Starting a Montessori School: Part 1

    • Journal Entry: 1
    • September 2022

    We live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It’s a rural area near the ocean, and populated with way more chickens than people. My husband works at the rocket launchpad and we have an old farmhouse on a 35 acre farm, it’s not where I grew up, but it’s home.

    The Eastern Shore has one Montessori school, Franktown Montessori, it’s actually a really lovely school, I observed there once and was rather impressed. But Franktown is about 45 minutes away, and they’re not hiring. So, if I want to teach without compromise, I have to start my own Montessori school.

    Starting a school has been the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. There is the legal part where I need to understand taxes, licenses and regulations. There is the business part where I need to have a website, post to social media, attract customers, and balance my checkbook. And there is the pedagogical part where I needed training, experience, and a bone-deep understanding of Montessori philosophy. 

    On June 10, 2019, I wrote in my planner, “I am going to open a Montessori School.” I had no idea how to do that, but that wasn’t a good reason to not try. I wished I knew someone who had started a Montessori school and could tell me about their personal experience. I found a few short posts here and there on the internet, but they lacked specificity. I bought an eCourse that was valuable, but it was cookie-cutter and pre-recorded. I think there’s a Facebook group, but I wasn’t looking for a comment-section mentor. I wanted to read, in long form, what it takes to start a school. 

    I’m writing this series to document my personal journey- and hopefully help someone else on theirs.


    Finding our Building

    This month we’ve been focused on facilities; I’ve been told this is the hardest part. Facilities are the biggest line item in the budget, they require certificates and approval from the government, and any place I choose will almost certainly require construction or remodeling to suit my needs as a school. In Montessori there is extra pressure to select ‘the right place’, because the facility I end up with will be the backdrop for the Prepared Environment.

    We toured a few local commercial properties in the past couple months. Some of them were nice, some needed work, some needed a lot of work. I didn’t love any of them, but we have some contenders.

    watercolor barn

    My husband had the idea that maybe we could build. We’ve been wanting to build a garage with a finished upstairs apartment since we bought our house, perhaps now is the time. The upstairs could make a very nice classroom.

    PROS

    • I can start the school even with low enrollment numbers.
    • I can keep operating costs down overall, which translates to lower tuition and higher pay for an assistant.
    • When we grow out of the space, I’ll have invested into something I can keep.

    CONS

    • Construction never completes on schedule- this is a big liability.
    • High upfront cost
    • Will parents be put off by a school above a garage? Will it seems amateurish? Does it look like I’m doing things unprofessionally or not taking this seriously?
    • I can’t easily add a primary classroom to this set up.

    We are seriously looking into this possibility: we’ve found a contractor who is willing and able, we’ve looked at some financing options.

    The most important hurdle to cross here is getting the approval of the county inspector. He will be the one to sign off on all health and safety regulations and he will be the one to issue the Certificate of Occupancy. So far he has been helpful and seems optimistic about this possibility. *Fingers crossed*

    Currently Reading

    I read the book Show Your Work, and the author says to share abundantly, to in fact “show your work”. One of the things he specifically says to share is influences and inspiration, so here I am! These aren’t really book reviews and there’s no call to action, but maybe something here will be interesting to you.

    Hunt, Gather, Parent

    By Michaeleen Doucleff

    This book is awesome! I originally checked it out from the library, but I liked it so much I bought my own copy. Definitely recommended!

    It provides evidence for and advocates key elements of Montessori philosophy, such as the importance of Practical Life, Autonomy. All without ever mentioning “Montessori”.

    Maria Montessori book Psychogeometry

    Psychogeometry

    By Maria Montessori

    There are about 20 pages in this book that I found helpful- not a very good ratio. Most of the book is spent outlining the Geometry Curriculum in a nuts-and-bolts fashion.

    But those twenty pages, are really good! I got some great material that I’ll flesh out into some full blog posts.

    Maria Montessori Book From Childhood to Adolescence

    From Childhood to Adolescence

    By Maria Montessori

    Montessori is a very philosophical thinker and writer. She has definite ideas about the nature of man and what a proper education consists of. Her writing can be both dense and meandering, strangely specific or tantalizingly vague.

    FCTA is no exception. It takes me about a day to really chew and digest each short essay, but the time is well spent.

    Do you know someone who would find this interesting? Share it!

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