Debt-Free Duggars ~ Pt. 2: Quiverfull Royalty vs. Quivering Reality

Debt-Free Duggars ~ Pt. 2: Quiverfull Royalty vs. Quivering Reality August 31, 2010

Debt-Free Duggars ~ Pt. 1: How Quiverfull Couples Support All Those Kids! … the rest of the story …

by Hopewell

Viewers of the earliest Duggar TLC Specials [14 Children and Pregnant Again, 16 Kids and Moving In, etc] know that the Duggars have not always lived in a 7,000 square foot debt-free dream house.

In fact, like many of today’s Quiverfull families, they lived very humbly for many years saving for that dream home. A 900 square foot home behind a used car lot on a busy highway is not an average Mother of 5 little children’s dream home! Yet Michelle put up with these cramped quarters—often hiding out in the bedroom with all the kids while Jim-Bob closed a car sale. Like many savvy real estate investors they “moved up” to a “fixer upper”—a repossessed, all brick ranch home that was much bigger. They did the renovation work themselves, learning along the way, in order to make it affordable. They did their furniture and décor shopping at auctions, yard sales and thrift stores. When Michelle said on TV that they “worked really hard” so they could “relax” today she was telling only part of the story. The rest of it is not taking out a mortgage or any other debt to buy that bigger home.

But while the Duggars, on their 20 acres, with their 2000 square foot boys and girls bedrooms and indoor climbing wall represent the zenith of Quiverfull life, we need to look at how an “average” Quiverfull family lives to truly get the “whole” picture of life in this movement.

Let’s look at how other Quiverfull families provide life’s basic necessities for their large families. But first, a brief mention of the Frugal Life from way back—like in the 1980s. Frugal Living Guru, Amy Dacyczyn’s, Tightwad Gazette newsletter has been collected into a commonly appreciated source book—available in both one and three volume additions. These are revered by “Tightwads” of all political and religious persuasions. These are very often mentioned in blogs with families either voluntarily reducing consumption or who are struggling to survive – the type of family Hillary McFarland writes of in her new book Quivering Daughters:

“Until you have knelt for hours in a field like my mommy, scrubbing thousands of cloth diapers by hand….till you cry with guilt when someone buys you something new and you try to take it back to the store because you could use that money to buy groceries or pay a bill…till you school your children all day, bake twenty loaves of bread by hand….”(p. 30)

In many rural areas, such as my current and former counties in two different Midwest states, it is not unusual to see a well-used van dispensing a river of children in very odd clothing and a haggard mother—often entering the public library for more school books or to make use of free Internet. You’ll also see them selling produce at road side stands or at the pay-by-the-pound recycling centers, the clearance racks and ½ price day at the local thrift shops. The struggle is etched on their faces.

From the anecdotal evidence posted in the forums here at NLQ and elsewhere, these families exist everywhere—and far outnumber the oft-profiled Royal Families of Quiverfull such as the Duggars. They cobble together mobile homes, sell e-books of well-worn recipes, they market quilts, cloth diapers, goat milk soap, homemade lotions and herbal remedies. They glean aluminum cans from the roadside and change from the sidewalks. They birth babies alone or with an under-the-radar unlicensed midwife. They treat illness with what they can afford and trust—which rarely includes a doctor. Many times, like Gil and Kelly Bates, they qualify for federal assistance such as WIC or state children’s health insurance, but won’t take it. Let’s take a look at THESE Quiverfull families and see, truly, how the greater portion of Quiverfull families live.


At her now defunct blog, Under $1000, blogger Emily describes and illustrates with photos her family’s extremely small living quarters in a rental apartment. Certainly, conditions like this are not unusual among families of college or graduate students. [Her husband was in seminary.] In most cases they are temporary and become part of family folklore in later years. What makes Emily’s family different is that Emily publically discussed her plans for even SMALLER living quarters as their family grew LARGER! She had no problem with her children sleeping on blankets on the floor if necessary.

Most American parents would find this at least odd if not almost abusive. [Although, as we will see a little later on, this style of living is endorsed by one of the top Quiverfull evangelists.] She was frugal to such an extreme that she routinely used only a crock-pot to cook in order to save money on the electric bill. She kept tubs of children’s clothing stacked in her apartment so she did not need to shop for the next size. Aside from this ridiculous mini-washer, she washed clothes, bedding, diapers, in a plastic storage tub in a shower stall, rather than going to a laundry mat. Many of her money-saving ideas were not quite mainstream (an odd diet of fermented drinks and crock-pot cream cheese, for example).

Build It Yourself vs Shack Living

The Duggars are hardly the first family to ever build their own home with their own hands. Possibly they’ve built the most extreme house though. Many families have built their homes as they can afford it. In Quiverfull families this is not at all uncommon. Quiverfull “Royalty” such as Steve Maxwell and his sons have built two houses and remodeled a third.

On their blog, the Brow family of Vermont has detailed how, while squeezing into a small mobile home, they are building their own home debt-free. The Seargeant family of Plymouth Rock Ranch, spent a considerable time living in a tent while building their cabin. In Alaska the Wilkinson family details the building of their home on their blog as well.

Certainly, build it yourself, is not merely for Quiverfull families. America’s first prominent homeschooling family [who were VERY secular!!!] the Cofax family sent a son to Harvard after he helped clear the land, build the house and establish a functioning homestead and after he published several articles in goat breeding journals!

And, let’s not forget that the poster family of what can go wrong in Quiverfull life, the Yates family. Not long before the horror of Andrea drowning their children in the bathtub, Rusty had moved the family out of the RV they had been living in and into a modest ranch house. The strain of living with all her children in such tight quarters was too much for Andrea and her post-partum depression reached a danger zone. Sadly, it was too little, too late.

Utilities can be a staggering expense—although two that are often helped by rural living are heating and water. While many families with well water have to use a water softener or water purifying system, some families simply cannot afford these options. The beauty of a well is no water company to pay. This can be a substantial savings. Heat, (especially in the more northern states) can be very, very expensive. Home heating oil, propane, or electric heat is high enough in an area with efficient delivery networks. In rural areas served by Rural Electric Co-ops or in which heating oil or propane deliveries have to add mileage surcharges it can be extremely expensive. Many rural families, even those with a decent standard of living (like the Duggars) choose to heat with wood. Selling firewood supplements many family incomes as well. Finally trash removal is a huge expense in rural areas. Fewer customers per mile, greater distances to dumping sites and landfills, makes regular trash collection out of reach for many people. Rural families are often ahead of the curve on trash—growing food, composting, recycling all help with trash expenses. A once or twice a year trip to the dump, trash burning or burying, often takes care of the rest.

Quiverfull families in rural areas often live in substandard housing or with other primitive conditions like no indoor plumbing or even no running water. Perhaps the most extreme example of staying debt-free while building a home comes from one of the most Royal of Quiverfull “Royal Families”—the Campbells. While Colin and Nancy run the Above Rubies empire from a beautiful custom-built home, daughter Serene and her family have lived for years in conditions familiar to only the poorest of 3rd world nations.

Quiverfull matriarch Nancy Campbell has often written about her daughter, Serene’s family and their struggle to complete the building of their home. In spite of coming from a very well-off family who brought the Christian music superstars the NEWSBOYS to America, Serene and her large family live in a “shell” of a house with no running water. Even though they live in a “family compound” with other members of their own family, Serene and her children must haul 5 gallon buckets of water from a nearby stream for their daily use. Recently flooding made the lower level of the home unlivable. Rather than move out, conduct mold abatement and other necessary repairs, the family simply moved upstairs. Nancy called this situation “hilarious.” Most Americans would call it child neglect or even child abuse.

Serene herself has written of having to wear masks in the house due to excessive smoke, of having to run laps around the house with her children to keep warm and other equally ridiculous experiences—all in the name of being debt-free. Better to endanger the health of your children than incur debt!

Serene helps support her family by hosting women’s retreats, recording and selling cds and promoting her own views of “good health.” Heath “advice” from a woman who apparently does not consider a smoke filled, mold-infested home to be a health hazard for herself and her children.  Like Serene, Emily at Under $1000 a Month [above], kept her MAINE apartment so cold in the winter that one reader compared it to an old-time city tenement—a breeding ground for TB. Serene also had no problem ignoring other comforts for her children. For years they slept “like puppies” on the floor on blankets—surely the inspiration of Emily’s planned future sleeping arrangements for her own children!


The Duggars’ shopping trips to Aldis focus on bulk buying of frozen burritos by the case, trays of frozen lasagna, jars of spaghetti sauce and boxes of so-called Macaroni and Cheese. Many other Quiverfull families eat more God-made than man-made food.

There are excellent examples of God’s bounty, lovingly coaxed from the ground by busy moms and toddlers, teenagers and even over-worked Quiverfull Dads. (Although not stated as Quiverfull, the family profiled in these posts exemplify a healthy, yet minimal income family). Gardening, canning, freezing, jam-making, soap making, quilting are all frequently found on Quiverfull Mom-blogs and homemaking sites. More than one family has a cottage industry producing ebooks or even dvds on how to do these money-saving tasks (soap making, bread baking, or Serene making sourdough). In fact, the West family even had their homemaking videos produced by Franklin Springs Media.

Gardening and food preservation is another area the Duggars strangely ignore. The garden they showed in one episode [“17 Kids and Counting: Cheaper by the Duggars”] was barely more than most people can grown in a tiny subdivision lot—and yet the Duggars have 20 acres! (NOTE: Likely a substantial garden would be too hard to keep up with while they are touring and filming, much of which takes place in the summer garden-season.)

While cheap, frozen ground turkey, a Duggar staple, is frequently found in many, many homes today, other Quiverfull families raise chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk and or meat and even pigs and steer for meat. Poultry keeping has even become trendy in some suburbs! Other families rely on deer, elk or moose season to provide the bulk of their meat. Steve Castleberry gives a humorous discussion of learning to butcher his first steer in his book, Our Homestead Story: The First Years.

Many Quiverfull families find it a good use of their scarce food budget to buy an electric grain mill and bulk buy wheat that they then grind fresh into flour and hand bake the family’s bread. No one can argue with the nutritional boost over gluey American white bread, but the process does take a toll on the wives and daughters who must labor thru the grinding, mixing, kneading baking cycle every few days. In fact, Bill Gothard teaches his followers [who include the Duggars] that white bread is “evil” and that bread must be made by hand—no mixer! [Veinot, p. 299]. A bucket of good red wheat does not come cheaply, either (about $65 a bucket). Nor does a good mixer—for those who don’t follow Mr. Gothard’s health advice and see the kneading as something a machine can adequately handle, a Bosch universal mixer costs up to $400.00, but is the holy grail of convenience for Quiverfull moms who see bread making as part of their calling.  A “Wonder Mill” for grinding wheat can set a family back more than $200.00. A Berkey water filter another $200.


Very few Quiverfull families could afford to buy brand new curricula for each student in each subject every year. Many could not even afford to buy the very reasonably priced and thoroughly excellent [if not terribly exciting!] Rod & Staff curriculum so beloved of the Maxwell family. Nor can many otherwise like-minded families afford the up-to- $600+ a year just to belong to Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute and be “encouraged” by the likes of the Duggars and Bates. Many families cannot afford or cannot justify the expense to attend a pricey homeschool convention—all of these are, for the most part, marketed to the solidly middle-class family with disposable income [although there are families who diligently save and sacrifice to get to one]. A burgeoning legion of web sites has sprung up linking to free or extremely low cost homeschooling materials—many of which are excellent others less so.

[For examples, see: Old Fashioned Education or Ambleside Online or Splashes From the River or Christian Parenting Source or Simply Charlotte Mason.]

Since so many Vision Forum-influenced Quiverfull families are reluctant to expose their children to the literature of the 20th, let alone the 21st Century, most of the books linked to by these sites are in the public domain [i.e. no longer protected by copyright laws]. Many of these are standard classics that are often even assigned in public schools [example: Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol or Great Expectations]. Several Quiverfull families produce and sell homeschool resources as well. [The Learning Parent or Eagles Wing Ed or Heart of Wisdom.]

While I could not find any poof of this, I suspect with the growing number of states who have free online Charter Schools, some Quiverfull families may take advantage of this at least for higher math classes. In my state, this results in the family having a free computer and high-speed internet access.

College or advanced vocational training—when allowed in such families—is often done on the cheap in a way savvy students have been doing since the 70s: using CLEP tests to earn college credit. By combining this with “safe” at-home online classes, some Quiverfull sons, and a rare few daughters, can achieve a college degree or technical certificate.

Medical Care

Medical care in the United States is a nightmare for self-employed and working poor families of any worldview. Quiverfull families, oddly, often join the New Age in rejoicing in “natural” or “herbal” medications. Old home remedies are also often in favor:

It burned, dripping down my back, scathing tender flesh. The stench crept through my nostrils and landed on my tongue. My eyes watered. “Hold still,” Mom ordered, one hand rooted in my scalp and the other poised above my head…”It will kill the lice,” Mom said, swishing my hair in kerosene. I lay in it [in the tub] drenched, my body on fire…..I know her hands burned, too.

Grandma Millie, our neighbor, said it worked because that’s what they did in the old days. We wanted to live like they did back then, because that’s when life was simple….living frugally and biblically, which meant not relying on the conveniences of modern culture, but welcoming hardship—“For in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”(Gen. 3:19) (McFarland, Quivering Daughters, p. 1).

Herbal remedies, regardless of their true effectiveness [which can go either way—many ARE effective] are often seen as more beneficial than “chemical” medications. (See:, or or

The biggest cost for most families is child birth. While there is a cooperative program such families may choose to join that provides a limited solution to the health insurance problem, the solution for many, many families is simply home birth.

While Anna Duggar had a perfectly normal home birth, she had received state-of-the-art prenatal care, had attended a standard childbirth education class with her husband and “just happened” to have on-hand both an experienced childbirth educator/doula and her very experienced mother-in-law. For many families none of this is an option. Mistrust of medical science in general—and of obstetricians specifically, refusal to accept government assistance, extreme rural living, combined with a poverty-level income makes homebirth the only possibility for many mothers.

Sadly, NLQ’s Vyckie experienced a far more traumatic home birth than Anna Duggar was blessed with –so too was Carrie C., whose horrendous midwife care and near death resulted in national news coverage. Like Carrie, many Quiverfull moms can count only on the care they receive from generally well-intentioned, but poorly trained non-licensed midwives. [Note: These are not the same as Nurse Practitioners or Licensed Midwives—my point is not to condemn midwives/homebirth in a responsible setting, just to point out the obvious dangers of an untrained, unlicensed so-called “midwife”.]

In her book, The Way Home, Mary Pride called for women who die in childbirth to be regarded as martyrs. Sadly, with more money or even simply a greater ability to reason and trust, some of these mothers could have stayed to raise their many children.

Elder care is beyond the means of many, many families today. Unlike other families who choose a Medicare/Medicaid funded nursing home or other solution, Quiverfull families often, commendably, care for their elderly at home. It’s not only the Duggars who have given end-of-life care in their homes to parents or grandparents (Duggars, p. p. 219-220 and “18 Kids and Counting: Duggars Say Goodbye) but most such families do not enjoy the luxury of a full guest suite in their home in which to house the loved one. Nor can most afford a doctor who makes house calls. (See here – scroll down to “Nursing Home”.)

Another area of medical care that is not in the budget, or the mindset, is vaccination. As the Duggars showed recently with 12 children covered in chicken pox spots, (“19 Kids and Counting: Duggars Chicken Out”) vaccines are pretty much seen as an evil. Although most well baby shots can be had from your state’s department of health at regional or county clinics for little or no charge, Quiverfull families tend to steer clear of any form of government assistance. This also means that nursing mothers and their little children who qualify and would benefit would not accept WIC or food stamps. Nor would most families sign their children up for state health insurance. Staying away from the government is a goal.

Clothing and Diapers

The Duggars spend a lot of time promoting thrift store, and more recently, clearance rack shopping for clothes and shoes. Many families of all types nationwide have jumped on the “buy used” bandwagon—if only to survive. Goodwill is chic these days! For families at or below the poverty line yard sales, clearance racks, consignment shops and thrift stores are the main suppliers of clothing, bedding, shoes and other items.

Like the Duggars of old (and the Duggar girls today when desired) many still sew clothing—although sources of cheap fabric are not plentiful anymore—even Wal-Mart has cut back or eliminated yard goods from their sales floor.

Caring for clothing, bedding, towels etc, is another place many families struggle. While the Duggars installed low-water front-loading washers in their 8-machine family laundry room, with 20 acres to work with it would seem that a lot of those khakis and polo shirts—not to mention sheets and towels—could be hung out to dry at a substantial savings. This is another part of either savings or basic survival in many homes. With large numbers of children, possibly no water heater, no electricity, and at best ONE washer, many, many families end up doing a combination of hand washing, machine washing, outdoor drying or indoor rack drying.

One place the Duggars show good planning though is their “family uniform”—developed back in the day of their ranch house. With two washers, and later in a rental house with only one washer, they simplified their laundry by having everyone wear the same color each day—khaki pants for all the boys, same color polo shirt for all the boys and similar dress or jumper for the girls reducing the sorting and number of loads of laundry. All the Duggar boys at that time wore black socks, while the girls wore white socks. [I have not confirmed this, but have been told that matching clothing is promoted by ATI for family unity. Still, it totally makes sense with limited laundry equipment.] With more laundry equipment this rule seems to have been loosened if not completely abandoned. Another money-saving tip the Duggars have adopted—like many other families of all beliefs—is making their own laundry detergent [I have personally been doing this for 4 years—it’s great and so cheap.] (“17 Kids and Counting: Cheaper by the Duggars” and Duggars, p. 173).

In Blogland, many Moms signal their beliefs and desired audience with phrases like “Attachment parenting, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, homeschool mom.” Or “God-honoring, dresses only, head-covering, wheat grinding, non-vaccinating, cloth-diapering…etc”. Cloth diapers are no less a point in the Quiverfull “Mommy Wars” than elsewhere. While it’s nice that the older Duggar girls and Grandma aren’t stuck washing all little girls’ diapers, it would seem that as cost-conscious as Jim-Bob and Michelle are, that they’d have clambered onto the cloth diapering band wagon about 18 kids ago. Sewing cloth diapers, cloth nursing pads and other similar items is a popular home business for many stay-at home moms at BOTH ends of the political spectrum. While the cost to the environment is hotly debated, the sheer COST of all those packages of disposable diapers for the Duggars has to be mind-boggling.

(image from

Finally, some families take washable cotton a few steps further into the bathroom. Cloth sanitary napkins, like diapers, are a popular home business. Like cloth diapers, they come in all styles, prints, and price ranges. Also like diapers they are a “love ‘em or leave ‘em” product. For many families at the poverty level with large numbers of girls they may be the only alternative. Free patterns are available on web sites and blogs just like for cloth diapers [pads] [diapers].

The other reusable feminine product is a rubber cup known as the “Diva Cup.” It’s been mentioned in Tightwad circles for years. It’s inexpensive and re-useable. Since it is an internal device, meant to replace tampons, it may not be considered appropriate in Quiverfull families for unmarried girls.

Many families, like Gil and Kelly Bates [who taught the Duggars this savings] make their own baby wipes using paper towels.  Other families do the same, but with re-useable strips of terrycloth or other absorbent cloth. “Recipes” for the soaking liquid are available at many websites and blogs.

And then there is the [ahem] “family cloth.” This is simply washable toilet paper. Small squares of cotton are kept in a basket by the toilet. Used cloth is put in a diaper pail (or similar) with vinegar or bleach and then washed. Used cotton sanitary napkins are done in a similar way as are homemade hemorrhoid cloths with witch hazel.

Additional Money Savers

[Note, this section is added to Hopewell’s article by Vyckie ~ as evidenced by the sudden appearance of run-on sentences strung together with lots of tildes. :)]

Families which take Quiverfull fundamentalism to the extreme frequently develop even more radical (if it were possible) convictions which can also cut expenses considerably.

No insurance.  Many of the QFers I knew (including Laura’s ex-husband, Dale) believe that purchasing insurance is tantamount to putting ones trust in “man” (insurance companies) rather than God.  These families only purchase the minimum insurance which is required by law, such as liability insurance for their vehicles ~ rather than purchasing homeowners insurance (which is not required on their debt-free homes), they are relying on the Lord as their “insurance policy.”  Because life insurance is also optional ~ these families trust that God will provide for their orphaned children should He choose to take them home early.

No extra-curricular activities.  Followers of Jonathan Lindvall’s teachings regarding “sheltering children,” do not allow their kids to participate in sports, cheerleading, band, etc. ~ this eliminates the expense of uniform and equipment purchases and/or rentals.

No frivilous entertainment.  Okay ~ this one is fairly common among Quiverfull families who take the protection of their children from worldly influences very seriously.  Most QF families do not own televisions, let alone subscribe to cable programming.  Nearly all movies ~ yes, even Disney! ~ are out of the question too.

No toys.  According to Nancy Campbell’s daughter, Evangeline, “Things do not make you rich! Children do! Children do not need another toy – they need you!  Excess toys create fights, chaos and mess. I hate them!” Although in this article, Evangeline encourages Moms of Many to get rid of “excess toys,” a later Above Rubies article (which I’m not finding online), details how she got rid of all the children’s toys, insisting instead that the children “play” with real babies rather than plastic dolls, or make their own play things (sticks for guns, etc.) rather than buying over-priced “stuff” from the toy department which takes up space in their already-overcrowded home.

Debt-Free – A Recipe for Neglect & Burn-Out

Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering has often stated that the ultra-demanding Quiverfull lifestyle is a recipe for neglect and burn-out.  NLQ readers have asked, both on the website and on the forum, how realistically are the Duggar family and other “Quiverfull Royalty” portraying this debt-free ideal?  The high standards of striving to live debt-free, keeping Mom (and often, Dad, too) at home, tithing 10% – 15% of their income, and eschewing government assistance do not offer a promising financial outlook for Quiverfull families who are actively welcoming an abundance of children in today’s economy.

While this combination of principles may seem especially godly and makes for a popular “reality” TV show, such utopian idealism more often adds up to a stark and impoverished Quiverfull reality.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum!  Comments are also open below.

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  • Synesthesia

    Quiverfull does NOT sound very fun.

  • Jenny Islander

    Like so much of QF teaching, QF simple living turns a set of good ideas into a set of crushing expectations. Fresh bread is good, so YOU MUST make enough for a large family BY HAND every week, beginning with whole grain. Being debt free is good, so YOU MUST avoid even a penny’s worth even if that means making your children sleep in a mold-infested and/or smoke-choked house. Living independently is good, so YOU MUST deny your children free milk, eggs, and fruit juice if you can’t produce or purchase those things for them. Holistic medicine is good, so YOU MUST avoid having your baby at the hospital even if the only alternative is an unlicensed midwife who is not prepared for attending births. And if things don’t work out as promised, there is no Plan B. You’re just supposed to do it more, try harder, sleep less.

  • Dawn

    I believe in on one of the episodes where they showed the kids going to the dentist, Jim Bob Duggar said that he does buy medical insurance. I want that Josh Duggar also talked about buying insurance when his wife Anna first got pregnant.

  • Dawn

    That should be I want to say that Josh Duggar.

  • Helen

    this is a great post BECAUSE you listed all these wonderful QF families, names, blogs, and info, I went to all of them and learned so much about them, I am rejoycing that there are soooooooo many of them out there, I pray GOD will increase them in this country and all over the world, GOD used your much hated site to bless me today…
    THANK YOU LORD JESUS… Please bless the Duggar family in a mighty way today and forever..
    To GOD be the glory now and forever AMEN AND AMEN

  • Synesthesia

    Not you again.
    Have another seal.
    Baranov is so cute! I want to SQUEEZE that seal.
    I think QF seems a bit too extreme.

  • Synesthesia

    Hello, Jenny Islander.
    I would say that being that extreme would drive a person insane eventually. Sometimes middle ground isn’t so bad. Especially if people are warm and healthy anhd have enough food.

  • gina


  • bananacat

    I hate it when these people claim to be pro-life, but then risk their children’s lives by not vaccinating them or providing adequate medical care. They don’t care about saving lives; they care about letting things happen with minimal interference, with the assumption that it’s all God’s will. If God wants to take a mom away from her 12 children during a risky homebirth, they see that as being a better outcome than the mother using government assistance to get the medical care she needs to save her life. They’d rather see kids go without than to accept help from anyone. It doesn’t sound like they care about life all that much.

  • Earthygirl

    Are you for real? It’s hard to take someone like you seriously.

    For this being a “much hated site,” it surprises me that you’d even visit. Get a life.

  • Sara

    @ Hared Hateful Hater Helen
    Contrarywise! This is a much beloved blog!

    @ Jenny Islander
    I agree exactly with your point. The idea that if “this” is good, much “more” must be better and it is wrong idea. Most things are pleasant in moderate amounts, not in extremes.

  • Synesthesia

    Indeed. That doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like going backwards, unraveling instead of building things up and going forward.

  • Barbara

    Hello Helen:)

    How many kids do you have so far?

    Peace, Love and Jesus, Barbara

  • There might be another issue with QF types passing up on things like WIC – can you imagine the kinds of judgments that would be heaped upon them if they did?

  • denelian

    which just makes me wonder how much they REALLY trust God. i mean, if God REALLY wants that mom dead, adequate health care ain’t gonna save her – but, as the saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves” – God LET us have medicine, if He didn’t want us to have it, we WOULDN’T. it’s a GIFT from Her. it’s almost blasphemy to NOT use it, if you look at it right…


  • 4LeafClover

    I have known dozens of large families and none of them resemble this picture. In the FAQ it implies that large families with Complimentarian theology are all “Quiverfull” – and then all sorts of allegations are made about what they do or don’t do. The fact is, none of these things are so bad in and of themselves, and if you look at most of these families compared to the rest of the world, they’re still pretty well off.

    As Jenny Islander says, the problem is when lifestyle choices become mandates, not the individual choices themselves.

  • delphinium

    Well, I think the problem here is you’re operating under that assumption that these people use LOGIC to make decisions. Nope. A lot of what these families do doesn’t make sense to any person with a functional brain that’s grounded in reality. These people are deluded into thinking that they really don’t have to CARE for themselves or their families b/c “God” will do that for them if they just trust him to do so.

    Ok, so, don’t rely on anything that human experts (a creature “made by God”) have discovered with countless studies and research monies to be useful. Instead, pretend that the previous, say ~500 years of human existence & learning never actually happened. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. Let’s all embrace total ignorance!!! Hooray!

  • “I believe in on one of the episodes where they showed the kids going to the dentist, Jim Bob Duggar said that he does buy medical insurance. I want that Josh Duggar also talked about buying insurance when his wife Anna first got pregnant.”

    Most families today could not hope to pay for even “catastrophic” coverage. The Duggar’s used to have a link to a medical cooperative plan on their web site. Also, families may be able to afford “health” insurance, but many affordable policies exclude child birth. There ARE affordable plans available thru business groups [Chamber of Commerce], professional organizations, etc that can be reasonably priced if you are a member and if you have “good” overall health, low risk factors. Another more affordable option is a “high deductible” policy–basically you pay cash for all your normal care and have to pay out sometimes well over $1000 first before your coverage begins. The point about insurance is that the Duggars and other “Royal” families in QF CAN afford this while so many, many others, being self-employed with large family and a variable income, cannot.

  • Kristen


    “How many kids do you have so far?”

    sure does sound like it’s a competition. . .

  • Jenny Islander

    It’s not a question one asks outside QF, that’s for sure. People ask other people about family plans, yes, but “so far?” What? Am I plopping them down on a conveyor belt or something? They are children, not pies in a pie-eating contest!

  • Nineveh_uk

    I am reminded of an old joke:

    There’s a terrible flood, and a man is trapped on the roof of his house with water rising all around him. “I’m not afraid,” he said, “I’ve always been a religious man, and God will save me.”

    Shortly after, a rowing boat came along, and the rower called to the man to get in, but the man refused, saying “God will save me.”

    Later, a motor boat came along, and the captain called to the man to get in, but he still refused, saying “God will save me.”

    The floodwaters continued to rise, so that the man had to climb onto the chimneystack. A helicopter approached and let down a rope to the man, but he refused to take it and said, “God will save me.”

    The waters rose and the man drowned. He found himself in front of God.

    “I don’t understand,” he said, “I had faith in you, why didn’t you save me?”

    “Don’t blame me,” said God, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”

  • Karen

    Wow. Passive aggressive.

  • Aria

    If someone knows Serene’s location, contact CPS/DCF for the sake of the children. Lack of sanitation and living in freezing temps needlessly is neglect.

    I chose to have a homebirth with a midwife, have chosen not to vaccinate (you mention chickenpox, but did you know the vaccine wears off, yet natural immunity doesn’t, and that chickenpox as an adult is very deadly while it’s nothing more than a scratchy nuisance as a child?), and eschew western medicine unless necessary. I’m glad you made sure to exclude homebirths with trained midwives, but please don’t claim that not vaccinating and using western medicine is always bad. The focus should be on QF families denying these things without weighing pros and cons, denying these things on principle, even when it harms children.

    Cloth diapers are SO easy. Many modern ones are shaped like disposables and go on just as easy. Look at the BumGenius diapers! (We use BumGenius!) Leak-proof, perfect, wonderful. A minute to throw a load in the washer, a minute to throw in the dryer, another minute to toss in a basket, then we pull out whats needed as needed. The ones we have are even size-adjustable. We also use cloth wipes. Our baby is 9 months old today, and we’ve spent less than $500 total, and will need to spend no more. My friends with babies spend this in just a few months.

  • Aria

    LOL, yeah, because poverty is such a wonderful thing, not having heating, sanitation, or enough food! You’re a riot.

  • Aria

    I’m not Christian, but an pro-life and we don’t vaccinate our daughter. Why? Because things like measles and chickenpox are actually mild diseases in America. They’re deadly in countries with poor sanitation. In a clean environment, they’re itchy, annoying things, and are less likely to result in death than the vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine also wears off, and few adults keep getting boosters. Chickenpox IS deadly to adults, whereas getting it naturally as a kid results in life-long immunity. There have been NO natural cases of polio in the US in nearly 30 years, yet the vaccine kills an average of 10 per year. Gardasil – vaccinating ids as young as 8 for an STD? A vaccine believed to only last five years, and that has had so many deaths and other very serious reactions that several countries have outright banned it.

    Look, if we were going to travel to somewhere with illnesses that are not seen in America or that pose a threat because our bodies aren’t used to the local food/water/etc., then we’d vaccinate. But as it stands, what’s routine here is vaccinations for things that are such a minuscule threat that the CDC is currently reevaluating the vaccine schedule and considering removing some of them.

    We rely as much as reasonable on holistic fixes, like increasing potassium to help combat foot cramps (I’m a dancer, foot cramps happen a lot without extra potassium), but if necessary, we will go in. In February we were concerned our 2-month-old was dehydrated. We didn’t hesitate for a single second once that gut-feeling set in. We rushed her to the ER and she was admitted for a couple days.

    Simply making an educated decision to not vax and favoring holistic remedies is very different than denying them vaxes and western medicine to uphold some idea without giving them any study and thought.

    Also, as a major FYI, several very credible studies have shown that for moms of equal risk, the death rate s higher in hospital births thanks to the quick use of interventions that lead to a c-section rate of 1 in 3 among otherwise-low-risk women. Pitocin is routinely used to augment labor, which leads to a c-section rate greater than 50% for women given this drug. Epidurals are also routine yet interfere with the natural birth process and even a woman’s ability to push. It doesn’t help that even without epidurals, the lithotomy position (laying on one’s back) is forced in hospitals, causing gravity to work against a woman.

    In a homebirth with a properly-trained midwife, epidurals and Pitocin for labor-augmentation aren’t available. Labor-augmentation isn’t even an on-label use for Pitocin! A proper midwife will have with her ALL the medical equipment found in small hospitals. When I had my homebirth (my insurance company tried pushing me into a more-expensive hospital-birth and specifically a c-section, and I had to fight them to get them to cover a midwife, so money wasn’t a factor), the equipment took over the entire living room. My fiance’s mom was stunned. To think, an entire small hospital’s worth of equipment ready for me and ONLY me. Midwives also see the labor process. They truly know what is normal and what isn’t. OB/GYNs usually show up in the last minutes, or, if they are contacted earlier, are quicker to order a c-section.

    The risks in homebirths are not having someone there who is properly trained, not having pre-natal care of any sort, being truly high-risk (diabetic, certain heart conditions, etc.), and being unwilling to go to a hospital if a problem does arise because the expense can’t be afforded and the man of the house would rather his wife die than to receive aid.

  • Aria

    Whew, I once had a plan that was about $600/mo for just me for the deductible, and then it was $7,000 out-of-pocket before insurance would pick anything else up, and even then it was 80%. So on top of $7,200/yr in deductibles, I had to spend $7,000 for them to cover anything else, and would still be on the hook for 20%. This was an employer-sponsored group-plan too!! Now we just go without coverage (though have our daughter on a state-plan) and hope for the best for ourselves, grateful to live nearish to a doctor we can afford out-of-pocket when we need to go. We’re not poor (we make little enough to qualify for Medicaid for our daughter, enough to pay our bills and live in a very nice house, and have no debt, so poor by government standards, but have more available cash-flow than many wealthy people), yet can’t afford coverage for two adults anymore.

  • Karen

    Apparently, Aria it’s ok to starve your family if it’s for god. This makes me so sad.

    Chidren deserve a roof over their heads, safe living conditions, a good education, healthy food, a bed to sleep in, clean water and the ability to flourish as the INDIVIDUALS they are. There isn’t a good excuse that can be given to me to explain the removal of any of these factors.

    There’s a difference between living simply (not everyone has to have a tv), and living foolishly (children don’t need checkups, an education or enough food to fill their tummys).

  • Friend of a CPS Victim

    I would never report anyone to CPS merely on the basis of allegations made on a blog. The facts may have been distorted, or the situation may have improved, or there may be mitigating factors that we don’t know about.

    CPS investigations are hugely traumatic to families. Court paperwork submitted by the social worker will make the strongest case possible, which may include telling half-truths or outright lies about the parents and the living conditions. The parents must then divert their meager resources into correcting the records, defending their reputations, and trying to keep the family together. Once CPS becomes involved, the parents may be subject to an investigation with every new child that’s born. When those children are grown and married, their own children will be considered at higher risk, prompting CPS involvement into a new generation. Yet in spite of all the potential intrusion, there’s no guarantee that the children will be better off. They may go to a foster home where they could suffer worse neglect or abuse. (Google FOSTER CARE ABUSE for more information on this problem.) At best, they’ll be left in the home and the charges will be dismissed as unfounded, but the parents will be facing a new set of emotional and financial stresses in addition to the problems they already had. Not to mention the trauma caused to the children themselves.

    If you know of an actual crime committed against a child, don’t hesitate call law enforcement. But I urge everyone to be very, very wary of getting CPS involved when it’s a lifestyle issue, especially when not all the facts are known.

  • Donna

    I pray GOD will “increase” your spelling. Amen.

  • Donna

    Well, here’s the thing: they claim “it’s for God”, but really it’s because they’re all bananas. Every human being needs to have their basic needs fulfilled (adequate food, water, shelter, love) in order to live. These nut cases act like they’re so saintly and self-righteous and suffering and sacrificing for God. In reality, they are selfish jerks who torture innocent children who have no access to anything other than what is provided/given to them by their parents. What a load of malarckey this all is.

    And to Nancy Campbell and Mary Pride – what horrible liars and hypocrites you are. I consider you worse than the lying patriarchs because you are actually women who should be helping other women and children. Instead you feed poor gullible schmucks a bag of lies and misinformation so that you can financially enrich yourselves. I can’t even imagine the karma that will be theirs when it is time.

  • Donna

    Very, very good story and indeed it IS appropriate. Sadly (and unfortunately) I wasted a decade or so of my life posting with women just like that; women that prayed and prayed and prayed – until the cows came home – and they were always in the same spot, always in some sort of bind. They honestly thought that God Himself was going to come down from heaven and plop things in their laps.

    Thank God I came to my senses; unfortunately I was an idiot for that long and wasted all those years responding to them and feeling sorry/sympathetic to them. Now, I see them as professional victims. Oh, they don’t like to be called that, but that’s what they truly are. I have no sympathy for them, but I do feel badly for their children because the children have no say in the matter and they suffer.

  • Donna

    This is what I know about “lifestyle choices”. Lifestyle choices like paying the bills, paying for your child’s orthodontics, health care (and your own), including everything else is not addressed by nonsense like the Tightwad Gazette or 1001 cheap meals in a crockpot. I know this because I have 7 children ages 26 to age 9, and quite honestly, it takes a lot of money to provide for their needs. For the families that can feed 10 people on $20 a week, more power to you, but I’ve found that this is not possible unless you have your own livestock, poultry, and vegetable garden. Case closed.

    I know large families in real life and online (certain people I’ve posted with for 10+ years) and for the most part they are always broke and struggling and praying to God to provide for this and that. It’s not easy for anyone nowadays, but for these people it’s a constant battle for survival. I seriously doubt that their kids once grown will have a large brood of kids or any kids at all. These women do not sound like they’re having a good time in all of this.

  • Donna

    I agree. I can imagine that it’s quite fun (and lucrative) for the people who promote QF and Frugile living as a business. As children are suffering adequate food, water, shelter and other basic necessities, the promoters of this “lifestyle” are dancing a jig and yucking it up all the way to the bank. That’s what infuriates me the most about all of this.

    I would have no problem if Nancy Campbell and Mary Pride deprived themselves of everything and chose to live in a mud shack with no running water, elecricity, and food (you know that will never happen), but the fact that their lies causes so much pain and suffering to innocent, helpless children is UNFORGIVABLE as far as I’m concerned. How dare they contribute to this madness so they can enrich their pocketbook!

    As far as Nancy Campbell thinking that her daughter’s suffering is “hilarious” or “funny”, it is obvious that she has a few screws loose. Not only is her own daughter suffering horribly, but her children are living worse off than Tiny Tim and his family during the Charles Dickens era.

    And Mary Pride calling for women who die during or after childbirth to be called “martyrs” due to inadequate health care – is she insane? Where are we? In the U.S. or some third-world country? Give us a break! There is something seriously wrong with these people and they must be exposed for the wolves in sheep clothing that they are!

  • Donna

    Good points.

    Try harder, sleep less…until you either keel over from exhaustion or do an Andrea Yates.

  • Donna

    I just want to say that I absolutely draw the line at re-usable toilet paper. Sorry, but even in the wild jungle, the natives use leaves or grass or whatever else is useable for toilet paper. I refuse to launder toilet paper/cloth rags.

  • oh yeah

    So you were too selfish to vaccinate your child based on your personal sense of propriety? This is tantamount to child abuse and neglect.

  • Snow


  • mamawama

    There are many families who wait for things to happen to them instead of making their own way. It is not exclusive to quiverful families. There are families with 2 children, MANY single moms, or families where Gramma is raising the kids who suffer from being poor.

    There are also many Quiverful families who are not “royalty” who live rich lives. I think it is similar to all of society. There are some who are rich, some who are poor, and many in between.
    If you are going to take up a cause for the poor and poverty stricken in our country, I think you would have to look first at single moms because studies show that they struggle the most.

  • mamawama

    I don’t think that every type of lifestyle is fun for every type of person. I would not want to be a professional body builder, mountain climbing, tree hugger type person. But some families are just that and they think it is fun.

    I don’t understand the hatred for people who chose something different? Are there blogs against the body builder/mountain climbers? If something is not for me, I just ignore it, or nod politely and move on. I don’t understand why people spend so much time and energy putting down a lifestyle?

    The truth is that some people like making their own bread. Many families afford things like bread kneaders easily. People with one child also use cloth diapers. People with two children often write books. People with three children often have their kids help with the family business. This doesn’t hurt children.
    You are painting all Quiverfull families with a big brush. There are MANY quiverfull families who make lots of money, there are some who don’t. But to say that everyone is poor except for the ones who are “royalty” is insane. The only reason those families are even well known is because they wrote books, or were on tv or prominent on the internet.
    This blog tries to look for fault in others lives. Isn’t that wrong?

  • Synesthesia

    I don’t hate them. Why would I hate them when I want their kids to be healthy and for them to not die of preventable things or in childbirth? No one should have to live in an unhealthy way if there are alternatives. Especially when they have children.

  • *CK*

    The judgmental tone of the articles on this site will never cease to amaze me. What is wrong with not buying new curriculum, with not having a large home, with no tv, with having home businesses to help support the family, cutting back the number of toys a child has, not doing outside sports, etc. etc.? You list one thing after another that has nothing wrong with it aside from being outside the “American norm” then throw in a case of abuse slyly along with it and lump everything together as being bad. There is abuse in non QF homes across the country yet you don’t say having children is horrible. Abuse in schools yet schools are all bad.

    And once again, bad information. Serene Allison does NOT live on the land surrounding Colin and Nancy Campbell. Other sisters do but the Allison’s live on another piece of property a drive away in the car. They have a gorgeous 2 story home 4 times the size of my home with hardwood floors throughout. The downstairs is currently being remodeled due to the flood. You don’t even know these people yet you go on about how they’re just letting their home mold and be ruined. And call it child abuse. Woe to anyone with whom you disagree. The upstairs of their house is perfectly fine while they fix the downstairs. Sure is a lot of assumptions being made about the character of people you don’t know!

    Anything outside the American “dream” is not wrong. It is not abusive for children to have to haul water. Big deal. The Amish do it all the time. It is not wrong to not do sports or to have a family business on the side. I, too, thank you for all the great links to blogs I’ve found through this article.

  • Susan

    And Amen Again, Helen!

  • Susan

    I had two successful home births. Then I went to a hospital, with a honest to goodness M.D. ( because I have large babies and lived far away from the hospital I got nervous) At my 6 week check up, my wonderful, highly trained OB/GYN MISDIAGNOSED me as having a form of cervical cancer. He scared me into having surgery. I literally removed half of my cervix and left me unable to have more children. I remember him telling me the day of the surgery that I was going to be his fastest surgery that day. Oh, the regrets! He literally removed half of my cervix, leaving me with scar tissue, complications requiring further surgeries for years, and the inability to bear and more children. We increased our family through adoption. Those of you who think that midwives need to “be in the radar” and highly trained are wrong. My midwives served the Amish, who would not go to an M.D. or a hospital willingly, under any circumstances. They took no fee, except what was offered. You are wrong if you think modern medical care is safe or effective in most circumstances. I am an R.N. and my husband is an M.D.

  • Susan

    Where do you get your medical facts about the safety of vaccinations vs. improvements in sanitation and medical care??? We use the tried and true vaccinations, never the newest ones. We also understand that most aren’t fully effective.
    Be careful what you call abuse and neglect. You do not know what you are talking about.

  • Susan

    Thank you, CK for putting into words what I was thinking. Shame on people who have such judgemental and legalistic attitudes towards people they have never even met. It is so dangerous to gossip and make such assumptions!

  • Rachele Powell

    Excellent article!!

  • Andrew

    What is the difference to what QF consider Holy as to what the Muslims or indeed the Taliban call holy. Seems this mob are only interested in money not what is good for the world. I live in Australia, don’t bother coming back Colin and Nancy

  • Have been looking at doing site optimization and improving the web design on my website for a while, so this post has been really useful. Clear read as well, so thank you!

  • Tricia

    I agree with you Helen. I praise God that families like the Duggars are filling the earth. I am so inspired by Michelle. Reading this blog just makes me shake my head and be even more thankful that the families who choose to follow God’s leading in the number of children and the spacing of children are filling the earth to God’s glory.

  • Emily

    We are only going off of what SHE reported. She bragged publically about the lack of heat. Are you saying that Serene lied and that she is living a lavish lifestyle while playing poor?

  • You lumped my family into this “movement” you’re against and I don’t appreciate it. We’re not part of any movement and certainly not part of a cult. You’ve read some of my blog and think we fit the description, but you’re wrong.

    It sounds like you had a difficult time in a “quiver-full family.” I’m sorry. You obviously didn’t share those convictions. Some genuinely do, and to them it is good and right to live that way; any other way of life would be wrong for those people. Please don’t lump everyone who lives that way into a “cult movement.”

    You make it sound like all those families attend meetings with a head leader, telling them to put their children’s care as less important over lofty lifestyle ideals. Jesus would never condone such behavior. Example: We used to home-school years ago. God convicted me to stop to save the relationship between my kids and me, which had gone bad, so we entered them into public school where they began to thrive. God desires peace and well-being over godly-education ideals. But every family’s needs are unique. Just because that’s what we needed to do, it doesn’t make it what everyone else needs to do. And that seems to be the stance you’ve taken against quiver-full families.

    Yes, some of these families may be living precariously and should change, but you’ll find families like that everywhere, regardless of religion, race, or convictions. Those who truly are abusing children should be reported.

    I hope that you are able to distinguish the difference between your negative quiver-full experience and Jesus. Jesus did you no wrong ever. If there is error, it is with people.

  • Betsy

    I’m an agnostic but frequently read those homesteading/mommy blogs not because I agree with their religious beliefs, but because I can get recipes for making things from scratch and household/organization tips. I also agree with the breastfeeding/cloth diaper/make-your-own-bread camps. Call me one of the organic tree huggers. 🙂 I very much endorse a natural lifestyle and the more we can lighten the load on the planet, as well as our bodies, the better. Many of the things mentioned in this post that were meant to be seen as wacky and extreme in the way of food preparing and frugal living are things that I do on a normal basis. I had to giggle at that.

    When they write about their religious-themed stuff, I just skip it. It doesn’t offend me, they’re free to believe what they want, and I’m free to ignore it.

  • Annie

    You are not just protecting your child from disease, you are also protecting high risk populations. Two very large high risk groups are the very young and the very old. They dont die from the actual disease, they die from complications that go along with the disease. You are being quite selfish by not vaccinating your child.

    Many people rely on group immunity. They may not be able to get vaccinated because they are allergic to the ingredients or they may have a suppressed immune system. I would consider you an accessory to murder if your child passes along a disease to a high risk person and that high risk person dies.

    Honestly, why dont you trust the years and years of studies that show that vaccines are safe? There are many studies are preformed by independent groups with no objective that show this. All of the anti-vaccine sites I have seen dont have actual studies posted as evidence. They are just a compilation of hearsay stories.

  • Helen

    Personally, I dislike that they deliberately limit the potential and happiness of their daughters. I dislike that Michelle encourages them to risk their health and life by having children one after another. I dislike that they don’t educate their children properly – thereby limiting their life choices and increasing the chance that they will live in poverty.

    I dislike that they adhere to the principles of Bill Gothard – there are whole communities set up online for people that have escaped Gothard influenced upbringing.

    There isn’t an equivalent anti-mountain climbing community because mountain climbers don’t routinely discipline children in ways that harms them physically and emotionally.

  • Name

    Thread necro, go me!
    Note on Goodwill: Whilst I’m very much pro-reuse-reduce-recycle, it should be noted that goodwill has received harsh critiques from the disability rights movement for paying employees subminimum wage (under section 14 c of the fair labour standards act), meaning that they have employees making as little as 22 cents per hour.