Ages and grades
Elementary? Middle? High? If you’re just starting out, we recommend starting with an expanded middle school (grades 4-8), where students are old enough to read and be independent, but not yet demanding expanded curriculum and vast resources. Over time, you can expand in either direction, adding younger elementary and high school cohorts. On the other hand, some founders start microschools to specifically accommodate the ages of their own children. This is just fine, of course, but it may likely require additional staffing. The expanded middle school range tends to be the least resource-intensive.
If possible, we recommend a minimum of 2 coaches, not just for redundancy/backup (illness, emergencies, vacations), but also for support and a much-needed collaborative sounding board. The relationship may be an equal partnership, master-apprentice, or even just a parent available part-time or on-call as needed. Ideally, the coaches will complement each other, with one coach having a math/science/engineering background while the other has a humanities/writing/liberal arts background. Comfort with technology is a must. Hiring options might include homeschooling parents (you will likely meet many excellent candidates as you are recruiting families), Teach for America alumni, and former teachers returning to the profession.
Starting off with just a handful of students, teaching in your home is perfectly viable. But as you grow, we generally recommend seeking out a local church with significant Sunday School classroom space that’s empty on school days. The larger the classroom(s), the better. And make sure you have good wifi. Your teaching space will also need a playground/PE space where the kids can burn off energy. A large yard or nearby park can easily suffice. Lastly, you’ll want a kitchen area where kids can prepare the lunches they bring, including a microwave and refrigerator.
Generally speaking, we recommend a low, fixed-price tuition. Realize that your learning coach salary will also be quite low the first couple of years, until student numbers grow. Amount? We recommend keeping tuition below $5k per year. As your school grows, you’ll be able to financially take on more students who can’t afford full tuition. Awarding these scholarships vastly increases the potential student base.
Other pricing models are also viable, depending on the needs and preferences of your students’ families. One great model is the cooperative, in which costs are shared by all parents. Using this model, cost per student decreases as the student base increases. Parents have a financial incentive to actively recruit more students!
You can get fairly creative in how you raise funds. A few other ideas include a discount for founding parents, a discount for multiple kids from a family, scholarships from donors, and payment schedules.
This is integral to your brand and group identify. Your name might reference your neighborhood or a church, if you’re affiliated with one. You might want to highlight that you’re part of the Microschool Revolution network for marketing and name recognition. For example, you might be “The Wild Oaks Microschool” with sub-naming “Part of the Microschool Revolution Network.” Be sure to check and see if a good web domain name is available (you’ll typically want a .com if you’re for-profit, and a .org if you’re non-profit). If so, be sure to claim it as soon as possible.