Get a bunch of loud jet jockeys together and there is one phrase that is sure to turn heads, hush the crowd, and alert the audience to a life lesson learned the hard way: by being there. This particular phrase perks the ears up and triggers the pilot to record mental notes for the future…notes that can make the difference between life and death.

“There I was.”

There I was…scanning the flight instruments. The altimeter indicates 32,000 feet. Speed: 545 miles per hour. Westbound. Flight management computers place us halfway between Shannon, Ireland and Boston, Massachusetts on Track Bravo…smack dab in the middle of the North Atlantic. I feel a gentle swaying as we cruise along. Engine instruments look normal. Paperwork shows 209 people on board with a crew of 11.

It looks like another great day at ’the office’ when suddenly and without warning, the Boeing 767ER swings hard to the right and a loud pounding starts. It sounds like a sledge hammer beating against the right side of the flight deck. My heart rate increases.

I look right but all I see is my co-pilot looking back at me, eyes wide as he reaches for his emergency checklist. Confirmed: right engine compressor stall. We’re losing power. We shut down the engine…and the banging stops.

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” 

Descending and turning north toward the only emergency field available, we prepare for a standard single engine approach and landing. No big deal: been there, done that. Or so I thought.

As we descend toward Keflevik, Iceland, the weather deteriorates until it is approaching aircraft limits with a slashing crosswind.  Pressing on, we discuss our alternatives and how best to handle the wind conditions during a single engine landing. My copilot alerts Keflevik to dispatch all available emergency vehicles and then informs the passengers of our situation. Now fully configured for landing and about two minutes from the runway, I look out at the whitecaps of an angry sea and exclaim, “Wow, that’s a lot of crosswind!”

Over the end of the runway, we drift right of the centerline when a big gust of wind hits us. Now dangerously close to the runway edge, I attempt to correct to the left while also flaring the big jet for touchdown. What a mistake, and no time to recover!

Suddenly, there is a crashing sound as the left wing dips and digs into the runway. We slam forward, lifting up and to the left. We’re starting to cartwheel! And then—complete silence; total blackness.

Softly, a voice speaks through the darkness…”Well guys, how about we do that one again?”

Yep—”there I was”…hanging in a multi-million dollar, full-motion, full-visual simulator, pushed to my limits, embarrassed, and alive. Wow, what a lesson! We talked about what happened and why, about corrections, and about ’next time.’ I was very interested in what the instructor had to say and jotted down notes to help me learn from my mistake. Then the instructor reset the simulator and we repeated the exercise, this time with an entirely different result. True learning had taken place and I was better prepared for reality in the future.

Preparing world-class aviators for real-world situations is best accomplished through realistic training in a safe but demanding environment. The goal is to help every pilot reach his or her maximum potential as an aviator. Similarly, the homeschool parent’s desire is to train up each child so that every student in the home reaches his or her full potential. This requires a safe and encouraging environment that allows mistakes to be made, learned from, and corrected. Flight through life is simulated with real-world application and a loving safety net in place.

How might this work in the faith-based family? If we fail to pass on our faith to the next generation, then any other success is insignificant by comparison. Our objective, then, is to raise up the foundations of many Godly generations by training our children to be Christ-centered, fruit-producing disciple-makers. Recognize that the key to this process is the creation of a safe home environment where every member is encouraged to reach his or her full potential in Christ. A successful family launches every child into their God-given life purpose, prepared to impact major jurisdictions with skill, vision, and excellence.

Now, that’s successful homeschooling. But it takes a much bigger effort than just flying a crippled jet onto a challenging runway in high wind conditions. Success moves forward on the wings and prayers of homeschool parents like you, in the safe environment of simulated life. Except, it’s not really simulated after all.


Parents, would your students and outside observers describe your homeschool as a safe environment? Are mistakes accepted and considered as stepping-stones to excellence? Do you strive to push your children to acceptable limits within the context of a safe and encouraging home?

Students, are you maximizing your safe environment at home and church to reach your full potential as a Christian? Strive to have a teachable attitude and realize that your teachers are there to help you. Learn from your mistakes, and from others’ mistakes as well. Seek opportunities to put what you learn into practice. Learn from the results of your best efforts, even when they seem to fail.

And be sure to share your many successes and life lessons: “There I was. We were gathered around a dissected frog as we probed something none of us had seen before, when suddenly….”

Originally printed in “This Old Schoolhouse”