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Minutes of the 2014 Meeting of Members


A note about elections

The current leadership has decided that we need to step back and revamp how we are forming the Leadership Council — largely because we've realized that many of you still have too many questions about what serving on the Council means for you, but also because we've realized that we really ought to explore "best practices" a bit more before holding a formal election!

We did not have a vote at the Member Meeting. Instead, we reviewed what we hope to accomplish with the Leadership Council and the ways that our members can help make that happen.

We are still accepting nominations — and thanks to those of you who have already volunteered!


The past and the future of Homeschool Adventures

Welcome to the first annual Homeschool Adventures meeting of members! I'm Nic Rosenau, and this is Homeschool Adventures' founder, Vanessa Stephan, and our newest leadership member as of last year, Char VanDerSchaegen. As promised, we are going to talk about the past and the future of Homeschool Adventures.

Let's begin at the beginning, which was 2004 when Vanessa was looking for field trips for her then 6-year-old son. Cheryl Forsythe encouraged Vanessa to start a field trip group herself. Barb Sawicke showed Vanessa how to set up a Yahoo Group and shared her own experiences as a leader of South Metro Homeschoolers. Vanessa created the HSAdventures Yahoo Group on June 14, 2004, which soon led to the first ever Homeschool Adventures event! That was organized by Tammy Knutson, who had been planning to take her family to Historic Murphy's Landing and invited the rest of the group to join her on August 5, 2004.

Throughout the years, we've had many wonderful event organizers and many wonderful events ... to Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life, The Works museum of technology, Como Planetarium, Alexander Ramsey House, the Wildlife Science Center, Great Harvest Bread Company, Oliver Kelley Farm, Minnesota State Capitol, Walker Art Center, Stages Theatre, Gedney Pickle Factory, Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center, Northwest Company Fur Post, and many others.

Let's fast forward to 2009. Vanessa's son is now 11 years old, and Nic's son is 6 years old. Vanessa asked Nic if she wanted to help run Homeschool Adventures, and she accepted. One of the first things we did was create a website designed by Vanessa's husband, Chris. Vanessa created a Google Calendar to list upcoming homeschool events on the new website. We also started meeting with local organizations about offering regular homeschool classes and not just custom homeschool group field trips. The next year, Ellen Crain suggested that we move the website to a Content Management System, and she also offered to co-host the HSAdventures.org website with the HomeschoolRecess.com website. Nic & Ellen worked together to create the current website, based on Chris's original design.

Last year, Nic recruited Char to help manage the website, and she begin looking for "Calendar Editors" to help with calendar entry. Since its creation in 2009, our website has grown quite a bit. It now includes ...

  • A calendar of local, secular homeschool classes, group field trips and other events
  • A database of local organizations who offer those homeschool classes & events
  • A database of local field trip opportunities
  • An entire section on how to organize a successful homeschool field trip
  • A database of local homeschool groups
  • A database of local homeschool discounts
  • A database of local homeschool tutors
  • A database of local homeschool testing options
  • A guide for local organizations interested in working with local homeschoolers

What does Homeschool Adventures do for you?

  • We help you find local homeschool events!
  • We also encourage and support local homeschool parents who want to organize group field trips and custom classes
  • We work with local venues to help them understand what homeschoolers expect from events! We have an outreach section on our website, and we meet with local organizations about working with homeschool families and homeschool groups where we talk about how homeschool groups differ from school groups ... for example, we don't all show up together on a school bus but arrive individually and so we need a place to gather before the event begins.
  • We help homeschoolers understand what venues expect from visiting groups. We don't just have a list of places that offer group field trips and custom classes, we have an information page for each location that explains not only what the location offers but their policies and expectations such as cancellation deadlines and penalties and minimum or maximum group sizes.

We also build friendships & community!

  • We help you find people who share your child's passions and interests. For example, Nic's son is fascinated by marine biology and oceanography, but that passion is not shared by any of his friends. Nic has been able use Homeschool Adventures to find other kids who share that interest so that she can bring the minimum number needed for a custom class at Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.
  • We also help expose reluctant spouses to other thriving and happy homeschool families. If you do have a reluctant spouse, then bringing the whole family to the Osceola & St Croix Valley Railway, or Minneapolis Queen Mississippi River Cruise, the MHA/HSA Potluck Picnic or other large gathering can be a great way for a reluctant spouse to see other homeschool kids thriving and to realize that the only socialization problem is that there so much of it!

So what is happening now and why are we having this meeting?

First off, Homeschool Adventures is not going away ... at least not soon ... and we hope not ever, but Vanessa's son is now a teen, Nic's son is now a tween, and Char's son is almost 9. We want to ensure that Homeschool Adventures survives beyond our own homeschooling careers. Also, Vanessa is planning to retire next year.

How can you help ensure that Homeschool Adventures survives into the future?

There are many small tasks that make Homeschool Adventures the amazing resource it has become. There are tasks for "big picture" people, for "detail oriented" people, for "introverts," and for "extroverts." But what exactly needs doing?

  • We need help maintaining that Calendar of homeschool events
  • We need help keeping our database of Field Trip Ideas current and up to date
  • We need help with moderating the HSAdventures Yahoo Group
  • We always need more event organizers
  • We need veteran event organizers to advise our new event organizers
  • We need help with outreach, working with area organizations to promote homeschool opportunities
  • And we want to pursue becoming an incorporated 501(c)(3) organization

Consider joining our Calendar Editor Committee.

We are already into our big fall entry surge, and there will be smaller surges prior to winter and spring class sessions. You can spend as much or as little time doing this as you have available. Nic does have a video tutorial online, but Nic will be the first to admit that the video is not too good. However, it is only 13 minutes long. It should have been shorter, but it was Nic's first attempt at a tutorial, and she has not had time to go back and do it right. Nic will also do one-on-one training and those training sessions usually about 15 minutes as well. Additionally, Nic will be scheduling a group training followed by a Calendar entry sprint in the next couple of weeks. We are asking people to one one ... or two ... or three .. specific locations and take responsibility for ensuring all upcoming scheduled homeschool classes for those locations are entered on our website.

We are looking for a small group of people to help with Yahoo Group moderation.

Most membership requests simply need to be approved, but we do need people to read them over and note those that are too vague or that don't belong. And then someone needs to write a note back and ask for more information or write a polite note explaining that HSAdventures is not the right group. Also, most posts in the moderation queue just need to be approved, but we need people to read over messages and spot those that do not belong ... and again write a polite note explaining why a post is too far off-topic. We do have templates to make this easier, and we are also looking for help writing up these guidelines for future moderators to ensure that Homeschool Adventures continues to be a wonderful community for homeschoolers seeking field trips and homeschool classes.

We are also looking to form a fundraising committee.

Our the website does costs money. We have domain registration and web hosting costs that currently come to about $100 year. However that will be going up as we do need to separate from HomeschoolRecess to allow for more flexibility and easier upgrades. There's nothing wrong with HomeschoolRecess, we've just found that there are certain things that neither site can do when they are intertwined.

Past fundraisers have been at ComedySportz, and we tentatively have one planned for Friday, February 13, 2015 with formal organizing for that slated to begin on Monday, October 27! However we are open to other ideas as long as it's legal and we raise the money to cover the cost of the website

We are hoping to form an organizers committee.

New organizers are always welcome, and we have great resources for you on our website. However, we do need help revising and expanding that section as circumstances are always changing, and we are looking for veteran organizers to help mentor new organizers.

We would like to form a technology committee.

Nic would like find a few people willing to work with her on separating HSAdventures from HomeschoolRecess and to help with upgrading and revising the website: adding some new capabilities and streamlining existing capabilities.

We also want to pursue Incorporation & Non-Profit Status.

Incorporation protects members and leaders from personal liability and official 501(c)(3) status allows us to accept tax-deductible charitable contributions to cover the cost of maintaining the website. There's a long list of things to do to achieve official non-profit status. We've written our Mission Statement & our Guiding Principles. We've begun a draft of Articles of Incorporation, and our Bylaws, and a Conflict of Interest Policy, and we've written a Code of Conduct for members of our Leadership Council. We've also started to develop what committees will be part of the Council, but there are a number of other things that need to be done as well.

One of the things that we will need to have is a board of directors, which we are calling the Leadership Council. The IRS requires a minimum of 3 board members, one of whom is Chair or President, another of whom must be the Treasurer, the third once can be a Member-at-Large or a Secretary or a Vice-Chair or whatever the board chooses to designate. Our goal however is at least 5 but hopefully 10 members because More members means better representation for our diverse membership body.

We are planning on 2 year staggered terms. This allows for more experienced members to mentor new members but it does mean the second year is a bit odd the first tie around with some members serving one year terms, some serving two year terms and some serving three years terms, as determined by the new council to ensure that we do have staggered terms going into the future.

We'll be having quarterly meetings of the Leadership council. The IRS requires that the board meet in-person at least once a year, but monthly is strongly recommended, so quarterly seems like a good compromise. Those are tentatively set for July, October, January, April, but again that is not set in stone, and any point the Leadership Council can call a special meeting if an issue arising that can't wait for the next regularly scheduled meeting.

The Treasurer is one of the positions required for us to become an official 501(c)(3) charity we need to to track our income and our expenses. At this point that is just our Website and our Fundraiser, so it's a relatively easy job, although other expenses or sources of income may arise in the future. However, we need to ensure that all reports are formatted per IRS requirements.

While not required by the IRS, we do need to have a Secretary because we are required to keep records. At this point, that means meeting notes, and thank you to Char for taking the notes for this meeting. We we also need to keep a record of any official actions taken by the Leadership Council, and again those records need to be formatted per any IRS requirements.

On your agenda is a list of some of the ways that you can help.

We're asking you to look it over and think about how you can help ensure that Homeschool Adventures continues to thrive. We understand that some of you may be hesitant to leap into an officer or committee chair role, so we ask that you considering serving as a member of a committee, where someone else takes the leadership role and you help with task completion. Some of those options on that list:

  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Calendar Editor Committee
  • Fundraising Committee
  • Yahoo Group Moderation Committee
  • Incorporation and Non-Profit Status Committee
  • Event Organizing Committee
  • Technology Committee

We're going to take a short break and then come back in 10 minutes to answer your questions and hear your ideas.


Now we want to hear your ideas about the future of Homeschool Adventures.

  • How do you use the Homeschool Adventures website?
  • What's stopping you from setting up a group field trip?
  • How do you find out about homeschool events?
  • How do you want to find out about events?
  • What's stopping you from volunteering to serve on a Leadership Council committee?

How do you use the Homeschool Adventures website?

Members use the calendar to find activities, list their groups, and look for testing resources.

Suggestions

  • List registration deadlines as discreet events in the calendar as deadlines are very easy to miss otherwise.
  • Add the ability to import the HSA calendar into your own personal Google or iCal calendar.
  • Add some kind of notification or text alerts for events
  • Geographically divide the metro area so users can click a city/area to see which events and groups are available.Note: one can currently search groups and the calendar by ZIP Code
  • Add groups and activities outside the metro area — possibly as a sub-category on the groups page. This would be helpful if traveling.

How do you find out about homeschool events?

Many members simply scroll through the calendar, others use the basic search option, but few knew about advanced search options.

Do you see our Facebook Posts?

Yes, but fewer under the new Facebook posting filters.

Suggestions

  • Group posts now show up in the newsfeed more than Page post do, so it might be worth setting up an HSAdventures Facebook Group
  • It might be helpful to post something to the Yahoo Group about "liking posts" frequently and visiting the Facebook page at least once a month to continue seeing HSA in your newsfeed.

What's stopping you from setting up a group field trip?

Many members are doing activities with their smaller homeschool groups or are signing up for classes offered by the location itself.

Setting up a field trip seems daunting.

Suggestions

  • Nic will schedule a "how to organize a successful field trip" session based on the one she and Vanessa did at the 2011 MHA Conference.
  • Members want to know if others are interested in an idea before they put in the effort
    Experienced organizers recommend that you just go for it, but organizers can and have queried other group members via the Yahoo Group or even used the Yahoo Group poll option to gather feedback, and any members should feel free to do so.
  • Experience organizers expressed frustration with repeat problem participants. Perhaps we need participant training as well as organizer training?

What are the biggest needs in terms of volunteer positions?

As noted above, we recognize that this is all very new, and that taking on an officer or committee chair role has seemed very overwhelming to many of you. However, we don't need to fill the officer roles until we are ready to become an official 501(c)(3) organization (which we hope will before 2016 arrives). Rather than ask any of you to jump into the role of Committee Chair when we haven't really clearly defined yet what each committee does, we're asking you to considering joining a committee as a contributing member — we hope that an interest in assuming the Chair will evolve naturally from participation on the committee.

The three largest needs are:

  1. Calendar Committee
  2. Fundraising
  3. Event Organizers

Suggestions

  • Have a "Calendar Bee" — an experienced member can show the group how to create calendar entries and then the group can chat and laugh and have fun getting a whole bunch done in an hour together
    First Calendar Bee has been scheduled for Tue, Aug 5 at 1pm at the Roseville Library in the Board Room
  • Fundraising: Give-to-the-Max
  • Fundraising: Chinook Book sales
  • Fundraising: family/school photos

What does it mean to be a committee chair?

The Chair is responsible for making sure the committee members get their "stuff" done.