Richard Huffman's first four children each attended one of the Celebree Learning Centers, the child care chain he began in 1994 which now has 22 Maryland locations.
The fifth child — Camden, now 6 — was only part-time at Celebree because Huffman's wife, Dawn, wanted to keep the boy at home as long as she could.
"He was the last baby. It was all those mom feelings," Huffman said.
But the parents noticed Camden was a little behind when beginning kindergarten, "and now he's playing catch up," said Huffman, Celebree's president and CEO.
To Huffman, the story is a testament to the benefits of child care centers generally and Celebree in particular.
"When I went to kindergarten, that was my first day of being exposed to learning," he said. "Now they're already expected to know the numbers one through 10, not only to recognize them but be able to write them."
That's a big part of Celebree's pitch — that parents expect child care providers to be more than baby sitters. There are age-specific programs, such as arts, crafts, language and social skills, for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age kids.
Huffman grew up steeped in the business.
In 1984, his mother, Elizabeth "Betty" Huffman, launched a center that has expanded into three locations under the name White Marsh Child Care Center. When he was young, Richard said, he used to sweep up at the end of the day.
Ten years later, he opened his first center in Ellicott City.
There are five Celebree sites in both Harford and Carroll counties, four in Baltimore County, three in Anne Arundel County, two in both Howard and Frederick counties and one in Prince George's County. A 23rd location is in New Castle County, Del.
Huffman said he plans to open new locations later this year in Germantown (Montgomery County), Pasadena (Anne Arundel County) and Middletown, Del. Celebree bills itself as the state's largest privately held child care chain.
The chain already employs about 800 teachers caring for 2,300 children from 6 weeks to 12 years old.
"The philosophy is learning begins at birth," Huffman said.
Title: President and CEO of Celebree Learning Centers
Education: Perry Hall High School
Family: Wife of 16 years, Dawn; children Olen, 14; Evan, 12; Preston, 10; Addison, 8; Camden, 6