Treading Water


I like to begin the school year with a theme. Last year it was “taking flight” and we studied birds. This year we began with the theme of exploration: “setting sail” with Swallows and Amazons and all things sailing and ships. I love planning these initial blocks. They set an intention and guide us along. Back in the summer, I talked about this theme of setting sail at Taproot. A wonderful exchange ensued, and we discussed how such a theme might manifest within our middle and high schoolers, but also in our own lives as well. At one point, Jean Miller said something that I wrote down in my journal: “Sometimes you have to drop anchor. Sometimes you need to turn back. And other times, you just need to keep sailing.”

So here we are just two and a half blocks into our year, and those words have rushed back into my memory. We are struggling. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. We were struggling – big time. No doubt about it. How we have homeschooled in the past just isn’t working anymore. I tried not to blame anyone or anything in specific, but I would be lying if I said I succeeded. I blamed Wyoming and myself. I blamed middle school and Vincent. And then I blamed the blasted nine-year change and Jude. That’s a pretty potent mix of three people on the edge of change! After trying for several weeks to simply stay the course, I finally admitted to myself that I wanted more from my days than solely homeschooling. During a rare quiet moment later that week, I could finally voice these feelings to Tom. I also shared with him the metaphors of dropping anchor, turning back and continuing to sail forward. I said I didn’t know what to do and secretly hoped he did. His response was completely unexpected: “Why not tread water for awhile?” I can picture the look on my face: furrowed brow, curled lip, squinty eyes. Tread water?! Jean didn’t say anything about abandoning ship and Tom damn well knows I don’t like the water.

And yet the question reverberates and remains: why not just tread water?

As I navigate and explore how to create more time for myself within our homeschooling journey, I’m trying to remain open to growth and possibility. I’m trying not project how this is going to manifest and what our days will look like in the near and distant future. Because the short and truthful answer is, I have absolutely no idea. And that is where I find myself: not knowing. Treading water. Holding my own. Trying to chart a way forward. Our days look a lot different than they have in the past. (I will post more details on that soon.) Are they perfect? No. (Is anything ever perfect?!) But it is working – better than it was anyhow, for now anyway. Homeschooling is quieter and easier. There is less yelling and less angst. I’m giving myself time and space for asking questions. I’m trusting answers will come in their own time. S

*** As I was meditating on these words and all they imply, I thought back to this little scrap of a poem and the subsequent conversation in the comments section.

23 thoughts on “Treading Water

  1. It seems that sometimes, struggling is a gift. It’s not fun or easy, but it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to listen, learn, examine, tread water, float, change coarse, study the horizon, check your headings, grow….. I appreciate so much how you are approaching this struggle with such intention and sharing it here is a growth opportunity in the reading. I support your efforts and look forward to your resolve. It will come, I am sure of it.

    • Thank you for your words Katie. I love the option of floating – which sounds a lot more relaxing that treading water, LOL.
      You are right – struggle is opportunity. And sharing lets us know we are not alone. Because really, I think we all think everyone is just going along and doing it well – backwards and in high heels no less!!

      I hope you are well. Thank you for your book suggestions too.

  2. So grateful for your candor in sharing your vulnerability, my friend! And for our ongoing dialogue. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation and Rilke’s wisdom “to be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves…” Treading Water. Yes. Here in Philadelphia too.

  3. We could write a book: wisdom from our husbands. They do have a way of simplifying things sometimes. Perhaps because they are not in the thick of it! Which just goes to show that we have to step outside to see clearly! Love the treading water – or better yet, floating, as Katie wrote. I always say that this homeschooling is as much our journey as it is our kids. And when our youngest hits the nine year change, we have a lot of exploration to do ourselves! It really is setting out for unknown territory. Peace to you, my friend.

    • I wonder, though, does your husband remember giving the advice? Tom was like, “I said that?” LOL Yes they do have a different perspective and it is good to hear it.

      I had not thought of what it means for our youngest to be in the 9 year change – potent for sure.

      Taproot is always so vital to my inner work . . . well, you know . . .


  4. Sheila, you truly have a gift for writing in a way that is beautiful and relatable! Thank you for your openness and honestly. Homeschooling is a tricky venture. I laughed about placing the blame. I like to blame my kids most of the time when our days go south, but I know that my attitude is nearly always the root problem. I think a change has occurred for me in that for these nearly five complete years of homeschooling being a homeschooling mom was my identity. Now, I want to add back more “me” in addition to being a ‘homeschooling mom.’ Best, Rachel

    • Yes! And thank you for the nudge I needed to hit “publish”.

      I want homeschooling to be a part of my day, not an all-consuming presence of every second of my life. For me there is connection and identification with a role (i.e. homeschooling mom) and then there is OVER connection and OVER identification with a role. So pulling back is not a bad thing. Plus, I think it is good for my boys to know I do other things besides homeschooling and homemaking. They have a firm foundation, but things are going to be different for them – well for all of us. And that is good.

      Have fun on your trip!!
      Traveling mercies to you my brave friend!

  5. Although I don’t have a blog, I sometimes write blog posts in my head. My latest blog post is titled: Waldorf-inspired Homeschooling: Is this The Emperor’s New Clothes?
    I love that we homeschool and truly, I love the Steiner curriculum, but sometimes I do wonder if the price is too high. The little voice whispering away to me that says, “Are you mad???” gets louder every year.
    I have a big long list of things I wish I could talk openly about – you might call it confession. Isn’t that ridiculous that I feel that way about it? Guilt.
    But truth be told I do feel as though I have lost myself along the way. That I have taken on someone else’s values and someone else’s beliefs and even someone else’s view of my family. How did that happen? Sometimes I feel that Waldorf is all about judgements and I know I’ll never make the grade.
    A lot of the time, I don’t even want to make THAT grade.
    Having the freedom to homeschool is such a blessing, but I feel such responsibility to get it right, to not waste this wonderful opportunity, and also to be the best parent I can be. Sometimes I think that spending such a lot of time reinventing the wheel (that is, planning my blocks) actually stops me from being the best parent I can be. Sure, I am growing, but in a direction that someone else is dictating.
    I don’t know how authentic that is.
    Ah, sorry Sheila, looks like I’m using your blog to rant again! Sorry if this is totally different to what you’re going through and I’ve just hijacked your blog post!

    • Cathy,
      I know exactly how you feel.
      I have been struggling with those very, very issues/words.

      These words ring especially true:
      “But truth be told I do feel as though I have lost myself along the way. That I have taken on someone else’s values and someone else’s beliefs and even someone else’s view of my family. How did that happen? Sometimes I feel that Waldorf is all about judgements and I know I’ll never make the grade.
      A lot of the time, I don’t even want to make THAT grade.”

      I don’t know where I said it, I think to Rachel, maybe on her blog, but I have several drafts of posts that made me sound like I hated Waldorf and everyone and everything related to it. That is not true, but I feel like I am finally seeing the forest for the trees and reclaiming my own voice and my own vision. And that that is ENOUGH!!

      I always love and appreciate your thoughtful comments – no hijacking involved, lol.
      And anytime you want to guest post, you just let me know.


  6. Dear Sheila,
    I come from a long line of women who devote themselves totally to their family/home and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I seriously started devoting time to nurture myself. At first I felt so guilty and felt that I didn’t possibly have “time”, but now I honestly don’t know how I would live without my regular yoga and tai chi practices, my regular hikes in nature, or my handwork…
    You dear friend, have the hardest job in the entire world as a homeschool Mom…I pray though that you can carve out the time you need for yourself.
    Yes…tread water!
    Sending much aloha, Lori

    • The funny thing is, is that I take a lot of time for myself. However the insight I am having right now is how much of my identity is wrapped up in homeschooling . . . ummm . . . like 100%, lol. And this is not good for anyone. Seeing it and realizing it was one thing, taking steps to change that has been different.

      I have been home exclusively with my boys for 13 years next month. I have honestly loved it. I know I am more grounded than I have ever been in my life. And now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m looking at going back to school – something I said I would NEVER do!! (I’m learning that the mid-40s make you make a liar out of yourself.) I’m actually getting my brave on and emailing a woman this morning about a spiritual direction certification program. I got my master’s 18 years ago, and haven’t stepped foot in a classroom since, and honestly never thought I would. Scary and thrilling all at once, over here!!

      Thank you for your friendship. I FINALLY got your brave banner in the mail yesterday.

  7. Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head, Sheila, and spoke to exactly where I’m living right now. Thank you!

    I, too, am having that feeling of “I want to spread my own wings instead of being identified mostly by what efforts I’m making on behalf of my daughter.” But it’s killer to be pursuing so much at once. And in the middle of all the projects I have going on, our well pump and tank died. Good Lord. I feel like chaos swirls harder and harder around me the more I try to chart my own course.

    I decided to stop fighting it. I can’t help that everything is breaking on the house. I can’t help that roadblocks keep hitting me at every turn. I can help this: I can take a deep breath, smile and see the positive amidst the chaos. I can continue pursuing what I want and dream. I can be thankful for what I do have. And I can float/tread water.

    My music has become the epitome of what works. I never fight the music, I never try to push the creation of my 2nd album. I simply sit, wait, and the solutions ALWAYS come to me. The right musicians, etc ALWAYS fall into place. With that one facet of my life I’ve learned to prepare myself and wait. Now if I can just carry that over to the rest of my life.

    Thanks for your wonderful presence in my life.


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