As part of my quest to learn about individual families’ homeschooling experiences, I read The Duggars: 20 and Counting! Raising One of America’s Largest Families–How They Do It, by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. In case you’re trying to reconcile this blog post’s title with the book’s, the “20” refers to Michelle, Jim Bob, and the 18 J-name* children who existed as of the book’s publication in 2008. Since then, Josie has been born; if you watch TLC’s show 19 Kids and Counting, you may be familiar with the health struggles Josie faced after she arrived three months premature.
The Duggars: 20 and Counting! describes why the Duggars have so many children (they’re leaving their family size to “God’s will”), how small a space they’ve lived in with how large a brood (900 square feet with five children, 2200 square feet with 14 children), how large a space they now live in (7000 square feet!), and how they manage (lots of washers and dryers, not much sleep).
The book discusses elements of the family’s homeschooling regimen. Though the family lists the particular book series they use for their formal lessons, I was more interested in the ways they informally educate their children.
The Duggars give their children firsthand exposure to career skills. When their son Josh was a toddler,
I installed a toddler car seat [in the tow truck] so the little guy could come along on daytime towing calls, and he loved it! We dressed him in little coveralls like mine, and he happily accompanied Daddy on calls all over the area.
As we rode together, I talked constantly to Josh, teaching him the names of the things we saw, even the names of the streets we were crossing. Later, I did the same thing with our twins Jana and John-David. Soon, going anywhere in Springdale with one of our little ones was like having our own personal GPS system!
The family continued this practice when Jim Bob worked as a representative in the Arkansas House of Representatives:
Just as I had done when I was driving the tow truck, I often brought one, two, or three of the six oldest children to work with me in the legislature. They would watch the House proceedings from the gallery or sit in the audience during meetings. Sure, some of the meetings ran long, but they learned a lot, and later we would discuss what they had heard to reinforce the lessons.
Michelle and I would chuckle, overhearing them “play legislature” back at home. “Mr. Chairman!” one of them would cry out, trying to get the others’ attention. A little later we would hear, “All in favor, say aye.”
The Duggar parents realize how effective it is to learn through action:
Michelle and I like to take our children with us when we vote. We want them to learn how elections work, including what happens in the voting booth.
Have you ever done home improvements? Consider how you could involve your child in the process. The Duggars dealt with their need for more space by building their own house, which became another hands-on learning opportunity:
…the children studied the dimensions, square footage, and weight loads of the structure as well as all the processes involved in the new home’s construction.
You don’t need a huge family or a yard full of steel I-beams to implement the Duggars‘ practices yourself. To the extent you can, share your work life with your child. Likewise, share your passions. When educating their children, Michelle and Jim Bob follow a maxim that writers also value: Show, don’t tell. They teach through movement and by doing. You can do the same.
* Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and (post-publication) Josie.