Can a small group be an IRS qualified charity?

In the past week, I have received two emails from homeschool leaders in MD and CA with  a surprisingly similar situations.

In both groups, a small number of homeschooling families were  joining together to hire a single teacher to teach their children once or twice a week. Both groups were very small, only seven families total, but they were paying each instructor quite a bit of money-$11,000 annually in one case and $17,000 in the other. This meant that they exceeded the IRS threshold of $5,000 annual gross revenue and needed to consider filing for 501c3 tax exempt status.

They had several concerns such as a contract with the teacher, how should the teacher be paid and could the group qualify for 501c3 tax exempt status as an educational organization?

Here were some of their questions:

I found your website and found it to be most interesting and helpful to homeschool co-ops.  I would like to schedule a personal consultation with you.  I am part of a homeschool group that informally hired a teacher to teach certain classes in past years, but this coming year the teacher wants a contract.
Rosemary in MD


I saw your website and had some general questions for you.  Appreciate your ministry to homeschoolers. We are trying to decide whether our group should be a sole proprietorship owned by person or try to establish a nonprofit. What would be the pros and cons of each? What if we can’t afford to file for tax exemption at this time?  What are our choices if our gross receipts are around $11K/year?
Teri in CA

There are several options for homeschool organizations who are trying to decide how to structure themselves. I advised the leader from CA to read this article:

When to become a 501c3?

I offered a private phone consultation and discussed the concerns and options with the leader from MD. I explained that I doubted the IRS would grant 501c3 “qualified charity” status to a group with only seven families. An IRS qualified charity is supposed to serve a public good, not the needs of only seven families.

Instead of pursuing 501c3 tax exempt status, we discussed that the hired teacher is really running a for-profit business (a sole proprietorship) with seven families as her customers. I shared with her several sample contractor agreements the teacher could use in her business.

There is a sample contractor agreement available in my ebooks Money Management in a Homeschool Organization and Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

Thank you again for the consultation.  It answered a lot of questions for me, and I appreciate your support. Thank you also for the contractor agreements – I have been reading through them.
Rosemary in MD

If you have a unique homeschooling situation and would like to schedule a private consultation with me, please send me an email at Carol@HomeschoolCPA.com. Tell me a little about your group and we can arrange a mutually convenient time to talk.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool co-op teachers influence the future!

EmilyToppSo many wonderful people have influenced my daughters by teaching at our homeschool co-op.  I will be forever grateful to them!

When Amy Puetz announced she was looking for stories form homeschool graduates, I asked my daughter, Emily, to write something.

Here is an excerpt:

When I was in fifth grade, my mother enrolled me in a homeschool co-op because she thought it would be “good for me.” Unfortunately, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of trying something new and facing “real teachers.” In hindsight, however, I can see that the co-op was one of the greatest blessings of those years of homeschooling!

The volunteer instructor for my public speaking class was a veteran homeschool mother, Mrs. Hill. In her class, I learned how to follow a syllabus, complete weekly assignments, and learn from a teacher other than my own parents. I also benefited from Mrs. Hill’s patient encouragement and instruction, as she shared her passion for communicating for Christ with my class. Because each of my co-op teachers led a class in her area of expertise, their passion developed my love for learning beyond what I would have experienced working with just my mom and sister at home. Although I did not particularly enjoy speaking in public, I appreciated Mrs. Hill’s encouragement. Specifically, her praise—from a source other than my parents—reinforced my self confidence and motivated me to work diligently even in my least favorite subjects. On the car ride home from co-op, I would frequently say to my mother, “Guess what I learned from Mrs. Hill today!” The co-op provided a unique opportunity to learn from other adults, without sacrificing the integral element of family from my homeschool experience.

Read my daughter’s thank you to co-op teachers in Thank You! 20 Homeschool Grads Tip Their Hats to Homeschooling Parents Compiled by Amy Puetz

Amy is offering this as a fee ebook at her website.

If you as a homeschool parent, leader or co-op teacher need a bit of encouragement, read Amy’s Thank You book. It will be the “shot in the arm” you need!

Thank You! 20 Homeschool Grads Tip Their Hats to Homeschooling Parents


Homeschool Co-ops now avaliable at Rainbow Resource

I am pleased to announce that Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out is now available at Rainbow Resource, the largest homeschool catalog I have ever seen, with 1300+ pages! I love that catalog. I spend hours looking through it. I am honored to now be included in its pages!

HomeschoolCo-ops

Rainbow price  $11.75

Order here

Read more about Homeschool Co-ops here.

(P.S. if you prefer an electronic version of Homeschool Co-ops, I have a special going on through the end of July. Buy the electronic version of Homeschool Co-ops for $10.00 and receive a copy of my 60 page ebook Questions and Answers for Homeschool Leaders. Learn more here.)

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool Co-ops now available as an ebook!

HomeschoolCo-opsCoverMy book, Homeschool Co-ops: has been available in print since 2008. It has been helpful resource for many homeschool leaders, as  Dawn in Janesville, WI wrote me:

I am the director of a 40+ family homeschool co-op.  We have already purchased one book, and I read it in a weekend.  It has been an awesome resource.  My Assistant Director has just finished reading it, and we are in agreement that we should purchase a set of at least 5 for our board.  We would like to offer it to the board as a resource as well as for our membership to check out to read.

Now Homeschool Co-ops is available as an electronic book, available for immediate download as a pdf.

OrderNowButton

Price $10.00


Table of Contents

Sample Chapter


What’s the difference between an ebook and the print version?

The content is exactly the same. I have the ebook laid out with two pages of the book on one sheet of paper (horizontally), so it takes fewer sheets of paper if you wish to print out the book or portions of the book.

See a sample of the pages: Two-page Layout Sample

Why would I want an electronic version?

You receive the book immediately. There is no waiting for delivery.  It is stored forever on your computer. It will not get ripped, lost or eaten by your dog.

Can I print out several copies of the ebook to share with my co-op members?

No, sorry, but you cannot print out several copies. Electronic books have copyrights just like a print book. You may make one copy for your personal use. Your friends will have to purchase their own copies of the print or ebook.

What is the price of the ebook?

The ebook price is $10.00.

During the month of July 2010, I am offering a special bonus. When you purchase Homeschool Co-ops as an ebook, you will receive  a free copy of another ebook, Questions and Answers for Homeschool Leaders.

Questions and Answers for Homeschool Leaders

QALeadersCover3DTable of Contents
Read a Sample here

This  62 page ebook contains the most frequently asked questions from homeschool leaders on the IRS, nonprofit and tax exempt status, boards, conflict, money, fund raising, volunteers, paying workers and insurance. As you read the questions from other leaders and answers from Carol Topp, CPA, you will find practical and helpful guidelines on a variety of topics to run a successful homeschool group.


How will this work?

Click on Order Now button and you’ll be taken to my shopping cart program. It looks like this:

CBOrderpage

1. You enter your credit card number, email and name.

2. You will be directed to another website page, my download page. On that page you will be able to download your ebook immediately by clicking a link. The ebook will open as a pdf file.  You will need Adobe Reader to view and print it. Get Adobe Reader for free here.

3. Save the document on your computer.

4. You can read the ebook on your computer screen or print it out.


You only have until July 31, 2010 to buy the electronic version of Homeschool Co-ops and receive the bonus copy of Questions and Answers for Homeschool Leaders. Order your copy today!

OrderNowButton Price $10.00 for Homeschool Co-ops ebook (and bonus ebook)

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

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

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

Homeschool co-ops come in many sizes

Homeschool mother Beth at Learning Together blog discusses at least five different homeschool co-ops that she has been a part of.  Five co-ops! Does that sound overwhelming to you? It might be until you read Beth’s descriptions.  Many of the co-ops were very short term or very small with just a few families meeting in a home.

Multi-family Enrichment Co-op

This Co-op met for 8 weeks in the fall, and then met again in the spring with a new set of classes. It was a wonderful experience, exposing my children to a variety of skills and subjects that I might not have attempted – and lots of friendships were planted there.

Multi-Family Curriculum-based Co-op
A little over three years ago a group of friends met together to discuss starting a weekly Co-op based on the Tapestry of Grace curriculum. This Co-op started out with 13 families but has now grown to 18 families, and meets every Friday from 9:30 – 2:30 at a local church where we rent classroom space.

Yearlong Academic Co-op
I have done yearlong science co-ops with both my elementary and middle school kids. When Sarah was in 8th grade and Eric was in 6th, we did Apologia General Science. To keep us moving along and to make things a little more fun, we met with one other family every other Friday to do the experiments together.

Small Multi-Subject Co-op
Those co-op experiences led me to pursue even more similar situations, as I saw lots of good things happening both for me and for my children. A friend and I decided to get our 2 girls together twice a week for writing and Latin – I taught writing and the other mom taught Latin.

Short-term Co-ops
Years ago, when my oldest daughter was really into the American Girl books, I hosted an American Girl co-op at my house, which met once a week for 10 weeks. We read the books of one of the American Girl series.

HomeschoolCo-opsCo-ops can come in all shapes and sizes.  If you cannot find a co-op in your area that meets your needs, why not start your own?  My book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn out can get you started.

It is available at Amazon, BN.com and other on-line retailers.

Read more here.


13 Reasons Not To Join Our Co-op

My guest blogger today is Carren Joye, leader of the Academy Days Homeschool Co-op in Alabama. She shares a great article on when you are not ready to be part of a homeschool co-op.

13 Reasons Not To Join Our Co-op

Homeschool co-ops are not for every homeschooling family, and we certainly do not expect our co-op to necessarily be perfect for your family. As a matter of fact, we would rather you determine that our co-op is not a good “fit” before you make the commitment to participate for a full 14-week semester. The following 13 reasons why you may not want to join our co-op are based on feedback from former members for whom our co-op did not work out.

If you experience any of these situations, please, please, please do not join our co-op!

1. If you have a full time job or a busy extracurricular schedule and already have limited days for “book learning” at home, then you will find co-op way too time-consuming. Co-op takes a full day out of your week because you must be at co-op if your child is there. You certainly do not have to teach, but you can serve as a class helper or co-teacher or on the clean-up crew for part of the day. Our co-op is truly a “cooperative” effort, so we rely on everyone to make it work successfully, and we expect members to honor their commitment when they join. If you already don’t have time for co-op, don’t sign up!

2. If you are moving or will move this year, or if you have health problems or family obligations to help parents or other relatives, focus on those priorities first until this season of your life has passed. Do not add more stress to your life by committing your family’s precious time and energy to our co-op. If you and your children will not be able to meet your weekly obligations, you will let yourself, your family and the co-op down.

3. If you already know that you may miss three Thursdays per semester, please do not join our co-op as you and your children will already miss a full quarter of classes — and that’s before illnesses! Of course, we understand that illnesses and emergencies occur unexpectedly (and we do not want you to attend if you are sick), but we also respect the time and effort that facilitators put into their classes each week. They deserve the mutual respect of having students be in class and on time, barring unforeseen situations and illnesses. We ask parents to honor their commitment and make punctual attendance a priority.

4. If this is your first year homeschooling, you really need to take a year to adjust and find out what style works best for your family. Co-op is not a substitute or alternative to schooling at home. Indeed, jumping right into a co-op before adjusting to homeschooling may overwhelm you and your children.

5. Similarly, if you are joining co-op as a substitute for school or so you won’t have to teach your children at home, then co-op will not meet your needs. The parent is still the primary teacher for classes taught at co-op because the parent knows her children better than any teacher ever could. While our classes are designed to provide students with specialized instruction, co-op classes do not absolve parents from their responsibility for their children’s education. Parents still must ensure that their students keep up with homework, and they may need to assign supplemental coursework at home. Additionally, parents administer tests at home and determine final grades.

piccwhand6. If you homeschool because your child could not learn in a classroom environment or if your child does not do well in a group setting, you probably will not be pleased with our co-op. Although classes typically range between 4 and 10 students, as with the creative writing class pictured at right, we still group students by grade/age and expect “classroom manners” — although, since most are lifetime homeschoolers, they don’t always know to raise their hands! Also, whiteboards, tables and chairs make our classrooms very efficient for teaching a class, but give the classes a bit of a school-like feel — however, with homeschoolers as teachers, our class activities are usually more out-of-the-box! Additionally, with even a small group of families, we must rely on some rules and guidelines to maintain order and efficiency. If you unschool, you and your child may not feel comfortable even in our relaxed setting.

7. If you homeschool because you feel no one else can adequately teach your child what he needs to know in any given subject, you will not be satisfied with any parent who teaches a specialized co-op class. If you join our co-op, accept that others may not teach a subject the way you would and relinquish some control. At home, focus on subjects not taught at co-op to maximize your time. Alternatively, accept that you will be supplementing at home to a certain extent. If you’re not okay with either option, you should not join a co-op at all.

picscikatie8. If you are joining co-op for purely socialization reasons, you will likely find the classes too academic. All high school classes and most junior high classes require homework. Also, a few classes, such as the Apologia sciences pictured at right, require lessons at home during winter break in order to finish the course in one year. Even kindergarten and elementary classes have lessons incorporated into their activities and games. Also, while our children see each other at other homeschool events and clubs, our co-op does not schedule field trips or clubs. You would do better to join one of the many local homeschool support groups for socialization opportunities.

9. If you are joining co-op for rigorous, college-prep courses, you may find the classes not challenging enough. Unlike some co-ops, we do not administer tests nor do we assign grades. The parents remain the primary teachers of their own children. Kindergarten and elementary classes have neither homework nor lesson plans to follow at home. However, while most high school courses are college-prep, a weekly class for only 14 weeks cannot possibly cover all there is to know in a particular subject. Depending on the subject, you may want to supplement at home by assigning extra books or research.

10. If your junior high or high school students already have a full load of schoolwork at home or are members of another co-op, our classes may interfere with their ability to complete their schoolwork. Please focus on one co-op at a time.

11. If you have babies and toddlers in your family, you may want to wait until they are a little older. Although we do maintain a small nursery, the co-op may interrupt their feedings and nap schedule. Plus, little ones usually get sick more frequently than older children, which could cause your family to miss a lot more of co-op than you want.

12. If your child is undergoing obedience issues or social or behavioral problems, this is not a good time to join co-op.
Focus on the character growth of your child before putting him in a situation for which he may not be ready. This applies to all children, whether preschool, kindergarten, elementary, or high school!

13. If you are on a tight budget or live a good distance from our location, you may not want to make the financial investment. Class fees are minimal (between $1 and $15 for all 14 weeks) and cover supplies only, but fees do add up for a large family. Also, gas prices may be prohibitive if you live a considerable distance from Grace Community Church in Millbrook.

No co-op will fit every family. Before joining our co-op, or any homeschool co-op for that matter, you should consider what the Lord may have planned for your family this year. Ask yourself if participating in a co-op right now would enhance or exhaust your family at this season of your lives. Also, examine your reasons for joining a co-op. Consider what you expect from participating in this co-op, and ask other members if this co-op will likely meet those expectations. If not, don’t worry. You definitely do not need a co-op to homeschool successfully!
About the Author:
Carren W. Joye is the author of Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0), Alabama State History Curriculum for grades K-9, and A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups, a homeschool support group, homeschool covering, and homeschool co-op. For more information on her books and state history curriculum, visit her web site at www.carrenjoye.com.

Preschool homeschool co-op

Angie at the Homeschool Classroom has a great post about starting a homeschool preschool co-op.

Starting a Homeschool Preschool Co-op

Although many parents come to homeschooling after their children have already spent years in a public or private school, there are also many parents who begin thinking of homeschooling before their children have even been born.  Still others come to their interest in homeschooling when the preschool years hit.

In our society, preschool has become the norm for so many. It seems as soon as a child is three or four, people start asking, “Are they going to preschool?”  Although all of my children did at least some preschool outside of the home, this is a perfect age for the homeschooling experience.  Still — some families long for the opportunities that an outside preschool has to offer, even though they long to homeschool.

For those families wanting the best of both worlds, a homeschool preschool co-op might be the perfect solution.

What is a homeschool preschool co-op?

A homeschool preschool co-op will look different from group to group.  However, the basic idea is that it will be a small group of parents (typically mothers) and preschool aged children who meet for preschool together.

Angie’s post goes on to share some great tips on getting started. Read the rest here

My book,  Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, can also be a great place to get started in launching a preschool co-op. Read a sample chapter Your First Planning Meeting at HomeschoolCo-ops.com

Here’s a neat idea if you would like to start a preschool homeschool co-op.  The founders call it Joy School and give you activities, music CDs, a schedule and manual. Yes, there are fees involved, but it might be worth it and is definitely cheaper than a commercial preschool.

Carol Topp, CPA