Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment. ~Rita Mae Brown
Some time ago, I wrote a series of posts on my experience with K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and Mimi Rothschild. I did this for two reasons…one, to truthfully share my experience – there are some unflattering accounts out there on the web and I felt that I should share my own experience in the hopes that those considering joining the academies that are run by Mrs. Rothschild can use it to make an informed decision. But, there was also another reason…to use this experience to (hopefully) attract more readers to my blog. I didn’t stop to consider the ramifications of how I presented the information.
Since I can be long-winded and detailed, I broke the story up into three parts. I reasoned that since it was such a long story, people would be more likely to read three shorter posts instead of one big, long one. It also gave me a chance to practice writing in a way that would entice readers to come back and find out what happened.
But…would they? What if they just read the first one or two posts, the ones that outline the not-so-flattering parts of my experience and didn’t read the last post which show how the whole thing turned out? Is that helpful or hurtful to those involved? I certainly don’t want to hurt Mrs. Rothschild or her business, so I have made the decision to consolidate all three posts into one. I’ll summarize my experience before going into all the details…so, you can read it all or not…but please, at least read the summary. I want you to get the whole picture, not just bits and pieces. I have cut and pasted the original blog posts and have changed nothing. The links to the other “parts” will lead you to the original page, but that has been changed to lead you back here. I don’t want anyone just picking the bad parts to link to.
And so…if you’re interested in all the details, pull up a chair grab a cup of coffee and stay a while. If not, I hope that you’ll at least read the summary with careful consideration.
In January of 2011, I looked for an online program to use in our homeschool. I was dealing with some health issues that made keeping up with everything difficult and was hoping to find something affordable to relieve some of the pressure on me.
I came across K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and loved that there were basic classes that were tuition-free…with our tight budget, that was perfect! I enrolled my daughter in 5 classes and waited for the discs to arrive. But while I was waiting, I looked around on the parent’s forums and it seemed like it wasn’t well maintained and a few parents were complaining about some things, like not receiving materials. I started looking around on the internet and came across some accounts of experiences with K12FREEHOMESCHOOL and Mimi Rothschild that made me begin to fear that I had, perhaps, fallen for a scam.
The disks arrived as promised, we started the classes without any problems. My daughter enjoyed the classes and I even began to see some improvement in the areas she was struggling in and was very happy about that.
After a couple weeks, it was the end of the month and when the new month started, I discovered we couldn’t log in until a mandatory donation was paid. I was irritated that there was only option for the donation amount – $24.95 – and logged into the live chat again for help. I was told that the amount was fixed and couldn’t be changed and that was made clear on the website. I argued that when I enrolled, it said it was a “free-will offering”! A “mandatory donation” is not a free-will offering, it’s a fee! I was told that there was nothing that could be done about it, that’s just how it is and once the full amount is paid, then we can log in and use the academy again.
Now, I really felt like I had been scammed. This was not what was portrayed on the website when I enrolled my daughter. As a safety precaution, I cancelled my debit card. I wrote a strongly-worded letter to Mrs. Rothschild about how disappointed I was that an academy that portrays itself as “Christian” would conduct its business in such an un-Christlike manner and that I was sending the disks back.
After a few days, I got a phone call from Mrs. Rothschild herself. She apologized for the experience I had and explained that she had been going through some personal difficulties that made it hard to keep up with the academy. She explained that her son had unexpectedly died the year before and then shortly after, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and during dealing with all of that, there were some issues with her staff and the website. Several families had signed up believing it was free, only to find the same thing I did, that we couldn’t use the site without paying a “mandatory donation.”
Mimi also refunded what I had paid for the shipping cost to receive the disks and offered, if I wanted, to send them back so we can continue with the academy and that she would make sure we (as well as all the other families that had enrolled during the same time as we did) could use the Academy for free until the end of June. After praying about it, we decided to give it another try. I didn’t have to give my new debit card number and she did all that she promised to do. She even sent me a lovely devotional journal.
I have corresponded with Mimi several times since all of this happened. I really don’t feel that she is a conniving, scheming person bent on taking over homeschooling, as one website has portrayed her. She went above and beyond to correct the wrongs and apologized for everything. I don’t feel that the gift of the devotional journal was any kind of “bribe” or attempt to butter me up. I feel that it was a sincere offering of reconciliation.
Now, I know that I don’t really know Mimi aside from the scathing reviews online by someone who may have an axe to grind and her own words. I can’t say for sure that her husband does indeed have cancer, nor can I verify that her son had died (only because I don’t know his name so I can look into it) and it’s possible that she was just saying those things to gain my sympathy. But, I really do feel that she was sincere in all her communication with me. In my spirit, I feel that she was honest with me and I lift her and her family and business up in prayer.
Although I initially had some issues with the academy, in the end I was very satisfied. My daughter enjoyed the classes, I enjoyed some relief from planning and the stress I was under at the time. I don’t regret at all my decision to enroll my daughter in the Academy. Budget constraints this coming school year will prevent us from using the Academy again, but if we had the extra money I would enroll her in a class or two. My daughter had expressed to me that she did not want to do all her classes online this time…not because of the academy, but simply because she wants to do school like we usually do…because she likes to spend time with me. That made my heart smile to hear that!
What follows is the original series of posts consolidated into one. I simply cut and paste, I did not change anything. This is a true account of my experiences…
If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, you’ve probably heard about Mimi Rothschild and her Academies. Do a google search for her and you’ll find lots of opinions, some good, a lot not so good. How do you discern the truth from disgruntled people with an axe to grind? There is a lot of information on the internet…but as Clarence Day from The Crow’s Nest once said, “Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.” It’s been on my heart for some time now to honestly share my own experience with K12FreeHomeSchool and Mimi Rothschild. It is, of course, up to you to decided whether to believe what you read, whether on this blog or somewhere else on the internet, or not.
HOMESCHOOLING FITS OUR LIFE AND ALL ITS SURPRISES
We’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and it’s something I really enjoy. Oh sure, some days are better than others…and then there’s some days where I want to load up the kids and drop them off at the nearest public education institution…and then check my self into an institution on the way home. But, one of the things I love about homeschooling is how flexible it is, and how easily you can alter or change your school program when life throws a curveball at you.
My curveball, or curveballs, rather, were an unexpected and complicated pregnancy and the subsequent delivery of one Very Demanding Son, who has grown into One Very Busy Preschooler…and then Some Ongoing Health Issues that have made it difficult to homeschool. Or do housework. Or function normally some days.
K12FREEHOMESCHOOL…A DREAM COME TRUE?
So, when I came across a link to K12FreeHomeSchool and checked out the site, I was very excited! Could this be the reprieve I need to get myself together and to manage things better? My daughter seemed kind of bored with our regular routine, and frankly, I was too. She loves the computer programs and online sites we’ve used as part of her curriculum, so why not?
The other appealing factor was that it was a Christian school. It is very important to us to teach our children not only academics, but sound Biblical principles. That’s just not something they teach in public school anymore. So, to find an affordable online Christian academy seemed like a dream come true!
ENROLLMENT PROCESS AND CHECKING OUT THE SITE
I went through the enrollment process and chose four core classes: math, science, English, and social studies. These classes were listed as tuition-free, there were other classes such as health or art and music, that had a substantial tuition amount, which was beyond our budget. Whenever I had questions, I was able to get in contact with someone on the the Live Chat feature who answered my questions satisfactorily. There was a $4.95 shipping fee to send the discs we needed for each class, so the total for all four classes was $24.75. You are required to keep a debit/credit card on file, which I was a bit uncomfortable with because if there was a mistake in billing or an extra charge I was unaware of it could be problematic with our lean bottom line, but then at the same time I do understand that people can be unreliable and not pay for things and any school or business needs funds to operate.
According to the site, the academy appreciated a monthly Freewill Offering, which is totally understandable. There was an offering form you could complete, and I found it interesting that the only option seemed to be the suggested $24.95. Since I planned on contributing what our budget allowed, and at a later time, I didn’t look into that all that much.
After I paid for the shipping, I was able to log into the parent and student websites, so I logged in and started looking around. In the forum area, I was a bit unsettled that there weren’t more messages, as in answers to parent’s questions about the program or problems they were having with the discs or payments. There were a few responses from academy staff, but mostly it was people looking for help and not finding it, and then complaining about it. Also, the forum posts were very sporadic, hardly any current, and some going back to 2009! It didn’t seem to me like it was administered very well.
I decided to do what I really should have done to begin with…a little investigating.
As I began writing about my experience, I realized that this would be an incredibly long post, so I’ve decided to make it a serial blog post. In Part 1, I chronicle why I sought out a program like K12FreeHomeSchool, my experiences with the enrollment process and checking out the site and why I decided to do a little investigating. This post, I’ll share what my investigation uncovered and continue sharing my personal experience. I hope you’re ready for the next installment!
GOOD HEAVENS, WHAT HAVE I DONE?
I did a search on “K12FreeHomeSchool complaints” and that is where I first came across the name, Mimi Rothschild, along with hit after hit about K12FreeHomeSchool. It was quite disconcerting to see “DISTRAUGHT FAMILIES SEEKING TO EXPOSE FRAUD BY MIMI ROTHSCHILD AKA…” and text following stating “For years there have been complaints against Mimi Rothschild’s companies. …. I ‘ve left out many more complaints, but you get the picture.” I started to get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that maybe I had made a mistake.
I read many statements by clearly unhappy people about the way the academy was run. Complaints about not receiving materials (or even the materials themselves), not being able to get videos or discs to work, and a host of complaints about the apparent lack of customer support – emails never answered, no phone number to call or if there was a phone number, you could never get a hold of anyone, rude staff, etc. Particularly distressing for me was one lady’s account of having returned the discs as directed only to have been charged over $200 for not returning them (there is a $10 fee per disk for not returning them). We are a one income family on a very tight budget so seeing this type of thing is not encouraging at all…especially when my debit card is on file with the academy.
There is one person in particular that seems to either have a very substantial case against or has made it a personal mission to “get” Ms. Rothschild. There is even a lawsuit involved – Ms. Rothschild has sued her because she believes this person has libeled or slandered or libelously slandered her and her academies. This was starting to look like one sticky wicket.
THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING, SO TO SPEAK
Being a bit uneasy about the endeavor upon which I had just embarked, I sent an email to inquire about when I should expect our discs to arrive. After a couple days, the email was returned…I don’t remember the exact error listed, but it wasn’t the standard “undeliverable” error. Still, when the website says email is the fastest way to get a response, and two days later it’s returned unanswered, well, that doesn’t look so good either. So, I logged onto the Live Chat, got a person just about right away, and asked about the shipment of the discs. I was told I they were shipped and I should receive them within 7-10 days. Ok…nothing to do now but wait. If we didn’t receive the discs, well then, that would help me make up my mind about this academy for sure.
On the seventh day, we received the discs as promised. I was very relieved, and decided that we would give it a try and see what happens. We had no problems with the discs working or logging into and using the parent or student websites. There was a bit of a learning curve, of course, in learning how to navigate and use the site, but overall it was pretty easy. Everything was going along splendidly (aside from one day that we couldn’t log in, which after another Live Chat session I learned it was due to an ice storm in their area that knocked out their servers) until the end of the month.
On January 30, I logged in to get my daughter started on her day’s school work, only to find a message directing me to complete the required donation form before proceeding. So, I went to the donation form as directed, where once again the only option was to “donate” $24.95. There was a link to the donation form in a sentence on the right (which had mysteriously disappeared the next time I was on that page), so I clicked on it and was able to put in my own amount instead of the $24.95 and completed the process. There was a message thanking me for my contribution so I assumed it went through.
I waited a bit before trying to log on, but was not able to. So, once again, I contacted someone on the Live Chat feature. That was where I learned that it was not a Freewill Offering, as I believed. The person I chatted with this time, however, was quite rude and not helpful at all.
After stewing about it and talking to my husband, we decided to cancel our debit card, return the discs and withdraw our daughter from the academy. She was very upset about the whole thing as she really liked the coursework and activities the academy provided. I sent the discs back, along with a strongly-worded letter addressing my disappointment and dissatisfaction with the way the academy handled its business, especially in light of the fact that this was purported to be a Christian academy.
I never expected to receive a response from Ms. Rothschild. And after reading a couple accounts online of other people’s interactions, I wasn’t sure I wanted to anyway.
If you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2, you’re up to date on my experience with the academy and Mimi Rothschild so far. This final installment will reveal my own personal contact with her as well as what conclusion I came to after reflecting and praying on the whole matter.
CELL PHONE SURPRISE
Fridays are my errand-running days. My daughter is enrolled in a local homeschool support program where she is in classes for four hours each Friday. She loves it – she gets a little taste of what “real” school is like, more socialization opportunities, physical education and a locker. Mom gets time to run errands with Mister, although some days it’s more fun than others to have Li’l Busy Man along to “help” mommy.
The Friday after I had sent the discs back, I was in the drive-through line at the bank when my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed a Pennsylvania number that I didn’t recognize and I almost didn’t answer it. It never crossed my mind that it could be Mimi Rothschild, but that’s exactly who it was. The connection was very bad and she said she’d call back when she got to her office and could use a land line. I wondered if she really would, but when I was in an Asian grocery store picking up a 50 pound bag of khao niao, my cell phone rang again and it was Mimi. I said a quick prayer that the conversation would go well – not only that she would be pleasant to deal with, but that I would as well and that we would be able to resolve this issue in a way that honored God.
APOLOGIES AND EXPLANATIONS
She apologized profusely and expressed her disappointment about what had happened and said that she would be dealing with her staff, possibly including firing someone. Not just because of what had happened to me, but because this type of thing had been happening, apparently, for some time and there were many families affected by this.
She continued to explain about some things happening in her life that made it difficult for her to be on top of her staff and the goings-on at the academy. They were also making the switch from being a donation-based service to a monthly fee-based service and the webmaster, who had assured her that everything was copacetic, either made a mistake or lied about it because clearly leaving wording on a website that leads one to believe a free-will offering is, indeed, an offering that is freely made of one’s own volition and not mandatory for using the service is at least confusing if not misleading.
I don’t feel that going into detail about all of what has been going on in her family’s life is really the thing to do here – I told her I was going to blog about this experience, but have not asked her permission to reveal the details. I would appreciate the same discretion myself. But suffice it to say, I can certainly see how dealing with some truly tragic and devastating circumstances such as those would make it difficult to stay on top of everything going on in a person’s life. I know I would have a hard time as well.
The whole time I was listening to her explain things, there was such an internal struggle going on for me. I don’t know this lady…I’ve read some really unfavorable things about her on the internet…she could just be making all this up, how would I know? Yet, I want to believe the best about people, I want to believe what she is saying is true, and I don’t want to hold a grudge against her.
SINCERE RESTITUTION OR A BRIBE?
She offered to refund whatever I had paid, including the cost to send back the discs I had returned by certified mail. She also said that anyone who had signed up within a certain time period, during which all the confusion arose over whether it was a free-will offering or not, would be able to use the service for free until the end of August, 2011. If we wanted to re-enroll our daughter, we just needed to let her know and she’d send the discs back to us at no charge. I told her I’d have to discuss it with my husband and I’d let her know. We did decide to let our daughter continue on in the school because she really liked it, provided, of course, that Mimi followed through with what she said.
And she did. She even sent me a very nice devotional journal and when one of the discs we needed was overlooked and had to be sent to us, she included a book for my daughter as well. Some may think she’s just trying to bribe me or butter me up…but I have chosen to believe, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that she was doing her best to right how I’d been wronged. Not only was I disappointed and felt deceived, but I was also very much inconvenienced with the whole affair. As a Christian, I believe it is right and proper to not only right whatever wrong has been committed, but to go above and beyond what is expected, just as Jesus has done for me. I don’t deserve his death, or the continued mercy and grace He lavishly pours out on me…and I am the one who did the ‘wronging’, not him!
TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE…
I can’t answer why others have written such horrible things about her, maybe there is truth there…maybe they just have an axe to grind…maybe they are just miserable people who are not happy unless others around them are miserable. She talked a bit about the lawsuit I had read about and said that she had offered to fly the other party out, at their expense, so they could see for themselves the office and staff but they refused. Again, it is her word over theirs…I can only go by my own experience.
While I initially had a disappointing experience, I do feel that Mimi was sincere. I truly hope that I am not wrong in deciding to believe her story…I have been praying for her and her family, and text her from time to time to let her know I am thinking about her and praying for them. I also pray that if the accusations swirling around on the internet are unfounded, that the Lord’s justice will prevail…well, regardless of the veracity of the accusations, that the Lord’s justice will prevail in this situation.
NO EPIC WOULD BE COMPLETE WITH OUT A MORAL…
The moral of this story is, of course, buyer beware and be sure to investigate anything on the internet…but also, don’t just believe everything you read in the blogosphere. I really believe, based on my own experience, that…in spite of the plethora of damning blog posts out there…Mimi Rothschild was sincere in her apology and truly wanted to make things right for me. I declare that every word I have written about this situation is true, to the best of my knowledge, and I have not written this to mislead anyone – only to provide an honest assessment of my interaction and experience with Mimi Rothschild and K12FreeHomeschool.
I encourage you also to pray about all decisions you make, especially those that affect your children and their education, whether you homeschool or not…and listen to what God tells you.
Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me…