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

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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!

A Homeschool Leader Gathering

Do you ever wish that you could gather with other homeschool leaders just to receive encouragement, share resources or bend someone’s ear?

020327_1397_0003_dsms1 Last month, 12 homeschool leaders from seven different homeschool groups gathered on a cold winter night in Cincinnati, Ohio just to meet and support each other.

We had coffee, cookies and laughed, gently reproved and empathized with other leaders.

We came from a diverse background.  Some were experienced homeschoolers-one with 15 years of leadership under her belt! Others had only been leading their group for two weeks! We had unschoolers, classical schoolers, virtual schoolers and traditional homeschoolers (whatever that means!)

After we exchanged names and information on our groups, we listed what challenges we face as homeschool leaders.  Here’s what the leaders listed:

Collecting money
Doubling in size in one year
Four of five board members leaving
Facility cost
Undefined roles
Low commitment from board members
Communication
Establishing policies
Parents test limits
Clean up building
New director
Late or unprepared teachers
Need a larger facility

Any of these sound familiar? I think these are common problems.  Sometimes the other leaders had helpful answers and suggestions; sometimes they just offered sympathy and encouragement. Everyone needs someone who can say, “I understand.”

I shared some resources including:

  • My website, HomeschoolCPA.com, for articles and ebooks on running a homeschool organization
  • The Old Schoolhouse magazine’s Homeschool Leader Yahoo group, a wonderful place for homeschool leaders to pose questions and get answers from leaders across the country

I hope you find these resources helpful too.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Is it a homeschool co-op or Mary Poppins?

I started my website HomeschoolCPA to help homeschool organizations, but sometimes the lines between a family homeschool and a homeschool organization get a little fuzzy. Here’s one example of the new and creative ways the people are homeschooling today.

I am considering starting a homeschool with a group of 5 children. They are all from different families and none of them is my own. I have a Masters degree in education and am comfortable working as an independent contractor. I plan on teaching these children in one of the boy’s home with the parents’ blessing. Is this legal? What do I need to do to set it up? Would the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op? I am having difficulty finding information about this for Maryland. Thanks for your help!

Mrs. A in Maryland

Dear Mrs A,

Congratulations on your new venture. Teaching other people’s children is certainly a legitimate business. You will be a modern day governess. (like Mary Poppins!)

marypoppins

I do not believe the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op. But you need to set up a small business. I recommend these steps:

* Pick a business name, although you can use your own name

* Consider opening a business checking account to keep your business and personal expenses separate (it helps at tax time)

* Have a written agreement with the parents about your duties and your fees (i.e. how much and when will you be paid)

* Keep good records of all our expenses, especially mileage. Read my Small Business Start-up Guide available to download here: Small Business Start Up Guide

* Set aside 20-30% of your income after expenses (i.e. 20-30% of your profit) to pay income tax and self employment tax. You will probably also need to make quarterly estimates payments to the IRS. Here’s a great blog to help you learn more about being self-employed. http://junewalkeronline.blogspot.com/

I’m not familiar with Maryland’s homeschooling laws, but here in Ohio we must notify if someone other than the parent does a majority of the instruction. Maryland may have a similar notification rule. You might want to do a little digging on-line and ask the families that are hiring you about Maryland’s homeschooling laws.

Best of success to you!

Carol Topp, CPA

W-2s and tax filings for homeschool co-op teachers

A homeschool co-op treasurer asks about the tax filings for paid teachers:

Hi,
I am the treasurer for a new co-op we have setup this summer, and will be starting our class days in the beginning of September. I am looking to get some advice from you on how we need to define our mentors (teachers), and if we need to give them W-2’s, and if we need to with-hold taxes, etc.

We will have about 12 mentors, each teaching a class of 8-9 kids on Fridays. We follow a curriculum that the parents buy on their own. We try to keep the cost very low, so the mentors, which are all mom’s of kids in the program get paid $800 for the year.

We have already been setup as a South Dakota non-profit corporation, and would like to work towards a 501c3 in the future, but not this year. Our main issue right now is we need to move forward with setting up a checking account, which requires an EIN, and to get that we need to know if we have employees. Also, I want to determine how I need to be paying them, as far as tax with-holdings, etc.

Thank you,
Doug M, SD

Doug,
Congratulations on your new co-op. It sounds as if you are off to an great start! You should be very proud of all that you have accomplished.

As you described the co-op’s relationship with the paid mentors, they should all be classified as employees. Your co-op exercises quite a bit of control by telling them what curriculum to use, so they are not independent contractors.

IRS Publication 15 Employers Tax Guide has a nice checklist of forms and dates that you’ll need to file:

You should collect a Form W-4 from each employee for their information and federal tax withholding To make your job simpler you can tell your employees that the co-op will not withhold federal or state income tax since their wages are relatively small. The W-4 is kept by you and not mailed into the IRS.

The co-op will be responsible for paying federal employer taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and filing quarterly statements with the IRS (called a Form 941). See IRS Publication 15

If you have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, your co-op would be exempt from Federal Unemployment tax. But the tax is rather small at 0.8% (See Form 940 and its Instructions)

At the end of the year you will issue a W-2 to each employee and mail copies of the W-2 and W-3 to the Social Security Administration. See Pub 15 (above) for details.

South Dakota may have unemployment tax requirements and workers compensation payments. Contact your state’s department of taxation or employment for details. I’m no expert on SD taxes, but here is a place to start: SD New Hire Reporting

Try not to be overwhelmed by all this. My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you understand your payroll obligations.

Carol Topp, CPA


payingworkerscoveroutlined

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

BuyPaperbackButton

Update on the IRS and Booster Club Fundraising

I mentioned in a previous post that three booster clubs in KY were being fined by the IRS for their fund raising practices. The issue was that the booster club was giving parents credit for their fund raising efforts.

The IRS and Fundraising

The booster clubs have appealed to their congressmen for help.  But it appears the IRS is digging in its heels on this issue. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Lois G. Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS, explained in a letter to the booster clubs that any booster club that raises money to benefit an individual student rather than a group is in violation of federal law and stands to lose its tax-exempt status. Lerner said the practice was against federal law.

“The requirement that each parent/member of the club must participate in the fund-raising activities in direct proportion to the benefits they expect to receive toward their children’s expenses directly benefits specific individuals and the parents instead of the class of children as a whole,” she wrote.

Do a Google search on “KY Booster Club IRS” to read more on the story (copyright prohibits a direct link)

So my advice is as before: If your organization is sharing, dividing or distributing fund raising proceeds to individuals or families, stop the practice and leave all fund raising proceeds in the general fund to benefit the group at large.

I’ll keep watching this issue. If the congressmen have any success with the IRS, I’ll let you know via this blog and my monthly newsletter (subscribe in the upper right hand corner of this page)

Carol Topp, CPA

New EIN for New Officers?

Does your group need a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) when there are new officers?

Hi Carol,
Thanks to your wonderful services in the past we have gone from a ministry under a church to an informal non profit support group within the community. Thanks so much for what you do for homeschool groups!
I was just reading through the list of FAQ’s and have one that has a little twist to what is already there about EIN’s so I thought I would run it past you.
As the current director (board leader), I had been the person to apply for the EIN for our group. I am nearing my finish on the board and we will have new board leaders. Do we have to have a new EIN issued? I know this current one was opened with my name as the responsible party, so I don’t know if that would “tie” me to the non profit for any thing down the road if I am no longer on the board?
Thanks so much for your help and/or direction.
Blessings,
Shawna B, CA


Shawna,
Thank you for your kind words. It was my pleasure.


You do not have to apply for a new EIN just because of a switch in officers. Nonprofits change leadership frequently.

You can have your name on the EIN replaced with the new leader by filling out IRS Form 8822-B

If you are a 501c3 tax exempt organization with more than $50,000 in gross revenue annually, you should be filing the annual Form 990 with the IRS. On the Form 990, you list the new officers’ names.

If your organization makes less than $50,000 per year then you should be filing the 990N, an electronic postcard, with the IRS. The 990N requests only the name of the “principle officer” not the entire board.

For more information on the 990N, visit the IRS website at:

http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=169250,00.html

Carol Topp, CPA