Book Review: The Brainy Bunch



Check out the Harding Family “The Brainy Bunch” on the Today Show

The Brainy Bunch is an interesting account of the choices that Kip and Mona Lisa Harding have made in raising their family.  It is truly remarkable what some of their kids have accomplished at a young age and it seems to fit their family goals.  While I don’t see this meeting the goals of every family, this really is quite impressive.  The main thesis of the book is to outline what it takes to have your kid college ready by the age of 12. There are also a number of other banners they are waving including homeschooling, attached parenting, and stances regarding extracurricular activities during high school.
In the end, this is an interesting story demonstrating the outcome of some choices these parents have made.  There are definitely strong points that are to be considered about nurturing curiosity and passion that is demonstrated at a young age.  Academics and spirituality were discussed in the book, but there wasn’t a lot of talk about social and emotional development.  In fact, some statements were made that lead the reader to believe that there may be deficits in those areas.  If you graduate from college at age 16, there are going to be some things in life that might not be readily available to you or even appropriate.
As a parent, I do not desire the same goal as the Hardings to rush my kids through school.  I personally enjoyed my own middle and high school experience and all the ups and downs that came with developmentally appropriate situations that came up along the path.
I applaud the efforts of the Harding family and congratulate their children for their accomplishments.  I don’t see this plan being a fit for every family.  A family that is committed to this plan would most likely be more comfortable with a homeschooling route.
Below I have pasted a number of things that I highlighted while reading…
  • There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.  Mahatma Gandhi
  • Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14
  • Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge no wisdom.  Ecclesiastes 9:10
  • We motivate our children to find what they are good at, and then we help them improve in this area.  We inspire in the areas where there is already much inspiration, and this sparks an interest in other things.
  • 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
  • Confidence can be contagious.
  • Your confidence will give your child confidence.
  • You have decided the length of our lives.  You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.  Job 14:5
  • Parents should be aware of what their kids are learning in school.
  • Take the time to know who your child’s friends are.
  • An eternal question about children is, how should we educate them?  Politicians and educators consider more school days in a year, more science and math, the use of computers and other technology in the classroom, more exams and tests, more certifications for teachers, and less money for art.  All of these responses come from the place where we want to make the child into the best adult possible, not in the ancient Greek sense of virtuous and wise, but in the sense of one who is an efficient part of the machinery of society.  But on all these counts, the soul is neglected.  Thomas Moore
  • We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach.  Romans 12:6-7
  • Helping to build character into your child is your first parental duty and is one that cannot be delegated to the state or their peers.
One comment to “Book Review: The Brainy Bunch”
  1. Megan,

    Thanks for your book review of The Brainy Bunch. Having read the book myself and viewed several videos on the family and children, I have some additional take aways and perspectives.

    First, I would agree with you that it would not be proper to “rush your children through school”. I also agree with you that this type of outcome is a family and student decision. The goal of college by 12 was, according to the family, not a predetermined goal. In fact, the parents (per a video interview) claim that this was an outcome that happened because of the efficiency in homeschooling. I do not view homeschooling as the reason for the efficiencies. For the first three children who graduated college by at age 17, this is well within the ability of a traditional school by allowing the option of year round schooling with a dual enrollment opportunity.

    I would counter the above claim of the family having not addressed social and emotional maturity. On page 109 the parent(s) speak to emotional intelligence and their focus upon it within the family.

    With a decision to applaud the efforts and outcomes of the Harding family, I would like to further define what appear to to me to be the reasons for doing so. These are also items that I would suggest are worth considering further as outcomes and process for any school.

    A) Opportunity for full year schooling. The Harding family partakes in full year schooling to reduce or eliminate the well documented occurrence of learning regression. A Harding child school day is between 4 and 5 hours leaving plenty of time for extracurriculars.

    B) It is presented that the children are doing what they enjoy…imagine, a child enjoying school and what they are studying or working upon. This is described by the father as “releasing their inner kid because you are letting them do what they want to do in life”.

    C) The students are provided a learning plan once they determine what they would like to pursue relating to a career choice. The child has the educational plan in from of them and is allowed to advance at their own pace. The family embraces the mastery model for home taught lessons and material. They are not allowed to earn less than an A if the parents are involved in the teaching or assigning of the lessons or material.

    D) The student embraces their self decided goal and is motivated to achieve the “end game” or career outcome. That does not make their course work necessarily easy for them and sometimes they need to take more time in one academic area because it is a challenge, but the child is provided the opportunity to do so rather than have to follow a traditional classroom model that requires the student to go to the next lesson before understanding prerequisite material.

    I could go on and on but I do believe we would agree that a students academic ability should not be determined by their age or grade. This begs the question as to whether a philosophy which groups children by age and grade versus ability and accomplishment is the better philosophy. The important outcome is that the student achieves knowledge and skills and is confident in them. The agreed upon facts of human growth are that students are individuals and they learn differently and at different times. Learning how to learn should be a primary outcome of education.

    I certainly agree with you that elementary and middle school years bring experience and development due to ups and downs. I submit that one of those ups or downs during those years is how a student is labeled by both grading and their advancement. The evidence is mounting that a child who struggles with one concept and requires additional time to grasp it may, upon mastery, then surpass the rest of his peers later if the environment allows such progress. The point is, student academic ability is not determined by age or grade level unless they are placed in an environment that does so. Ideally, academic competency should occur in an environment that is socially and emotionally nurturing given the students maturity levels in these areas, also allowing them to gain emotional intelligence to deal within broader environments.

    To conclude, while the family certainly did not take a traditional approach to advance their children to college by age 12, what is obvious is that the children all succeeded in the college environment and classroom both academically and socially, regardless of their age. For me, this is the grand statement that what they did worked. This certainly required social and emotional maturity. The family embarked upon 6 game changers that help make for a successful outcome to where the child was happy and fulfilled as expressed by one of the children themselves (I suggest that was the intended outcome of the parents).

    1) The central focus was upon each child individually, their interests and strengths, and what they desired to do. The child owned their own dream, interest, calling, career, however you with to label it.

    2) The child was provided a backward engineered plan which would result in the achievement of their goal.

    3) The child was allowed to pursue the plan at their own pace but had to (4) master content knowledge and skills along the way, (5) schooling year round.

    6) Because the students concluded college early due to year round schooling and dual enrollment, they were able to pursue additional education leading to MS or Phd degrees. Architect, doctor, engineer, computer science for the first four grads, not too shabby and again, these kids were doing what they loved. What parent does not want that outcome ?

    I submit, that schools will be more beneficial for students if the same concepts be considered and implemented

    So this brings us to the final big questions. What is worth learning in school and, is grouping by age and grade and maintaining that grouping really academically advantageous toward an end of raising happy and fulfilled children?

    Sure, few desire a 12 through 15 year old to be in the social environment of a university but maybe students can be provided the right academic level within the proper environment of a Christian School by partnering with a Christian college and offering the higher level learning subjects on our campus, which is something I gladly shout out that NCCS is pursuing.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment !

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