Guest post by Jenny Loughmiller
My official homeschooling journey began with a panic attack. When my two oldest kids got into the car on the last day of grades 1 and 3 and we pulled away from school we pulled away from everything I knew, everything that was safe, everything that was routine. My vision narrowed, my heart raced, my stomach clenched, my hands shook. I had no confidence in myself. I had no real plan. All I had was a vision of a path towards an authentic life and superb education. I was armed with a few books about TJEd and I was praying that would be enough.
We spent that summer detoxing. Lots of reading outside, trips to the park and going to the pool. Nothing “schoolish.” When the kids’ friends started school that fall we started to get the itch to have a little more structure. I spent weeks agonizing over a school name (Columbia Academy), motto (Building faith, love, and wisdom through wonder and hard work) and mascot (Elvis, the river otter). I had school t-shirts made. I needed to feel a part of something because I was feeling very alone and very unprepared. I was filled with doubt and insecurities. Here is a list of questions from my journal on 7/21/13:
“I am back to doubting my decision to homeschool. What am I DOING? How can I possibly guide my children through all they should learn? How will I find the people they will need to mentor them in the areas they are interested in? What about the questions and assumptions the children will have to deal with? Will they resent it? Resent me? I want to them to have the best start to life that they can possibly have – is this right? Is my dream/vision too idealistic? Can the richness and inquiry and exploration and discussions REALLY happen? Can I really lead that or am I too preoccupied as a mother and the running of a household to create that kind of environment? What am I to do?”
Staying the Course
That first year was a rollercoaster. I moved through intoxicating highs and gut-wrenching lows. I was amazed at the blessings that homeschooling was bringing my family but found myself wracked with paralyzing fear and doubt at our path. I wondered over and over how I was supposed to teach what was “mine”? What did that even mean? I didn’t own any intellectual property. I was slowly reading classics but not really knowing what I was supposed to be getting out of them.
The winds that were blowing me toward the rocky shoals of doubt were getting stronger and more frequent. I wasn’t sure how much more sailing I was capable of in these conditions. I was pretty sure I was going to run the ship aground and take my family down with me. In a last-ditch effort to focus on “You, not Them” I signed up for Mentoring in the Classics.
When I heard for the first time a real scholarly and passionate discussion about a classic, I caught the vision of what a true education looks like, sounds like. The wind subtly shifted. Gradually, I began to have a desire to read more. Then I wanted to take notes. Then I wanted to keep track of my notes. Then I wanted to discuss what I was reading with others. I decided to take on additional study with the [the TJEd Implementation] course. I felt like I finally had a GPS on board. I could see where we were going and I began to visualize the future and the open seas.
When we began our second year I realized that I actually had a “mine” and began to teach it to my children. I marked off two hours each day that was my own study time. I guarded these precious hours fiercely. The kids learned to respect my need for time with my books and thoughts. I talked with them about what I was learning. I began to own my own thoughts and opinions. The desire for deeper study intensified.
I created a detailed study plan that broke down areas of interest into weekly tasks and I gave myself incentives for doing the hard work of completing the tasks. I felt like I was on fire! Then I realized I needed to take a week off from my studies to make my study plan match the calendar. It felt like I was asking myself to take the week off from eating. There was no way I could stop! The thought immediately dawned that I had arrived in my very own scholar phase. It happened. Just like the books predicted.
My almost two-year-ago self asked the question: “Can the richness and inquiry and exploration and discussions REALLY happen?” I can answer her with a confident, unequivocal “YES!”
It can. It will. It does.
The seas are still rough. I fumble with the rigging. Sometimes the boat pitches uncomfortably. But I can see where we are going. I know the course is true and I know that both the journey and the destination will be worth it.