Computer Science for Kids {TOS review}

Programmers Philip Conrad and Lou Tylee of Computer Science for Kids have more than 70 years combined experience programming computers and have created a beginner programming tutorial called Beginning Microsoft Small Basic Programming Tutorial, which River and I were able to review.

Lately, River has shown more interests in electronics and how they function and I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to learn some of the backend of what he regularly sees on his computer screen. I remember the fun I use to have “back in the day” of learning basic programming when I was in high school. Working through this curriculum has also given him the opportunity to share some of what he is learning with his Gram who works as a computer analyst where programming is a way of life.

Beginning Microsoft Small Basic Programming Tutorial is created for the novice programmer, so with the exception of being familiar with using the Internet and basic tasks like file maintenance and editing, and saving and locating files, the tutorial is a good beginning for any new programmer as young as 10 years of age to adult.

The interactive tutorial has 11 chapters (see table of contents) that walk the student through step-by-step with easy to understand instructions. We received the e-book version of the tutorial and also had to download the Small Basic program (this is free), which was easily done. I was going to load the Small Basic program ahead of time, but decided to wait and let that be part of the learning experience for River. He has saved files before, but has not saved a program on a computer.

The self-paced tutorial takes the student from the very beginning of Small Basic providing history and shows him how to navigate around the program. During the course of the tutorial, some of the things students will learn is how create several basic programs, how to run and test their programs and debugging. Many of these skills are ones that he will be able to use when programming in other languages.

The class lessons are available as PDFs or Word documents. Having the ability to edit the lessons (using Word) would be helpful if you wanted to include notes for your student if he were working through the course independently. Because the tutorial printout is over 500 pages, I only printed the pages as we came to each chapter, so that the presentation would not seem so overwhelming.

River and I are working through the lessons together even though it is written in an understandable manner for him to complete independently (see chapter sample). The suggested pace for working through the tutorial is completing one lesson/chapter per week, which may take about three to six hours a week. This was a manageable pace for River, who is 11. At some points, I had to slow him down, because he was eager to move on to the next section. I wanted to move slowly through the lessons, because he is building a foundation for how he will code in the future.

I set him up on a three-day/week schedule of reading through the lesson and completing the work. This is the schedule we followed for the first week:

Monday: Beginning Microsoft Small Basic – Chapter one: Introducing Small Basic, 1-1 through 1-9.

Wednesday: Beginning Microsoft Small Basic – Chapter one: Introducing Small Basic, 1-10 through 1-15.

Friday: Beginning Microsoft Small Basic – Chapter one: Introducing Small Basic, 1-16 through 1-24.

On some weekends, he chose to do more practice, because he enjoyed the work.

We were only able to get as far as chapter four, but looking ahead, I am already excited about covering debugging programs (chapter five), which looks at how to handle when there are errors in your code and creating loops and arrays in chapters six and seven.

River is enjoying working through the tutorial. The logic of computer programming – you get what you code – is such a great concept for him to learn. When creating the few programs he already has, he sees the importance of taking the time to decide exactly what he wants the program to do before coding it, because What you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG). The program can only be as smart or functional as you make it when hand coding.

Although the concentration is in the Small Basic environment, the course is presented in such an easy to understand manner that removes the fear of learning some stronger and more advanced programming languages, like Visual Basic and Java, which are introduced in the last chapter. I think that this is going to be a great springboard for him as he moves into some of those other languages. Computer Science for Kids also offers tutorials in those areas.

Conrad and Tylee have created a curriculum that has opened the doors to programming for the young programmer.

Computer Science for Kids Beginning Microsoft Small Basic Programming Tutorial is available as an e-book for $34.95 (regularly $59.95 – Single User License, Item #111-DL $59.95) through Thursday, July 4, 2013. You may also purchase a physical, paperback copy, e-tutorial and e-book download for $59.95, which includes free shipping.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.

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