess, so I find learning about strategies like cascading pawns and en passant really useful. I can also pick out things like vocabulary terms and specific rules and strategies to add to Will's memory work--as an active scholastic player, she should learn that stuff, and it can only help her game. And since every week when I ask Will after class what her homework was and she says, "We didn't get any homework," and nearly every week they DO, in fact, get homework, it's also pretty useful that I'm sitting right there to hear and write down the homework assignment. 

A lot of the homework assignments have involved practice games set up in specific ways to teach specific strategies--
These cat and mouse games, set up in various ways, have really worked to make Will way more aggressive with her checkmate.
--and an interesting set of puzzles that turned possibilities for checkmating the king into an algebraic equation. It was pretty darn brilliant, and we've been using it ever since: 

You can see how it works in Coach Atkins' video about how he teaches it:

The girls have also been balancing equations in The Life of Fred, as well, so it's nice to have it all meet up.

I had several people ask me about the classes when I bragged about them on my Craft Knife Facebook page, back when registration wasn't open to anyone outside of the beta testing children, but now registration is open to everyone! Through August 1 you can actually get half off the registration price because we were beta testers and you know us (sort of), so you can click on the 50% off button and then name drop "Willow Indiana" as your beta tester buddy.

Okay--funnily enough, Will is actually at our town's scholastic chess club right now, along with Matt and Syd, so I'm off to eat frozen Kashi pizza and some cherries while reading my Dexter novel, figure out a pillowcase pattern to make from some organic flannel that I was given to review in the coming week for Crafting a Green World, weed my messy garden, and start on a frittata for dinner.

And yes, I may never make it past the Dexter novel on this to-do list.

1 comment:

Tina said...

The class sounds really cool. I would love to learn more about chess and I might just make Emma learn so I can feel more justified in learning it myself!

I don't know if she would want to, but I think it might be fun, so we'll see.

Yeah for some mama time! Have fun :0)