Computer Programming for Homeschoolers: 5 Tips for Success
Computer programming, otherwise known as coding, is growing increasingly popular among homeschool families. Teaching coding can be challenging for homeschool parents, as there are many options to consider, and a number of important decisions to make regarding programming languages, curricula, and approach. Here are 5 tips that can help you get a high quality program started for your homeschooler today.
Tip #1: Make it fun!
Making it fun is the number one rule in teaching coding to younger students. We recommend staying away from curricula that is too rigid and academic, and to focus instead on courses that teach coding in a fun, creative context. In the beginning it is fine to use free resources such as Code.org and Scratch, but these platforms should be viewed in the same way that we view bikes with training wheels. They are designed to be outgrown. In a very short period of time, it will be time to find fun, project-based courses that match your child’s passions and interests. Some students will be interested in robotics. Others will want to build a video game. Other students might have an idea for an app. For a list of free and paid curricula as well as other advice check out CodaKid’s Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Coding.
Tip #2: Choose one language and stay with it
Many parents at CodaKid online coding academy read up on the hottest new programming languages, and want to introduce their kids to as many languages as possible in a short period of time. We believe that this approach is counterproductive. In our experience, it is more useful to study one language and to gain proficiency in it rather than developing a limited understanding of several coding languages. Once you know one language well, it is much easier easy to learn the syntax and conventions of other languages. Introducing multiple languages too quickly can confuse students and force them to concentrate more on text rather than on computer programming concepts.
Tip #3: Join or Start a Homeschool Coding Group
Use your local homeschool association to find coding clubs. If you can’t find one nearby – you might consider launching your own. Another option is to get a group of like-minded homeschoolers together to take a group class at a coding academy or with a computer science tutor. One important rule of thumb is to be careful about having too large an age range in your class. Teenagers will often be faster typers and can become bored or frustrated if placed in a class with younger, slower children. Youngsters also stand the risk of becoming intimidated when placed with older, more experienced students.
Tip #4: Find a mentor
Many engineers enjoy volunteer work and you might be surprised at how many are be willing to mentor your student either in-person or online. Interaction with an experienced computer programmer can be invaluable and many times can be performed over Skype or other free video conferencing solutions.
Tip #5: Enroll your student in local or online classes
It is widely known that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, took computer programming lessons with a private tutor in middle school. While one-on-one tutoring with a quality engineer is great if you can afford it, there are many equally effective methods of learning that you can implement for a fraction of the cost. For example, you might consider small group classes at local coding academies or community colleges in your area. You can also consider high quality online coding courses that include responsive support from live engineers. The best academies and online courses will have well crafted lesson plans that build sequentially on concepts like Conditionals, Functions, Variables, and Methods, and gradually build your child’s ability to code independently.
About the author
David Dodge is the founder of CodaKid, a kids online coding academy for ages 7 to 15. CodaKid provides kids online kids coding classes, Minecraft Modding courses, and App Development courses for thousands of students around the globe. A video game designer and software architect, David is credited in the development of over 30 video game titles for Sega and Sony, and is the founder and software architect of Tutorware, a business software application.
First image courtesy of Getty