iFamilyKC Search

Search our Blog Posts:

Search our Calendar:

Search our Directory:

Select a Directory Category:

The little book with BIG resources!

10 Best & Easiest K12 Homeschool Curriculum Ideas

Are you considering homeschooling or have homeschoolers that need a fresh start?! Brigette, from our iFamilyKC Mom Squad team is back with her two-part series sharing her top 10 homeschool curriculum ideas for families today on the blog. Take a look…

homeschool ciriculum

Hello, Kansas City! Last year (relax, it was only a few weeks ago), I shared several different homeschooling programs that are available to your family in the first part of my two part series on homeschooling. Today, I’d like to share some of the best and easiest homeschooling curriculum options to get you started. When my family started homeschooling, there were already many k-12 homeschool programs out there but, to be honest, I feel that number has likely trippled in the short time my homeschoolers have been learning.

Starting a journey like this can be overwhelming in many different ways. You will begin to question your every move (and so will onlookers who are watching you). Knowing that you have a solid, well-rounded, and liked curriculum will take so much of the pressure and self-doubt off of your shoulders. So, let’s get the ball rollin’! Here are 10 of the best and easiest homeschool curriculums to start with!

10 Best & Easiest K12 Homeschool Curriculum Ideas

homeschool ciriculum

#1 All in One Homeschool

I debated if I would let our curriculum choice be known, but I love it so much I had to just tell you! This was our third curriculum choice and it had been perfect for us! Most of the work is online but there are options to print a lot of it out. This curriculum is free and is fitting for grades Prek- HS. I am able to keep track easily with their daily tracker and layout.

#2 ABCMouse

This is another favorite in our house! This is designed for toddlers- 3rd grade readiness. While this one is not free, it is very reasonable and  has a lot of “life learning”. Kids can take care of pets, clean rooms and even dress their avatars. ABCMouse has a learning path for each level to ensure they are learning age appropriate lessons. Students can even head to their classroom to pick their own interests!

#3 MobyMax

This was our first curriculum and since we started using it, it has undergone some major improvements! MobyMax is great for elementary middle school students. MobyMAx was designed to fill gaps in subjects and to help students learn at a faster pace. With this program, you are in charge if picking subjects, time frames and how often it should be completed. While they do track progress in subjects, you will need to keep a daily log of subjects to make sure your child is working on all the appropriate lessons.

#4 Time 4 Learning

This program is for Pre K HS. Time 4 learning is also mostly online but does offer printable lessons as well. With this program, you can change grade levels on individual subjects to fit your child’s needs. They even keep track of your child’s work for your HS portfolio.

#5 Abeka

This is a Christian based curriculum and can be done in 3 ways. Abeka offers “School in a box”, digital curriculums and video lessons. With Abeka, you really can’t customize each subject for your kids. If they are ahead or behind on a specific subject, you may need to use a different resource for supplemental materials.

#6 Sonlight

This is also a Christian based curriculum set. Sonlight is for those wanting to only use book and can be used for Prek- 12th grade. They even include college prep lessons as well. Sonlight is a little more customizable than Abeka as you can purchase individual subjects. If you are not sure which lesson to purchase, they even have a shop by level so you can ensure you are selecting age appropriate material.

#7 Starfall

Starfall was a program we used when Thai was in kindergarten. We used the free version to help with her reading and it was wonderful! Starfall also has a membership program which opens up more learning activities. Starfall is designed for Prek-2nd grade and is 100% online with the option to create printables to supplement.

#8 Alpha Omega Publications

This is a one stop shop for Christian homeschooling. They offer options for book learning, online learning and student or teacher led learning. You can select which style works best for you and your family.

#9 K12

This is a public school at home option. Even though you will be at home, K12 offers teacher led classroom lessons, projects and check ins with you! K12 is designed for students in Kindergarten – 12th grade. K12 offers private school education or public education and they provide you with most of your materials needed for learning.

#10 Create Your Own

This method may or may not work with your family. All of the planning, teaching, reading and record keeping is your responsibility. While it may take more time organizing lessons and projects, you will be able to fully customize your child’s own curriculum. This will ensure your child in interested and you know what and where their strengths and weaknesses are.

All of these homeschool curriculum ideas have been used for years by many families. Each one loves one for their own reason! When picking a curriculum, keep in mind that it’s not about the most expensive, the most elaborate or the one with the most books. The best curriculum is one your child loves to work on, keeps them interested and pushes them to do more! I hope this 2 part post has helped you get ready to start your homeschooling journey!

From iFamily to Yours,

The Road to a New Language

Thinking about trying something new as a family?  Learning a new language, perhaps?  Max, from our iFamily Mom & Dad Squad tells us about his family’s newest adventure!

new language

The Road to a New Language: Learning Spanish at Home

When I decided to stay home with my girls this year, I knew that I wanted to make the most of it.  I wanted to make sure that we try to have as many new experiences as possible.  Also that I would never let the fact that I am outnumbered or that it might be difficult, stressful, and mind numbingly slow to be the reasons that we would not go out to have a new experience. Our latest of which has been to try to learn a new language, Spanish to be more precise!

We love to travel to Mexico and try to get out there twice a year, but usually only make it once. We have taken the girls, despite the fact that our friends told us we were crazy to take them and our families consistent reminders that Mexico is dangerous. Both of which are topics for another post! We have been talking about trying some extended stays off of the all-inclusive resorts lately and so it was an easy choice for us to start having the girls take Spanish. My wife and I are somewhat of traditional Americans in that I took Spanish in 8th grade (because my English grade was good enough) before switching to German in 9th and 10th grade because:

1. It is obvious that German will be easier than Spanish.

2. If you have any desire to go to college you have to have two years of a foreign language.

3. And, most importantly, the German class included a trip to Germany!

All I can do is count to 10 & ask “what?!” in two languages.

My wife, on the other hand, took Spanish all throughout high school and into college, but her inability to find the class when she had to go to a new school is the only thing that stopped her from becoming a full-fledged bilingual woman after college. Our own experience also taught us to make it a priority to have the girls start learning a second language as early as possible.

Like any good parent, I took to my best resource (other than iFamilyKC) and asked Google if there were any Spanish classes for kids in KC. Sure enough, a couple of different websites popped up and we chose the one that had the best website. Now, once a week, we go to a small church to sing and play games in Spanish for forty-five minutes. We listen to the songs in the car from home to practice.  I’m happy to report that, after three weeks, I have no idea if my kids know any Spanish!  But, I am okay with that as we have several more weeks to go and, since we are not truly bilingual at home, it’s going to be something we are always working on so that they don’t lose the skill.

Taking classes is a good idea.  I get to go learn with them as well and the teacher gives tips on how to help at home. (Most of the students do not come from multilingual homes.) My wife and I will get better about using Spanish around the house which will help a lot, too. There is a part of me that suspects a switch to flip one day and start speaking fluently.  This way we can travel and attend Spanish events for Kansas City families. In the meantime, we will keep singing our songs and I’ll be sure to let you know how we progress.

Pro Tip: Learning a new language can be hard but there are resources available to your family to make the process a easier. Check out The Language and Music House for details on signing up to learn French, German, Japanese, or Spanish. Classes are available for ages 2 and up!

From iFamily to Yours,

Summer Learning: A Lesson On Telling Time

The kids are out of school but that doesn’t mean that summer learning has to stop. Becky, from our iFamilyKC Mom Squad team, has some great tips for continuing that learning for your kids over the summer. Take a look…

summer learning

Summer Learning: A Lesson On Telling Time

It’s summer time and the living is easy—unless you’re in my house and there are lessons to be learned! Chop, chop! Last week, it was all about introducing our 6-year-old to the concept of time. It was time well spent (sorry, had to). Here’s how I did it:

Get A Clock

summer learning

Get a clock, or better yet, make one together with a paper plate, some paper, markers and a brad. We already had this puzzle clock that worked great as a teaching tool. Or, take one right off the wall and take the battery out to use how you please. Hot tip: The Dollar Store also sells signs with moving clock hands like this:

summer learning

Use this clock to demonstrate time, quiz your child on time, and keep it throughout the day for the child to update the time.

Worksheets… I mean FUNsheets!

Every morning, practice with these FREE clock-themed worksheets here. For an incentive (it is summer) give him/her a bonus 5 minutes of TV/tablet/book time for every final worksheet answer they get correct.

summer learning

Schedule It!

Give your child a schedule to fill out and try and stick with it. They will quickly learn how you really can’t do everything in one day.

summer learning


Finally, a real answer to “Are we there yet?” Let your child use your stopwatch app on your phone in the car to get a better understanding of how long it will take to get somewhere.

summer learning

Books & Dvds

Get a week’s worth of books and DVDs that are time-related from the library. From educational to silly, there are all kinds of kid books around the theme of time.

summer learning


Bonus! As an award learning how to tell time, at the end of the week take a field-trip to shop for a watch together. (Feel free to set a time limit on his/her decision.)

From iFamily to Yours,


Becky Ervin is a creative director, mother of three, and blogs at PartyBoxKC.com/blog

Beat The Summer Slide: A How To Guide

Avoiding the summer slide can be difficult, especially when your children are eager to get out and enjoy pool time, run around with friends, and get away for that much needed family vacation. Make sure that your child doesn’t fall behind before the new school year starts with these six simple (and fun) ideas from Erin. Take a look…

beat the summer slide with six steps

 Beat The Summer Slide: A How To Guide

School is out for the summer!  My kids and I are embracing summertime full force with picnics, parks, pool time, and nature walks. We are loving summer and I know the “official start” to summer may be up for debate but it has definitely started in our house!  I definitely plan on sharing some super fun summer activities and boredom busters later on this season! However, I thought it was important to share with you some tips on beating the summer slide, where knowledge and skills are lost over the course of summer.  I read a statistic recently that said when kids go back to school in the fall that teachers will spend around six weeks re-teaching old material to make up for lost time.  My kids’ education is so important to me, so hearing that stat made me think about some ways to beat that summer slide and keep the kids learning and on track for the next school year.  Take a look at some ideas here and feel free to add your own ideas below in the comments.

#1 Read

Read 20 minutes a day. Read aloud. Have your child read to you. Listen to audio books. Lead by example and encourage your kids to read by enjoying a book yourself. Let your child pick out a book based on their own interests.  Read outside on sunny days or build a fort on rainy days and read inside the fort. Make it fun and engaging!

#2 Visit The Local Library

The MCPL branches have a fantastic summer learning program going on now until July 31st for ages birth to 19 years!  Kids can earn points by reading, doing small various activities at home and attending programs throughout the summer. Book prizes are awarded with each completed level and drawings are taking place throughout the summer for tickets to the Royals, Legoland, Powell Gardens, Coco Key, and much much more! Check it out and sign up online.

#3 Sharpen Math Skills

There are some awesome math apps out there like Reflex, which uses fun games to practice math skills.  You can also create good ole fashioned flash cards for addition and subtraction, multiplication and division facts.  Workbooks and activity books can be fun for road trips or for the daily commute. I’ve found some great flashcards and workbooks at Dollar Tree and Five Below.

#4 Take Field Trips

KC has SO many things to do for kids! Make it fun and educational by visiting fun places: Union Station and Science City, Money Museum, SEALIFE, KC Zoo, Harry S. Truman museum, Burr Oak Woods, National WWI Museum and the list goes on and on.

Pro Tip: Check out FieldTripGuideKC.com for inspiration on enriching activities for your kids! 

#5 Learn Around The House

Use everyday tasks you can encourage your kids to learn different things.  Take the kids grocery store and give them a chance to practice math skills, cook together, do fun science experiments with everyday household items, measure things inside and outside the house, chart the weather highs and lows and different weather patterns.

#6 Play Board Games

Uno, Monopoly, Bananagrams, Battleship, Memory, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Checkers and Chess, Dominoes are all great games to boost brain power!

By providing opportunities for your kiddos to keep learning throughout the summer months, you will give them an excellent head start to school in the fall and have some fun in the meantime!  And the teachers will thank you for it too!

From iFamily to Yours,


10 Creative Gifts Teachers Will Love on the Last Day of School

Good Morning, Kansas City! The end of the school year is approaching and it’s time for us parents to show the teachers in our (and our kids’) lives some appreciation. Our Mom Squad Ambassador, Brigette, gives us a great list of 10 gifts you might give. Check it out!

10 Creative Gifts Teachers Will Love on the Last Day of School


10 Creative Gifts Teachers Will Love on the
Last Day of School


The last days of school can be such an emotional time for parents, students and teachers. Another year of learning, friendships, struggles all seem to get wrapped up into a whirlwind of emotions! I know I was a mess on my kids last day of public school simply because I loved their teachers and I knew what big adjustment was in the near future! And even though throughout the year you thank them, cooperate with them and help out on field trips or in the class room, there is still something about a gift from the heart that teachers love!
So, here are 20 simple, yet meaningful gifts you and your child(ren) can give to their teacher at the end of this year!


#1 Punny Thank You Notes

I’m sure you have seen these all over Pinterest! A super cute note attached to candy, gift cards or school supplies. These are always a cute Idea! Most of the time you just have to cut and paste and then you are good to go! This is one of my favorite resources for Punny Thank Yous!

#2 Personalized cups/mugs

First off, who doesn’t love a good mug!? You can head off to your local Big Lots or Ross and find monogrammed mugs or cups! If you are a crafty person, you can go a little further and put one of their favorite quotes or even a picture on one! Shutterfly (my favorite) can even do it for you!

#3 Pictures

Teachers always remember their students and a picture is worth a thousand words. Grab a plain frame from the Dollar Tree and have your kid decorate it then place their school picture inside. Bonus if they have one with their teacher! Make sure you put their info on the back!

#4 Gift bags

A gift bag can really go a long way. Fill a bag with some of their teacher’s favorite things. If they collect something like post cards, you can theme the bag around that collection by adding in stamps, pencils and blank post cards.

#5 Handmade shirts

When I was little, we made hand print shirts all the time! You can either outline your kids hand with fabric puff paint or have them cover their palm with paint and print it on a shirt or blanket. This would be a great classroom project for everyone!

#6 Gift Cards

Sometimes people say gift cards are so “impersonal” or that they aren’t from the heart. I beg to differ! Gift cards are one of the best gifts you can give to someone! You can buy one from their favorite store or load a visa gift card so they can use it on whatever they would like. A lot of times, teachers use their own money to buy items for the class room so a gift card is a great way to give them back some of that money.

#7 Wine

Ok, obviously you are not going to send a bottle of Rosé to school with your kid lol. But if you have the time yourself (after school hours) drop off a wine basket along with chocolates! If you don’t have the time to stop by yourself, there are tons of wine clubs and deals on Groupon that will deliver right to their door.

#8 Cards

Just about every teacher loves to get notes and cards from their students, you can buy a piece of fancy cardstock and have your child write a sweet memory, a poem or really anything that they want.

#9 Spa bag

After school ends, I’m sure your child’s teacher will want to pamper themselves after completing another long year. So, why not make them a spa bag? Add in some scented lotions, nail polish, face masks and a beautiful candle!

#10 Cash

Ok, who doesn’t just love cold hard cash?! You can tuck it in an envelope or get with the other parents in the class and all take up a collection. You can have all the kids and parents present their teacher with a gift of moolah. Most classes are pretty big these days, so if everyone puts in a little, you will surely receive a lot more than just one person!


I hope these ideas gave you some inspiration for your child(rens) end of school gift for their teacher this year. They do a lot and spend so much time with your kids, I know that anything or a sign of gratitude will be enough!

From iFamily to Yours,







Growing a Reader: How to Begin Healthy Reading Habits at Home

Happy Monday, Kansas City! One of the best activities to focus on in this winter months is reading. I’m sure a lot of us want to help our kiddos develop healthy reading habits, and our Mom Squad Ambassador, Erin, has some great tips to start those habits today. Check it out!

Growing a Reader: How to Begin Healthy Reading Habits at Home


How to Begin Healthy Reading Habits at Home


One of my main resolutions for 2017 is to read more! Reading takes you to far off places without ever having to leave your living room! Reading expands our knowledge of the world around us. Reading is the foundation of learning and education. And it is just plain fun! I love to read and I definitely have not been doing near enough. Life just gets in the way sometimes! I’m currently participating in the MCPL Winter Reading Challenge for adults and that is motivating me to keep reading! The love of reading really does start at home. I’d like to share a few tips on healthy reading habits that work for my family and they will probably work for yours too!


Start early

Babies love interactive touch and feel board books, flap books, colorful books, and books with faces and black and white patterns. Reading to your baby is a great way to spend time together. They will love hearing your voice while you read aloud and extra cuddle time is nice too!


Visit the library weekly

I have taken my kids to the library since they were around 6 months old, every week or so. The library is a fantastic resource in our community! MCPL offers weekly story time for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and families. They have numerous branches around the KC area. And what is better than FREE books? My family loves coming home with armfuls of books!


Notice your child’s interests

Have your child pick out books that interest them. They will be more inclined to read if it is a topic or character of their own choosing. It only makes sense. As adults we too would get bored or uninterested easily if we chose a book we didn’t really like.

Set an example for your children

Show him that reading is important. If your child sees you reading, they will want to do the same.


Create a cozy space for reading time in your home

My kids and I usually all pile in my bed 3-4 times a week and read together. Everyone gets their own pillows and blankets and it seems to create a calming effect for my wild monkeys!


Read aloud to your children no matter what age they are

This is a big one! Reading aloud is one of the most important things you can do to improve your child’s literacy. It introduces them to new, more challenging words. Children who are read to become better listeners. Reading aloud also gives you a chance to bond with your older child and opens the door to new subjects (possibly tough ones) that they may not have chosen to read about themselves.


Turn the TV off and put your phone down

This may be difficult but it can be done! We have a constant need to be connected to the outside world every minute of the day. However, our kids need us to connect with them. So, turn off the TVs, phones, tablets and connect to a whole new world inside of a book!


How to foster good reading habits in your home? We’d love to hear in the comments!

From iFamily to Yours,






Join us for a Primrose School Open House Celebration

Hello, Kansas City! Can you believe the summer is almost half gone? School supplies are showing up in stores, and the crazy month of August is right around the corner. If you’re in the market for a great preschool, Primrose School of Overland Park is enrolling for the 2016-2017 school year. If you’d like to check out their facilities, meet the teachers, and have some fun activities for the kids, come by their open house on Saturday, July 16th from 10am to 12pm.

Join Us for a Primrose School of Overland Park Open House Celebration

Join Us for a Primrose School Open House Celebration

It’s An Open House Celebration 
At Primrose School of Overland Park!
This Saturday, July 16th
Join us for a Primrose School Open House Celebration
You’re invited for some family fun to discover Primrose School of Overland Park! Join the celebration this Saturday, July 16th from 10:00am to Noon to meet their school staff for a fun filled day with face painting, a balloon artist, games, arts & crafts, fit kids (football), food and more!

Primrose Overland Park is enrolling for Fall registration, attend their open house and learn more about the Primrose Advantage and what gives children an edge over their peers when it comes to school readiness.  Primrose children learn through a fun, safe, happy and secure environment!

Join us for a Primrose School Open House Celebration
Join us for a Primrose School Open House Celebration
Primrose School of Overland Park
12100 West 135th Street
Overland Park, KS 66221
(913) 400-2435


From iFamily to Yours,

Your iFamilyKC Team

Become a member of our inner circle! Receive exclusive access to events, freebies, COUPONS, enter2Wins AND tons of Family FUN!

Real Pirates

By: Holli Ann

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to attend “Buccaneer Bash”, the grand opening to the Real Pirates at Union Station.  The exhibit tells the story of the Whydah a successful pirate ship from the early 1700’s which shipwrecked only to be found almost 300 years later. I am fascinated by pirates (this kind not necessarily this kind) and I relish any opportunity to support Union Station so this event was a perfect for us.


The evening started with drinks, food and music. Fruits, cheeses, and desserts were on tables and wait staff brought around various horderves for guests to sample. The horderves were appropriately seafood themed and provided by Pierpont’s. We tried the conch balls, crab cakes and shrimp cocktail and they were all delicious. While we ate we were entertained by pirate themed bands which added a great ambiance to the area.


After about an hour, George Guastello, President and CEO of Union Station took the stage and spoke briefly the exhibit and about Union Station. I was surprised to learn that Union Station receives no tax dollars from Kansas City, and is therefore reliant solely on the income it draws in from events and exhibits to continue to operate.


Robert Regnier, the chairman of the Union Station Board of directors and his wife Ann then introduced Mark Lach the exhibit creator who talked about the exhibit and how the artifacts it contains made their way from the bottom of the ocean to Kansas City. The doors then opened for the exhibit itself.  Groups of about one hundred each were lead into a theatre to watch a short video that tells the the tale of the Whydah before then moving onto the rest of the exhibit.  The video was very well done and accentuated with lighting effects that added to the drama as we watched the  Whydah battle a storm and ultimately meet its untimely demise.


We then continued onto a mock Pirate ship which had replica pirate quarters as well as further information about piracy during the 1700s and about the Whydah’s crew.  The Whydah, we learned, was named after a port it frequented along Africa’s western shore. It was a slave ship until it was overtaken by pirates. It was interesting to learn about this often overlooked portion of western European history through the perspective of a single ship and its crew.


The highlight of the exhibit were the artifacts discovered on ocean floor. The ship’s bell, the first artifact that we discovered, was remarkably nearly intact and on display. There was weaponry and pirate treasure.  Just as interesting were the belt buckles, silverware, and other trinkets which gave glimpses into the life of a pirate during that time.


Last was the gift shop where if you liked you could get your own pirate treasure or any number of items to help you remember your experience. Overall, the event and the exhibit were both wonderful. The “Real Pirates” exhibit is both engaging and educational. Older children (I would say from about age seven on) will get a lot out of this exhibit, and there is enough going on to hold their attention.  I strongly encourage landlubbers both young and old to come experience this true pirate tale and support Union Station as it continues to bring new and exciting experiences to Kansas City.

Blogger Holli Ann documents her journey through life and parenting online at It’s An Ordinary Blog.

Parents as Teachers Program

By: Keri Nichol

In the past 9 years I have participated in the Parents as Teachers Programs with all of three of my children. These programs have been dramatically different in all the districts we have lived in but every one of them was super beneficial to me and my child. We have been enrolled in Harrisonville, Hickman Mills, Center, and now in Independence School districts. The one that offered the most comprehensive program was Hickman Mills in 2006-2008. They offered free classes in baby sign language, Gymboree, Music and Me, etc. People from these different companies would come to the Early Education center and all the participants of P.A.T were invited to come to the center and join in the free classes. My daughter learned a lot. They would also have story days where they would read books and then make little crafts and easy snacks. Not only did she learn a lot from the activities but she was able to socialize with other children in her age group. At that time they had a connection with US Toy where every month my daughter would get a $50 gift certificate from the P.A.T. program to go spend on educational toys at U.S. Toy.

I have had people ask me why I participate in this program since I was a lead early education teacher myself. There is a conception that P.A.T is for parents that don’t know what they are doing and need help and advice in raising the child. It is true that I have an Associates in a related Early Education Field and I have a Bachelor’s in Family and Child Welfare so I have studied child development and am very aware of the stages that my children are going through. However, I think that having an unbiased opinion on your child’s development milestones is critical. As parents, there are lots of things we tend to overlook with our own children or things that we are used to and therefore don’t really click as an issue. P.A.T instructor come to your home and they assess your child in eye sight, speech, vocabulary, gross motor, fine motor, etc. You are given the opportunity to challenge your child with activities that you hadn’t considered. But most importantly for me, is it gives the opportunity to discuss the child and issues or concerns you are having with someone else that is educated in that field. Sure, you can ask your doctor but I know I get overwhelmed and feel rushed when I see the doctor. I always have a lot of questions and forget to ask half.

A few years ago, when the economy had gotten bad, Missouri cut funding for Parents as Teachers programs and they suffered dramatically. Independence is now beginning to rebuild theirs after these cuts were made. I encourage all parents and soon to be parents to enroll in the program. It is absolutely free of charge and only benefits you and your child. Call your local early childhood center and ask for the Parents as Teachers department to get signed up.

Here are some websites for more information:

General Info: www.parentsasteachers.org/‎

Olathe: http://www.olatheschools.com/students-families/parent-resources/parents-as-teachers

Lee’s Summit: http://pat.leesummit.k12.mo.us/

Hickman Mills: http://www.hickmanmills.org/domain/229

Independence: http://www.isdschools.org/programs-services/early-education/

Liberty: http://pat.liberty.k12.mo.us/

Center: http://www.center.k12.mo.us/gen/center_generated_pages/PAT_m55.html

A Success Story from All Things Are Possible Education


Everybody at Camp Genius liked Steve. Handsome. Charismatic. Good guy. Likable. Great work ethic. Athletic. The girls all had crushes on him. The boys all wanted to be like him. Shoot, I liked Steve, too. Steve was tested by Dr. Cates, the same doctor who trained me to get great test results.

Prior to meeting Dr. Cates, I had my master’s degree and had hundreds of hours of training in the latest and greatest strategies and curriculum but I didn’t really know how to individualize curriculum with any kind of accuracy. It was more of a hit and miss approach. I’d teach until I got some kind of breakthrough with even the toughest kids. The average burnout rate for my field was a year and a half. I not only beat the odds but I received local television and state recognition. So, I could hold my own in the classroom, but what I accomplished then was nothing compared to what I learned from Dr. Cates.

I met him when I took a 4th grade student to be tested and have a program designed. She was non-verbal until age five and didn’t learn to read fluently until the end of third grade. After I started teaching her using Dr. Cate’s method, she read series of novels by her favorite authors, graduated from high school a semester early, worked her way through college and landed a really impressive job with a major pharmaceutical company.

Everything that worked for her I started using with kids who were wired like she was. Pretty soon I began to see patterns in the way children processed new information. I was able to design curriculum around their learning styles. I was getting incredible results—my students averaged two year’s gain in standardized testing in nine months of attendance. Dr. Cates told me, “Modeling after me is the best form of flattery as long as you give me credit.” So here I am giving Dr. Cates the credit he is due.

So now, back to Steve, he was in high school and finished with Dr. Cate’s programming when I met his mother. Steve wanted to get into medical school and was struggling in a certain section of the test. Steve had already tried the only curriculum I knew that addressed his issue, with disappointing results. “Steve, did you complete the whole book?” I asked. Sure enough he had only gotten three quarters of the way through. “Steve, I have an idea. I’ll hire you to work at Camp Genius teaching the very same curriculum to a student with challenging social skills.” Since Steve was so popular I hoped that he would help this student be accepted more readily, and that Steve would learn what he needed by teaching.

Steve far exceeded my expectations; he took this freshman under his wing, taught him, visited him in the hospital and turned into the best camp counselor. If you asked the campers what they loved about camp, they would enthusiastically reply, “Steve and the massive water wars on the Fourth of July!” My high school and college counselors bought out every water toy and water balloon in town.

Most of the kids don’t remember that they gained two, three, and four years in standardized testing during a six week camp. They remember Steve, the friends that they made and the water games that turned the football field into a slurpy mud hole. They walked away from camp with academic confidence they never had before. Only two percent of the students ever needed my services again, they were at or above grade level and I’d worked myself out of a job. Sure, I would run into parents at the grocery store asking for advice, “What should I do? I paid you to teach my son to read and now he’s up past his bedtime, hiding his novel and flashlight under his covers.” (That student went from being a slow reader to earning a full college scholarship)

What about Steve? I ran into him a few years back at the mall. He introduced me to his beautiful and sweet fiancé. He was finishing up his dental residency. I guess he got what he needed on his test scores. I got more than I could have hoped for that summer–a young man who made a lasting impression on every child he met!

I did not change the names or the stories. If this story resembles you or triggers any camp memories, contact me at www.atapedu.com
with your side of the story!


Karen Marie M.Ed.SPEC, Educational Therapist, director of Camp Genius, and owner of All Things Are Possible Education; improving class rank and standardized test scores in individual and small group sessions.