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Navigating the Coding 4 Kids Space

Coding is such a critical skill in the digital age. The writing is on the wall - coding is considered to be the fourth literacy, but a lot of schools in Pakistan haven't quite caught up. When I first realized that coding at school was nonexistent for some families or just simply not working out for others, I started researching a bunch of different options. Here are my learnings on this journey.

Phase 1: Teach coding myself

It's not hard, there are a ton of self explanatory tutorials, why not teach my son myself? I quickly realized that it was near impossible for both of us to carve out the time at a mutually agreeable time. If I scheduled an hour, it was rare for my son to “be in the mood”. When he was in the mood, I realized I simply did not have the patience to teach him. Was I a bad teacher? Or is there something about how children behave with their parents that makes it impossible to have a calm and positive learning environment?

Phase 2: Online tutorials

I found many great tutorials, why not have my eight year old just follow them! I'm not sure which gifted children actually do this, but for us it was virtually impossible for him to follow. He couldn't navigate the platform, manage traversing the menus and all the other paraphernalia. Was it just my own kid? I field tested this with a bunch of friends in this age group, different genders, different social backgrounds. Almost all of them struggled with following the instructions, and the payoff just wasn't fast enough to keep them engaged. If I did manage to be his personal coach encouraging him from the sidelines, he had forgotten everything the next time he logged back in! The major focus ended up being toggling between the video and the coding editor, and actually understanding the code was relegated to oblivion.

Phase 3: Coding subscription

I came across great coding subscription boxes, attractively packaged, arriving at the house in the child’s name. So exciting! The only downside was that those boxes weren’t offered by anyone in Pakistan, and we all know how customs is such a massive issue with orders being received, not to mention if anything is sent by Pakistan post God knows when it will arrive, and how prohibitively expensive it is anything to be couriered. Like any good desi I had someone coming from “abroad” bring it over for me in their suitcase, but again that definitely wasn’t sustainable for a monthly subscription, and the idea was obliterated with the pandemic.

Phase 4: Online Teaching

I realized that after months of trying, the only was to have a human being teach a child in this age group. I also realized that individual one to one teaching wasn’t going to cut it, the incentive of getting to the class with all his friends would be only way to make this fun. As a parent, online classes because of the COVID19 pandemic were an obvious choice, but I was also relieved that there was no pick and drop. I personally hated the shuttling duty for after school activities, it is such a huge waste of time, and we as a family don’t allow our child to go alone with domestic staff or drivers to and from sites. It was a huge relief to just log in from our home.

After trying out many methods, online teaching is what worked for us. It is up to the parent to decide what works best for their family. If you have an emotionally available coder at home who has the time and patience to teach your child, please go for it! If you have that rare child who can independently teach themselves to code on their own, power on! But for those of you who need to outsource teaching coding, is the place for you.

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