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The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve

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Two parents share the extraordinary and inspirational story of how they sent six of their ten children to college by the age of twelve—and how any parent can achieve the same amazing success.

Having six out of ten kids in college is no small feat, but having six kids in college by the age of twelve—that’s nothing short of incredible. Meet Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, the high school sweethearts who managed to do just that through their homeschooling method and are now parents to ...

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The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve

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Two parents share the extraordinary and inspirational story of how they sent six of their ten children to college by the age of twelve—and how any parent can achieve the same amazing success.

Having six out of ten kids in college is no small feat, but having six kids in college by the age of twelve—that’s nothing short of incredible. Meet Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, the high school sweethearts who managed to do just that through their homeschooling method and are now parents to an engineer (who began her career at age twenty-two), the youngest architect in the American Institute of Architects at the age of eighteen, one of the Navy’s youngest doctors, a teenage scholar of the Middle Ages, and others following fast in their siblings’ footsteps. No wonder they’re so used to being asked: How’d you do it?

In The Brainy Bunch, the Hardings reveal just that—how they raised ten extraordinary kids, and much more about the strategies behind their homeschooling success. Filled with college tips, daily regimens, a reading list, and advice for providing children with fulfilling experiences that go beyond the home, The Brainy Bunch is an incredible real-life success story that anyone can achieve.

With the faith and heart of the Duggars mixed with the practicality of The Power of Positive Thinking, The Brainy Bunch is an uplifting, extraordinary, and ultimately relatable example of what any family can accomplish through the right mix of dedication, love, and hard work.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
How a group of children attended college at an early age. The Hardings claim that their 10 children are not special or brilliant or geniuses in any way. And yet, six of them were in college by the age of 12. The couple outline their methods for achieving this success in a straightforward, practical guide that takes an anyone-can-do-this approach. Their strong faith in God is the foundation for their achievements, they believe; another pillar is their deep love for their children and for each other. The Hardings turned away from public schools, where they contend too much time is wasted doing unproductive things like standing in line and children work at a pace set by the teacher, not the student. They wanted to gear the studies toward what interested their children, not what was deemed appropriate to learn at specific age levels. They also wanted to incorporate prayer and Bible studies into their curriculum. Through home schooling, the Hardings were able to attain these goals and much more, as evidenced by the success of their children. The kids, whose essays are included here, had a voice in their education, branching out and diving deeply into topics that interested them, limiting time spent on those subjects that did not. The Hardings outline what worked for them, answer potential questions people contemplating this route might encounter, give readers an idea of a typical daily schedule, suggest ways to incorporate math, science, history and art into a routine, and include an extensive section on resources for further information. However, they don't closely examine the social dimension involved in sending children to college at such an early age. Although strongly Christian-based, the methods defined here could work for others willing to buck convention and go the home-schooling route.
"[T]he Hardings' story is very much one of putting love and family first. They are not pushing their children to overachieve — they are helping them to find their own unique potential."
Library Journal
The Hardings were high school sweethearts who married a few weeks after prom and went on to raise ten children. They made the choice to homeschool their kids and sent six of them to college by age 12. With a navy doctor, an architect, an engineer, and one superhero in training among their ranks, the Hardings share their incredible journey, from early fears to resounding success. Early on, they address the reader's obvious questions ("We are not geniuses") and align their decision to homeschool with their Christian faith, as well as their thoughts that age-segregated environments are not the most effective way to develop social skills. Never judgmental and not without humor, the coauthors intersperse their story with strategies and advice for anyone considering a homeschool curriculum. VERDICT This fascinating read transcends the Christian homeschool market. Written in an engaging and relaxed style, the book tells how all 12 Hardings have accomplished much, and their account is inspirational and uplifting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476759340
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 139,864
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kitchener (Kip) Harding and Mona Lisa Montoya were high school sweethearts in San Jose, California. Kip asked Mona Lisa to the prom and proposed a few weeks later. After four kids, they decided to turn to homeschooling, and their success paved the way for their children to start college by the age of twelve and go on to great careers in medicine, engineering, architecture, and more. They have been interviewed on CNN, the Today show, and Fox and Friends; featured in The Daily Mail; and covered in several prominent magazines. They live in Montgomery, Alabama, with their ten children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Brainy Bunch

  • Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

—PSALM 19:14

If you called the Harding house, an appropriate greeting message might sound something like this:

Hi, you have reached the Hardings.

If you are looking for an engineering consultant, press 1.

If you need architectural advice, press 2.

If you need medical advice, press 3.

For the computer help desk, press 4.

If you need someone to play violin at your daughter’s wedding, press 5.

If you want to learn the truth about the Viking horned helmet, press 6.

If you need legal advice from a ten-year-old’s perspective, press 7.

If you need help finding your car keys, cell phone, or any other lost item, press 8.

If you want to hear poetic readings of Dr. Seuss, press 9.

If you are looking for a wrestling partner, press 1, then 0.

If you would like to make a donation to the Harding College Fund or talk to Kip or Mona Lisa, please leave a message at the beep.

We would love to tell you that we are geniuses and that our children have our special, unique DNA to match our brilliance. Yet this is hardly the case. We are your average family and your average neighbors with ten children. Well, okay, maybe that is not so average. But if you have met some big homeschooling families, you might already have some preconceived ideas of what we are about. Like the list of reasons why we homeschool, we thought we’d share what the Brainy Bunch really looks like.

First off, we are Christians. We love our Lord Jesus with all our hearts and have dedicated our lives to teaching our children to love Jesus first and others second. If we succeed in this, then we have fulfilled our purpose on this earth.

Second, we are not perfect. We fail all the time. We fight just like everybody else. We yell at each other in anger at times, yet we know how to forgive. We try really hard to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Third, as we said, we are not geniuses. Every member of our family is of average intelligence. There is nothing special about our genes. Our kids have been able to start college by the age of twelve because of two things: the grace of God and the vision to accelerate our teaching methods that we have come to through Him.

The fourth thing you should know about us is that we are not experts. We continue to figure out things as we go. We did different things with our first daughter than what we are doing now with our youngest children. We cannot tell people, “Do this list of things and your child will be ready to enter college by age twelve.” However, we do have a general method that we have been following and we have gotten pretty nice results considering who our children are (more on them very shortly).

The fifth and final thing about us is that we want to help others. We feel called to write things down and speak to others on the matter of homeschooling. In light of Deuteronomy 6:6–7, we feel that Christians do best to keep their kids with them as much as possible. It’s such a privilege and an honor to be given children on this earth. We do not feel that strangers should educate our children. If you have children, they are on loan to you for a short time. Do not miss out and send them away for seven to eight hours a day, not even to a Christian school, while they are so young.

That’s a strong statement but we stand behind it. We are well informed in our area and feel that as Christians it is our God-given responsibility to keep our children home while they are young and impressionable. We understand that single parents will need outside help if they feel the same calling.

Have we always felt this way? Not at all. We grew into this belief, as you’ll come to find out. For a while, our eldest daughters went to a private school. Although I (Mona Lisa) wanted to homeschool from the beginning, I gave in to the pressure of doing what all the other parents were doing. It was only after Hannah (our eldest) finished third grade and Kip reentered active duty in the air force that I realized I wouldn’t have to work anymore and could start what I should have done in the first place.

We were learning back then and we continue to learn now.

•  •  •

Our story began out of broken families. Kip grew up in a home weighed down by divorce, yet God still reached down and saved him in the seventh grade. I (Mona Lisa) grew up in a home crippled by the death of my father, but God reached down and saved me in my late teens. I was living in San Jose, California, when Kip asked me to prom. A few weeks after that, he proposed to me.

I took Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes to prepare to be a good Catholic wife. I knew that this was the only form of birth control that the Catholic Church endorsed and I was trying to be a good Catholic. To be honest, I was afraid of having a dozen kids. It’s funny that this is exactly what I’m praying for now—twelve children to love and teach.

My mother was an “old-school” Catholic who didn’t think I should be learning NFP at all because she believed that truly good Catholics, especially Hispanics, should have all the kids that God wants to give them. Just like her mother did. My faith wasn’t there yet. I wanted to make sure this NFP stuff really worked. So after waiting one month and having one fertile cycle with no pregnancy, I was ready to have a baby! So voilà! Hannah was conceived when we were both eighteen.

Looking back, I remember how we had such a childlike faith. We didn’t know much about raising a baby, but we trusted that God would take care of us.

He always has.

Not only that, but He’s given us ten incredible reasons to thank Him daily.

•  •  •

Hannah is now twenty-five years old. She was the trailblazer (or some would say guinea pig!) in our family. She was gifted in math and was brave enough to try her first online college algebra math class at the age of twelve. She did this at Cuesta College while dual-enrolled in homeschooling. She then completed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) the next semester and took two more classes at Allan Hancock College in the summer of 2001. Hannah was full-time in college at age thirteen and played soccer for the women’s team.

One of the best things about Hannah was her fearlessness. She wasn’t afraid of failure because she had the love and support of her family. She earned a BS in mathematics by age seventeen from Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). She went on to earn two master’s degrees, in math and engineering, at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California, and Tuskegee University in Alabama. She loves learning and is returning to Tuskegee University this fall to work on a PhD in engineering on a full scholarship.

Our second-born is Rosannah, who is twenty-three years old and the youngest architect in the American Institute of Architects (AIA). She has always been very independent and traveled abroad to Mexico City, where she met her husband, Sergio, a fellow architect from Peru. She completed a five-year architecture program at the age of eighteen at California College of the Arts and was married at nineteen. She worked for a firm in San Francisco before moving to New York City in August 2013 to attend the famed Cooper Union on a full college scholarship for an MS in architecture.

Rosannah has been privileged to be on an architecture team that designed a medical school for women in Saudi Arabia. She was also on an award-winning architecture team that designed the second-largest border crossing from Mexico into the United States.

Serennah is twenty-two and one of the youngest female doctors in the navy and in the U.S. At the age of ten or eleven, she felt called by God to be a physician. She took the SAT at age eleven and started part-time at AUM. She then transferred for two years to Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moving once again as a military dependent, she transferred to Huntingdon College and graduated with a BA degree in biology at seventeen. She is now stationed as a navy doctor in Bethesda, Maryland, and doing her residency. She may ship out soon.

Our first son is Heath, who is seventeen and has completed an MS in computer science. From the time he was four he learned more on his own than from direct parental instruction, with the help of his big sisters as homeschool companions. He actually started his first college class while dual-enrolled at age ten at Foothill College, in Los Altos, California. He eventually passed all areas of the CHSPE. He then transferred to AUM in the summer of 2007 and studied part-time. That fall he attended Huntingdon and was enrolled there full-time by age eleven. He earned a BS in English at the age of fifteen.

In addition to his two part-time jobs, Heath is has founded a new business that will launch as They will be selling web-based abstracts and condensed learning materials for a variety of college-level courses.

Keith is fifteen and a college senior at Faulkner University. He started college by age eleven and chose mostly music theory and performance classes. Although he is the quiet and shy type, we are amazed at how he enjoys playing the piano, clarinet, and violin and singing in front of large crowds. He also was voted president of the choir at his college and has been honored as a section leader playing the clarinet in the band. His appreciation for classical music and the talent he shows is quite extraordinary and is a testament to the quality of instruction he has received while at Faulkner University.

Seth is twelve and started studying history at Faulkner University at the age of eleven. He still acts like a typical twelve-year-old boy but academically thrives in his college-level courses—he had the highest average in his history class! He is transferring to Huntingdon College this fall. He loves the Middle Ages/Dark Ages and is an enthusiast of the art of medieval combat and all things to do with knights, medieval customs, Vikings, and the archaeology of those periods of history.

Katrinnah is ten and took the ACT in April of 2013. She has a bubbly personality and would like to get onto a stage very soon. She likes to sing and dance and dress up in fabulous-looking outfits. She also has an interest in law and defending some of our American freedoms. We are tailoring her high school curriculum to match her interests and are considering a combination of prelaw and acting for her undergraduate work.

Mariannah is eight and is working on becoming an independent reader. She talks of becoming a doctor like big sister Serennah. She is very kind and gentle with her younger siblings and is very careful with helping to meet their needs. She was baptized at our local church in June of 2013 and is learning dance as part of her homeschooling.

Lorennah is five and spends most of her time practicing writing her letters and playing with her little brother, Thunder. She likes all things pink and related to princesses. She is a real joy in our home and is affectionately called Lori-B, our Southern belle.

Finally, there is Thunder, a very opinionated three-year-old who believes that he is a Superman/Spider-Man combo. His name is based on an actual event, when lightning struck a large oak in our backyard and blew out five windows in our home. Nine months later to the day, he was born. He shows early signs of athleticism, and we wonder what God has in store for this one.

These are the ten gifts God has given us. Each one is unique and exceptional in his or her own way. We love each one dearly and are amazed to watch them learn and grow. They are all special, yet at the same time they are ordinary children. They are girls and boys who have shown that homeschooling techniques like the ones we’ll be talking about with you do in fact work. If you meet them you’ll discover they’re just like other kids their age. Yet they are also blessed to have parents who want them to dream and want to encourage them in every way with those dreams.

This homeschooling adventure has been quite the journey, as you’ll come to read in what our children have written. But speaking of dreams, it’s been our dream that God keeps making come true. We hope it will be the same for you.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2014



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  • Posted July 4, 2014

    Homeschooling still a great way to educate kids

    My 2 boys were homeschooled starting 2 decades ago. Our experience was just like this family's, although we homeschooled from a secular viewpoint. They didn't start taking college and community college courses until they were 14. They were comfortable around all ages. They had markedly less stress than their schooled friends. They had the flexibility to accommodate serious illness in the family, multi-year field work study with graduate students, and attendance at professional conferences. One became an international project manager in the marketing department of a multinational company and the other went into computer science, mentoring other students as a professor's assistant while in college. More importantly, they became independent thinkers with no interest in peer fads and a deeper understanding of news and cultural trends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2014

    Excellent book! A must read for all caring, savvy parents.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and highly, highly recommend it. Think of it as a cafeteria style meal as you read. You may not agree with or would be willing to try every tip, but you will find something new you will be interested in implementing.
    It is an easy read. I finished it in two late nights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2014

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