Tools for Planning an Uncertain Future for Homeschool Groups (podcast)

Tools for Planning an Uncertain Future

Carol Topp of HomeschoolCPA.com hosted a webinar titled Planning an Uncertain Future for homeschool group leaders in June 2020. The purpose of the webinar was to help homeschool groups plan their fall activities given the COVID-19 pandemic was making it uncertain of they could operate.

The webinar is available to watch on YouTube at no charge. https://youtu.be/AaQ1c_XuUvY? It runs for one hour 38 minutes! This podcast will air the highlights in smaller chunks over six episodes.

Join this podcast episode on using a decision matrix and the other five episodes as Carol and three panelists discuss:

  • Part 1: Making decisions as a board or team
  • Part 2: Tools a homeschool group can use for planning an uncertain future
  • Part 3: How are the panelists dealing with social distancing rules and wearing masks
  • Part 4: Questions regarding lawsuits, health restrictions, and accommodating new families
  • Part 5: How to communicate the plan to the members
  • Part 6: Using Zoom, offering refunds and other topics.

Download the Decision Matrix spreadsheet at HomeschoolCPA.com/DecisionMatrix

During the podcast Carol mentioned the I am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group. Please join us!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

Featured Product

Webinars for Homeschool Leaders

HomeschoolCPA offers several recorded webinars for homeschool leaders. Most are 60-90 minutes and come with handouts and other resources. Prices range from free to $25 each.

Create a Nonprofit for Your Homeschool Community The first steps in starting a nonprofit: a board, bylaws and nonprofit incorporation

501c3 Application for Homeschool Nonprofit How to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status

IRS and State Filings What you need to do after 501c3 status

Tax Preparation for Homeschool Businesses How to prepare your tax return for homeschool business owners

Financial Reports How to present financial reports that are clear and easy to understand to board members  FREE

ABCs of an Academic Homeschool Program How to start an academic, classical homeschool program

Planning an Uncertain Future for Homeschool Groups (podcast)

On June 1, 2020, Carol Topp of HomeschoolCPA.com hosted a webinar titled Planning an Uncertain Future for homeschool group leaders. The purpose of the webinar was to help homeschool groups plan their fall activities given the COVID-19 pandemic was making it uncertain if they could operate.

The webinar is available to watch on YouTube at no charge. https://youtu.be/AaQ1c_XuUvY? It runs for one hour 38 minutes! This podcast will air the highlights in smaller chunks over six episodes.

Join this episode and the next five episodes as Carol and three panelists discuss:

  • Part 1: Making decisions as a board or team
  • Part 2: Tools a homeschool group can use for planning an uncertain future
  • Part 3: How are the panelists dealing with social distancing rules and wearing masks
  • Part 4: Questions regarding lawsuits, health restrictions, and accommodating new families
  • Part 5: How to communicate the plan to the members
  • Part 6: Using Zoom, offering refunds and other topics.

During the podcast Carol mentioned the I am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group. Please join us!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

Featured Product

Board Manual

The  Board Manual for homeschool organizations will be very helpful to organize your board and run your homeschool organization successfully!

Author and homeschool advisor, Carol Topp, CPA, has created a Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It is a template to create a board member binder. It has:

  • A list of important documents to keep in your binder
  • Section dividers so you can organize the important papers
  • Tools to help you run your meetings smoothly including
  • A sample agenda that you can use over and over again
  • A calendar of board meetings

But this is more than just a few cover sheets for your binder. It is also a 55-page board training manual with helpful articles on:

  • Suggested Board Meeting Topic List
  • Board Duties
  • Job Descriptions for Board of Directors
  • What Belongs in the Bylaws?
  • Compensation and Benefits for Board Members
  • Best Financial Practices Checklist
  • How to Read and Understand Financial Statements
  • Developing a Child Protection Policy

Click Here to request more information!

Homeschool Co-op or Daycare?

I am a former homeschooler as well as a former teacher, and I am planning to offer a small homeschool co-op out of my home in Illinois this fall for 8 children (none which are mine).

I had someone ask about the need for a license to do so (through DCFS), and while I’ve looked into it extensively, I haven’t been able to find anything concrete. I just want to make sure I’m not doing anything illegal.

Your advice and suggestions are appreciated.
Thank you!
Natalie


Natalie,
Basically I think you are asking: Is my planned group a homeschool co-op or a daycare?

I cannot answer that for you. It’s a legal question and I’m not an attorney. I’m an accountant and I have no desire to become an expert on daycare licensing laws. 🙂

But I have some criteria that makes a group a homeschool co-op:

A Homeschool Co-op is:

1. Every participating family is legally homeschooling according to their state homeschool laws.

Look up your state homeschool laws here: https://hslda.org/legal

2. Parents (or legal custodians) are the main provider of their children’s homeschool education.
In most states being the main provider of education means limited instruction by a non-parental instructor. Some states go so far as to put day and hour restrictions on non-parental instruction. Most homeschool co-ops meet only one day a week; some may meet two days a week to maintain the requirement that the parent is the main provider of the child’s homeschool education.

This also may mean that if a child is enrolled in a public school virtual program, they are not a homeschooled student, even if the virtual public school instruction takes place in the child’s home. Illinois and several other states do have a dual enrollment policy (or part time public school option), usually for high school students, so look into the details for your state.

3. A homeschool co-op means that parents stay on-site and cooperatively help in the classroom as a teacher or helper. There are “drop off” programs for homeschool students. They do not use parent volunteers but rather hire instructors. They are not “co-ops” because the parents are not cooperatively sharing the teaching, but they are still homeschool educational programs.

These homeschool programs may or may not need to be licensed as daycare centers depending on their state laws, how frequently they meet, etc.

Look up your state’s daycare licensing laws here: https://www.daycare.com/states.html


The best advice I could offer to Natalie is to contact the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services Child Care Licensing Agency. Natalie will need explain to the details of her situation and see what they advise.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Pandemic Pods: Are They Homeschool Co-ops?

Pandemic pods. I have been reading about groups of parents gathering to teach their children in small groups called “pandemic pods” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sounds like a homeschool co-op, right?

I’ve already had a few parents, teachers, and homeschool group leaders contact me about forming a pod to help school age children have a somewhat normal school-like experience this fall.

They ask me questions like one father, Will in Ohio, asked:

  • Is my pandemic pod a homeschool co-op?
  • Or is it a micro school?
  • If I hire a teacher to help with school work and care for the children in a location that is not my house, are we a daycare?

Excellent questions. Will and I both started reading about homeschool laws, non-public school laws (the micro school option), and daycare licensing in Ohio.

None of current Ohio laws seems to address what Will wants to do.

That’s because we’ve never been faced with a pandemic when public schools had to close their buildings and offer online instruction!

Case Study: Will in Ohio

Will wants to have 6-8 kindergarten and first grader students meet in a non-residential location four days a week (9 am to 2 pm) under the supervision of a hired teacher. He plans to use Ohio’s Virtual Learning option as the curriculum, so the students will be enrolled in their local public school as virtual students.

Additionally, Will has to have his pod set up in about a month. His public school wants parents to enroll their children in about 2 weeks! He’s under the gun. And he isn’t sure that this is a long-term arrangement. It may only last for 3-6 months, so he wants something simple, fast and inexpensive to set up.

Options to Consider:

Here’s what Will is considering and the thought process he went through with of each option:

A home education program (sometimes called a homeschool co-op). Home education is defined in Ohio as “education primarily directed and provided by the parent or guardian of a child.” That didn’t seem to fit what Will was planning since the education would be provided by an in-person hired teacher (and a perhaps virtual teacher from the public school), not the parents. Will is considering reducing the number of hours the pod meets, so that the parents are the primary educators of their children, not he pod teacher.

All students must be legally homeschooled according to Ohio’s homeschool laws. If the students are enrolled in a public virtual school, they are public schooled students and not home schooled students in Ohio.

Each homeschooling parent would have to notify that they are homeschooling and submit a list of curriculum to their local superintendent. Will is not convinced that the pod parents want to homeschool or are able to agree to fewer hours at the pod with the hired teacher.

So forming as a home education program did not look like a viable option for Will’s pod.

A micro school which in Ohio could fall under non-chartered non-tax supported school, also known as “08” schools.

This option requires the students to be in attendance at the school for nine hundred ten hours in a school year. This is more hours than Will was planning for his pod. He may still consider this option but the children will be in school 5 days a week and at least 6 hours each day for 30 weeks.

Additionally, this option in Ohio is for schools that because of truly held religious beliefs choose to not be chartered by the State Board of Education. That may not describe Will’s pod or the pod parents’ convictions.

He also needs to determine how quickly he can establish an “08” school. He will need to contact the Ohio Department of Education and other “08” schools to get their experience.

Daycare for School Aged Children. Will considered having his pandemic pod becoming licensed as a School Age Daycare center in Ohio. The students would be enrolled as public school virtual students. The pod’s hired teacher is really functioning as a daycare provider for school aged students. Ohio requires a daycare license for that.

He is unsure of how soon he can get a daycare license and if he can operate the pandemic pod before getting licensed. He needs to contact the State of Ohio Daycare licensing agency.

So Will is not finding a way to operate his educational pod as he envisioned. He may change his vision by increasing the days per week the students attend the pod and establish as micro school. This will be more expensive for the parents and perhaps time consuming for Will.

Recommended Steps

As you consider opening a pandemic pod, work through each option as Will has done.

Read the homeschool, school, and daycare laws of your state and its limitations. Make lists. Determine where you can comply with the law and where you need to change your plans.

Work with knowledgeable people such as:

  • A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who understands business, establishing a nonprofit, taxes, and profitability of a “pandemic pod.” Will doesn’t think his pod will be profitable; he is estimating a loss for its first year.
  • An attorney who understands education laws, daycare licensing laws and employment contracts.

Talk to people who have started micro schools in your state. Here are two resources to get you stated.

  • Meridian Learning is a resource and advocacy organization for grassroots microschools.

Determine your level of risk. Will is investigating insurance coverage, looking into safety and health policies, and setting up the pod as either a nonprofit corporation or as a LLC to manage the risks he sees.

Be careful about getting advice of parents on social media. They may live in different state or have set up their programs very differently than you.

Even small things like where your pod meets (in a home or not), the hours per day or days in a year the pod meets, and the number and ages of children in a pod can all determine what laws you need to comply with.

How Can HomeschoolCPA Help?

I can help you if you are interested in starting a homeschool co-op or homeschool educational program for homeschooling families in your state, especially as a nonprofit organization.

I am an accountant with experience in nonprofit organizations and tax exempt status. I am not an attorney. I cannot answer legal questions for you.

I am not an expert in day care licensing, so please don’t ask me daycare questions.

I have consulted with micro school business owners in the past, but at this time I am limiting my consultations to nonprofit homeschool organizations and occasionally business serving homeschool students, especially if they are in Ohio.

I helped Will because he started off thinking he was going to operate a homeschool co-op. It was only in delving into the details that he started investigating other options.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Help a New Homeschool Group Start Up Quickly

Homeschooling is exploding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and existing homeschool groups cannot accommodate all the newcomers.
But homeschool leaders want newbie homeschoolers to be successful and have support, so what’s to be done?

How about your existing homeschool group help start another homeschool group? It can be pretty easy. It’s called a “fiscal sponsorship” arrangement Here’s how it would work:

Step One:

Read up on a concept called “fiscal sponsorship.”
These blog posts will get you started:

Step Two:

Meet (online via Zoom) with the leaders of the new group. Explain the arrangement. The new group will exist as a “program” or a committee running the program under your existing homeschool organization.

The new program or committee leaders will get:

  • Use of the parent organization’s EIN (employer Identification Number)
  • Use of the parent organization’s nonprofit incorporation status. This means the new group does not have to form a new nonprofit entity
  • Use of the parent organization’s bank account. The parent organization may want to set up a new checking account for the new group with its existing EIN. Make sure the treasurer has online access to the new checking acocunt.
  • Use of the parent organization’s 501c3 tax exempt status. This is a HUGE advantage. The new group won’t have to apply to the IRS to grant tax exempt status. They can be up and running immediately!
  • Use of the parent organization’s bylaws. The new group will be under the parent organization’s bylaws as a new program, so the new group doesn’t need its own bylaws.
  • Use of the parent organization’s Policy Manuals, registration forms, etc.
  • Use of the parent organization’s website, Facebook account, and other online services for registration.
  • Coverage under the parent organization’s insurance policy. Another HUGE advantage. The parent organization should call its insurance provider and explain it is expanding. Ask for a new quote on what the increased cost will be. Make sure the new group pays the parent organization for their share of the insurance.

The new group will need to:

  • Set up a committee of at least 3 people to operate the new program. One of the parent group’s board members should be invited to all committee meetings to offer help and advice. She should report back to the parent organization on how the new program run by the committee is doing.
  • Find a location to hold their program, meet-ups, classes, etc.
  • Pay the parent organization their share of the insurance
  • Give financial reports to the parent organization at least every 3 months, although monthly is recommended.
  • Make 2-3 year plan for launching itself to be an independent organization.

Agreement in writing

I strongly recommend a written agreement signed by the Chair of the parent organization and the new program committee chair.

The agreement should outline the bullet points given above and add any other issues you think of.

If you want examples of agreements, you could look at some fiscal sponsorship samples
or read

Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do It Right by Gregory Colvin. It describes six models of sponsorship that have been approved and accepted by the IRS. It details how the models work and why, how they differ and how they are similar.

Summary of the book and its six models of fiscal sponsorship by the author: Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do It Right synopsis Colvin.pdf

Advantages

The advantage of this idea is that your group can help start a new group as a program and there is very little you need to do except offer advice! The new group will have the advantage of being able to focus on starting their activities and not have to worry about paperwork, setting up a bank account, government filings, etc. The parent group has already done all that!

This comparison chart of starting a new organization or creating a committee as a fiscal sponsorship under an existing nonprofit was created by attorney Gregory Colvin. It shows how fast a committee can get started on running a new program.

It can work!

This idea is really something new and existing homeschool groups could do together to help new homeschoolers learn from the experienced ones!

If you have more questions about fiscal sponsorship or starting a new homeschool group, I am happy to set up a phone consultation. Contact me and we can discuss what questions you have!

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Options When Starting a Home School Business

I’ve been homeschooling my daughter for about 4 years. I enjoy it, I worked at a private school for a year, but It’s been on my heart to start my own home school. I could really use some help and advice on how to start my school, and the proper legal steps to take.Thank You! -LS.


Dear LS,

Thank you for contacting me.

It is unclear from your email if you want to:

  • homeschool other peoples’ children (like a tutor) in your home or
  • start a homeschool program (like a nonprofit co-op) or
  • start a business offering classes, like a tutorial, a few days a week
  • start a micro school (as your business).

If it’s homeschooling other peoples’ children in your home, these blog posts will be helpful:
Is it a homeschool co-op or Mary Poppins?
Homeschooling Other People’s Children. Is It Legal?

If you want to start a nonprofit homeschool group like a co-op, my website has lots of information including this checklist of steps. It’s a good place to start.

Offering services like classes to homeschool students is another option. Many people operate these programs or tutorials as sole proprietorship businesses. Classical Conversations Communities are one example. My ebook on Taxes for Homeschool Business Owners offers a lot of information on starting a business to serve homeschoolers.

Or if you want to start a full fledged 5-day per week micro school as your business (i.e., not a nonprofit) then read these blog posts:
Homeschool or microschool?
Fine line between a homeschool co-op and running a micro school

Of course, some homeschoolers start businesses using their experience (like me!). I wrote an articles titled, “Make Money from Your Homeschool Experience” You can read it here.

So as you see there are many options.

If you need more guidance, I would be happy to arrange a phone consultation with you. We can discuss whatever questions you have about your options.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Closing Your Homeschool Group During COVID-19

Has COVID-19, the novel corona virus pandemic, caused your homeschool group to close, suddenly? How did you make the decision to cancel your program?

Carol Topp, the HomechoolCPA, is joined on today’s podcast by Doreen Browning, co-moderator of the I am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group and Jamie Buckland, Classical Program Consultant.

Listen as Carol, Doreen and Jamie discuss:

  • Making hard decisions to close your homeschool program.
  • The benefits of having a team help you make quick decisions under stress
  • What to do if there is push back about your decisions.
  • Future decisions about re-opening.

Join the Facebook group for homeschool leaders: I am a Homeschool Group Leader. 1200+ homeschool leaders offer ideas, encouragement and respectful exchange of ideas. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

Webinar: Starting an Academic Homeschool Program

Are you interested in starting a homeschool program with a classical and academic focus? Jamie Buckland started Appalachian Classical Academy (ACA) after running a for-profit classical community. Now she is the Executive Director of ACA. She explains how ACA is set up with not one but two boards to run the Academy as a nonprofit organization!

Jaime and Carol teamed up to present a webinar on the ABCs of Starting an Academic Homeschool Program. You can benefit from their combined knowledge in this webinar (and you’ll get several helpful resources as well). http://homeschoolcpa.com/how-to-start-an-academic-homeschool-program/


Jamie Buckland, the Classical Program Consultant is available for phone consultations regarding starting and running a classical homeschool group. Contact her at https://jamiebuckland.net/

Homeschool theater program has income from advertising. Do they owe taxes?

Dear Mrs. Topp,

Our homeschool co-op has a yearly theater production that costs $35 per student to participate in the production. The theater teacher collects and uses all funds for the production. We now have local businesses that would like to advertise (by giving a donation) in the theater program. I understand that the business can use the donation as an advertisement write off, but what does the co-op or teacher do with the income, regarding the IRS?
Thank you for your time.

G.W.

Dear G.W.,

Good for your co-op for staging a theatrical production. I was in theater in high school and my daughter was in several homeschool theater productions too! It builds confidence!

The co-op teacher should turn over the funds to the co-op’s treasurer and he/she should deposit the money into a bank account that is established in the co-op’s name. A bank or credit union should open a nonprofit or a “club” account for the co-op.

They will want your EIN (Employer Identification Number) letter from the IRS. They may also want some official document like bylaws. My credit union wanted a letter signed by two officers stating that I, as the treasurer, had authorization to open an account for the nonprofit. Call your bank or credit union to see what they will require to open a nonprofit or club checking account.

You might find this podcast helpful: Tiny Homeschool Groups: Do We Need a Bank Account?

Income from advertising is NOT a donation from the donor. Do not give the donor a donation receipt. He received something or value (advertising) in exchange. He can deduct the cost of the ad in your theater program as advertising expense.

By the way, many nonprofits don’t accept ads, but rather “qualified sponsorships” and simply acknowledge their sponsors with a “thank you” in their programs. These are different from ads. Typically only the company name or logo is presented. No inducements to buy or product information is given in a sponsor thank you. Here’s a helpful explanation http://www.nonprofitlawblog.com/ubit-advertisements-vs-qualified-sponsorship-payments/

Advertising income is called unrelated business income for the nonprofit. Fundraisers and any income not related to your educational purpose is unrelated business income and and you must report it and pay tax on it.

Fortunately, the IRS has several ways to avoid paying the unrelated business income tax (UBIT):

  1.  The first $1,000 in income from an unrelated business will not be taxed.
  2.  If the fundraiser (or unrelated business) is run substantially by volunteers (i.e., no paid staff) then the proceeds are not taxed.
  3. If the fundraiser is not regularly carried on, such as a once-a-year event or bake sale, then the proceeds are not subject to UBIT.
  4.  If you are selling donated items, like in a garage sale, the income raised is not taxed.
  5. Qualified sponsorship payments are not unrelated business income.

Usually exception #1 or #2 will apply to small homeschool nonprofits, so your co-op should be able to receive income from advertising without worrying about paying tax on it.

It’s a good idea to create a line item in your record keeping labeled “Advertising Income” so it’s clearly differentiated from other income.

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping homeschool leaders

Good, easy and cheap. Your homeschool program cannot offer all three!

Shelly wants to offer a high quality, low cost homeschool program that doesn’t require parents to volunteer.

I told her the bad news: “You cannot offer all three.”

She can’t and you can’t either!

Business success (and failure) prove it:

McDonald’s provides fast food very quickly at a fairly reasonable price; But you have to admit the quality is not the best. They offer two things consumers want, but not all three.

Another example could be Starbuck’s coffee.  At Starbuck’s they offer high quality coffee drinks provided quickly, but we know that it’s not cheap! 

Or how about MoviePass which allows you to go to a movie theater once a day for $9.95/month, or see three movies a month for $7.95. It’s cheap, convenient and high quality (these are first run movies, not oldies!)  Is Movie Pass able to offer all three! Nope! MoviePass is having serious financial problems. It is losing $40 million a month, and those loses are expected to increase. Their attempt to offer all three is crushing them and they are on the road to failure.

How does this apply to homeschool groups?

Your group can offer two of the three things that homeschool families may want:

High quality: maybe small classes, qualified, caring teachers, fun enrichment classes or rigorous academic classes

Low Cost: Affordable prices, low fees, maybe even free!

Convenient: No time commitment from the parents, maybe even a drop-off-the-kids-and-leave option for homeschool parents who need to work.

Many homeschool co-ops offer quality and low cost but have a requirement that the parents stay in the building and help by teaching or serving in a classroom or other jobs. Hence the name “cooperative.” The parents keep the cost low by cooperating together to run the classes.

A tutorial program might offer academic classes taught by highly qualified teachers with no volunteer commitment for the parents, but it will not come cheap. The tuition may approach that of private schools.

 

Shelley wanted all three (drop off academic classes at a low price) and I explained that she could not sustain the program unless she either charged more or started requiring the parents to volunteer.

“But many parents can’t pay more,” she complained to me. “And they work, so they need the drop off feature. They can’t stay and volunteer.”

She had 3 options:

  1. Find other sources of funding including fundraisers, donations and grants.
  2. Require parents to volunteer. This was going to be be very difficult since Shelly was having problems even recruiting board members to meet once a  month!
  3. Close the program and start over. The expectations of the parents was so entrenched that they should get drop-off classes at a low fee, there was no changing that! The entire program needed an overhaul.

My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization has a chapter on fundraisers for homeschool groups.

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization available here

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

New homeschool co-op wants simplicity. Any taxes due?

Hi Carol.
I started up a group of a few families last year as a homeschool co-op in our community. As we have grown a little more this year, I would like to start up a checking account.

My question is, after I get an EIN and open the checking account for the co-op, what is required at tax time, if anything, for having that account?

I don’t want to be recognized yet with the IRS as a 501c3, just for sake of simplicity at this time. Am I going to be required to do anything because of having this checking account?

We do not pay teachers, the account is strictly for fees and supply costs.

This semester we will only be taking in about $2,500 at max. and that is stretching it.

Thank you for your advice.
Callie


Callie,

I have answered your questions in some blog posts that you may find helpful:

Will getting an EIN put us on the IRS radar?

Best of: Checking accounts for homeschool organizations

We’re not 501c3 and don’t want to be!

The last blog post explains you have a few choices if you collect money and provide a service:

  1. Stay small and self declare 501c3 tax exempt status. This is the simplest option and the one I recommend for Callie’s organization.

    She will have to call the IRS once to self-declare her 501c3 status and get added to the IRS Exempt Organization database so the group can file their annual IRS Form 990-N.

  2. Consider another tax exempt status such as 501c7 social club. This is applicable to support groups or clubs, but not for Callie’s homeschool co-op.

  3. Apply for 501c3 status, especially if annual revenues exceed $5,000/year. I can help with that.

  4. Pay taxes as a for-profit business. That’s the least simple way to go! I don’t recommend it!


If you are starting or running a tiny homeschool program (usually less than $5,000 in income in a year), then you’ll benefit from my resources and podcast series for Tiny Homeschool Groups.

Tips for Starting a Tiny Homeschool Group


Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders