As a school nurse, I am lucky to be able to use my summers off to pursue my many curiosities. One summer I dug into baking and cooking, exploring seasonings and techniques from other countries. Another summer I spent time at different beaches with my son — he loves playing in the sand! This year I decided to take a journey into the world of computer coding. And being who I am, I added two caveats: First, I decided I needed guided, intense learning in the way of a certified coding boot camp. And second, I decided that if I was doing it, my daughter needed to learn alongside me. I am so amazed by how much you can learn with deep immersion over a short period of time!
How to start learning
I began my learning using free resources, and I recommend that anyone interested in getting started with coding do the same. You can keep yourself occupied for months with YouTube videos, library books, and online learning platforms. I started with YouTube, searching for videos such as “best computer coding language for beginners” and “how to teach yourself to code.” This rabbit hole allows you to find individuals who have taught themselves, have completed boot camps, or have computer science degrees — and each type of learner gives tips on how they chose the path that was correct for them.
YouTube made me feel more comfortable with the idea that I could learn to code — which was important, since my ego was brutally scarred by a college-level intro to C++ course at a top university in Virginia a decade ago (argh!). Soon, though, I knew I needed something more guided and more substantial. I turned to Free Code Camp, an online coding program that provides an actual certificate if you complete their extensive program (hours of content to complete). I also played around with Udemy and Skillshare to search for courses during their sales.
What my daughter learned — and how
Through reading and speaking with a few programmers, I figured out that Scratch and Python would be appropriate places for a 9-year-old newbie to start learning to code. I specifically used the book “Helping Your Kids With Computer Coding,” which includes an intro to both languages.
I also let my daughter start reading a chapter book series about an all-girls coding group at an elementary or middle school. The books are so reminiscent of The Baby-Sitters Club books I used to read, so I knew they would spark that interest that would carry her through the difficult components of coding. She read the first four books in two weeks and began asking more and more about coding in everyday conversation.
The final components of her summer learning included attending CyberSummer camp in Brookline, which has solidified so much of the learning for her, plus doing one hour of coding a night on code.org. See if you can make it through this maze that she created in Scratch!
Plans for the future
So, what next? In two weeks my bootcamp journey will come to an end, and all I know is that I want to continue learning this awesome, creative, mind-blowing content. Learning to code is challenging and emotionally exhausting. It takes you from intense frustration to utter glee in a matter of minutes (or hours). Pursuing this was the right move, and seeing my daughter excel is so inspiring. If you are thinking about it, I say go for it! You won’t be disappointed.