“The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess…”
—Benjamin Franklin, 1750, The Morals of Chess
There are plenty of reasons to incorporate chess, “The Game of Kings,” into any homeschooling curriculum. First of all, it’s fun. It is a great way for you and your child to interact in a positively competitive, yet appropriate way. Also, with the use of real-time online gaming forums, it is also a way for your child to get a bit of a break from the books, while giving yourself a bit of a break as well.
The great thing about chess is that it is as academic as it is recreational. According to the Wikipedia entry entitled, ‘Chess as Mental Training,’ numerous observations and studies have been done that suggest chess is beneficial to the mind, aiding in problem-solving skills, and the development of memory and perception.
According to a page at IchessU.com, an online “Chess University,” chess: dramatically improves the ability to think rationally, helps develop patience and thoughtfulness, increases cognitive skills, results in higher grades, especially in English and Math studies. Many other benefits are listed as well. Chess is simply a great thing for homeschooled students. Besides, all the cool kids play chess.
If your child is a complete beginner, there are lots of places to start. Whether it is more convenient or comfortable to learn online, via books, or in person, opportunities abound. Online, there are sites with lessons available, such as the aforementioned IchessU.com.
Also, chess.com, and a page at Princeton University’s website have free online beginner tutorials. These are just examples-there are many online lessons and tutorials available free online, and can easily be found by doing a simple search on Google.
If your child learns best by reading and using books, there are likewise many beginning chess books geared for kids of all ages. A good one (geared for kids, but great for anyone) is called Starting Chess, by Harriet Castor.
For homeschooled students, chess can also serve as an academic social opportunity.
Some public and charter schools offer chess as classes and/or afterschool programs. Check to see if your state or school district has a policy of allowing homeschooled students access to intramural organizations or classes. If so, find a chess club or organization that your child could attend.
If there are no such opportunities, there’s no reason you can’t make your own. Most public libraries offer free, reserved private rooms or areas for groups. Check to see if there’s already a chess club set up, and if not, start one.
Finally, if you don’t feel the need to go to such trouble, there are free online chess gaming opportunities. Yahooligans!, Yahoo’s kid-friendly enterprise, has a gaming area that offers chess. Although the game area is approached through the kids’ site, it feeds into the regular Yahoo Games area. As with all other online interactions, make sure to monitor your child’s activity appropriately.
IchessU, Why Chess, http://www.ichessu.com/Main.aspx?subPage=WhyChess
Wikipedia, Chess as Mental Training, http://www.princeton.edu/~jedwards/cif/intro.html