Starting a Montessori school isn’t child’s play.
You know that.
It can be tough and it can challenge and change you in more ways than one.
Rachel learnt that first hand when she made the transition from nannying and odd jobs to becoming the owner of a Montessori school.
With a K-12 certification to teach in the public system and having taught right out of college, Rachel saw the public school path as potentially unfulfilling. She chose to explore other options before committing to a career in public schools.
She made the life-changing ‘mistake’ of reading The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and took odd jobs, knowing that she’d land something she was passionate about.
It was during this time that she began working for a well known Montessori teacher training center and was encouraged by one of the partners to help start an affordable Montessori school in the area. She refused at first, but after a year felt the urge to go back into teaching.
She decided to take the training through the center and immediately fell in love.
She loved the independence that the children achieved. When Rachel had been a nanny in the past, she had always expected the children to do a lot for themselves, which the parents didn’t like. But in Montessori, she could have these expectations and see students soar in confidence.
Starting a Montessori School without Putting in the Money
Rachel got an opportunity to partner with a vetted business owner to start her school.
She had realized that saying ‘yes’ to opportunities often got her into more good than harm and went for it.
The agreement would be that she wouldn’t put any money into the business, just time.
She started her training in January of 2010, began an internship that fall, completed it the following June and the school was open by August 2011.
They found an older building that needed some love at a good price and worked on getting the community rallied around their project.
After a ‘ground breaking’ sort of open house for friends and family, they began building their website right away.
They went through the regulation training and did what was needed to get open at the minimum level (half days), and hoped for some traffic.
They also advertised on the local public radio station right away to get those initial footfalls.
School was on!
Budgeting, Finding Students and Filling Classrooms
Rachel and her partner prioritized on advertising and on opening as soon as possible.
Their startup costs were mostly paying their first assistant, an admin at the front desk and advertising.
They got their first student from the local NPR station.
That first family to sign up told lots and lots of friends, and their friends did the same. The school grew quite organically from that first batch of families. Currently, they do zero advertising.
The first year the school was Monday-Friday to 12:30, with 3 students, ages 2.5-3.5, two assistants in training, one staffer at the front desk, Rachel’s partner and herself.
In their 4th school year, they had 60 students, 13 daily staff, numerous subs, and 5 running classrooms.
Riding The Emotional Rollercoaster of Starting a Montessori School
A particularly big challenge Rachel faced was learning to work together with her partner.
They went from a boss-employee relationship to a majority-minority partnership, which might seem similar but was more complicated in a lot of ways.
Also she went from an employee to a business owner overnight, which was quite challenging.
However, all things said and done, seeing the Montessori method bring such joy to the children, their parents and their teachers has made it all worthwhile.
Tips and Takeaways: Things to Keep in Mind When Starting and Running a Montessori School
Rachel is an inspiration to anyone who wants to go from being an employee to a business owner.
We couldn’t let her go without getting some of her best tips on marketing and growing the school.
Treat current and prospective parents like gold. Rachel also says that a user-friendly website that explains what you do is vital.
Getting subs that may be interested in training or who have been Montessori teachers before, then having them work up to full-time staff has been how Rachel and her partner have recruited really good talent.
Also having non-Montessori trained staff go through a Montessori foundations course for a 6 or 10-week training has been a good way to give them the basics from the onset.
The school’s blog on their website with resources, pushing out interesting articles and tips on the school’s Facebook page, and regular parent nights have all been an integral part of their parent education program.
They also focus on helping parents through the sliding scale of their child’s development–toilet training, tantrums, etc on a one-on-one basis.
Doing it all, finding balance and boosting productivity
The school is still a 50+ hour, 5 and 6-day week for Rachel.
Her goal is to delegate some of her duties so that she can pull back a little bit and maintain quality.
Rachel sums it up best when she says,
“It has been an incredibly challenging, yet incredibly fulfilling chapter of my life. I enjoy mentoring the staff, being a resource for parents and being a positive school in a world where so many fall short. I make mistakes daily, but as a school we also make great strides daily. I am grateful for this journey.”