CIRCLE Policies and Procedures

(updated Jan 2016)

A Brief Summary

CIRCLE (Children Involved in a Respectful Cooperative Learning Environment) is a secular, apolitical cooperative learning environment open to all families seeking a respectful community. All ages are welcome, from infants through adults. While you need not homeschool to participate, the majority of participating families choose to homeschool in some fashion and many, if not most, events take place during weekdays. We ask that families are respectful of everyone, including children, as we work to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all to learn. To that end, the following policies and procedures have been developed to help all CIRCLE groups function.

Expectations

CIRCLE is a family style, community learning environment. Unless a class specifically states that children may be dropped off, parents are expected to stay with their children. We encourage multi-generational learning and community! Parents/guardians are responsible for their own family. Neither the group nor individuals in charge of events are responsible for your children.

Individuals are responsible for their own actions and are expected to act in accordance to CIRCLE’s policies.

Non-Discrimination Policy

CIRCLE does not discriminate based on any differentiating factors including, but not limited to, the following: religion, politics, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or educational choices. Additionally, offered events should not purposefully exclude a group.

Example: Gender exclusive classes are not permitted. While a class on Women in Science, focusing on accomplishments of roles women have had  in science could be offered, that class must not exclude someone from participating based on gender.

Breastfeeding

CIRCLE supports the legal right to breastfeed. If you are discriminated against or harassed at a venue while attending a CIRCLE event, please let us know so that we can help ensure it does not happen again.

Hate Speech and Discrimination

Hate speech and discrimination of others is not tolerated at CIRCLE events or interactions. Please see the Hate Speech Policy under our Violence Policy.

Secular and Political Policies

Secular

CIRCLE is a diverse, secular group. As such, we ask that CIRCLE events and discussions not involve religion (either for or against) and remain truly secular. This allows us to focus on the goal of forming our community and learning together.

Apolitical

Similarly, CIRCLE is an apolitical group with members of diverse beliefs. While we encourage and appreciate classes that teach civics, current political issues, and government, we respectfully request that families not organize a class that teaches a particular political stance or offer events in coordination with groups linked to either side of politically polarizing topics. While this may limit some potential classes, this policy allows CIRCLE to maintain a neutral stance. If you have questions regarding whether a class would be permitted, please contact a local administrator prior to class submission. Events which are not sensitive to this potential to polarize CIRCLE risk not being approved.

Privacy Policy

Contact Information

By participating in CIRCLE activities, you acknowledge that your name and email address are viewable by other members and that any relevant information, including contact information, may be shared with class coordinators for the activities in which you participate. A contact list for the current session may be given to participating families. CIRCLE does not share/sell contact information with third parties outside of what is stated here.

Photos

CIRCLE may take photographs of students and families at organizational functions for use in yearbooks, newsletters, websites, social media, etc. However, names will not appear next to any photographs which may be used on public sites, social media, or e-mails.

We have many families participating in CIRCLE with various situations. We want to keep all of our community safe. Please keep this in mind regarding sharing photos or contact information. Personal information should not be given out without permission. When in doubt, just ask.

Calendar Access

Administrators periodically go through the calendar and remove access from families no longer participating in the co-op. If you find that you need access, please contact your local CIRCLE administrators.

Non-Violence Policy

CIRCLE maintains a non-violence policy in order to provide a safe environment for all. We ask all members to interact with one another in a respectful manner. Physical violence, shaming, name-calling, or threats toward any member are not welcome at co-op events and you may be asked to leave. As parents, we also recognize that children are still learning how to navigate social interactions and ask that adults both model non-violence and help intervene, when needed, while redirecting toward appropriate ways to deal with conflict.  If you and your child need a place to calm down, please ask the class coordinator if there is a place your family may go in order to calm down together.

Hate Speech 

CIRCLE’s priority is to provide a safe environment for all. We do not tolerate the use of hate speech at CIRCLE events or interactions. For our purposes, hate speech is defined as speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. Use of hate speech as defined by this policy will result in your family being asked to leave CIRCLE.

Weapons

If an event is being hosted at a home which includes firearms, please make certain that all firearms are safely and properly secured. We ask that families leave firearms at home and to not take them to private residences.

We recognize that some classes may involve items which are generally referred to as firearms, explosives, or weapons. We ask that such items be used in a respectful and safe manner if they are integral to a class. If not integral for a class, we ask that these items, along with any firearms or toy weapons, be left at home.

Examples: Rocket engines would be appropriate in a class on rockets. A pocket knife might be needed for a survival class.

Gun Play

We recognize that pretend play is a vital part of childhood learning and working through situations. As such, some children will naturally gravitate toward pretend gun play, using sticks or hands as pretend weapons, and families will have different views regarding what is permissible. We ask that families be cognizant of these differences and act in a sensitive manner regarding this matter, redirecting when appropriate. Any pretend gun play, as with any other play, should be consensual among all participants. Under no circumstances should pretend gun play be directed at someone who does not consent.

Food Allergy Policy

If you or your child has food allergies, please double check with class coordinators about ingredients for any classes involving food. When possible, members are encouraged to disclose this information as part of class descriptions. If a member of your family has a life-threatening allergy, please inform other families prior to attending an event so that they can plan accordingly.

Class Attendance and Illness Policies

Attendance

Co-op participants work hard to prepare classes or coordinate trips with outside venues. Absences, even with advance notice to the teacher, should be avoided. You must contact the class coordinator if you are going to miss a class. If a true emergency prevents you from doing so, please contact the class coordinator as soon as possible. Notifying the class coordinator in advance of an absence may allow another child to participate in the activity in the event of waitlists.

If there is time, e-mail is an acceptable format for notification. Please request that the person acknowledge your upcoming absence. If you have not had confirmation, please contact the person via phone to make certain that they are aware you will not be attending. If time is at a minimum, it is best to contact the person via phone. PLEASE NOTE: Simply changing your RSVP on the Google Calendar entry is never an acceptable form of notice.

Class coordinators are asked to report no call/no shows to local CIRCLE administrators. Chronic no call/no shows may result in being asked to sit out the next session of the co-op.

If you are running late for a class, please try to call the class coordinator in advance. If the class has already started and the teacher is unable to answer the phone, please leave voicemail. We are all parents and understand that running late is sometimes unavoidable. Let’s try, however, to make it our collective goal to arrive at each co-op event on time (or early!).

Illness

In order to protect all of our families, please follow these simple guidelines in regards to illness:

  • Individuals must be fever-free with temperature below 99.6 (without tylenol or similar medication) for 24 hours before returning to CIRCLE.
  • Individuals must also be free of the following symptoms for 24 hours before they can be in a class again: Diarrhea or vomiting, severe sore throat, continuous coughing or blowing nose, undiagnosed rash or skin lesions, and red, itching eyes with discharge.
  • Communicable disease: If a communicable disease is diagnosed (strep throat, chicken pox, pink eye, lice, scabies, impetigo, etc.), please notify the other parents as soon as possible. Follow physician’s/health guidelines for return to CIRCLE.

In the event that you cannot attend a class or must cancel a class you are hosting to due illness , please contact the appropriate members as soon as possible.

Arrival and Start Times

Regardless of latecomers, class coordinators are to begin class NO MORE THAN 10 minutes after the scheduled start time. Feel free to build a little “late time” into your class schedule (let the kids play a game for the first 15 minutes while the adults visit and people trickle in). This may be especially prudent for organized trips to outside venues which may be on a time sensitive schedule (i.e., list the event start time 10 minutes prior to the actual start of the field trip).

If you are having problems remembering classes, here are two things that might help:

  • Set up an email &/or pop-up reminder through Google Calendar. Go into the class entry, look at the Options box on the right hand side, and use the drop down boxes to add reminders minutes, hours, days, or even weeks out. You can add as many reminders as you want by clicking add a reminder.
  • Print your calendar by week or month view to hang up as a reminder. From your main calendar view (be sure you are viewing whatever you want to print – weekly or monthly), click the “Print” icon that is on the top toolbar next to the day, week, and month views. From there you can either print to paper or save as a PDF.

Cancellation and Weather Policies

Class Cancellations and Rescheduling

In the event that a class coordinator has an unavoidable conflict and must cancel a class, it is often recommended to cancel the class completely rather than attempting to coordinate everyone’s schedules.

  • The class coordinator is responsible for emailing every participant. This is easy to do by going into the event on the Google calendar and selecting e-mail participants. They should ask the participants to reply, acknowledging the cancellation. If a reply is not received from a person, the class coordinator should then call that person to make certain the person is aware of the cancellation. We do not want a student showing up to find out a class has been canceled.
  • If a class is cancelled due to an issue on the part of the class coordinator and the class is not rescheduled or a person is unable to attend a rescheduled date, the class coordinator will be responsible for either refunding any fees or giving the fee-based supplies to the person.
  • In the event that a class coordinator chooses to reschedule an event, it is recommended that they pick a date with or without input from enrolled students rather than attempting to coordinate all schedules involved. Notification, with confirmation, should be given for any class changes.

For events which are weather dependent, consider scheduling a rain date (be certain to put the rain date in the class description as well as schedule the rain date on the calendar). If you have a rain date posted in the class description and on the calendar but have to cancel the original date due to weather, you may, but are not required to, refund fees for any student who is unable to attend the rain date.

Inclement Weather

In the case of inclement weather, events at an outside venue will follow that venue’s cancellation policy. For events at a person’s home, the class coordinator should be cognizant of the forecast. Regardless, class coordinators should be in communication with participants regarding status of the class and follow cancellation policies when appropriate. As always, if you don’t believe that it is safe for your family to make an event due to weather conditions, please notify the class coordinator ASAP.

Fee Policies

Fees

CIRCLE operates by families offering up time and resources in order to create a supportive environment and community opportunities. CIRCLE strives to use community participation rather than additional resources in order to create opportunities for families within the group and among the greater community. There is no fee to join CIRCLE and no one is allowed to make a profit off the co-op. To that end, events may only charge for the actual cost, whether that is admission for a field trip or performance or reimbursement for supplies.

We do not want any family to sit out of the co-op due to financial hardship. If you have extenuating circumstances, please email local CIRCLE administrators; we may be able to make alternative arrangements.

Refunds

Refunds for non-attendance are at the class coordinator’s sole discretion. We understand that some things, such as illness or emergencies, are unavoidable. However, please understand that class coordinators may have already paid for supplies or pre-paid for tickets. Class coordinators are welcome to return fees if doing so does not cause a financial burden (they have not yet purchased materials or if tickets have not yet been purchased and the change in numbers will not affect minimums for the ticket price). However, there is no obligation to do this.

If you must cancel a class that you have coordinated, please be conscious of others who paid for the class in good faith. Refunds are easiest in this event, but you may choose to reschedule or disburse supplies to the participants.

Payments

In order to streamline administrative duties, all fees should be sent via Paypal. Paypal is a free online service. Make certain to mark any payments as personal so that the person collecting money is not charged fees. Any payments which are charged fees will be refunded, and you will need to resend them. All payments should list your name in the subject or message area in order for volunteers to easily match your paypal account with your name. PayPal will also be used to disburse admission and supply fees to class coordinators.

Failure to send payments by the fee deadline will result in students being dropped from any fee-based classes. If the event has a waiting list, those individuals will then be given the opportunity to fill openings. If at that point a dropped participant still wishes to attend an event, you must then contact the class coordinator and make outside arrangements for payment, at the discretion of the class coordinator.

Dates to Remember

Quarters

The CIRCLE calendar is divided into four quarters, as follows:

  • Winter Session (December, January, and February)
  • Spring Session (March, April, and May)
  • Summer Session (June, July, and August)
  • Fall Session (September, October, and November)

Planning Months

We start preparing for each quarter one month prior to the next quarter:

  • February is planning month for Spring Session.
  • May is planning month for Summer Session.
  • August is planning month for Fall Session.
  • November is planning month for Winter Session.

Participants are encouraged to chat about possible classes prior to planning. An effort will be made to remind families of upcoming planning dates.

Deadlines

Dates for Planning months will always remain the same:

  • 7th – Class Submissions due (via the Class Submission form and on the Google Calendar)
  • 17th – Enrollment Forms due
  • 27th – Fees due
  • Fees will be disbursed to class coordinators by the end of the month
  • Event invitations should be sent via the Google calendar by the end of the month

Participation and Event Policies

Rather than a one day, one location co-op, CIRCLE allows each families to pick the topic, time, date and location of each class they are offering. Class coordinators may offer one-day events, or they may choose to set up recurring/multi-part events (i.e. weekly throughout the quarter, three times total, etc.). Each family must submit at least one event in order to participate in a session, although you are welcome to submit as many events as you like.

Events

Acceptable events must include a benefit and/or purpose. Such events may include:

  • Classes which explore a particular topic through discussion, presentation, and/or activities, presented by the class coordinator or someone else
  • Field trips to venues with discounted group admissions and/or extra benefits such as guided tours or behind the scenes information
  • Discounted group tickets to performances or recreational venues
  • Celebrations around a particular topic
  • Civic opportunities which combine an educational component with some form of volunteer project are welcomed. Volunteer opportunities must be community issues and not political/controversial in nature in either activity or the benefiting organization and must adhere to CIRCLE policies. Examples of acceptable volunteer opportunities may include but are not limited to volunteering at a senior center, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, nature center, or animal shelter.

Simple playdates, meet up events, or hang-outs do not count toward participation in the co-op but are welcome to be set up outside of co-op participation.

Typical events, when possible, should be at least 1 ½ to 2 hours in order to offset drive times.  It is understood that the length of an event may be longer and that in special circumstances, such as with paid performances or field trips, times may be dictated by the venue or event itself. Events should be able to accommodate a minimum of 6 students, with more encouraged. In an instance when an event can only accommodate a portion of the basic minimum due to space or activity constraints, multiple sessions of the event should be offered to reach the minimum.

Class coordinators are free to specify a target age range which the activity is most suitable and any size limits which the event may have. Teachers are free to specify target age groups and/or size limits for their particular class(es).

It is understood that all events must meet CIRCLE guidelines in order to qualify for participation and be included in CIRCLE.

Procedure for Submitting a Class

Accessing the Google Calendar

The first step to CIRCLE participation is to set up a Google account, if you do not already have one. Setting up a Google account is free, and you can tie your Google Calendar account to your primary email address. Please note that it is important you only use your primary email address for all aspects of CIRCLE (i.e., don’t use one address to submit your class and a different one to enroll).

Once you are signed in to Google Calendar via a computer, look on the left hand side of the screen. In the box marked “Other calendars,” click on the tab that says “Add.” Please contact the local CIRCLE administrators with your primary e-mail address and request access to the CIRCLE calendar if you do not already have access. You can do this directly via the form for your local group on the CIRCLE website. You will receive an email once you have access to the calendar, and you will then be able to see the co-op calendar (you only need to do this the first quarter you participate).

Please note: You must log in to your personal Google calendar in order to view the events shared on the CIRCLE calendar.

Submitting a Class

Class submission takes place from the 1st through the 7th of the appropriate planning month for any given session. There are two things you need to do to submit your class(es):

  • Add your event(s) onto your personal Google calendar and invite your local CIRCLE group to the event
  • Submit your class via the Class Submission Form.

Adding an Event to the CIRCLE Google Calendar

  • Go to your personal Google Calendar.
  • Make certain that your time zone is set to the correct time zone (Hint: GMT-05:00 Eastern, GMT -06:00 Central, etc).
  • Create your event. When possible, please do not select a date and time that will conflict with another co-op class (the earlier you get this done, the more options you’ll have to pick the time/date that works best for you). We prefer to have events spread out on the calendar in order to give everyone the opportunity to participate in as many events as they like. However, this should not limit you from offering an event at a date and time which works best for you. If you have an event, such as a field trip, which can only be scheduled on a specific day, feel free to contact a person who may have scheduled another event on that day to see if they can accommodate a conflict free class schedule. To do this, open the event in question to view the details and click on email organizer to e-mail the person.

Google Calendar Entries

Each event shared with the CIRCLE Google calendar should have the following information:

  • Class Coordinator Contact Information: your name, phone number (cell if possible), and email address. This allows individuals (and administrators) to contact you for further information regarding an event or to let you know if they are unable to attend due to illness or other unavoidable cause.
  • Event Title and Description: Event titles and descriptions are important so that co-op participants can decide, based on the information provided, whether they are interested in signing up for the class. Describe the activities you will be doing and any pertinent information, any rain dates, etc. This is your opportunity to get people interested in and excited about your event.
  • Age Ranges: Some events are more suitable for differing age ranges. Sometimes venues have limitations regarding ages. Please list any pertinent information.
  • Minimums/Maximums: Some events may require a minimum number of students to receive the discounted rate or make splitting supplies affordable. Other events may have limited space. You are not required to have minimums or maximums, but if any exist, they should be stated as part of your event. If an event does have a maximum, please categorize that as 1) students (i.e. 8 students max), implying that parents/siblings of students are welcome to tag along without needing to be counted, 2) attendees (i.e. 25 max, all attendees) meaning you need a headcount of everyone coming, or 3) students and attendees (i.e. 5 students max, 15 attendees max), meaning that there is limited space for both students and accompanying parents and siblings. If enrollment for an event exceeds the maximum or does not meet a minimum, you will be contacted to decide whether you would like to keep the event as is, provide a second event for overflow, accommodate a few more people, open the event to other families, or have a waitlist. You are under no obligation to offer anything other than what is stated in your class description. If you choose to open the event to others, you will be responsible for handling any sign-ups and fees outside of that session’s participants. If you do not reply, we will default to your class minimums/maximums, filling to the maximum with  a waitlist or cancelling the event if the minimum is not met.
  • Date and Time: When setting up a Google calendar entry, make certain that the date is correct and that you have the correct start and end times listed. Recurring or series events can be set up by clicking on Repeat under the date and selecting the frequency and number of repeats.
  • Location of Event. Please include an exact address in the location field, including the city (properly spelled out), state, and zip code to enable the map feature function.
  • Fees: Make certain that you clearly state the fees for the event. If there are different fees for age groups, please state that. For instance, a field trip may have a different fee for adults as opposed to the fee for children. Please state the ages requiring payment. Some performances may require that everyone pay regardless of age while some field trips may only charge for children ages 4 and up. This is pertinent information for those signing up for classes. Please note that you may only charge for actual fees for the class: you are not allowed to profit off of the co-op.
  • Special Considerations: If a venue or your private residence has special considerations, please list those. Example: A private residence which is peanut free due to allergies might state “We are a peanut free home.”

Leave the privacy level set to “default” – the CIRCLE Google calendar is private, so there is no need for you to set your event to private as well.

In the calendar entry for each of your events, click the link on the right hand side that says “add guests.” Then type in the e-mail address for your local CIRCLE group. This address can be found on the Class Submission Form for your local group or by contacting your local CIRCLE administrator. Make certain to save your event before closing out. Your event will then be automatically added to the CIRCLE calendar and all CIRCLE participants will then be able to click on it and view details. After you invite CIRCLE as a guest, you will see your event listed twice on your personal calendar.(in two different colors, if you have chosen to differentiate your personal calendar and the CIRCLE calendar with different colors). One color is your personal calendar, and one is the co-op calendar. (The co-op calendar event will have a question mark next to it until the invitation is officially accepted by a coordinator).

You can edit your class submissions throughout the first week, but all entries must be final by the 7th. If you do edit an entry, be sure you are editing your OWN calendar, not the identical CIRCLE entry. This way all changes will show up on both calendars.

Submission Form

Each session, a new Class Submission Form is generated and posted on the CIRCLE website. You can find the link for the current submission form for your local group on the Class Submission page. Fill out the form once for each class which you are submitting. Questions on the form should be self-explanatory and will include things such as your name, contact information, the class name, associated class fees, class minimums and maximums, and anything else which is pertinent. We use the information in this form to help build the enrollment form and then to enroll students and calculate student fees.

Please do not make any changes to your class after the Class Submission week. If you MUST make changes, you are required to email your class participants regarding those changes. You can use the email function in your class entry on the calendar; be sure to let them know “class description edited to add ____,” or “the location has been changed to _____,” etc.

Procedure for Enrollment

Enrollment occurs during the 11th through the 17th of each planning month. All participating families, those who have submitted at least one qualifying event for the session, will be e-mailed with a link to the current Enrollment Form. You need only complete one form per family. Detailed descriptions of all events can be viewed from your Google Calendar.

Prior to enrolling, please double check each of the events you are considering one more time. Is the age range appropriate for your student? Will you be able to pay the fee? Are you sure you can commit to the event? By enrolling, you are committing to participating in the event(s). After you decide on which events you would like to enroll in, click on the link to the enrollment form.

  • Fill out all contact information. These are required questions, and you will not be able to complete the form without answering them.
  • Check the box next to the title of each event for which you would like to enroll.
  • Follow the instructions on the second entry for that event to signify who will be participating, attending, or both, depending on the event. Participants are people who will be actively participating. If there is a fee for the event, these are the people you will be paying for; this allows class coordinators to buy sufficient supplies or purchase tickets for an event. Attendees are people who will be physically present but not actively participating in the event, such as parents or additional siblings who are not involved in the class. If a class only asks for attendees, the class coordinator needs a total headcount. In case of a fee-based event, fees are charged for everyone.
  • Below the list of events, there is a question which asks for your top three choices. We use this information in the event that a class goes over the maximum number of students. You WILL be enrolled in every class you check unless it goes over the max, in which case we’ll use the top choices to decide the class list.
  • Lastly, please let us know any Additional Information that will be helpful for administrators or class coordinators (including allergies, special circumstances, etc.)

Class Invitations

Invitations for individual events are sent out after fees have been collected. This will cause the event to show up on your calendar twice, similarly to how your own events appear. As you receive invitations to the events you have enrolled in, please click “yes” that you accept the invitation and will attend. By enrolling in the classes, you have already made a commitment to attend. Accepting invitations is a courtesy to the respective class coordinators.

Procedure for Fee Payments

After enrollment for the session is complete, everyone will receive an e-mail with itemized class lists for each family. One person will be in charge of both collecting and distributing fees for each session. The person’s name and PayPal address will be e-mailed to you along with the list of fees owed. If you have any issues regarding payments, you should contact the person collecting fees for that session. Please see the Fees Policy for full details regarding payments. All fees are due by the 27th of the planning month.

After fees are collected, they will be distributed to class coordinators by the end of the planning month.

Administration

Administrators for the respective CIRCLE groups volunteer behind the scenes to help create a  group which works smoothly and is fair and welcoming to all. Most questions and issues can be resolved with clear communication with your local administrators. Any greater issues or concerns will be discussed among the collective CIRCLE administration in order to ensure CIRCLE Policies are working toward the collective goals and overall purpose of CIRCLE.

While we work toward supporting what we, and many others, believe to be a fantastic community and organization, we recognize that one group cannot meet the needs of every family or even all of the needs of one family. We encourage families to participate in many different aspects of their larger community. If you find that CIRCLE is not a good fit for your family at this time, we wish you well. You are welcome to continue to check out the resources we have posted on the website, as we hope to further develop resources for the greater homeschool community, and/or rejoin at a later date if you so choose.

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