Homeschool Co-op Featured in the News

I love it when a local newspaper reports about the success of homeschool co-ops.

Here’s  a great story from the Temple (Texas) Daily Telegraph

An environment for sharing: Home school co-op helps students and instructors

by Cristina Waits | General Assignments Writer
Published: October 20, 2009
Elizabeth Castleberry, a 14-year-old home-schooled ninth-grader, observes sugar burn Monday during a Helping Hands Homeschool Co-op chemistry lab at Belton Church of Christ. Clint Bittenbinder/Telegram
Ian Wardlow, right, a 16-year-old home-schooled 10th-grader, pours baking soda Monday into a test tube held by teacher Rebecca Stryker during a chemistry lab experiment at Helping Hands Homeschool Co-op at Belton Church of Christ. Clint Bittenbinder/Telegram

BELTON – Longtime home-schooler Elizabeth Castleberry says going to a classroom has its perks.

While she enjoys staying home for most of her studies, the 14-year-old says chemistry is a course that would be hard to replicate at home. So when her family decided to join Helping Hands Homeschool Co-op this year, it meant Castleberry could get hands-on experience with lab equipment as well as the chance to work with an experienced high school science teacher.

Both are opportunities she says she’s enjoying.

“The whole hands-on experience makes it easier to understand chemistry,” said Castleberry, who conducted five experiments with teachers and classmates Monday. “Co-op gives you more of a class experience. And it’s also a lot of fun to get out of the house.”

Though many students are also involved with youth sports, music lessons and clubs, the tuition-free co-op offers classroom experience that’s hard for home-schoolers to get otherwise. With courses ranging from core academic to special interest enrichment, the co-op is made up of 185 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who meet Mondays at Belton Church of Christ for 10 weeks each semester.

Like at home, parents teach classes in a wide variety of subjects such as astronomy, Latin, tae kwon do and sewing. But unlike home, every parent doesn’t have to teach every class. And children have the opportunity to learn from teachers who are not part of their families.

“My children have benefited from the expertise of others,” said Colleen Stafford, volunteer co-op administrator. “It takes a load off me. I don’t have to teach (my children) the lesson. I just oversee them carrying out their assignments. They’re getting much more than just me teaching them at home.”

Read the rest of the story here

I like the emphasis on learning from each other.  That;s the siprit of a true co-op! Did you catch the “tuition-free” description!  Wow  No wonder they have 185 students involved!

You too can start and run a successful homeschool co-op.  Start by ordering my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out here.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschooling Other People’s Children. Is It Legal?

Dear Ms. Topp,

I found your website while trying to research information on hiring a private homeschool instructor for a friend of mine.  She’s a single parent who adopted a girl from Russia.  She’s having a little bit of a problem in public school and I thought it might be a good idea to homeschool her for her middle school years at least to focus on her language skills and other abilities.

Can you point me to some information on whether she can even hire a homeschool instructor to work with her daughter?  I know this may sound crazy, but I keep thinking what her daughter needs is a governess.  Or maybe I’ve read too many Bronte and Austen novels.  Any help you could provide would be most appreciated.

Sincerely,

G.A.

Dear G.A.

I think you are absolutely correct in using the term governess to describe your friend’s situation.
I have a blog post titled “Is It a Homeschool Co-op or Mary Poppins?” that addresses a similar question.

I have been asked questions similar to yours several times, so it not an unusual idea. It is quite an old idea as you references (Jane Eyre is a favorite!)

I would direct your friend to do research in three areas:
1. Her state homeschool laws and see if a non-parent is allowed to instruct a child. I imagine it is allowed, she may just have to report the governess’ name and subjects covered on an annual basis (we do here in Ohio, for example)
2. Employer laws in your state.  A local CPA would be helpful here. The governess may be considered a household employee and that has easier tax reporting requirements (like annually, not quarterly filing).  Employer taxes (Social Security and Medicare) will need to be paid.
3. Perhaps consult with an attorney to draw up an employment agreement.  Perhaps a professional tutor or nanny/au pair service in your area may have sample agreements to use as a guide.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

Pros and Cons of Homeschool Co-ops

Homeschool blogger, Spunky Homeschool, asks about the disadvantages of belonging to a homeschool co-ops and her concerns.

The Pros and Cons of Co-ops

Are you in a homeschool co-op? I joined one last year so my son, a high school junior, could take a Physics class; we enjoyed the experience and signed up again this year. There are quite a few co-ops in our area and they appear to be a growing trend among homeschoolers around the nation.

But I do sometimes wonder what the co-op trend means for the future of homeschooling. Will the government jump in and require those that teach other families to be credentialed; or God forbid, will the teachers union step in and demand that mothers be unionized. A few years ago, I would have laughed at that thought. But that is exactly was is a occurring with in-home health care workers in Illinois and mothers who do in-home daycare in Michigan. Right now this seems to be happening only with those workers who receive state aid, something our co-op does not do. But some co-ops may have members who do receive some sort of state assistance for their children and that’s where things could start to get muddy.

Like Spunky, I know the blessings of belonging to a homeschool co-op and the disadvantages. When I wrote my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, a friend noticed that my chapter on the disadvantages was longer than the advantages of a homeschool co-op! Ha, ha!

I just believe that homeschool co-ops are like marriages, it’s best if you go in with your eyes wide open!

I work hard to help homeschool leaders run the best co-ops that they can and be a blessing to their members, but not burn out anyone-leader or member!

Read through some comments or post your own here at Spunky’s site.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool Leader, Do You Need Help?

I know that being a homeschool leader is not an easy job.  You have taken on extra responsibilities in addition to homeschooling your own children. But help is on the way!

I am so pleased to announce several ebooks and audios for homeschool leaders are now available


A 39 page ebook covering money management for small, medium and large sized groups. Sample forms and examples of financial statements in clear English are provided. Also covered are topics such as using Quickbooks, collecting fees, creating a budget, insurance, and hiring paid teachers. All written specifically for homeschool groups.
Price: $10.00 (immediate download as a pdf file)
Read more and order here

A 51 page ebook explaining the pros and cons of tax exempt 501c3 status. Is it needed? Is it worth it? Also covered are non profit incorporation, the application process, and how to maintain tax exempt status. Written specifically for homeschool groups.
Price: $10.00 (immediate download as a pdf file)
Read more and order here

A  62 page ebook containing some of 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.
Price $8.00 (immediate download as a pdf file)
Read more and order here

A 20 page ebook that covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors.  Includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.
Price: $7.00 (immediate download as a pdf file)
Read more and order here

Are You Ready? Tax Exempt 501c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations

audio download
An hour-long audio that explains the advantages of 501c3 tax exempt status for your homeschool group. What’s involved, what will it cost and is it worth it? All specifically for homeschool groups.
Price: $7.00 includes a file of the presentation slides
Read more and order here

An hour-long audio that explains the importance of boards, budgets and bylaws in a homeschool organization. Get your group set up correctly and running smoothly. All specifically for homeschool groups.
Price: $7.00 includes a file of the presentation slides
Read more and order here


I hope you find these ebooks and audios helpful as you run your homeschool organizations.
Carol Topp, CPA

More lessons from a homeschool co-op

Faye had so many good lessons she learned from her homeschool co-op, I’m splitting them into two parts. here’s more great lessons learned from someone in the trenches of a homeschool co-op.

6.  Sometimes kids won’t like the class you are teaching; some may even decide to drop out after a few weeks.  Try not to take it personally.

7.  A co-op with mixed ages provides amazing opportunities for older kids to learn how to be around, and help, younger kids.  My little guy made so many connections with the older boys; it was wonderful.  And, having the older kids play with my son was a huge help to me.  Bonus–I may have found a future babysitter!

8.  There is nothing like a good game of Twister to shake things up a bit.  Read my Twister article to learn about our fun!

9.  It may take some effort to stick with a co-op.  After all, you probably had a routine before you joined the co-op, but don’t give up.  A co-op can really liven up your weekly schedule, not to mention all the new avenues can open for your kids.

10.  The more you can help, the better the co-op will be.  If you have a few extra minutes, see if something needs to be set up, or cleaned up, or put away.  If you have an idea for a class/program/field trip, share it with the planning group. One of our co-op families held a “tie dye” day and invited everyone to their house for a day of messy, creative fun.  I will never forget the site of all those tie-dyed shirts, blowing in the breeze on the clothesline.

11.  If one idea doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to toss it or tweak it.  We had started a MathCounts program, but for some kids that just didn’t work.  So, another mom gathered some awesome math games and brought them to the co-op for the kids who were a little intimidated by MathCounts.  The result?  The math games were a HUGE hit; kids were helping to get their parents out the door on time, so they wouldn’t be late for math games!

12.  Let your kids have fun, and don’t force them to try everything.  Sometimes just being exposed to new things will pique their interest in something different, which may encourage them to give it a try.  A co-op should be educational, but it should also be enjoyable.

I completely agree with everything Faye learned, especially #10 on everyone helps and #11 on staying flexible. They are so important in a homeschool co-op and so easy to forget! Thanks for sharing your experiences Faye!HSCo-opsCover

If any of you want to learn how to start a co-op or run the co-op you belong to in a better way, order my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

Carol Topp, CPA

Lessons learned from a homeschool co-op

Faye, a homeschool mom and columnist for the DC Examiner.com, has a list of lessons she learned while being in two homeschool co-ops this year.

When we joined two homeschool co-ops last year, it completely changed our homeschooling life.  For one thing, I had to be sure not to plan anything else on co-op days, because we were already busy.  Sometimes this made scheduling field trips a little tricky, but the juggling was well worth the effort.  Another big change was that on co-op days, we all had to get up at a scheduled (earlier!) time, so that we could be out the door on time. We aren’t big morning people around here, but I think the change did us good.  And finally, it brought more friendship and support into our family and into our lives, which was perhaps the biggest blessing of all!  There were many other things that I learned, and I thought it would be fun to share a few of them:

1.  Kids who are not used to daily “school” may not always have pencils, pens, or paper.  Be sure to bring extra!

2.  No matter how hard you wish, if your co-op is exactly 18 minutes from your house, you will not be able to get there in 10 minutes.  Leave early (or at least on time).

3.  Even if you are the “teacher”, sometimes you will be late (refer to #2 for the solution to this problem)

4.  A big roll of paper and a box of crayons are indispensable for keeping little ones occupied.  The paper may come in handy for other uses (see #1).

5.  You probably already know this, but kids NEED time to run around outdoors.  If your co-op doesn’t have access to an outdoor space, try to find a way for the kids to take a walk or play some indoor games.  Getting the wiggles out is very important.

More of Fay’s lessons learned coming soon.

Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about starting or running aHSCo-opsCover

homeschool co-op, order my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

Carol Topp, CPA

Carnival of Homeschooling

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling!   Our theme this week is:

As Time Goes By: Reflecting on 25 Years of Marriage and 12 Years of HomeschoolingIMG_4033

In 2009 my family celebrates two milestones, our oldest daughter graduates from homeschool high school and my husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage (today!), so I’m reflecting on the passage of time.

Before you begin

IMG_4720 - CopyThis is Dave and I before we were married, setting the stage for marriage with a period of engagement. Like engaged couples, parents just starting to homeschool can be excited and fearful at the same time.

Teri’s Take asks Will you begin homeschooling this fall?

Praiseworthy Things asks parents to consider the important question, What About Preschool?

Percival Blakeney Academy compares Home Schooling VS Home Cooking

Why Homeschool has a video of John Taylor Gatto talking about the purpose of Public Schools brainwashing and preparing for factories.

Starting to homeschool

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Our family went from just the two of us to four when we added two daughters. We had a lot to learn as parents and many parents learn a lot as they begin homeschooling. I am so grateful for the parents and experienced homeschoolers that shared their wisdom with us.

Wired For Noise shares a review of a book set that is great for beginner readers in Reading Together

The Frugal Homeschooling Mom adds reason number 8 in Why Homeschool? Eight Reasons (and more to come)

Terri Sue Bettis presents Homeschooling an Only posted at Cricket’s Corner.

explore-discover-learn asks Why do Kids Bully? and offers  Bully and Cyberbully Printables

Terry presents Art Supplies Can Spark a Child’s Creativity posted at My Creativity Blog.

Growing and learning

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This is one of my favorite pictures from early in our homeschool journey.  My daughter is about seven and is pretty happy to show us her spelling book! Notice little sister peeking out from behind her shoulder. Our daughters kept growing and learning as these homeschool bloggers also continue to do:

Purls of Wisdoms blogs about learning styles in Homeschooling Styles

Whippasnappa’s Blog notices the changes in her children because of homeschooling in Thoughts on Homeschooling

C h r y s a l i s tells us that stargazers across the world are in for a major event next month. Scientists say that on July 22, a total solar eclipse will be visible from India, China, and parts of the South Pacific in The Eclipse Will Look Like a Diamond Ring

Barbara Frank Online asks Is your young teen sleeping through the summer? in The Young Teen in Your House

A Mountain Mom shares The process of being organized.

ChristineMM presents Homeschool Stuff Reorg Before & After posted at The Thinking Mother.

Freehold2 discusses an important topic in Copyright and Homeschoolers

Kathy presents Airborn: Homeschool Review posted at Homeschoolbuzz.com Reviews.

Jen presents My Homeschool Recipe posted at Cage Free Monkeys.

Jimmie presents Living Math Curriculum Review posted at The Curriculum Choice.

Travel and field trips

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My husband used to say that the money we saved by homeschooling meant we could take really big field trips and here’s a picture from one of our biggest “field trips” ever-to China in 2003. We all learned so much and see the world differently as a result of traveling. Here some homeschool families share their travels near and far.

Summers’ Family Adventures enjoys Cleveland’s Metroparks in Rocky River Nature Center

Kimberly from Life of a Homeschool Family visits a local museum in Macon Museum of Arts & Sciences

Home Spun Juggling shares photos from her recent trip to the aquarium in Sharks, Jellies, and Penguins, Oh My!

Amy from Neighborhood Clubhouse explains How Homeschooling Families Can Find Free Travel Accommodations

Dave from Home School Dad explains a service project his family did in Oh Where is My Hairnet?

Susan presents Riding the Escalator posted at The Expanding Life.

Continued commitment

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My daughters have continued to be committed to homeschooling all the way through high school. This picture shows their books from one year of high school!  They really felt a sense of accomplishment when they saw their book towers!  The following posts will encourage you to continue in your commitment to homeschool.

Aimless Conversation discusses the importance of setting goals in Homeschooling With a Purpose

Loving Learning at Home reflects on her homeschool life in Assessment Time; Reflection Time

Homeschooler Cafe’ encourages other homeschool parents in Just Hang In There!

See what the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers will be using next school year in Our 2009-2010 Curriculum

Kiwi Polemicist is concerned about homeschooling freedoms in Sweden in Update: Sweden wants to outlaw homeschooling done for religious and philosophical reasons

Take Dana’s poll How Involved are Dads in Homeschooling? at Principled Discovery

Beverly’s Homeschooling Blog shares Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl was homeschooled. Pfc Bergdahl is a soldier being held captive in Afghanistan

Milestones and celebration

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Here is my daughter, Emily, on her graduation from homeschool high school. Quite a milestone in her life that we’re happy to celebrate! Of course milestones mark an event, usually an ending, but in Emily’s case this milestone is a beginning as well as she heads off to Grove City College in PA this fall.

Homemaking 911 celebrates a milestone in Christina is Graduating This Month

Amanda presents I Think I Can, I Think I Can, Wait? Yep, I Know I Can! posted at The Daily Planet.

From my other blog I share Homeschool High School Graduation and Sending Your Kids to College.

Wrap up

Thank you to all the bloggers that shared their posts! I hope you have enjoyed this reflection on our family life and marriage. No matter where you are on your path, remember that the joy is in the journey!

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This final picture is Dave and I at a family celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. We haven’t changed a bit, right?  Wrong! Of course our past 25 have years have changed us for the better, I hope.  Homeschooling our daughters has been a rewarding, fulfilling experience.

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be at Small World. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of homeschooling using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.  The deadline is Monday July 27 at 6 pm PST.

Carol Topp

Group using personal Paypal account

money_exchange_100Hi Carol,

Our (homeschool group’s) yearbook is looking take in the money thru my personal paypal account, then deposit it into an separate bank account so that our Assoc. does cross over the $5000.00 mark. How is this done so that I don’t have to claim the money as extra income.

Currently the association is trying to do a paypal account not just for yearbook for membership dues, they are hesitant because they set up the a paypal account under non-profit, paypal is wanting proof of this and we don’t have it. I suggested that they explain to paypal that they we are a Unincorporated Non-Profit Assoc. and it should be fine.

Sandy in TX

Sandy,

The ideal way to operate is to set up a Paypal account for the association/homeschool group and not run anything through your personal Paypal account.

I understand from other homeschool leaders, that Paypal expects to see proof from the IRS of tax exempt status. They may also accept a nonprofit incorporation certificate from your state. They told one homeschool group they would accept “certified Articles of Incorporation.”

One homeschool registered with Paypal as “Category: Education, Subcategory: Elementary and secondary schools.” While not as accurate as “Charitable/Nonprofit”, it got the job done!

If your organization is not a nonprofit corporation or doesn’t want to be classified by Paypal as as a school, then tell your board that you are using your personal Paypal account and have them record it in the minutes of a board meeting. (“Sandy agreed to allow use of her personal Paypal account for the yearbook project”) Keep a very clear paper trail just in case you are ever audited by the IRS. Keep paper records of every transaction and especially the transfers in and out of the Paypal account. Make print outs from Paypal and file them away with wherever you keep your tax return information. (Do NOT send them to the IRS with your tax return.)

Anyone had problems setting up a Paypal account for their homeschool organization? Id like to hear your experience.

Carol Topp, CPA

Update on teachers as independent contractors

In Is Your Hired Teacher Really an Employee? I mentioned a homeschool group dealing with the IRS over teacher classification as an employee or independent contractor (IC).

They replied to the IRS via a letter stating their case for worker status as an Independent Contractor. They heard back from the IRS and the IRS determined that the teacher was misclassified as an independent contractor and should be reclassified as an employee.  The IRS wants $500 in back taxes (at least there are no penalties!)  The homeschool organization strongly disagrees and contacted a labor law attorney to help draft a letter back to the IRS.

Update:  The IRS issue was settled with the IRS winning the issue. The homeschool organization reclassified all their teachers as employees. There were no penalties to pay to the IRS, but then the State of Ohio audited this homeschool group and has fined them  $3,000-$4,000 a year for three years for unpaid unemployment taxes.  The State of Ohio sided with the IRS that the workers were employees and the organization should have been paying unemployment taxes on them.  Thankfully, the state can only audit back for three years.

The issue brought to light that many (perhaps most) homeschool organizations that hire teachers pay them as independent contractors.  Most homeschool groups are small nonprofits without accounting staff to manage the paperwork of withholding and paying employment taxes, creating W-2s, etc.  It’s easier to deal with an IC than an employee.  But the IRS reminds us the the facts of the situation determine worker status, not the organization’s preference.

Also, most hired homeschool teachers are only teaching about one hour a week and are given a lot of freedom in how to conduct their class.  This was all true for my client, but the IRS still determined the teacher was an employee. She even signed a IC agreement three years in a row, so even a contract was not enough evidence for the IRS.

Here’s what I’m doing:

1. Telling my homeschool clients that hire teachers to carefully consider worker classification.  Having a signed IC agreement is not enough.
2. Advising some of my homeschool clients to reclassify teachers as employees and start withholding federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes.  These clients hire several teachers for several hours a week and exert a lot of control over what and how they teach.  One group also does teacher training and evaluations so the workers definitely look like employees.

3. Change the way my small co-op pays teachers.  The IRS letter stated , “if the worker had been an independent contractor, the parents would have directly paid the worker for the services she provided for their children.” Starting next semester we will have parents pay the hired teachers directly. See Paying teachers in a homeschool co-op to read our story

4. Trying to get out the word to homeschool leaders about the potential problems of worker misclassification and in general the employment laws regarding hiring paid teachers.

5. Encourage homeschool leaders to read my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. It can buy you a lot of peace of mind.

 

Please pass on this information to homeschool groups that you know hire paid teachers.  It doesn’t pay to be ignorant.

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

New eBook: HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance

The Old Schoolhouse magazine has just launched a new electronic book on being a work at home, homeschool mom called HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance

ebook only $12.95

Are you looking to creatively supplement your family’s income?
Would a home business even work for your homeschooling family?
Whether you are. . .

  • Considering a new home business endeavor, or already working from home
  • Seeking creative ideas, or exploring opportunities that might work for you
  • Wondering how to set up a home business
  • In need of some inspiration, encouragement, motivation or advice from experienced home’preneurs who’ve been there
  • Wondering how others manage homeschooling and homework and continue to smile

. . . this E-Book, HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance contains the information and support you are looking for!

My friend, Katy, was the project coordinator and asked me to contribute a chapter. My chapter is titled “Keeping Finances Organized in a Work-at-Home Business.”

To see the rest of the topics and a description of the book, click here:
HomeWork ebook

Carol Topp, CPA

who is loving working from home and homeschooling!