Emptor (Latin for "buyer beware")
On This Page:
web for "military homeschooling" information
Anyone and (practically) everyone has a web site.
I know this because I have one, and if I can have one, then having a
website is available to almost anyone.
In searching for homeschooling information from
web sites, it is easy to be convinced that a site has accurate, up-to-the-minute
information provided by people who 'know what they're talking about.'
Fancy graphics are convincing, as are gizmos, and laundry lists of links,
especially ones linking to experts. However, as I can attest, anyone with
web access, a bit of space, a stash of images, and either a site design program
or enough HTML knowledge to make a page, can put up a credible looking site.
This topic came to may attention while I was
doing a routine search for references contained in a homeschooling handout for
installation commanders. In the search results, I ran across some sites
that say they are about 'military homeschooling' but, when the surfaces are
scratched, are only a gleaning of available information.
The first site is hopelessly outdated. The
NHA hasn't been in existence since I was in Belgium, and we left there in 1999.
I was a member. I got the disbandment notice.
The second site is an ad farm, something kind of
like a virtual Yellow Pages. If the company has money to pay for an ad,
I've seen other military-specific web sites with
'military homeschooling' information that have been cobbled together by site
administrators who know how to search, but who have no homeschooling expertise.
I'm sure they mean well, but people searching for truly 'expert' information may
be left unsatisfied, or with an interpretation that is different from the
interpretation of the same material by veteran homeschoolers.
An example of 'interpretation difference' is in
an article by a company called AmeriForce.net. The body of the article is
reasonably well done, although I'd change the recommendation to rely on HSLDA's
interpretation of laws, to providing the URL of a site that links to the laws
themselves. The article's sidebar contains information about
homeschooling laws in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Great
Britain. What isn't mentioned, in this article specifically for military
personnel, is the NATO Status of Forces Agreement,
and the provision of
schooling by DoDDS. The implication from the information in the
sidebar is that military families are constrained by local law. The
reality, at least from my eight years of homeschooling in Germany and Belgium, is that
military families are allowed to follow 'American custom.' I'm assuming
there is a similar pattern in the Netherlands for personnel in the country under
the auspices of the SOFA.
Because of the way the World Wide Web is
structured (i.e., anyone with online access can participate), these kinds of sites
will be around, they will stay around, and they will be used as references.
All those of us who do have more connection with homeschooling can do, is point
Buyer, be aware. And good luck, out there.
Quality Child-friendly Cutting-edge Schooling, ONLY Pennies Per Day, that YOU Can
Afford!: Homeschooling Yourself to Read Advertising Copy
Oftentimes the first question a
new-to-homeschooling-parent asks on an email list is "Which curriculum do all
of you use?" After the flurry of replies from the list-members
about each one's method and strategies, the new homeschooler is often quiet
for a long time trying to make sense of it all: how could there be so
many different ways to teach kids? She doesn't remember schools being
that . . . varied.
Another situation is when a new homeschooling 'product' is released, and the
producer of that product joins many email lists and posts what she or he feels
are 'news releases' meant to bring succor to beleaguered homeschoolers.
"This is just what you've been looking for!"
No, it isn't.
And thanks, but we've got plenty of other choices with longer track records.
Still, every new business begins with no track record. So how does the
prospective homeschooler (or the homeschooler looking for change) make a
As in homeschooling itself, there is no 'one right way,' but there are
guideposts useful in navigating the increasingly commercial homeschooling
waters. We're a 'real
market' and people looking to start homeschooling businesses -- regardless
of their own homeschooling-savvy, know that parents care so deeply for their
children that they'll go to great lengths to provide the best for them.
Business people write ad copy that speaks directly to that concern. Be
aware that homeschoolers are being 'marketed to' and we're being told what we
want to hear. The ed-business, not just the homeschooling business, is
less about altruism than it is about cash, jobs and, according to January 2005
news stories, power.
Advertisers specialize in:
-- creating a demand where none exists
-- creating a message to 'influence' the 'prospect'
-- 'flash' (the 'hook' that keeps you reading, but this goes for all writers who
want to be read)
-- using images that draw you in
-- 'harvesting' existing business
Google "ad copy" or "effective selling." After homeschooling yourself about
selling, read the ads with an educated eye. Of course there are people
providing services who deliver what they say and the product is one of quality,
but sometimes, the opposite is the case.
When checking out an organization that is unfamiliar to you:
-- ask email-group list-members if they've heard of it, or
have used the 'school'
-- if not, Google the enterprise:
... if a website has various claims on it, use a search
engine to see if those claims pan out. If a 'school' says it is
accredited by a particular accrediting agency, do a web search for the agency's name and
use the search function at the site to see what the agency says about the
'school' claiming to be accredited through that agency.
... look to see where the 'school' is located, and put the
address in a search engine just to see what pops up; full telephone numbers are
... go to the Secretary of State's website for the state that
the school lists as its location and search under 'corporations' at the site
(you may have to look around the site to find the information). Entering
the name of the 'school' should bring up it's business information allowing
you to see who the responsible parties are, or perhaps the site will produce a
school listing with the appropriate information.
... how long has the organization been established?
... does the 'school' have a physical location?
... is there homeschooling-related information online
connecting the business-owner to other homeschool information (articles,
interviews, or other reputable homeschooling sites keeping in mind that
'bigger' isn't always more reliable)
If you have any doubts, ask to see the product and get a specific breakdown of
services. When you're spending your money, you have a right to ask for
full disclosure. When you're educating your kids, you have a
responsibility -- to your children -- to make sure everything is on the
This Curriculum Will Teach the Kids, Wash the Dishes AND Do the Laundry!
by Mary McCarthy on
HEM-Networking, reprinted with permission
As homeschoolers we have a lot of products and services to choose from. There
are a lot of really great companies and individuals marketing homeschooling
supplies and services. There are also a few `bad apples' in our basket. How can
you tell the difference, and how can you know whether the products or services
are worth what you are paying for them?
When we hear about new products and services on an Internet list where someone
is promoting them the first place to look is at the source. Is this person a
homeschooler? Do they know the product or service they are promoting? Can they
answer your questions? Are they paid to promote this product? Do they use it
You can also ask other homeschoolers if they've used the product or service and
their opinion of it. That's the great thing about the Internet - there is almost
always someone who has already purchased the product and can tell you what they
thought of it.
When you are at a curriculum fair, you can examine the materials and ask the
merchant questions, but when it's on the Internet or comes in the mail that's
not so easy.
*If you are proud of what you are marketing, you put your name on it.*
It's easy to use the Internet to learn more about a product or service. To find
the name of the company search the product literature or web site. Google is a
wonderful tool to search for more information. I like to start by `googling' the
name of the product or service and seeing what comes up. You can also `google'
the name of the person that owns the company and learn more about them and their
background and whether they have homeschool experience. If you can't find it,
perhaps this person doesn't want
you to know who they are. "Google" the address given for the product. While it's
not necessarily a bad thing to find out its a box at the UPS Store, it can give
you pause to know there is no real physical address for the company.
Most states put their corporate filings on line. "Google" `secretary of state'
and `specific state the address is in' and you should be able to find the
corporate records. Most corporate filings include the names of the principle
owners and their street address. While you are there search for other companies
the individuals have registered. Do they go in and out of business regularly?
Want to know if they've ever filed for bankruptcy? Ask
http://www.privateeye.com . Want more
personal information? Try
If you discovered from the corporate records that the school was incorporated 3
months ago, does it seem reasonable for them to claim thousands of students are
enrolled already? A staff of hundreds? If the product claims endorsements from
unnamed experts, who are they?
What's in the Box?
Examine carefully the information you have. If, for example, you are looking at
a curriculum that costs $600 hard-earned dollars, ask for a complete list of
what you will receive. If it's a cyber or virtual school, find out if a computer
is included (own? borrow? cost of shipping and returning if borrowed?) Will you
have to pay for the Internet connection and possible long distance phone
charges? Will you be expected to purchase more supplies, for example, science
experiments or gym memberships? Do they tell you specifically what you will be
receiving, both in products and services? Is there `assembly required"? Are
there any additional fees?
It never hurts to ask the Department of Education if the school is licensed, and
you can check the schools accreditation by going to the accreditor's web site
and searching the list of schools it has accredited. Find out if the school
includes written transcripts so
if you want to later transfer to another school, there will be a record of you
child having completed their grade.
If you go ahead and purchase the materials only to find out they are not
suited for your child, is there a return or cancellation policy? Can you get all
your money back if you are not satisfied?
If it's a curriculum, does it meet or exceed the requirements for you to legally
homeschool in your state? If you state requires testing or a portfolio review,
does the school provide those services and are they included in your cost? What
about individual states that require state history be included in the
curriculum? Is the curriculum compatible with your personal beliefs?
When it's your money and your child's education, you have a responsibility and a
right to see that the products and services you need are provided and worth what
you are paying for them.
Homeschool ID Cards
A new wrinkle in the products offered to
homeschoolers is the "homeschool ID card." With truancy laws still in
effect, and with daytime curfews becoming popular in some areas, homeschooled
teens who may be out-and-about on their own, and with their parents' knowledge
and permission, are sometimes stopped by police officers or truant officers.
The question is the usual one, "why aren't you in school?" The question
should be easily dispensed with by a phone call to the parents. Sometimes
parents can provide the teen with a sense of security by providing a letter or
card stating that the young person is homeschooled, and that the parents can be
reached at the "following number."
But that's low-tech, and no one makes money from it. Enter the ID
Two sides to the ID-provider business (and many other businesses) are that 'if
there's a market, a product can be provided to fill that market,' and the other
that 'homeschoolers are not homeschooling in order to provide others with a
As with many other 'areas of profitability' we all vote with our own dollars,
but with the recent
problems, one must consider that the provision of the 'service' of providing
you with a 2"x3" card you can print up using your computer, or even using the
photocopy machine at the library, can be merely a way of compiling a database of
homeschooling names to which to market other homeschooling 'services.'
This isn't to say that all ID companies do this, only that it is a possibility
that must be considered.