Does your child want to learn to code?

Does your child want to learn to code?

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At the end of each school year, our families send us a report of what their children have been interested in. Many families include computer programming in their reports, so we know it’s a popular field of study. If your child is interested in getting started in coding, this article will give you a jump start on the websites and resources available. We are pleased to share this guest post from Juni Learning.

Computer programming is rapidly becoming increasingly popular. In turn, more and more parents want their children to learn coding – and for good reason. According to the Bureau of Labor, median pay for software developers is $103,560 per year, with demand expected to increase by 24% between 2016 and 2026, a growth rate which is significantly faster than that of other occupations. Computer programming also teaches a number of important life skills, like perseverance, algorithmic thinking, and logic. Teaching your kids programming from a young age can set your child up for a lifetime of success.

While programming is offered by a some schools in the US, many schools don’t include regular computer science education or coding classes in their curriculum. When offered, it is usually limited to an introductory level, such as a few classes using Code.org or Scratch. This is mainly because effective education in computer programming generally depends on teachers with ample experience in computer science or engineering.

This is where Juni can help. With instructors from the top computer science universities in the US, Juni students work under the tutelage of instructors who have experience in the same advanced coding languages and tools used at companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Juni’s project-based approach gives students hands-on experience with professional languages like Python, Java, and HTML. The rest of this article addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about coding for kids.

How can I get my child interested in coding?

Tip 1: Make it Fun!

A good way to get your child excited about programming is to make it entertaining! Instead of starting with the traditional, “Hello World” approach to learning programming, intrigue your children with a curriculum that focuses on fun, engaging projects.

Tip 2: Make it Relatable

Children are more likely to stay interested in something that they can relate to. This is easy to do with coding because so many things, from videogames like Minecraft, to movies like Coco, are created with code! Reminding students that they can learn the coding skills necessary to create video games and animation is a great motivator.

Tip 2: Make it Approachable

Introducing programming to young children through lines of syntax-heavy code can make coding seem like a large, unfriendly beast. Starting with a language like Scratch instead, which uses programming with blocks that fit together, makes it easier for kids to focus on the logic and flow of programs.

How do I teach my child to code?

There are a few approaches you can take in teaching kids how to code. Private classes with well-versed instructors are one of the most conducive ways to not only expose your kids to programming and proficiently develop your children’s coding skills, but also sustain their interest in the subject.

At Juni, we offer private online classes for students ages 5-18 to learn to code at their own pace and from the comfort of their own homes.

Via video conference, our students and instructors share a screen. This way, the instructor is with them every step of the way. The instructor first begins by reviewing homework from the last class and answering questions. Then, the student works on the day’s coding lesson.

The instructor can take control of the environment or annotate the screen — this means the instructor can type out examples, help students navigate to a particular tool, or highlight where in the code the student should look for errors — all without switching seats. Read more about the experience of a private coding class with Juni.

We have designed a curriculum that leans into each student’s individual needs. We chose Scratch as the first programming language in our curriculum because its drag-and-drop coding system makes it easy to get started, focusing on the fundamental concepts. In later courses, we teach Python, Java, Web Development, AP Computer Science A, and a training program for the USA Computing Olympiad. We even have Juni Jr. for students ages 5-7.

Other Options: Coding Apps and Coding Games

There are a number of coding apps and coding games that children can use to get familiar with coding material. While these don’t have the same results as learning with an instructor, they are a good place to start.

Code.org has been featured by Hour of Code, and it is used by public schools to teach introductory computer science. Code.org’s beginner modules use a visual block interface, while later modules use a text-based interface. Code.org has partnered with Minecraft and Star Wars, often yielding themed projects.

Codeacademy is aimed at older students who are interested in learning text-based languages. Coding exercises are done in the browser, and have automatic accuracy-checking. This closed platform approach prevents students from the full experience of creating their own software, but the curriculum map is well thought out.

Khan Academy is an online learning platform, designed to provide free education to anyone on the internet. Khan Academy has published a series on computer science, which teaches JavaScript basics, HTML, CSS, and more. There are video lessons on a number of topics, from web page design to 2D game design. Many of the tutorials have written instructions rather than videos, making them better suited for high school students.

What is the best age to start learning to code?

Students as young as 5 years old can start learning how to code. At this age, we focus on basic problem solving and logic, while introducing foundational concepts like loops and conditionals. It is taught using kid-friendly content that is interesting as well as projects that involve creativity and an interface that isn’t as syntax-heavy. At ages 5-10, students are typically learning how to code using visual block-based interfaces.

What are the best programming languages for kids?

With young students (and even older students), a good place to start building programming skills is a visual block-based interface, such as Scratch. This allows students to learn how to think through a program and form and code logical steps to achieve a goal without having to learn syntax (i.e. worrying about spelling, punctuation, and indentation) at the same time.

When deciding on text-based languages, allow your child’s interests to guide you. For example, if your child is interested in creating a website, a good language to learn would be HTML. If they want to code up a game, they could learn Python or Java.

What kind of computer does my child need to learn to code?

This depends on your child’s interests, your budget, and the approach you would like to take. Many online coding platforms, like repl.it, are web-based and only require a high-speed internet connection. Web-based platforms do not require computers with much processing power, which means that they can be run on nearly any computer manufactured within the last few years. Higher-level programming using professional tools requires a Mac, PC, or Linux with a recommended 4G of RAM along with a high-speed internet connection.

Why should kids learn to code?

Reason 1: Learning to code builds resilience and creativity

Coding is all about the process, not the outcome.

The process of building software involves planning, testing, debugging, and iterating. The nature of coding involves checking things, piece by piece, and making small improvements until the product matches the vision. It’s okay if coders don’t get things right on the first attempt. Even stellar software engineers don’t get things right on the first try! Coding creates a safe environment for making mistakes and trying again.

Coding also allows students to stretch their imagination and build things that they use every day. Instead of just playing someone else’s video game, what if they could build a game of their own? Coding opens the doors to endless possibilities.

Reason 2: Learning to code gives kids the skills they need to bring their ideas to life

Coding isn’t about rote memorization or simple right or wrong answers. It’s about problem-solving. The beautiful thing about learning to problem solve is, once you learn it, you’re able to apply it across any discipline, from engineering to building a business.

Obviously students who learn computer science are able to build amazing video games, apps, and websites. But many students report that learning computer science has boosted their performance in their other subjects, as well. Computer science has clear ties to math, and has interdisciplinary connections to topics ranging from music to biology to language arts.

Learning computer science helps develop computational thinking. Students learn how to break down problems into manageable parts, observe patterns in data, identify how these patterns are generated, and develop the step-by-step instructions for solving those problems.

Reason 3: Learning to code prepares kids for the economy of the future

According to WIRED magazine, by 2020 there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than graduating students qualified to fill them. Computer science is becoming a fundamental part of many cross-disciplinary careers, including those in medicine, art, engineering, business, and law.

Many of the most innovative and interesting new companies are tackling traditional careers with new solutions using software. Software products have revolutionized industries, from travel (Kayak, AirBnB and Uber) to law (Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom). Computing is becoming a cornerstone of products and services around the world, and getting a head start will give your child an added advantage.

Many leading CEOs and founders have built amazing companies after studying computer science. Just take a look at the founders of Google, Facebook, and Netflix!

Career Paths

Although computer science is a rigorous and scientific subject, it is also creative and collaborative. Though many computer scientists simply hold the title of Software Engineer or Software Developer, their scope of work is very interesting. Here is a look at some of the work that they do:

  • At Facebook, engineers built the first artificial intelligence that can beat professional poker players at 6-player poker.
  • At Microsoft, computer programmers built Seeing AI, an app that helps blind people read printed text from their smartphones.

Computer scientists also work as data scientists, who clean, analyze, and visualize large datasets. With more and more of our world being encoded as data in a server, this is a very important job. For example, the IRS uncovered $10 billion worth of tax fraud using advanced data analytics and detection algorithms. Programmers also work as video game developers. They specialize in building fun interactive games that reach millions of people around the world, from Fortnite to Minecraft.

All of these career paths and projects require cross-functional collaboration among industry professionals that have a background in programming, even if they hold different titles. Some of these people may be software engineers, data scientists, or video game designers, while others could be systems analysts, hardware engineers, or database administrators. The sky is the limit!

How can you get your kids started on any of these paths? By empowering them to code! Juni can help your kids get set up for a successful career in computer science and beyond. Our founders both worked at Google and developed Juni’s curriculum with real-world applications and careers in mind.

Coding for Kids is Important

Coding for kids is growing in popularity, as more and more families recognize coding as an important tool in the future job market. There is no “one-size-fits-all” for selecting a programming course for students. At Juni, our one-on-one classes allow instructors to tailor a course to meet a student’s specific needs. By learning how to code, your kids will not only pick up a new skill that is both fun and academic, but also gain confidence and learn important life skills that will serve them well in whatever career they choose.

This article originally appeared on junilearning.com

Lessons Learned Through Family Gaming: A Year-end Report

Lessons Learned Through Family Gaming: A Year-end Report

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At the end of each school year, we ask the families to send us a summary of how their natural learning journey went. Families can summarize their year however they choose.  It can be a letter, a report, a list with course names and grades, or a multi-media presentation using pictures, videos and slides.

In this year-end report, Erika illustrates how a family can come together and share in their children’s passions.  

Greetings, we want to share with you our past year.  If this year had a theme, it would most likely be gaming in all forms. 

In any given week in 2019 Dean could have up to four opportunities to play Dungeons & Dragons:  the Adventure League at the local gaming store, the online program Outschool, an after-school-teen group, or running his own games in our dining room.  He studies each Game Master (GM) he plays with to learn their methods and style of storytelling and tests them out on his friends during his dining room sessions.  He definitely prefers playing in-person games over virtual games with a regular group of people.  The most sustained group is with the after-school-teen group that met at the local rec center, run by Roll Play Lead (RPL).  Jamie, the founder of RPL, sees the value in what role-play games like D&D can offer beyond just gaming for fun.  Understanding that more kids and teens these days live with anxiety or other forms of mental illness, she sees how well-suited role-play games can be used to help kids learn social skills and how the games can cater the story to meet the individual’s needs or challenges. 

Dean and Vivienne both enjoy playing video games and both have their motives for getting what they want out of the games.  Dean is very interested in the gameplay and strategy, where as Vivienne gets swept up in the story and creatures she is working with or battling against.  Vivienne has become a rolodex of information on Pokemon and can’t seem to get enough of the unusual creatures and abilities.  The stories presented during the gameplay offer a uniquely catered story for Vivienne, which provides the desire and drive to improve her reading skills in order to follow along.  Vivienne is gaining a good sense of pre-planning and problem-solving skills in order to move forward in the story.  Whether she needs to have the correct Pokemon cued up ready to battle, or understand when it’s time to run from a fight, she is exercising her thinking ahead and planning for the future skills that are so important for daily life.  

Dean, on the other hand, is more interested in strategy, cause and effect, and manipulating situations to meet his needs.  Dean doesn’t have a favorite game; rather, he relishes finding a new game, observing others’ playstyle to help create his own.  Dean also enjoys seeing new artistic styles each game developer puts into their content and has grown fond of the music each game or level in the game presents.  Online games offer many good things, such as strengthening your ability to work together and improve communication skills, but there are also some darker aspects that we find ourselves discussing with Dean.  Not all gamers are playing the game for the same reasons and Dean finds himself interacting with some not-so-nice teammates that are more interested in trying to get under other players’ skin or are just downright rude.  Maturity also plays a big part in how Dean deals with these types of people.  Rather than going on the defensive or offensive, Dean uses the situation as a sort of social experiment and attempts to change their outlook.  Despite other players’ mean or aggressive attitudes and playstyles, his findings have shown that when only responding to them positively, the rude player either leaves the game or ends up changing their tune.  

Since Dean was seven years old, we’ve gone through waves between obsession and disinterest when it comes to Minecraft. Each Minecraft resurgence we try to find ways to play with friends without having to go through the trouble of starting our own server.  When COVID-19 struck, the kids missed their friends, so we knew it was the right time to figure out how to host our own server.  We dove into the daunting process of getting a server up and running and named it CoronaCraft.  We learned there is a lot we don’t know, but we got far enough to get a working server to host all the kids’ friends.  Besides giving the kids a virtual playground for the kids to stay connected, it has been an invaluable learning process for everyone in the family.  We play on the server along with the kids. Minecraft is one of the few video games that has captured our sustained interest. It’s great having a hobby the entire family participates in, especially during a lockdown! It proved to be a great distraction and escape from all the bad news outside the house. It took a while to master basic server hosting and we made mistakes along the way. The worst was a server crash or two, losing weeks of work, but we rebuilt and made it better the second time around, and we learned how to not let it happen again.  We helped the kids navigate setting boundaries with friends and have witnessed the amazing teamwork and building skills of all the kids on the server.   

Dean has shown real maturity during this pandemic.  He has made a real effort to understand all he can regarding the facts about COVID-19 and he has shared that information with his friends as a way to stem fears his friends were sharing with him and he was able to help his friends make sense of the situation as only a peer could.  It was rough for Vivienne to have a birthday during lockdown, since we couldn’t throw the usual big party.  So we set up a secret amusement park on the server and asked all the kids to build rides in time for her birthday.  We held a virtual surprise birthday party for her, spending the evening trying out all the rides and eating cake. It was just as fun as a regular birthday.  Since we are not experts in the world of Minecraft we are asking for the kids’ help all the time; they light up with confidence when they are teaching us how to make things work.  Many of our dinnertime discussions covered Minecraft topics and we’ll spend many evenings watching Minecraft YouTubers for inspiration.  Dean has challenged himself with complicated Redstone creations; he says it’s his “big brain” moment when he has successfully executed his design.  When Vivienne asks to show us what she built, we are always impressed with how well her plan comes to life.  It’s in the world of Minecraft that we have seen both kids at their most self-directed and resourceful, not to mention their most giddy and cheerful, selves, while playing online with their friends.

Vivienne is inquisitive and curious, as always.  Her favorite way to explore the world is through interacting with others with her pop quizzes.  She inquires into others’ minds by playing question games, asking top favorites on any variety of things.  For example: what is your favorite animal with wings or what is your favorite animal from Australia? But she can get complex at times; “pick an animal’s superpower (like an Axolotl’s limb regeneration)”. Then the other person is to counter it with the superpower’s weakness (but it grows back too big).

Vivienne continued to attend as many nature classes at our local nature center as she could in 2019, although she is aging out of the classes they offer and they are the same ones she’s been to year after year.  The nature center has a fairy garden for kids to decorate and arrange logs, sticks and rocks for the fairies. We were inspired by this, so we created a fairy garden plot in our backyard for all the nature Vivienne brings home from hikes and outings. The garden gives the stones and sticks she collects a place to live and be creative with that isn’t in her bedroom.  In August 2019 the reptile store, where we get feeder insects for our lizard, gave us a complimentary hornworm to feed our pet bearded dragon, Sneezy.  Vivienne was struck by its bright aqua color and was sure Sneezy would choke on its large size.  Not knowing what else to do with this worm, we decided to take it in as a temporary pet and named it Bobbert.  We learned how to care for Bobbert so we could watch it grow and transform, which was absolutely fascinating to witness!  We found information on caring for hornworms from Carolina Scientific, a place where teachers can order these worms to bring into their science classrooms. In our case, life brought us this science lesson.

Art and creativity are ingrained into Vivienne and she uses her skills to provide art sculptures and costumes for her stuffed animals or clay sculptures, among other artistic endeavors.  Waiting around and long car rides are usually filled with drawing in one of her many drawing pads.  There are moments where Vivienne is so lost in her drawing that she doesn’t hear her name being called.  Getting lost in something so deeply that the rest of the world is “tuned out” demonstrates Vivienne’s passion and concentration for what she is working on.  Vivienne recently received a new computer and also a drawing pad.  The pad is similar to the devices Vivienne’s favorite YouTube personalities use to create the animations she enjoys so much and gets inspiration from.  This provides yet another medium for her to try and gain experience from. 

The change in routine brought about by COVID-19 in some ways limited our opportunities to explore our world, but in other ways has stilled the waters of our life enough to see the things below the surface that had gone unaddressed since we began our homeschooling journey.  The year ahead is beginning like no other and we are looking forward to where the new twists and turns in our road will take us.

Best Regards,

Marc & Erika, Colorado USA

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

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We know there are many doors that open once you step into the world of homeschooling and the variety of options can seem overwhelming at first. Now that we are living in a time of “crisis schooling”, families are scrambling to quickly make a plan for the school year and are doing their best to absorb as much information from the internet as possible right now. As advocates for the natural learning approach to homeschooling, the first thing we encourage parents to do is to have an open dialogue with their children to find out how they would enjoy spending their time in a fun and productive way.

 

West River Academy is very unique because we encourage each family to create a routine and learning flow that feels good to them. We ask them, “if you didn’t have to think about standardized testing, what do you think is important for your children to learn? How can you incorporate life lessons into your conversations, and ignite their love for learning again?”.  These questions prompt a new way of thinking and re-introduce the child to a world where learning is fun and exciting again!

 

Once you have figured out where you land on the spectrum of learning styles, it will be easier to narrow down the resources that will fit your family best. We have compiled the top 5 of our most popular online homeschooling resources directly from the recommendations of our families enrolled in West River Academy.

 

Enjoy!

 

Galileo is the new, innovative, self-directed online school for students aged 8-18 who are world schoolers, homeschoolers, and/or unschoolers from all over the world. They provide opportunities to collaborate with other students on projects, with groups that do projects together on STEM subjects and electives like Coding and Robotics, Foreign Languages and International Cultures. Choose your own adventure by mixing and matching a variety of topics!
Cost: $240/month or $2000/year
Age Range: 8-18

 

They offer a huge variety of classes and options. From phonics to AP Physics to Minecraft to Piano. Outschool feeds your kid’s curiosity and elevates their learning with a variety of 50,000+ classes.
Cost: $10-$600/ class
Age Range: 4-18
 
They offer tuition-free online classes with high school and college credit for grades 6-12. Includes Financial Education by Dave Ramsey for teens, and college courses from Grand Canyon University. 300+ Credit-based courses.
Cost: Many classes are tuition-free
Age Range: 10-18
 
The main things homeschoolers want are high-quality resources and flexibility, and they offer both. Lesson plans consist of in-depth powerpoints with images and videos to enhance the material. Plus, they offer a wide range of optional supplemental activities so you can customize your child’s educational experience based on their individual learning style.
Cost: $60-$175/class
Age Range: 10-18
 
They offer personalized learning of all core subjects. There are modules that the student can do at their own pace, they offer scholarship contests and they are popular worldwide.
Cost: Free
Age Range: PreK-12th grade

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If you would like to talk more about finding a learning style for your family, feel free to schedule a phone consultation with Peggy Webb, the Founder and Director of West River Academy, here.

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

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An influx of questions has flooded the internet in recent months regarding homeschooling and we are thrilled to address an array of topics in this virtual event called the Homeschooling Global Summit!

There will be ten days of expert interviews, from the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Pat Farenga, Peggy Webb, Lainie Liberti, Melissa Church and many more! With hundreds of millions of kids around the world learning at home for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, this knowledge is needed by parents more than ever.

We will be interviewing some of our currently enrolled families, as well as West River Academy graduates. Learn how self-directed learning can be an advantage to navigating this rapidly-changing world.

Event Calendar:

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As this is the second annual event, anyone who is interested in watching the 40+ hours of footage from the 2019 Homeschooling Global Summit is now able to do so for free!

Visit https://hgsummit.com/ to get your FREE premium pass.

We are so grateful to all of our families and graduates who are participating in this event with us this year. We hope you register for it and share it with your loved ones!
~ The West River Academy Team