How to raise 12 kids

Eat your vegetables, don’t blame the teacher and learn to clean, cook, sew, assemble a computer and rebuild a car. And pay your own way through college. Those were the lessons Francis L. Thompson and his wife taught their 12 children, who now range in age from 37 to 22. All have college degrees or are in school; most have graduate degrees.

I have always had a very prosperous job and enough money to give my kids almost anything. But my wife and I decided not to.

Thompson children started doing chores at the age of 3. They washed their own clothes by 8 and learned to make dinner from a recipe as soon as they could read and double a recipe. Boys and girls learned to sew. 

All the kids were required to take every Advanced Placement class available.

If children would come home and say that a teacher hated them or was not fair, our response was that you need to find a way to get along. You need find a way to learn the material because in real life, you may have a boss that does not like you. We would not enable children to “blame” the teacher for not learning, but place the responsibility for learning the material back on the child. Of course, we were alongside them for two hours of study a day, for them to ask for help anytime.

All the children had to play a sport and join a club or some other extracurricular activity. All did community service projects.

When the kids turned 16, we bought each a car. The first one learned what that meant. As the tow truck pulled a once “new” car into the driveway, my oldest proclaimed: “Dad, it is a wreck!” I said, “Yes, but a 1965 Mustang fastback wreck. Here are the repair manuals. Tools are in the garage. I will pay for every part, but will not pay for LABOR.”

Eleven months later, the car had a rebuilt engine, rebuilt transmission, newly upholstered interior, a new suspension system, and a new coat of paint. My daughter (yes, it was my daughter) had one of the hottest cars at high school. And her pride that she built it was beyond imaginable.

At the age of 12, each child built his or her own computer.

I bought the processor, memory, power supply, case, keyboard, hard drive, motherboard, and mouse. They had to put it together and load the software on.

Older children helped their younger brothers and sisters.

In the comments, several Thompson children explain how they paid for college. Some started at community college, then transferred to a state university. Others got scholarships. All worked.


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