Can a Micro School be a Homeschool Group (and avoid some headaches)?

Meridian Learning (www.meridian-learning.org) is hosting a Grassroots Microschools Online Conference

Wednesday June 30, 2021 10 am -1 pm ET

It will be hosted on their Grassroots Microschools Facebook page. Details here: https://fb.me/e/SsS86E05

This conference is free for the live event. The recording will be available to Galaxy and Constellation members of Meridian Learning in their member resource library. Follow their Facebook page for session previews, and RSVP via PM or email for event link: join@Meridian-Learning.org.

I pre-recorded a session titled: “Can a Micro School be a Homeschool Group (and avoid some headaches)?

In the session, I explain the difference between homeschool groups and micro schools. I also share a litmus test I use to determine of a micro school can call themselves a homeschool group (legally).

During and since the COVID-19 pandemic, I have heard from more and more groups that call themselves homeschool groups, but I wonder if they are really micro schools or something in between!

For example, I have heard from:

  • A group for 7 special education students that will meet 5 days a week and hire 2 qualified instructors.
  • A pandemic pod leader who wishes to continue her pod composed of her two children and five additional children meeting in her home four days a week.
  • A group that started homeschooling during the pandemic and now has has 15 pre-schoolers and 20 1st-3rd graders with one hired teacher operating Monday-Friday 8:30-3:30 pm.
  • A group of 1st and 2nd graders that will meet three days a week, 9:30 am -2:00 pm and charge $5,000 in tuition per year.

Is it legal for some of these groups to call themselves homeschool groups? Or are they micro schools?


Join the Grassroots Microschools Online Conference on June 30, 2021 and listen into my session on “Can a Micro School be a Homeschool Group (and avoid some headaches)?”

Event details at https://fb.me/e/3PX81wbbA

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Homeschool or microschool?

I have been a teacher at a small private Christian School for many years. I have been asked by 15 families to homeschool their children, beginning in the fall. I have agreed. I purchased your books and read them (so helpful!!) I have done quite a bit of work already, but after filling out half of the 501(c)(3) form, have decided that I really want to make sure this is all done right and am requesting your help.
-S

 

Dear S,

Homeschooling the children from 15 families is not really homeschooling. Perhaps forming a microschool be a better option.

What’s a microschool?

According to Meridian Learning, a resource and advocacy organization for grassroots micro-schools,

a micro school is a purposely small school led by a trained professional and focused on meaningful, sustainable, whole student learning.

Microschools are also called the modern-day one-room schoolroom.

Microschools are not the same as homeschool co-ops, tutorials or programs. Micro schools are registered schools in their states and meet the compulsory attendance requirements of the state. Instead, homeschool programs supplement the main teacher, the parent, with classes and extra curricular activities, but the students are homeschooled under their state laws for homeschooling.

It’s a lot of work to set up a microschool so learn more about starting a running a micro school at Meridian Learning. Meridian will be hosting virtual training sessions this summer (2017) on topics such as:

  • Teacherpreneur
  • How to Start a Microschool
  • Montessori for Business

I will be presenting information at the Teacherpreneur 101 and How to Start a Microschool classes.

Also, please visit this Facebook page on Grassroots Microschools to meet other people running microschools.

I’m committed to helping homeschool leaders, but sometimes other options may work better for some people. I hope S. finds a program that meets the needs of the students and parents.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Fine line between a homeschool co-op and running a micro school

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Dear Carol,
I am considering homeschooling and I don’t really know where to begin. I have certification in Ohio to teach in a non-tax supported school. I would be team teaching in my home with one, and possibly two, other mothers. We would be teaching our own children, as well as children from one other family in which the parents both work. There would be 7-9 children. My children would be in 4th and 2nd grades.  I would be teaching the children in 8th and 9th grades, and possibly teaching part time the 4th grade children.
I have so many questions!  Is this legal?  Do we need to establish an organization and if so, what kind?
Thank you!
Faye T in Ohio
Faye,
I think what you are proposing is legal, but there are a lot of questions you’ll need to answer.

For-profit or nonprofit?

Is this your business?  You you want control and the ability to keep the profits for yourself? Or do you want to form an educational nonprofit and have the program run by a board of directors?

Micro school or homeschool co-op?

As for what type of organization to set up, it probably depends on how the other parents view this arrangement and your future plans. Are the parents legally homeschooling according to your state laws? Or should your program be registered as a micro school in your state.

The type of organization to set up (nonprofit or for-profit, micro school or homeschool program) also depends on the amount of money trading hands (if any) and the amount of time spent in this shared arrangement.

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If the parents are legally homeschooling, I would recommend limiting the shared teaching to no more than 2 or 3 days a week.  This would be a homeschool co-op. The rest of the time the students should be learning at home with their parent’s supervising them or the older students working independently.

My book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out would be a great help if you want to run this as a homeschool co-op.

This would be difficult for the working parents, I realize. With them, you need to discern if the parents are legally homeschooling, or if they want you to run a micro school. Be very cautious about taking on the responsibility of educational duties that belong to the parents such as granting a grade or a transcript, awarding high school credit, or even picking the curriculum.

If you are proposing to teach in this arrangement for 5 days a week (i.e, 100% of the children’s school time), then you would be running a micro school for those children. I would caution you against doing that at this point in your homeschool experience.

You are walking a fine line between homeschooling and running a micro school. It can begin to blur and get confusing very quickly.

I hope that gives you some food for thought.  If you need more specific advice on establishing this as a for-profit business or as a nonprofit, I would be available for a consultation.  We can discuss the pros and cons of for-profit vs nonprofit.

Carol Topp, CPA

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