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How to Be Intentional With Children's Education

Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy is the founder of Merit Academy, an accredited K-12 private school. She designed the curriculum starting in 12th grade and then worked backwards. By figuring out what a child needs to know and prepare for at the end of their educational career, they move through curriculum intentionally, learning what they need to learn.

Visit Susan's website here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Tell us about your background and education.

*** Masters Degree in Educational Administration

*** Director and founder of Merit Educational Consultants (Parent company for Merit Academy, College Advisory, and ProjectMerit)

*** 2 grown daughters: Nicole (35 years) ER doctor and EMS director (Stanford and Stanford Med School)

Jaclyn (30 years) MBA Kellogg School of Management and working in Chicago

Susan is the California American Mother of the Year. What are your platforms for families and children?

.*** My platform for Mother of the Year has been to promote fire prevention. I have developed an online form for residents to complete that includes vital information (location of electric/gas meters, fuel tanks, disabled family members, indoor pets, large animals, power tools, EMS training, etc) that goes directly to the local fire department,.

This can act like a reverse 9-1-1 for EMS and firefighters to get information to residents in an evacuation or other emergency. I plan to make the available to the state of California, and then in the future, to the USA. I have also made several YouTube videos to help moms prepare for disasters with GoBags and other tips. See:

*** Another platform: Free Child Care in Your HomeWhen my children were babies, I set up a small preschool program in my home and invited 3 other children to join them. My girls learned to read by the time they were 3 years old and they were top in the class all the way to college. I got to choose my teachers, students, and curriculum, and the parents paid a tuition that covered the cost of the program. I did this for 9 years and it didn't cost me a penny. I'm showing California moms how they can do this too. See:

*** Another platform: ProjectMerit to get your teens into top colleges and win scholarships. By doing an independent project, teens can position themselves to get accepted to their #1 colleges. I wrote a book that walks students through the steps of doing projects that will make them stand out. See:

What role have teaching and education have played in your family?

*** Worried about the schools in my area, I started Merit Academy, an accredited K-12 private school, for my girls back in 1994. As the director, I never taught their classes but I oversaw all classes, field trips, international excursions, theater productions, and all projects. Each year, the students traveled nationally and internationally at the end of their school year to see first hand, what they had studied. We went to the Mayan Ruins, medieval Germany (Romantic Road), literary tour of England (Shakespeare, Haworth, Austen, Wordsworth, and more), US History (Concord, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Mount Vernon, DC,etc), Paris, Giverny, and Versailles (Art history and French Revolution), and Japan (Culture, WWII, architecture), and more. As a family, we've traveled to India, Vietnam, Thailand, Panama, Costa Rica, Caribbean Islands, most of Europe, and Ireland to explore art history and cultural history.

Why did you develop curriculum?

*** I wrote the curriculum that starts with preschool and goes up to 12th grade with the goal to prepare any child to be successful in top universities and careers. Students start writing research papers in 3rd grade, read unabridged classics, study STEM and take college science classes in high school, and do PROJECTS!

How is this curriculum different?

*** The Merit Academy curriculum is designed to focus on all of the skills, experiences, and critical thinking that students will need in adulthood (college/career). I designed the curriculum starting in 12th grade (18 years old) and then worked backwards. That's when I realized that a comprehensive program like this has to start at 18 months old (preschool). I encorporated periods of time when hormones would play an influence (at 12 years old and older) so the students really needed a solid academic foundation by then in order to blossom in middle and high school years. The curriculum is very academic on one hand and very project-based on the other. The students engage in interesting projects that they can become advocates for. (see ProjectMerit:

This builds self esteem and confidence. Many of my students are currently fighting climate change by doing projects that focus on reducing miles driven, promoting hydrogen fuel cells, divestment on an individual level, water purification, mushroom mitigation, video games focused on teaching kids about the climate crisis, and more. For elementary school programs, students star in musical theater, engage in science experiments, and start non-profit organizations.

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