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Middle School Kids: Stuck in a Home School Rut? Try a bit of Code.Org

Every day, it seems more and more kids in the crucial middle school years are in the middle of a home schooling situation. Are you one of those kids? Maybe it’s because your parents are so zealous that they don’t want you to hear about ideas outside the family religion. Maybe it’s because you left your public school for a private school that made promises that it couldn’t keep, leaving you in the lurch. Maybe you were in the middle of an awful bullying situation. Maybe you’ve just decided that you’d like to learn independently for a while.

No matter what brought you to a home schooling situation, the reality shared by middle-school-aged kids I know is that home schooling can get really, really boring if it just replicates the same old subjects from traditional public schools. A home school situation best avoids boredom when it stretches for something a little bit different… a little bit geeky.

If you are a desperately bored middle schooler who’s being taught at home, suggest code.org to your parents. Code.org is a completely free non-profit system of interlocking online lessons designed to teach young people how to program computers.

Middle-schoolers, start with the first hour of code:

The first hour feels like a video game, because it uses the “Angry Birds” graphics and sounds to guide kids like you through 20 levels of puzzles with logic “blocks” that are stitched together to make an algorithm (a set of rules that a computer can understand). The obvious goal is to guide the classic red angry bird to the classic green pig. The hidden goal is to teach the fundamental basics of code without scaring a wary middle schooler away:

Hour of Code: Angry Birds teach Kids how to write code

Over time, using a system that even the Ivy Leagues use, graphic logic blocks give way to underlying Javascript code and, before you know it, you’re programming a computer.

If you like what you’ve learned in that first hour of code, ask your parents to check out plans for a K-8 introductory course (about 20 hours of work). If that looks good, there are more advanced middle-school curricula for science-focused programming and math-based programming. And hey, if you’re a pretty smart middle schooler, you might even try out the Exploring Computer Science course, a year-long experience that works with the related Scratch block system.

Good luck, kid. I’ll leave you with a tip: if you really want to sell your parents on the experience, get them to work play through the hour of code themselves.

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