Whitelists and Why You Should Use One

Whitelist our domain

Original photo by Dan Gold, Pixabay

You’ve done all your research on a particular topic of interest. Might be homeschooling, gardening, a social issue important to you, or underwater basket weaving. You’ve found just the right Facebook pages, blogs, and websites to follow, confident you’ll stay well informed and in the loop.

Everywhere you look you are encouraged to sign up for email notifications. Owners of Facebook pages mention something you don’t quite understand about ever-changing algorithms and followers not seeing their latest posts. Web articles contain convenient little “Sign up” buttons. So you give email notifications a try… and spend the next week digging those emails out of your spam folder. So much for being a subscriber!

Security measures employed by email providers can be pretty tough. Spam, spoofing, and phishing are constant concerns. Sometimes our email providers can be a bit too diligent in protecting us from harm.

No matter how often you mark email from a particular sender as “Safe” or “Not Spam,” it never seems to make a difference. Into the “Junk” folder goes their next email. And the one after that. And the one after that. That’s because the “Safe” or “Not Spam” option applies only to that particular piece of mail. What’s a follower to do? Use the whitelist option in your email program or app.

A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. While emails from entities on your blacklist or “Blocked Senders” list will never bother you again, emails from those on your whitelist or “Approved Senders” will always go straight to your Inbox. With just a few steps, you can add your favorite organizations to your whitelist so your “Junk” folder doesn’t swallow anything else it shouldn’t.

Benchmark has a great post with links to whitelisting procedures for most email providers and security programs. If yours isn’t featured, try searching the “Help” page of your program or app for directions. If you are a website owner, you can also find tips on the Benchmark site to encourage your readers to whitelist your emails.

Adding your favorite organizations to your whitelist will make the job of managing your emails more efficient. You will no longer have to go over your “Junk” folder with a fine-toothed comb. And, as an added bonus, you won’t miss out on the latest techniques in underwater basket weaving.

© 2017 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

HSLDA Discount Code

Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators is now a Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) discount group. Families joining HSLDA or renewing their membership can use our code to save $20 off the annual membership price. Home educators from the Northern Gulf Coast region who don’t have a covering are welcome to use our code. Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators – 210734

HSLDA Discount Code.jpg

Ben White: Unsplash

What benefits can you expect from HSLDA membership? Here are just a few…

  • Knowledgeable legal help and protection in a crisis; attorney on call 24/7
  • Up-to-date information on homeschool issues and legislation in your state
  • Veteran homeschool parents happy to give advice about all aspects of homeschooling, including teaching special needs children
  • Magazines, Newsletters, e-lerts, and Webinars
  • Shopping discounts
  • ID cards for students and teachers/parents

The choice to join a group for the purpose of homeschool legal support is a personal one. Some coverings specifically require HSLDA membership. Others do not. Families homeschooling without a covering, and those whose covering makes no specific requirement, must decide for themselves what they think is best.

NGCHE volunteers have made use of their HSLDA memberships over the years. We have received official legal advice on topics such as the scope of a covering’s authority over its members (Alabama), and the legality of homeschooling children who are not your own. We have referred to HSLDA’s website and newsletters on many occasions for guidance on matters such as interactions with social workers and navigating daytime curfew laws.

We at NGCHE highly recommend membership in HSLDA as a wise investment that protects not only your own family, but homeschoolers across the country.

Readers with questions or who need further information are encouraged to email us at NorthernGulfCoastHomeEducators@outlook.com.

© 2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

What Homeschoolers Should Know Before Using PayPal

Using PayPal
If you do business online today, odds are you’re at least somewhat familiar with PayPal. Homeschool parents take advantage of its convenience to pay for field trips, classes, and fees from the comfort of home or via mobile app. No need to chase down event coordinators or drop checks in the mail.

Homeschoolers who use PayPal may have seen conflicting instructions on how to properly tag their transactions. One person or group may instruct you to tag your field trip money as being sent to “Family and Friends” while another may require you to choose payment for “Goods and Services.” Knowing what to do requires understanding some of the details regarding Sellers and transactions. We contacted PayPal for official clarification. Gwen from the Fraud Department was happy to help us out.

A Seller can seek to profit off transactions or keep none of the funds that change hands. If the Seller charges the Buyer a fee or provides a good or service for which he keeps all or part of the money, he owes PayPal something for the transaction. In that case PayPal intends for the transaction to be marked as payment for “Goods and Services.”

If the Seller simply collects money in order to make a group payment to another party and is not keeping any of that money for himself, no fees are owed to PayPal. In that case, the Seller may direct Buyers to tag their transactions as money sent to “Family and Friends” and thus avoid incurring fees. The difference is whether or not the Seller profits from the transaction.

“But, what a minute,” you say. “I know so-and-so’s group is all volunteer and keeps none of the money they collect. Yet they are required to use a commercial account and pay fees to PayPal.” That is accurate, too.

Volunteer groups who take in regular, substantial amounts of money may be required to use commercial accounts. An example might be a statewide group that arranges multiple field trips or expensive events. Even though they may be all volunteer and charge no fees, their activities and transactions likely involve substantial amounts of money. It would be unwise for Buyers to mark those transactions as anything other than for “Goods or Services.” To mark as “Family and Friends” leaves the Buyer with no protection whatsoever in the event of a problem. That is not a situation that PayPal endorses.

Gwen assured me that PayPal keeps their Buyers’ best interests in mind by using algorithms to monitor for unusual activity in personal accounts. Some of the situations they look for include an excessive number of transactions received by a Seller from “Family and Friends.” Unusually repetitive transactions may also call for a closer look. In those cases PayPal may investigate a Seller’s account to ensure that Buyers’ best interests are protected. PayPal may contact the Seller and require him to convert his account from “personal” to “business” to better safeguard Buyers’ activities.

Sellers with commercial accounts must pay fees on all their transactions. On the other hand, when it comes to personal accounts, PayPal leaves it up to the Seller to instruct Buyers on how to tag their transactions. If no profit is made from the transaction, the Seller may correctly instruct Buyers to tag as “Family and Friends” with no fear of wrongdoing.

But… Buyer Beware. If you as the Buyer tag a transaction as “Family and Friends,” there is no protection whatsoever in case of a dispute. You have no recourse if the money is misappropriated or lost. You cannot file a claim with PayPal for fraud protection on money sent to “Family and Friends.”

The good news is that most of us use PayPal for small amounts paid to non-profit organizations or community volunteers not pocketing any of the funds. In that case, PayPal does not intend to charge fees. It is acceptable to mark those transactions as “Family and Friends” as long as the Buyer is comfortable foregoing fraud protection. In that case, most of us have no problem using “Family and Friends” to save ourselves a little money — especially with small transactions like $5 here for admission to a museum, or $7 there for a theater ticket.

If you the Buyer want that extra protection, you may mark any transaction as payment for “Goods or Services” even if it goes into a personal account and even if no money is made by the Seller off the transaction. This is recommended by PayPal for transactions the Buyer deems substantial. However, the Buyer should expect to add those fees on to his payment to the Seller.

PayPal currently keeps 2.9% of “Goods and Services” transactions plus a 30-cent fee per transaction. You as the Buyer will most certainly be expected to pay that amount over and above the original cost. Most Sellers cannot and do not cover those fees but must pass them on to Buyers. It is up to each individual Buyer to decide whether the extra to cover the fee is unnecessary given the situation or money well spent.

©2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators


‘Tis the Season, Part II: Reclaiming Lost Time in Your Schedule

(Disclosure: I received the planner mentioned in this post for free from A Diligent Heart. I was not required to write a positive review.)

In the prior post, ‘Tis the Season, Part I: Before You Go off the Deep End with Lesson Plans, we covered the subject of our homeschool calendars and deciding on activities outside the home. Our calendars filled up quickly when we recorded all the things we were committed to doing AND all our “maybes.”  Time is becoming a rare commodity! However, we still don’t have quite the full picture yet.  If you need a bit of help with organization, Marlene at A Diligent Heart has a fabulous 2014-2015 planner available on her website that will help you keep better track of your time.

2014-2015 Planner available at A Diligent Heart

To be as realistic as possible regarding the time you will need to budget for an activity, you must factor in travel. Here’s what a busy week could look like for us without travel time included, and with travel time included.  It should be crystal clear from comparing the with and without travel time scenarios just how much travel can impact our schedules. You might be ready at this point to throw in the towel on all activities outside the home and take up the hermit lifestyle. Instead, use your frustration as motivation to make positive changes.

Thin Out That List of “Maybes” – Say goodbye to those activities that are only moderately interesting to your children. I have been guilty of pushing activities on my daughter that she did not really care to do any longer because her interests had changed. Listen to your students and their wants and desires. Some things, like piano lessons, are non-negotiable. But you might be surprised at what your kids are willing to give up without a fight.

Be Realistic – Are you expecting a baby or have a newborn? Are you responsible for a child in public or private school who must be picked up promptly every day? Are you strapped for cash? You may need to bow out of activities outside the home for a season. Or limit it to one activity that every child in the family can enjoy.

Make Good Use of Travel Time – If an activity is more than 10 or 15 minutes from your home, use your travel time to your advantage.  The very best use of this time is for reading or music appreciation. Audio books are great options for reading to the whole crew, or students can read independently. Drive time is also a great opportunity to play the works of composers or genres you may be studying in music. Mom or older students can also use this time to quiz younger siblings on subjects such as spelling or history.

Making good use of your travel time sounds fantastic, right? Smart move, you say? Can’t wait to get started?

To use travel time effectively as instructional time you must get organized and minimize distractions.

Plan what you want to cover during travel time just like you would if it was time being spent at home.  Make sure everyone knows to bring along the books, CD’s, notes, etc., they will need.  Gather these items together ahead of time.  Last-minute mad grabs just as you’re heading out the door leave everyone frazzled.

Cut back on socializing. Transport only your own crew. The social butterflies among my readers are probably cringing right about now. But the truth of the matter is that having friends along for the ride will result in very little — if anything — being accomplished.

Be engaged in what’s going on. Moms, get off the cell phones. You will need to participate in study time, even if it is only to keep it on track. Your phone conversation will be a big distraction to your kids. (Not so sure that talking on the cell while driving is a good idea anyway, but that’s another post.) Students should limit their use of electronics, including earbuds, to only those devices and apps they need to complete their work or give privacy.

While these suggestions will help you make use of your time, it may not be necessary to fly solo on every trip out of the house. If your kids greatly enjoy time with friends, and you can spare it, allow them a trip or two each week with company. We can go too far sometimes and close ourselves off completely from others. Homeschooling requires balance, and not everything works for every family. So look at your schedule and decide what you need. Maybe you only need to implement these measures for a short time or only on certain days. Or maybe you are in a place and a season where this really doesn’t apply to you at all. But when you do find yourself scrambling for a little extra time, you have a few ideas on how to find it!


‘Tis the Season, Part I: Before You Go off the Deep End with Lesson Plans

‘Tis the Season! No, not Christmas. It’s the other busy season of the year for homeschool parents — Planning Season!

This isn’t my first rodeo in terms of homeschool planning. Following are a few things I’ve learned over the years that may help you avoid headaches down the road.

Before you go off the deep end with lesson plans:diving board

Network with other parents – Have questions about curricula, coverings or activities? Now’s the time to ask them. You may discover that the materials you considered purchasing are more time intensive than you thought.  Or that the community service project your fifth grader is so excited about only accepts middle school students.  Host a homeschool mom get-together in your home, organize a beach day, or use facebook to chat with friends. The information you learn and share with others can give you a good head start in your homeschool planning.

Order your curricula as early as possible (that’s a no-brainer) – The earlier you order, the more time you have to plan, obviously. If you find yourself procrastinating until the “midnight hour” (like I have done, *ahem*, a few times) e-bay can be a great place to find what you need.

Research extra-curriculars – Friends can be a wonderful source of info on extra-curriculars. However, it is still wise to contact the club coordinator or visit the organization’s website for the latest details. Don’t assume that things will stay the same from year to year. Verify meeting days, times, location, and dues. Some organizations may not have all those details worked out until summer is over, but you will be surprised at what you can learn.

Work on your portfolio – Our family is blessed to live in the state of Alabama, where homeschool regulation is very light. We are not required to keep portfolios, but it is highly recommended you do so beginning at least with high school. This is especially crucial if your student plans on attending college after graduation. If you’re a portfolio veteran, give yours a few thoughts while the prior year is still fresh in your mind. Anything you’d do different than the year before? Is it time for an overhaul? If you have not kept a portfolio but feel the need to do so, start your research now on helpful information to include in it.

Create your calendar – This is no small task, and not to be taken lightly.  A poorly thought-out calendar will cause major problems sooner or later.

1. The basics: Decide on the first and last days of school and what your holidays will be.  Don’t skimp on your planned days off. This is especially easy to do in the fall. The period from Labor Day to Thanksgiving has no major holidays, and many homeschoolers are tempted to cruise right on through without a break. Three words: Don’t Do It!  Learn to love the minor holidays like Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Presidents Day. They are your friends! And by all means schedule yourselves a Spring Break.

2. The definites: Now that your basic calendar is created, it’s time to start plugging in outside classes and extra-curriculars. Write down all weekly and monthly activities to which you are already firmly committed and will definitely continue. At this point our calendar contains the four activities that we will keep no matter what: Art & Music Lessons, 4-H, and Nazarene Youth International (NYI).  Here’s our “definites” calendar for the month of October.  So far, so good.

3. The maybes: The third step is to enter all weekly and monthly activities that you are considering adding to your schedule. Other activities we are considering for ninth grade are Jr. Civitan, science labs, a theater group, and co-op. We have not nailed down exactly which theater group we will join this year. I picked the front-runner in that category and included its meeting day on our calendar. We know the theater group meets on Wednesdays, but we don’t yet know the time. We have also not received our co-op’s finalized schedule for the upcoming semester. We may not attend this year depending on what is offered. However, I have added it on the day it will meet to remind us that it is still up for consideration.  Here’s our “definites and maybes” calender for the month of October.  You can see a big difference after all the “maybe’s” were added.

You may be wondering why in the world I’d put labs in the optional category. The labs appearing on our calendar are not those that go along with our science curriculm. They are stand-alone labs offered by our local science center. While they are fun and educational, I prefer not to count stand-alones as high school credit unless they correlate directly with what we are studying at the time the labs are offered. Sadly, most of these will not. Therefore, they are optional.

Now that you’ve added all your outside classes and extra-curriculars, you should be able to see more clearly what is realistic for you and what is not. A lot will depend on the age of your student and the amount of help available to you. Is your student able to drive herself? Is a family member like Dad or Grandma able to serve as chauffer/chaperone once in awhile? Can you teach or host a class in your home to cut down on weekly travel time? Another option might be to take turns with fellow moms driving and chaperoning one another’s children who are participating in the same activities.

Come back soon for the continuation of ‘Tis the Season as we discuss the pros and cons of carpooling and being a group chaperone in the follow-up post Tis the Season, Part II – Reclaiming Lost Time in Your Schedule.”