THE FAMILY TREE
The Kims develop an online educational program for children
For the Kims, learning is the family business.
Last fall, Jinhee Kim launched "True Learning" -- an educational Web site that offers activities for children ages 3 to 6.
Math, creative thinking, motor skills and world pages offering simple lessons in Hawaiian, French and Spanish are all part of a program intended for parents looking to supplement their children's preschool experience or who can't afford preschool but want to provide a comprehensive foundation for their youngsters.
Jinhee's husband, Joseph, provided the financial and management background to get the business started, and daughter Avery, age 8, provided quality control.
Avery "tested every page, gave suggestions, pointed out mistakes and critiqued my efforts," Jinhee said.
"I felt really happy when I found mistakes on the pages because I knew I was helping my mom," Avery said. "She always thanked me for my good eyes and good thinking."
Jinhee's three children were definitely the inspiration behind the project.
It all began with her search for learning experiences that would be interesting and fun for the kids. "My husband used to joke that I should start a preschool because I was always buying and trying out every kind of learning toy and program available."
Joseph said he shares his wife's belief that young children have an amazing ability and desire to learn. "When Jinhee wanted to develop her own site and business with the single goal of helping to empower young children, I was very excited."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Kims -- Joseph, left; Avery, 8; Jinhee; Hana, 14; and Drew, 16 -- enjoy playing music in their free time at their Manoa residence. Jinhee Kim is founder of the True Learning Web site, which is geared toward preschool children. Her entire family helped launch the business. At top are characters from the curriculum.
The Kims are well traveled, thanks mostly to Joseph's positions in international finance. They've raised their children in Hong Kong, Singapore and, most recently, Tokyo, where their children were exposed to an array of educational systems and philosophies. Five years ago they moved to Hawaii.
"Returning stateside," Jinhee said, "I realized that there was a void of affordable, interesting, developmentally appropriate materials for the very young."
So she created her own. "My goal was to create fun and engaging exercises that were developmentally appropriate for the fine motor and cognitive skills of a preschooler. The exercises had to be intuitive, integrative, cumulative and fun."
Jinhee resigned from her position as an attorney at a local law firm to focus on building the site.
True Learning charges an annual fee of $99 for unlimited access to more than 3,000 exercises in six subjects. Parents print out worksheets so their children can do the activities on paper, not on a computer. The site has about 150 subscribers, but Jinhee says she gets about 500 hits a day on a companion site that offers free games and sample worksheets.
"It's important for them to learn how to use a pencil," Jinhee said.
Some parents use sheet covers and dry-erase markers so favorite worksheets can be used over and over.
Other activities encourage use of scissors, to develop those motor skills.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jinhee Kim works on her True Learning material. Though just released this past fall, Kim says that the entire project took more than three years to complete.
All three kids helped build the business, Jinhee said.
Son Drew, 16, is an avid Web surfer. "I was able to help my mom in terms of giving feedback on how her site compared to others on the Web," he said. "Being able to see something start from just a concept and turn into a full-blown Web site and product was very exciting and interesting. I liked making comments on the site and then being able to see the changes I suggested implemented into the actual product."
Older daughter Hana, 13, helped develop the characters that populate Jinhee's 3,000 pages of curriculum. "My mom and I had a lot of fun putting together the character profiles," Hana said. "It's great to piece together a person from your imagination."
Joseph wanted the children to share in creating something, start to finish. "We thought this would be an important lesson for them."
And the experience did teach both older children about dedication. "I learned that there has to be passion and drive behind an idea," said Hana. "My mom envisioned something that she really believed in and made it happen."
The mixture of work and family isn't always smooth, though, Joseph said.
"We often argue with one another about one aspect of the business or another. Each of the children has very strong opinions about almost every aspect of the company."
Jinhee added, "Dinner at or house often has us discussing new ideas for the blog, marketing ideas, character profiles for a television show I'm trying to pitch. It's really a family affair."