Every year around this time I think of Alice Cooper’s song "School’s Out" — tomorrow at 3 pm school is out for summer break. We already have a family trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks planned but another item on my summer to-do list is teaching the kids to code. Yes, the kids will get a generous amount of screen time this summer as they learn a few new programming languages.
If you’re wondering why I’m teaching my kids to code when they could be spending time outdoors instead, let me explain. First, I live in Arizona and when it is 110-plus degrees outside, there really is no such thing as outdoor "play" time. It is hot and miserable and even the pool water is too warm to enjoy. So instead of sitting inside playing a mindless video game, the kids will be learning how to make a video game of their own.
The second reason is that people who know how to write code, including web developers, are in a hot growing industry. Last weekend, CNNMoney.com featured an article titled "Make $30 an hour, no bachelor’s degree required." The $30/hour job was a web developer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the industry to grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020.
My oldest doesn’t graduate from high school until 2019 and while he plans to attend college, knowing that he has the skills that will continue to be in demand may help him get a great job so that he can pay for his own college expenses.
The third reason I’m teaching my kids is because individuals on the autism spectrum can often excel at coding-type tasks. SAP is receiving praise for its program that hires adults with autism for programming-type positions and I will do anything to help ensure my kids can live as independent adults. If that means spending a summer learning a programming language, so be it.
I’m not the only one teaching my kids to code. I asked my Facebook friends to share their thoughts on the topic.
Brian said, “I'm teaching our daughters so they don't end up stuck flipping burgers forever ... or possibly ever. Maybe they won't be programmers later in life but they need to learn the critical thinking involved in doing programming. That'll carry over to all kinds of job/entrepreneurship skills and they will be better off for that. Those people who can automate things will be far more valuable than those whose jobs are being replaced by the automation.”
My husband, Dave, also felt compelled to answer: “Coding is valuable to learn logic and how to map out processes. A person who can take a business problem and work through it to a solution is someone who can be effective. Programming is one way to work through logic and understand how to solve a problem by breaking it down into pieces and developing processes around a solution.”
Gina, who is another mom of children on the autism spectrum, also commented, “Melissa, I have been looking for courses that my son could use to learn coding since unfortunately there do not seem to be many "in-person" computer classes for kids. We'll have to try code academy! He will be thrilled, I do not know why we do not teach these types of skills earlier, especially to kids that have an affinity for it. Some kids at the high school level can barely use email — it's kind of sad.”
Yesterday, my son sat down and worked through the Web Fundamentals course. He’s already had a little coding experience, using both Scratch and Python, and while he’s never coded using HTML or CSS, it came easy to him. This brings me to another reason why I’m teaching my kids to code — once you learn to write code in one language, it is typically easier to pick up other languages.
If you’re a parent, are you planning to teach your children how to code?
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