The season premiere of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting is this Monday, and would you believe, mom-to-19 Michelle Duggar is talking pregnancy in the very first episode of the new season! See, Jessa Duggar is turning 18, and to celebrate her birthday, she's going skydiving with her mom, but only if Michelle can confirm she is currently not pregnant.
We just chatted exclusively with Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar about the results of that pregnancy test, the skydiving adventure featured in the exclusive season-premiere sneak peek featured above, plus what Duggar family adventures are coming for season five and which of the Duggar kids are about to go to college!
Just so we're clear, Michelle was not pregnant, so her skydiving date with Jessa was a go! As Michelle recounts the events of the season premiere, "Every since she was little, there was nothing challenging that Jessa would not do, but when everybody was jumping out of the airplane the first time that everybody got to experience it two years previous, Jessa wasn't old enough to jump. So when she turned 18, I said, 'Jessa what would you like to do for your birthday?' and she said, 'I want to jump out of a plane,' and I said, 'Really, that is so neat, because I really wanted to do it too, and I was pregnant at the time, so as long as I'm not pregnant now, I will do it with you!' "
As for the rest of the upcoming fifth season, Jim Bob tells us, "Jessa's birthday was in November and the shows we shot then are for this new season coming up. We took a few weeks off at Christmas and that allowed the crew to be off, which I think is good for everybody, and we shot a little home video at Christmastime to use on the show." Michelle continues, "So we have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up this season, and then we got the flu. We had 16 in our house that had the flu, and then the Bates family came to visit, and like 13 of the Bates ending up getting the flu. And then we went on a field trip over the George Washington Carver Museum."
Jim Bob and Michelle explained that the filming process is just part of their lives and that the kids are used to having the crewmembers at the house as regular visitors. Jim Bob says, "With the show, they're just filming whatever we're doing each week. They're usually here Tuesday through Thursday, and film for two three hours a day of whatever we're filming that day, or if we're on a trip, they film that. For instance, this coming week, we had a guy that we met when we were over in Georgia about an hour away from us and he makes Kerusso brand Christian T-shirts, and he invited us to come over and see his T-shirt factory sometime, so that will be the show we do next week, is filming that trip. While we're over there, we may stop and have a picnic, or see something else—I think there's also a refuge for tigers over and we may stop and see that."
The family views the field trips and expeditions that often serve as episodic plotlines for 19 Kids and Counting as part of the homeschooling experience for the entire family. Says Michelle, "Life is a classroom. You never stop learning. I always remind the kids, 'Remember, your father learned how to build a house at the age of 40!' We say to them, you just go through life looking for opportunities, learn more skills from people who are professionals at what they do, because usually people are eager to teach you what they know if you have a learning spirit. The great thing about homeschooling is that we all get to learn things together. The little ones learn things at their level, the older ones learn at our level, but the learning experience makes memories, and some of the kids have really found the things that they want to do and enjoy for life through the different experiences that we've had as a family, going on field trips and all these different things."
Now that Jessa is 18, five of the Duggar kids are legal adults and we wondered what their plans were for further education and possible careers. Michelle says, "Our oldest son Josh is married, and he has his car business and that's going full-force and keeps him superbusy, and they're expecting our second grandbaby, yay! June 19 is their due date—that's right around Anna's birthday—and we're just so tickled that we're going to double our grandchildren. And then John-David, he loves hands-on stuff. He loves to fix anything. He's always working on big equipment, working on cars and stuff, and he has a wrecker, towing and recovery service, so he's enjoying that. That keeps him busy and he's making an income, so I think each one has different interests.
And for the girls, Jill has been attending births, getting some doula training, so that she's considering that work, and John-David and Jill and Jana, our oldest girl, have got first-responders training. All three are on the volunteer fire department in our area, and they go out to these medical calls, and a lot of times they're the first ones on the scene. They have loved that. The girls love the medical aspect of helping people—they're not as fond of climbing through a burning building although they've done a little bit of that.
And our Jessa, she could manage a major corporation…She loves to organize all of our school plans and do all the computer programming for the [kids' schoolwork], and she lines it all up! The little ones will say, 'Mom, I'm having to do this spelling lesson all over again, Jessa reassigned it for me,' and I say, 'Well, good.' She has higher expectations than even me, and if they don't get a certain grade the first time, she reassigns it! I'm like, 'Oh, you're so much harder than I am.' "
Jim Bob also revealed that the older kids are about to start college-level studies as part of the path to their career goals, telling us, "Most of our older children have just signed up for the CollegePlus! program, which is a really neat way to get a college education, and you can do it from anywhere in the world. You do it over the Internet or a lot of it through CLEP exams, so they are getting ready to start this and a lot of the people that do this do a four-year degree in about 18 months. They still haven't solidified what their majors would be—some of the girls have an interest in maybe nursing, I think all of them have an interest in film production and that type of stuff. And Josh, even though he has his car business, I think he still has in the back of his mind that he would like to get a law degree."
Last but not least, we asked about the cost of affording 19 kids since so many people struggle to support families that only number in the single digits, and mom and dad Duggar explained that while their situation is not inexpensive, they strive to make it affordable. Says Jim Bob, "As far as the cost of raising a large family, we already have the house—whether you have one child or 19, it's not that much a difference in cost as far as the house or utilities. And we have insurance that covers a lot of the medical expenses, and it costs the same whether you have one child or 19 children." Adds Michelle: "We try to cut corners, and we live debt free; [we've found that] it's important to get out of debt and stay out of debt."
Still, some of the child-rearing costs grow along with growing children, acknowledges Jim Bob, saying: "We do spend about $3,000 a month on food, so that's a big expense, and as they're getting older, there's more expenses for educational opportunities, but we have seen God provide every step of the way for our family."
Michelle thinks that limited budgets can be viewed as a teachable experience for the kids: "We have taught our children, what you want, you work hard for. And so they also have goals that they know they can set those goals and work toward those goals as well. It's not just handouts [from us to them], if they want something and they work really hard for it, we'll go in half with them on something they really want."
19 Kids and Counting season five premieres Jan. 24 at 10:30 p.m. on TLC. Are you a fan? Which of the kids is your personal fave? What do you think of the Duggars' lifestyle?
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