"Your child will learn to type within 6 months - GUARANTEED" is the quote at the top of Keyboard Classroom's website.
Honestly, that claim is not what got me interested in this product. It was those nifty finger guides. I was intrigued and wanted to give them a test drive with my daughter to see if they would help her typing progress.
After installing the finger guides on our keyboard and the software in our computer, my daughter and I were ready ready to begin!
It's all about muscle memory!
Keyboard proficiency is achieved through mastering the 5 typing fluency skills. They are Typing Finger Trainer, Typing Words, Home Stretch, Typing Sentences and Capital Stretch.
As your skills progress, you rise through the ranks starting at Cadet and ending at General.
Finger Trainer Fluency helps teach correct finger placement on the keys of the keyboard. In the beginning exercise, with your hands on the home keys, the student is encouraged to type the letters "abcdjklm" with the correct fingers. After practicing as many times as necessary, the student is timed. After completing the required number of correct strokes vs. incorrect six times the student is promoted! Now the letters "abcdejklmn" are required. And so on.
Typing Words Fluency teaches the home keys. This time a combination is required. Progress to the next level is also granted after 6 successful tries.
Home Stretch Frequency helps to practice each finger stretch in 3 letter combinations while building the habit of "coming back" to the home keys.
Typing Sentences Fluency is available after the student has achieved the rank of Private 2nd class in Typing Words.
Capital Stretch Fluency is to teach the typing of capital letters and is available after the student has achieved the rank of Specialist in Typing Sentences.
My daughter is 10 years old. She has some basic keyboarding under her belt as far as how to place her hands on the home keys.
Our first hurdle in trying out this product was finding a keyboard that would fit the guides. It took four keyboards before we found one that would work. Once we did that we were able to install the program and try it out.
While I thought the finger guides were unique, my daughter didn't share the same enthusiasm. She did not like them one bit. Instead of helping her keep her fingers where they needed to go, the guides were a constant distraction. My kinestetic learner was able to continue using the program with me sitting beside her while she practiced - but - without the guides.
Playtime on the 4 Keyboard Classroom online games can be earned as a reward for practicing. Unfortunately for my daughter these were not much of an incentive to continue practicing. She thought they were very basic and and too young for her.
A big downside to this program is that there's no way to reset or go back to a level if your student takes a break resulting in a loss of skill.
Personally I do like the layout and progression of the program. However, I think that the price tag with the guides is a tad bit pricey. Single User License plus finger guides start at $39.95 and increase with the amount of users you add. (NOTE: See below regarding an update in pricing)
NOTE: On 1/29/2014 I updated this review to include a very important reply from the President of Keyboard Classroom:
" I am the President of Keyboard Classroom and I just wanted to comment on a few things.
I have found that most regular sized keyboards have a “lip” on the top and bottom rows and fit the Finger Guides. If not, there is a relatively inexpensive keyboard at your local supply store that will work just fine.
The idea for the finger guides are to keep the kid’s fingers from getting lost on the keyboard when learning the key stretches. It cuts down on their frustration level and that is always a good thing when teaching the children a new skill. They are placed on the keyboard with velcro. If a child is frustrated with them they can simply come right off.
The games are eye-hand coordination games that are simple yet entertaining . They are used as an incentive to pass more levels. We also use military ranks to show a child’s progress. You will hear the kids eagerly yell out what rank they are on!
As far as resetting the program if the child takes an extended break from learning, you can simply delete the data and start over. This is also a way of allowing the ‘next’ child to use the program when the first is finished with all the levels…and the cost is FREE for all the users afterwards!
We have revamped our pricing and now we offer a Single User license for $39.95 and a Family License for $49.95. This license allows up to 5 users at one time.
I think the important thing for parents to know is that students who become good typists can compose better, can produce papers with a neater appearance, and have better writing motivation. Hopefully you will see the benefits of Keyboard Classroom in giving them a skill that will last a lifetime!"