One of our Fearless Moms, Cassidy Sullivan, turned the pandemic into an opportunity to realize a lifelong dream. On September 1, 2020, she started a preschool. We find her grit inspiring and hope that you feel encouraged by her perspective:
In February, I toured every nearby school seeking the right fit for my kids, 4-year-old son Clark and 2-year old daughter Faye, for the 2020-2021 school year. We liked their previous school, but with my background in education and my curiosity for what else was out there, we looked elsewhere. Little did I know that God was preparing me for some serious change in the coming 6 months when it came to our definition of “school.”
Then March came, and the world was rocked with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a speech pathologist, my face to face interactions with children came to an immediate halt. Being at home all day every day was a shocking change for all of us. We missed our friends and our routine.
When my son’s April birthday rolled around, I had to explain that his party was going to look a little different. Luckily, the drive-by honks were exciting! We stood outside with balloons and cupcakes, trying to remind each other that life will return to normal at some point.
In July, our Mother’s Day Out preschool announced their new rules and regulations for the upcoming school year even though they were still unsure about enrollment and start dates. Reading over the new guidelines, my husband and I knew it just wasn’t going to work for our family.
At the end of August, we had to say goodbye to our beloved college-age babysitters who watched the children two mornings per week while I continued working at a wonderful private therapy clinic in our town. I love working as a pediatric speech pathologist. I take pride in my work and find fulfillment in it. Yet, I still found myself full of uncertainty about what this year would be like for my kids. We now found ourselves without any plans. We didn’t have school or consistent and familiar babysitters.
As we talked with friends, we realized that most of our concerns about the new preschool guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year were echoed. Through prayer and continued conversations, I felt called to explore my passion for early childhood education in a way that I hadn’t imagined before.
I was going to start a preschool.
I started searching for commercial listings in our town. It felt fun and exciting (and a little bit reckless) to explore the idea of renting a space during such an unpredictable time. Then the fear would set in. “How would we pay for it? Who would come? What would our days look like?”
We forged ahead despite our fears. As I started viewing spaces, my vision for our age groups came together. We would have two classes. One for 2/3-year-olds, and one for 4/5-year-olds.
I prayed that it would be a safe and fun place for kids to be themselves, even during this pandemic. We would grow and learn together. Our preschool curriculum priorities would be emotional resilience, problem-solving, communication, and friendship.
Inspired by my years at Fearless Mom and Lake Hills Church, specifically serving in the kids’ ministry, my heart kept leaning toward providing a Christ-centered environment with kids praying and worshiping freely, learning about scripture, and growing closer to God.
I knew this wouldn’t be a fit for everyone, but I trusted that God would continue to send us our people. Each day that passed, I was in awe of the encouragement, prayers, and resources! I was in constant prayer mode, filled with gratitude that this was really happening. God’s peace rushed over me each morning and I could feel Him telling me, “Just keep going, and I’ll keep providing.” What should’ve felt like so much work felt simple. I had completely surrendered it all. As Julie always says, “If God calls you to it, He equips you for it!”
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Then one morning I had a panic attack. I threw up, convinced myself I had COVID-19, and told myself, “It’s too much.”
“Why did I do this to myself and my family?”
“Everyone’s going to back out last-minute but it’s not too late to just stop now.”
I called on my village. After a few conversations with good counsel, my heart rate normalized, and I was feeling somewhat rational again. I’ll never forget what a friend told me that morning: “Our loving God is a God of peace. He is not a God of chaos. Do you think if you step back from this you will feel more chaos or more peace?”
That was exactly what I needed to hear. I was shocked to realize that I would actually feel more chaos if I didn’t continue to pursue this. I continued embracing all that God had in store for us.
I secured our space, started filling it with all things school, and shared our news with everyone. I found a preschool teacher, secured the required insurance, created a liability form, and solidified our financing.
Suddenly we are six weeks in and at capacity! We serve homeschooling families on Mondays and Wednesdays and we have drop-off playgroups on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
So, what has opening a preschool taught me?
- My husband is a saint. After 12 years together, he continues to be my biggest fan and best friend. He never complains, and I couldn’t have done any of this without him. I am so thankful for his partnership.
- Ask for help when you need it – and not just once, keep asking! There is no shame in getting help.
- God is faithful. He made everything fall into place for the good of our community and His glory.
- Kids are resilient.
As I tucked Clark into bed the night before school started, he asked me, “Where are you gonna go when Faye and I are at school?” I reminded him that I would be staying and teaching his sister’s class. He replied, “Oh right, it’s YOUR school!” I told him “Yes, it’s our school, bud!” Every time I say that, I’m in awe of God’s plan.
Many have asked me, “But what about next year?” All I know is that God’s plan for this space is so much sweeter than anything I can plan. I will follow His lead.
For now, I’m blessed to be a part of our student’s lives. I adore receiving messages from parents telling me that their kids haven’t stopped singing worship songs and that they want to come back every single day.
2020 looks different for all of us. Maybe your kids are learning from home. Maybe your kids are at school. Maybe you are running your very own pod. Each setting likely comes with change and some unexpected challenges to work through.
My advice is to give yourself grace. Give your kids grace. Give your community grace. Find ways to stay connected.
In Julie Richard’s Value of Struggle series, she reminds us to “Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child.” This year has taught us that the path can change drastically in ways you least expect it. Our kids will continue to persevere no matter what setting they are in if they learn grace and grit as demonstrated.
I saw a need, and I wanted to create a solution. In sharing our story, my hope is that you feel empowered to act on what God is leading you toward!
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9