Five Ways to Introduce Coding to Your Homeschooler

Coding is a computer language that is prevalent in our world today. Frankly, our children are all digital natives, so they will be expected to know some form of coding as adults. While coding as a language may feel foreign to many of us, there are websites that can help introduce our children to coding. There are lots of different types of code that we should all be familiar with, such as html. If you want to learn more yourself, or teach your kids more about coding, there are several resources that can assist you.

As computer science fields continue to advance, coding will be a new normal, and will be used in many careers and across various industries around the world. The need to learn to code is especially important since many jobs of the past are now automated and machine driven. To increase our children’s marketability, we should provide them with the skills they need to be the brains behind the machines.

I believe exposing children to this language early is critical to students learning it thoroughly. Thankfully, there are many free options that are now available for any person to learn coding. While “free” sounds good, we also want to think about safety and how to offer our children ad-free options. Here are a few resources that I trust to give my kids access to coding.

Five Free Computer Coding Programs

Tynker

5 Ways to Introduce Coding to Your Homeschooler

The recommended age is children seven years old and older. Children will have an opportunity to code robots, build apps, explore stem, create mods for Minecraft, code drones, and build games. Tynker is great because it makes learning coding exciting and student-directed. Kids will feel like their playing games, while in fact, they are learning a new language.

Scratch

“Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.”(1) It gives kids an opportunity to create, innovate, and problem solve from a computer.

Hour of Code

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. It is both a movement and event that takes place each year. The activities section of their website has tons of games that introduce young students to coding adventures.

One cool aspect on the Hour of Code website is that there is a resource for teachers that tells you exactly how to teach computer science at each appropriate grade level.

Code.org

This site provides online classes for kids to learn how to code. It is a nonprofit agency that wants to connect more women and minority groups to computer science fields. The 100 percent free curriculum is helping code.org reach their goal.

Stencyl


Parents are sometimes relieved when they find out their kids want to create a video rather than just play on one. Stencyl is offers a block-snapping interface and games, so kids can create their video games.

Lego Mindstorms EV3

This program is a paid program that kids and adults who are Lego enthusiasts will enjoy. The learning game comes with three interactive servo motors, remote control, a color sensor, redesigned touch sensor, infrared sensor, and 550+ LEGO® Technic elements. The EV3 Programmer App is a free download available for iOS and Android tablet devices.

These programs provide great free starting points. While the basic levels that will give students a good understanding of how to use the program are free, if parents and kids want to go into more depth with coding there are some paid components available as well.

Proverbs 1:5 states that, “A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsel.”(2) As our world changes, the information that we teach our children will change too. Of course the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic will always be there, but now we owe it to our children to give them a language that they can build upon later in life.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, share it with others and connect with me online. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I share many of the homeschool activities that my daughters and I are enjoying together.

Reference:

(1) Scratch.mit.edu. (2017). Scratch – About. [online] Available at: https://scratch.mit.edu/about [Accessed 21 Aug. 2017].

(2) Kingjamesbibleonline.org. (2017). PROVERBS 1:5 KJV “A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:”. [online] Available at: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Proverbs-1-5/ [Accessed 21 Aug. 2017].

Screen Time or Scream Time?

Screen time in the Ashworth house waxes and wanes. We have had periods when we didn’t watch more than two hours of television per day, and periods when we don’t watch any at all, but there are times that we watch too much television. Even if we limit TV time, when combined with one to three hours of online schooling and 45 minutes of video games after dinner, it adds up! My three boys’ eyes, attention spans, and indoor volumes suffer when the screen inches too far into our schedule.

Think About These Things

When we watch television we are in a trance. It’s hard to clean, read, write, anything. It’s difficult to multi-task while a TV is on. That’s because you have to watch it. You can’t watch two things at once, and what we watch will have our attention. During a school day I try to keep my kids focused on school, behaving, each other. I want them to get along and to learn so that they’ll someday be good men with a work ethic and a conscience (among other things). If they’re looking at other things, can they focus on growing and learning?

Philippians 4:8 instructs new Christians in just what kinds of things to meditate on: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Humans, especially children, are like sponges. We take in everything that we meditate on, and then we share it either through our behavior or because of our testimony.

Scream University 

I am not anti-TV. We are a TV house. I just recognize what screens are doing to my children. Television shows make them overdramatic. Screens make them fight. They bicker over turn-taking. They suddenly forget how to share. They get frustrated and angry when they can’t make the mouse do what they want. They may think about throwing the tablet, TV remote, or themselves across the room as a result of screen time. They may scream; I may scream. It’s not fun for any of us.

Tips to Keep the Volume Down

  1. Keep the screens out of sight.
    Start the day with the TV hidden. Put the tablets in a drawer. Keep the computer in a separate area unless they’re being used for school. That goes for parents too…
  2. Set rules for time, volume, channels, games, and apps.
    Setting boundaries on devices is still teaching your kids skills: listening skills, coping skills, technological skills, etc.
  3. Keep a routine. If the kids know when they’ll get to use their favorite devices, when they’ll have to do school, and when they’ll have to share/turn off, the screaming decreases.
  4. Supplement with paper and pen. It may not be enough to have paper and pen. At my boys’ age, that would be enough for them, but mama likes them to read from actual books, color, and create. If it was all on the computer, I’m afraid they’d be bored anyway.
  5. Practice what you preach. I have a bad habit of watching Netflix on my laptop while I wash dishes. My seven-year-old asks me if he can help me in the kitchen at least daily. This is good. It’s a skill he needs, it’s helpful, and it’s quality time. If the TV is off in the living room, it should be off in the kitchen. It should be off everywhere.

 

Homeschooling Resources: Adventist Apps

SDA Apps

We live an a technological age; most everyone has cell phones/smart phones or electronic tablets. This month I’ll share a little about Seventh-day Adventist apps that we can use on our devices.

There are free apps available with the Sabbath School lessons for all levels, Cradle Roll through Adult. Kindle iTunes Android

These apps not only have the Sabbath School lessons from the quarterlies, but they also have the mission stories, as in Mission Spotlight, and Missions 360 (the app for Android and iTunes). The Everything SDA app, for Kindle, has audio and video, from Central Study Hour, Amazing Facts Presents, SSU, Adventist News Network, and more.

Did you know that if you go to the Ellen G. White Estate website, there are teacher resources? And, there is a Pathfinder honor, the Ellen White Pathfinder honor. There is an app for that, for Android and iTunes, called Pitcairn. If you score 200 or more points within seven minutes, you will earn the Ellen White honor. Doesn’t that sound fun?! I think all of my kids managed to do this in a fairly short time.

Another useful app, from Adventist Family Ministries, is the Family Worship app. It offers ideas for your family worship time, divided by subject, and even age range.

I hope these will be helpful for you, and even provide some fun throughout the summer months.

You can read my reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew on my blog at Life at Rossmont.

Computer Wisdom

Mom and girl on compuuterSafety and closeness in today’s world — it’s not always easy. A recent news story of a 13-year-old girl murdered by someone she met on social media made me cringe, but then gave way to discussions with other moms.

Our family has always had a conservative approach to social media and all internet use. I regularly check history on the computers and am even more diligent when I finally decide they might be ready for social media. It’s not that I don’t trust our kids; rather, it’s that I don’t trust the world. Yes, kids will often test limits or feel that “it can’t happen to them,” but even when they are not looking, trouble has a way of seeking our kids and even us. So I watch. I listen. I check computers. And, I limit computer time. The old saying that “Nothing good happens after 11 p.m.” might be restated as “Too much time on computer invites trouble.”

But, as I was chatting with another mom, I had another realization. While I’ve been watching for potential problems, I have actually found another way to enjoy my kids. By noting what sites they are visiting, I find new interests they are developing. This can develop into a conversation about the interest, and gives us another connection. For instance, if I find a few searches about Ireland, I might bring that country up in conversation and discover that he is now fascinated by the country, its history, and culture. If I see that he has searched for information on ways to increase protein, I might expand on the conversation of a previous day when we were talking about nutrition.

Like most homeschoolers, we talk with our kids a lot. I know them well and know what they are studying and where their interests lie. I talk with them, listen to them, and have long discussions individually and all together. But, sometimes I’m not as aware what is more important, or a subject that they have just stumbled upon. I like that their computers can reveal even more to me.

Social media is another connecting format. I follow their postings and, yes, spot check messages too. They know I have an open-door policy to their networks and are fine with it, knowing I am not spying but rather listening in for their own safety.

But again, social media can reveal little nuances that I might have otherwise overlooked. Those quickly posted memes show their sense of humor, interests, and special thoughts. The posted comments are another way to get a sense of what my child is feeling or concentrating on at the moment.

Some might consider my style more invasive than necessary. Even my 17-year-olds can expect me to visit their sites and keep informed. And, it gives them a sense of comfort knowing that I am checking, while knowing that I am not attempting to run their lives. I think they have also realized how it shows such an interest in them as people. I am interested in them, in their interests, their thoughts, and their friends. I care about each of my children.

While I do encourage parents to keep close watch on computer usage for potential problems, I suggest that they also use this as a time to listen to your child. It might be the perfect opportunity to start a new conversation!

Helping People Through Code

 

Homeschooling is more than academics. It also relates to work and service. Sally Lehman is our guest blog author today. She writes about service through technology and about considerations teens have to make regarding their career paths.

I spent a lot of my late teen years trying to figure out what I wanted to do. One of the most difficult things about deciding what you want to do is that it’s unlikely you’ve had personal experience getting to do what you think you might want to do, especially if it’s something that usually requires a lot of education.

What I knew for sure, although my career choices morphed as I read and experienced new things, was always that I wanted more than anything else to reduce the suffering of others, to be a useful person to society. That is what I know would make me happy and would keep me interested and challenged, and something I could dedicate my life to.

One thing I didn’t realize about helping people, however, is that it’s not just about non-profits, more accessible medicine or education, or giving money. Technology is huge. Technology has completely changed how we interact as a society and our quality of life. Most people on this earth now have access, in some manner, to a cell phone, and thus the rest of the world. We have much quicker access to information, and a ton more of it than generations before had. We can use this information to make smarter and wiser decisions about our lives and connect with people around us. We can make information and services available to people to make their quality of life better too.

Software development and technology fields are just as legitimate, if not more, of a field that does good for society, if you choose to use the skill you develop for that purpose, because of the ability of computer programs to reach and affect billions of people at a very low cost as compared to human organzations.

Understanding how to making programs and websites that almost anyone can use is not necessarily easy, however. There are tons of different programming languages and protocols (sets of rules that programmers agree upon so that their programs can talk to each other) to know, and you have to know what language to use when, how those languages talk to each other, and how computers use those languages to talk to each other. None of it is magic – it’s just a lot of little building blocks that make up bigger blocks, those make up bigger blocks, and so on. You can understand and manipulate, and make your own programs once you spend enough time, learning enough technologies and how they fit together.

If a homeschool student is interested in using code to build something that helps people, they should focus on learning how to build their own website by googling about it, or google ‘programming languages’, pick one, and find a tutorial online that helps them learn to use the language on their own computer. What language or technology they pick matters less than immersing them in the environment. It will be hard at first, but there are lots of common patterns. Encourage them to stick with it, talk to any programmer they can find about what they are learning and doing, and they will give your child a lot of power, and the ability to do enormous good.

 

Sally graduated from Walla Walla University in 2009 with a degree engineering. While a student at WWU she co-founded a chapter of Engineers Without Borders. She says: I now work for GitHub, a social coding website known for its heavy use by people that make free and ‘open source’ software. Open source software is accessible to people without money to buy expensive programs. Because so many people volunteer on these programs, they are often as good or better than the stuff you have to pay for. Our site is a place built specifically to show, talk about, and work on your code – open source or not, with other people. Some people call us ‘Tumblr for nerds’.