Are you the parent of a "Full House?" Have you heard about the importance of coding but not sure where to start? Even if you did want to enroll your kids in a class, how can you avoid paying $50 per hour per student and driving across town with a car full o' kids?
Given coding is arguably one of the most important skills your child can learn, here are 3 ways to teach all of your kids how to code without spending a fortune.
What is Scratch?
Scratch is a visual programming platform that was designed by MIT's Media Lab in 2007 to teach kids how to code. Scratch is free, easy to use, and introduces programming to kids without any prior knowledge–they don't even need to know how to type! Scratch is most appropriate for kids ages 8+ who have no experience coding.
How to get started with Scratch
Getting setup with Scratch is easy, you can just go to their website to start a new project. Kids can create their own projects, download free ones, and even remix them.
However, Scratch itself does not come with a curriculum so you will need to find one if you are serious about using it as a core resource.
There are many Scratch curriculums to choose from, but here are two of my favorites. Do keep in mind that unless your children are great at taking complete initiative, both of these will require your oversight and involvement.
Harvard's Creative Computing Guide
This curriculum is the most popular because it was created by Harvard educators and chosen by the Scratch team as the one they recommend. Their 154-page guide is comprehensive and will guide you through everything you need to know. Learn more at Creative Computing.
This curriculum was created by Steve Krouse, a classmate of mine from Penn. He has created fun Scratch projects that include incremental steps that your kids can recreate. Of course, remixing is encouraged. Learn more at Coding.Space.
Cost: Both options above are free.
Student time per week: 1-2 hours recommended.
Parent initial commitment: 3-5 hours to familiarize yourself with how Scratch works. You should also complete a few Scratch projects so you can help your child when necessary.
Parent weekly commitment: 1-2 hours because your child will likely need help getting "unstuck" with a problem they can't figure out on their own. If your child is working on a more advanced project, prepare to feel challenged if you have never coded before!
How far will Scratch take your child? It will introduce the basics of computer science to them, but do not expect your child to be an engineer after completing the curriculum. As a parent, you will probably be able to keep up with most of what your child is doing, but you may lose them once they start working on more difficult projects like the ones in Level 4 on Coding.Space..
While some parents have enough time and effort to dedicate to this, if you're super busy, it might be difficult to keep learning structured and frequent.
What is Kodable?
Kodable is a K-5 curriculum-selling company that offers their product to schools and parents. They claim to "Teach your kid to code before they can read!"
Kodable is best suited for kids under the age of 8, whereas Scratch is better for kids age 8-12. Created in 2011, Kodable offers a structured course that introduces kids to the core concepts of CS in a fun and easy-going way.
How to get started with Kodable
To get started with Kodable, you can go to their site and purchase a $150/year license that supports up to 5 students.
Kodable was designed for K-5 students specifically, so they include off-screen activities that involve parents and teachers too. Given their curriculum is designed for younger students, they do not teach the advanced concepts, including writing actual code.
Kodable offers a more casual way to introduce coding and their curriculum will last you a few months assuming you are teaching your child for an hour or two each week. After that, you will likely need to find a curriculum that covers more advanced concepts if you want your child to remain engaged.
Cost: $150 per year.
Student time per week: 1-2 hours recommended.
Parent initial commitment: 1-2 hours since their curriculum is for younger kids, you won't need much time to get up to speed.
Parent weekly commitment: 1-2 hours per week, ideally when your children are learning.
Kodable is a great way to introduce CS to young children. For parents, it's a light commitment too. Their pricing makes it easy to purchase for all your kids too.
However, your expectations should be clear, i.e. your child will be getting exposed to basic CS concepts in a soft approachable setting, but Kodable will only introduce the very basic concepts.
Online Classes with a Tutor
What are online classes?
Online CS tutoring offers a way to connect with a live coding instructors from home. Classes are conducted via video chat at times convenient for you.
Unlike in-person group classes which can cost $50/hour/student, online tutoring can be $25/hour/student. Some online schools even teach Scratch, so this option is not mutually exclusive.
How to get started with Online CS Tutoring
Compared to in-person classes, you can get started with online tutoring in few minutes at most. BlockSchool offers the first class for free and you can schedule it whenever you want. All you need is a computer or tablet with a camera and microphone.
BlockSchool's curriculum is designed for kids as young as age 6 and will teach them as far as they'd like to go. Our curriculum puts students in a 3D block-based world where they can learn new concepts and experiment with what they know.
The nice part about online tutoring is that the instructor can personalize each lesson based on what your children want to learn. Our instructors generally work with students for many months given the convenience.
Cost: $25/hour/student with 2 students, $50 with 1
Student time per week: 50 minutes
Parent initial commitment: Minutes–you only need to find a time that works for you and your children
Parent weekly commitment: Minutes–just make sure the computer is set up.
BlockSchool can take your child as far as any 6-13 year old can go with coding given our teachers are from top colleges and companies like Stanford and Facebook. If you're interested in a free class, check out our website.
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