I heard of the Harding family several years ago and was always curious about their story of kids being ready for college by age twelve. But not curious enough to buy the book…it seemed…excessive and a bit unnecessary to send a child so young, so I was not curious enough to want to duplicate their methods.
However, when I spotted the book at our local library I decided to go ahead and check it out. I think I was also more open-minded about the idea since my oldest started successfully completing college courses at the age of 15 and he is not what I would call an academic kid. He is the creative/artistic unboxable child. Yet I accidentally prepared him for college instead of high school. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure many an elite private high-school student could outspell him in two seconds flat. But public high school is no longer what it once was, and honestly, even college has added in basics that never would have counted when I attended. (Such as a Computer 1000 course which is required for a degree in Digital Media Production Design and basically just teaches you how to open a word file and type. I may be exaggerating slightly but not by much.)
But back to the topic at hand, the Hardings. The cover of the book may have been what finally sucked me in because you can clearly see that these are not parents who are cookie-cutter pushing their kids into their own designs. Every child has their own interests and although they all attend college at an early age they all pursued very different degrees according to their own interests. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the extra space and time we have as parents to help our kids discover who they are.
So the idea that they weren’t just pushing their kids through a system intrigued me enough to finally give the book a chance. What I found was a family that had mastered the art of movtivation.
They do seem to have a bit of a system as far as what age they start teaching reading, writing, and math. The mom shared the rhythm she uses to run her days. It looked deceptively simple but I am sure it was not always straightforward when she was busy driving kids to campus and sometimes even remaining on campus until their class was over. The Hardings wanted to make sure their kids always felt safe but they also wanted to show them they could achieve their dreams.
There were parts of their strategy that I did not understand, like how their kids started Algebra so young, did they go all the way through all the other levels of math? Did they skip questions? They did mention they homeschooled year-round but I still don’t see how that would work out to equal some of the accomplishments. However, there is no disputing that they did do it.
While we may be tempted to think they pushed their kids to hard, you get a solid sense that is not what they are about in the book. They even included the following quote by Plato, which I absolutely love.
“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent.” Plato
The book reads a bit like a story of their adventures. With interjections of their kids own letters/thoughts/writings. I appreciated hearing what the kids thought and they certainly did not seem overwhelmed by what their parents presented. They rose to the challenge, but no of them seemed to have felt forced into the accomplishment of starting college by age 12.
If anything this book is a testimony to the power of private tutoring, which is what we do in our homeschools.
I still do not personally feel the need to prepare my own kids to start college at age 12, I am happy to wait until they are in their teens and then pick whatever combination of CLEP tests, and dual enrollment that seems best for that child.
And you know what? The Hardings are not the kind of people that would judge me or anyone else for that decision. They just felt called to do this themselves and want to share with the world what is possible. But they appreciate that every person and every family is unique and should follow their own calling/path. That is a deeply refreshing attitude in a world where everyone seems to think they have all of YOUR answers!
All in all, I recommend the book as an easy and interesting read that might just inspire you even if you don’t decide to copy them!
You can learn more about their family here.