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InstinctiveMom
10-25-2011, 11:07 AM
I'd love some feedback on homeschool groups charging fees in order to belong/participate.

Does anyone belong to a group that charges?
Do they charge for each event/get-together or add a surcharge to pay-events, or a blanket fee for the year?
Would you belong to a group that charges? Why or why not?
Pros and cons of being in a group that charges?

Thanks!!

hockeymom
10-25-2011, 11:50 AM
Our co-op has a nominal annual fee to cover renting the space we use and insurance. Each family is responsible for providing their own general supplies, and occasionally there are calls out for extra unexpected supplies (food coloring, for example, for a science class).

Field trips sometimes have a fee involved, depending on the trip, only to cover the admission charges (like the planetarium).

The benefits we get from our co-op outweigh any costs involved.

Are you setting up a new group, Heather?

farrarwilliams
10-25-2011, 11:58 AM
I mod a group that does not charge.

I wouldn't mind belonging to a group that charged, however, the charge would have to be either really nominal under $5 or $10 per family for a year) or it would have to be related to very specific, tangible things the group is doing that I believed in paying for - space, a website, field trips that were covered, etc. I wouldn't necessarily need to see a detailed budget, but the line between the cost and the expenses would have to be relatively clear to me.

I know of a group that started up near here that was very cart before the horse, if you know what I mean. The small group of moms got together and before the group was really built, they were talking about big fees, renting space, making a charter and getting non-profit status, etc. I do NOT get that at all. And in the end, they ended up being pretty small, not at all what they initially envisioned. I think the recipe for a group has to be people, then vision, then money and officialness, not the other way around.

PBB
10-25-2011, 12:21 PM
We pay $10 per year per kid. The cost is for supplies used for the co-op (paint, copies, etc). We pay for group outings individually.

jess
10-25-2011, 01:04 PM
I'd pay a membership fee if it was clear we'd be able to attend activities often enough to be worth it and the use of the fees was transparent and appropriate. The amount I'd be willing to pay would depend on how much benefit I saw us getting out of it. I'd be willing to pay a good amount (probably a few hundred) for something local and indoors that offered frequent activities my kids were interested in through the winter.

Lak001
10-25-2011, 01:48 PM
I belong to a group that charges $25 a year. It has a fantastic website where you can find a Calendar for the school year complete with activities listed for each month, where you can go sign up for activities, field trips, and also a Forum to post questions on any topics on homeschooling, and general topics. A lending library which has books and materials you can borrow from. And so much more.

But they do charge a nominal fee incurred for supplies, depending on the activity. Some field trips are free, but most others have a subsidized rates for the homeschool group.

I think it's totally worth it.

lakshmi
10-25-2011, 02:52 PM
We have to pay a lot for co-op. We meet in a church that has a great set-up. It is totally worth it. Lots of classrooms, a gym, a place to eat and a big big kitchen. Most of the fee goes to the facility. The rest is determined by teacher, mostly to cover costs of curricula and copies.

laundrycrisis
10-25-2011, 04:00 PM
I'd love some feedback on homeschool groups charging fees in order to belong/participate.

Does anyone belong to a group that charges?
Do they charge for each event/get-together or add a surcharge to pay-events, or a blanket fee for the year?
Would you belong to a group that charges? Why or why not?
Pros and cons of being in a group that charges?

Thanks!!


I help organize a group that uses the meetup platform. For two years the group was "free". What that meant was that most of the expenses were coming out of one person's pocket - not fair. We also had to charge per family for any supplies that were needed or have the costs for those supplies covered by a few volunteers. We ended not even trying some events because getting the expenses covered would have been too challenging. This year we started charging dues of $12 per family per year, so $1 per month. Now the meetup platform fees are covered by dues money. We have also been able to pay for some picnic shelters, disposable picnic goods, drinks, and even meat portions, and supplies for holiday parties. Having a treasury to work with has made it much easier for us to schedule things without a few of us feeling so financially exposed, so now the group has more to offer its members.

Another benefit has been that when the group was free, it was large, but we had a lot of people who wanted and expected things from the group, but weren't willing to contribute much to make the group happen. When we started charging dues, a lot of people left. The people who stayed and the people who have joined since are those who don't mind paying what comes out to $1 per month and contributing some of their own ideas and efforts to the functioning of the group. The group has a different feeling now, with positive and committed members.

Teri
10-25-2011, 04:35 PM
We pay $20 per year per family to belong to the homeschool group. This gets us access to the loop and field trips if we want to go on those (field trips are an additional cost though). The money covers the web hosting, mailbox rental and a couple of parties per year that are open to everyone.
Co-op costs $135 per semester per family. This JUST covers our weekly rental costs if we maintain 20 families in the group.
Each class fee is set by the teacher. They range from free to $30 for the semester (the fee covers supplies for the class and most are in the $10-15 range).
Co-op meets 8 times in the fall and 8 times in the spring. We have our semester spread out so that there are field trips interspersed in the semester (and to stretch out the semester so it doesn't end so quickly. We used to have a 14 week semester before we moved to a more expensive place and then lost a bunch of families).

kewb22
10-25-2011, 07:10 PM
I belong to 2 different groups that charge a fee. One is a meetup group specific to the State I live in. The fee I pay for the meetup group goes primarily towards paying the meetup fees. The other is specific to the neighboring State and goes towards maintaining the website.

The fees are nominal enough for what I am getting out of the sites. Although I am considering dropping one next year because my kids are older than the majority of the ones in the group and we are seeking more peer related activities.

Stella M
10-25-2011, 07:32 PM
No fees for ours, though it is small and informal. I think it's important to offer things fee-free where possible. Home education can be expensive and the lower cost an activity is, the more people are able to participate, whether they are low income or just overstretched.

Depends how you like to spend your money, I guess, and what the bang is for your buck.

InstinctiveMom
10-25-2011, 09:44 PM
Thank you all for the input... I am actually running a group - have been for several years now, and it's always been free to belong to the group. Lately though, I'm beginning to question whether or not that's helping or hurting... kinda along the lines of 'you value what you pay for'. We have a nice big group - 26 families, but only a handful *ever* show up to things.

We don't have a co-op (not enough interest to maintain one), but we do host field trips each week. Most are either free or less than $10 per family to come to. I'm wondering if having it free to join (members pay their own entry fees, often discounted for us as a homeschool group) is creating a situation where members are taking having access to the group for granted. I have been toying with the idea of charging a nominal fee for families to join the group (and to pay for name tags/lamination/printing - things that I am paying for right now).

We have a HUGE faith-based homeschooling community in our area, and it's common for people to belong to more than one group. Many of the faith based groups have co-ops that meet on varying schedules (some once a week, some every couple of weeks or once a month). But that's all academic - they don't do field trips to fun places or social gatherings (some do, but infrequently). I don't mind the cross-resourcing; I belong to several groups myself; and we also have out of town members - distance plays a part in their lack of participation, usually, and that's understandable. But I almost feel like some people are only in the group as a secondary resource, not to actually participate - only to hear about fun or interesting things we're doing that they might want in on.

It takes a lot of time - my time, usually - to plan and organize field trips for every week of the school year, and I don't mind doing it provided we have a good (or at least consistent) turn out. When we do have a larger turn out, everyone always says how much fun it was, how great it was, how they can't wait to do it again... then the next two months, we're back to the same 3 families. I sound whiney and complainy, lol... I'm usually not, but it is frustrating to put so much effort into the group, consistently get good feedback and have so little in-person participation.

Suggestions for getting people more involved are appreciated :)

Teri
10-25-2011, 09:50 PM
Even if you didn't have a fee, I would consider requiring everyone to host SOMETHING. Maybe you could have families sign up to host a field trip or event way in advance. It would require relinquishing some control though, but this can't be cheap for you the way it is.

skrink
10-25-2011, 09:55 PM
My old group initially charged $15 per year, which covered the cost of a snail mail newsletter and assorted activities. When the newsletter went online, the dues dropped to $5. It was worth it to me to have access to field trips and to group activities. And like you mentioned, paying even a small amount made me feel more like I had a vested interest.

I wish I had suggestions about getting more people involved. Right now we have a few programs that my daughter loves (no small feat) that are dying out because only one or two families consistently show up. There's a lot of rah, rah enthusiasm in the planning stages and then everyone fades into the woodwork. I look forward to reading more replies.

lakshmi
10-26-2011, 12:36 AM
I think academic things motivate people more than field trips. I would be one of those people.

Sorry, I just had to stop to send an email to someone telling him that I wouldn't be able to make it to a field trip. SEE.

Not important to people. Make it quarterly, and charge a fee upfront to cover the costs for the materials and the entrance fees. I would set it up that all fees had to be paid by a certain date, and then there you have it. They paid, if they don't show up then, their loss. And you're scheduling less stuff.

Or do the same thing but decide on the time. Pay up front is the key. I would have to say that if your group was in my area, I would be one of those people who didn't show up. BUT, if I'd paid money then I'd more likely be there. Or I would be more honest about what I could be involved with.

SueEllen Grieves-Curl
10-26-2011, 05:41 AM
Most of the co-ops around here charge. The least amount that I have found is 25 a year. And the most is 200 a year per kid.
I can not afford the 200 a year per kid even though I like that one. But our issue is the ones around here are so christian based that we really have not fit into any of them.
I am looking into starting a group that is more for others like us, or even secular, and other religions.
And at this point I would not attach a fee to it. Yes I know there will be costs but unless we are big enough to need a building I am sure we can manage without one. And by the time we get that big then there will be others besides myself making that decision.


Being that you are a small group use those people to help get things done. Each person should have a task to do. An event or two to plan, fundraiser, outing, something to get them involved.
During your weekly meetings have an art class and a science class. Have 1 parent run each. And change around so that each parent is involved.

Pefa
10-26-2011, 06:12 AM
I like the idea of rotating the responsibility around, or maybe a combination. Either you sign up to organize x number of field trips or you pay an annual fee.

We just joined an academic group this year, not cheap but not outrageous and given what the boys are getting out of it totally worth the $.

I have to admit I don't like doing field trips with groups of people. I'd rather just drift through whatever w/my guys on our schedule. So I'd totally be one of those annoying people who use your co-op sporadically.

InstinctiveMom
10-26-2011, 02:14 PM
I've tried asking everyone to hold a group job in the past and it works for maybe a month or two, but eventually, that 'feature' of our group ends up in my pocket as well. Our newsletter mistress put her kids back in school this year, our community service organizer just... stopped organizing the CS projects... we've had a heck of a time getting people involved and keeping them involved consistently.

Even if it were not in a group, I would do something out of the house with my kids anyway. The reason I like the group is because of the discounted costs - we get crazy cheap discounts because for many places our group functions as a 'school' and they give us the same discount as a school would get. That means that we can do more, because the costs stay low, and better, because they're not just 'fun stuff'; they're educational. Almost every trip we've done has had an education packet to go along with it - I use our field trips as an extension of my personal curriculum, so for us, they're an integral part of our schooling. It's not 'just' socializing. There is an element of socializing as well, of course, but the point of going is for education.

Thanks for the discussion!

Teri
10-26-2011, 02:49 PM
I get that having someone completely responsible for an entire "job" would disintegrate over time. I meant, have each person be responsible for one EVENT....like one community service project for the year or one field trip for the year. Not one person be responsible for ALL of the community service projects.

hockeymom
10-26-2011, 04:21 PM
I agree that it sounds like more people need to be involved. It's not healthy or sustainable for you to have to do all the heavy work.

FWIW, we love our co-op field trip opportunities as much as the academic classes. It gives the kids an extra chance to bond and to see each other in different situations, plus like you mentioned the discounts are great! For us, since we are new to the community, it's also been a great way to get exposed to various educational opportunities in our area. There is no pressure that every member attend every field trip, and usually it is a rotating group due to the travel involved, the age appropriateness of the trip, or general interest or other activities. But for the most part the turnout is pretty high and the kids all seem to have an awesome time.

I hope you come up with a good solution for your group, Heather! :)

lakshmi
10-26-2011, 05:05 PM
I would just lie.

How many do you need for group discount? Oh fifteen? We have exactly that many. Thank you so much for the nice discount.
Oh, the rest of our group didn't show up. I have no idea. This keeps happening that the entire HS group gets sick at the same time... hmmm. <finger to chin> To get the cheaper rate.

Sherry
10-26-2011, 05:56 PM
Field trips are why I belong to a homeschool group. There are so opportunities for groups that are not offered for individual families. Even so, I would not want to do a field trip every week. One or two a month are plenty.

I think charging a nominal fee and requiring that members volunteer in some capacity would be a good starting point. You could also start making field trip fees payable in advance. If not enough families pay, you can cancel the trip and refund the money. It is not fair to the host site for just a few families to show when the site specified a minimum number of participants. Next time around the host site might refuse to work with your group (or other homeschool groups).

Brittaya
10-26-2011, 06:18 PM
We're part of a homeschool group that just organizes field trips and lessons. They do 2-6 a week, have around 500 kids registered (so there's pretty good turn out) and they do lots of cool trips. It costs $15 a year, but we get discount rates on the field trips (we went to children's museum last week, would have cost us $30, with the group it cost $4.50) and we get to meet other homeschoolers, so it's worth it in my opinion.

Avalon
10-29-2011, 04:45 PM
I belong to a group that charges $25 per year to join. This group has been around for about 25 years. It's a formal registered "association" with elected board members, monthly meetings, and a bank account. Really, you have to be registered as an association here in order to get a bank account. The size of the group ebbs and flows, as well as how active it is. Many functions and activities are free to members, but any field trips or special events are expected to be self-funding, so participating families all pay whatever it will cost to run the program. Everyone is expected to do some kind of volunteer work or helping out.

I can't imagine personally running programs and organizing field trips for a bunch of other families week after week.

Teri
10-30-2011, 12:21 PM
I would just lie.

How many do you need for group discount? Oh fifteen? We have exactly that many. Thank you so much for the nice discount.
Oh, the rest of our group didn't show up. I have no idea. This keeps happening that the entire HS group gets sick at the same time... hmmm. <finger to chin> To get the cheaper rate.


I don't know about other places, but here you have to pay for most things up front or, if you pay at the event, you have to pay for at least the minimum that makes a "group".

lakshmi
10-30-2011, 09:53 PM
I don't know about other places, but here you have to pay for most things up front or, if you pay at the event, you have to pay for at least the minimum that makes a "group".

I love the way places guard against the amoral.

InstinctiveMom
10-31-2011, 04:30 PM
That's how is is here, too - there is a minimum cost that they make on a group trip - say $50 for the discounted rate when normally it would be $100 for the same number of tickets. If we have a lot of people participating, then that's much cheaper for us. If we don't have enough people participating then it can be MORE expensive for the few families who are going than it would be just to pay the regular fee...

I don't mind doing pay in advance stuff; it's easier, actually - but then you end up with people who can't go who paid (and group rates are non-refundable since we pay in advance most of the time), then they're reluctant to pay in advance the next time because they list money... it's frustrating, to say the least!

I didn't think about having one person per event, Teri - that's good. We're going to be scheduling spring events soon, so I'll bring that up, as well as some of the other things mentioned in this thread. I appreciate the feedback! :)

rumbledolly
10-31-2011, 04:53 PM
Our co-op (the same one hockey mom belongs to) charges a yearly joiner fee plus a monthly fee that is pretty reasonable for what we get. Right now my DD is taking a fun math class, a hands on art history class, essay writing class, and we're working on a National History Day project. There are nominal fees for field trips though due to distance and scheduling we've not been able to attend any of the fun stuff yet.

The fees cover the cost of rent/insurance/supplies and we're responsible for supplying our children with the appropriate general supplies plus group supplies such as cleaning items. We also have jobs like cleaning up tables, bathrooms, playground supervision. It's a pretty cool environment.

I've been involved with a co-op that charged far less per month and I got what I paid for. It was unorganized and more of a socialization/babysitting time. While my current co-op offers the socialization we do have a set schedule and it makes the day go much smoother. We're relaxed but there is substance - if that makes any sense. My DD has really learned a lot about different artist and techniques, she loves her essay writing teacher and thinks her math teacher is hysterically funny.