Kip and Mona Lisa Harding Have 10 Kids and Six Were in College by Age 12

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The Harding Family

David Yellen

updated 11/05/2013 at 12:00 PM EST

originally published 11/07/2013 11:45AM

They're a family full of overachievers!

Kip and Mona Lisa Harding of Montgomery, Ala., have 10 children – and six of them started college by the age of 12.

The Hardings attribute their children's success to the flexibility of homeschooling – not genius IQs – and allowing their kids to pursue their passions.

"If parents get out of the way, kids can really go far," says Kip, 45.

Mona Lisa began homeschooling the kids in the summer of 1997 after Hannah, their eldest child, finished third grade.

"Kip was in the military and we wanted to do homeschooling year round so we could take time off when travelling or moving and still be ahead," she says.

She had no idea it would lead to Hannah taking her first college class at age 12.

"Hannah loved math and outdid me very quickly," she says.

They soon realized she was doing college algebra and could earn college credits if she took a class. So that's what Hannah did – and she earned a B.

Soon, Hannah was attending college full time and her siblings began following in her footsteps.

While Mona Lisa does the actual teaching, Kip is there for moral support, she says.

"If I get lost or frustrated I can say, 'I need help,' " she says. "This child needs more encouragement, more guidance."

Their kids say starting college earlier just means they get to pursue their passions a whole lot sooner than most people.

"If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it exactly the same way," says Serennah, 22, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"I'm thankful to have had parents who basically set out to let their kids find and pick and pursue what they want to do," she says.

Video by DAVID YELLEN

For much more on Kip and Mona Lisa Harding's amazing family, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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