One of the things I miss most about being in a formal schooling situation is homework.
(Not papers so much, since I was often so paralyzed thinking that my argument needed to be fully formed before I could even start my first draft that I’d end up obsessively mulling over the topic, staring at a blank computer screen, dreading the due date’s swift approach, and getting more and more stressed out… until I’d end up writing and editing it all in a night or two, hating myself the whole time, and swearing I would never wait until the last minute again.
Once a paper was finished, I felt amazing, like I had achieved something real and tangible, like if Ilana Glazer read it she would be so moved by how well-researched and creative and thorough it was that she’d reach the last sentence, look up, catch my eye, and tearfully whisper “yas queen” like she did to that little boy in that one episode of Broad City.
But at the beginning? More like Michael Scott when he realizes that Toby Flenderson is back from Costa Rica and working at Dunder Mifflin again instead of being gone forever. “NOOO, GOD! NO, GOD, PLEASE, NO! NO! NO! NOOOO!”
Anyway, so I’m not necessarily referring to long papers when I say that I miss homework.)
I guess I mean something more like reading assignments and shorter writing responses. It’s such a pleasing thing for my brain, to be told “read this book up to chapter 15 by Tuesday,” and then to go home and read that book up to chapter 15 by Tuesday. And to know that on Tuesday I’d get to talk with other people who had also read up to chapter 15 about what we all thought of the text. There’s something so satisfying and enlightening about breaking a book down with a group of smart and thoughtful people.
That’s why I love my IRL book club, which meets once per month, and also why I’ve been super enjoying the new quarterly “group read” that Book Riot Insiders started doing this year. (Not sponsored, I just freaking love Book Riot.)
The idea is that from a group of three potential books, we’ll vote on the one we most want to read together, and then we’ll read it and talk about it. The Book Riot folks split it up into “assigned” chunks of reading to finish each week, and discussion happens via blog posts at each checkpoint. They also include relevant links, interviews with the author, background info, etc. Plus, the book options are chosen to satisfy at least one or two Read Harder challenge prompts, which is awesome if you’re participating in that too (which I am, duh).
This quarter we’re working through Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice, which is both a book that takes place in a rural setting (challenge task #10) and a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author (challenge task #24).
It’s set in an Anishinaabe community in northern Canada, where electricity, satellite, cell service, and other lines of communication have been suddenly lost. In the middle of winter. When those things are extra important for survival. So you can imagine how that might play out. It’s pretty tense. I’m not all the way through the book yet, and I won’t give any spoilers, but as of where I stopped, an outsider has come into the community and a few people have already died. I’m pretty amped to keep going and see what goes down, though I’m pretty sure it won’t be good.
All of this to say: having a weekly reading “assignment,” and getting to talk about what I’m reading with other humans on the internet, and learning some interesting stuff along the way, has been really fun so far. All of the good parts of homework that I miss, none of the very real stress and anxiety that I don’t. Highly recommend!