Jessa Duggar has long been one of the most popular members of the super-sized Duggar clan, and the continued interest in her life as a mom and wife helped lead to the creation of the Duggar spin-off, Counting On, after the 2015 cancellation of 19 Kids & Counting. Yet Jessa's popularity has also made her a major target for online judgment, most of which revolves around her parenting choices. Does Jessa Duggar homeschool her kids? She hasn't said specifically, but as someone who was raised in a homeschooling family — and someone who was also highly involved in overseeing her younger siblings' schooling — Jessa will probably raise her own two sons the same way. Given that her eldest son is only 2 years old though, it doesn't seem like a decision she has to make just yet. But judging by the comments she's been receiving on social media, it sounds like her followers are already judging her teaching style.
Honestly, having any number of children is hard, so it's not surprising that, for years, viewers marvelled at the fact that Duggar matriarch Michelle was raising 19 of them. Over the years, she's spoken about her parenting style and the way she runs her family, part of which included homeschooling. In an interview with TLC in 2013, Michelle was asked about her decision to homeschool her kids, and she gave some insight into her approach.
Michelle told TLC she'd first learned about homeschooling when her first child, Josh, was still a baby, and that, despite having gone to traditional brick-and-mortar schools themselves, Jim Bob and Michelle opted to school all their kids at home, starting with teaching their children to read around age 4 or 5. In an separate interview with homeschool resource company AOP Homeschooling in 2012, Michelle also explained that her children spent about four hours each day in school, and the siblings learn both in a designated school room in the family home, as well as at "computer stations ... throughout the house for individual learning study."
In addition to Michelle's specific comments, the Duggars' approach to homeschooling could also often be seen in 19 Kids and Counting episodes, and as the children got older, they got involved helping the younger kids. While the family was living in Little Rock, Arkansas while the youngest Duggar sibling, Josie, was in the NICU after her premature birth, Jill was filmed going through flashcards with her younger sisters to teach them shapes and vocabulary, for example, and before she moved on to get married and have children of her own, Jessa had also been big into helping oversee her siblings' learning. In one episode, Jedidiah spoke a bit about his sister's teaching style, and said,
We respected Jessa as a teacher. She pretty much knew what she was talking about all the time, and even if we disagreed with her or thought she was wrong, looking back, she was right.
Unfortunately for Jessa though, her Instagram followers don't appear to be nearly as complimentary about her skills. In January, Jessa posted an Instagram video that showed her son, Spurgeon, naming off shapes that had been drawn on a whiteboard in their home, and in the photo's caption, Jessa quipped, "One of the cousins must’ve been giving him lessons." The video clip basically seemed exactly like the same kind of cute video any proud parent would happily share on social media, but a number of commenters seemed to actually find it very concerning.
It's pretty clear that the shapes and shape names had been written by a child, and if it were one of Spurgeon's Duggar cousins, it was likely either Anna Duggar's 7-year-old daughter, Mackynzie, or her 5-year-old son, Michael. As the mom of 5-year-old twins myself, I can totally vouch for the fact that neither of my children would be able to accurately spell the names of any shapes without assistance, although they absolutely insist upon trying, often with hilarious results. Spurgeon himself is actually able to say a number of the shape names himself (which is pretty great for 2 years old), but, that didn't mean Jessa's followers didn't have plenty to say about what she should have done differently.
A number of commenters made a point to jump in and let Jessa know that not only was "shapes" spelled wrong, the pentagon was incorrectly labeled as a hexagon, and that most of the shape names were spelled wrong, too. One user wrote, "He did great, but somebody needs to teach the teacher to spell shape," while another wrote, "The drawings are fine and the attempt at learning shapes is awesome, but we should make sure our children know the accurate names of their shapes." And even though it should probably be clear that Jessa was simply praising her son's ability to recognize the shapes, some even thought her lack of correction meant she obviously didn't even realize the error, with one user writing, "Shaps? Interesting that it has NOT been corrected. Do they believe it is correct?"
Children's learning is important, of course, and as parents, we have a huge influence on their ability to read and write regardless of whether they end up homeschooled or whether they go off to school. But honestly, do we really need to be criticizing Jessa for the fact that her toddler couldn't correctly spell and perfectly identify a variety of shapes?
Jessa's own background makes it likely that she will indeed homeschool her kids, but given that her mom probably didn't start teaching her until she was around 4 years old, there's also no reason to expect that this video was meant to be video proof of her homeschooling skills. Jessa might seem like an easy or fair target give that she lives in the public eye, but she's also just a mom. And, well, no mom needs to be judged for her 2-year-old's spelling skills.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.