Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Institutional Influence

As we near the end of our first year of homeschool, I'm discovering that it's easier for me to teach the subjects that previously were most difficult for me to learn.  In the last six months,  I've enjoyed teaching math, science and computers more than I have enjoyed teaching the language arts. This surprises me. Since leaving high school, I have maintained a committed resolve to avoid those tedious subjects. It seemed too risky to spend money on a college course that I might very likely fail...or have a mental breakdown trying to learn.  The consequences of my insecurity are that my choices for possible jobs is so narrow that I lost confidence in the adventure of finding a well paid career.

Because of Elliot and the home learning environment we are creating together, I realize that I am perfectly capable of learning science, technology and math.  It's a major breakthrough in the life of Jenny.  Taking the model of the competitive institution out of learning is going to change my life.

Yet it took a long time for me to figure out how to teach reading and writing.  I have known how to do those things well for 35 years and thus had no memory of how I learned to encode and decode our language.  Having no magic, secret formula, I chose the obvious path of practice.  Every week, we visit the library and check out ten easy reader books.  We also practice the basic mechanics of handwriting.  I offer daily writing topics and show Elliot that writing is a process of editing.  It doesn't matter if every word is misspelled.  The beauty of writing is that you can fix mistakes, or make something interesting by putting different ideas together. 

Like the idea of institutions and families.

Marriage has been called an institution but for the sake of this argument I want to put it in the "personal" category.  When I think of the word institution, I think of big, impersonal buildings with an ordered structure, a hierarchy of power and a standard operating procedure.  I think of schools and hospitals and government. I think of self perpetuating systems.      

And how the institutions are something I must accept as a person living in society.  I must accept them but at the same time I have developed an aversion to them.  The only institutions that I enjoy spending time in are the library and the YMCA.  These are systems designed to improve the lives of the ordinary citizen, in a non competitive atmosphere.  You can build muscle or increase your knowledge at your own pace.  You can follow your interests.
A good marriage works that way too.  I'm happier when I'm not competing with Richard.  This is also a breakthrough in the life of Jenny...who used to feel like she had to compete with her husband in order to gain his respect and attention.

Giving up the need to be correct, to make the "better" choice, to make self-promoting decisions is a relief.  It creates less tension in the house.  It makes for a peaceful life.

Taking the model of the competitive institution out of marriage is going to change my life. 

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