Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — When Mona Lisa Harding sent her oldest child, Hannah, to school, homeschooling was not even on her radar. But by the time Hannah was in third grade, a friend convinced Harding to give it a try.
“We saw that maybe we could do better and we totally missed (Hannah) being gone,” husband Kip Harding said. “There was a lot of homework in the evenings, and we just decided to pull her out. It was a scary time at first, but we started and it was working out great and we just never looked back.”
Mona Lisa first ordered workbooks by each subject and grade level that her friend recommended.
“But that got a little tedious and a little boring,” Mona Lisa said. “We started to get away from boxed curriculum and went into just reading for pleasure and reading what the kids wanted to read.”
Out of the Harding’s homeschool experiment, their kids started to blossom, learning math, reading and science at a much faster rate than their peers. They would find a subject their child excelled in and really hone in his or her skills in that field of study.
“Hannah was whizzing through the math and saying, ‘Mom, do I really have to do the rest of this chapter? It’s so repetitive,’” Mona Lisa said. “And we’d say no just do the odd (questions) or the even ones or just skip the rest of that chapter because we know that you know that… and next thing you know, she’s ready for some advanced math.”
When Hannah was 12, the Hardings looked into having her take a junior college class. She took one, did really well, and wanted to try it again. By her third semester, she wanted to do a full load, Kip said, and they enrolled Hannah in college full-time.
One teacher has 30 students on average. We can do better than that. Kids get left behind in a classroom… This is where homeschooling really takes off because those kids are getting extra attention. And who's more loving than a mom and dad teaching them things?
Mona Lisa said all the kids started following Hannah’s example. Kip and Mona Lisa didn’t make their kids do all the problems, questions and chapters but let them move at their own pace. Their kids’ impressive resume stands as a testament to their unconventional education methods.
Hannah, 26, is now an engineer with a master's degree and she is working on a doctorate. Rosannah, 24, got her bachelor's degree in architecture before the age 18 and was able to put her husband through school once they were married.
Serennah, 22, a Navy doctor, graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Georgia and is doing a residency at the Walter Reed Hospital Army Medical Center Maryland. She is the one of the youngest doctors in U.S. history.
Heath, 17, an entrepreneur, already has his master's degree in science. He calls himself the slacker in the family because he took some time off in between his bachelor's and master's programs, he told TODAY.com.
Keith, 15, is a composer and just graduated with his bachelor's degree in music. He’s taking the summer off and will start a graduate program in the fall.
- Hannah, 26, engineer: MS in math at 19
- Rosannah, 24, architect: BA at 18, working on masters
- Serennah, 22, doctor: resident at the Naval hospital at Bethesda
- Heath, 17, entrepreneur: MS in Computer Science
- Keith, 15, composer: BA in music at 15, will start masters in fall
- Seth, 13, wants to be professor: sophomore, history major
- Katrinnah, 10, wants to be lawyer: in classes at Faulkner University
- Mariannah, 8, wants to be surgeon
- Lorennah, 5, wants to be actress
- Thunder, 3, wants to be race car driver
Seth, 12, is a sophomore at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, wants to get a doctorate in history and become an archaeologist and professor. Katrinnah, 10, wants to be a lawyer and is taking classes at Faulkner University, also in Montgomery.
Mariannah, 8, wants to be a surgeon; Lorennah, 5, wants to be an actress; and Thunder, 3, wants to be a race car driver. The Hardings will tailor their kids’ education to what field they excel in and want to go into.
Kip and Mona Lisa say their kids are not geniuses, they as parents just found a way to accelerate their education and make learning fun. They say it also helps to give them one-on-one time with Mona Lisa, who is working on her bachelor's degree, at home.
“One teacher has 30 students on average,” Kip said. “We can do better than that. Kids get left behind in a classroom…This is where homeschooling really takes off because those kids are getting extra attention. And who’s more loving than a mom and dad teaching them things?”
Mona Lisa has advice for parents contemplating homeschooling their kids who don't exactly fit into the current educational model.
"I personally would like to tell the moms that if moms read, they can teach their child to read," she said. "Then their kids have the ability to teach themselves. I basically teach them to love reading and the basics of math, and from there, they can have a lot of their own answers... The model at home is more a tutoring model."
Still, the Hardings are not trying to bash the U.S. educational system, they said.
“Teaching is a hard job and teachers still have a place,” Kip said. “But government money comes with strings attached… We’re just relying on God and he keeps coming through and it’s working out well. Truly, we’re just average.”