Programming for Kids (Part 1)

VICE C128 Emulator

In the spring of 2019, my wife suggested that I homeschool my 11 year old son, Neo, in Computer Programming. He had already demonstrated an aptitude for creativity and patience by creating some stop-motion lego movies with an old camera I’d given him, and I thought he was the right age to start, so I began.

My intention was that he should have the same experience learning computers that I did. When I learned computers, I taught myself by entering computer programs – the hands-on approach. I believe this is the best way for children to learn programming; by seeing the results of actual code as quickly as possible, and as often as possible. In this way learning to program computers becomes like learning a new language. My goal was to apply the “Acquisition” approach to Computer Programming. Any Stephen Krashen lecture will do, such as this one, off the top of my head.

I also believe that the reason I became good at computers is because when I learned computers they were small and easy to understand. The VIC-20 and Commodore 64 had a small memory and therefore the operating system was very small (unlike today’s Linux, OSX and Windows computers). In addition there was no multitasking – computers could only do one thing at a time. Although today this is seen as a limitation, it is a benefit when you are learning because you can understand how the entire system works together. Once you learn this on a smaller computer, you can easily learn the concepts behind today’s multicore, multitasking systems.

I began by teaching him BASIC programming on a Commodore 128 simulator. And, as we continue our journey, I will journal our progress here!

(wiki version)

2 replies on “Programming for Kids (Part 1)”

  1. Congratulation for the initiative!
    Retro computers are very good indeed for teaching programming.
    I also want to highlight you https://codeguppy.com platform that is intended for kids and teens. The platform tries to replicate the ease and fun of the home computers from 80s and 90s

    If you have time give it a try and send your feedback by email or on Twitter at @codeguppy

    Regards,
    Adrian

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