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Meet Karen Quinn of TestingMom.com

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Quinn.

Karen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I realized there was something really wrong with my son, Sam when he was 3-years-old. He and his sister used to play together – Sam would be a superhero. Schuyler was the princess. When they’d play, I noticed that Schuyler was doing all the talking. Sam had no language.

Then I noticed Sam didn’t look at me when I’d talk to him, and it was hard to get him to focus on anything. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong so we took Sam to see this renowned specialist in NYC. After running all these tests, the doctor said to me, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your son can’t hear.” “We can fix that,” she said, “with surgery.”

“But here’s the bad news,” she said. “Our psychologist gave him an IQ test. He scored in the 37th percentile. This child will never be very intelligent. You need to find a special ed program for him.” “Wait,” I said, “are you sure? Can’t I do anything to help him get better?”

The doctor just shook her head, and said, “not this kid; his IQ’s too low.” I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I had dreams of Sam. But now, with this, I didn’t know what kind of dreams I could have for him.

As soon as I got home, I called my mother. I asked her, “is it true? Is there nothing we can do to help Sam?” My mom said, “That’s crazy! The doctor doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Get his hearing fixed and then I’ll show you how intelligent he can be.” My mom had a Ph.D. in Early Childhood education.

We got Sam’s hearing fixed. Then my mom helped me put together a program to build Sam’s skills for school and testing.

I had a full-time job back then, but I’d come home from work every night, and Sam would be waiting for me, so excited to start our special learning time together. We would snuggle in bed and work on his skills for about half an hour. I had to create all my own materials to teach him. I put them all in a big box that I decorated with Superheroes.

As much as possible, we’d use his Superhero action figures for learning – we’d count them; we’d talk about the colors in Robin’s uniform, line them up from tallest to shortest. To Sam, we were just playing, but each activity we did was designed to help him grow developmentally.

A year later, Sam was retested at his nursery school. I couldn’t believe what the director said when she called with his results. She said, “Karen, you aren’t going to believe this, but Sam made the highest score in his class – 94th percentile.” He got into our first choice school and he turned out to be a great student.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a formal educator. I’m a MOM who knows what it’s like to want to give my child the best education possible so he could reach his full potential. I was determined to do whatever I had to do to make that happen. I know that if I felt this way, all parents must feel this way about their own kids.

After this experience with Sam, I wrote a book called “Testing For Kindergarten” that taught parents about how to get their own kids ready for early childhood testing. The point I made in the book was that if your child is ready for early childhood testing, then he’s ready to start school. The book was published by Simon & Schuster and did very well. After that, I invented a board game (originally called “IQ Fun Park”, now called “IQ Fun Pack”) that prepared kids for early testing and school success.

Soon after, I started my own blog on the topic of early childhood testing and I used to sign my posts, “Karen Quinn, the Testing Mom.” Around that time, I was reaching out to other bloggers who wrote for parents interested in education, asking them to share my book and game to their readers. One blogger, Michael McCurdy, wrote me back and invited me to lunch. As soon as we sat down, he handed me a business plan for a site called TestingMom.com.

He loved my material and wanted to go into business with me so that together, we could help families all over the country prepare their own kids for tests given for GATE programs, private school admissions, and state tests. It turned out that Michael had a background in online membership sites – he had worked at
Match.com – and he saw a future in teaching parents how to work with their own children to help with their school and testing success.

I said “yes” on the spot. I knew how much I would have loved to have access to a site like this when I was trying to help Sam. We started TestingMom.com 7 years ago, initially focusing on tests for pre-K to 2nd graders. Now, TestingMom.com has educational games and thousands upon thousands of practice questions for students from Pre-K to 8th grade. We help parents prepare their children for GATE tests, private school entrance exams, and state tests.

Beyond that, our site offers about 40 online premium education programs from providers like Scholastic, Britannica, Study Island and other experts so that kids can work on their skills for math, ELA, reading, science, social studies, history, coding, keyboarding, chess, and much more.

We’ve helped almost half a million parents to date – and our families are located in San Diego and cities all over the country. Last year, we added a line of flash card to our business. They’re available at Amazon under Gifted Testing Flash Cards. We have fun, brightly colored cards that help kids with math, verbal skills, general knowledge, following directions, spatial concepts and more. I get to write and design the cards (working with a graphic artist), which is really fulfilling to me.

Has it been a smooth road?
Building a business always takes twice as long as you think it will. As a business owner, you always want things to happen faster than it does. We’ve been pretty lucky. From the first day, parents lined up to join our program, even when we didn’t have that much to offer. But we continually add content and games to our site. In fact, we have parents who are still with us who joined in our first year of business. So we’ve been supporting them with all the kids in their family… I’ve gotten to know so many of them. But we’ve actually helped almost 500,000 people since we started, so I don’t know all of them!

Our site has so many resources, games and so much information, that it has been a bit of a challenge to present our content in a way that it’s easy for people to find what they are looking for. We recently redesigned the site and now I think it’s more intuitive than it’s ever been. Another challenge is keeping up with all the tests that schools are giving around the country. We are constantly having to develop new content and practice tests for our families.

Over the years, we’ve opened offices in NYC, Dallas, TX, and here in San Diego. It can be a bit challenging to have a team all over the country, but we talk to each other on video chat using Zoom, so it’s like we’re all together in one room.

This year, we’re adding a new program called GoGoBrain.com, which teaches children the skills behind test scores and grades through online gameplay – meta-cognitive and executive function skills like listening, focus, memory, following directions, thinking, spatial reasoning and more. Creating this has been very exciting, but also a lot of work.

We will launch in the fall and it will be challenging to communicate to parents why these skills are as important as learning math and reading so that children can be successful in school. They really are the at the heart of a child’s school success, but most parents (and even teachers) don’t focus on teaching these skills to kids.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the TestingMom.com story. Tell us more about the business.
The business is called TestingMom.com. Our tagline is “Involved Parents. Successful Students.” All the research shows that the more involved a parent is in a child’s education, the more successful the child will be in school and in life. We teach parents how to help their children get ready for important tests, and how to help them do better in their school subjects. We offer practice questions, games and lessons to get children ready for over 40 commonly-given tests, plus state tests such as the CAASPP – Smarter Balanced test.

TestingMom.com also offer over 40+ premium online education programs that teach children (in fun ways!) math, ELA, reading, science, history, social studies, chess, coding, keyboarding, and more. These are great for helping both struggling students catch up, or assisting more advanced kids who want to move ahead. And we offer all of this for just a little over $100/year membership. We also have monthly and quarterly membership options.

We have a Parent Success team that are available online or by phone 18 hours/day, where trained experts guide parents in using our materials and helping their kids prepare. Plus, I get on the phone with our parents every month to answer their questions.

What I’m most proud of is that we are truly there to help parents help their children succeed on tests and in school. And we actually do that! If you go to Trustpilot.com and type in our name, you’ll see that we have an excellent rating and parents are genuinely helped by what we do. We change the lives of students and families. Every day, I love to wake up and get started working on TestingMom.com.

Here are a few Trust Pilot reviews just to give you an idea of what parents say:
“Testing mom made learning fun for our 5-year old. She called her time on the site her “brain questions.” She aced her test with a 99% and landed a spot with the best teacher in the district. My small investment for the subscription will replace the private school tuition I paid last year. Thank you for a great experience last year and
for the many to come.”

“It was a great experience to prepare my son for gifted testing with Testing Mom! We loved everything: tests, games, Magic tree house, bubble sheet preparation! It was fun and easy to motivate him to work. And just today we’ve got an email that he is accepted to gifted services program in our city! Thank you, guys, for your great job! My son asked me to give you five stars.)”

“My son was underperforming in math. This was going to keep him out of a local gifted high school. I knew this to be an anxiety issue, but the score is what matters to the administrators. I used the games available on Testing Mom, I let him review the types of questions he would see on his reevaluation. I called infrequently and the support staff was always responsive and gave me lots of tips. He raised his score over 20 points in the percentile rankings. He is going to the high school where his friends are. I could not be happier with Testing Mom. My six year old loves her games and does not even seem to notice it is academic. Great site!”

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Currently, we are the only online membership company that helps families with testing and school success. Other companies sell workbooks or tutoring programs. We like to focus on helping parents help their own kids. We know that parents are with their children for about 18 hours a day, so who better than a parent to be the one to help their child succeed in school. And no one will care about your child like a parent. Plus a parent will really work to understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses like nobody else. When you pair that with our content and parent success team, that’s an outstanding educational support system behind any child.

I would love to see more companies focused on involving parents in their child’s success moving forward. Right now, I don’t see that so much. It’s more about hiring a tutor to help, or buying a workbook to give your child. And schools often don’t support parents who want to help their kids prepare for GATE tests and school success. They say, “leave it to us – we’re the experts.” But we believe that nobody is as much of an expert in your child as you are. And we stand behind any parent who wants to help their child succeed, just as I stood behind my son, Sam when the experts were ready to give up on him.

Pricing:

  • Yearly membership – $8.25/mo.
  • Quarterly membership – $15.99/mo.
  • Monthly membership – $24.99/mo.

Contact Info:

Karen Quinn has written a book for parents about testing in kindergarten and it’s chockablock with advice. She’s also come up with a companion board game. Here she is with some of the board game pieces at her home in Sunny Isles on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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