Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Last year we had the great opportunity to review a couple of beginner computer courses. One was on how to design a web page and the other was on how to make your own games. Both were great and John Allen loved them. This year, when we heard that we were going to review another computer programming course, John Allen and I were both really excited. There was only one problem. I had to pick which course to review. The KidCoder course, designed for students in 4th-8th grade, or the TeenCoder series, written for 9th-12th graders. John Allen was in 8th grade, so the KidCoder course made sense, but after I read the descriptions of each, I felt that John Allen was ready for the older TeenCoder course. The fact that the final project was designing a computer chess program, a game that John Allen loves, really helped seal the deal. I'm glad I ended up choosing the older course. John Allen is really enjoying it.
Homeschool Programming Inc. has really done a great job in preparing this course. The teacher's manual says that it is written by actual software programming professionals but, although it is very thorough, it is very easy to use and understand. Each of the 17 chapters has 3-6 lessons in it along with a chapter review and an activity. The chapters start with the very basics. Chapter one is an "Introduction to Window's Programming" and it's project is how to install Studio C# Express Edition. C# is the "language that they will use to write all of their programs in. Chapter 17 is all about the final project, which I've already mentioned is the Chess game. Along the way they will learn all about such things as an "Introduction to C#", "Working With Strings" and "Inheritance and Polymorphism". In fact, here are some of the topics covered (taken from the website):
- Introduction to the C# programming language
- Creating Windows Forms
- Using dialog controls
- C# data types and variables
- User input and flow control
- Math functions and string operations
- C# debugging and exception handling
- Object-oriented programming concepts
- Classes, inheritance, and polymorphism
- Collections, sorting, and recursion
- File Input/Output
Now, when I saw the chapter titles, I thought that this would be cinch for me. After all, I was a pro at making things with strings in school. I could make a mean "Jacob's Ladder" and "Cat's Cradle". In high school I was really into music and knew all about C#. And, I went to Bible College and learned about Polytheism. That's a lot like Polymorphism isn't it?
In fact, I was soon to find out that none of the things that John Allen was learning had anything to do with the things I learned in school. And the meager computer course I took back in '86 and the HTML stuff that I dabble with on my blog don't hold a candle to what is contained in this course.
What was I to do? Was I up the creek without a paddle?
Really, this course is written so well that you almost don't need the teacher manual at all. In fact, most days I just told John Allen to do the next lesson or activity and left him to work on his own. Only once or twice did he ever call for my assistance. But, I say you "almost" don't need it. The Teacher's Edition does include a Chapter Summary, Activity Solution and Chapter Test for each chapter, and the computer disk that comes with the manual has printable "Hint Files" that give extra helps to a student who may be having problems with an activity. It also has printable versions of the tests if you wish to print them out to use them.
There's also a student disk that has some activity starters and other things to help the student along.
Thankfully, I didn't need to know much (if anything) about computer programming for John Allen to use this course and, besides, it is written so well that even if I did know something about it, my knowledge wouldn't be needed much.
John Allen is having a great time with this and can't wait until the second part of the course.
What? I haven't mentioned a second part? OH YEA! The Windows Programming stuff that I have talked about above is only the first semester of this year long program. The second semester is all about GAME PROGRAMMING! Yep! John Allen will learn how to make games complete with animated graphics and sound effects. His projects will include multi-player games and even games with artificial intelligence. Here are some of the other things that he will be learning (again taken from the website):
- Introduction to the XNA Game Studio
- Game design, game engines, and timer loops
- Screen coordinates and color concepts
- Drawing, scaling, and rotating images
- Handling keyboard, mouse, and XBox 360 Gamepad controller inputs
- Creating Sprite objects
- Collision detection
- 2D animation techniques
- Playing music and sound effects
- Game physics
- Maze generation and solution algorithms
- Menus, overlays, and deployment models
- Multi-player scrolling games
- Game artificial intelligence (AI)
We only began reviewing TeenCoder in November, so, even without a major death in the family and computer problems, we wouldn't be quite done with the first half of this course anyway. Truth is, we are about half way done with the Windows Prgamming section, and hope to finish it this school year so that we can start the Game Programming part in the fall.
I am really pleased with Homeschool Programming's TeenCoder course! John Allen has really had fun with it and, as I've mentioned, it really doesn't need much teacher intervention at all. I'm thinking about ordering the KidCoder course for myself - I probably better start a little simpler than John Allen .
We got to review the First Edition of this great product, I just found out that the Second Edition is now out and there are some added things that you can get! Starting at the end of May, you can order instructional videos for both Windows Programming and Game Programming. They won't replace the student textbook, but will be an added thing that a student can use if he needs more reinforcement or may need something explained a little bit more.
So, you would think that something like this would cost 2 or 3 hundred dollars at least. Wrong again. The full year course is only $130 without the instructional videos. The instructional videos will cost $45 and can be purchased separately if you think you may need them. You can also purchase each semester separately if you would like. Both Windows Programming and Game Programming can be purchased for $75 each for the teacher manual/student manual set and $30 for the instructional video CD. If you think you will be doing both courses, however, I would suggest purchasing both sets together and save money. You can find out more about all of Homeschool Programming's products by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Others from the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed TeenCoder and KidCoder and you can find out what they had to say by clicking here.
Now, since this product can be used in a school setting, a co-op setting, with a homeschooled student or even with a public school student at home, I will close this post by wishing you "Happy Home Educating"!
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent the first edition of both TeenCoder Windows Programming and TeenCoder Game Programming in order to try out and review on my blog.