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

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

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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

A lesson in leadership from Moses

The Ten Commandments was on last night.  It’s a great film, but it ends too early with the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt.  There are a lot of wonderful stories about their life after Egypt and one in particular is a great lesson in leadership from Moses.

My friends Kristen and Denise from HomeschoolGroupLeader did an interview with me recently about what we as homeschool leaders can learn from Moses.

HGL:
What is the TOP way you’ve discovered that homeschool group leaders can avoid burning out?

Carol:
I think the best way is to learn from other leaders.

We’ve got a great example in the Old Testament of the leader Moses. What Moses failed to do was to delegate responsibility. So, the first way to avoid burnout is to get help.

What Moses was guilty of doing was sitting around all day basically listening to everyone’s complaints and dealing with them all himself. His father-in-law came out there into the desert where Moses was leading the Israelites, saw what he was doing and said, “What you’re doing is not good. You will wear yourself out. The work is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone.” He goes on to suggest a plan to Moses of how to delegate responsibility to trusted leaders and then they can entrust it down a level, too.

We should be following that Biblical model of leadership. It’s almost unbibilical for a leader to think, “I have to do this all myself.” That comes from pride. Sometimes it comes from a perfectionist tendency, and sometimes it comes because they can’t get any help. I know, of course, your book helps a lot with motivating members to help, but we also have to make sure that the leader doesn’t have the improper attitude of thinking, “I have to do this all myself or this is the only right way to do it.” That’s probably what Moses thought: “There’s only one way to do it—my way.” And he was corrected in that and we need to follow his example of getting help and delegating responsibility.

(the full interview can be found at http://hgleaderblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/wednesdays-wisdom-lesson-from-moses.html

IRS auditors crackdown on independent contractors

IRS

According to CNNMoney, the IRS is going to do random audits of 6,000 companies that use independent contractors.

CNN Money: Auditors Crackdown on Indedendent Contractors

Homeschool organizations might be caught in the web if they are paying teachers as independent contractors.

Here’s what the article states:

(CNNMoney.com) — If your business uses independent contractors, get ready for new scrutiny. Hoping to boost tax revenue, the IRS and many state governments are cracking down on how companies classify their workers.

When employers report wages for independent contractors on IRS form 1099, rather than a W-2, they aren’t required to pay unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation insurance or payroll taxes for them. But the rules governing which workers are genuinely “independent” are strict — and often flouted.

The Internal Revenue Service launched a program last month that will randomly examine 6,000 companies over the next three years for employee misclassifications. The federal government estimates it will raise $7 billion over the next 10 through tighter enforcement.

Should you as a homeschool leader be concerned? Probably, if your organization has been paying people as independent contractors when they are really employees. How can you tell the difference?

I can help.

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help clear a lot of confusion, but perhaps you want to discuss your particular situation in a private, individual phone consultation.

I offer phone consultations to help you determine if your homeschool organization’s workers are employees or independent contractors. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

To request a consultation, please contact me. I’m happy to help and relieve any anxiety you have about this confusing topic.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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