Cleveland West Side Moms’ next Meet-A-Mom is a double feature! Meet both Kristen & Bethany from Bloom Learning Community, a learner-centered microschool in Berea.
So happy to have you both. Please tell us a little bit about yourself & family:
Kristen: I’m a Co-Founder of Bloom Learning Community, a homeschool mom of five years, and a licensed speech-language pathologist. I live in Strongsville with my husband, daughter (9), son (7), and two senior doggies. I received my Masters in Communication Sciences from Case Western Reserve University in 2006. Before becoming a full-time mama, I worked at The Monarch School for Children with Autism in Shaker Heights. Along with Beth, I also held a position on the administrative team of a local homeschool cooperative called The CLE which was composed of 25 families. At Bloom I work primarily with the younger children, fostering an environment that promotes early literacy skills and enhances social-emotional learning through play and sensory experiences.
Beth: I’m a mom of two daughters living with my husband Zac and two cats in Vermilion. I co-founded Bloom to realize a dream of changing the world through holistic, self-directed education. I spent two decades working in educational settings ranging from birth through adulthood after earning a B.A. in Psychology from OSU and a M.Ed. from Ursuline College. I homeschooled my own kids before co-founding a homeschool co-op and then Bloom. I’m also a yoga instructor at a local college and a holistic wellness educator who has created a variety of workshops and classes in yoga, meditation, and stress management techniques.
Where are you originally from/how long have you lived in town?
Kristen: I grew up in Chagrin Falls and am a West-Sider by marriage for about 15 years now.
Beth: I’m originally from Vermilion and although I’ve also lived in Columbus, Ohio City, Oberlin, and Palm Harbor Florida, I’m back in my hometown on the (far) west side!
Kristen: I have a daughter who is almost 10 and a son who is 7.
Beth: Two daughters: the oldest, Cesia, is turning 12 at the end of the month and the youngest, Sabina, is 8.
What are your favorite things to do with your family?
Kristen: We like to go on bike rides, go to the library, watch movies and TV shows, get ice cream from Mitchells, and do LEGO (we’re a LEGO family!)
Beth: Our family likes to walk around downtown Vermilion, go to the beach, ride bikes, swim in the pool, and have fun at Cedar Point.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Kristen: I love birds and birdwatching!
Beth: I’ve been to 10 other countries and can’t wait to travel to more!
What are some of your favorite things about NE Ohio?
Kristen: I love living near a major metropolitan city and the fact that it’s on a lake is a bonus! Cleveland is also full of vibrant communities that are so fun to explore. I’m always telling my husband that I want to retire to Lakewood someday, haha!
Beth: I love the sense of loyalty and connection people have to the area. I enjoy the festivals, Botanical Gardens and museums, Cedar Point, the variety of restaurants, local businesses, and I don’t think I could survive without living by the lake!!
What’s your favorite family friendly restaurant in our area?
Kristen: We love Samurai in Strongsville!!
Beth: The Feve in Oberlin has been our longest favorite and Condado at Crocker Park is our newest family favorite!
Please tell us about Bloom Learning Community!
Bloom is a learner-centered holistic microschool. We currently have up to 12 children aged 6-12 attend each day and joyfully learn alongside each other. We aim to meet each learner where they’re at academically, as well as nurture other aspects of growth such as spirituality, emotional intelligence, physical development, creativity, etc. We have a truly kind community of kids who feel free to be themselves without the added pressure of grades, homework, and unnecessary social stressors. As long as they love coming to Bloom (and they sure do!) we know we’re doing our job right.
What exactly is a microschool & what sets it apart from a traditional school?
A microschool is a movement to shrink schooling down to a size that better fosters relationships and a sense of belonging. Microschools have fewer than 150 students total. We are much smaller! But it gives us the chance to truly know learners and adapt education to meet individual needs and interests. It’s a more comfortable atmosphere socially, might have a special focus, and usually is more progressive and flexible in practice, due to its small size.
Why/when did you start it and how did you know this is what you wanted to do?
It started when we were both on the administrative team of a local homeschool co-op. We each expressed a desire for a learning program for our own kids that had flexible attendance options and was more “school-like” but provided the holistic educational vision that we each shared for our children. A place that kids would be excited to go to while fostering the innate love for learning.
How has your community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
We’ve loved having our business in Berea. We have great neighbors and access to some of the amazing things the city has to offer, such as Coe Lake Park, the Berea branch of The Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the Metroparks. We are out in the community everyday and everyone has been very welcoming and kind!
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
Kristen: I absolutely love seeing our kiddos so excited about learning. This year I led our weekly science lessons and it was so amazing to see the kids’ interest and input!
Beth: I also get a thrill from being around people who are engaged and focused in learning something they’re passionate about. The energy when kids are joyfully engaged in something meaningful is the best part of the job. Another perk is watching these kids discover themselves and build compassionate friendships with each other.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start their own business?
Kristen: Follow your passion and go for it, but make sure you seek out and learn from those who have done it before you! We have benefitted so much from the FB microschool community as well as other schools whose models resemble our vision for Bloom.
Beth: Connect with others who can support your vision. I couldn’t do this without Kristen, and we couldn’t have done it without our supporters, family, friends, mentors, other educators, and Bloom families! Write your goals out and visualize the end result you’re aiming for on a daily basis. Trust if you have the vision and the desire, you also have the resources and ability to see it through!
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Definitely starting Bloom. We’re so proud of the community we’ve helped build and we truly enjoy spending time with and learning alongside our students. There are many days that we say to each other, “I can’t believe we created this!”
Is there anything you would have changed or done differently with your business thus far?
Not really. Every step we’ve taken towards building Bloom – every decision and every mistake – has served a purpose and helped us become better at what we do. Everything is an opportunity for learning and growth.
How do you juggle being a working mom?
Kristen: Well, it helps when your kids come to work with you! We had both made the decision to educate our children a long time ago and Bloom has been sort of an evolution of our homeschool journey that has helped me grow, not just as an educator but as a mom too.
Beth: It is challenging!! What sustains me is a daily meditation practice. I couldn’t get by without it! My husband Zac has been hugely supportive of me emotionally and sometimes strategically, and also helps out a lot with the kids and household chores. Both of my daughters have also been super supportive and helpful along the way, they thank me for co-creating Bloom a few times every week!
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
Happily working at Bloom with a learner community of 50 kids and 3 more teachers on our 5 acre property in a big century home with lots of natural light and access to nature! We’d love to expand our programming to include classes for 12-14 year olds, be able to offer scholarships, have a summer camp, and have additional classes for the community in the evenings and on weekends.
Who has most influenced you the most to be the mom you are today?
Kristen: My mom, my sisters, my in-laws, and a few wonderful friends. I know a lot of awesome mamas!
Beth: My own amazing mother.
For more information on Bloom Learning Community, visit: https://www.growatbloom.com/