College by 12: An Interview with Kip and Mona Lisa Harding

November 11–15, 2013   |   Vol. 117, Programs 51–55

Having your kids start college by age 12 may seem like an impossible goal, and yet, one family did it! Join Mike Smith and his guests, Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, as they share their methods on this week’s Home School Heartbeat.

“Look at your child . . . and if they seem ready, don’t hold them back.”—Mona Lisa Harding

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Would you like to learn more about how Kip and Mona Lisa Harding prepared their children to go to college by 12 years old? Pre-order a copy of their book The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College by Age Twelve.

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Every homeschooling family’s education journey is unique. And for one family, part of their children’s journey included starting college at 12 years old. Tune in to this week’s   Home School Heartbeat   as your host Mike Smith is joined by authors Kip and Mona Lisa Harding.

Mike Smith:Our guests this week are Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, homeschool parents of 10 and co-authors of the e-book   College by Twelve . Kip and Mona Lisa, welcome to the program today!

Kip and Mona Lisa Harding:Thank you!

Mike:Your family has earned a lot of media attention, including a spot on the Today   Show . Can you tell us a little about your family and some of your children’s achievements?

Kip Harding:Well, the oldest one, Hannah, got things going when she started college by age 12, and she studied math and got her degree by age 17, and then she went on to get 2 Masters Degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. And then the next child, Rosannah, followed suit, starting college by age 12. And she became an architect, the youngest architect in the American Institute of Architects. And then the third oldest, Serennah, also went to college at 12 and is now the youngest D.O.—Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine—and she’s also in the navy. And then the fourth child Heath—

Mona Lisa: Oh, Heath just finished his master’s degree in computer science at age 17. Our son Keith is 15. He’s a senior at Faulkner University, a music major. And our sixth child is Seth, he’s 12. He just transferred to Huntington College, and he’s studying history.

Mike: Well, what a great story, and thank you for sharing that today. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Our guests this week are Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, homeschooling parents of 10 and co-authors of the e-book   College by Twelve . Kip and Mona Lisa, one of your daughters is one of the youngest physicians in American history, and another is the youngest member of the American Institute of Architects. What did you do to help put your children on the fast track to pursue their passions?

Kip Harding: Well, it’s kind of a simple formula, really. You know, sometimes Jesus was too simple for people. And also, when we educate, we start them off with reading, writing, arithmetic, and their Bible, and we just try to find their interest. Whatever their interest is, we really go after that, then make their other education strap on to that. So, it seems kind of simple, but really if someone is interested in what they’re reading, then they’re going to read more and more and be excited about the material. But if you have canned material that a person has to read, it’s not always so fun.

Mona Lisa Harding: And when those two girls that you mentioned, Rosannah and Serennah, declared that they wanted to study their interests, medicine and architecture, we incorporated that in their high school curriculum. The only difference is we were doing it at a very young age, at 9 and 10.

Mike: Well, this is fantastic, and I look forward to hearing more next time. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Kip and Mona Lisa, what’s a typical day in the life of your homeschool program?

Mona Lisa Harding: Well, I think we’re pretty relaxed. I try to wake up before they do so I can be one step ahead of them when they do get up. And then we do chores; everyone has to pitch in with a family this size. And then they all kind of have their mental list. They know what’s important, you know. We’ve got to do our Bible study, they’ve got to do their math every day, they can do it in any order they want, really. They need to do their reading. The reading we cover the science and the history, and then they write every day so we can improve those skills. And then by 2:30, a lot of times, whether we’re done or not, we really need to go outside and just burn off some steam or else, you now, Mom will lose her mind. So, in the evening when Dad gets home, he’s very engaged with them and wants to be with them, so we don’t do homework in the evenings, you know, we just figure we’ll get what we didn’t get done today tomorrow. Supper time and family time around the dinner table is just as much a part of their education as the academics. That’s where they develop their emotional intelligence and talk about current events with their dad, and we’re very open with what’s going on in the world with our kids so they can process it through our Christian worldview. So we’re just relaxed; we rely on God’s grace to fill in those gaps and holes here and there.

Mike: Well, this is so encouraging to hear how homeschooling and how God has helped your children achieve such remarkable accomplishments. So, until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Kip and Mona Lisa, do you have any tips you can give other parents for ooling? Is it reasonable for other families to expect their children to attend college by age 12?

Kip Harding: Yes, well, if you’re in a family that’s got a mom and dad there, married, have a home that’s secure, you’ve got an advantage right there. If you’re not, it can still be done. But be the leader in the home to inspire those children. Ask them questions, trying to figure out what it is that they love to do, and then really, really listen to them. If you tailor their education to meet the needs of the individual child, it’s going to work so much better. Keep them involved in reading Proverbs, reading Psalms, and going after wisdom.

Mona Lisa Harding: Yeah, and about the achieving college by 12, we realized that some people will think that it’s just way too young, and that’s ok, you know, we all have to do what we feel called to do. But there may be many parents out there who are thinking looking at their 14-year-old, and can see, “Wow, this child is accelerated,” and maybe didn’t realize that they have that option to start earlier. So we encourage them to look at [their] child as an individual, and if they seem ready, don’t hold them back.

Mike: Well, thank you so much for these thoughts, and I know many of our listeners will be encouraged by what you’ve shared today. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Kip and Mona Lisa, homeschooling has many, many benefits, but what do you find is the most important thing about it that inspires you and your family?

Mona Lisa Harding: We’re just so thankful that we could have a close-knit family. That’s kind of why we started. We wanted our kids to be at home with us. We felt like that burden for educating children was ours, we felt like God gave us these kids, and our kids even went to a small private Christian school. Our oldest went through the third grade. And so she was getting a Christian worldview, but I still felt like it was wrong that she was separated from her little sisters. And so when we brought them home, we just knew that it felt right for the family to be together. That was more normal. We just feel like that is what we’re called to do as Christian parents; we feel so strongly about that. And then of course, in that process, we didn’t plan it, but we were able to accelerate them because we were allowing them to study according to their interests, and so they naturally accelerated through because they were just so highly motivated, and so I don’t think that you can get that in a traditional setting. And, as a mom, I think that I love my kids more than any other teacher can, and I know them better, so I know their strengths and weaknesses, and we can work on those. And I think it’s only through homeschooling that you can get those great results.

Mike: Kip and Mona Lisa, thank you so much for joining us this week. It has been such a pleasure to have you on the program. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Kip and Mona Lisa Harding

“I am Kip, the Dad. I am a visionary. I am very, very optimistic. I am a family man. I trust in the promises of God. I enjoy the simple things in life. I am passionate about motivational speaking and education. I have a great interest in inventing and am always trying to think about the next new thing that could make things easier and quicker.”

“I am Mona Lisa, the mom. I struggle to be organized. I think I have OCD but all of these kids keep me balanced. I try so hard to keep lists to make sure I get everything done, but I am forced to let things go. I do get stressed, but I have to talk myself out of it. I am passionate about seeing my kids succeed. I am passionate about my marriage. I know that if my marriage is strong, my kids will grow up feeling safe and secure no matter what comes at us. Kip and I were high school sweethearts. We have been married 26 years and started homeschooling in 1997.”

You can visit Kip and Mona Lisa Harding’s website at www.collegebytwelve.com.

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