Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
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 AbstractEducation.com. 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.
The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve
The Brainy Bunch
The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve
Having six out of ten kids go to college is no small feat on its own, but having six kids in college by the age of twelve— that’s nothing short of incredible. Meet Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, high school sweethearts whose simple homeschooling method produced exactly those extraordinary results. Kip and Mona Lisa are parents to an engineer (who earned her BS in mathematics at 17), an architect (who finished her five-year program at 18 and became the youngest member of the American Institute of Architects), a Navy physician (who earned her biology degree at 17), an entrepreneur (who earned a BA in English at 15 and an MS in computer science at 17), a 15-year-old college senior studying music theory and performance, a 12-year-old Middle Ages scholar with the highest average in his college class, and four others who are following fast in their siblings’ footsteps! No wonder the family is so used to being asked: How did you do it?
The Hardings are the first to say they’re not geniuses. Nor do they run a strict, high-pressure household. Instead, they find out early what really motivates their children, instill their kids with dreams, and allow those dreams to blossom. In a remarkable, down-to-earth narrative that is part captivating memoir, part invaluable guidebook for parents, Kip and Mona Lisa reveal with warmth and humility the strategies behind their family’s amazing educational accomplishments. Filled with daily regimens, advice for providing children with fulfilling experiences that go beyond the home, and tips for making the transition to college, theirs is an inspirational real-life success story that anyone can achieve—whether you homeschool your children or not.
The Brainy Bunch is uplifting and ultimately relatable proof of what any family can accomplish through dedication, love, faith, and hard work.
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