High school sweethearts Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, both 53, have raised their kids to believe that “if it’s their calling, God will help them achieve it.” Their children, who range from the ages of 11 to 34, have taken their “can do” attitude to their various fields of study and occupation, accomplishing a few milestones in their chosen arenas.
Meet the ‘Brainy Bunch’
Hannah, 34, has a mathematics degree and works as a math tutor. She was Auburn University at Montgomery’s (AUM) youngest graduate at age 17, with a bachelor of science in mathematics.
Rosannah, 32, who’s now an architect in New York, was the youngest member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) in 2013.
Serennah, 31, became the youngest navy doctor at the age of 22 and is now a physician living and working in Washington.
Heath, 26, who was Troy University’s youngest graduate with a bachelor of science in computer science at the age of 17, is now working in Florida using his degree.
Keith, 23, has a counseling degree, lives in Washington, and works as a U.S. sign language translator. He also earned his music degree at the age of 15 from Faulkner University.
Seth, 21, made history, becoming Alabama’s youngest attorney at the age of 19. He currently works as an attorney in Montgomery, Alabama.
Katrinnah, 18, is all set to break her brother’s record of becoming the youngest attorney in Alabama by appearing in the bar in July 2022. She currently lives with her husband in Montgomery, Alabama.
Mariannah, 16, is one of Auburn University’s youngest graduate students in health science and is currently working on getting another graduate degree in horticulture.
Lorennah, 14, will be a junior at Bellevue University in 2022, while her brother Thunder James, 11, is a college freshman at Bellevue University. Both of the siblings are their college’s youngest students.
‘We Are Extremely Blessed to Homeschool’
Many think that such early achievements are because of incredible inherent “smarts.” However, Mona Lisa said anyone is capable of doing what they’re doing.
“It’s not easy and it’s a lot of work, but we are not smarter than anyone else,” Mona Lisa told The Epoch Times. “We have been extremely blessed to be able to homeschool our kids, and if anyone wants to give it a try, we are happy to help.”
The Hardings’ homeschool journey began in 1998 when their oldest child completed third grade.
“The biggest reason that we brought Hannah, Rosannah, and Serennah home was that we missed them terribly all day,” said Mona Lisa, who worked as a nurse part time but has mostly been a stay-at-home mom. “The school day was just too long and we also did not like that all of the homework they brought home cut into our family time. We felt that educating our children was our responsibility.”
With daily studies focusing on the Bible, mathematics, writing, and reading (which included science, history, and all other areas of interest), the Hardings piloted their children forward. Their steering allowed for quite a bit of freedom, as they let them pursue areas of interest and choose where to study each day.
“They could work at the table, on their beds, or on the couch,” Mona Lisa said. “We always allowed them to spend extra time on what interested them. Some would say we were as relaxed as ‘unschoolers.'”
By the time their kids reached the age of 8 or 9, the parents began to prepare them for the SAT or ACT to gain college acceptance. With their incredible method, their kids always had plenty of time to spend on their hobbies and field trips, said Mona Lisa.
Although it has been a blessing to watch each child grow and develop in their talents and hobbies, Mona Lisa says it didn’t come without challenges.
Her biggest challenge was the logistics involved in homeschooling five children at a time. She once had to juggle between driving one child to college classes while homeschooling four younger siblings.
She describes how they traveled with backpacks in tow, learning to read and write wherever they could: in their van, the college library, in waiting rooms, or on walking tracks. The kids learned to “learn on the go.” Later, the older kids learned how to tutor the younger ones when Mona Lisa needed help.
But despite the logistical challenges, Mona Lisa finds homeschooling a far more “efficient” method than other schooling options.
“It can be tailored to the child’s interests and we don’t have to waste time on unnecessary materials,” she said. “We also have the luxury of skipping ahead if needed. We can get more done at home in a few hours than what can be done in a classroom.
“Parents also have the advantage of being able to focus on a child’s weak areas and give them the extra attention that is needed in that area. Furthermore, many subjects can be taught to two or three kids who are at different grade levels simultaneously.”
And yet, efficiency is not the only reward, Mona Lisa has watched her children converse with excitement about math theories; bubble over about the history of Vikings, or share new songs on the ukulele.
“The most rewarding moments are when my kids get excited about what they are learning,” she said.
The cultivation of the many gifts and talents displayed by the Harding children is largely a result of the loving support, example, and teaching of their parents.
“Our philosophy on raising kids comes straight from the Bible,” Mona Lisa said. “Learning goes beyond what happens behind a desk. We strive to answer all of our kids’ questions as we go through our day, riding in the car, standing in line, or waiting in a waiting room.”
This constant teaching was not limited to academics alone but includes practical instruction about how to approach life.
“My husband teaches our kids to ‘work first and play later’ by example,” said Mona Lisa. “We tried to teach them to wake up and do their chores. We would do Bible study together, then they were free to read, write, and work on math in whatever order they wanted.”
Kids’ Ultimate Cheerleaders
While most of the kids had to get student loans, the Harding parents provided financial support whenever necessary.
“The hope is that they will soon be in positions to either pay it back and/or pay it forward,” said Mona Lisa.
Not least, the Harding parents are their kids’ ultimate cheerleaders.
“We are here to laugh with them and to cry with them,” Mona Lisa said. “We rejoice in their successes and pray for them in their failures. Having a large family is a great source of support for each one of us.”
Despite having such a huge family, the Hardings say they are happy to help others who want to give homeschooling a try.
They have shared some of their wisdom already in the book titled “The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age 12,” and also document their journey on their YouTube channel: College by Twelve.
Here are their eight basic tips for parents interested in homeschooling:
1. Let your kids study what interests them.
2. Allow them to skip the “boring” stuff.
3. Spend your energy making learning as fun as possible.
4. Spend your time and resources on their specific interests.
5. Don’t be afraid to let them skip ahead through grade levels.
6. If your child says, “I want to be a doctor,” or “I want to be a lawyer,” take them seriously! It’s ok if they change their minds later. Even adults change their careers.
7. Find mentors for them and help them research their chosen career fields. Do not dismiss them just because they are young.
8. And, have fun! If it’s not fun, then you are probably doing it wrong.