For years, the Duggar family earned a pretty nice living from opening up their lives to TV viewers, but the one obvious downside is that it has also made them a target for seemingly endless criticism. With most of the older, married Duggar siblings now appearing on the TLC spin-off show, Counting On, that criticism has mostly taken the form of judgement over their parenting choices, and that has certainly been the case for Jill, even though she's no longer actively involved in the show. In her most recent Instagram post, Jill Duggar said she plans to homeschool her sons, and while that's not exactly surprising, it has led many followers to express their concern over the family's controversial approach to education.
On Sunday, Jill took the opportunity to praise her mother, Michelle, as well as her mother-in-law, on her website, The Dillard Family, in honor of Mother's Day, and though it's hard to imagine at this point that it would be possible for Jill to post anything without some kind of snarky commentary, her support of her mother's homeschool philosophy definitely raised some alarm bells. In her Mother's Day message Jill thanked her "encouraging, loving, caring and inspiring" mother and mother-in-law, whom she described as "such great role models." Jill also wrote that becoming a mother herself had left her in awe of the fact that her own mom somehow managed to raise 19 children, and that she has "learned so much from her example and [is] always looking for ways to glean more wisdom."
One specific way Jill hopes to follow in her mother's footsteps? By homeschooling her two boys the same way her mother homeschooled her. Jill wrote that she'd recently started looking at different homeschooling curriculums, and that it "reminded [her] of all the fun things [her] mom did ... to help make learning fun." The problem? While homeschooling is a popular choice for many American families, the homeschooling programs the Duggars have reportedly followed have had some questionable educational elements.
In 2010, Michelle told TLC that the family followed the ACE curriculum, or Accelerated Christian Education, which matched her goal of finding a "Christian-based curriculum ... in which there’s a lot of character emphasis, character building like responsibility, honesty, self-control." But in addition to ACE, the Duggars have also been linked to a controversial Christian homeschooling program called ATI, or Advanced Training Institute, that has received a great deal of backlash for its teachings.
Though the Duggars haven't commented on whether they actually use the curriculum — which, according to In Touch Weekly, teaches subjects like reading, writing, and math, from a Christian fundamentalist perspective — Michelle and Jim Bob spoke at an ATI Family Conference in Big Sandy, Texas, in 2015, and have been photographed with ATI founder, Bill Gothard, according to Gawker. In 2014, however, Gothard actually resigned from ATI in 2014 following allegations of sexual misconduct, according to The Washington Post, and as a result, some former ATI students began to speak out against the curriculum's teachings. (A rep for Gothard did not immediately return Romper's request for comment.)
In a May 2015 article for Salon, Brooke Arnold, who was raised with the ATI curriculum, argued that "the teachings of ATI form an ideological system of practices based on [Gothard's] extremely strict, fundamentalist, and idiosyncratic Biblical interpretations." In a June 2015 article for The Guardian, Jenna Tracy, who was also homeschooled according to the ATI curriculum, wrote that "an emphasis on controlling every aspect of a woman’s physical appearance was central to the ATI lifestyle," and that "girls came to learn that policing [their] bodies, in addition to getting married and having babies, was [their] primary role in life." ATI has also been criticized for its alleged views on sexual abuse: in 2017, The Inquisitr reported that a worksheet purportedly issued by ATI in the '90s included a lesson on "moral failures" that asked children "to discuss what family failings contributed to immodesty and temptation and what the abused children could have done to stop it."
When it comes to homeschooling her own sons at least, Jill told Romper that she and husband, Derick Dillard "do not plan on using the ATI curriculum," and that they will instead go with "whatever curriculum [they] find that is most appropriate for the needs of [their] children and will provide them the best opportunity to be prepared for post-secondary study." But concern over the Duggar's homeschooling strategy also isn't just limited to their association with ATI: a recent Instagram shot of 8-year-old Josie Duggar's school work led some Reddit users to note that she seemed to be behind where she should be for her age. And in January, Jessa Duggar also received criticism after she shared a video that showed misspelled shape names that were written by her sons' older cousins that left some thinking they may also be falling behind.
It's impossible to know, of course, what the circumstances really are surrounding the Duggars' approach to education, and it sounds like Jill plans to go in a different direction teaching her own kids than how she herself may have been raised. But given that the family has been outspoken advocates for homeschooling — and seemingly for a program that has been highly criticized — some Duggar fans definitely seem uneasy about the potential implications of that choice.