10 May, 2021 5 Steps to Start A Helpful Homeschool Group
by Gina McAndrew
5 Easy Steps to Organizing a Homeschool Group in Your Community!
Depending on where you live in the world, the thought of homeschooling can seem like a new and exciting challenge, or a dreaded, isolated endeavor. Either way, homeschoolers can greatly benefit from having a solid homeschool group to rely on for fellowship, enrichment, and advice. Here are five easy steps to organizing a homeschool group in your community!
_1 Getting started!
Each state has its own set of rules, policies, and guidelines for homeschool families to follow. Some states are great, and others are stifling. So prior to starting any kind of homeschool organization in your area, consult your state’s guidelines at the Home School Legal Defense Association’s (HSLDA) website: https://hslda.org/legal .
_2 Once you know what your state will or will not allow,
you can then decide what type of homeschooling organization you would like to start. Behind every great homeschool program are parents who wanted to create an amazing learning experience or activity for their children. There are basically two main types of organizations: the cooperative or the community homeschool group. For either one, however, you should seriously consider making your group a nonprofit corporation (more about that shortly!)
Let’s talk about the cooperative or “co-op,” groups.
The cooperative or “co-op” model is a family-based enrichment group where parents come together and offer their personal skills and talents in a classroom setting for free. In other words, an appointed coordinator arranges an intricate schedule of classes. They then plug parents in as teachers or helpers. Then, the co-op charges a small registration fee to cover the administrative costs. Other than that small fee, the classes are free and the teachers are not paid. This simple model requires no website or online registration system, just word-of-mouth referrals. Remember, the cost to the families is next-to-nothing, so getting caught up in bells and whistles just serves to increase fees. Another benefit is that families are still together, there is a ton of fellowship, and kids get to have hands-on projects such as science experiments, 3D building, etc.
So, what’s a community homeschool group?
The community homeschool group, by contrast, is typically more of a “hub” that exists to make your homeschool adventure less scary. They offer homeschool help and advice and provide tuition-based classes to supplement your home learning experience. For example, I served on a Board of Directors for our local group for many years, and we offered classes at a learning center for high school students. I personally put my kiddos in the lab-based science classes because, frankly, I use the other side of my brain almost exclusively! And in high school, they NEED to understand science. I still believe that was money well-spent!
One offshoot of the community-based group is the subject-oriented interest group. In our area, there was a giant need for visual arts so I took my very small group of students that met around my kitchen table and formed Potter’s Clay Applied Arts. Today we’ve grown to 100+ students that meet every Friday for a variety of classes in visual, digital, communication, and scientific arts. In fact, we’ve recently morphed into a larger nonprofit organization (www.themarkproject.com ) so that we can do community outreach as well, but our roots began in the homeschool community. In addition to the tuition-based art classes, we added a small co-op to our one-day-per-week lineup of homeschool offerings.
_3 Pick your community structure!
I HIGHLY recommend becoming a 501(c)(3) for many reasons, but most importantly so that nobody in your group is personally liable. And, people can offer you donations, you can write grants, and fundraise for your various needs. Each state has procedures in place to become a nonprofit, so now you have a bit of research. I happen to live in an area where both homeschooling and corporate development are relatively simple.
_4 Next, you must research and make a plan!
This plan will basically be a business plan. Without a written snapshot of your objectives, mission, and goals, you are setting yourself up to fail. Even the smallest of businesses cannot skip this step. There are too many obstacles and key components that you will miss. One of the most important considerations to plan for are the financial needs you will have. Insurance, rent, and background checks are all part of the expense pool. And if you have a tuition-based group, you’ll need to determine whether to have paid employees as teachers or as sub-contractors. HSLDA recently posted an article about a bill that could change the course of homeschool groups in the future: https://hsldaaction.org/post/how-a-labor-bill-will-make-homeschooling-harder . Keep all of this in mind!
_5 Learn from the masters.
Look for people who’ve traveled this road before you and seek out their advice. You’re welcome to leave a comment below with questions, and for further information on running a homeschool group, I highly recommend CPA, Carol Topp’s book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out. She has an arsenal of books and resources on her website as well: https://homeschoolcpa.com/ .
“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
Gina McAndrew is the Founder and CEO of The Mark Project, an organization that equips believers with the tools they need to fulfill the Great Commission through art.
She is also the Founder and Director of Potter’s Clay Applied Arts, a program that equips students to glorify God through the arts. Gina has a BFA in Studio Art, an MS in Industrial Communications, and an MBA, all from Lindenwood University.
She has been teaching art and written communications to students of all ages for 15 years, focusing on the practical applications of these subjects. As a former upper-level manager and homeschool mom of four, she seeks to implement new ideas at both companies.
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