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I have run a small Enrichment co-op of 5-10 children for three years now.  We rotated hosting, and it worked; we all had a lot of fun and learned a lot.    There were zero fees, except supply fees for some nature study and art prints.  Now that I have rising 5th, 3rd, and a 4-year-old with speech therapy, I am changing my focus.  I want the accountability/help to ensure some of the main academic work gets done, and leave the enrichments to be family studies. 

I have a church willing to host us for a reasonable facility fee, and I have one friend committed to teaching two classes.  It isn't meant to be a co-op; I want it to be drop-off, but I am starting to doubt myself.  People seem so eager-until they see the tuition.  But I have worked it down to the nubs-and it is less than a teen babysitter, you know?  Less than minimum wage!  But oh, the sticker shock! 

I am offering classes a la carte, but I really do want it to become a community of learners for my children.  Does anyone have any wisdom/experience with this? I am open to mothers teaching to offset the cost, but most of the people I am running into are used to the inexpensive nature of a co-op, are needing the drop-off option now, but are struggling with the idea of paying for that.  

If I let them pay by semester, am I going to end up holding the bag when people drop and how do I pay the other teachers 2nd semester?  That kind of thing--how do you do it?

 

 

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The hybrid where I work does not pay teachers directly. Teachers are paid directly from the parents, and then I pay the director a fee for her work. The families are charged a facility fee and an insurance fee to cover costs associated with that. I highly recommend this method for several reasons. As the director you do not have to chase down payments and then make payments. As a teacher, it makes me more accountable. I am truly working for my clients. Bad teachers or poorly organized classes tend to lose students while strong teachers attract more students. My first year I averaged 8 students in a class; now my classes have 12 - 15 students each. I set the price I feel is fair. I charge more for my science classes than my history classes.  I have to supply everything for my class. We do not have access to a copy machine, etc..

I have also run a school out of my home. I had 12 students, and we met twice a week. I taught all subjects but math and foreign language. I had a foreign language teacher come at the end of the day for an extra charge. 

I teach in a affluent area where private school tuition is over $20,000, but we do get a lot of families who drive in (like me) because they know the value of a quality education. It will take time for the people in your area to understand that professionals should be paid fairly. 

 

Good luck!

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We paid by the month. Classes ranged from $50-100 per class per month and everything with fees and payment was done in a fashion similar to what Imrich describes, except we used PayPal to make payments to the individual teachers. 

There was a clause in the agreement you signed upon registration that you were agreeing to pay for the entire school year, even if you quit attending. I’m not sure if they took people to court over it, but the phrasing did exist. They added it after many years of people wanting refunds because they couldn’t seem to consistently show up and expected to not be charged for the weeks they didn’t attend. 

I don’t know what you plan to charge, but at the rates we paid the group was usually full up until the facility stopped hosting all outside groups for liability. I miss them. They were the only thing like that around here. 

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I wonder if it might help if people could really see the cost break-downs?  If people just can't afford it, that is a different problem, but saying $200 a term looks a lot different that $10 per 2 hour class, or seeing the fees for supplies, or whatever.

 

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Our family attends (and I teach at) a large co-op.  Our structure is that parents can stay or drop off, but they have to do a certain number of volunteer hours.  Our pay structure is that teachers are paid directly by parents on a monthly basis.  Ours works out to $15-20/hour/month.  We also pay a small fee each semester when we register, which covers insurance and a small amount of pay for our few paid administrative jobs.  Teachers pay a small percentage back to the co-op as 'rent' for our rooms.  It seems like a complicated structure, but it works well and, for tax purposes, means that the teachers aren't employees, we're independent tutors (we also plan our own classes and have complete control over how they're organized).  

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On 4/8/2018 at 7:21 AM, lmrich said:

The hybrid where I work does not pay teachers directly. Teachers are paid directly from the parents, and then I pay the director a fee for her work. The families are charged a facility fee and an insurance fee to cover costs associated with that. I highly recommend this method for several reasons. As the director you do not have to chase down payments and then make payments. As a teacher, it makes me more accountable. I am truly working for my clients. Bad teachers or poorly organized classes tend to lose students while strong teachers attract more students. My first year I averaged 8 students in a class; now my classes have 12 - 15 students each. I set the price I feel is fair. I charge more for my science classes than my history classes.  I have to supply everything for my class. We do not have access to a copy machine, etc..

I have also run a school out of my home. I had 12 students, and we met twice a week. I taught all subjects but math and foreign language. I had a foreign language teacher come at the end of the day for an extra charge. 

I teach in a affluent area where private school tuition is over $20,000, but we do get a lot of families who drive in (like me) because they know the value of a quality education. It will take time for the people in your area to understand that professionals should be paid fairly. 

 

Good luck!

I am intrigued. . . so teachers set their own price, therefore assuming "risk-of-loss" which helps maintain independent-contractor status.  At registration with the hybrid, facility fee & insurance fees are paid.  Teachers just pay director a percentage, or flat fee, for managing all the overhead.  

Question: how were you hired?  I mean, was it a situation where you wanted to offer a class, so this was a way to do that? Or are you filling a class that the Hybrid wants taught, specifically?  The co-ops around here have very random offerings based on what someone wants to offer.  There is no cohesion.  I am offering classes from within one curriculum.  

I am trying to figure out if this would work.  Thank you so much for your insight!

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On 4/8/2018 at 9:53 AM, texasmom33 said:

We paid by the month. Classes ranged from $50-100 per class per month and everything with fees and payment was done in a fashion similar to what Imrich describes, except we used PayPal to make payments to the individual teachers. 

There was a clause in the agreement you signed upon registration that you were agreeing to pay for the entire school year, even if you quit attending. I’m not sure if they took people to court over it, but the phrasing did exist. They added it after many years of people wanting refunds because they couldn’t seem to consistently show up and expected to not be charged for the weeks they didn’t attend. 

I don’t know what you plan to charge, but at the rates we paid the group was usually full up until the facility stopped hosting all outside groups for liability. I miss them. They were the only thing like that around here. 

Thank you for that.  I guess I could accept post-dated checks to help people out, but honestly, if someone came to me demanding/pleading for their checks back, I don't think I would have it in me to refuse them:/  

For 3rd-6th, I am planning 90-minute classes for 34 weeks at $375.  It breaks down to $11ish a class, which is $7ish an hour.  And these are core classes, that actually move the week along!  If someone enrolled for a full day it would be $1500, so that works out to $167 per month.  Hmm. 

I am sorry you miss your group! I am getting through HSLDA's recommendation; it isn't that bad.  Maybe another facility would host if you wanted to resurrect it?  

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On 4/8/2018 at 6:04 PM, Bluegoat said:

I wonder if it might help if people could really see the cost break-downs?  If people just can't afford it, that is a different problem, but saying $200 a term looks a lot different that $10 per 2 hour class, or seeing the fees for supplies, or whatever.

 

Good point--I have a Price breakdown sheet that I sent to a few people when they balked, but it hasn't produced any fruit.  I agree; I am one who hears the entire thing and thinks NO WAY, but when it is broken down, I think to myself, "Do I get water or tea 3x a week? Water. There, I just paid for a class."  

Maybe I should price it by semester. . . that is only $187.50 for a semester! That sounds a lot better!

 

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18 hours ago, ClemsonDana said:

 (we also plan our own classes and have complete control over how they're organized).  

This the the problem; I am trying to set up a hybrid that has a set curriculum for consistency through the years, and I am walking a fine line between employee and ind.contractor. I can't give complete control over--

To clarify, parents pay you $15-20 a month, or per hour?

Thanks!

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In our region, there's a wide variety of styles and methods. The biggest challenge of getting anything new up and running (in my experience) is communicating how and WHY yours doesn't operate the way others do. People know what they know, and understanding a new method takes some processing.

The other part is accepting that not everyone will see the value in it. Roughly half the people I talk to are thrilled with our co-ops "low" prices, while the other half find us too expensive.  And that's okay!  Every family's budget is different, and every family has unique priorities.  *I* think we're the best, but we're not the best for everyone.

I do think we would get more families with payment plan options, but it would really hamper our budgeting.  The lower the cost, the tighter the budget.  The more flexible the payments, the easier people find it to drop out mid-year.

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FWIW, what you are charging isn't much different than what people would pay for extracurriculars.  I pay about $80 for two hours of piano lessons a week, and that is a relatively standard price.  Even our dance classes, which are a whole group of kids together, are a similar cost to what you are describing.

People aren't used to thinking the same way about school classes I think, as something that you pay for.  Even homeschoolers are thinking of it as something where we all pitch in for the good of the kids.

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I teach a 2 hour class, so I get paid $40/month/student (160/sememster).  The least expensive class is probably PE, at $15/month.  Teachers are chosen by the board to teach specific classes, and if it isn't being taught in an acceptable way then they aren't asked to return the next year.  I teach biology, and couldn't just randomly decide to not cover the standard biology scope and sequence, but nobody tells me that tests need to be weekly vs monthly, or that it must be project based vs traditional style, for example..  Most of us in the upper level sciences use books from the same publisher, but as long as we use something reasonable, it's fine.  When I say that I don't like the way that metabolism is covered so I'm going to use the material from a different book, it's not a problem (and the board wouldn't ask or know, except that their kids have taken my class).  If I wanted to propose a new class, I could, and they'd see how it fit with the needs of the co-op - we have classroom space and schedule limitations.  Even though we have a lot of freedom, our course offerings aren't random - they do a lot of work to make sure that families have a cohesive set of options available, especially as they get to the middle and high school years and the classes aren't just enrichment.   We always offer the basics - biology and chemistry in high school, for instance.  Other classes may vary- whether we offer forensics, earth science, or anatomy depends on who can teach and what rooms are available.  But any of them would be an acceptable science elective.  Because we're a la carte, families only take classes that work for them.  My own kids take very little science and math because I can teach that at home, but do take language and some writing because that's not my speciality, and both have taken 'extras' like chess, PE, art, fencing, and choir.  We have people who use it as their primary school, and if you do there are 3 years of middle school science and at least 3 years of high school science, math from pre-alg through at least pre-calc, and a variety of language arts and humanities classes to choose from.  For others (like me), we choose the classes that we want to do completely at home and choose the co-op classes that we want.

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When you make the transition from free co-op to paid cottage school, you are going to lose people who either don't want to pay (just in the coop because it is free) or who don't want the constraint (saw coop as enrichment, not core, and don't want homework to do on their own)

The Memoria Press forums have a lot of discussions about running MP cottage schools and starting them. I expect you would find some of the discussion helpful.

FWIW, I wouldn't try to make the price cheaper. I'd actually aim at a slightly higher price if you are going to be requiring homework because commitment to paying often correlates with commitment to doing homework. Also, you need to have a policy with teeth (beyond grades, because HS moms may just toss those) for what happens to families whose kids chose not to do homework. Maybe students who don't come prepared have to stay with their mother the entire time in another place completing homework (or pay a babysitter to watch a "study hall" and fine the parents $10 any time the student doesn't come prepared in order to pay the sitter). It isn't fair for kids who do their homework to have to be held back by kids who don't.

Emily

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On 4/10/2018 at 6:31 AM, Bluegoat said:

FWIW, what you are charging isn't much different than what people would pay for extracurriculars.  I pay about $80 for two hours of piano lessons a week, and that is a relatively standard price.  Even our dance classes, which are a whole group of kids together, are a similar cost to what you are describing.

People aren't used to thinking the same way about school classes I think, as something that you pay for.  Even homeschoolers are thinking of it as something where we all pitch in for the good of the kids.

This is so true!  

On 4/10/2018 at 6:53 AM, ClemsonDana said:

I teach a 2 hour class, so I get paid $40/month/student (160/sememster).  

Are the prices set by the co-op, or do you set your own? And would you teach for practically nothing the first year, just to get the ball rolling?

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On 4/10/2018 at 7:05 AM, EmilyGF said:

FWIW, I wouldn't try to make the price cheaper. I'd actually aim at a slightly higher price if you are going to be requiring homework because commitment to paying often correlates with commitment to doing homework. Also, you need to have a policy with teeth (beyond grades, because HS moms may just toss those) for what happens to families whose kids chose not to do homework. Maybe students who don't come prepared have to stay with their mother the entire time in another place completing homework (or pay a babysitter to watch a "study hall" and fine the parents $10 any time the student doesn't come prepared in order to pay the sitter). It isn't fair for kids who do their homework to have to be held back by kids who don't.

Emily

Regarding your suggestions, I am torn.  As a pure business, I agree.  I am concerned about finding that threshold where a family is paying enough that it becomes/maintains its value--enough to work toward mastery of the material the rest of the week.  If the families don't value it, they will show up without having learned the material, and if that happens, it will get a bad reputation!  However, the reason I was going to all this trouble was for my children.  There is nothing that fits all my requirements in my area.  CC dominates here.  There are good co-ops around, and even a Christian college that runs extracurricular classes for homeschoolers, yet none of them are running what ClemsonDana described--where there is an established curricular path in place for core classes.  These seem to run more along the lines of what parents want to teach.  And they are good, but they are random.  Even the core classes at one of them aren't really cohesive from one year to the next.  

But I am concerned that if I hold ground on what the classes are actually WORTH, my children will miss the chance to have this opportunity.  AND, it really isn't for social reasons.  We have plenty of friends.  They would enjoy the peer interaction, giving a little energy to some of the harder subjects. It would help with motivation on their part.  And, it would give my preschooler a richer morning routine than he has right now.  

Thanks, everyone, for your input!  I had an information meeting last night.  It went well, but everyone wants a lower price! I thought I was scraping as it is, what with having to stock a lot of supplies, too.  I even have to buy three whiteboards. Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to help me sort through this.

 

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Woo-hoo! I posted it and saw it was my 100th post!

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We set our own prices within a narrow range, because the co-op works to keep similar classes at the same cost. I, and the last 2 chemistry teachers, have decided to do $40/month and buy any supplies that we need (we are well stocked at this point and don't need to rebuy everything every year).  Other teachers may chose $35/month plus a materials fee.  With materials fees, for tax purposes you have to spend it all or turn in surplus to the co-op for some sort of materials (we don't pay rent on that $, and it's not taxed the same way), and for some of us it's not worth it to deal with it.  Fencing teachers so it costs more, and art  has a more expensive materials fee, which makes sense.  

The co-op was well established when I joined, and while a few classes have increased a little, the cost for science classes hasn't changed in the 6 years that I've taught.  If the co-op were just starting, I might have been OK with starting with less $, but as an overall model I don't know if that will help you or just push the complaining off for a year or 2.  Because you're running it as a cottage school with mostly you in charge, people may see it differently than a more co-op mindset.  We do fundraisers sometimes, are a nonprofit so donations are deductible, and people sometimes donate equipment if its needed.  

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