Jul 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Homeschool Programming Kid Coder Visual Basic

I have mentioned before that Nate, who is nine, is a computer geek. Once, on a field trip to a tv station, he ignored the green screen/tv area that all the other kids were having a blast playing in, and instead, hijacked the weather man's computer. When we go to museums, he always finds the one display that involves a computer. So the idea of setting him up on a computer programming curriculum seemed like a no brainer. In reality, he has loved working with the Kid Coder Visual Basic from Homeschool Programming.
We were given both semesters to review. We started with Windows Programming, the first semester. This is written for your 6th to 8th grader, and requires no previous programming experience. The student needs to be familiar with the basic handling of a computer (mouse skills, for example), the program takes it from there. There are eleven chapters in the textbook, with several lessons in each chapter along with built-in review sections. You can see the Table of Contents here. Some demo videos here. And some lesson samples here. There are also instructional videos available if your student needs the extra help. This program uses Microsoft Visual Basic, which you have to download along with your textbook, but it is free and the instructions for procuring it are included in the textbook. By the end of the first semester, the student will be able to write the code for a simple game.
The textbook speaks directly to the student and the parent does not need to have any knowledge or experience with computer programming.
The second semester, which he hasn't gotten to yet, because you (obviously) have to finish the first semester before you move on  is Game Programming. Which just sounds cool, doesn't it?  There are 14 chapters in Game Programming, and in the 40+ lessons  the student uses the knowledge gained in the first semester to learn how to create their own computer games! The games are fairly simple, but include sounds, graphics, and artificial intelligence. There are samples, videos, and more info here.
Windows Programming starts at $70. Game Programming does also, but you can combine the two for the discounted price of $120. These are non-consumable products and can be used by all the members of your family.

Now, for our experience with this program. I am not a techie person. And downloading this was a little bit of a struggle. I should have just waited for my husband, like I usually do, but I did finally get it all done on my own. As soon as he could, Nate sat down, opened up the textbook and started off. What followed was weeks of him begging daily to work on Kid Coder. He is currently in the last chapter of the first semester and he has done it all on his own. I don't even understand what he is talking about when he triumphantly shares his accomplishments. On more than one occasion, he has had a problem, but each time he turns back to his textbook and reads and re-reads until he figures it out.
So far, he has made a piggy bank that helped him keep track of how much money he has, a calculator, a Pig Latin translator, and several other things! He says it is a lot of fun, but it is hard. It makes him think, but he does work it out eventually. He must like it because he has obsessed about it for weeks now.
Overall, we give Kid Coder a hearty "We LOVE this!" and recommend it to any kid who wants to learn about programming.

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