As a parent, I am not overly concerned about whether or not my child is a “rule-follower” or a great test-taker who gets straight A’s. I’m more interested in her personal development as a problem-solver, independent thinker, reader, friend, and citizen, among other things. When I first started looking for alternative education for my middle-school daughter, I dug deep into my “why.” Why am I feeling pulled to another way of learning other than what she has experienced so far? Why am I not satisfied with her traditional school experience, even though she is succeeding socially and academically?
Six years as an educator in a 2nd-grade classroom made me question things. Why is school so different than when my generation went to school? How has society changed since we were children? Do I agree with the general education shift to higher-stakes testing for children? What programs are being offered that will help her grow as a person, friend, and student? Is there any focus on social-emotional learning? Can her school guide her to become an independent thinker and problem-solver?
As I began to answer these questions, a strong pattern emerged. I noticed that I was leaning away from traditional education. I began to take inventory of our local schools and homeschool co-ops. I didn’t quite find what I was looking for. So, I began researching and exploring creating a school experience myself.
What would that look like if I could design a school experience for my child? Well, as an adult, I know what motivates me. I thrive with independence, strong relationships and trust, flexibility within established deadlines and boundaries, room for creativity, and a safe space where I can be myself and know my voice is heard. That is what I desire for my children when they go to school.
As I stumbled into this world of exciting educational possibilities, I found myself Googling, “What is a microschool?” I began to gather that, generally, a microschool is a small class size of children working together with an adult, typically called a guide. Sometimes these microschools have multiple grade levels working together in one space, and often their schedules are more flexible. There is also a heavy emphasis on student-led learning, where students get a voice in what they are learning and how they are learning. In other words, they are given the tools and space to become empowered learners.
All this “microschool” research was hitting home for me and aligning with the educational values I desperately wanted for my children. I began to dig into podcasts and stumbled upon one, Kelly Smith, CEO, and founder of Prenda, an organization that helps people start and operate microschools from their homes. The second the podcast episode ended, I went down the rabbit hole of Prenda’s content. I thought, “Is this too good to be true?” After inquiring on their website about “starting my own microschool,” I was quickly paired with a Prendie to ask all the questions, and I learned that it was true. It was a real possibility for my daughter and other students in our community.
At that time, the whole world had just gone into lockdown due to COVID, and I was looking for a way to simplify our lives. Prenda fit the bill. All of the stars aligned, and the moment I connected with Prenda, I began onboarding to become a Guide. I instantly began networking on Facebook and in our community. I quickly realized that other K-8th parents had the same dreams for their children. I knew that I couldn’t serve ALL those students alone, so I joined forces with two other ladies who also came on as Guides... I took the K-2 group, another took 3-5, and the last took my daughter’s group, 6th - 8th. We started it together and built something we were proud of.
And the rest is history... We’ve had some of the most rewarding and valuable moments inside these microschool walls. My daughter is healthy, happy, and thriving. She’s developed herself in ways I never thought possible, even growing two math grade levels in one school year, a feat she wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. She’s even learning French… just because she can, and wants to. I’m one proud parent, and I’m grateful to Prenda for giving me the avenue, tools, and support to launch our dreams.