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You have boxes filled with toys, and tiny tables and matching chairs. You also know how to whip up a mean lunch of mac and cheese. These facts alone, however, don't qualify you as ready to open your doors as a home preschool. Most states ask residential preschools to meet the same regulations as commercial child care operations. That means you'll have to file the formal paperwork authorizing state authorities to take a look at you, your employees and your home up close and personal before getting the preschool green light.
Prepare your home to work as a school by picking up or downloading a copy of the state guidelines from your state office or from the Internet. State education departments or offices of children, youth and families have copies of the mandatory regulations.
Collect transcripts of your education credentials and match these with your state's requirements. If you don't have the education or training, sign up for classes to get what you need to pass the review.
Set up your preschool as a formal business. Federal tax rules mean making a lot of complicated decisions before opening, like formally incorporating, but these might protect you from paying extra taxes. Businesses also need insurance for the school and your staff. Open a bank account and sign up for any credit-card options you want to have for folks to pay your school fees. The more you charge, the stronger the argument for taking plastic.
Get your house ready for your tiny charges by picking up a checklist of home requirements from your state licensing office. Grab a hammer, because your house must have some basic things to open as a preschool, including a bathroom for use by your preschoolers. You'll also need some features of a commercial kitchen -- even if you plan only to hand out fruit roll-ups as snacks.
File for required business registrations, permits and licenses. It's not enough to get a state approval; your county (and possibly your city or town) also wants a chance to torture you a bit. Fill out the license and permit information, attend any required classes, pay your fees from your new business bank account, and collect any required documents to submit with your license application.
Hire your staff and start planning your school activities and studies. Your state license requirements tell you how many staff members you need for the number of kids you intend to wrangle.
Develop your marketing plan and create advertising for your new preschool. Check out your competition to know what brings in parents from your area.
Write your preschool contracts and protect yourself by hiring a legal eagle to take a look at your formal contracts and business disclosures. It's better to have a legal review before you open, rather than after someone sues your preschool.
Protect your fledgling preschool by talking to your neighbors, particularly the cranky ones, about your plans. If opposition appears to a school in your residential neighborhood, see if you can buy them off. Offer deep discounts for the neighborhood children and grandchildren of your biggest detractors.
- Arizona Department of Education: Home Preschool
- Arizona Department of Education: Guideline and Procedure
- North Dakota Department of Human Services: Early Childhood Services in North Dakota -- Licensing Information and Regulations
- Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families: Child Day Care Center -- Regulations for Licensure
- Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Child Care Licensing: Arizona Administrative Rules, and Arizona Revised Statutes for Child Care Group Homes
- California Department of Social Services: Family Child Care Home Licensing
- California Department of Social Services and Child Care Advocate Program: Child Care Center Self Assessment Guide -- Safe Food Handling and Preparation Licensing Requirements and Best Practices
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Market Analysis
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Marketing and Sales
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Find Business Licenses and Permits
- U.S. Small Business Administration: State Licenses and Permits Does Your Business Need?
- The Reinvestment Fund: The Business Aspects of Managing a Child Care Program
- Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity: Child Care Business Start Up Profile
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.