Is just being exposed to interesting things enough for curious kids? #parenting #personal

My friends and I have an ongoing debate about programming. They would like their kids to learn programming, but they say their kids dont enjoy it. Regardless of gender, they seem to have an aversion to development.

I am a geek at heart and love programming. I am not good at it, but I enjoy it. I dont get enough time to do it, but it shows on my face when I am developing something or learning a new language.

I have 4 kids, and we are a very geeky family. My daughter, 13, loves mockups, is building apps and is a pretty decent (for a 13 year old) front end dev – She does HTML and CSS with ease and is okay with Javascript. She would ask me to do most of her database development, which I was happy to do.

Kids still love selfies
Kids still love selfies

She recruited my son to learn SQL and he has been tasked to write the DB schema – for someone that does not understand the difference between Integer and Date, much less the phrase datatype, he seems to be struggling through it, but enjoying it.

All 4 of our kids have a laptop and the older ones have their own cell phone – they are all the same, except for my oldest daughter. They all have Surfaces, while my daughter has a MacBook Pro.

This is a point that many of our friends dont get – she’s only 13 or he’s only 11.

They are too young to have a phone and they will be addicted to it all the time is what I hear from them.

That’s a risk for sure. I know that. It is a risk we have chosen to take, since the exposure and benefits far outweigh the negative consequences.

Although my kids are 13, 11, 9 and 9, they seem to enjoy learning to code. They got started without Scratch, I would take 30 min to explain a few concepts, then turn them loose on a bunch of videos.

Then of course there’s Google. When they found out their dad’s limitations – syntax, libraries, etc. – they discovered that Google was their friend. Their first instinct is to Google and cut and paste. Apparently, according to my son, even the best programmers do it – so there.

Many of the basic concepts of computer science are not clear to them. They “kinda” understand that there’s a database and a user interface and a “middle layer”, but that’s as far as it goes.

Their programming skills are very basic (no pun intended), but I enjoy talking to them about programming.

The one thing I have learned is that if you just expose them to various activities and ensure that they are curious enough to learn, they will.

The fact that I dont monitor their PC usage (We do have a basic filter to make it child friendly, but we dont restrict usage) is also a big point of debate among my friends.

I dont, because I believe it does not matter. If you keep talking to them daily about the positives and negatives, they will learn to make choices. Sometimes, they make the wrong choices, for sure, but that’s unavoidable.

The only thing I do to give them the love for programming and coding is to be passionate about it when I explain things to do (since it comes naturally to me that’s easy).

I am sure if I were a finance person on Wall Street, my passion for that would show as well, which means they’d get that instead of programming.

The “problem” is that they have multiple interests – my daughter loves her piano and singing – she’s a good vocalist, my son is really passionate about his cricket. My youngest loves drawing and is a better artist than I am even now and the middle one loves sports of any kind.

I call it a “problem” with air quotes since they dont get enough time to spend on programming. So I make it a point to have them see me do some coding and development once a while. Which gets them excited again to do something new.

I am not sure if exposure, wearing your enjoyment on your sleeve and unrestricted learning models is sufficient, but it seems to work for us.

3 thoughts on “Is just being exposed to interesting things enough for curious kids? #parenting #personal”

  1. “We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.” – Sir Ken Robinson. This pretty much summarizes what you are doing, creating an environment for learning.

  2. Creating an environment for kids explore is the best thing parents can do. You can’t teach them all, but teaching them to learn themselves is the next best thing. With our busy lives, we don’t generally emphasise this part. Lucky kids, they can watch and learn programming and entrepreneurship both from the same person 🙂

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