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teenboysmom's Avatar teenboysmom 02:09 PM 11-05-2012

I've never considered my homeschooling style 'unschooling', so this may not be the best place to ask for help, but my hope is that those of you who are hard-core unschoolers won't judge and might be able to help. I have an 18 year old and have homeschooled for the last 10 years in a very relaxed way. We live in a homeschool friendly state with very relaxed laws and this has been a blessing. We live in a rural area with very VERY few other homeschoolers and this has been hard. My situation is hard to describe so I'm just going to try to paint a picture and realize I am leaving out a LOT of details.    My husband is a very laid back kind of guy. He works out of town and has been very hands-off when it comes to parenting. Loved playing baseball when they were younger - but never did much beyond that. My son has always been a challenge to me and my husband has not been much help. Two years ago, ds started driving, got a part time job, got a girlfriend, and stopped keeping up with his schoolwork. I let it go for a while, agreeing that he could do it however he wanted, as long as it got done. And it didn't get done. Now, two years later, he has been through several extremely difficult things that have changed him in ways I never expected. He has become rude, cussing, ignoring family boundaries, bullying, angry, and just very difficult to live with - he seems to have turned his back on the Christian values he was raised with. I want him to leave home - God, that is so hard to admit, but I do. I spend too much time crying. He can not find a job - rural jobs are hard to come by - fast food, construction, etc - nada. My husband and I have tried to get him work and there is nothing. So here is my dilemma. He is going to need - or is he?- a high school diploma to get work and we had said he would stay at home until he finished school. Originally I had planned to grant him a high school diploma for doing the work I assigned him - four years worth of basic math, English, history, etc (and my goals were very achievable) . He is just DONE with school and I am just DONE trying to make him finish. But the stubborn part of me wants to see him finish what we started and I don't want to give him a diploma just because he turned 18 and basically dropped out of school. I know, I know - this is an unschooling forum, lol. I get that. I really do! My question is, how do get him out of the house with no job, no money, no prospects. His one redeeming quality is that he is an incredibly gifted musician who really does have the talent - but not the character and maturity to balance it. I have awarded MANY hours of music "credits" for work that he has done and might be able to find a way of giving him a 'liberal arts' diploma. Is it crazy that I won't just give in and give him the stinking piece of paper until he does the stinking WORK? I think it's just that I set standards for graduating - he didn't meet them - and now I don't know how to compromise on this. There's one more issue worth mentioning. He has always had some "issues" that were chalked up to being ADHD (like, off the charts - and can't tolerate the meds) but I am beginning to wonder if it is more. We have been seeing a counselor who agrees and has sent us to a psychiatrist to evaluate if he could be bipolar. So - if he IS bipolar and we kick him out - what chance does he have? Right now he is agreeing to see the Dr and trying new meds, but he blows up routinely and threatens to leave home - to which we reply "that's your choice" but frankly - it's getting old. He can't even join the military without a high school diploma or equivalent - so what? I know you guys won't have an easy answer - I just needed a safe place to vent and ask for support. I have tried to be the best mother, the best homeschooler, the best guide I can be, but I've been raising teenage boys who needed a strong father and I needed a partner - and I feel like I have hit rock bottom and have no idea where to go from here. I still have another son and we are both just worn out from dealing with this.


Advice appreciated - but really just need some reassuring hugs........

bass chick's Avatar bass chick 03:37 PM 11-05-2012

I'm not an unschooler, but I lean towards it.

First of all, take a deep breath. It sounds like you are very stressed. If he is dealing with chemical imbalances, bi-polar, or whatever, he needs help.

Have you ever read "Hold On To Your Kids"? It is an eye-opening book that explains why some kids "rebel" and seemingly turn their backs on their upbringing.

I would say not to give up on him. I was that kid who almost ripped my family apart...not on purpose...but I was overtaken by a disorder, and completely out of control of myself. It was a long, hard battle back from the brink of death. At one point my parents did give up on me, but they came back fighting with prayers and love.

Depending on where you live, he might be able to get into a music program for continuing education without a diploma. Some colleges take students in based on their portfolio and what they can do instead of what they can't do.

Keep your chin up....and don't give up on him!
BellinghamCrunchie's Avatar BellinghamCrunchie 04:36 PM 11-05-2012

Can you hang on until he tries the mood stabliizers? Medications for ADHD tend to make bipolar disorder worse, so if he did not do well on the meds for ADHD then that would suggest bipolar disorder, given how much the symptoms can look similar.


In our area there are shelters, even apartments, for youth. A young adult starts out in a shelter and earns his right to get his own apartment, It might be that if you cannot tolerate having him in the house, or are fearing for your safety, he could go to a shelter where they will help him (if he will accept help) to get back on track and develop an academic plan for his future, even help with the job search. The agency in our area is called Northwest Youth Services... maybe there is an agency like this one in your area.

Cyllya's Avatar Cyllya 07:16 AM 11-06-2012

Has he tried for a GED? Perhaps he'll find it easier than your original plan, plus without you feeling like you're giving him a fake diploma. I can see the mental health problems interfering with that too though.

teenboysmom's Avatar teenboysmom 08:46 AM 11-06-2012

Bass chick - thanks for the book recommendation - I'll check into it


Bell - sounds like a great program - wish we had something similar but we don't


Cyllya - what I had lined up for him was easier than the GED. He stinks at math and I did not require much higher math - more real world math. He was doing ALEKS math, an online program which wasn't "grade" oriented. He is great at grammar, history, current events, etc and was 'almost' finished with his sciences - easily able to finish up. Plenty of electives - but a few loose ends that just need to be tied up in each subject. He is so close - he just needs to make up his mind to DO it.


Thank you all for your replies. I know he needs help and we have been trying to get it for him. For many years he resisted getting help, taking meds, etc and still struggles with just accepting he has a problem. I am trying to hang on until we can see if the new meds are going to help, but it can be a long road to getting the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right dosage, etc and I am just weary from the journey. I find myself just wanting a BREAK and really don't get one. I will say this though, there are glimpses of hope and I try to hold on to them. It just gets hard sometimes. I think I was drawn to this forum because I have always encouraged independence and self-reliance and even though I have set academic standards, I've been very flexible in the way they are met. Most people in my circle of real life friends, homeschoolers, etc just don't get that. I am much less structured than most and so when I suggest to them we are struggling, the assumption is that it's BECAUSE of my laid back approach. Maybe I have been too lax in some ways, but I'd rather err on the side of too unstructured than overly controlling. Just thought I might find like-minded folks here.


Thanks for the support.

BellinghamCrunchie's Avatar BellinghamCrunchie 08:59 AM 11-06-2012
Originally Posted by teenboysmom View Post

 I am much less structured than most and so when I suggest to them we are struggling, the assumption is that it's BECAUSE of my laid back approach. Maybe I have been too lax in some ways, but I'd rather err on the side of too unstructured than overly controlling. Just thought I might find like-minded folks here.



Its hard to maintain your beliefs and values when the community around you thinks they know what is best for your family. I'm sorry you are having to deal with this. My guess is, having worked with many at-risk youth (with adhd, bipolar, attachment disorders, etc) is that he would have been far, far more symptomatic if he had been raised in a tight, controlling style, and that your approach intuitively met his needs. To me, its astounding that he is even willing to consider being evaluated and having medication prescribed. It seems to me to indicate that whatever his anger is, however rude he can be, underneath that he trusts you.  

teenboysmom's Avatar teenboysmom 02:12 PM 11-06-2012

Bell - You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today. Yes, he can be a serious pain, but the bottom line is that he and I do have a good relationship. He can scream and yell and pitch a fit - but he can also still occasionally say "I love you" as he goes to bed at night or when he leaves the house. He can be wonderful - at times. I agree that my instincts have been right and he needed the room to explore the world in a safe environment with a loving a supportive family who has been there for him during some really difficult times. I know it's the ones you love that often get the best and the worst - and I just never in a million years thought he could be so ...........hurtful.


I swing back and forth between wondering if I did the right thing to homeschool him. I can make a case for both sides. But at the end of the day, I have to believe I did what needed to be done. It would have been nice had we had friends with similar beliefs - but maybe we have been isolated for a reason. I only hope one day to be able to look back and see that good came from it. Right now. I am still working with a dyslexic 15 year old who is benefiting from being at home. He struggles because of the disruptions, but for the most part, is doing GREAT! I know he has been blessed by our lifestyle and hope the tension in the house will be lifted so that he can enjoy the last few years on his 'school' journey.


Thank you again for your kind words - much, much appreciated.

Kikikae's Avatar Kikikae 01:59 PM 11-07-2012

Your son sounds like my husband used to be. He had/has severe ADHD to the point where the school allowed him to only attend about 3 hours a day and that was still too much for him. He eventually dropped out and got his GED. It sounds like your family is very supportive of him and that's a good thing. But you can only do so much. He is an adult now, you have raised him and given him a great starting off point, and from my (very far away) point of view, you are done. Like you said in your post, it's his choice now. But it is still your household, if he is not following your ground rules (and it doesn't sound like you are being at all strict) then it's time for him to have some natural consequences. He's 18 now, he's old enough to rent his own place and find his own job. The hardest thing I've found so far of being a parent is realizing your kids are not yours. They are their own separate little people. The best you can do is be a good example and it sounds like you have excelled at that. (my personal philosophy, although I'm sure some won't agree with me!)

The reason I mentioned my husband is because I wanted to give you some hope. After many years of floating about and making some really bad choices, he's got his life on track (but he also had a REALLY bad upbringing, unlike what it sounds like your son has had. A severely abusive father and a mother who was murdered when he was 17). My husband can never work for another person because he cannot follow rules (ADHD) but he has been lucky enough and saavy enough to start a successful construction company. But it took him YEARS to get to this point. I have been with him for 7 years and just about as many failed companies. The reason this company worked was more because he decided it was time not because of anything I did or anyone else did. Your son will find a way, all you need to do is support him and love him. Help him out financially if you need to and are able to, but don't let him milk you dry. It's ok to tell him no. You need to take care of yourself and the rest of your family and with him around he is sucking the life out of you. So let him go, so that he can spread his wings.

featherstory's Avatar featherstory 05:07 PM 11-11-2012

I kind of disagree with the "he is an adult" philosophy.  Yes he is old enough to do some adult things but his brain is still developing and with an issue like ADHD or possibly bipolar disorder or something in between I would say he still needs adult supervision.


I understand how difficult it must be to give him enough space and still have some responsibility for him.  I feel that when I look back on my early teens and early twenties myself and so many of my friends felt completely abandoned.  Our parents may have given us financial help, we may have been in school, but did we know what we were doing?  NO.  Did we struggle unnecessarily...YES.  I'm not saying this was our parent's fault, because I'm sure they believed they were pushing us out on our own and that was what we needed.  We didn't want to be at home, we didn't want to be attached to them, but we needed more help than we were receiving.  


I know of some friends whose parents were more supportive...those kids really did do a lot better.  I think having the idea that at 18 kids are magically adults can cause a lot of harm.  I understand that it may be difficult to still have that responsibility over someone who likely feels pretty adult too but if you can find more ways, more help, more support, some way to help guide him and hang on and give him the opportunity to express what he wants and what he is capable of I think that it will help you all better in the long run.  


As someone with bipolar disorder(who discovered this at 16) I would say look into as many options as possible and let him have his choice in how to deal with his disorder.  Even if it is ADHD if there is some choice on how to make life easier for him maybe that would help him with his behavior?  


If you're extremely isolated I would say try to find something he can be committed to online, some sort of internet program...actually I have some ideas but I can't be sure if that will be beneficial. 

teenboysmom's Avatar teenboysmom 06:31 AM 11-12-2012

Wow, Kikikae and Feather I really needed to hear both of your wonderful perspectives and I am grateful for all of the replies.


Last night he came in my room and we talked calmly. He has been looking for a job and was excited about a possibility on the horizon. It's part time and right up his alley, so I suggested he start trying to save some money to help him when the times comes to move out. He said he didn't really WANT to move out - which is funny because he has had several explosive episodes of "I'm leaving!" He has an appt tomorrow with the person who does the testing. Right now I'm just really hoping to get a proper diagnosis - could be bipolar, could be something else, could be normal teenage stuff. If there is an "excuse" for his behavior - we need to know it. I let him know that I want to help him finish up school and help him transition to the next stage of his life - whatever that is. I picked up on some anxiety and reluctance to "move on" and wonder if his not finishing school is his way of saying he doesn't want to "move on" yet. That fits - he has always had a hard time with transitions  - like when we moved into a new house and his bedroom was on a different floor from mine - he slept on a couch in my room for weeks and weeks (he was 10)..........I'm starting to make some connections - will keep you posted as we figure it all out.



I appreciate the support from you guys - few things worse than trying to deal with something alone.

teenboysmom's Avatar teenboysmom 04:31 PM 11-26-2012

Just wanted to give an update.........He is scheduled to begin a series of tests tomorrow. Things have settled down a little, maybe because of new meds, maybe not. I am praying for a correct diagnosis and a plan for dealing with it that he is willing to be a part of. The job possibility is still out there, but no definite plan in place. I keep trying to find the balance between being supportive and having limits - he can be charming, but doggedly determined to push limits as far as possible. I get so weary from it all - but the holidays were a nice reprieve and I am rested up. The more I read in this place the more I really wish I had found you guys sooner! You guys really are encouraging me to be comfortable outside the box.

crunchymama19's Avatar crunchymama19 09:07 AM 12-09-2012

It sounds like you are making some really good decisions for him mama. Any update? I hope things are working out.

Tags: Unschooling