Lessons learned from a homeschool co-op

August 29, 2009

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


Using Quickbooks for reports

August 2, 2009
Hi Carol,
Our Board of directors for our homeschool group of 100 families just received your 2 books (Money Management for Homeschool Organizations and Tax Exempt 510c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations).  I have read them.  It has reassured me that we are on the right track and that we have instituted many of the things that you mentioned.

We have purchased Quickbooks and our treasurer is working hard to learn  the software.
What financial reports do we need to generate monthly?  We need these reports to be a simple process.The Balance Sheet and P&L (Profit and Loss) statement in Quickbooks looks are overwhelming.

We are not accountants and double entry lines are confusing.We have reconciled our checkbook successfully.  YEAH!
Any advise would be helpful,
Hilary S


I’m glad that my books were helpful.  Your organization sounds as if they are getting things set up well.  I hope you’ll be serving homeschool families for a long time to come.

I think Quickbooks (QB) can be as simple or as complicated as it needs to be. The reports your treasurer generates is dependent on what the board wants to see. When I was treasurer, I gave my board a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement.  They really liked to see the budget in one column and actual P&L in another column.  Then they could see how we were doing compared to our budget. This report can be generated in QB as a Budget Report.
I also created a mini balance sheet at the bottom of the P&L.  I took the amount in the checking account and then listed payments to be made.  This gave the board an idea of how much cash we had on hand and where it was planned to go.

If the P&L statements in QB are too overwhelming, then perhaps you’re not using QB correctly.  I frequently see QB users make their Chart of Accounts too long.  Then the P&L becomes 2-3 pages long.  I recommend that a P&L be condensed into one page or less.

If your treasurer would like my help in setting up QB, I’d be happy to help.  She can e-mail me with what needs to be done and I’ll give you an estimated cost.  I also do QB training over the phone. I keep things as simple as possible.

I hope that helps.  I wish you the best of success! (Congrats on balancing the checkbook!)

Carol Topp, CPA

Carnival of Homeschooling

July 21, 2009

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


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


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


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


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

IMG_6500 - Copy

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!


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

I’m hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling

July 14, 2009

I’ll be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling Blog Carnival next week!


The current Carnival is over at  Tami’s blog

The theme is:

As TIMG_6500 - Copyime Goes By: Reflecting on 25 Years of Marriage and 12 Years of Homeschooling


This year my oldest daughter graduated from homeschool high school in May and my husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage on July 21st, so I’m reflecting on the passage of time.

My categories will be along the lines of time such as:

Before you begin
Starting to homeschool
Growing and learning
Travel and field trips
Continued commitment
Milestones and celebration

If you have a post that could fit my theme or a particular category, send it me using this handy submission form: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_199.html

Any posts on homeschooling will be accepted, but if you have a post (even an old one) fitting the theme or my categories, that would be appreciated.

The due date is Monday, July 20 at 6 pm. The earlier, the better!

If you haven’t read any blog carnivals before, please read What is a Blog Carnival.

Carol Topp

Off to Home Educators Assoc of Virginia (HEAV) Convention

June 10, 2009

For the next few days I will be at the Home Educators Assoc of Virginia (HEAV) Convention in Richmond, VA.

They have a pretty busy schedule for me. I’ll be giving workshops on:

  • Budget Is a Dirty Word: Money Management for Those Who Hate to Manage Money
  • Wanna Be a WAHM? The Pitfalls and Possibilities of Being a Work at Home Mom
  • Small Business for Teenagers
  • Is Your Homeschool Group Ready for the Next Step? Becoming a 501c3 Tax-Exempt Organization
  • How to Start and Manage a Homeschool Organization: Boards, Budgets, and Bylaws

(see full descriptions of the workshops here and get the handouts here)

I’ll also be attending the homeschool leaders lunch and I am serving on a Q&A panel for leaders. I hope to meet some of you.

If you’ll be at HEAV, come by my booth #237 or to a workshop and say hello!

Carol Topp, CPA

Checking accounts and EINs for homeschool groups

June 4, 2009


We have always had a checking account under a parent’s name. We were adding a name to our account this year when (the bank) informed us we can no longer do this and we need to have our own Tax ID number. Will we need to file returns with the IRS if we get a tax ID number?

I strongly discourage using a parent’s name on an organization’s checking account. The organization should have a checking account in its own name and use an Employer Identification Number (EIN), not an individual’s social security number.

Getting an EIN from the IRS does not necessarily mean your organization will have to report income to the IRS. If you are a small nonprofit organization with annual gross revenues under $5,000, there are usually no reporting requirements to the IRS at all.

Nonprofits have to start filing tax forms when they

  • bring in more than $5,000 a year
  • become a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization
  • do public solicitations (i.e. door-to-door selling or fund raising)
  • pay workers either as employees or independent contractors

Money_thumbnailIf you hire and pay workers, your organization will use the EIN to file either 1099MISC or W-2 forms for each worker.

Read more about hiring and paying workers in my ebook, Money Management for Homeschool Organizations here

Carol Topp, CPA

Fine line betwen a homeschooling group and running a private school

May 17, 2009
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