There’s been a lot of buzz lately in the homeschool community about a large family who call themselves the ‘brainy bunch’, thus the name of their new book, well, The Brainy Bunch.
Kip and Mona Lisa Harding are high-school sweethearts and the proud parents of 10 children. They got a lot of press attention and appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CNN, Fox & Friends, etc. I got the book via instant Kindle download on Amazon.
The book is about Kip and Mona Lisa Harding’s life story and how they managed to homeschool 10 kids and send 7 of them (so far) to college by the age of twelve.
But, is it all as great as it sounds?
Why Homeschooling is Gaining Popularity Worldwide
In parenthesis, homeschooling is a rapidly growing educational movement in the U.S.
In 2014, there are over 2 million homeschooled children in the country, and many more worldwide. Parents see the need to take control of their children’s education due to lack of trust in the public school system, religious reasons, and a wide array of reasonings that vary greatly from family to family.
Homeschooled children tend to score in tests in the 80th+ percentile, vs. public schooled children (50th percentile, and most are well-adjusted individuals able to engage in social environments with people of all ages. In summary, a lot of parents are looking at homeschooling as an effective way of education these days.
Back to the Book…
First thing I thought about the idea of such academic accomplishment was: “WOW!” and then I thought: “WOW!” again. I thought I’d buy the book and find out what their strategy is and how I can do the same with my kids, who are currently being homeschooled by my husband and I. And so I did.
There were many things I loved about the book and others that didn’t resonate with me.
I devoured the book in 2.5 days, which is a miracle around here, having my active kids around demanding my attention at.All.Times. There were pros and cons to this book in my opinion. Here’s my review on The Brainy Bunch.
What I Liked About the Book “The Brainy Bunch”
- As a Christian myself, I share the parents’ view on raising their children in the admonition of God and teaching them the Word of God as the truth and ultimate guide to life.
- I also liked that they keep it real in the book. The authors explain how, as any other family would, argue, yell, and have lots of struggles, but also try really hard to forgive. I liked that they didn’t try to portray a perfect family but reality.
- There were many instances where Mona Lisa mentions how their journey has not been a bed of roses and how their kids are average, and, if they can do it, well, I believe we can do it too. She also explains how they have struggled financially pursuing their goals, and who difficult it was to having some of their children move away quite young to pursue their careers.
- I personally like the idea of getting my kids into college early because there’s a lot of time wasted in school and, the earlier they get to finish and gain job experience, the more ahead they will be in their careers. That said, as the book explains, going into college early means the child is academically advanced but not necessarily an ‘adult’ or mature enough. They still need their parents to be there for them and with them.
- The Hardings seem to be unschoolers (very flexible homeschoolers); allowing their children to learn about what they want to learn, while at the same time, focusing on making them independent readers and going through a lot of math. It seems to be a good plan in my opinion, although I like more structure.
- I also enjoyed reading the books’ “From the Kids” sections, which were small writings made by the Harding kids on their view on life and their home education. They seem to be well-rounded individuals per their writings.
- Lastly, I really liked the answers to their followers’ frequently asked questions. They respond to what I would call rebuttals in a very subtle way, comments like ‘your kids must be geniuses’ and ‘my child couldn’t do college level work at twelve’, and so on.
Overall, the book lays out how the Harding family educates their children to be college-ready by age 12 and how anyone can do the same if they are willing to put in the hard work. Sounds like a pretty incredible accomplishment, but if they could do it with 7 kids, hey, it might be worth a shot.
Here’s a short video of the Harding family on the Today Show:
What I Didn’t Like About “The Brainy Bunch”
Large families like these (and the Duggars) go through a lot of unnecessary criticism from what I will dare to call haters. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but also we know that, as the great Benito Juárez said: “Respect for the rights of others means peace.”
That said, there were a few instance where what I was reading didn’t resonate with my beliefs. However, I do understand each family goes through different circumstances.
- The Harding family had to deal with letting some of their children go live in other states or with family members to finish school. At that young age, I’m not sure I could do this with my kids.
- Kids are the most vulnerable in their teenage years, and even good Christian kids can get corrupted at this age by encountering bad influences, no matter how well they were raised. I don’t know that I agree with it, but again, I only have 2 children and it would be much easier for us to stay together than a family of 12, with children pursuing many different interests.
- Also, I’m not sure exactly how this came to be, but Mona Lisa states the following: “The biggest burden probably fell on Hannah, who was studying hard to finish her degree so she could return to Alabama and help the family by hitting the workforce.” Personally, I would not expect a child of mine to make money to help the family after I provided for her education. Providing financially is my duty and I would expect nothing in return. If Dad was laid off, he is still responsible to fully provide unless he is physically or mentally unable. Putting the ‘making money’ burden on a child doesn’t seem OK to me.
- Another statement was: “…Serennah didn’t want to leave college to move with us. After many tearful discussions, we convinced her to come home with us. She was in her junior year at age sixteen.” That might be the ‘problem’ with putting kids through college too young. That would be the struggle of supporting your children’s dreams while at the same time being aware that they are still too young to face the world on their own. Call me an attached parent, but I don’t think I could let my 16 year-old move so far away from me for any period of time unless absolutely necessary.
- I’m also surprised they didn’t mention other methods of getting college credit to save time and money like taking CLEP exams (College Level Evaluation Program), which I did when I was pursuing my Bachelor’s and saved me lots of time and money in getting my degree in Business.
- Finally, I believe their schooling method, in which their kids are college ready by twelve, was explained too broadly and not with enough detail. Perhaps this was their objective, but it kind of left me asking for more.
The Hardings do talk about what books and curriculum they use, but, maybe it’s just me, but I felt the explanation of their method was kind of vague. Only 1 chapter out of 21 explains the actual method, which is why I bought the book after all.
The Brainy Bunch is a good read overall. It is a story about real people with real struggles but who have accomplished something great. It does lack practical advice in my opinion. It’s a memoir being promoted as a how-to book. I was a bit disappointed in that regard.
I’d love to hear your comments on this book. If you read the book, what did you like/dislike about it? Would you have your child go through college at a young age, such as 12 and 13, even if they were academically ready? Why or why not?