Answering questions on risking my life, how our family plans to integrate into society and ‘home university’


3d small people - complicated question


Last night Channel 4 re-ran the first of our two episodes of ’16 Kids and Counting’. Once more we’ve had several lovely emails and messages, but one person in particular voiced their somewhat anxious – perhaps even angry – concerns in the comments over on this post on our site here.

As Gill posted publically, I began writing a public reply in the comments thread in response. Then the reply got a little long-winded so I thought I’d address her concerns in a brand new post, seeing as she’s probably not the only person to have them. After all, we are a little different and some people can’t fathom how you can possibly not live in the same way as everyone else and still have a successful, fulfilled life. Here is Gill’s comment quoted word for word:


“I think you are completely irresponsible! The number of cesarean sections you have had puts your life and baby at significant risk, it shows a complete ignorance of (and arrogance towards) medical advice! How are your children going to integrate into society? Are you planning on home University?”


I answer her questions here:


Hello Gill,

Thank you for taking the time to search out my site in order to leave your message. You sound quite upset in your words – I hope out of concern and not nastiness! Please allow me to reassure you.

My life and those of my children have never been in any danger at all – ever. I have a history of non-eventful, easy pregnancies, straightforward births (normal or c-sections), quick recovery and generally good health all round. There was quite some issue after ’15 Kids and Counting’ had negatively spun our twins’ pregnancy (that is, my pregnancy with the twins – not their pregnancy!) – creating a life-threatening issue which never even existed as you can read about here. Still, we’ve since learnt that that’s media for you! Anyway, back to the facts. My consultant has cared for me since 2003 and my fourth pregnancy, so she is more familiar with me, my medical history, my health and my situation than most women’s consultants are. After each birth we meet and discuss how things are. There have never been issues or medical reasons in which I or any of my children have been at risk and so have been given the go ahead to proceed with my pregnancies. Since filming the series we have gone on to have our 13th child – a boy! Once again the pregnancy, c-section and recovery were non-eventful and we have been given the go ahead to proceed with another pregnancy should we decide to. I hope I do not cause offence when I say that I would rather heed the advice of a knowledgeable consultant who knows me, my health and my body rather than the alarmist heedings of a stranger who doesn’t. In case you are unfamiliar, the NICE guidelines regarding c-sections are only just that – guidelines. They are often overlooked as being guidelines and not final and binding, and so I took the time to write this post on ‘How many c-sections can a woman have?’ which you might find informative and reasoned enough to expand your (I’m sure unintentional) blinkered assumptions.

Another area in which you seem to demonstrate seeming (again, I’m sure unintentional) ignorance is with a view to home education. It’s okay to be naive with regards to issues you are unfamiliar with so I put together a post which links to several more of the most asked questions regarding home education which I’d kindly recommend you read. You might want a cup of tea by your side as there is quite a lot to absorb there, but it’s well worth investing a little time to read through as it should reassure you that it provides a valid, legal and perfectly effective option of gaining an oustandingly successful education.

To begin with, may I point out that we are already ‘integrated into society’. We do not live isolated and alone as the Man in the Iron Mask did – although we did visit his fortress during our eight week road trip around France and Italy last year. Would you believe, we actually had to mix with various members of society in order to achieve this trip? Mixing publically? With people? Who would have thought it?!  Forgive my mirth but your comment here had me conjuring up images of Flowers in the Attic! Of course, we do mix with ‘the outside world’ in all aspects of our lives. The kids go away to camps, Cait volunteers and runs craft sessions for toddlers, we travel as a family… oh and don’t forget the normal, everyday interactions.

I digress – yes, we are already a part of society – albeit living our lives differently to how some of society (including you, it seems) feels we ought to be living it. You might find this post on ‘Home education and Socialisation: Why it’s not a matter of one or the other’ eye-opening to read. Whilst you’re there, you might also find the 10 Myths of Home Education equally enlightening.

As for university, please do not worry yourself – we’ve already crossed that bridge also and I can confidently reassure you that your angst is unfounded and unnecessary. Our oldest, Ben, is currently full-time at a traditional bricks and mortar university – miles away from home, sadly – but he is at the one which offered the degree he wanted to do. However, Stephanie – our second – is studying part-time for her law degree through the Open University (or as you preferred to call it – home university). The degree is still a Bachelor of Arts, so requires the same work as a traditional university would offer, but it allows her to study from home whilst she works her two jobs – her main full-time job as a claims adjuster for an insurance company, plus her second job through which she’s hoping will help her save enough for her house deposit. So you see, it is not where a person receives their education, but how hard they work at getting it which will make all the difference.

Gill, I would like to thank you once more for taking the time to comment. I am sure that many out there misunderstand the things that they are not familiar with, and I know that sometimes people feel more uncomfortable when faced with situations or issues that they know little about. I do hope that I have managed to reassure you somewhat and that you do take the time to read the links I have included. Sometimes we all need to step outside of things we ‘think’ we know about and stop claiming legitimacy of them when in fact we know very little about them at all. It can be embarrassing in these cases, when all it results in is our ignorance being displayed, rather than our tolerance and understanding being exercised.

I wish you well.





13 thoughts on “Answering questions on risking my life, how our family plans to integrate into society and ‘home university’

  1. I think you are very generous for providing this women with such a thorough reply to her ignorant comment. I wish with all my heart people would focus on their own lives and try to make themselves be the best that they can. I believe if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it. x

  2. I think comments like Gill’s just go to show how ignorant a society we are and how unaccepting some are to those who to not conform to what is perceived as being normal.

    Not that long ago larger families WERE normal! Nothing was thought of if someone came from a family of 8+, and yet now, if you have more than 3 children you are seen as outrageous!

    I think people spend too much time worrying about how others live their lives – especially when they do not personally know the person and their assumptions are made from perhaps a brief encounter, or in this case an edited tv show!

    I actually think a lot of people could learn from you and Mike. The way you raise your children is remarkable and applaudable. You are an amazing family and instilling a lot more values in to your children than some!

    1. Disagreement is one thing. Misunderstanding and naiveté too. But rudely screaming authority based on outright ignorance is quite different. Debate is welcome, but at least have decency to educate yourself about the matters you choose to argue first. Oh, and don’t be rude!

  3. Hi Tania, another brilliant and enlightening post thank you. I love reading your posts but it baffles me as to why anybody else thinks it’s their place to question you on such personal areas of your life. Everybody else’s life choices are their own to make, unfortunately people in this day and age still judge anything and everything they can. I absolutely commend the way you all live your lives, I have 4 children and I honestly get comments most days about the size of my family so goodness knows how many you have to fend off. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but they’re also entitled to keep it to themselves if it’s more nasty than genuinely concerned. Keep being who you are because it obviously works beautifully for you all.


    1. I will never, ever tire of explaining issues to anyone genuinely interested or curious, and I will always help in any way I can but when a person is obtuse and insulting like this, something tells me they aren’t asking for help or explanation!

  4. I do enjoy watching the programmes. Like the above poster, I too have 4 children – the youngest 18 mths and the eldest is 6. Why people feel the need to comment time and time again that i have my ” hands full” I will never know. It is nobody’s business but my own and my husband’s that we chose to have 4 children. You must face such comments most days. Do you choose to answer such people who feel the need to pass judgement?

    1. I think most comments are out of genuine curiosity and humour, but obviously rude comments are usually another thing completely. Thankfully genuinely nasty commenters are few and far between in real life – I am struggling to remember any. It seems people like Gill above are only ‘braver’ behind their keyboards.

  5. Hi tania
    I am also hoping to homeschool my kids (they are only 3, 19 months and 6 months) but already it seems noone understands my desire to do this, not even my husband. Can you direct me to any information/experiences that might help him understand? He is not shy of bucking the trend usually so I don’t think that’s the problem. Congratulations on your amazing family x

  6. We have 4 children, the eldest is 7, and are about 18 weeks pregnant with our 5th. We haven’t told any of our family, as I know their comments will be totally rude and unsupportive, as they were with our 4th, and to some extent with our 3rd. I honestly don’t know why they think it concerns them. We never ask them for help, financially or by looking after the children. A lot of our lifestyle and the way we choose to bring up our children seem to get criticism from our families. – e beneficiary too.

  7. I know this post is almost a year old but I come back to it occasionally to reread. Reading others’ responses and how they handle criticism when it comes from a place that cannot understand where you are coming from really does help! I occasionally struggle to deal with perceived negativity but try my best to remember to find the positive and understanding angle on it, and have posted about it on my blog (URL above.) Congrats for dealing with this query about with thoughtfulness and grace. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

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