The initial courses are aimed at getting anyone (not just your kids) to understand how to get a computer to do your bidding. The process, called programming, involves a very specialized mental process called, computational thinking. You have to start thinking “like a computer”. Now, computers can’t think, so what do I really mean?
Analogy: Consider the car that you drive every day. Does it “think”? Well, no, but it does do some very complicated things — and yes, it makes some decisions (e.g., anti-slip brakes). Say, you want to go to the grocery store. There are procedures that you go through to get the car to take you there (e.g., start, back out of the driveway, etc.). AND you have to be trained to use the car safely. You learn “car-thinking” — even have to get that knowledge tested by the DMV.
Is the language choice important? Not at the beginning. (Not sure if it really matters at the “end” either. Which is better English or French? How about Latin? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?) Why? Because every statement or graphical block in the recipe (program) has to be translated into the computer’s own so-called “machine language”. The important part is the thinking that goes into the recipe (program). Fortunately, those translators exist and work very well.
However, beginners don’t know ANY of the languages. So, it is not surprising that Scratch, a graphical language, is the easiest one to learn. Lots of reasons. The best one is that Scratch requires very little remembering. The blocks are very intuitive. You know at a glance what each one will do. There is little typing involved. A superior design by the MIT folks.
My 6th graders took to Scratch immediately and were productive right away. Quickly, the discussions centered around the logic. “How do I get the fox to recognize the barriers. Then what do I do about that”. Logic/thinking problems. Once they figured out how to attack the problem, the programming was easy — just involved putting the relevant blocks in order.
I had 14 6th graders last semester. Even the slightly-less-attentive (“goof-offs”) could create some interesting projects and learned to solve problems.
BTW, if all of this is new to you, invest some of your own time. But please don’t just look at the videos. Follow along, stopping the videos when appropriate, and actually build the games yourself. You’ll be surprised how much fun it will be — even if you are “math challenged”. AND, I dare say, realize how smart you and your kids really are at figuring things out.
A final word about my approach. There are many offerings on the internet. Many pass all of the ESSA educational regulations. Maybe OK if it is part of a formal STEM program. I want you all to experience building applications (some video games) right away — AND use proper (time-tested) methods to do it. Because these methods are largely language independent, you’ll learn good ways to think about problems, systematically solve them, and program that logic.
It’s a lot easier than learning to play the piano or making your special cookie recipe.
Oh, ESSA stands for Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind. Just a few thousand regulations to obey — no problem.
Have at it.