Boards, Burnout and Bylaws: Leadership Tips from a Homeschool Leader

 

Ever wish you could just sit down with another homeschool leader who understands you and your issues?

In this short podcast episode (15 minutes)  Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, interviews homeschool leader Angela Weaver. Angela runs a large group in Lynchburg, Virginia and she shares insight into many topics including boards, burn out and bylaws. It will feel like you’re listening to a good friend.

Angela had so much wisdom, that it takes 3 episodes! Here are the following episodes:

What’s the Best Size for a Homeschool Group Board?

How Can Your Homeschool Group Feel Like a Community?

 

Carol and Angela belong to the  I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook Group. It is a closed group (meaning you have to request to join) of 500+ homeschool leaders from across the USA (and maybe the globe soon!). You can join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

 

Featured resource

Homeschool Co-ops:
How to Start Them, Run Them and not Burn Out

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Why is being a homeschool group leader so exhausting and thankless?

On the Facebook group I am a Homeschool Group Leader, Lesley asks,

Why is being a homeschool group leader so exhausting and thankless?

Here are some replies from other homeschool group leaders (my emphasis added).

Jennifer: Because those you are leading haven’t done it and don’t have a full appreciation for the workload. Empathy is hard to come by when a person hasn’t ‘been there.’

Some people just don’t know how to say thank you. We had a team of 5 leaders. Every semester, I gave them a small gift and thank you note, letting them know I appreciated what they personally brought to our group.

 

Beth: Do you have a reliable team of leaders working alongside you? That has made all the difference as I’ve been in homeschool group leadership – as president as well as a numerous other roles – over the past 24 years. Our group grew from 20 families to almost 400 families during that time. There have been tough seasons and also smooth seasons. Make sure you prioritize and try to delegate or let go of things to minimize stress where you can.

The leaders don’t plan everything, but provide the structure and administration for the group, and establish policies as needed. I started our group with 2 other moms, and we were the core at first. When we found like-minded people, we mentored them and encouraged them to use their gifts and talents for the benefit of the group. We really did find some wonderful people who saw that their own families benefited by their contribution. We worked hard to repeatedly convey the message that we all helped one another. We also have those who just want to be served, and it can be frustrating as a leader when you also “are busy” and have your own family to homeschool and care for.

 

Melissa: First because the workers are volunteering so you don’t always get what you need from who is willing to work for free. It can be difficult to fill all the positions with people that will work as a team, complimenting each other’s skills. Sometimes you take what you can get.
Second, you are working for a group of people that want a service. It’s not like you are all saving the whales. The parents want something. For as low cost as possible.

 

Cheryl: Sometimes effective leaders seem to have it all under control in a way that makes others think they’re not needed. Those who stepped in in the group took time to figure out jobs that needed doing and clearly and repeatedly asked for help. And then let people run with those jobs rather than micromanaging them.

Another difference I see is in expressing thanks. Leaders who manage teams well tend to be public and loud with praise on a regular basis—rather than criticizing often. Speaking about them to the group with thankfulness for their work, mentioning in emails or other group communication their hard work, giving out awards and certificates, etc. can help.

Darlene Cheryl, this reminded me of another problem I saw in a group that I was part of several years ago. The leader of the group was a very capable woman. Someone in another role would falter or step away, and she would fill that role. After a few years, she wanted to step away from the head position. The problem was that everyone looked at her and said, “I can’t do that!” She was wearing too many hats! Her job looked daunting. We had to break down all she did into about a dozen positions before anyone would step forward to take on any of it.

Sheri: Hmmm. Are you expecting too much? Too little? Giving too much guidance? Not enough guidance? Are you working with their personality type and not against it?
Start with your WHY. Why do you exist? What is your vision? Then work on clearly communicating that vision. People will “catch” a passionate, clear vision and buy into it. Don’t try to be all things to all people; those who have a different vision, let them go with your blessing to find or start something else. I’d rather have a small group of committed people than a large group of apathetic people.
We made our yearly planning meeting mandatory. We asked for ideas and wrote them on a whiteboard. Then I would ask who would run that. If no one volunteered, I just erased it off the board. One year our favorite event, a yearly picnic, no one stepped up and I erased it. I think members thought the board would just do it, but we did not. Everyone complained but we stood firm. That next year, it was quite simple to get a whole 5 person committee to step up and make it happen.
Also, I paid attention to who was proposing events but never volunteering. As leader, I would take them aside and have a talk.

  • Are there extenuating circumstances?
  • Are they intimidated?
  • Lazy?
  • Overwhelmed?
  • Apathetic?
Depending on what I discerned in conversation, I could approach it several ways.
  • Sign them to assist someone else,
  • give them something simple,
  • discourage them from asking for events that they wouldn’t also work for, etc.
  • Even someone with a chronic illness can head a field trip with no cost; they can call the facility to arrange a date, set out a sign up sheet at meetings, and call the facility back with a final number.

Sometimes they just need a little guidance.

 

That’s helpful advice for Lesley and maybe you too!

If you need help running your homeschool group my books can help.
My  Homeschool Organization Board Manual may be very helpful. It is a combination of a template for your board to create binders to keep important documents and a board training manual to explain the board’s duties and responsibilities.
Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Homeschool Leadership is Like Marriage Part 1 (podcast)

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Leading a homeschool organization can be a lot like marriage. They both take time, money, and sacrifice, but can be hugely rewarding.

Join Carol Topp as she addresses a group of homeschool leaders to encourages them in the important work they are doing, but also reminds them not to try and meet everyone’s expectations.

Listen to the podcast

For more help in running a homeschool organization check out Carol’s website, HomeschoolCPA.com where you can purchase her book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out

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Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out (podcast)

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In her most recent podcast  Carol Topp, CPA, the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, covers tips to starting a homeschool co-op.

Listen to the podcast

Carol covers the 4 W’s and 2 Cs that leaders need to answer in launching a new co-op:

What, Where, When, Who, and Cost and Curriculum

 

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Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out has helped more than 1,000 readers run their homeschool co-ops. Get your copy here.

Carol has more podcast episodes for homeschool leaders. View the topic list.

3 traps homeschool leaders need to avoid

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At the Indiana Association of Home Educators 2014 conference, I spoke to homeschool leaders about

Tips and Traps for Homeschool Leaders

In this video I discuss the 3 traps the homeschool leaders need to avoid.

In the video I mentioned a handout. You can download it here: http://wp.me/aF6pa-1c4

I hope the video is helpful.
For other videos for homeschool leaders visit HomeschoolCPA.com/Videos

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Homeschool Co-ops book updated and has lower price!

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I’m please to announce the new edition of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out

What’s in the new edition?

When I wrote Homeschool Co-ops in 2008, I was still homeschooling my daughters. Now, they are homeschool graduates, both in college, and I am no longer homeschooling, so I switched from the present tense to the past tense.

I still interact with homeschool leaders every day though my website, leader online groups and by meeting leaders at homeschool conventions, so I added some additional information based on what I learned from these leaders.

Website links have been updated and several changes from the IRS in Chapter Ten are included. Additionally, some of the uniquely Christian content has been adapted to appeal to all audiences.

New cover and Kindle version

The book has a new cover to match some of my other books and so you know that you are reading the latest edition.

The book will be available in paperback, pdf and Kindle format. (The Kindle format is new and long overdue!)

New lower prices (I thought you’d like that!)

The paperback was originally $12.50, but is now $9.95

The ebook (in pdf format) was $10.00 and is now $4.95

The Kindle version is also $4.95.

 

 

So if you have never read Homeschool Co-ops before, or your original edition is tattered and worn, order a copy today!

Carol Topp

 

Homeschool Co-ops (the book) helping reduce leader workload

Sarah Andrews  did a nice review of my book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out at the The Home Educating Family Association website.

 

“an excellent resource for co-op leadership”

“anticipates and discusses most issues one might encounter while leading a co-op”

“wise and insightful”

“Topp’s advice could save a lot of mental energy and stress.”

“Our co-op was able to implement some of Topp’s suggestions in Homeschool Co-ops, and our leadership and teachers have seen an improvement from last year in our workload.

 

– See more at: http://hedua.com/reviews/homeschoolco-ops/

Homeschool Co-ops
Learn more about the book, read a sample chapter here.
Available in print $12.50
Electronic version as a pdf  file $10.00
Coming soon: Kindle format!

 

Thank you, Sarah, for your wonderful comments! I’m so glad the book helped your leaders reduce their stress and workload!
Carol Topp

 

Does permanent leadership work in a homeschool group?

 

Does there  need to be a limit to how many times that person can serve on a homeschool group’s board, if she is still willing and the members still want her leading?

Has anyone had permanent leadership in a homeschool group and seen it work?

 

I have concern about a director or chair staying too long because it can create founder’s syndrome (“we always do it her way because she’s done it for so long”).  But I have seen groups run successfully with the same leaders for 10+years. But,  I would be concerned about burn out for the leader.

I’m less worried about a secretary or other members staying on indefinitely.

I do not think a treasurer should serve more than 3-5 years, even if she is doing a good job and wished to continue serving.  Too many mistakes, or even embezzlement, can occur if a treasurer is not changed frequently.  A treasurer unwilling to step down is a red flag signaling misappropriation of funds.
The pope is appointed for life, but Pope Benedict just resigned. He’s just too tired and old (at 85 years) to continue to do his job. It’s the first time on 600 years a pope has resigned!

In the USA, only the supreme court judges are appointed for life and it is debatable as to whether that system works!

Your homeschool group is not the supreme court nor the papacy, so I would not recommend permanent leadership for a board member.

Carol Topp, CPA

A budget can bring relief

My friends Kristen & Denise at Homeschool Group Leader have been running an interview they did with me as a blog series on leader burn out.

This last portion is on budgets titled Budgets Can Bring Relief
Here’s part of the interview:

A lot of leaders think, “What?! I hate dealing with the numbers. I am a people person.”

But what those numbers on a budget do is help you plan, sit down and look to the future. That can do a lot to reduce stress.

If you make a plan and know what might be coming, it will help you set priorities. What is important to us in our group? Is it important that we keep the cost extremely low? That is going to be a very different budget than saying our priority is top quality. It helps you focus, plan and set your group’s priorities.
So, believe it or not–having a budget might sound like it is a limiting thing, and some people don’t like budgets. But instead a budget can bring great freedom and relief from a lot of stress.
If you need help establishing a budget, start with my article  Budgeting basics
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Then consider ordering my ebook, Money Management for Homeschool Organizations.
Price $7.00. Available for immediate download.  Read more here.
Carol Topp, CPA

Are you burned out? Know the symptoms

As a guest blogger at The Homeschool Classroom, I wrote a blog entry about leader burnout.

Here’s an excerpt:

It is important to distinguish between temporary “busy-ness” or fatigue and full fledged burn out, which is accumulated strain and stress that affects other areas of your life. After nearly every co-op day, I feel exhausted. One fellow board member takes a nap after co-op, but she is only temporarily fatigued. We joke that we love when co-op starts, but we also love when it ends!

A symptom of burn out would be the loss of the initial enjoyment and anticipation that co-op day should bring. I know that I am tired at the end of a long co-op day because I have invested so much into my students. I really enjoy teaching and I experience a “good” type of fatigue.

To read the entire post, go here: Leader Burnout

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Need help avoiding burnout? Read Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them , Run Them and Not Burn Out.

Available as an ebook or in print here.

Carol Topp