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Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming Review by April Elstrom

Bryson Payne
No Starch Press
1 (800) 420-7240
245 8th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming, was written by Bryson Payne. Dr. Payne has been a computer science professor at the University of North Georgia for over 15 years. In Teach Your Kids to Code, he has taken his 30 years of programming experience and helped make computer programming accessible to parents.

Obviously, you will need a computer to apply the coding lessons in this book. You will also need to download certain programs and modules onto your computer. The very first chapter instructs you to download Python so you can begin programming with the Python language in chapter two. We have a new laptop with Windows 10 on it, but I realize there are others using older software. Neither the book nor the Python website lists any specific computer requirements other than available memory to actually add the programs.

The book itself is a softcover, non-consumable book that measures roughly 7 inches by 9.25 inches. There are 308 pages divided into ten chapters, an introduction, 3 appendices, and a glossary. The appendices contain screen shots and step-by-step instructions for downloading and installing Python, Pygame, and other required modules on your computer. These downloads are all available free, so there isn't any additional cost. The instructions are individualized for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems and are very clearly explained.

The contents of the book are as follows:

  • Introduction What is Coding and Why is it Good for Your Kids?
  • Chapter 1 Python Basics: Get to Know Your Environment
  • Chapter 2 Turtle Graphics: Drawing with Python
  • Chapter 3 Numbers and Variables: Python Does the Math
  • Chapter 4 Loops are Fun (You Can Say That Again)
  • Chapter 5 Conditions (What if?)
  • Chapter 6 Random Fun and Games: Go Ahead, Take a Chance!
  • Chapter 7 Functions: There's a Name for That
  • Chapter 8 Timers and Animation: What Would Disney Do?
  • Chapter 9 User Interaction: Get Into the Game
  • Chapter 10 Game Programming: Coding for Fun
  • Appendix A Python Setup for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Appendix B Pygame Setup for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Appendix C Building Your Own Modules

Teach Your Kids to Code isn't specifically intended for homeschool use, but it is well-suited for homeschooling families. A teenager can manage to work through it on their own. A ten to twelve year old would probably need more parental help. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone beneath ten, unless you are ready to learn alongside the child.

My 14 year old son is using Teach Your Kids to Code on his own, as part of his computer science credit for high school. It reminds me of the programming I learned in high school, creating simple games. With only ten chapters, this isn't really a semester's worth of work, unless the student spends extra time experimenting with the code to make changes to the original program after it's created. My son is using it in conjunction with another programming book, to make it worth a full credit, two semester's worth of work.

Dr. Payne and No Starch Books have made the code samples and solutions available as one of three download links on the product page. The link for this is listed in the book several different places, and it can be found by scrolling down on the product page. I didn't want my son to rely on that, but it is nice to have that option as a backup. If a parent is using Teach Your Kids to Code with a younger child, it also saves the parent from typing everything in.

Teach Your Kids to Code is a helpful resource for any homeschool parent wanting to introduce their child to computer programming. It can be used with a wide variety of ages, though it will require more parental involvement for younger students. The book is non-consumable, so it can be re-used with future children. It's a great investment in the technical education of your children!

—Product Review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2016