Special at The Old Schoolhouse magazine

My favorite homeschool magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, is running a special that you should check out!
Receive a 2-year subscription, free Homeschooling with Heart tote bag, and five FREE E-Books for just $17.76!
Sign up early to get all three goodies. It’s only good until July 4th, so don’t delay!

July 4th Sale

I think you’ll love this magazine as much as I do!

Carol Topp, CPA

Blog Carnival: All Things Austen

I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, one of the finest authors ever. Like many girls of her age, Jane was homeschooled learning reading, writing, music, dancing and foreign language from her home in the Stevenson Rectory in Hampshire, England in the early 1800s.

One of my favorite Jane Austen quotes reminds me of many homeschool mothers:

“Your mother must have been a slave to your education”-Lady Catherine de Berg, Pride and Prejudice

Mrs Bennet and her five daughters

Indeed, we do sometimes feel like slaves to our children’s education. I hope the blog posts shared here encourage you and lighten the load, just a bit!

A woman (or gentleman) of Jane Austen’s era had many facets to her education including reading, writing, art, music, dancing and more to be considered an “accomplished woman.” I hope you enjoy these blog posts on homeschooling.

Extensive Reading

Mr. Darcy claims an accomplished woman demands, “something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Pride and Prejudice

Lexi offers The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading posted at Lextin Academy of Classical Education.

Lynn presents Summers Here! Does the Learning Stop? posted at Eclectic Education.

Jenn Schwilling, who reads extensively, presents A Great Reader? posted at DaisyChain Daily Carnival.

Denise asks if a girl and a half can read a book and a half in a day and a half, then how many books can one girl read in the month of June? in Rate Puzzle: How Fast Does She Read? posted at Let’s Play Math!.

Writing and Accounts

“Writing and accounts she was taught by her father;  French by her mother.” Northanger Abbey

TristanDR makes lapbooks of her unit studies as she discusses in Our Civil War Plans posted at Our Busy Homeschool.

Here’s a neat writing exercise to try in your homeschool: A six word story. Tom DeRosa presents A Lifetime in Six Words? Possible. posted at I Want to Teach Forever.

Opinions

“At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. It is not likely that I should now see or hear anything to change them.” Marianne in Sense and Sensibility

Deana at The Frugal Homeschooling Mom explains some of the reasons she chose homeschooling for her family in Why Do I Homeschool?

ChristineMM of The Thinking Mother tells about a very busy spring and how that has affected her family’s leisure time as well as helping her let go of unnecessary material possessions, including homeschool curriculum and books in Material Stuff We Own

Pamela tuns a field trip into a philosophical talk about politics and economics in Flower Fields posted at Blah, Blah, Blog

Is there such a thing as “too much” socialization? Read one mom’s opinion and share yours at Lesson Pathways (Christina S.) How Much is “Too Much”? posted at Lesson Pathways Blog.

Janine write about her thoughts on the test results of her daughters in Test Results at
Why Homeschool


Leisure and Games

Jane Austen and her contemporaries spent many hours playing card games such as whist and cribbage, charades, word games and puzzles. They enhance logic and math skills.

Being able to perform mathematical tricks is a great way to build student confidence. Sol Lederman presents Terrific Tic Tac Toe Trick posted at Wild About Math!.

Have you ever taken a math field trip? Tracy Beach presents Math Learning Field Trip Ideas for Homeschoolers posted at Math Learning, Fun & Education Blog : Dreambox Learning.

Art & Music


I couldn’t decide whether to put this post under Reading or Art because it combines the two. Jane Austen would have been charmed! Maureen Spell presents Read & Do: My Heart is Like a Zoo posted at Spell Out Loud.

Summer is a nice time to try a mini co-op. Here’s a cute idea for a music co-op that is simple but fun and memorable! Plan a summer mini music co-op

Katherine found here are plenty of cultural activities available for children, even in her tiny town in Maine. sign us up! posted at No Fighting, No Biting!.

Mom can study art and be an accomplished woman! ~Kris~ presents Time for Mom: Drawing posted at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


Dancing

“There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the finest refinements of polished societies.” Sir William Lucas, Pride and Prejudice

Dawn writes about her local homeschool group’s annual cotillion. It’s a wonderful idea that teaches manners and etiquette! Hold a homeschool cotillion

The Accomplished Woman

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages…” Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

Laura Grace Weldon presents Transferring Enthusiasm posted at Laura Grace Weldon. There is something vitally important transmitted when one person’s enthusiasm sets off a spark in others. This sort of spirit can’t be reproduced in any curriculum. That’s why, whenever possible, we learn from people who are passionate.

Christine Field is an accomplished woman in the field of law (no pun intended). She is offering a free year of legal representation (and a bonus) to homeschooling families as Barbara Frank Online describes in Free Legal Coverage for Homeschooling Families

e-Mom presents an excerpt from an interview with author Jill Savage Living With Less so Your Family Has More posted at C h r y s a l i s ?.

The Educated Man

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

“His mind is well informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his  observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure” Elinor describing Edward Farrers in Sense and Sensibility.

C.L. Dyck presents The World as Narrative posted at Scita > Scienda. A post from Scienda guest blogger Marc Schooley — beautiful writing by an intelligent man: “The world is a narrative, not a science project.” Marc muses on hurricanes of change, the passing of his father, and the final homecoming of heaven.

Rhonda Miller discovers the bent her two sons have in their learning styles in Bent Homeschooling posted at Parent Community and Forum.

Dave Roller shares a few things he picked up (literally and figuratively) at a recent home school convention in Conventional Wisdom posted at Home School Dad.

Get your boys interested in reading Jane Austen! Robin Phillips shares how in Jane Austen for Boys: 7 Topics to Inspire Their Reading posted at Crack the Egg.

I hoped you enjoyed this Carnival of Homeschooling: All Things Austen.

Next week’s host will be Roscommon Acres.

Plan a summer mini music co-op

Girl_Music

Summer is here, so now is a good time to consider running a mini homeschool co-op. Mini co-ops that are small, focused on one subject and only last a few weeks are a great way to try out the co-oping idea. Renee shares some great ideas on running a music co-op in the summer. It can be fairly quick and easy to plan and a lot of fun.

How to Plan a Summer Music Class for Your Homeschool Coop

A summer music class for your homeschool group can certainly be a lot of fun. It will help the summer months to be a lot more enjoyable. Planning a summer music class is a lot easier than you think. The first thing that you can do is find out if any of the parents in your co-op play’s instruments. If they do see if they would be willing to teach something about the instrument they play, and how to play it. The kids do not need to actually have the instrument to learn some interesting facts about it, and how it is played. You can have the parents give simple demonstrations of how the instruments are played. If you have more than one parent that is willing to instruct the class, you can allow them to each pick which day they want to teach the class.

You may also be able to get a tour of a local music school. Taking a tour of the local music school can certainly be a lot of fun for all of the kids. If you live near the New York area, there are plenty of locations that you can go to that may give you a free tour. Do a basic Google search for a location near you that has a music program. Music schools are really best for this type of tour. Most towns have at least one music school which is located nearby. The music class can be held once a week to kind of switch up from the ordinary during the summer months. If there are kids in the co-op who are currently learning to play instruments you can also have them demonstrate their skills. The kids will enjoy having the opportunity to show off some of their skills, and they will also be helping others to learn about instruments as well.

To wrap up the classes at the end of the summer, you can plan a fun music fest for the entire co-op. This can basically be a barbecue that you plan for the students, and the family members. You can have each of the families chip in, and cover the expenses of the event. You can reserve a spot in your local park, and have plenty of food, and activities based around music. Why not check with the families to see if each family can come up with a fun music activity for the event. This can be a nice project for each family tow work on during the course of the summer.

I think homeschool parents are some of the most creative people around! This is a great way to do a mini co-op on a specific subject.

Have a great summer!

Carol Topp, CPA

Small homeschool groups receives official IRS Letter without 501c3 status

Hi Carol,

I know I’ve come across this information on your site before, but can’t find it today.  I am a leader for a smaller homeschool support group (50 families).  Each year, only about $1,000 passes through our bank account.  I have obtained an EIN so we can open a bank account but we are also interested in non-profit status.  The main reason for this is so people can make contributions and also so we can avoid paying sales tax.  I read on the IRS site that we do not need a form 1023 if we have less than $5,000 annually.  If that is the case, how do we prove our non-profit status?

Thank you so much for your help.  Your site has been very helpful to us.

Shelley T, Illinois

Shelley,

Good question.  I decided to call the IRS Tax Exempt Customer Service at (877) 829-5500 on your behalf.  First, Mrs Baker, the IRS employee said that you would have no proof of tax exemption because you do not have the IRS determination letter.  That’s the letter the IRS gives nonprofits after their tax exempt application (Form 1023) is approved.

Then she mentioned that the IRS can send a letter stating that some nonprofits such as yours are small enough that they are not required to file Form 1023. I asked for that letter to be mailed to you.  That’s the closest thing you’ll have to “proof.” At least it will be from the IRS and addressed to your group.

I found your mailing address on your website. Good thing you had an EIN, too.  She verified the mailing address I gave her with your EIN.

Look for the letter in 10-14 business days.

Carol Topp, CPA

Follow up: Shelley received her letter from the IRS 14 days later. It simply stated “We have no record that your organization has been recognized as exempt from federal income tax.” It went on to explain the IRS forms and publications to apply for tax exempt status.  The letter closed with a paragraph explaining that “an organization organized and operated exclusively for 501(c)(3) purposes…does not have to file for exemption unless its annual gross receipts are normally more than $5,000.”

Advice to homeschool leaders:

If you are a small homeschool nonprofit (gross revenues under $5,000 a year), and desire a letter from the IRS explaining that you are tax exempt, do what I did for Shelley and call the IRS.  Request a letter explaining the exemption for filing a Form 1023 for small nonprofits.

If your homeschool organization brings in more than $5,000 a year, it is time to apply for tax exempt status with the IRS (or time to start paying tax on your surplus!). Read more here:

When to become a 501c3?

Questions? Send me an email. I can help!

Carol Topp, CPA

Should you compensate board members?

MeetingRoom2

I know that the board members of a homeschool groups are hard-working people.  They not only homeschool their own children, but they organize support groups and co-ops to help other homeschool families.  Sometimes a homeschool group would like to “reward” these generous individuals.

Is it OK to compensate your board members?

A homeschool co-op in the Midwest contacted me recently to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status.  The Treasurer told me that her co-op had been paying their leaders anywhere from $200-$1,200 a year for their service on the board.  I discussed why paying board members was not a typical practice.  Here is some of what we discussed:

  • Payments to board members can create a conflict of interest. Does the loyalty of the leader lie in herself or in the best interests of the group?
  • Paying board members can call into question the duty of loyalty of the board member.  Is she acting in the best interest of the group rather than a personal, financial interest?
  • Payment could compromise the leader’s duty of care. A leader should act in good faith, with the care an ordinary, prudent person would exercise and with the best interest of the group in mind.
  • Payments on nonprofit boards is not a typical practice.  Charities do not usually compensate their board members. Their funds usually go back into the program. Board members serve because they have a passion for the mission and a concern for the members.
  • Board payments can undermine the volunteer spirit of other members. Why should a member volunteer her time when others are paid for their efforts?
  • Paying a board member can cause dissension and a sense of injustice or imbalance in the group.
  • In this particular case the payments did not have member approval. The board voted themselves compensation, but never put the idea to a member vote. This could be considered inurement  which is forbidden for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations and could put the organizations tax exempt status at risk.
  • Paying board members involves correctly classifying them as employees or independent contractors. The classification is a matter of IRS law, not your choice.

This group has wisely decided to stop payments to board members. I think the group will be better served by an all-volunteer board and healthier in the long run.

payingworkerscoveroutlinedYou can pay board members, but the income is taxable income. My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization explains the correct way to pay board members as employees or independent contractors and alternative tax-free ways to thank your hard-working board members.

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Hold a Homeschool Cotillion

A homeschool co-op or group is a terrific place to teach manners and etiquette.  Read about how one homeschool co-op held a homeschool cotillion.

How to Hold a Homeschool Cotillion

First, let me address why your kids could benefit from a cotillion. Table manners and etiquette are something to which every child should be exposed. I don’t know about you, but dinner at our house isn’t a very formal affair. We usually use only the utensils that are necessary for that meal and don’t spend a lot of time discussing the proper way to set a table or which fork to use.

The kids were paired into couples ahead of time based on height and age. Another photographer and I took pictures of each couple as they were announced at the top of the stairs. The event was held at the local church that has hosted our co-op classes for years. There was a per-child fee used to purchase the food from a local wholesale club, and we rented the dishes and silverware from a party rental company. Moms dressed in black pants and white shirts while inwardly chanting “serve from the left, clear from the right!”

I would like to encourage you that this is a doable event for a homeschool co-op.

You should visit the blog post and see the pictures and read up on the details!  Wonderful!

If they can do it, so can you!

Carol Topp, CPA

IRS starts revoking tax exempt status May 17

IRS
Homeschool leaders, if your organization has 501c3 tax exempt status be sure to file your annual Form 990N, 990 EZ or 990 or risk losing your tax exempt status. The IRS is beginning automatic revocation of tax exempt status May 17, 2010.

Hundreds of thousands of small non-profits, from Little League teams to community soup kitchens, could lose their tax-exempt status on Monday because of an IRS filing requirement.

The 2006 Pension Protection Act included a provision requiring all non-profits to file an annual return with the IRS.

Previously, non-profits with annual revenue of less than $25,000 were excluded. Non-profits that fail to file a return for three consecutive years lose their tax-exempt status. On May 17, the three-year clock runs out for non-profits that haven’t filed a return since 2007.

The Urban Institute estimates that up to 365,000 non-profits could lose their tax-exempt status if they fail to file by Monday. Groups that miss the deadline will have to apply for a new exemption and pay a user fee of up to $850. They could also be liable for taxes on any revenue earned before their exemption is renewed.

The requirement does not apply to churches or church-related operations.

Non-profits with less than $25,000 in annual revenue can file a 990-N, an abbreviated online form. Completing the online form takes less than 10 minutes, says Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits.

What should you do if your organization loses its tax exempt status?  The IRS says you will need to reapply for tax exempt status.

The IRS as a FAQ page.

And I can help.  I assist homeschool organizations with tax exempt applications.  See my Services page for details.

Carol Topp, CPA

Insurance for homeschool sports

Thanks to homeschool leader Kathi S from PA who told me about insurance for her homeschool group’s sports activities.

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.

From their website page on insurance:

It can be extremely difficult and expensive to obtain insurance coverage for individual amateur athletic competitions. Yet if insurance is not obtained, the personal assets of the individuals conducting the event may be at risk. Many owners of sports facilities, especially municipalities and schools, will not permit the use of their property or facilities unless it can be demonstrated that both they and the entity/individuals conducting the event are covered under an insurance policy. Without insurance, the opportunity for amateur athletes to compete in organized sports programs is substantially limited.

Kathy’s homeschool organization pays only $12 a year for each student to participate in a volleyball club they offer.  That seems very affordable to me!

Read more here:http://www.aausports.org/Insurance/Overview.aspx

This may bring a lot of piece of mind to homeschool leaders running sports programs.

Carol Topp, CPA

Related article: Insurance for Hoemschool Groups

Fundraising success story

BlueDollarMarching

I know that a lot of homeschool groups follow in the footsteps of other nonprofit organizations when it comes to fund raising.  They sell the same things and they even succumb to the pressure to set up individual fund raising accounts and “reward” those who do the most work.

I discourage setting up individual fund raising accounts and I have written about them here:

The IRS’s Word on Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts

Individual fundraisers and homeschool groups

I have a great story to share with you about one homeschool leader that did her fund raising right and it benefited many people:

Hi Carol,

I have to tell you that since reading your comment on my homeschool blog last week I spent some time perusing your advice on Fundraisers. I am a candlemaker who runs fundraisers, originally for young people raising money for mission trips and this year for a Homeschool organization who wanted to partially subsidize the Formal. These tickets are so often cost prohibitive…Anyway…as we began the process I had several parents come to me and basically plead for the money to be designated to those who sold the most. Without knowing that it would have been legally wrong, I felt that it was just a bad idea and said that I believed the right encouragements and positive input would bring a good result for all. I was right! The class did well and was able to drastically reduce the ticket prices for all.

Thanks for the legal back-up in case this comes up again in the future. I will gladly refer anyone to your website.

Keep up the great work!

Becky K.

I was so glad to hear that Becky did the right thing and the entire class was blesses by the fundraiser, not just a few families. I love the spirit of cooperation and teamwork!

Carol Topp, CPA

Ultimate Homeschool Expo

I am happy to be one of the invited speakers for the 2010 Ultimate Homeschool Expo. This is on on-line homeschool convention.
  • Online Seminars with With 35+ Speakers! (I’m one of them!)
  • Virtual Vendor Hall! (I have a virtual booth there)
  • Free Gifts–ebooks, audios, downloads! (I’m giving away ebooks, audios and chapters form  my books)
  • Special offers from your favorite Online Vendors!
  • Mp3 Downloads for all audios (over $1,000 in workshops!)
One of the neat things about the Ultimate Homeschool Expo is that everything is ONLINE indefinitely. The Expo officially starts Monday May 3, 2010 but it lasts forever!
The host, Cindy Rushton, builds a private, exclusive membership site that includes everything from the UHSE in one place–it has audios (from all of the sessions and from the bonus gifts that the speakers give), ebooks, complete unit study guides, articles, printable notebooking pages, cookbooks, on and on.
All for only $39.95.

My workshops include:
Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out
Is Your Homeschool Groups Ready for 501(c)(3)Tax Exempt Status?
Micro Business for Teens: Starting a Micro Business

I also have a virtual vendor’s booth where I will be giving away the following prizes:
  • Chapter excerpt from Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out on Avoiding Burn Out for homeschool leaders
  • Chapter excerpt from Tax Exempt 501(3)(3) Status for Homeschool Organizations on Nonprofit Incorporation: When Should a Homeschool Organization Consider It?
  • Chapter Excerpt from Micro Business For Teens: Starting a Micro Business on Getting an Idea: A Collection of Micro Business Ideas Best for Teenagers
You will receive my workshops (on audio) and prizes and access all of the wonderful resources by purchasing a ticket to the Ultimate Homeschool Expo. See what is offered and buy your ticket here:

Ultimate Homeschool Expo 2010 Ticket

Carol Topp

HomeschoolCPA.com