“We don’t have super-genius kids,” Mona Lisa Harding insists. Yet six of her and husband Kip’s brood have started college by age 12, and the rest are on pace. When their oldest, Hannah, was a third grader, Mona Lisa, a former licensed practical nurse, decided to start homeschooling. “The girls had all this homework,” she recalls. “Kip would ask, ‘What did you do in school all day?’ We could tell it was not efficient.” Despite having only a year of nursing school, she has raised an architect, a musician and a doctor. Their secret? Plenty of play—including with friends in their Montgomery, Ala., neighborhood—and nurturing each child’s passion. “The kids study what they enjoy,” says Kip, a FEMA budget analyst. More tips are coming in their book The Brainy Bunch, due next May, which they say is not just for homeschoolers. Anyone, says Mona Lisa, can “dream with your kids.”
Kip & Mona Lisa Harding, both 45
“Kip and I feel high school was a waste of time. Fun, but academically not challenging,” says Mona Lisa. The couple, who met in chemistry class, do see the need for social life. During college, “our older girls went to a homeschool prom with kids their own age.”
“I love thinking things out,” says Heath, who earned a master’s in computer science at 17 and now runs a web business.
“I’m hoping to go into music composition,” says Keith, who will graduate from Faulkner University next May.
A sophomore history major at Huntingdon College, this aspiring archaeologist still gets a ride with Mom.
College math class at age 12 “was fun and exciting,” says Hannah, pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering.
The American Institute of Architects’ youngest member is earning a master’s in N.Y.C.
An internal-medicine resident, she took the SAT at 11 and says, “I have only good childhood memories.”
“I want to help people,” says Katrinnah, who is doing ACT prep and reading Anne Frank.
At third-grade age, she’s dreaming of being a doctor and a mom. “I don’t know how I’ll do both.”
“I like to play,” says Lorie. No pressure at this age; even TV is allowed. Full House is a favorite.
“He is just starting to learn his letters,” says Mona Lisa. “I don’t teach them to read until they turn 4.”