Starting a Microschool in 2021: Inspiration From Industry Experts
Mara Linaberger from Microschool Builders and a panel of fellow microschool creators talk to us about their bespoke approach to education.
Mara describes what they offer as “the school-building school for self-directed entrepreneurs.”
Starting a microschool allows you to create a learning environment that suits your idea of education, but one that also aligns with your children’s wants and needs.
If you have a desire to tailor your children’s education to include community and a self-directed learning approach, then this panel discussion is for you!
From starting a microschool to how much it costs, how it can be done and why it should be done, Mara and her guests share their stories and are sure to inspire you.
What is Microschooling?
Microschools are learning communities for kids. They offer a way for parents, educators, and entire communities to create bespoke learning spaces in less than a year.
Mara says they hark back to the one-room schoolhouse idea where children were learning together, through connection, in a self-directed and developmentally appropriate way.
Homeschooling offers families the chance to curate their learning experiences, but microschooling offers a more community-based approach which has been revolutionized through recent technology.
Microschool Builders offer processes that help people turn their educational idea into a blueprint that they can launch as a microschool. They also help connect new microschools regardless of their different models or stage in development.
Each microschool was created to meet the needs of the children in the community, so they are all uniquely different.
- Mandy Spiczka, SHINE Together
- Amy Marotz, Awakening Spirit School
- Sophia Key West, Good Knight Child Empowerment Network
What Framework Does Microschool Builders Provide to Help You Start a Microschool?
Mara and her team have created a process that makes turning your dream of hand-crafting your child’s education into a reality.
If you want to learn more before diving in, you can buy The Micro-School Builder's Handbook: Personalized Learning for Your Child and an Amazing Business for You from Amazon. Mara will also gladly send you the free PDF.
Mara and her team have a 9 step process to walk you through the basics of starting a microschool.
In 10 weeks, they will help you answer important questions like:
1) Who is your client?
2) What is your marketing plan?
3) What are the regulations in your area?
4) What kind of facility do you want?
5) What does your first budget look like?
6) How are you going to find your foundational families?
7) How are you going to create a lasting legacy for the kids and community?
If this seems overwhelming, Microschool Builders offers support every step of the way with a Facebook group, regular meetings, and coaching calls.
Unlike other alternative education organizations, Mara focuses more heavily on the business aspects of starting a microschool. She understands that for a microschool to be successful, it needs to be profitable.
When you are ready to launch your microschool, you will participate in a year-long mastermind group and benefit from the wisdom of business coaches and experts.
Mara and her team have also experimented with connecting the various schools. Although they are all currently in the US, they plan to expand to 100 schools globally in the next ten years.
If the idea of a self-directed, community learning venture for your children sounds exciting, then get in touch with Mara to start your microschooling journey.
What Made You Start a Microschool? Amy Shares Her Journey
Amy was a public school teacher with 15+ years of experience. When she had her own daughter, she realized that, with her teaching background and Masters in Education, she was the most qualified to teach her child.
Her homeschool microschool, Awakening Spirit School, grew organically as many of her friends watched her progress. They wanted a similar experience for their children but didn’t want to be homeschool parents themselves.
After starting her non-public school, she found Mara because she wanted to turn her small school into a growing business.
With Mara and her team’s business strategies, Awakening Spirit School is moving out of Amy’s house to a stand-alone premise.
Mandy’s Journey When Starting a Microschool
Like Amy, Mandy was a public school teacher struggling with large classes and the inability to personalize learning for her students. She was passionate about helping those kids whose needs weren’t being met and who were failing to flourish.
After having her daughter, Mandy realized that she was a quick and curious learner. With limited options in her area for a school that fostered a love of learning, she embarked on a home-educating path that focused on self-directed learning and gentle parenting.
Like-minded homeschooling parents joined her, and their group grew. Her homeschool microschool, SHINE Together, developed when other parents who could not homeschool joined Mandy in day programs.
To start, she hosted group activities and time outdoors. Mandy responded to a need in her community for a connection-based education experience, and her school has flourished.
The Microschooling Journey As Told By Sophia
Camp WOW, World of Wonder, was started 23 years ago, offering 4-6 week summer camp workshops.
Each week had an assigned theme, but Sophia quickly noticed that it would end up morphing into what the kids wanted.
On day one, the kids get told what the camp offers and then are empowered to make the rules. They are completely in charge of their camp experience and often form microschool pods around different activities. The camp allows the kids freedom to choose how they structure their day and their camp experience.
Sophia realized how differently she had educated her two older children compared to her more out-of-the-box younger child and knew that a microschool was the way forward.
Mara helped her funnel her focus and decide on the right structure of the microschool based on what they wanted to provide.
As an Integrative Health Practitioner, Sophia was interested in personal empowerment for adults and children. Their homeschool resource center, Legacy Lifetime Learning Center, gives kids permission to be who they are. Homeschool parents who use the center will also give their time to the school in a pay-it-forward way.
What’s The Main Reason You All Chose Microschool Builders?
The unanimous answer to this question was the practical resources that Mara provides. The knowledge she shares speeds up the process, and the regular support ensures that the new businesses flourish.
As a Professional Development Specialist, Mara’s love of working with educators shines through.
She has a genuine interest in providing a community of school owners who can connect with each other.
The business of microschooling can be lonely, and by forming global connections, educators and children can get the support they need.
At the heart of Microschool Builders is the idea that school owners should design the business to serve the community and the children who attend the school.
Amy, Mandy, and Sophia all value the connection they have found and have zoom meetings to discuss, plan, and explore what their schools are doing.
From a personal level, each adult can completely be themselves, and the children in their microschools benefit from interacting with an adult who has that experience.
What Is The Cost To Set Up and Run A Microschool?
For a business to be successful, it needs to make money. For a microschool, this comes as tuition. Depending on your overhead costs, you can start a microschool with as little as $4,000 or as much as $300,000.
Amy realized that for her school to be sustainable and to avoid burnout, she needed to look at the metrics and confidently increase her tuition fees.
She could start her microschool on a shoe-string budget as she based it out of her home. She thrifted most of the furniture and didn’t have a set curriculum, a relatively small resource budget. She could start her school with $4,000-$5,000 originally.
Microschool Builders is also starting a foundation to offer scholarships to families in need. When schools are charging tuition based on their value, they can also help families with discounts.
Microschool Owners Talking Financing! How To Budget Your Microschool
Determining how much to charge will largely depend on where you are based and your overheads.
Mandy offers a weekly program, an online program, and a full-time option. She looked at the schools’ tuition fees and activities in her area and set her rates accordingly. It was essential for her to offer competitive rates while still ensuring her business would be sustainable.
Sophia doesn’t have as many overheads, but they will hire teachers. One option they are considering is a co-op workspace for teachers, and in return, their children can attend the school.
They are also striving to find a relationship between their non-profit and the school, so they can start an offshoot that will support tuition through scholarships.
How Big Can A Microschool Really Be?
Wikipedia currently says a microschool is 150 students or fewer.
This really depends on you, though, the demand for your school and your educational philosophy.
Microschool Builders’ biggest school has 17 students, and they believe in the Silicon Valley idea of being a lean start-up. This means that once a school has proof of concept, you can scale to a place you are comfortable with.
Mara likes the number of 10 students for a new microschool as this provides personalized education and is an easy number to work with a balanced budget.
Amy is currently scaling her microschool and has a cap of 24 students. On the other hand, Mandy believes in the ratio of 1 educator per 10 students as this offers individualized learning.
It is a balancing act based on demand, ethos, and practicality.
What Is The Timeline From Joining The Microschool Program To Accepting Students?
To reach a point of starting a microschool can be anywhere from a few days to 10 weeks.
Mara has seen a school open in 6 months, but it can take longer.
Microschool Builders works with educators to bring in revenue while still in the start-up phase, and Sophia’s camps are a great example of this.
Mara does suggest that $5,000-$10,000 is a reasonable budget for starting your own microschool.
Is The MicroSchool Builder Internationally Available For Anyone In The World?
Starting a microschool does require one-on-one consultation, and Mara and her team will need to be familiar with the legalities around microschools in your country.
A Look Inside A Microschool From A Student
Alex Moratz gives us a glimpse into her day and shares that she prefers the connection you can find in a smaller class.
The day begins with a walk and gratitude journaling, followed by math and the main lesson. Then it is off to lunch and playtime, followed by their passion project.
At this school, the children get to choose a project that sparks their interest.
You’re on your way to starting a microschool
If the idea of creating a microschool is appealing, then Microschool Builders is a great resource. If you love the idea but don’t want to build one yourself, then you can easily search for ‘microschools near me’ and discover schools in your area.
Microschools and microschool pods in 2020 became more popular in the face of Covid restrictions but have sparked a revolution in the way we see education.
Galileo offers an opportunity to take your microschool and transform it into a Local Dojo. A Dojo is a “place of the way,” or a meeting point for worldschoolers, unschoolers, and forward-thinking families.
Our Dojos are all over the world, and by partnering with us, you’ll have students from our community joining your local programs. The Dojos project is for all you travel bugs and inspired educators out there.
If we can re-imagine how we look at education, then we can create a world of conscious, creative global citizens equipped to change our world.