Alabama homeschooling family sends 6 kids to college – by age 12!

From NBC News.


At 7, when many kids figure they might be firemen, Seth announced he would be a military archeologist. His mom, Mona Lisa, encouraged that curiosity. “Wow! That kid was into this!” she marvels.

By 12, Seth was hanging out with students nearly twice his age, studying the Middle Ages at Faulkner University, near his home in Montgomery, Alabama. “How’s he doing?” I ask assistant professor Grover Plunkett.

“He’s got the highest average in the class.”

Seth was motivated by his brother Keith’s success. Keith is just down the hall, studying finite mathematics, a college senior — at 14.

“It makes you wonder,” their friend Wesley Jimmerson says, shaking his head. “Are they advanced, or are we just really behind?”

Sister Hannah was the first of the Harding kids to take college entrance exams — at age 12. “I didn’t expect to pass,” she says, “so I started crying, because I was thinking, ‘Now what?'”

By 22 she was designing spacecraft. She holds master’s degrees in math and mechanical engineering.

Ten-year-old Katrinnah Harding hopes to enter college next year. Her brother Heath started at age 11. He’s finishing his master’s in computer science — at 17.

“If they’re going to be working at my kitchen table,” Mona Lisa says with a smile, “why not earn college credit for what they’re doing?”

Named after her mother’s favorite song, Mona Lisa Harding home-schools her children in the basics, but found that her kids learned more quickly (and got less bored) when they were allowed to study deeply — something they loved.

“I don’t have any brilliant children,” she contends. “I’m not brilliant. My husband’s not brilliant. We’re just average folks.” Who inspired six children to enter college before they became teenagers.

[…]I can understand maybe convincing one or two children to enter college early, but Mona Lisa has more kids than Mother Hubbard: 10.

She shrugs. “By the time you get down to number five, number six, they just think learning seems normal. We find out what their passions are, what they really like to study, and we accelerate them gradually.

But what happens to their childhood?

“We didn’t limit their experience,” Mona Lisa says. “They’re taking college classes, but socially, they are just teenagers.” Who live at home, not in college dorms.

What’s their secret? What I got out of the story is that parents don’t have to be smart in order to have smart kids. They just have to take an interest in what the children want to do and then guide them to the next level and the next level and the next level. It’s hands-on parenting!

10 thoughts on “Alabama homeschooling family sends 6 kids to college – by age 12!”

  1. I love this story! Congrats to being able to help your children to be successful and follow their interests. I have 5 gifted kids and currently struggling to figure out what to do with the older ones. Would love more info on how to get kids into college early. My twelve year old has taken the ACT and scored well for her first time. Think the atmosphere at college would be better suited than all the drama in the classroom. Having trouble trying to navigate through the rules of admissions to colleges. The junior college requires a GED or high school diploma, have to be 17 to take the GED. Help?


  2. “… found that her kids learned more quickly (and got less bored) when they were allowed to study deeply — something they loved.

    “I don’t have any brilliant children,” she contends. “I’m not brilliant. My husband’s not brilliant. We’re just average folks.”

    This is the “secret” right there. I firmly believe that children, when given the opportunity to explore their interests, will excel beyond what anyone tries to say they are “supposed” to do by certain ages or grades. This sometimes means letting them be “behind” in some things, because they simply may not be developmentally ready for them. There are few things more harmful to a child’s love of learning then trying to force it.

    Over the years, I get a lot of comments about how smart, talented, etc. my kids are. Well, yes, they are, but it’s not because I did anything spectacular to foster this. They are not “gifted” or somehow better than their peers. They were simply allowed to fully develop into themselves, not into what society tried to say they were supposed to be or do.

    I have come to believe that all children are far more capable and intelligent than they are given credit for, but that our school system, and our culture, holds them back and infantilizes them, preventing them from fully developing their intellect as well as their maturity. The education system wasn’t designed for the children in it. It was designed for the convenience and purpose of the adults; especially “experts” and agenda driven politics that have been using the school systems as grand social experiments. They may mean will (and most of them really do believe they have the best interests of children at heart), but it’s still failing our children.


  3. I really like the story, but it does leave one thing out. Have they actually graduated high school or are they simply taking classes while still learning at home? I am really curious about this point. I know quite a few kids who do the same thing, take college courses, but they haven’t officially graduated yet. Kind of curious what this family’s take is.


    1. Official graduation depends on individual state and registration requirements, but it isn’t necessary to be a graduate to get into colleges and universities. Many of them actively seek out homeschooling students, as they have found these students have greater motivation and self discipline, and tend to have grades high enough to actually improve their averages, which improves their ratings and reputations.


  4. Thanks for this. Really interesting. I found some more examples but these kids seem more like prodigies but still it’s pretty amazing:

    I think the original family is doing some kind of program online now. I registered at but still haven’t heard anything.


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