Features  Early education counts

The struggles of setting up the preschool you want

One year ago, on October 1, 2008, Miss Kelly’s Daycare and Preschool opened its doors. I had no experience. My business partner had no experience. We wanted to start a business that would allow us to pursue the things we wanted to do. 
I wanted to keep going to school, but I needed to find a spot for my daughter. I could have looked for work. I could have taken another full-time job and given up on the dream of pursuing music theory. Either way I needed a spot for Frida, and nothing was available. 
We bought a duplex. We opened a preschool. We struggled. We almost folded last winter, but we stuck it out. That’s the secret – persistence. Things have steadied somewhat. But the adventure continues. 
This has been an incredible year. I’ve managed to stay in school and maintain my grades, and I started, set up, and continue to manage and run a Montessori preschool. Because of this, my daughter, Frida, is getting the care I want her to have while I’m in class pursuing my dream of becoming a music theorist. 
It’s not always easy. Ours is a Montessori preschool, so it’s more expensive than other places. We have two excellent educators on staff. We have 13 children at the moment, some part-time, some full-time. There are limitations to running a private daycare and preschool out of a private home, so we are now looking for ways to expand. 
 One of the biggest challenges was finding the right staff. We got lucky. Our guide and her assistant together make an incredibly professional team, deeply loved by the kids. Even our current substitute is top-notch. Finding such wonderful people to help has been awe-inspiring and motivational. It’s motivated me to continue. I see the results in the kids, and I know that what we’re doing is important. 
It has been a challenge finanically. I went into significant debt. We came close to throwing in the towel. Persistence is what counts. Things are going in a clearer direction now. I am so glad I did this. I took a chance on life and my dreams. 
The kids are what’s so amazing. Each child is different from the next. Each comes with their own challenges and interests, their own uniqueness. We’ve been able to work things so that this is a cohesive group. We see developmental progress in all of the children at different levels. I love seeing these kids everyday. It is about as close to magic as anything I’ve imagined. 
It’s also been wonderful for my daughter – the best gift I could have given her. She has regular social interactions and clear direction from our guides. She has learned so much about taking care in her environment, and participating in a group, and about the things she really wants to do. She’s a happy kid. Confident, able. 
Education is so important. I see pitfalls in the standard government-sponsored educational system. It’s a good system, but I think some aspects are a bit outdated. I’ve discussed this with other parents, and our educators. I did a radio interview in which I discussed this with home-schoolers. 
The idea of not imposing anything on a child, of allowing the child to follow their own developmental instincts, is key. One of the aims of a Montessori approach is to provide the child with what they need for their personal development. In turn this will provide society with what it needs. I believe this absolutely. 
This allows children to be who they really are, and to think for themselves. I don’t think enough people think for themselves in today’s society. I don’t think we encourage that as much as we could in our current system. 
The system imposes a set of standards that must be met in order to proceed to the next level. Sometimes if a child excels in some areas, but not in others, she is held back from her natural growth. At that point education becomes a negative thing. 
The Montessori approach strives for something else. The intention is to allow the child to follow their own instincts. If they really want to develop math skills, they can focus on that. They don’t have to work on vocabulary; they can focus on math. This way they can fulfill their need where that is concerned. When they are ready, they can move on to something else. 
This creates a positive educational experience, and a positive system. It might be wise to evolve our current system in that kind of direction. Perhaps we can find a way to pay more attention to individual students, to identify their interests, and encourage their growth along those lines, instead of forcing them to conform to something they may not agree with, or be ready for. 
I don’t think most preschools are like that. Some of the stories I hear indicate a lot of conformity is required. Timed activities and group activities, in which the child has very little say in how their day is spent. One of the reasons we’d like to expand is to make this alternative approach available to more children and families. 
Since getting involved in this, I have become much more interested in the future of education. I would like to make this kind of education more available to more children and families. I would like to create something that is more appealing to trained educators who are seeking opportunities to work in a Montessori environment. I am definitely optimistic about the future, and I am having quite a lot of fun right now.