From 2008 to 2020, fans of the Duggar family watched their lives unfold on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On. Jim Bob Duggar, his wife Michelle and their 19 children were known for their involvement with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a controversial nondenominational Christian ministry with strict rules about the roles of men and women. As seen on the shows, the Duggar kids were homeschooled, and their curriculum was rooted in IBLP teachings.
Were the Duggar Kids Homeschooled?
Jim Bob and Michelle’s 19 children were homeschooled through the controversial program known as the Advanced Training Institute, which was active from 1984 to 2021 and founded by former IBLP leader Bill Gothard. According to ATI’s website, it was “a Christian home education program that exhorted families to center their lives and learning around the Word of God.” The teachings were based on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” from Matthew 5-7.
The ATI was controversial because the scripture was the primary source of learning for all subjects, including linguistics, law, history, science and medicine, which seemed to leave gaps in education. A sample Wisdom Booklet about mourning, for example, included the history questions, “How did true mourning result in revivals in colonial America?” and “How did a great city mourn over sin?”
Another ATI handout allegedly shared harmful views on sexual abuse, including the question, “Why did God let it happen?” It also allegedly included points about “immodest dress” and “being out with evil friends.”
The Duggar family’s homeschooling program was discussed in Amazon Prime Video’s Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets docuseries, which featured Jill Dillard (née Duggar) and her husband, Derick Dillard. However, director Olivia Crist clarified after the series’ release in June 2023 that it is not an “anti-homeschooling piece by any means.”
“There is a right way to homeschool, and there’s a wrong way to homeschool,” Crist told TV Insider. “The wrong way, as we’ve seen from the show and a lot of other pieces that are popping up now, involves a lot of abuse.”
Derick Dillard Claims the Duggars’ Education Mostly Stopped at 7th Grade
While reflecting on the Duggars growing up in front of cameras, Jill and Derick touched on how the TV shows affected the kids’ education. In an October 2023 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Derick claimed that “none” of Jill’s siblings “really had much education past the seventh grade.”
“A lot of that was due to the show taking over. It was like, ‘Well, if the show requires most of the filming hours during the weekday, then school is not really that important,’” he continued. Elsewhere in the interview, Derick said, “If a family sees an opportunity to make money, they can justify taking away their kids’ time [in school] because, well, they don’t need education, they can just have this money to support them.”
Are the Duggar Grandchildren Homeschooled?
Many of the Duggar siblings are now married with children of their own, so what are their plans for education? Only a handful of the Duggar daughters have opened up about the subject, including Jessa Seeward (née Duggar) and Joy-Anna Forsyth (née Duggar), who have said that they do homeschool their kids, although it’s unclear if they use the ATI program or something similar.
Meanwhile, Jinger Vuolo (née Duggar) told The New York Times in February 2023 that she did not plan on homeschooling her kids. And though Jill once said she was looking into homeschooling programs for her son, Israel, they enrolled him in public school for kindergarten in 2020.
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