Updated: Nov 13
In August 2022, Candace Fish, a former public school teacher, embarked on a journey to create a unique and affordable educational option for parents and students in Wichita, Kansas. What began as a plan to open a small-scale micro-school quickly evolved into something much larger. In this blog post, we delve into Candace Fish's inspiring story and the creation of Freedom Prep, a school that combines the best of homeschooling and personalized learning. From humble beginnings to an overwhelming response from the community, Fish's journey showcases the power of entrepreneurial educators and the demand for alternative educational models.
Finding Inspiration in Homeschooling
Candace Fish had always been intrigued by the idea of homeschooling, but as a working parent, it wasn't feasible for her own children. However, she recognized the value of personalized learning and tailoring education to meet individual needs and interests. Through her experiences as a substitute teacher and later pursuing a degree in education, Fish explored various roles in the public school system. Her passion for helping students who didn't fit the traditional model grew, and she began envisioning a school that could offer a similar environment to homeschooling, but on a larger scale.
Recognizing the Need for Change
Fish witnessed the shortcomings of the public school system, with many students falling through the cracks due to their unique learning styles and needs. Her time working with behaviorally challenged students allowed her to integrate elements of homeschooling into her teaching approach, providing a more individualized experience. However, it was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that served as a catalyst for change. The crisis changed parents' perceptions of education, leading many to seek alternatives. This shift in mindset, coupled with the frustrations and challenges brought about by the pandemic, created an opportune moment for Fish to bring her vision to life.
Seizing the Opportunity
With a firm belief in her educational model, Fish began taking steps to turn her vision into reality. She seized the opportunity to present her ideas at an alternative education night hosted by a local church, where she garnered interest and support from like-minded individuals. Encouraged by the positive response, Fish took to social media and shared her plans with a nearby parent group. The overwhelming influx of 300 Facebook messages from interested parents solidified her decision to move forward. Despite still working in the public school system, Fish and her friend Sarah, also a public school teacher, dedicated their evenings and weekends to laying the groundwork for Freedom Prep.
The Journey to Freedom Prep
The process of establishing Freedom Prep progressed rapidly. Informative meetings and open house events drew significant attendance, indicating a high demand for an affordable alternative to traditional schooling. By May 31st, the deadline for enrollment, Freedom Prep had received applications from 120 families, surpassing their initial expectations. The realization that they would be educating more than 120 students was both thrilling and daunting for Fish and her team. Nevertheless, they embraced the challenge, trusting that they were fulfilling a need within their community.
The Unique Proposition of Freedom Prep
What sets Freedom Prep apart from other public and private schools in the Wichita area is its combination of affordability and homeschooling principles. The school started with remarkably low tuition fees, making it accessible to families who couldn't afford pricier private schools. Freedom Prep also aimed to recreate the personalized learning environment of homeschooling, enabling students to learn at their own pace and explore their interests. Fish and her team strive to maintain low costs, even as they expand, by actively seeking donations and establishing scholarship funds in collaboration with churches and local businesses.
As Freedom Prep continues to grow and thrive, Candace Fish and her team are excited about the future. They have already outgrown their initial space within a few months of opening and are actively exploring options for expansion. The demand for their unique approach to education has been overwhelming, and they want to ensure that more families have access to this affordable and personalized learning environment.
One of the key challenges of being a school founder and an education entrepreneur is navigating the complexities of starting and running a business in the education sector. While Kansas provides a relatively favorable environment for small business owners, there are still hurdles to overcome. Candace and her team have had to handle administrative tasks, such as setting up the business, managing finances, and complying with regulations.
However, the rewards outweigh the challenges. Freedom Prep's success lies in its ability to provide a low-cost option that combines the best aspects of homeschooling and traditional schooling. The school's commitment to personalized learning, tailored to each student's needs, has resonated with parents seeking an alternative to the traditional educational model. By creating a supportive and inclusive community, Freedom Prep offers a nurturing environment where children can thrive academically and personally.
Looking ahead, Candace and her team envision expanding the school to meet the growing demand while maintaining their core values. They plan to establish a second location and explore opportunities to enhance the curriculum, including the addition of sports and music programs. The goal is to continue being the affordable choice in Wichita while actively seeking partnerships with churches, businesses, and organizations to establish scholarship funds and secure donations that will enable them to support families in need.
Candace's journey from being a public school teacher to becoming an education entrepreneur and founder of Freedom Prep demonstrates the power of passion, perseverance, and a commitment to meeting the needs of students and families. Her story serves as an inspiration to others who are looking to make a positive impact in the field of education and create innovative solutions to address the evolving needs of learners.
As the conversation with Candace Fish comes to a close, it is clear that Freedom Prep is not just a school but a transformative force in the Wichita community. Through their dedication to affordable education and personalized learning, they are empowering students to embrace their individuality, explore their passions, and reach their full potential.
The story of Freedom Prep serves as a reminder that education is not a one-size-fits-all approach. By embracing flexibility, innovation, and a deep understanding of each student's unique needs, we can create educational environments that foster growth, creativity and a lifelong love for learning.
As we continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of education, let Candace Fish and Freedom Prep be an inspiration to all of us. Let us reimagine the possibilities and work together to create a future where every student has access to quality education that nurtures their individuality and prepares them for success in an ever-evolving world.
Listen to the Podcast here.