I was so disappointed by this episode of 18 Kids and Counting. Mostly, I once again felt mislead by TLC. The episode seemed to advertise that the Duggar kids were going to see what public school was like, but that really wasn't the case at all. Instead, the four oldest girls (plus baby Jordyn and Josiah, one of the middle boys, for some reason) went with Michelle as the guests of honor at a local elementary school's assembly about authors. Attending an assembly arranged especially for you is not really getting a taste of what public school is like. High school-aged children going to an elementary school isn't really seeing what public school is like. But we'll get back to this in a minute.
The first half of the episode focused on the Duggar's homeschooling methods. In their earlier TV specials, we were shown scenes with all the kids gathered around the table while Michelle instructed (which was weird, since they probably ranged in age from K through 12). We've also seen them on a couple "field trips" where they learned "per-pen-dicular" and "A-ma-zon." We now know these scenes were totally staged, because Michelle explained how their homeschool curriculum actually works. For the first three years, the younger kids work out of workbooks, directed by Michelle. To illustrate this, we are shown an endless stream of kids basically arguing with her about fetching their workbooks from the upstairs office and claiming they've already done the lesson. They clearly hate their schoolwork and it looks like a neverending battle to get them to sit down and do it. And Michelle getting pulled in a million directions with the various kids' lessons, diaper changes, and discipline obviously can't devote enough attention to all those "students." The house is basically chaos and it's surprising that anyone can learn anything there. Michelle says getting them to work is "a challenge. But amazingly, they learn!" After 3rd grade, the kids do all their schoolwork on the computer, with work graded online. One of the older girls has the password to go in and check everyone's grades. So Michelle is pretty uninvolved at this point? So much for homeschooling fostering family closeness and whatnot. But I guess she's got her hands full with all the little ones.
There were a couple interviews about letting the kids persue education outside their home. Jinger (who has a talent for photography, according to her brother Josh), says she's considered taking additional classes in photography... then sort of trails off. How sad. Let her take the classes! Jim Bob says they've discussed further education with the kids, including college or training for a specialized career such as a midwife. Of course, if they did that they might meet people who challenge their beliefs..! Quick interviews with the kids reveal that most of the boys want to be missionaries when they grow up, one wants to be a policeman so he can shoot a gun and help people, John David is fixin' to start a tow truck business (so much for that dream of being a pilot...), and little Hannie wants to play outside and eat yogurt. She is darling. When asked if they're still helping support Josh (and Anna), Michelle says that Josh was on his own financially the moment he said "I do." Of course, they gave him a business as a wedding gift, sooo...
The last part of the show was the trip to the public elementary school. What a contrast to the Duggars' home school! The kids were polite and well behaved. Some of the student ambassadors need to work on their handshakes and greetings, but otherwise, normal kids. Weird that the Duggars pride themselves on "training" their children on self-control, yet they were totally out of control at home. The public school kids start their morning assembly by doing a little dance routine. The Duggars are invited to join in, but of course, they can't dance. Michelle at least seems to enjoy watching the other kids dance, but the older girls just look on in horror.* Michelle introduces herself and the kids she's brought with her. The assembly today is about authors, because the school kids apparently just completed a project where they wrote their own book. The Duggar girls go on stage to play a song on their violins, for some reason. (Though Jana, Jill, and Jinger are in the floor-length skirts, Jessa's hits around mid-calf. You go, girl!) Around this point, Michelle straps on her Breast Friend pillow, dons her nursing poncho, and wears baby Jordyn around for the rest of the day with her little legs sticking out from underneath. It looked ridiculous and I don't see how it was at all safe. Also, nursing I thought was supposed to be a bonding time for mother and child, not a "strap 'er on and let her suck if she wants" thing.
After the assembly, the Duggar family is split up to speak to smaller groups of kids. Michelle, strap-on Jordyn, and Josiah all go with a group of younger kids, where she reads them a book. Jessa and Jinger go to another class. Jana and Jill do a Q&A session with a group of older kids. One of the kids asks Jill what she likes to write about (I guess the students were mislead into thinking that all the Duggars were authors, even though it was really just Jim Bob and Michelle who wrote their book). Jill says she journals about her day - I can just imagine how boring that would be! "Cooked breakfast. Laundry. Changed diaper. Cooked lunch. Laundry. Practiced violin. Changed diaper. Cooked dinner. Laundry. Bible time with Daddy. Changed diaper. Bed." Another kid asks what her favorite book is, and she recommends Before You Meet Prince Charming (which isn't really a book for kids to read so much as a manual for girls looking to remain pure), or The Reverend Spy for boys (who I guess don't need a purity manual as much as girls do).
At the end, annoying Josiah comments that there are more kids in public schools than in his family homeschool. Very good, 200 is more than 18! Wow, that homeschool really works! However, he says that he thinks they get more attention from Michelle than a public school teacher would be able to give their large class, and I have to disagree. First of all, he might not have realized that what he saw were a school-wide assembly and large groups of students by grade, not individual classes. Also, Michelle has students in basically every grade, all working on different things (plus diapers to change, other kids to discipline, etc.). So I would think she's much more scattered and unavailable than a public school teacher, who probably is responsible for the same number of kids, but they're all working on the same thing together.
* If Jim Bob and Michelle are really preparing those kids for the real world, they have to work more on how the kids react when presented with something that goes against their beliefs, and how to politely decline. When the waiter offered Josh and Anna a wine list at the restaurant on their honeymoon, Josh made a big deal of explaining how they don't drink, when a simple "no, thank you" (or even, "we're only 20") would have sufficed. When the kids at the school started dancing, the girls could have enjoyed watching them, instead of glaring at all these people whose souls will surely be going straight to hell (even though there's dancing - and wine, for that matter - in the bible).