the network for radical unschooling families
I am posting to ask if anyone has any experience starting this sort of thing with an adult? My college age brother (a decade younger than me) has been living with us on and off for the last couple years. He moved in for good last November. He has struggled with everything from depression to disenchantment with education to a belief that there really aren't any truly caring people out there (I love the duality too...All within a minute: "No one cares, no one will ever be there for me when I need them, I need a ride to my friend's place in an hour and won't be home for supper so can you leave some for me in the oven?")
We know that for him to really thrive its important for him to have an opportunity to not have any pressure on him and to make his own decisions and own way in the world. We've taking a lot of flack from my family for this but I've really seen him change in many positive ways. He's starting to really take an interest in other people, has started asking to cook supper or if there is something around the house he can be in charge of. Instead of spending all his time lying around in the basement he's started cleaning trash and shopping carts out of the local waterways (we live in a urban area and they get pretty bad); he thought of this completely on his own. He's started actually looking for work (half-heartedly) and is talking about going back to school to be a nurse (RN).
We are rarely "firm" with him on anything. The one situation I'm very careful about is how he treats our two year old. When he tries to force our little guy to do something he doesn't want to or scolds him, I always ask him (my brother...too many pronouns in this sentence) not to and explain that we're trying to parent differently than we were parented. And naturally safety issues with a toddler like not flinging doors open but assuming there might be a child lurking behind. I've also struggled with balancing my husband's frustration over certain things with our general agreement in how to "re-raise" him. My husband has trouble staying patient when my brother acts like he knows everything but then doesn't do things "right" so we've agreed I will bring every issue up with my brother but I can do it privately and in my own way. We live in a 900 square foot house and I have to work to keep my patience sometimes so I can only imagine how difficult it is for my husband and very grateful that he's been open to this.
That's not too say its all been peachy. We've had some fights and sometimes I can't seem to resist suggesting that he do something with his life. Its stressful and has led to many private arguments between my husband and I in the laundry room (our only private space as we co-sleep in our only bedroom and my brother has the cellar for his lair)...more because of the stress of it than over anything specific usually. I have asked my brother to start contributing $200 a month toward his food by May 1st as I needed to stop working the extra hours I'd been putting in (because of my increasingly fragile sanity ;-). He understands and has agreed to do this. I haven't asked about it or alluded to it again but I'm not seeing a ton of effort going into finding a source of income. I'm keeping faith that he will follow through without being nagged but honestly, what I really want is for him to either get a full time job and move out or go back to school. I don't want to put pressure on him but I also was not planning on raising my 21 year old brother at the same time as my own baby!
Any suggestions or encouragement would be much appreciated.
-=-My husband has trouble staying patient when my brother acts like he knows everything but then doesn't do things "right" so we've agreed I will bring every issue up with my brother but I can do it privately and in my own way. We live in a 900 square foot house and I have to work to keep my patience sometimes so-=-
900 square feet is crowded even for just two people.
We have had roommates, my husband and I. Today is our 27th anniversary. We shared a house for most of seven years before that. We have had housemates of various ages and genders, and a few temporaries after we had kids. The deal we had after we had kids was this: Our kids come first. Our family, next. Guest/houseguest, if it's convenient and if they're helpful.
I would make clear to the brother that you will not allow anything to happen that risks the peace of your marriage or of your child in his own home. From that, each particular decision will be easier to make.
You might try reading Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The relationship approach. The relationship is obviously different from a parent and child but you may help you shift to a new way of looking at him and a new way to help him.
Maybe, if you can afford to, help him find things he enjoys rather than pressure to make money. Encourage him to dabble in some things he's always thought might be interesting to try but no one seriously encouraged them as careers. Maybe he has in him the world's best dog groomer, or ferrier, or stump extractor.
Thank you both for your suggestions. We are working to maintain our son and marriage as priorities but it helps to be reminded. I also like the idea of looking at other fields. I think he really is interested in nursing (which is against what the rest of the family thought he should do but I've supported him in this) but this is obviously a longterm career choice. Also, he's really put off working toward it so I wonder if he just threw it out there to spite the family, not sure. I'll try to chat with him sometime when a good low-key situation presents itself about what he truly enjoys and wants to do. One reason I chose the $200 was because it would cover enough of his expenses that it would make our finances easier but is small enough that he could earn it doing almost anything he wanted to and not for very many hours either. I'm sure there are a lot of things he hasn't thought about. I'm also trying to encourage him to do things he enjoys like go running or try out martial arts (something he has always wanted to try). I never know how much or how little encouragement is right.
I'm so hoping that raising our little guy differently from the start will make it easier for him to find himself and do what he wants, also that we'll already have a good relationship foundation if things do get difficult. I'm looking at that book not just for now but for any future brothers we end up with (3 more left) and for our own someday.
One thought about the money for food is to have him apply for Food Stamps (if you're in the US... woops, might not apply elsewhere). He's unemployed, so he's likely to get something and they've made the system easier in many ways - you only have to validate your poverty every six months instead of every month. That may feel awkward to him, but it also lets him have a breathing space if he's balking at "gainful employment" and needs more time in that regard.
With finances eased in that way, he can look at volunteer work as a way to get his feet wet, as it were, trying out things he might like to do in a real world way. It's also something that's recommended for people who are chronically unemployed. It doesn't put money in your pocket, true, but it provides work experience and looks better on future resumes. It also gets him out of the house, which could help the rest of the family in other ways.
I've also struggled with balancing my husband's frustration over certain things with our general agreement in how to "re-raise" him. My husband has trouble staying patient when my brother acts like he knows everything but then doesn't do things "right" so we've agreed I will bring every issue up with my brother but I can do it privately and in my own way.
I would let your husband have his frustrations. It is his house and his home and his family and he is helping to provide for it. I understand wanting to intervene in arguments or disagreements, but your husband should have a voice, perhaps a larger voice than your brother in your home. There are some very healthy man competition things that they could connect over. Video games comes to mind if they both play and enjoy. It might help to find commonalities and connection points.
The fact is, your brother is a grown up and can come and go as he pleases. Nothing can stop him. However you can have familial boundaries of what is acceptable living arrangements. That can include food contributions and not arguing with your husband or being disrespectful of any members of your family. If a condition of staying is helping out with food, stick to that. It doesn't help for there to be resentment about things that cause stress. If he went to school, he would likely have loans that could help with living expenses.
People that stay at our house know that they must treat the youngest member of the family with respect. It's a deal breaker. They can either figure it out or leave.
The biggest thing that keeps a mixed house running is humor and peace. That's been my experience.
Well, after a heart to heart about what he actually WANTED to do, it turns out his biggest desire is to be able to live on his own, cook his own food, and have a rescued greyhound. To that end, he has now gotten a job at a local office supply store. We've looked into food stamps, for which he will definitely qualify, and would be the only way he could live on his own with his current job (they keep everyone under full time so they won't have to pay benefits). We're now looking into subsidized housing.
Its been interesting too just discussing some of the issues with him. I've explained unschooling previously, what we're doing with Charlie (our 2 year old), but now we actually talked about how my husband and I have tried to help my brother with the same theories. That if we really believe in them, they should be applicable throughout life. He said that the times he has felt most annoyed and resentful have been when we don't follow unschooling/peaceful parenting principles and that's when he's behaved the worst. That when we've worked to keep the pressure off and so forth, its really helped him to feel confident in himself, his place in the family, and that he has something to contribute. My husband has noticed that since he's let me take over the "nagging", their relationship is getting back to the good place where it was and he's getting the opportunity to give advice and have a positive influence again. Even my mom has commented that she's noticed a huge change in him since he came to live with us. That's he's more thoughtful, more involved with our younger brothers, and seems more engaged in everything including his own future.
That's not too say things are always pastoral in our house. ;-) We are still all human and pretty crowded but I have to say, unschooling and peaceful parenting isn't just for the little kids or the teens who have been doing it their whole lives.
unschooling and peaceful parenting isn't just for the little kids or the teens who have been doing it their whole lives
It's true! And its true because the underlying principles of unschooling come from the commonalities of our human nature - not kid nature or adult nature, but what makes all of us human.