Up Next

Get Lifted

New firm wants to enhance early childhood education plus help mothers re-enter the workforce

Wonderschool’s program addresses shortage of top-quality programming and training for stay-at-home education market

There is one education-based tech company that has found a way for mothers to become teachers at home, which offers them the opportunity to become hands-on with the early learning process of their children and, for some, even increase their household income.

San Francisco-based tech company Wonderschool is offering some relief. This digital marketplace of early child care programs recently announced it received a $2 million round of financing, led by First Round Capital and including Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub and Edelweiss. The funds will be used to build the initial product and team network of boutique early childhood programs that combine the quality standards of the best child care facilities in the world with the personal touch of an in-home program.

The money raised will also help the company attain its goal of democratizing high-quality preschools and teachers and helping them double their salaries by becoming small-business owners, which in turn can benefit mothers who opt to become teacher moms.

According to Wonderschool, the child care marketplace is in a crisis. There aren’t enough preschools to meet demand, and high-quality preschools are scarce: One study found that only 8 percent of preschools it surveyed across eight states are of high quality.

According to the press release, Wonderschool partners with experienced educators and child care providers, assisting them with licensing, program setup, marketing and more. Its software allows program directors to manage their students, parents and their program from one dashboard. All programs set up nurturing, developmentally appropriate in-home environments and must define program philosophy and curriculum for parents. Mentors provide Wonderschool directors with coaching, support, professional development and training.

Wonderschool’s program quality and oversight is guided by Mia Pritts, a childhood education expert who was in the team of preschool pioneers who started the groundbreaking campus preschool system at Google, Stanford and Pixar. The organization has more than 50 early childhood programs in its network in California and plans to expand to 15 cities.

“There is a true crisis around ‘child care deserts,’ where for every one slot at a child care center there are three or more kids vying for the spot,” Pritts said. “Wonderschool provides one solution to this issue by giving parents more options while combining the quality of a commercial program with the soul of a neighborhood one.”

Approximately 60 percent of Wonderschool’s current partners are women of color, and 20 percent of the directors are black women. In a study conducted this year, Wonderschool found that some teachers have gone from unemployed or taking jobs paying about $38,000 to earning $60,000 annually. The study revealed that the bulk of their partners are in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, two areas with high costs of living.

More than a third of the program directors were stay-at-home parents when they decided to work with Wonderschool to start their own in-home program.

How does Wonderschool work?

  • A digital child dashboard: Parents browse Wonderschool programs nearby, schedule visits, enroll their children, review program philosophy and curriculum, and make payments.
  • Preschool mentors: Team mentors are education professionals and provide teachers with coaching, support, professional development and training.
  • Helps teachers become business owners: Educators are helped with licensing, program setup, marketing and more so that they can focus on what they are good at: creating a high-quality sanctuary for kids.

Wonderschool was developed by veteran entrepreneurs Chris Bennett and Arrel Gray because of the problem Gray faced finding good child care for his family.

The program will help with child care affordability and scarcity.

“The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of learning and development, when a child needs opportunities to explore and socialize,” said Bennett, co-founder and CEO of Wonderschool. “By providing online tools and a community of support for educators, we simplify the process of starting and growing an in-home child care or preschool program so our partners can focus on what they do best: the quality of their curriculum and teaching. Parents benefit from having their child at a program with the quality standards of some of the best centers in the world.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.