Former public school teacher opens Christian microschool, reaches maximum capacity after one year

When Mercedes Grant tried opening a Virginia microschool in July 2022, she organized meetups and small classes to generate interest. But no one signed up for months. 

“I knew I had…

When Mercedes Grant tried opening a Virginia microschool in July 2022, she organized meetups and small classes to generate interest. But no one signed up for months. 

“I knew I had potential, but I just didn’t have the base yet,” she said. 

Then she started a children’s book club. Attendance grew from two students to 12 in just two months. 

Now Path of Life Learning has enrolled 32 students for this fall – reaching maximum capacity within three weeks – with 15 more students on the waiting list. 

“It’s been very, very rewarding,” Grant said, “and shows that this is going to be something that the community not only needs, but will be able to utilize on a larger scale.” 

‘Many different concerns’ 

Grant, a special education and math teacher, had no idea eight years ago that she would ever open a microschool. At that time, she was simply getting her master’s degree in special education. 

Both of her children attended public school until the summer of 2022, when the military family was preparing to move to Virginia. 

“I left the public school industry basically because there were many different concerns that I had,” she recalls. “Just about the learning that was happening, and how the learning was happening in the classrooms.” 

As a military spouse, Grant saw the same learning issues across the different states where she taught. 

“One day I was just like, ‘I need to be out of this,’” she said. 

While her family was planning the relocation, Grant began researching online search terms such as “how to quit public school teaching” and where former educators were going.  

“They [public schools] differentiate really by a student’s age,” she said, “and I find that to be of a major concern because it is limiting our children who can do so much more.” 

In this way, she learned about microschools – a place where natural, joyful learning occurs outside state regulations and specifications, she said. 

The National Microschooling Center calls this capacity of microschools “permissionless education.” Overregulation of schools can end up compromising the ability to adapt to the changing needs of students, including minimum square footage, seat time requirements, and staffing or curricular choices. 

“Microschools not forced to jam their programs into tight compliance requirements like these can truly innovate to personalize their program,” the center states on its website. 

When her children were in public school, Grant also never heard feedback from their teachers about how they were performing. 

“A microschool is a place where a child will be challenged appropriately, where the home and school connection has the potential to be mended,” she said. 

‘A lot of flexibility’ 

Unlike public or traditional school systems, microschools can cultivate real-life skills in courses such as gardening, woodworking, music, and foreign language studies, Grant said. 

“It is such a huge contrast from what the traditional education system offers,” she said, adding it also serves parents who want more involvement in their child’s life. 

Many of the families Grant serves are also military families who homeschool. 

“We have met so many other military families whose children have struggled with another move,” she said. “Children really do struggle with moving and having to find new friends.” 

Many of the parents appreciate her faith-based microschool and want additional academic support for their children, but not necessarily on a full-time schedule. 

In contrast to traditional schools, Path of Life Learning lets families choose their enrollment options, which vary between 2-5 days of the week. 

“It gives them a lot of flexibility,” she said. 

For the future, Grant hopes to expand her microschool and serve even more students – either with a bigger location, or with multiple area locations. 

“I would love to just continue to share the Gospel with children and with their families and to share a really beautiful learning experience,” she said. “I see it here growing exponentially, just because there are very few other microschools in this area. I do want to continue to serve the military family the best that I can.” 

This is the second in a series about microschools, which are transforming the landscape of U.S. education. See also: