I will confess that my attitude toward computer programming as a homeschool subject has always been, "Why?" Homeschool is for reading the classics, learning Latin, and becoming a great writer. Computer programming is for...public schoolers. Deep down, though, I know that learning how to program is not optional in today's world, so I was secretly very happy when I got the opportunity to review Beginning Microsoft Small Basic from Computer Science for Kids. If I was secretly happy, my 11 year-old daughter was openly thrilled! I never knew her secret penchant for computers.
What Beginning Microsoft Small Basic Is:
This one-semester curriculum is designed for junior high (10+) and older students and is self-paced and independently done (read: I don't need to be hanging over Therese's shoulder, which is awesome, as I'm off reading the classics and writing!). Not surprisingly, the computer language taught is...Small Basic! Small Basic is a simplified version of the Basic programming language that many of us probably learned in high school. It's a perfect first programming language for kids to cut their teeth on. In this course, students learn how to build simple Small Basic applications and then, in the culminating 11th (and last) chapter, they see how Small Basic compares with other programming languages by looking at some common computer games.
Each of the curriculum's 11 chapters (you can view the very detailed Table of Contents on the site) is designed to take between 3-6 hours and focuses on one particular aspect of programming in Small Basic. For example, Lesson 4, which you can sample for free, introduces program design and input methods. At this point, students have already learned about Small Basic, how to open, save, and run programs, and how to perform simple arithmetic calculations. The next (and most exciting!) step is writing a simple program of their own. As you read through the sample chapter, note how detailed the lesson is and how it assumes no prior knowledge. This course truly is aimed at beginners, but it doesn't talk down to anyone, meaning that it is also perfect for adults.
How We Used and Liked Beginning Small Basic:
Therese (11) constantly surprises me. She has loved this curriculum so much that right now we are in negotiations with each other for the second semester (we are getting it - the negotiations are over the physical book vs. the eBook). In fact, she loved this curriculum so much that she is almost done with it. It is a one-semester course. We have had it for about six weeks. That doesn't mean that it is easy or quick or not a good value for a one-semester course (it is actually an EXCELLENT value); what it means is that with the flexibility of homeschooling, Therese ended up completing a lesson every two days or so. She didn't want to stop, and somehow, I just couldn't hear myself saying, "No, Therese! You may not continue your computer programming course after dinner! Come watch television with the family!"
Although each lesson is supposed to take 3-6 hours, I would guess that Therese only took 1-1.5 hours per lesson. She doesn't have previous programming experience, but she is ridiculously bright (I hate saying that because it sounds like I'm bragging, but it makes a huge difference in how fast she goes through coursework). I'm sure it also helps that she has basically treated this far more like a core course than an elective, meaning that she has been doing it non-stop. She finishes a lesson and then plays around with what she learned for a little while, and then moves immediately to another lesson. I don't do formal lesson plans for anything for her - she really does set her own pace, and she set a fast one for this course. In the picture above, we are at Tae Kwon Do. She didn't want to stop working (even though it was 7 p.m. and I in no way encouraged her), so she just trucked the laptop to her brothers' lessons. She didn't know I was taking a picture with my phone, which is why she looks so serious. Programming is serious business!
In essence, Therese (and, hence, I) loved this course. Computer programming is DEFINITELY one of those courses that would have fallen by the wayside if I had been left to my own devices, and that would have been to the detriment of my children. I am so grateful that this curriculum exists! It is extremely cost-effective at $59.95 for the downloadable eBook (but only $34.95 until 7/4/13!) which is over 500 pages. There is a second semester available for the same price, and I am definitely grabbing it while it is on sale. If your child is in high school and needs a computer course for his transcript, I wouldn't even think twice before buying this one. If you just haven't really thought about a computer course, but realize now (ahem, I'm talking to you, Laura) that your kids need one, this is the one! Best of all, if you require all of your courses to have a Christian flavor, Computer Science for Kids has you covered! Click the banner below to see other Crew reviews of a course nearly identical to this one, but completely Christian in content (N.B., the course I reviewed is not anti-Christian, but only secular)!