Monthly Archives: October 2014

Requiem for a Hamster

Missy's runway (1)

Missy in better days, with her cheek pouches crammed full of food and ready for a day of adventuring.

In October of 2012, a hamster entered our lives. She got the name ‘Missy’, which I thought of as a ridiculous name for a hamster, but she became Missy, and I loved her.

She was a cautious hamster, and gentle. She explored slowly. When we played with her, she walked with the air of someone who is expecting at any moment to be eaten by a predator. Over time, she became more comfortable with our house and would zoom from room to room. Hearing her little feet pattering as she runs under my chair at the computer is all it takes to make me smile. After a few months she would sometimes escape her cage to roam around the house at night, and it was enjoyable to think of the adventures she may have had while we were all asleep. She improved her skills until eventually she escaped her cage every night, sometimes within seconds of being put back in. She would stuff her face full of food for later, then climb out. A few times she got behind the cupboards for days at a time. Finally we had to put locks on the cage doors so she wouldn’t accidentally leave our house and die outside. Continue reading

Homework: A Failure of Society

(Artist: Pawel Kuczynski)

(Artist: Pawel Kuczynski)

I have some pretty non-traditional views of schooling. From the time I was 5 to the time I was 14, I went to a school where the pupils sat at desks attached to and facing the wall with large dividers between us. Quiet ruled the air, and distractions did not exist. Our work was largely self-directed – we chose what we wanted to work on each hour and each day as long as we kept a consistent pace among all subjects over time. If we finished a certain amount of work before the school day was finished, then the rest of the day was yours. We even checked and graded our own work day-to-day. That school closed down when I was 14, and I was homeschooled until 18. There was no formal curriculum in my homeschooling (some might know this as “unschooling”), and my learning was then entirely self-directed.

During the nine years I went to that formal school, I can recall having homework perhaps ten times, or just about once per year. Now my children get homework that many times in a fortnight. Some schools are giving their students as much as three hours of homework a day. Even my six year old nephew gets homework daily. Immediately as a child starts formal education, does the school intend to own that child’s evenings forever?

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