For the last several months, our family has had a dinner table tradition. We each share three gratitudes from the day. Recently, as part of our kids’ unschooling journey, we decided to start sharing something we learned from the day, too.
Last night, our oldest shared that he read that in order to program a computer, you have to tell it a series of steps. You can’t just say, “build a Lamborghini,” he told us. That reminded me of one of the lessons from CS50x I had watched several years ago. CS50x is Harvard’s open-source Introduction to Computer Science course available through edX.
I mentioned the peanut butter and jelly activity and asked our eight and ten-year-old sons if they wanted to give it a try. Several minutes in, my husband went upstairs to meditate. When he came down AN HOUR LATER, we were still working through the steps.
I played the computer and didn’t move without very specific instructions. The boys tag-teamed giving me commands. Eventually they each took turns as the computer, too. It took us a good 30 minutes just to get all of the ingredients, a plate, and a knife on the table. They were live pseudo-coding and loving it.
Lift right hand six inches…move it forward one foot…
Stand up…turn left 90 degrees…move forward six feet…undo…undo…
Lift right hand one foot…place right hand on refrigerator handle…grab handle…pull handle…
Ten-year-old: Can I repeat the steps?
Me: What’s it called when you do that?
Eight-year-old: a loop.
Me: How did you learn that?
Eight-year-old: From Scratch (a free online platform that teaches kids to code using block-like structures).
(Though geared toward kids, Scratch is super fun and educational for all ages. I once used it to send an interactive thank you note to a potential client.)
“Wait, wait, wait, I have an idea! MOM, when we’re done making the sandwich, you have to eat it sloppily like a pig.” OK. Challenge on.
We did finally make a complete sandwich. I giddily screamed so loudly I scared my oldest across the table. When I later had him watch the video linked above of college students going through the same activity, he realized he had it much harder. 🙂