Adam and Danielle Busby of the hit TLC series OutDaughtered are committed to raising their quintuplets as individuals — even if that means splitting them up in school.
“As the quints [4-year-old Hazel Grace, Parker Kate, Olivia Marie, Riley Paige and Ava Lane] get older, they’re becoming individuals with their own struggles, likes, dislikes and opinions,” Danielle, who recently partnered with Learning Resources to bring STEM education to under-served Houston-area schools, tells PEOPLE. “In the instance of letting Riley move up before her sisters, that was based strictly on her.”
The Busbys stand by their decision to enroll Riley in kindergarten ahead of her sisters who started preschool this year, despite receiving backlash from social-media mommy shamers.
“Riley’s above and beyond with her intelligence,” says Danielle, 35, who’s also mom to 8-year-old daughter Blayke Louise. “Knowing where she’s at right now, this was our decision based on her. Of course we looked at the family and how this change affects everyone else.”
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Danielle first announced plans to move Riley ahead on Instagram last month — but not without a disclaimer.
“Take one quint out the mix and the house is seriously so much quieter (FYI … bc i’m sure i will get asked … Blayke started third grade & Riley started private kindergarten at the quints school and she goes everyday … and SHE LOVES IT!),” the mother of six captioned a sweet photo of Hazel, Parker, Olivia and Ava snuggled up on the couch while Riley was at school.
Several Instagram users voiced their support and praised the Busbys for allowing Riley to excel. “I am so glad you let her be her own person! They are not clones of each other,” one person commented.
But others criticized the decision to single her out. One user wrote, “Why does it seem like the entire family revolves everything around riley ? I rly hope the other quints are getting the proper attention they deserve and dont feel like they’re not smart enough or good enough and that they are [individuals] and have their own time to shine as well!”
The Texas natives are used to the spotlight — OutDaughtered just wrapped season 5, and the Busbys boast over 1 million followers on Instagram — but Adam says he and his wife are still shocked by the shamers.
The couple scan every picture and caption carefully before posting because “people are looking at our photos and looking at our posts under a microscope just to find out what they can criticize about it,” Adam, 37, tells PEOPLE.
“It’s crazy,” says the father of six. “And I don’t know what it is. Is it just to mask one’s own insecurities so they can have this persona online that they have everything together if they shame another mom? It’s really bizarre.”
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Especially considering how unlikely it is that people weighing in on the Busbys’ parenting style can relate to their day-to-day lives. “In world history, there have only been six parents who have dealt with raising all-girl quintuplets,” says Adam, who admits he feels the need to put mommy shamers “in their place” every once in awhile.
“There’s nobody out there who knows the intricacy of the decisions we make,” he adds. “It’s just crazy that somebody out there is criticizing us about something they have no idea about.”
The majority of negative comments come from fans and followers urging the couple to keep the quints together, but the Busbys are raising Hazel, Riley, Parker, Olivia and Ava as individuals. Says Adam, “They deserve that.”
New episodes of OutDaughtered will return to TLC this fall.
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