Friday, January 20, 2012

The Hard Sell


By virtue of being homeschoolers, we are part of a demographic that online marketers have only recently discovered.  Even in the paltry five years that we have been homeschooling, the home-based curriculum market has gone through a massive growth spurt.  I spent hours, HOURS!, combing through all that was out there when we first started.  For the entire months of June, July and August of 2007, that was how I spent my days.  And this continues to be how I spend my days.

We have had numerous hits and misses with the stuff that we have used over the past few years.  Whenever we make a purchase from a company, we are, of course, added to their mailing list.  I am on the mailing list for Rainbow Resource, Pandia Press, All About Spelling, Knowledge Quest, AppSchool, Core Knowledge, Homeschool Buyers Co-op, Universal Preschool, Classical Home Education... and that is all I can think of off the top of my head.  I get 3 -5 emails per day, advertising some sort of new education product. 

I'm not exactly complaining  (I could easily remove my name from the list) because there is a lot of good stuff that comes our way because of it.  Every week Homeschool Buyer's Co-op sends out a listing of different curriculum items that are currently being offered at a steep discount to co-op members by the supplier.  Lots of beneficial things have been purchased that way.  We have purchased annual subscriptions to Reading Eggs, The Happy Scientist and Discover Education Online  - and I have been really pleased with them.  I am currently considering Brave Writer and a Junior edition of Financial Peace University....

Last week a new science package was being offered.  In order to protect the names of the GREEDY*, I will just refer to them as 'Weovercharge Science'.  As always, HBC wants you to try out the curriculum before you buy, so they provided a link for members to see the site, and get a sample of what they offer.  I was curious, so I did so. 

It is no secret that I hate spam.  I am already at my wits end with Fly Lady emails (10 -15 daily!!), so when I started receiving tons of email from this science site, I was already a little put out.  This past weekend an email was sent out inviting interested parties to join in on a live tele-class on rockets, that was going to be offered on Wednesday (Jan 18th).  It was Monday evening when I clicked on the link to sign up.  I got four reminder emails that we were signed up for the class.

The class looked really cool.  There would be a 'talk' about rockets, and then the instructor, 'A*', would take questions and lead the kids through the steps of building their own stomp rockets.  In theory - this would be time well spent.  We decided to miss out on our homeschool's afternoon group game time (older kids play board or card games) in order to do this.  I actually got both Colin and Owen down for their naps before the class started - with about four minutes to spare.

We had all of the required materials gathered up, ready to go.  We had even sprinted out the door earlier in the morning to go to a bicycle repair shop to get some old tubing.  We logged in, turned up the volume and anxiously awaited for the class to start.  At one o'clock, 'A' came on and welcomed us.  There were 1,700 participants she said.  She had mostly web-chat people, but a few were on the phone.  She put them on speaker and we could here several kids saying 'hello'.  That was pretty neat.  This was the first time we had ever done anything like this - and it felt so neat to be connected.  She began by introducing herself (5 min), and then showed several slides of different rocket types and designs.

That was neat.  There weren't a lot of slides, though.  She talked about Newton's Laws, and then asked a funny kid question: "If you farted in space, what would happen?"  (answer at the end)

This went on for about 25 minutes.  Then she asked us to set a timer for 8 minutes, and during that time, play the video she had set up that demonstrated how to build our rockets - and build right along with her.  So we frantically put our rockets together.

We could stop and start as we needed, but we were not done by the time she came back on.  She had said that she was going to talk about something to do with lasers, but instead - she launched (no pun intended) into a sales pitch to purchase a monthly subscription to her site. 

<<< 45 MINUTES LATER >>>

She showed a teaser to a video on lasers that you could view if you signed up for the online curriculum program.  She answered question that were coming in through email - and several were (surprisingly?) about the online program.  She repeated the web address to the site over fifteen times.  It is a great program, but I just don't have $57 a month (!!) to toss to the wind like that.

I'm more than just a little annoyed.  We sacrificed a full afternoon to do this, but I came away feeling duped!  It felt exactly like it did when Dean and I were on our honeymoon, and the hotel encouraged us to attend a *free* meeting with a hotel employee about purchasing a vacation time-share type of thing.  We had no idea what the meeting was going to be about - and felt very cheated with the precious little time we had for our vacation.

We did end up making our rockets.  In regards to this activity (the stomp rockets) - I will say  - it was well worth it.  We had a lot of fun, and it spurred a lot of new design ideas.  In fact, it even prompted us to sign up for our homeschool group's Science Fair in March.  When the little boys got up we were finally ready to launch.

I wish it were easier and cheaper to connect to the online community like that.  The day is coming - and for some it is already here.  I just don't like the hard sell aspect of all of it.  I also don't appreciate hearing the message from marketers that if I care about my kids' education, then I will buy their product.  That just leaves me feeling sour.  Absoultely the wrong approach, Miss 'A'...

In answer to the question "What happens if you fart in space?", the gas leaving your body (burp or fart) acts as a propellant, and for every action there is an equal and oppostite reaction.  So if you fart, the gas will push in one direction, and you will move forward in the opposite direction.  So if your tether ever detaches from the Space Station, just fart a lot and you can propell yourself back to safety.  :)  No consensus though, between Jordan, Rylan and myself, if the farts, in fact, stink or not. 

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