Have you ever thought about starting a micro school, but didn't know where to start? The Robertson family in Los Angeles has started one for their kindergarten daughter. We talked to Caitlin Robertson to learn all about it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
We live in Los Angeles, California. We have three kids - a newborn, a 2-year-old, and a 5-year-old. Our 5-year-old is going into Kindergarten this year.
What gave you the idea to start a micro school?
One of the biggest factors that went into our decision to create a micro school centers around our belief that kindergarteners need social connections and lots of physical play. At age 5, kids are just learning how to learn by asking questions and exploring the world around them. Before COVID hit, we planned to enroll our daughter at our local public elementary school. However, once it became clear that the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) was leaning towards a fully remote (virtual) option, we began exploring other options. Our daughter had some experience with Zoom through her preschool last year, and while the teachers did everything they could to make it fun and engaging, she had a hard time connecting with her fellow students over a video.
What will it look like?
Our micro school will meet with 6 kindergarten students in the backyard of one of the families' houses. We made sure to pick a location with plenty of outdoor space and shade, but with the option to be indoors in case of bad weather.
What are some of the greatest challenges you've had in setting this up?
Starting a micro school has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done! It's harder than any business dealI have put together as a marketing executive. One of the biggest challenges is staying up to speed on the fluid situation that is COVID.
As state and local officials learn more about COVID, the guidelines we are asked to follow have changed weekly (if not daily). With each new regulation or mandate from the city, county, or state, we've had to flex and evolve our micro school to ensure we're being safe and acting responsibly. For example, in California, the rules on wearing a mask change based on the county you are in. Face shields are different from masks. Teachers must wear them, but kids do not... the list goes on and on.
Do you have a specific school curriculum you're using?
We are still finalizing our curriculum but we're looking at a few programs, including Charlotte Mason, Handwriting Without Tears, Singapore Math, Math-U-See, and more. We are also using the Common Core standards as a way of evaluating students at the beginning of the year so that our teacher can create a customized learning plan for each child.
Do you have any guidelines for the families in the group in terms of social distancing outside of the group? We are asking our families to follow state and local health guidelines as much as possible, including social distancing with members outside of their immediate household and wearing masks in public places.
What advice do you have for other families who are considering a microschool? Starting a microschool is all about communication -- with the other parents, with the teacher, and with your child. Our understanding of the coronavirus changes daily as we learn more about transmission and long-term effects. Be sure that the parents in your microschool are aligned on social distancing expectations, health protocols, and more. What if one parent needs to fly for work? What if a child comes to school with a fever? Should the private educator be COVID tested before they start? Talk through all scenarios so that none of the parents are surprised when something happens. The one thing we know about COVID is that we cannot predict the future, so building a foundation of trust via communication is crucially important.
We love the way that the Robertson family has been able to combine safety, education, and social interaction in their kindergarten micro school. Despite early challenges, they've found a great system that works for their family.
Are you part of a school pod? Or are you trying out a new style of learning this year? Let us know on social at #getfamilyapp or #ourschoolstory!
And for more stories of families’ school options, be sure to check out FamilyApp.com!