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The Wilson's Wild House

story by Emmet Kowler

Just after 6 o'clock on a Wednesday morning, most of the Wilson family is already awake.

Griffin, 8, argues with his sister, Meron, 10, over how to properly cook their eggs. Meron nags him about the differences between frying and scrambling, while Griffin insists she puts too much oil in the skillet. Their mother, Shannon, 40, tries to soothe their bickering while helping their youngest brother, Yohannes, 7, pour the pancake mix.

In the living room, 12-year-old Evelyn asks her father, Jamie, 41, what subjects they'll study today. He's preoccupied grading another child's history test. It isn't until breakfast is nearly ready that Graham and Abe, 14 and 15, respectively, arrive downstairs. They gather around the table in the glass-covered sunroom that serves as their in-home schoolhouse. After a short prayer, with the blue early morning light just starting to emerge, they eat. Their oldest living at home, Firfirey, 20, never makes it down from his bedroom in time.

"It's a bit of a wild house," says Shannon. "You never know who's gonna be in it or what's gonna happen."

Shannon and Jamie have 11 kids: Three born to Shannon and Jamie and triplets from her previous marriage. A daughter from South Korea and a son from Ethiopia joined their family as college students. They adopted three Ethiopian siblings whose ages corresponded so perfectly with their young ones already at home that they saw it as a sign from God. They knew they were meant to be a family.

The Wilsons' home is filled with celebrations of their international origin stories, including mugs, cups, plates and coasters. Even Shannon's favorite pair of earrings are decorated with the outline of the African continent. Through family ties, she's teaching her children to appreciate differences and be open to love from unexpected places.

She and Jamie share the load, both working part-time as pharmacists and caring for the seven kids at home. Every day is a hectic mix of day trips, homework, lessons and activities — starting at breakfast and running late into the night. Sixteen hours after making pancakes and eggs, Shannon puts the "littles" to bed, still wearing her scrubs.

"I'd be so bored if I weren't a mother," she says.

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Shannon lays down the law with Griffin, 8, when he refuses to do long division. She and her husband Jamie homeschool six of their 11 children.

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Home sick for the day, Jamie, 41, lies in bed while Griffin takes care of his morning chores. Shannon and Jamie do their best the share the effort of working, teaching, and taking care of the kids.

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Yohannes, from left, Evelyn, 12, Shannon, Meron, 10, and Jamie, clean up after a dropped egg. Shannon gets the kids involved with preparing breakfast, but that doesn't mean her job is any easier.

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The family joins hands to pray over breakfast. Having a meal with everyone together is rare. Jamie works early and the kids often have activities.

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Meron perches on the dresser to clean some of her belongings while Evelyn cleans out their closet. Except for the eldest son living at home, the Wilson kids share their bedrooms with the brother or sister closest to them in age. As it turns out, that pairs one of Shannon and Jamie's biological children with a sibling adopted from Ethiopia.

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Meron goofs around with Yohannes while waiting for lunch.

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During a lesson at home, Shannon leads the "littles" in a song and dance about influential figures of the Renaissance.

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The Wilsons pile into the 14-passenger van to go to the library and Etcetera Coffeehouse in Downtown Paducah. The family loves to take day trips, one of the many pleasures of homeschooling.

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Jamie and the kids drop in to visit Shannon at the independent pharmacy where she works.

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While Yohannes and Griffin take a rollerskating class, Shannon helps Evelyn and Abe, 15, with Latin at Kingsland Skateway.

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Meron pouts after finding out she won't be going to soccer practice because she locked Griffin out of the house. The mischief occurred while they were supposed to be running laps around the house to burn some energy before lunch.

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Griffin practices piano before the sun is up, surrounded by pictures of his family. He was taught by the "Korean Kiddos" Song, 21, an exchange student who lived with the Wilsons and became one of their own. Song, her brother Youngmin, 23, and their cousin Tae, 18, all play with Griffin when they visit.

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Shannon makes an effort to dedicate an hour of one-on-one time to each child. She and Yohannes like to buy treats at Cass Bakery after dropping Evelyn off at the therapeutic riding stable, Cassie's Cause, where she volunteers on Thursdays.

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The family leaves Kingsland Skateway after the rollerskating class. Their days start early and often run late into the evening.