I’m Starting A School!
The last few weeks have been quite the evolution for us regarding homeschooling. Chris and I have had many discussions about what teaching our daughters means for my schedule and time, and how that relates to our goals for the future. I also came to the realization that I don’t want to be an island. There is a reason that my homeschool plan for this year includes two dance classes, story hour, art class, and a violin lesson each week. I want Nora to be exposed to as much out in the world as she can be and, I’ll admit, I sometimes want a break from being the person doing the work of setting and cleaning it all up. I like having other people with differing strengths and abilities being involved in Nora’s education and helping me in areas where I am less qualified — or less interested. I’m not homeschooling because I want to do it all on my own…I’m homeschooling because there isn’t currently a better option in our town.
Recognizing that, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make homeschooling work best for our family. I tried unsuccessfully for several months over the summer and into September to start a homeschool cooperative (in my fantasy land it would have been something like this), but I couldn’t get anyone else on board. There were several especially discouraging moments when we planned meetings at a local park and then not a single person showed up, despite having five or six families say they would be there (hence my depressing instagram at one point). I eventually gave up on the cooperative idea because it seems that despite all the talk and the relatively large number of homeschoolers locally, there just isn’t enough interest in working together.
I was quite disappointed for several days, but then on a whim I decided to explore something completely different. I started asking around to see if there might be any interest in a school similar to the one we wanted to send Nora to on Nantucket. Since I’m not committed to homeschooling and I’m just committed to something that is not traditional public school, I was encouraged by a couple friends to at least explore the third option: starting my own school. At first I thought that was crazy. If I can’t even get people interested in a one afternoon cooperative, how would I get anyone to commit to a school? But I remembered that I am not the kind of person who gives up and that it never hurts to ask. So I started asking around, and lo and behold, there were people intrigued by the idea of starting a school.
It turns out that after all that disappointment, right there in the middle of the road,
there was something unexpectedly magical.
After getting some initial interest, I started a secret Facebook group to discuss. We talked back and forth and did a lot of reading, and after debating private versus charter, we settled on trying to start a public charter school. The group has five parents in it, all of whom are committed to doing the work to get the school started, plus a couple others that want to help to a lesser degree. We agreed on a learning style, submitted a letter to the superintendent to inform him of our intent, and set the ambitious goal of completing the application in time for the 2014-2015 school year.
When Chris and I discussed our goals for our family’s future, we realized that until we have our girl’s education sorted out we can’t do anything. Our first commitment is to giving them the best start in life that we possibly can and we both believe that this school is one of the best ways to do it. And not only will it positively impact Nora’s and Zara’s lives, but it will also positively impact the lives of countless other children in this community. So, for the next couple months, I am going to be living and breathing charter school. I’ll try as much as possible to post updates here (especially about the school creation process) but from now until February they may be few and far between. I have to take care of my girls education first and I hope you all can bear with me while I do that, and hopefully cheer me on a little while I do it. This is going to be a huge project and I’m sure there will be moments along the way when encouragement will be much needed…
OMG!!!! You are amazing!
This is such a fabulous idea!!! I am very fortunate being in Massachusetts where we have an abundance of school options—If I were in your situation I would kiss your feet for being so forward thinking! What an excellent opportunity for you and your community! Congrats!
You are pretty amazing Amber. I can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished in less than a year in Gillette! FYI, there are a bunch of charter schools in Loveland and Fort Collins so if you are still planning on coming to tour schools you are more than welcome to stay with us!
Thanks Chantry! I am planning on coming down there and would love to see you!
This is “Cheryl from Houston” from the comments section of the New York Times Motherlode blog.
It’s great that you’re starting a school! Reading your post, I was reminded of something. Both my kids have learning differences and ended up at specialized private schools. When we found my daughter’s first school in New York City, I discovered that every single such school devoted to children with learning differences in the city of New York had been founded by parents. Likewise, the school my kids went to here in Houston was founded by a wealthy family who had hired a young teacher for their little girl and decided they wanted her to have a school experience. Twenty years later, that teacher is the head of a school that just expanded into beautiful new facilities.
Anyway, I was wondering if there are books out there by people who have founded schools or organizations to join or even if it would be worth your while to contact schools and see if you could talk to their founders …. Just a thought.
Good luck! Very exciting!
Thanks for leaving me a comment, Cheryl. There are a couple of charter school associations that we are have been speaking with, and we are in the process of reaching out to schools as well (with varying degrees of success). One of the nice things is that schools’ charters are public documents, so we have plenty of written documents that we can refer to.