When was CHESS founded?
The idea was born in March of 2019, and within three months, CHESS had been granted IRS recognition as a 501(c)(3) public charity organized for religious and educational purposes.
Why was CHESS founded?
Our founding families perceived a need for "non-academic" enrichment classes that would be open and affordable* to all Christian homeschooling families regardless of family size and/or minor special needs. Our co-op is compatible with any and all curricula and homeschooling philosophies, and we can accommodate a wide range of minor special needs.
*Please be aware that co-ops with lower membership dues almost always lack any insurance coverage. (See the "Costs" section below for a breakdown of how our families' membership dues are spent and the impact group insurance has on every member.)
Why is CHESS so "public" compared to most other homeschooling co-ops?
Many other groups are much more "private" than CHESS, and some can only be joined by personal invitation. While we acknowledge that there are certain advantages to a "closed" environment, we see our mission as encompassing most if not all homeschooling families in Northern Middle Tennessee and South Central Kentucky, and even encouraging the growth of homeschooling in general. Thus, it wouldn't make much sense for us to "keep to ourselves".
But please know that we take security very seriously. Should you ever have any privacy concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.
Our family belongs to another co-op that meets on a different day. Can we still join CHESS?
Of course! CHESS isn't a secret society, and we're completely non-exclusive. Aside from any scheduling conflicts, you'll never need to choose between CHESS and any other group. We're a community, and we believe that homeschooling should never be competitive.
Might CHESS ever consider a drop-off model?
The short answer is no. The simplest and most obvious reason is that it would present many costly liability concerns. But our full response gets to the heart of who CHESS is on the most fundamental level.
Some families -- particularly larger families -- may choose CHESS because our volunteer enrichment classes are so much more cost-effective than tutorials with paid instructors.
But we think the most compelling reason to join CHESS is that you and your kids are far more likely to form the deeper friendships we all crave.
Think about what happens at academic tutorials. Some students come only on Tuesdays, while others come only on Thursdays. And the friend your child may make in his/her Tuesday class might switch to Thursdays next semester, or only come to the one class your child won't be attending that semester. What's more, these are drop-off classes, and few if any of the parents stay to chat, so they remain strangers or at the most casual acquaintances of one another.
Social groups that organize field trips and/or nature walks are certainly wonderful, but few if any can provide a few hours of quality social interaction for all of your kids (AND YOU!) every week.
Let's face it: we're busy. The surest way to guarantee the regular quality social interactions we all need is for them to be built into a recurring weekly schedule, and for everyone (children and adults alike) to be present and active the entire time. This is what a volunteer enrichment cooperative like CHESS can do for your family.
What is required of co-op member families?
Cleaning: Every family is assigned to help clean the church after co-op a few times each semester. The posted cleaning checklist includes tasks such as sweeping/vacuuming; wiping down tables, chairs, and sinks; and gathering trash. There will be at least one other family cleaning along with yours, and you can usually expect to finish in just 15-30 minutes.
Volunteering: We are an all-volunteer co-op, so we do require all members to contribute in some way. Co-op member families must earn ___ service points each semester. For descriptions of service options, please refer to our Member Handbook.
Am I required to teach in order to participate in co-op?
At this time, we are incentivizing teaching rather than requiring it. We reserve the right to require teaching in the future if circumstances should call for it.
Can we send our child with another family?
For social events, parents may bring one another's children and/or invite friends. That parent is responsible for those children at all times!
For co-op, we do not allow this option as a general rule. However, we reserve the right to permit a limited number of members in good standing to send their children in with another family due to extenuating circumstances, and we reserve the right to rescind the privilege if it becomes a burden on the co-op.
No matter the circumstances, all families must meet the minimum service points requirement.
Note: Children must be at least seven (7) years old to attend without a parent and must be assigned to the care of another willing adult. This adult assumes full responsibility for your child in your absence and may require additional paperwork.
Is the CHESS-Board paid or otherwise financially compensated?
Absolutely not! We are a 501(c)(3) public charity highly accountable to various reporting agencies. Any member of the CHESS-Board who took possession of any financial or other assets belonging to the organization would be criminally prosecuted. We charge *just* enough to cover our required expenses such as “rent”, insurance, minimal administrative costs, and necessary supplies. In fact, two of the several reasons we don’t employ outside teachers are for the sake of minimizing membership dues and reducing related compliance costs and the workload on our volunteer treasurer who would otherwise be responsible for payroll accounting.
Furthermore, the >$500 in filing and other costs to become 501(c)(3), solicit donations, and promote the group were out-of-pocket expenses to the founding families. The many hours invested into paperwork, website and social media development, devising a workable budget, setting up suitable accounting and enrollment systems, drafting and revising policies and procedures, etc. were all completely uncompensated labors of love.
Each and every week, we spend several collective hours responding to phone calls and emails from members and prospective members, donors and prospective donors, and the general public; balancing the books; tracking volunteers; reporting to outside entities; etc. We do this because we have a passion for creating and fostering a true community that our local homeschooling families can rely upon.
So, thank your CHESS-Board, and thank them often. Not only is your gratitude their sole compensation for all they have done and continue to do…it’s also the best compensation.
On another note, if CHESS should ever terminate, we are legally bound to distribute any and all assets to another 501(c)(3) with similar stated purpose(s). Tax-deductible donations to CHESS can and will only ever be used to benefit the homeschooling community at large.
How did CHESS settle upon the amount charged for family membership dues? Shouldn’t a non-profit volunteer organization meeting at a church be free?
- Insurance premium = approximately $750/yr
- Insurance deductible = $500/occurrence
- Website = minimum $135/yr
- Love offering (to the host church) = $25/family/yr
- Numerous miscellaneous expenses
We can charge a flat family rate on account of how our insurance is structured. Adding or removing a child or two per family here or there doesn’t change our premium, and we enjoy being a rare instance of not charging per child, which gives our larger families a much-needed financial break.
When or if you find what seems to be a comparable option at a substantially lower rate, you’re virtually guaranteed to be looking at an uninsured group that is putting itself, its host venue, and its members at considerable risk. (Read more in our answer to the insurance question below.)
CHESS is committed to protecting our member families, our host church, and our organization.
Why should I be willing to pay extra for a co-op that’s fully insured? Doesn’t insurance just protect the organization itself and maybe its leadership? How does insurance benefit me as a general member?
Suppose one of your children breaks or otherwise damages something at the host church (a window, some AV or music equipment, a piece of furniture, etc.) that your family can’t afford to repair or replace out-of-pocket. The host church requires immediate repair/replacement, and the co-op has no deposit on record with the host church nor funds immediately available to cover the cost of repair/replacement.
At the very least, your family may be kicked out of the co-op in an attempt by the co-op to show the host church that at least it took action to hopefully prevent another such incident in the future.
At worst, the host church may decide that the co-op presents too much of a risk...and kick the co-op out.
And that's just the property angle.
Now imagine that a child suffers an injury during co-op that requires hospitalization. Did you know that even if the parents specifically stipulate that they do NOT wish to sue the co-op and/or the host venue, the parents’ private medical insurance may still sue one or both parties? When this happens, it often spells the death of uninsured groups.
By being fully insured (not just at our host church during enrichment classes, but wherever and whenever we go in the name of CHESS), we are protecting your family from demands that you be kicked out when/if an unfortunate accident happens, and we are giving our host church a compelling reason to overlook the occasional unfortunate incident. (We also have a $500 deposit on record with our host church so that they need not wait on insurance payouts.)
So, is it worth it? Ultimately, the choice is up to you. We just hope that this has helped to inform whatever decision you reach.
It still just seems so expensive compared to some other similar groups...
At first glance, we can see how it might feel that way, but there's a chance you may be comparing apples to oranges. This is because we rarely ever charge any class fees. Instead, we use some of the revenue received from our "manna fundraisers" to cover the full cost of teaching supplies -- usually tax-free.
We encourage you to use this interactive spreadsheet to compare the true total cost of CHESS membership against what you would pay to belong to any other group you may be considering.
Are there any discounts?
If you are approved to lead a class, you will qualify for a 15% discount.
If you teach two classes, you will qualify for a 30% discount.
Does CHESS offer scholarships?
Yes! You can apply for a need-based scholarship here. Amounts granted may vary from family to family and from year to year for any given family according to demonstrated need and available funds. Regardless of available funds and/or a family’s financial situation, scholarships are capped at the same discount given for teaching one class (15%). However, scholarships stack along with teaching discounts. Thus, the recipient of a 15% scholarship who teaches two classes in a single semester would only pay 55% of the normal cost of membership.
What does my child need to bring each week?
Each student needs to have a backpack with the following age-appropriate items labeled with his/her name:
- a folder with notebook paper for each class
- pencils and/or pens
- crayons, markers, colored pencils, and/or highlighters
- a pair of scissors
- glue sticks
- a ruler
- a calculator
- any supplies listed in their class descriptions
- gym shoes and socks (if the student is taking a physical activity class)
Please take inventory of these items a few times each semester to swap out dried up glue sticks and/or replace lost colors.
What if my child doesn't want to take any of the classes offered for his/her age during a certain hour?
You will most certainly encounter this situation at some point if you are a longtime co-op member! Please remember, however, that as a parent-led co-op, selections will vary widely from semester to semester. And the classes your kids love will more than make up for the few that they don't. Remember, even if your student doesn't love every subject, chances are s/he will still have a lot of fun making friends and trying something new.
Here are some options to help ensure your child has the best experience possible:
- Look at the classes one grade level up or down to see if you can find a better fit for your child. You may contact that teacher directly to ask if s/he is willing to make an exception and allow your child into that class. (Consult the Member Directory for email addresses).
- If a class seems too challenging, ask the teacher if you can revise your child's workload or skip the homework. If a class is not sufficiently challenging, supplement it with your own assignments. Our teachers really do want their students to learn and enjoy themselves, and they will most likely work with you to find a happy medium!
- If your child is older, s/he may offer to assist in another class as a teacher's helper.
- Finally, offer up a class of your own! (This option must be approved by the board and pursued prior to registration opening.)
"I have a friend who's willing to teach ___ for just $___."
Our area has many individual tutors and tutorial programs. We've poured our hearts and souls into creating an alternative that would give families who can't afford these tutors and tutorial programs comparable access to group enrichment classes. We appreciate the offer, and we aren't trying to offend anyone. Please understand that space constraints limit us to a single class per age group per hour, meaning that someone who couldn't afford your friend's class would have to sit out that hour. We feel that this would be unfair and would go against our core organizational values. We aren't trying to have "the best North-of-Nashville ___ class that money can buy." We want to have fun classes that people don't have to buy.
If your friend would be interested, we're always willing to promote outside classes that are available to our members at a discount. Just send us an e-mail.
Will the teachers assign homework?
Although our classes are primarily focused on enrichment rather than academics, students in certain classes will occasionally be expected to complete certain readings, watch certain videos, etc. independently outside of co-op time. Rest assured that our teachers strive to keep any necessary co-op "homework" to a minimum. We never want co-op to compete with your family and/or school time, and we always want to keep co-op fun. For more information about our homework policy, please refer to our Member Handbook.