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How to Launch a Micro School

COVID-19 continues to put parents in an impossible situation. With schools closed, they have been forced to stand in as full time teacher and caregiver, while still carrying their own workload, and they’re looking for alternatives: the micro school is an increasingly popular one.

As we saw during our first foray with school closures, online learning isn’t the panacea we hoped it would be. Children need an adult to guide them through their educational experience and their overall day. And the younger the child, the more this is true.

With recent news that school districts may not reopen in the fall, or may only reopen part time, this added burden on already stressed parents is going to continue. Parents will be forced to figure out additional or alternate options, which in and of itself can be a very daunting effort. How can a parent fit all of the different pieces together (online learning, remote learning, their child’s basic needs, social/emotional learning, etc.) while still working full time?

Micro schools might be one option. Micro schools, or microschools, are exactly what they sound like: small educational programs. They can take place in a home, a commercial space, a park, or any place where children can safely come together in small groups. Like any educational program, micro schools typically have a teacher to organize the day and guide the learning process.

In-home child care (often called “family child care”) is a form of micro-school, typically for children 0-5, though sometimes serving children up to age 12. Wonderschool has supported educators and entrepreneurs in their efforts to start, run, and grow in-home child care programs since 2016. We are a huge fan of micro schools for our youngest learners, and see how (pandemic or no pandemic) they can benefit older kids as well.

Whether you’re a parent who is seeking to make it all work in the pandemic, or an educator who is interested in a slight career pivot, here’s what you should know about micro schools.

About Micro Schools

What is a micro school?

  • A microschool is similar to an in-home child care program, often referred to as “family child care,” and carries many of the same benefits of an FCC program.
    Micro-schooling is essentially the reinvention of the one-room schoolhouse, where class size is smaller (anywhere from 4-15 students) and there are mixed-age groupings.
  • By nature of their size, micro-schools can offer a lot more variety for families, both in schedule and in curriculum and instruction. Some integrate technology, blended learning, or a flipped classroom, while others engage in project-based learning, or outdoor learning.

Why start a micro school?

  • You see a need in your community. With schools likely not fully reopening this fall, parents will need additional support in continuing their child’s education.
  • Online learning does not work for all age groups or subjects.
  • Children need the option for in-person learning and socializing.
  • You may be a teacher (ECE or otherwise) who has lost your job due to Covid-19 closures. Starting a micro school would allow you to continue your work in the field of education.
  • You might be ready to grow your career in education by being both teacher, director, and business owner. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “If I ran the school…” this might be the career move for you.

What are other names for micro schools?

Nanoschool, Micro-school, Pandemic Pod, Trust Circle, Homeschooling, Homeschool

What’s the difference between an in-home micro school vs. family child care as it relates to child care licensing?

  • This will depend on the state in which you live, and the ages of children with whom you’re working
    • Typically, programs caring for children ages 0-5 will be required to become licensed as an in-home child care program (also known as a family child care, a group day home, family daycare – terminology may vary by state). Wonderschool can help you get licensed!
    • To research ages 5+, we recommend using Google to search “homeschooling requirements [state name]” as well as “private school requirements [state name]”
    • In California, a microschool working with children kindergarten and up could either become a licensed family child care program, or could submit a Private School Affidavit form
  • Additionally, if you would like your child to be registered with the school district or the state as a student enrolled in school, you can register your child as homeschooled which may allow them access to a computer and curriculum (this varies by state)
  • Set up a consultation with Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) for $50-$100

What’s the difference between a micro school and tutoring/guided learning support (aka a “pod”)?

  • It’s important to note that school-age children can only be enrolled in one school
    • This means if a child is enrolled in their local school district, and you are offering guided learning support to help the child with distance learning as offered by their regular school while they can’t attend school in-person, you are offering a tutoring/guided learning service as opposed to a private school offering
    • If you are offering the above, often referred to as a “pod,” in your own home with a group of children you will need to become licensed as a child care program
  • If you are tutoring a group of children in their own home/homes, you do not likely need to become licensed as a child care provider or register as a private school – you will need to check on your state’s requirements
  • If a child unenrolls from their local school to attend your micro school, you will need to be prepared to offer a full curriculum on your own and the child’s parents need to be aware that the funding their district would have received for their child’s enrollment will no longer be distributed to their school. In some cases, parents may opt to receive a portion of funds that can flow to their private school, which can include a micro school
  • A true micro school will most often offer permanent/long-term enrollment to a child while a more informal “pod” of guided learning will likely be used temporarily, and to supplement a distance learning program

How do I buy liability insurance for my micro school?

  • If your program is licensed as an in-home child care program (serving children ages 0-12 in most states), you can get general liability insurance. Wonderschool has resources for its members.
  • Your current insurance broker may also be a good resource for you

As a parent, can I start a micro school or pod?

  • Yes, absolutely!
  • One option is to start a microschool in your home and run it yourself.
  • If you are unable or uninterested in running the program yourself you may choose to hire a teacher to operate the program as your employee.
  • If you are the parent and the program operates out of your home as a licensed child care program (required if you’re serving kids aged 4.9 or under in California – check your own state licensing regulations if outside of CA), you will likely need to be at home a certain % of time as the Licensee.
  • If serving children aged kindergarten and up, you can either become a licensed family child care program, or you can submit a Private School Affidavit with the State of California’s Department of Education (again – this requirement will vary from state to state so please research accordingly!)
  • If you plan to alternate locations – like a nanny share or guided distance learning pod – you will need to check your state’s regulations to see if there are any licensure or registration requirements but you may be able to approach it as an informal and temporary support for your children

Where can I find curriculum options for a micro school?

  • Primer
  • Moving Beyond The Page
  • Additionally, many children may continue to be enrolled in their traditional school, which will provide curriculum for remote learning opportunities

How can Wonderschool Help Your Micro School Process?

Can I use Wonderschool for a micro school?

Absolutely! You can use Wonderschool to attract new families, to conduct Zoom and in person tours, to host open houses, to find places to promote your program, to see analytics of interest in your program, to manage payments for your program, and to join our community of Microschool providers! You can get started by clicking here.

Here is an example of a Microschool on the Wonderschool platform: Little Elm STE(A)M Academy

Chris Bennett

Chris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wonderschool. He was inspired to start an education company by his parents, immigrants from Honduras who worked hard to ensure Chris had access to amazing educational opportunities growing up.