Go Girl!

A screen recording of us playing a game of Pong Neva has programmed herself. You can play it as well at: https://repl.it/@nevalena/Pong#index.html

Our living room has this air of an open source digital studio, sizzling with contagious creativity. I have always encouraged the kids to do their stuff in a shared space environment, so even though we may be at our own screens we continuously exchange feedback, can ask for help and grab a cup of tea. This way, no one is ever stuck in their rooms (except for Dad who is working from home now and is in continuous meetings, so he is in a different room). In our bedrooms, we don’t have desks or anything except for beds, clothes and some books, so all the kids do in their room is bed time reading and sleeping (well, and a lot of fun discussions like this morning, about what a 4D being would be able to observe in their room).

Today is the 8th of March, women’s rights day, and we hear a lot of talk about how important it is to inspire young girls that they can become anything they want. From our experience as a family committed to Self-Directed Learning and following our kids’ interests, I can testify that the best way to inspire our daughter Neva has been via allowing her the freedom of growing up in the same open studio space with her brother Simon and securing her right to choose what and when she herself wants to explore. This didn’t involve any coercion or even active advertisement of “women in STEM”. We did make sure she always had access to a learning device (an iPad or a laptop) and Simon made sure he wasn’t too private about his learning (he watched many of his tutorials without the headphones on and Neva heard what he was learning on the background, even when she wasn’t actively listening).

At some point down the road, we noticed that she had learned to first understand and then speak English and started looking things up and reading in English, too (we speak Russian and Dutch at home). Fast forward another year or so and Neva started to actively ask Simon to code together (he had tried to teach her way earlier, upon his own accord, but that didn’t result in anything at the time). Their first projects together were drawing in Python with turtle.

It was after Neva had taught herself to speed type last spring and began following Daniel Shiffman’s JavaScript courses on The Coding Train channel on YouTube that things really took off. She also completed a couple of courses on Brilliant.org and quite a few steps along the learning path on CodinGame.com and code katas on Codewars.com. This fall, she published her first playable JavaScript game. This winter, she has been pushing on, first with simpler snippets of code that she wrote completely independently, then with using Teachable Machine to train models and incorporate them in her sketches, then creating her first bot on Discord and eventually producing her first remake of a “classic”: she has just finished making a game of Pong.

At this point, I regularly hear Neva discuss algorithms with Simon for hours. It’s like a watching a colorful ball gaining speed as it rolls downhill, bouncing increasingly higher with every bump it hits, carrying ever more force.

She still gets mad at Simon every time he gets carried away teaching her. Just answer my question, Simon! I don’t like it when you teach me!

Remember I started coding in June? The month before that, Simon did the Spring Challenge and the concept was just so great that I wanted to do it some day.

Neva and Simon made this raindrop catching game together: https://editor.p5js.org/nevalena/sketches/0iN94SCjV
Neva doing her project with TeachableMachine. Her code is available at https://editor.p5js.org/nevalena/sketches/7pG2S_3Hn
Neva’s first Discord bot
Neva doing coding katas, i.e. small coding exercises on codewars.com

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