Code.org offers free coding/computer science online courses for children from kindergarten through high school. The classes are offered by grade level, with all the elementary level classes covering the same material, with increasing complexity. The classes teach the basics of coding such as algorithms, loops, and conditionals. At lower levels, the coding that is done is all a visual system based on the programing tool Scratch, which is very easy for kids to understand.
My oldest son went through Course 2, which has been changed in favor of the grade level system, but can still be found on the website with some digging. We did this class in eighteen weeks, which turned out to be a very doable, leisurely pace. I can see completing the course in less time, but with the limited amount of time we had in our weekly schedule, eighteen weeks worked perfectly.
The course featured online activities, as well as ‘Unplugged Activities’. The unplugged activities were offline games designed to teach some of the fundamental concepts in a non-technical setting. I really appreciated these activities and thought they did a great job of reinforcing basic ideas. Now, these activities were written for a classroom, so I did have to modify them a bit for homeschool use, but I found it to be well worth my time to do so.
The online activities were amazing. They usually featured building some sort of code to get a character to accomplish an objective, such as moving across a maze, collecting items, or drawing out patterns. These really required logic and sequential thinking. I loved how they forced my son to go back and fix his mistakes and troubleshoot his code. Just because it was a children’s program, it never let him get away with even the smallest error. I really appreciated that.
For the teacher, or in this case, parent, a set of tools was available to track progress and lesson plan. While I didn’t need the class organization tools much with just one student, it seemed they put just as much thought into the teacher resources as they did the rest of the course. The lesson planning resources were also helpful, especially when I was just getting started and had no idea what I was doing. They helpfully allowed teachers to do all the online activities before the students did, giving me an idea of what my son would be doing.
Code.org offers a really good set of classes for the best price possible. The lessons were well thought out, and it did a great job of teaching fundamental concepts and the cold hard logic of programming, all while being fairly fun. Even when the code was really not working, my son was able to keep trying and not get too frustrated. I would say that some of the material was a bit too easy for us, but now that they’ve switched to a grade level system, I imagine that problem is a thing of the past.
If you want to introduce your student to coding but think they’re too young, or aren’t sure if they’d be interested, code.org is a great place to start. It’s free, child friendly, and adapts to a homeschool setting well. While your student may not be learning any ‘real’ languages, it’s a great place to start with the fundamentals and check interest level. I think we will be coming back to the site in later years to give some of the more advanced courses a try.
Pros – Free! Organized and effective, fun
Cons – Not designed for homeschool