Quick answers to common questions.
How did Michelle and Jim Bob meet?
Jim Bob went out on a Tuesday night church visitation with high school friend Fred Pearrow. Jim Bob and Fred had three cards of people to go see. But no one had answered the doorbells at those homes. So, Jim Bob and Fred prayed about who to visit. Then Fred said, “Hey, I know a girl that just became a Christian, and she is a cheerleader.” Jim Bob said, “Let’s go and see her!”
That’s how Jim Bob Duggar, Fred’s friend, ended up sitting in Michelle Ruark’s living room. He was so quiet that day she barely has a memory of her future husband even being there. Jim Bob, on the other hand, was completely smitten. He thought Michelle was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen!
More than a year later, Michelle started working at a yogurt shop his mom was managing. Occasionally Jim Bob would come by to pick up his mom or help with a repair job at the shop. Eventually he got up enough courage to overcome his shyness and ask Michelle on a date!
How old were Michelle and Jim Bob when they got married?
We were married on July 21, 1984, three months after my (Michelle’s) high school graduation and three days after Jim Bob’s nineteenth birthday. I would turn eighteen that September.
Our wedding was sweet and simple. At the time, our church was still being built, so we were meeting in a big gymnasium for services. We actually got married in the hallway of the building—we had to set up folding chairs to use as pews! I wanted to do as much as I could myself as a way to save money and keep the expenses reasonable. I even made my own bouquet using fake flowers so I could keep them to decorate my home with later. Another special touch was wearing Jim Bob’s mother’s wedding dress as my dress. Everything we did for our wedding was so inexpensive, but perfect for us. We wanted to spend our money on our honeymoon!
How did you decide to have such a large family?
People often ask us, “Did you always want to have a big family?” When Jim Bob and I were married in the summer of 1984, we thought we would probably have two or three children and be done. However, the sorrow of a heartbreaking miscarriage with our second child caused us to have a heart change. Through this difficult time, we began to read in the Bible that children are a blessing and a gift from God (Psalm 127:1–5). It was then that we prayed and asked Him to give us as many children as He saw fit. A year later, God blessed us with twins! And then another baby, and another, and another! Fast forward a couple of years, and here we are—we have been blessed with 19 biological children (10 boys and 9 girls), our nephew Tyler, sons- and daughters-in-law, and new grandchildren arriving every year.
Are you and Michelle from large families yourselves, and are your families supportive?
I (Jim Bob) have one sister that is three years older than me. Michelle is the baby of seven children! At first our families had a lot of concerns for Michelle’s health and how would we be able to take care of and support our family. But over the years they have warmed up to the idea and have been understanding about our heart commitment to love children like God loves children. We love our families dearly and always enjoy our time with them!
What homeschool curriculum do you use?
There are so many great tools out there to assist with homeschooling—learning styles are not all the same, and the blessing of homeschooling is that you can tailor the curriculum to each child’s needs! We have found some favorites over the years that work well for our family, and we also supplement with a variety of other workbooks and instruction along the way.
For higher mathematics, the Teaching Textbooks are a wonderful resource. Answers in Genesis has an excellent science curriculum. The younger children in our family study using A.C.E. PACEs. We use Sing, Spell, Read & Write for teaching little ones to read. It teaches the phonics rules in a fun and exciting way! For handwriting, we have our children do “Bible Copy,” which is writing out passages of scripture. The number of verses they do each day varies with age. I pray that God’s Word will sink deeply into their hearts and will stay with them all the days of their lives! We also memorize and review scripture, hymns, and definitions of character qualities. The children enjoy this because they make up motions to help with memorization!
How do you keep your children focused throughout the school day?
For each month of the year we have individual daily checklists that cover schoolwork, chores/jurisdictions, music lessons, and personal hygiene. These checklists were designed so we could see at a glance how each child is doing on a daily basis. It also enables us to keep our children accountable and reward them accordingly!
What does a typical day in the Duggar house look like?
We have goals, but then we have reality! We are learning to practice flexibility—not setting our affections on ideas or plans, which could be changed by God or others! We try to make each day fun. Every day is an exciting adventure!
We typically start the day with individual bible studies/reading. We then begin our daily routine with personal hygiene (get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, etc.). After breakfast, everyone does their household chores—or as we call it around our house, “jurisdictions.” When jurisdictions are complete, the children start their music and school studies. After lunch, we work to finish music practice and individual studies. Group studies with mom also happen in the afternoons.
Dinner is usually on the serving line around 6:00PM. The evenings are probably our favorite part of the day! Our older ones are usually back home from their various work/job sites, and there is always a lot of laughter as we spend time enjoying each other’s company. Daddy often reads the Bible and we discuss the passage together before bedtime. We talk about the day and how to apply what we have learned!
How do you financially support such a large family?
We have tried to live very frugally, and our family motto is “Buy used and save the difference!” We love to shop at thrift stores and garage sales whenever we can. Buying items in bulk has also saved our family a lot of money over the years!
Jim Bob has owned a variety of businesses including a towing business and used car lot. He has also followed in his mom’s footsteps buying and selling real estate and renting out commercial properties. These have been wonderful sources of income for our family and they have also allowed Jim Bob to have a more flexible schedule.
After watching Jim Sammon’s Financial Freedom Seminar, God totally changed our view of not only His purposes for finances, but also how we are to be wise stewards of everything God entrusts to us. Jim Bob and I purposed to become debt-free, and as we have chosen to trust Him, we have seen God provide for our family in supernatural ways!
Why do all your children's names begin with the letter “J”?
We named our first child Joshua because we liked the name, and we loved the story of the biblical character Joshua. When our twins came along, we again gave them names we happened to like, Jana and John-David, not really thinking we were doing anything special by giving them J names, too. But by the time our fourth child was born, we realized she might feel left out with a name starting with another letter! After all, since we were leaving it up to God to decide how many children we had, we didn’t know if she would be our last child. We didn’t want her to be all alone among her siblings with an “unusual” name. So, we gave her a J name too: Jill. The same thing happened with each new baby! We wanted to make him or her feel instantly welcome as a treasured addition to the family. So, everyone in the Duggar family has a J name. Everyone, that is, except the one who gave birth to all but one of our family’s members: Michelle!
You've had 19 children! How did your last pregnancies compare to your first?
Experience helps a lot in working through the whole labor process, but each labor and delivery is different! As we approached each birth there were still concerns over the unknowns, but having had the experience over and over does help some. I had to prepare myself health-wise (and in every other way!) to work toward the goal of having the healthiest delivery as is possible on my part. Good nutrition played a big role in that process. We’ve also gone through Bradley childbirth classes and have regular OB checkups throughout each pregnancy.
Each time we have prayed for the health of mom and baby, and asked for a healthy, easy delivery (as much as possible when we’re talking about labor)! I’ve had four C-sections, one with our second birth, twins, Jana and John-David, with our 15th, Jackson, and with the last two, Jordyn-Grace and Josie. All the rest have been vaginal births, 13 of which have been VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). ICAN is an organization that is very helpful in gaining more information on this topic.
How do you encourage good behavior in your children?
Praise your children ten times more than you correct them! That is the counsel we received early on in our parenting journey, and what we have attempted to do all these years. Granted, we have not always successfully carried it out every day but that has been our goal. It’s fine to occasionally compliment the outward beauty of a child, but if that is all you praise, that is all they will focus on. Learning the definitions of character qualities can help to be able to effectively praise others. Praising good character instead of flattering is a learned technique!
Encouragement goes a long way in good behavior. Comments such as, “I’m so happy for you, what a big girl you are! You practiced self-control and went potty all by yourself! Great job!” or “Thank you for taking out the trash without even being asked. I’m so encouraged by your initiative. You saw what needed to be done and just did it! You encourage me to have more of a servant’s heart.” These kinds of positive statements will make our children seek to become even more of who they should be. Here is a helpful guide in learning how to praise your children.
How do you keep from losing your temper?
Asking God and others forgiveness when we react in anger is the first step to learning to respond correctly. One thing that helped me (Michelle) was to purpose to lower my voice when I felt myself getting angry, instead of raise it. Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath! In James 1:20 it says, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” This means that my anger will not bring about the right behavior I desire to see nurtured in my children
Second, Jim Bob heard another father share that he had asked his family to help him by keeping him accountable. If they noticed him getting angry, he gave them permission to respectfully come to him and say, “Daddy, I think you are getting angry.” This has been something we have practiced for years now, and, by God’s grace, we have been able to encourage each other to speak kindly to one another even when we might feel angry. Not just Daddy and Momma, but all of us now hold each other accountable. It makes for a much more peaceful, happy home.
How did your family get involved in filming television shows?
It is an exciting adventure following God. We certainly never expected to be on television! In 2002, a photo of our family walking into a polling place during Jim Bob’s run for U.S. Senate ended up being printed in the New York Times. Weeks later, we received a phone call from a writer who had seen that picture. She asked if she could write a story about our family, which eventually ran in “Parents Magazine.” We then received a phone call from a man named Bill Hayes with Figure 8 Films who said someone at Discovery Health Channel had seen the magazine article and was asking if they could do a documentary about our family. We prayed about it and felt this would be a wonderful opportunity to share with the world that children are a blessing from God. Our first show was called “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” Then they came back and filmed more shows. In 2008, TLC began airing a reality television series featuring our family. Our desire in opening our home to the world is to share Bible principles that are the answers for life’s problems.
How do you and Jim Bob make time for yourselves in such a busy household?
Jim Bob and I aim to go out for a lunch or dinner date once a week. We also purpose to never allow the sun to go down without resolving conflicts. When our children were younger, precious Grandma (Mary) Duggar helped us to keep our weekly date for many years by babysitting, for which we will always be extremely grateful!
Sometimes we’ll go for a drive and just park and talk or take a walk and talk. It’s so nice when it’s quiet and there are no interruptions—then we can really catch up with each other! Other times, we’ll go out for coffee or ice cream (which is my favorite weekly sweet treat!) or, occasionally, a nice meal.
What is the most difficult thing about having a large family?
The hardest thing about raising any number of children is keeping up with their hearts. With as many as we have, that is a full-time job! We try to have individual heart-to-heart talks with each one of our children living at home on a regular basis. It is important for parents to learn how to ask their children the right questions and not have a condemning attitude toward them. Children need to know they have a safe place to share their hopes and dreams, challenges and mistakes. This creates a very close relationship!
The questions listed here can guide you in bonding sessions with your sons and daughters to help deepen your relationship and give you insights into their unique needs. Take time to get to know each of your children. Set aside time just to ask questions and listen! Don’t teach or answer with your own ideas, just ask more questions. If you need to, write their answers down. You could use a notebook for each child and record their answers in it!
What is the most wonderful thing about having a large family?
It is so fun spending time with 19 of your best friends. It is a blast everywhere we go! There is never a dull moment. It is a joy to see how our children love to be together. If they can learn to treat their brothers and sisters like they want to be treated, then we know they can learn to get along with just about anyone along life’s way!
What are your top five parenting tips? (For parents with families of all sizes!)
- Teach your children to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, and memorize God’s Word together as a family.
- Teach them to have a servant’s heart, leading by your example. Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Read the Proverb of the day (that corresponds with the day of the month) together, and discuss it as a family.
- Diligently keep up with each child’s attitudes and actions and ask what is going on in their heart. Pray with them one on one, letting them lead in prayer, and then you closing the prayer time together.
- Ask God to help you conquer anger because it can destroy your relationship with your children. Praise your children ten times more than you correct them.
What is courtship?
No path to marriage is perfect, but we’ve found that you’ll be a lot more successful if you have a well thought-out, Christ-focused plan before you get there! The process of courtship seeks to avoid many of the pitfalls that often exist in a more self-focused dating relationship. Courtship is a commitment to honor God and one another with purity in your words and actions. Group activities with family and friends are utilized to provide environments in which the couple can get to know one another. Participating in a variety of activities together, whether working or playing, is one of the best ways to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses! A courtship is the time to figure out as much about the other person as possible.
The purpose of a courtship relationship is to determine if the couple should get married or not, according to God’s direction. Every individual, family, and situation is unique, and therefore, the process of each courtship is unique. Ideally, the goal is that you should be able to look back at your relationship without any regrets, confident that you honored both God and each other.
How can I become a Christian?
A Christian is one who is saved. One whose sins are forgiven. One who is reconciled to God. One who is bound for eternal life and joy with God and God’s people.
A Christian has—and will have—all of these things. However, they don’t receive these blessings because they have been holy. They don’t go to heaven because their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. To become a Christian, you aren’t required to “just try harder to be a better person.”
The only way to become a Christian is through faith in Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“Believing in Him” means 1) Recognizing who He is, 2) Believing in what He has done for sinners in His life, death, and resurrection, and 3) Placing your complete trust in Him as your greatest treasure and only hope in life, death, and in the afterlife.