Fine line betwen a homeschooling group and running a private school

Dear Carol –
While searching for help in beginning homeschooling, I came across your website.  What a relief!  I am considering homeschooling for the 2009-2010 school year, and I don’t really know where to begin.  I live in Ohio.  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?), or is notifying the school district enough?  What are some resources to help me get started?

Thank you!
Faye T in Ohio
I read your e-mail with some interest.  Homeschooling can have so many different variations. What you are proposing is quite unique.Potential hazards: I think what you are proposing is legal, but has potential hazards. You will have to disclose the other teachers on your annual Ohio notification form.  The form asks if someone other than the parent will be homeschooling your child.

As for what type of organization to set up, it probably depends on how the otheHSCo-opsCoverr parents view this arrangement and your future plans.  Do they see this as your business and you are a hired tutor?  Or are you just a group of friends gathered to help each other, more like an informal play group?  Perhaps you have a vision of outgrowing your home in a year or two and should establish this as a nonprofit co-op. Then my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out would be helpful.

Limit the group time: The type of organization to set up (informal, nonprofit or for-profit) also depends on the amount of money trading hands (if any) and the amount of time spent in this shared arrangement. JMHO, but since you are new to homeschooling, I would not recommend that this type of shared teaching take place more than 2 or 3 days a week.  The rest of the time the students need to be learning at home with their parent’s supervising them or the older students working independently.  This would be difficult for theGirl&family working parents, I realize.  With them, you may have a more formal agreement including compensation for your time as a paid tutor.

Have clear, written guidelines: If you are proposing to teach in this arrangement for 5 days a week (i.e, 100% of the children’s school time), then I would caution you to have a clear, written agreement with each family, especially the FT working parents who will not be at your home. In some ways you are running a tiny private school for those children. I would caution you against doing that at this point in your homeschool experience. I would not take on responsibility for some educational duties that belong to the homeschooling parents such as granting a grade or a transcript, awarding high school credit, or even picking the curriculum. You are walking a fine line between homeschooling and running a private 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, 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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