Friday, July 26, 2013

Homeschool Programming (Teen Coder Java Series)

Given that my Eldest is going to be a Junior in High School, and we are looking to add some elective credits to her transcript, I was pleased to be sent  Homeschool Programming's TeenCoder Java Series for review. We have only done a little bit of computer programming in the past (Which both Middlest and Eldest enjoyed), so I thought this would be a good option. One of the reasons that I was so pleased to check this out is that it includes instruction for those who use MAC computers, not just PC. Oh, and a bonus bit~ this course can be used to study for the AP Computer Science A exam if that is something your student is interested in!

We received a downloadable e-book version of both Java Programming and Android Programming. Both courses are worth 1/2 credit each, so taken together would be a whole year's computer course.

The first couple of chapters in Java Programming introduce computer programming and the Java language. Everything is written in source code (in a text edit file) and then run via the terminal window... if this all sounds like Greek to you (And you *don't* speak Greek....), then you know just how we felt! Not only is Java a language of its own, half of the instructions are "computerese" which is another language that I am not (yet) very fluent in (html I can handle to some degree, but this is another ball game).

Eldest worked hard, trying to slog through the material on her own, and with me sitting next to her, taking it bit-by-bit, but it was more than her done-with-school/ready-for-summer/exhausted-by-June brain could wrap around. Especially when we were having a particularly difficult time getting even just the first little bit of code to work.

After being frustrated for some time, I did contact Homeschool Programming for help. They replied right away, with very cheerful help. We discovered that what we were seeing as a "1" (Numeral) was in fact an "l" (lowercase L). If we were a little more conversant in computerese we might have realized that...
Here's that "Text Edit" file to the right.

After her extreme frustration, I decided that *I* would work through the course ahead of her, and be able to give her help when I have her pick it up this fall.

Thankfully, after the 2nd Chapter, instruction moves from writing source code on your own to using an "integrated development environment" which I *think* is a fancy way of saying that now the student gets to USE a program to help them WRITE a program... ;)

The working environment looks more like this:

I can tell that my code is not perfect because there are some yellow "Warning" icons by every line, but that's better than a red 'x' stop sign, that says it won't work! (BTW, this software "Working environment" is very helpful, with autofill options, and direction as to what exactly is wrong~ my Eldest is going to be much happier working her than with source code in TextEdit!) I think that what I have done is a "clunky" version of what is supposed to be done, and when I go over the manual again, and look at the solutions, I might get a better feel for what I was doing wrong. 

In general, my sense is that either I am way behind the eight-ball when it comes to computerese, or it is just going to take awhile to become comfortable with it, with multiple re-readings of the manual, possibly in small chunks. It seems as though there is a lot of information thrown at the student that I'm sure is useful, but possibly "background" (more like what one would find in a college course?). It does feel just a little bit too advanced for someone who has not been involved with computer languages recently. I am wondering if these courses would be more of a piece-of-cake for those who have gone through the Kid-Coder series beforehand. 

Perhaps there may have been too much superfluous (for the moment) "you'll need this information later" included (?).  Then again, this is my "mom-brain" trying to wrap itself around something totally new~ if your student is already conversant even a little bit in computerese, this will likely not be as difficult for them! (And I have a sneaking suspicion that if you check out some other TOS Reviews at the link at the bottom of the page, there will be some families who have real techie kids who are eating this stuff up!). 

Once I got to the Activity for each section I found it much easier to see what was required. I then went through the text again and was successful in completing the activities, so don't be discouraged~ I think this just isn't the way *I'm* wired, and may not be the way my daughter is wired either, so it's taking a bit more effort. ;) 

So you can see what I'm talking about, and make your own determination regarding the fit for your student, you can check out some samples: 

The Android Programming course follows the Java course, so we obviously haven't made it there just yet. You can check out some samples for this course as well:       

  • Android Programming Table of Contents
  • Android Programming Sample Student Lesson
  • Android Programming Solutions Overview
  • Android Programming Sample Activity Solution 
  • Once one has a handle on the Java Language, and is comfortable in the computer writing environment, the opportunity to create widgets (Among other things) for use in android environments looks like an exciting adventure. 
    While my mamma-brain has been having a hard time digesting this material, the good news is that is *is* helped by the course CD's. Each lesson in each chapter has a 5-10 minute video that may help to explain or reinforce some of the ideas in each lesson. It helps to cut through some of the background material in the coursework, and point out some of the essentials. The videos are in no way a stand-along product, and can only be used as a supplement.

    I am curious to see how this goes this fall, now that I'm beginning to get my bearings in this new language, and can more easily help my daughter if she begins to flounder. 

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    • Company: Homeschool Programming 
    • Product: TeenCoder Java Series
    • Ages: 9th-12th grade
    • Price: 
      • $155 for the complete course as received and described above or $130 for the course materials alone.
      • Individual Semesters $90 (course and video) $75 (course only)
    Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


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