in reply to Structured Learning of Perl, Important or Not?
I too can only imagine what it would be like to try to be a mother and a student concurrently, but I can sympathize. Like gwadej, I learned Perl (and almost every other language I know) entirely from books as well, and I learned them while studying for two other completely unrelated degrees (music and chemical engineering). Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no programming expert, but the "little-by-little" approach has definitely allowed me to tackle many things at once. Programming, just like anything else, just requires practice.
So, how do you find fun problems to program a solution for? I've got a simple motto that pretty much sums up how I practice programming:
Anything I have to do more than twice, the computer gets to do for me.
Perl has been the weapon of choice for most of that automation. I've probably written a hundred or so tiny little programs to make life just a little bit easier, both at school and at work. They might not be that much to look at, but each one gives you a bit more experience and most importantly, more practice.
For example, I taught a section of a "Computing for Engineers" course (teaching things like VBA in Excel, MATLAB, Mathcad, etc.). Each week, the students were to email their assignments to me. Downloading all the attachments from the school's webmail inbox was annoying and after the second time I had to do it, I wrote a little program to do it for me: Downloading Excel Spreadsheets from Web-based Mail.
Another time, I was bored in Biology (a schedule mix-up forced me to take this freshman class as a super-senior). I was working on a laboratory project to experimentally determine if certain strains of bacteria had the capability to repair damage to their DNA caused by UV radiation and I got to wondering, how many places in the genome are there for damage? Enter Perl: Genome UV Mutation Script -- Critique.
You'll find that at first it may take you a couple hours to come up with a solution. As you practice more, you'll not only write better Perl, but it'll come to you quicker. I encourage you to post both your challenges and your triumphs here at PerlMonks, this is a fantastic community dedicated to true learning. They (we) are always very helpful and I've learned more here, meditating at the monastery, than I have from any class I've taken or book I've read.