TODAY   |  April 18, 2013

Home-schooling parents turn education into play

The Harding family in Montgomery, Ala., decided to make studying fun by cultivating their kids’ natural curiosity and passions. They acheived amazing results: six children who started taking college classes before they were even teens. NBC’s Bob Dotson reports.

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>>> today's american story with bob dotson comes from montgomery, alabama, today where one family has managed to make school work seem like play and the results are amazing.

>> he brings light to the dark ages .

>> i block with the base of the sword.

>> at 7, when most kids think they might be firemen, seth announced he would be a military archaeologist. mom encouraged that curiosity. by 12, seth was hanging out with students nearly twice his age, studying the middle ages at faulkner university .

>> how is he doing?

>> he's got the highest average in the class.

>> seth was motivated by his brother's success. keith is just down the hall studying finite math , a college senior at 14.

>> it kind of makes you wonder if they're advanced or we're just really behind.

>> sister hannah was the first of the harding kids to take college entrance exams at age 12.

>> i didn't expect to pass. so i started crying. because i was thinking now what.

>> by 22, she was designing spacecraft, holds a masters degree in math and the mechanical engineering .

>> 10-year-old katrina harding hopes to enter college next year. her brother started at 11, he's finishing his masters in computer science at 17.

>> if they're going to be working at my kitchen table, why not earn college credit for what they're doing?

>> she teaches them the basics. but found that her kids learn more quickly when they studied something they loved.

>> i don't have any brilliant children, i'm not brilliant, my husband's not brilliant. just average folks.

>> who inspired six children to enter college before they became teenagers. he didn't take his own advice. he was 25 before he graduated from college while flying helicopters in the military. mona lisa studied to be a nurse before staying home to teach the kids. they were high school sweethearts with a passion for learning.

>> the expectation is that you're going to have a fun day, not you're going to come home with "as."

>> each of their kids has a different passion. keith loves music. rosanna became an architect, and james --

>> who are we missing?

>> thunder is the last of the kids.

>> i can understand maybe convincing one, two children to do this.

>> by the time you get down to number five, number six, they just think that's normal.

>> i have a test today.

>> reporter: the younger children live at home, not college dorms.

>> you don't drop them off at school 16 credit hours first semester, bye, i'll see you at 4:00.

>> these are not itty bitty adults, they play with kids their own age. don't wait until they're older to figure out what they love in life.

>> what concerns you about pushing kids too hard too fast?

>> all our kids would have to do is tell us. this isn't fun anymore.

>> take big deep breaths.

>> this is what daughter serena tells her family.

>> i hope to love them back very well with what i do with my life.

>> she chose the military. she's about to become a navy doctor at age 22. one of the youngest doctors in american history . for "today," bob dotson , nbc news with an american story in montgomery, alabama.

>> and if you want to learn more, check out bob's new book "american story" a lifetime search for ordinary people doing extraordinary things.