Starting A Montessori School: Part 4

    It’s been a long time since posting about the school progress. The last post was about January!

    This stretch has been painfully slow and stressful. I was having writers block because I didn’t know how to share about it. But I got some kind comments on the previous posts, so I’m buckling down to share more!

    The Building

    I’m writing on July 2, 2023 and the first day of school is August 14, 2023.

    We never found a contractor, everyone we talked to either didn’t return calls, didn’t show up, or asked a price that was “we don’t want to work with you” high. We did find someone who would raise the building (but no other work), but for a variety of reasons, the material costs got so high that we could no longer afford to hire that builder.

    We are building it ourselves.

    • We have all of the groundwork finished. (Shoutout to Bobby Cowger!)
    • The foundation is in and has completely cured.
    • The clam-shell parking lot is complete.
    • My husband has worked out most of the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing mechanical work and has ordered a lot of those supplies. (Before he was an engineer, we worked construction.)
    • The building materials are paid for and we expect the delivery to be this week.

    This all stresses me out immensely, but I didn’t come this far to only get this far. Stay tuned for pictures of me in overalls with my pink hammer.

    Marketing & Events

    I’ll be frank, this is hard. I’ve been attending events in a few nearby towns. I have a little booth and I set out materials for the children to try. I have designed and printed flyers, brochures, business cards and more. I pack up my car and drive out, then talk to folks in the community for a couple hours. Everyone has been incredibly warm and welcoming.

    What I’ve done and lessons learned:

    • Get contact info! It is not sufficient to hand out information, I need to be collecting the information for folks who are interested so that I can follow-up. Use lead sheets, one per family, not an email sign up list.
    • Smaller events have been a better success rather than large events. At the street fairs, I can only talk to a family for a couple minutes, so only passing interest is aroused. At a luncheon or a meet and greet, I’ll talk to a family for much longer and the interest and connection is much more genuine.
    • Online ads and digital marketing have been effectively useless to me. My budget is too low and I don’t know what I’m doing.
    • I placed some print ads and got a newspaper article written about the school. Those haven’t been published yet, so I can’t say if they worked.
    • Joining the Chamber of Commerce was a big boost!
    • Getting on Google Maps is important. Apple Maps is fussy and I’m not there yet.
    • I went around town and hung flyers anywhere folks would let me. That was time well spent. I keep flyers in my car.
    • I strategically placed a few yard signs around town. These signs are expensive! These were a great investment.
    • I went to all of the local preschools (20 mile radius) and gave out my contact information and packets to share with families (remember, I’m only opening elementary at this time, not a primary class). This was high-effort and I’m not sure it worked.
    • Give out business cards to everyone. Everyone.
    • The best thing I’ve done is my website. I started it about a year ago and have been slowly building it out and building up credibility with Google through SEO.

    You have to know how to describe what Montessori is!

    It’s really hard to describe Montessori Education!! It’s so different (in every way) from conventional education. I can think of dozens of ways to describe this method that are all correct, but not useful to someone who doesn’t already know what you’re talking about. There’s too much room for misinterpretation.

    • Montessori Education is hands-on and reality-based
    • Montessori Education is child-led
    • Montessori Education is education for agency
    • Montessori Education is The Scientific Pedagogy

    How do you share this method in a couple sentences so that it makes sense?

    I’ve started to describe Montessori Education as “Time-Variable, Mastery-Fixed” and that has resonated with families immensely. The real impact is when you describe conventional schools as “Time-Fixed, Mastery-Variable.” I talk about this a smidge in my Mixed-Ages blog post, and I’ll write more about it in the future.

    Enrollment

    I’m a systems level thinker, for a while in college, I thought I might become a Systems Engineer. I like thinking about all how all the moving pieces come together to make an integrated whole. (Much like Montessori Education as a whole!) Setting up my “enrollment system” was a challenge, but I think I’ve gotten the essential elements/tools sorted out. You can see this process in my menu bar above.

    1. Parent Inquiry
    2. Schedule a Tour
    3. Family applies/ get on the waitlist
    4. Send enrollment offer/ set up tuition and billing

    The difficulty is that interested families will reach out to you in many different ways (email, phone calls, website, etc.) and each family needs to have personalized follow-ups, because each family has unique needs. Automated messages would never work, and manually messaging dozens of families every week leaves a lot of room for mistakes (forgetting folks, getting them mixed-up, etc.).

    In “the biz,” software that manages this is called CRM. CRM software is really expensive. So, like every other scrappy entrepreneur, I made a DIY system. I’m mostly using Trello with built in automations to make checklists and some Zapier integrations with Calendly. Most of it is still manual. I’ll share more about this some other time.

    Montessori Materials

    Montessori Timeline of Humans, Third Great Lesson Materials

    Since my last Starting a Montessori School post, I’ve made and published:

    There are a few more things I want to make before the start of school, but almost all of my big projects are complete.

    Fresh Blog Posts:

    In Sum

    None of this would be possible without my amazing husband and our incredibly supportive network of friends and family.

    I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

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

    2 Comments

    1. What a difficult & important endeavor to bring Montessori Education to this area! Congrats!
      I am a recent “come here” and retired from Montessori teaching after spending 36 years in New York, 16 years in our Preschool, 20 at elementary level. Parent ed was the most difficult part of my work!
      Let me know if I could be of any assistance.

    2. Wishing you all the success Emily and I wish we lived in your area! I hope families in your vicinity see what incredible opportunity is being offered to their children. Your consistency and perseverance will pay off – I’m sure of it. This is your life’s work, and what a great challenge but also a great opportunity to live a life you have been called for. I follow your work closely and look forward to your blog posts. You offer wonderful resources and I thank you for those as well. Again, wishing you luck Emily!!!

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