Homeschooling as a Digital Humanist

While I’m not teaching in a classroom this spring, I am teaching. My wife and I are co-homeschooling our 15-year old daughter. Since my wife is gone on a business trip right now, I’m responsible for the whole day rather than just part of it.

A major focus of this week is working through Unit 7 of the Big History Project‘s curriculum.  Big History is an interdisciplinary macrohistory approach that begins with the Big Bang and leads up to the present, placing human history within the larger history of the universe.

While today’s Big History and reading of the House of Seven Gables are largely independent work, we’ve got some hands-on work (for me) with Processing and robotics. We’re using Daniel Shiffman’s Learning  Processing: A Beginner’s Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction as an introduction to programming and we’re building Parallax’s Arduino-based BOE Shield robot for an introduction to physical computing.

Robot stepper motors
The “brains” – an Arduino and BOE Shield – and stepper motors.

We took a few weeks break from both Processing and the robot while I was at the CCCC conference and while she was on spring break. Today we’ll focus on getting back up to speed with Processing and for me to prep for testing, programming, and experimenting with the stepper motors later this week.

Here’s what the robot will look like once we’re done:

Also up for this today is some joint exploration of Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan’s First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Over the past couple of years, my daughter has been developing a growing interest in narrative-based video games, and last week I handed her Wardrip-Fruin and Harrigan’s First Person along with Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives to see if they might be something she wanted to explore. Today we’re going to start figuring out what she will read in First Person.

We’ve been homeschooling since last September, starting with 9th grade. My wife and I both have advanced degrees in English and have taught both high school and college. My wife, however, considers herself, for good reason,  a working writer – fiction, creative non-fiction, and urban and public policy. I, on the other hand, am an academic. Since I was teaching last fall and my wife has been working at home for a few years now, she’s largely taken the lead with homeschooling, but I’m starting to develop a larger presence within the curriculum, as witnessed by the programming, physical computing, and game studies.