Meet-a-mom: Mel Nichols - Pacific Preparatory, a K-12 virtual private school and Play & Swim Club - Birmingham Bloomfield Hills Moms

Meet Mel Nichols, COO of K-12 virtual private school, Pacific Preparatory, a mom to Arlo and Ivy and who also runs a free homeschool play group for Local Moms called Play & Swim Club. Learn more about Mel and her amazing career, her playgroup @appleandarlo and her beautiful family. 


How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?

I have two wonderful daughters! Arlo is 5-years-old and Ivyturns two in June. We also have a four-legged baby, our rescue dachshund, Apple, whom we adopted 11 years ago in California (our family recently moved back to our home state after more than a decade out West!).

Where do your kids go to school?

Arlo is in preschool a few days each week for the rest of the school year, and then we’ll “officially” start our home education journey for what would be considered her Kindergarten year. We’re all so excited, and I’m a huge planner, so I’ve lined up a fun weekly schedule that includes a year-round Forest School program, dance class, martial arts, and piano lessons, in addition to lots of living and learning with Mom, Dad, little sister, our extended family, and a thriving local homeschool play group I started about six months ago.

You are the COO of K-12 virtual private school, Pacific Preparatory. Can you tell us more about that.

Yes! I’m a former middle school teacher, and eight years ago, I decided that I wanted to move out of the classroom. Since education and child development is an important passion of mine, though, I wanted to remain in the field. I currently serve as Chief Operating Officer at Pacific Prep and over the last eight years, I’ve gotten to support thousands of families with customized 1:1 courses taught by our expert teachers. I find myself inspired daily by the work our team does—we strive to provide the best educational programming possible, and each of our students is highly important to us, not just a number. Everything we do is built around providing the highest quality services and building real relationships with the families we serve.

How do you know if your child is a good fit for a virtual private school? A lot of moms may be thinking that. 

So, when I talk with other moms about Pacific Prep, I often compare it swimming lessons. For example, my 5-year-old is an incredible swimmer for her age, and she’s been this way since she was three. She dives to the bottom of the pool, jumps in, and will happily swim around the deep end of the pool for hours. No floaties for years now, she’s got it, all on her own. People will see her swimming when we’re at hotels and they are shocked that she is so good at swimming and seems to enjoy it so much. 

I credit her swimming abilities to enrolling her in the highest quality private swimming lessons with a true swim instructor expert. In considering swim lessons, I figured we could either do the sort of once-a-week swim lesson shuffle for years and *maybe* she’d pick up some skills, or I could invest fully in more concentrated, private lessons, knowing she was guaranteed to thrive. And, well, this is what it’s like to work with Pacific Preparatory. Whether your child is home educated or attending a public or private school, there is no comparison to boosting academic skills and confidence like working 1:1 with expert teachers and in particular, our experienced team who have been supporting families for the last 20+ years. 

Even just 2-3 hours weekly of focused, customized academic programming through Pacific Prep can equate to massive progress and very happy, confident kids. We work with all kinds of students, including those with learning challenges, and in general, I recommend Pacific Prep for children ages 6+. I could go on, and parents are always welcome to reach out to me and my team to learn more. 

You also run a free homeschool play group for Local Moms called Play & Swim Club. This sounds like an incredible offering to our local moms. Please do spill. 

If you know me, you know I love community and that I’m also a huge planner. Upon deciding that I wanted to homeschool, I knew it would be important to be part of a thoughtful community of like-minded parents and kiddos who could get together regularly for play group trips to all of the various kid-friendly spots around Oakland County (our fav spots so far include places like Troy Gym, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, nature centers, splash pads, the play room and backyard pool of my own house, and more!). I searched and couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I shared my idea with other moms in a couple of local homeschool Facebook groups, and the response was incredible. And like magic, we had a group of about 15 really awesome moms and their kids and Play & Swim Club was born! 

We also started doing a bi-monthly mom coffee meet up and we’ll do a few full family outings throughout the year, too. We also have been enjoying celebrating holidays together, and even had an Easter egg hunt in my backyard (everyone brought eggs and the kids had a blast!) and a cute Valentine’s Day party where the kids got to decorate their own fun mailboxes together.

How does a mom connect with you on the Play & Swim Club or even if they were interested in the K-12 private virtual school. 

Our Play & Swim Club group is on the smaller side intentionally, but we certainly have room for a few more great homeschool families with kids in the 4-7ish age range (little siblings welcome to tag along!). I really value positive, fun moms who are excited to help us keep our community strong and consistent. I would also throw it out there to other homeschool families to consider starting their own version of Play & Swim Club, as the community aspect has been so beneficial! Mamas are welcome to reach out to me on Instagram @appleandarlo to chat more about it if they’d like.

For Pacific Preparatory, I recommend checking out our website: and also scheduling a consult with our wonderful Admissions Manager, Molly Tweten. She’s a wealth of knowledge and can share more about our programming options and how everything works (she also has a super cute bunny she’s always happy to share over Zoom!).

Tell us a fun fact about you?

According to my calculations, I’ve spent approximately 1,825 days of my life breastfeeding babies, or roughly 5,000 hours, so far. 😉

You mentioned you were in California for 10 years, what made you decide to raise your family here?

It was a difficult choice, because we absolutely loved California and being so close to the ocean, but we have nieces and nephews and grandparents in Michigan and it just felt like the right move after Ivy was born, to be closer to our home state. Our family likes to travel a lot, though, and because my husband and I both work remotely, we can travel around and work from new places whenever we’d like. We just got back from a two-week trip to California and it was lovely, but it was also nice to come back and be home in Michigan. Springtime here is gorgeous! Additionally, my husband and I have dabbled just a little a bit in real estate investing (we are Airbnb hosts for our cute cabin in the southern California mountains, which you can find @thecedarhouse_bigbear). Michigan is a great place for real estate, so we’re hoping to continue our real estate dabbling in our home state!

What’s your favorite family activity to do in the summer?

So many! Swimming in our pool. Trips to the beach. Camping. Going to outdoor concerts. Dining al fresco.

What do you do to balance your own life and motherhood? What do you do for “me” time? Juggling your own business and kids is always hard work.

Working remotely is definitely a game changer as a working mom, and I’m so glad that’s been an option for me for the last eight years. As far as juggling, I shamelessly outsource household tasks I don’t like to do. For “me” time, I like to take a stroll around my neighborhood for the fresh air and connect with mom friends who are also in the thick of parenting.

Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?

So many! But, above all, my husband, Jake, who is a 5-star dad and husband. A true partner of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful.



IG/Facebook @appleandarlo and @thecedarhouse_bigbear

To talk with Pacific Prep’s Admissions Manager, go here: 

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