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Review of Homeschool Programming

Although my son is the computer whiz in our family, the fact is that our state requires a credit in computer science for graduation. So, I've been on the lookout for a class/curriculum that my oldest daughter- beginning high school this year- could use. I was glad for the chance to review a class from Homeschool Programming.

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I received a course titled TeenCoder C# Series. It came as two separate ebook texts and a CDRom with access to instructional videos. This set sells for $155 on the Homeschool Programming website. The TeenCoder C# series is actually a set of two one semester courses- Windows Programming and Game Programming. The courses can be purchased separately, and the videos can be purchased separately.

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TeenCoder: Windows Programming (Course Only)
$90.00     TeenCoder: Windows Programming (Course & Videos)
$20.00     TeenCoder: Windows Programming (Video Only)

TeenCoder: Game Programming (Course Only)
TeenCoder: Game Programming (Course & Video)
TeenCoder: Game Programming (Video Only)

The courses are designed for 9th-12th graders with no prior programming experience. But the website does recommend that a student be familiar with using a computer- keyboarding, saving to a drive, running programs and navigating through menus.

Kathryne doesn't have very much interest in programming, but she was game to begin the first semester course- Windows Programming- to see if this would be a good fit for her computer science class.

I began by having her read the chapters. I sent the ebook text to her Kindle (If you don't have a Kindle, it could easily be read as a PDF on your computer or a tablet.) The chapters are divided into lessons and have a hands-on activity at the end. We began by having her read a lesson and then watch that lesson from the CDRom menu.

The CDRom that we received had a directory of videos that went along with each lesson of each chapter. The video lessons discussed all of the information from the reading in an abbreviated form.

Right away in chapter one, Kathryne had difficulty understanding the material. She read the book first. Then watched the video. Watching the video made much more sense to her. So she plugged on with lessons two and three and then watched the video for each one. When she came to the activity for chapter one, it was an exercise that guided the student in installing Visual C# 2010 Express- a free version of Visual Studio (program development software), course files that came with the course and that contain teacher and student printables, and the MSDN Help Library that allows users to pull up help from within the programming software. 

She was completely lost in the activity. She usually has very good reading comprehension and is very good at following instructions. So I believe that the problem was her lack of familiarity with programming. I sat down with her to try to get the software installed. Even though I am very familiar with computers and have some limited knowledge of programming, I had to take my time and read and reread to make sure I was doing it correctly.

After our experience with chapter one, I realized that she was not going to be able to do this course very independently. I made sure that I could sit down with her and discuss- especially when it came to the hands on activities. I also realized that it was helpful if she watched the video first, then read the chapter.

As the course went on and she became more familiar with it, things went a little more smoothly. I could never leave her to work totally independently. And she was pretty adamant that she did not want to continue and complete the other semester for a year's credit in computer science.

I did read through the Game Programming course to get an overview of the program. It is structured in the same way as Windows Programming. It has chapters broken down into lessons with a hands-on activity at the end of the chapter. It requires the installation of another free software program- XNA Game Studio 4.0- and the help files that go with it. It also requires the installation of more course files for the printable activities.

Here are my conclusions about the TeenCoder C# Series:

1. I wish I had a physical book. I love my Kindle for pleasure reading. But when I am studying something, I like to able to look through real pages. Kathryne is the same. And one thing that gave her trouble was having to "flip" pages on her Kindle and zoom in and out to be able to read it well.

2. I really think that some prior knowledge of programming would be helpful before beginning the program. I think she struggled because most of her computer use has involved word processing or using the internet.

3. This is a very detailed and complete course. And if you have a student truly interested in programming and familiar with it, this would make a great course as an elective or to fit a computer science credit.

4. The video lessons were very helpful. Being able to watch things being done on screen really helped with learning how to do the hands on activities.

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You can read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought about the TeenCoder C#Series and other programs from Homeschool Programming by clicking below.


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