You’re an early childhood educator.
You love kids and can’t see yourself doing anything else. Maybe you are employed at a child care center, daycare, public or private school, or religious center, where you work during the traditional 10-month school year or perhaps a year-round schedule.
While there are certainly benefits to working under someone else’s roof, many educators are taking the leap into starting their own in-home preschools or daycares.
The dynamics of the workforce are also changing to support this phenomenon. As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the United States were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is an increase of roughly 1 million from May 2014.
A study by Intuit predicts that, by 2020, self-employment, personal, and micro business numbers will increase with more than 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, working independently.
You might think, Why would I want to give up a steady paycheck and take on starting my own family child care?
When you’re your own boss, you set the rules, create the vision of the school, make the business decisions, and keep your families happy–no one else.
You also set your own schedule and school hours, giving you more control over your time in general. Even on the longest, most challenging days, there is a sense of empowerment that comes with working for yourself.
School Director Karen Hernandez with students at Open Minds Early School in Piedmont, CA.
Large classes, little contact with parents, limited control over the workings of the classroom–these are just a few of the reasons why educators choose to leave the stressful world of teaching in centers. In order to meet state-mandated caregiver-to-child ratios, centers must enroll lots of children while paying their staff very little. This stress gets passed down to you–the teacher–who must manage larger classes.
It’s frustrating when you’re being stretched too thin and you feel like you can’t provide a great learning experience for all students, but such is often the case in a center. However, the high overhead costs of maintaining a center means it’s simply not financially feasible to maintain the same low caregiver-to-child ratios found in family care at the same tuition rate.
You’ll be less likely to suffer burnout when running your own intimately-sized preschool or daycare. It’s better for the children too.
Smaller class sizes not only positively impacts children’s ability to learn, but it reduces the risk of accidents caused by overstimulation with too many children in the same space. It is easier to connect one-on-one with smaller groups of children, get them into the rhythm of the day, and cater to their individual learning and social/emotional needs.
Those who devote their careers to teaching often cannot afford the cost of child care for their own children. Crazy, right?
Gardening fun at Angel Academy.
With the cost of child care often exceeding what someone would earn doing the same work at a center, it is extremely challenging for someone to work in this field if they have their own children under age five. Alas, many teachers opt to leave the field altogether.
“When you’re working as an assistant teacher or an aide in a center setting, your income is relatively limited and you don’t really have much opportunity for making more,” said Tom Copeland, the nation’s leading trainer, author, and advocate of business practices for family child care providers. “There’s not a lot of growth or opportunities for raises. You’re stuck with whatever wage you’re making.”
By opening your own preschool, you’ll generally earn more money than you would working in a center. This is especially true if you own your home. You can charge the same tuition rate as centers in your area, but because there are far fewer overhead costs for a home, you’re able to pay yourself–as well as your assistants–a higher wage.
This money also goes back to improving your school and curriculum instead of overhead costs faced by centers like rent, property taxes, meals and supplies, insurance, maintenance, and marketing.
“Back [in the 1980s], people went into child care because they loved children, and they left the field because they were burned out and tired. Today, people go into child care because they love children and they need to make a living. They end up leaving because of the finances. With what they’re earning, they can’t make it. The ability to be successful as a business has become a more important factor in bringing people into the in-home care and keeping them around,” Copeland said.
That’s not to say that everyone who works in family child care is making more money than they would in a center, but there is certainly greater opportunity to increase your earnings, depending on how successful you are in your business, Copeland added.
Think of it this way: If you have children under five, even if you start out earning the same salary as you would be making at a center, the fact that you are not paying immense amounts out-of-pocket to pay for your own child care means that you’re automatically earning more than you otherwise would have. You’re also providing an amazing opportunity for other children, while getting to spend more time with your own little ones.
Wake up before dawn, commute via train/car/bus/subway to work, come home well past dinner time–that is the daily routine for so many teachers.
By working at home, you can operate on a similar schedule, but not waste hours each day traveling to get to and from work. Also, if your kids participate in the program, you get the added advantage of spending time with them during the day.You have Greater Leadership Opportunities
Many of the best early childhood educators reach the height of their careers very quickly, and there aren’t always leadership opportunities available at their current employer.
When you are your own boss, however, the sky’s the limit.
Music time at Little Lemon Tree Nursery School.
In addition to honing your business and marketing skills, running your own preschool means you can pick and choose where you would most like to grow as a leader. Always wanted to break into parent education? Love the family engagement aspect of teaching? You can create these opportunities for yourself as an in-home educator.
As you almost certainly know, students learn best when their interests and passions are captured in the lesson material.
As an in-home preschool teacher, you are afforded much more flexibility and creativity in your approach than those who must adhere to a strict curriculum. An Emergent curriculum is a great option, as it allows you to change the activities based on what they notice children are interested in.
This approach requires careful observation, creativity, and flexibility on the part of the teacher; thus, it is not always feasible in a center setting, where there is a higher student-to-teacher ratio.
As the director of your own school, you have the flexibility to develop the day’s learning opportunities to align with the interests of the children in your program.
One of the best parts of working for yourself is that you have the final say over the curriculum, messaging, and mission of your school.
Always dreamed of leading a bilingual learning space? Love the Montessori approach? Want an outdoor-themed school that incorporates nature play? Now you can! It’s your school, so you set the learning philosophy, school values, and atmosphere.
Because the overall size of an in-home preschool is much smaller than a typical child care center, you also have a much more direct link to parents, enabling you to connect with them on a deeper level and provide more detailed information about their child.This is all not to say that starting your own preschool is always easy. Long hours, stress, and plenty of hard work can be a huge part of starting your own business.
This is all not to say that starting your own preschool is always easy. Long hours, stress, and plenty of hard work can be a huge part of starting your own business.
At Wonderschool, we empower early childhood educators to start high quality, in-home child cares and preschools. We assist with licensing, marketing, school setup, and everything in between. Our software allows teachers to easily manage their students, parents, and school all from one dashboard.
Find a child care program that meets your needs from thousands of listings using our Child Care Finder. If you're a provider, create a listing to get discovered by families near you!
A testimonial video on how a provider started a successful child care program on Wonderschool
Try this free online child care, business calculator. Join Wonderschool to learn more about business operations in your market.