Teaching My Kids Linux

aroach profile image Ashley Roach ・2 min read

My kids (9 and 12 years old) liked the idea of learning programming, but they really weren't making much progress and would lose interest pretty quickly.

As a result, I turned my attention to something more tangible for them. After brainstorming a bit, and figuring sysadmin skills are good to know as well, I decided to teach them some Linux skills.

The first project that we started with was installing Linux (we picked Ubuntu even though I could've gone hardcore with Gentoo). We actually did this twice: first, into a VM; second, on an actual PC.

When installing it on a PC, I asked them questions like, "How do you think you can put a new OS onto the computer?" Which led to learning about updating the BIOS boot order, how to install a bootable linux onto a USB stick (netbootin), and hard drives vs. memory. We also learned about hostnames and creating user accounts.

After installing the OS, we started exploring Linux. They immediately wanted to use the GUI, but I guided them to open Terminal. We used:

  • ls and ls -la
  • touch
  • cp

Finally, we loaded a text editor. Yes, we tried out vi (sorry my emacs friends).

  • :w
  • :q and :q!
  • j k h l for navigation

There ain't no keeping my kids away from Minecraft, and so the next stop on our Linux adventure was to install a Minecraft Server. Lots of fun tools here to learn about:

  • wget
  • useradd
  • usermod
  • passwd
  • chmod
  • chown
  • apt-get
  • sudo
  • telnet
  • ssh

Of course, we didn't cover all of this is one day, but have split up these exercises over many weekends.

I plan to add more posts documenting our adventures with Linux. Would love to hear from other parents who might be trying to help their kids with Linux literacy.

Hat tip to @vallard for the inspriation.

(Originally posted at aroach.github.io)

Posted on by:

aroach profile

Ashley Roach


I'm a developer evangelist at Cisco DevNet...these days, I tend to be biased towards things JavaScript


markdown guide

I have the reversed case... I teach my father how to use Linux.


And how did that go? I'm planning to do the same with my parents.


Tomorrow, I am going to actually attempt to teach my Grandma how to use Ubuntu. This will be fun.


Well, for simple things He use ruby. I have configured all the environment but I'm planing to leave him to install from fresh after read your post.


My son is 8 and hasn't shown an ounce of interest in computers. Maybe one day I can bring him over to the dark side :-)

Yours truly,
Sad programmer dad


Lol, I am 13 and I am better at programming than some adults. I learned everything off the internet, because I am the only person in my entire family who is actually interested in this kind of stuff.


It took me years to finally get off my bum and do some programming. I wish I hadn't been so lazy as a kid. When I was in 3rd grade, I decided I wanted to make games. Didn't even try until I was 20-something

Lol, I started when I first got the idea. Like, the same day.
Also, I got the WiFi password for my schools WiFi when I was 11, and everyone was like "How did you do this? Are you a hacker?".


That's sad. It's been a while since you posted this.
I wonder, did you have any luck over the last years?

P.S. I have a 3yo now and I'm doing my best for him to know that understanding computers is a superpower. ;D


I started with my oldest girl when she was 4. Nothing advanced, just to learn about saving files to hard drive etc. Mostly it was text-to-speach, which was most fun. Since then we've done some Scratch games and some hardware stuff with Raspberry Pi. You can read more in this blog if interested ifgirlthencode.blogspot.fi/2015/03...


My sister broke his laptop. Now, she use my laptop (no problem, my boss give me one to work) with Debian using XFCE with minimal interface (I use everything with command line).
The first time she used it, she almost cry. So, I teached her how to use it and, of course, the first thing she wanted to do is to install a new desktop more friendly to her.


I loved reading your adventures with Linux and your kids! It made clear that we need to start from a point that they already feel engaged with.

It's been a while since you posted this... How far did they go with Linux and loving computers by now? Are they still in only for Minecraft? :D

Thanks for sharing, Ashley!


This seems like a fantastic idea. It creates the sort of interest-gaining boosts I remember from even simple re-wiring projects around the house when I was growing up. I remember feeling the same sense of ownership in Operating Systems the first time I finally got my ArchLinux-installing script to run properly.


I have dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux on my laptop. My daughter is only 10 and the other day she cracked my password and found her way to Chrome and opened it and used it to Google something. Kids today are incredibly smart and it taught me not to use the same password for everything. Haha


Parents? I'd love a series for me! 😊


Good to see that the children got the teacher in their father.
Keep it up bro


Nice job! I'm trying to get my siblings (14, 13 & 11 yrs) interested but so far, no luck. I'm trying to find something tangible but so far, no luck.


Awesome! I'll need these ideas too!