Should I start a homeschool co-op with volunteers or an academy with hired teachers?

I’m considering starting a homeschool group. How did you decide on a co-op with all volunteer teachers versus an academy with hired teachers? I think I have some moms who would be interested in participating, but I really don’t know yet.

I have briefly looked at your information and will continue to dive deeper, but would certainly love to hear your personal experiences, particularly if there is anything you would do differently.

Becky Abrams, a homeschool group leader in Oregon, and a consultant to other group leaders, has run both an all-volunteer co-op and an academy (she calls it a “hybrid homeschool program”) with hired teachers.

She has several blog posts at on paying employees.

Becky would be happy to do a phone consultation with you to sort through this decision. Contact Becky

Here’s a podcast interview I did with Becky about how she launched her all volunteer co-op.

Additionally, my friend Jamie Buckland, of Classical Program Consultant has both hired teachers and used volunteers.

Jamie explained, “We, Appalachian Classical Academy (ACA), are a nonprofit organization with 501c3 tax exempt status and we employed teachers for three years and then went to all volunteers largely due to financial constraints. There are pros and cons to having volunteers. There are pros and cons to hiring employees!”

Here’s link to a podcast HomeschoolCPA did Jamie about why ACA employed teachers for 3 years.

Tips and Advice

From the experience of both these leaders, I have some tips to help you make this decision:

What experience do you have in running a homeschool group? Have you been on the leadership board of a homeschool group? If you are not very experienced (at least 3 years as a leader of a group) I would stick to the all volunteer co-op. Running a hybrid/academy with paid staff if significantly more work and responsibility that a co-op.

Do you have any experience in hiring and paying employees? If not, start with the all volunteer co-op. Then work at finding a payroll company and a good Treasurer and bookkeeper. You’ll need all three if you run an academy with hired teachers.

What are the ages of your children? If they are young (elementary age), stick with the all volunteer co-op. Don’t sacrifice your own children in attempting to homeschool other peoples’ children! As your children grow older consider adding a few paid instructors and grow into a full fledged academy as your experience grows.

Do you have the time, mental, and emotional capacity to research daycare licensing, employer laws, payroll companies, background checks, increased bookkeeping and cash management that come with an academy?

Are you doing this alone or do you have a strong board? Without a strong, active board, you will not succeed in launching a hybrid/academy. You may not even pull off a small volunteer co-op with out a strong board.
So get a board! They will help you make this decision. If you lack their full support and availability to take on an academy with hired teachers, don’t do it! Wait. Grow slowly.

Are you paying workers in your homeschool organization?
Carol Topp, CPA ‘s book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

Leave a Reply