- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

A former Arkansas state delegate and his wife are home-schooling their 17 - soon to be 18 - children, ranging in age from 20 down to several months old. The Duggars, Jim Bob and Michelle, have made national news with their homey blend of old-fashioned values, hard work, thrifty living and heaping helpings of love.

The Duggars’ home-schooling day, like the rest of their life, follows a biblical theme. They study Proverbs daily, led by their father, a real estate agent and property manager. They also share an evening devotion session with him as well.

The family uses Advanced Training Institute International learning materials, a Christian home-schooling curriculum. The Duggars belong to an evangelical faith community called Quiverful, which advocates Psalm 123:3, “Children are a heritage of the Lord.”

In keeping with their faith, the Duggars dress in traditional ways: skirts or dresses for the girls, polo shirts and trousers for the boys.

Tutelage is carried out largely by Michelle, but older siblings help younger ones, too. Naps are for the younger group; the older girls handle the dinner menu and preparations. Everyone has daily chores; everyone cleans up.

The parents teach the children to live by the saying “Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last,” shortened to “JOY.”

“We desire for each child to develop a learning spirit and a servant’s heart that looks for opportunities to serve others,” Michelle writes on the family Web site.

All the Duggar children learn piano and violin, taking turns practicing on their instruments throughout the day. Studies in math, language skills, science, history, medicine and law are taught daily. Following their faith, the Duggars live debt-free, supporting family needs with income from commercial property rentals. They estimate their food bills run about $2,000 a month and their total monthly expenses are around $5,000.

They recently moved into a huge home in Tontitown, Ark., which they built themselves with more than 39,000 person-hours of work, without loans. The 7,000-square-foot house has a huge industrial-level kitchen with two or more of nearly every appliance, two 1,000-square-foot bedrooms for the 10 boys and 7 girls, respectively, and special areas for games, a climbing wall, laundry (up to 200 loads per month) and music.

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Duggar have college degrees, although both are licensed real estate agents. Beating the odds, they married in their teens and had their first child after four years of marriage. They then had a miscarriage that took place after using oral contraceptives. Convinced that their faith precluded any attempt to limit the number of children they had, they decided to have all the children that would come: Two sets of twins and 13 single births later, they are still going strong.

While most home-schoolers will never have to manage the dizzying volume of lessons the Duggars do, we all may get overwhelmed by our own burdens and difficulties. It’s inspiring to find out that even in a family large enough to field two baseball teams, home-schooling can help maintain a simplicity and integrity of life that allows for a whole-person education.

For information about and photos of the Duggars, please check their Web site (www.duggarfamily.com).

• Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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