One Family Got 7 of 10 Kids into College by Age 12 — and This Is a Good Thing?

You want them to grow up successfully, but maybe not so quickly?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want my kids to go to college one day (really, it’s not a secret — they will be going somewhere outside the home). That being said, they might be harboring a cross between Albert Einstein’s DNA with the collective IQ of all the Mensa members in the world, but you won’t catch me sending them to college before they reach the age of 18.

The same can’t be said for Kip and Mona Lisa Harding. According to Yahoo Shine, in fact, you can’t say that — times 7. The high school sweethearts now have 10 kids, and seven of them started college at age 12. The other three kids aren’t dummies, however. They’re just not 12 years old. It appears that they’re on track to follow in their older siblings’ footsteps and start on advanced degrees in their tween years, too.

It’s admirable, I guess. Who doesn’t want smart kids who are go-getters, self-starters, and eminently successful? The Harding kids are scholars, engineers, musicians, architects, and computer scientists.

The Hardings claim their kids aren’t geniuses. “We are just average folks who decided that we wanted to take a chance on homeschooling,” they write in their new book, The Brainy Bunch. “There is no science or formula to our success. ”

Their tips to early college careers include:

1. Always asking your child questions — in order to see what they’re passionate about, which in turn can help show you their future paths.

Which is all well and good, but just because a child is passionate about something at age 10, does it mean they should start devoting their life to it right then and there? Or should they have the freedom to explore, change their mind, and move on to some other passion if the first one fizzles out?

2. Being patient — and exploring your child’s interest in a way that gets to the deeper skills involved.

Yeah, I hear you, but while it sounds so clever to ask a video-game-loving kid how they “think the programmers created those graphics,” sometimes kids just want an escape, and peppering them with potentially annoying questions when they’re just trying to unwind could jeopardize their desire to spend time with their parents.

3. Encouraging them to be experts in their own field — an accomplishment they’ll want to brag about to everyone.

Um, OK, but can’t that all happen later on? Why the push for a child to master anything? Isn’t that part of the fun of childhood — being the master of none but getting to dip their hands in many trades?

4. Giving control to the kids — in an effort to allow real learning to take place.

Sure, kids can be given more and more control as they get older, but how much control should a tween really have, especially as it comes to learning? It’s not always just about what interests them. At a certain point it’s also just about learning how to learn — and different subjects will keep them interested and on their toes. Isn’t the journey often more important/interesting/challenging than the destination?

I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of homeschooling. I hardly think school is only about what happens in the classroom. It’s also about what happens between classes, at lunch, on the playground, and after school. It’s about socializing and interacting with people outside of your family and comfort zone.

The Hardings say, “If you throw in intense family discussions, experiments, group projects, lots of family/homeschool group field trips, some sports, church, socializing as a family with people of all ages and cultures, and, of course, love, you will end up with a well-adjusted kid who is definitely ready for a college class or two.”

Maybe that’s worked for the Hardings, but it’s hard to imagine that it will work for too many others. It sounds intense and rigid, and, frankly, not so fun. There’s something to be said for a childhood without a 24/7 set structure — and the pressure of following in your siblings over-achieving footsteps. Being passionate and informed and motivated is awesome — as are lazy days, stumbling sometimes and soaring in others.

I wish the Harding kids much success — although clearly they don’t need my wishes. For my kids, college is part of the plan, but not nearly so early. The trappings of post-college life — as lucrative and glorious as they might be — simply don’t appeal to me on behalf of my small children. Because, in the end, they’re just that — children — for a short time. It really doesn’t need to be any shorter.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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