I first heard about the Brainy Bunch from the Today Show…
Kip and Mona Lisa Harding are the mom and pop of 10 kids who have homeschooled their kids in a way that has them college ready by the age of 12. They seemed surprisingly well-adjusted on the show, so I decided to check out their book to learn more about their story in The Brainy Bunch.
It turns out that they are a Christian homeschool family, seemingly conservative in all the ways you might imagine. They believe that homeschooling is the absolute best choice and most biblical choice one could make, and also seem to buy into the quiverfull movement. I felt a bit annoyed at times when reading this book- they are the quintessential “Christian” that our media loves to exemplify as the only kind of Christian- but I was also surprisingly impressed with their courage to challenge their kids to dive deep into their area of interests, learn what they want to learn, and to take real risks, facing potentially hard things with courage and a sense of humor.
And their kids are actually doing great things at a young age and not just educated without a real job in their field. One earned a BS in mathematics at the age of 17 and is currently an engineer. Another is a celebrated architect who finished her degree at the age of 18. Another is a Navy physician and another who finished his masters in computer science at 17. Seriously these kids are amazing and obviously have parents who love them and have found a cool way to allow them to fast forward through some needless schooling. At first glance some might imagine this kind of schooling to be really pushy and stressful, but it seems to be the exact opposite. Kip and Mona Lisa cut through all the educational fluff, let the kids study what they want and don’t stress about giving tests or book reports or whatever. In fact, their method reminds me much more of unschooling than it does the ever popular classical learning that many christian homeschoolers do.
At times it does seem that the family is a bit of a closed system– not a ton of outside friends, their playmates are one another, and they like to keep it that way so that the kids stay respectful and the peer culture doesn’t rub off on them. On the other hand, some of the kids were in competitive sports leagues and the parents are pretty brave in letting some of their kids live away from them at a young age to finish up degrees in certain places when the family has to move. This book reminded me that people are really complex.
The writing of this book was not particularly great, but it was informative. I certainly learned exactly what i was hoping to, and it was a super fast read.