Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Response from Winter Promise

 I finally received a response from Winter Promise.  And it certainly shows the true nature of the company. If I had to pick one word I'd use shameful.  The chance of them correcting the glaring errors in that program are slim to none.  They offered lame excuse after lame excuse and no intentions of fixing the problems.  

I have pasted his email response below, along with my responses to him.  His words are in light blue, mine in dark.  His is supposed to be black but for whatever reason, blogger wants them light blue.  Sorry that it's hard to read.

This is exactly what I emailed  to him. 


It is my hope the explanations in this email help your frustration in some way.   In general, I think that our Charlotte Mason approach was not what you expected and was not what you wanted.  The Charlotte Mason approach encourages a student to look at education as a “journey of discovery,” and has a little different approach from a strictly literature approach.  It has parents and students alike discovering together through a variety of resources.  If you haven’t had a lot of exposure to this methodology, or how it functions, you may be feeling some disconnect to the learning goals that our program relies upon.  
I am very familiar with the Charlotte Mason method.  I don't think you've hit it with this core.  I can see a little more of her method in some of your other products but definitely not in CAW.  When I think of Charlotte Mason this is what comes to mind: living books, whole books, narration, short lessons, nature walks, nature notebooks, art appreciation/picture study, copy work, dictation, time lines, handicrafts, composer study.
The disjointed feeling, for me, comes from the way materials are organized.   I'm studying Switzerland and reading about Spain and a family stranded on an island off the coast of Africa. I get that it's a Swiss family but the book is more about their life on the island. And, ironically, while studying Africa we're supposed to read Heidi.
We read about a little about the Netherlands but there isn't a page for in the travel diary. So I have to make my own.
And I'm not the first person to mention this disjointedness.  I was reading on your forums and plenty of people were  unhappy.  All they way back in 2007.  Yet five years later, I'm dealing with what they complained about.
I read about one woman who said they're finally enjoying it because she dropped a lot of the books, rearranged the schedule, and spent hours finding other materials.   That's not something that I want to do.  It's not something that I, or anyone else, should have to do.  I paid you a lot of money.
You mention in the catalog and online that CAW is not your typical open and go program due to the cultural gatherings.  At no point to you mention the need for tons of other materials to complete assignments.  If you're not going to provide the proper materials for the assignments then maybe you should give people a heads up about the need for additional materials.
I’d like to share some of my thinking on some of the difficulties you presented over the phone:
Draw Your World:
It is important to recognize that the methodology of this learning approach is to have the student draw the countries.  As the student engages a country he is also looking at its shape.  This repetition is key for learning geography.  The desired outcome is not necessarily for the student to remember every detail, but that, by drawing the countries, he or she will be more likely to remember the country’s name and location for a lifetime.  The Sketch that you referenced does of course not show the following: (There is reason behind the map that is pictured in the book)
I'm going to call a big, fat cop-out here Don.  Your response to this is unacceptable.
1.        Iceland—due to the projection of the map and the constraints of the size of the page and a student’s need to be able to write in each of the countries . . .  Iceland  was “cropped” out due to its location.

You might want to check out Homeschool in the Woods or Knowledge Quest maps.  They were able to include Iceland on an 8x11 map of Europe.  Also look at  They have a wonderful map of Europe with Iceland and the boundry of Europe.

2.       Russia—due to the size of Russia and the learning tool of drawing the country; Russia is on the “Asia” sketch.  The importance of seeing and drawing the full country takes priority over the Europe/Asia distinction. 

It doesn't really matter whether or not Russia is on the Asia map.  You ask them to clearly mark the boundary between Europe and Asia in sketch 7.  You give them an incomplete map of Europe to mark it on.   Shame on you!!!  You also ask them to label the Caspian Sea, Barents SeaUral Mountains, Caucasus Mountains, Volga River, Don River, and the Ural River.  None of which are on the map that you provided for the assignment. 

How is this not supposed to be a problem for your customer?   

3.       Ukraine—to include more of the Ukraine (like Iceland) would significantly reduce the ability to practically use the map because of the map’s size on the limits of the page.

The solution to this is simple.  Don't ask them to label things that aren't on the map you provide. Or chose a different map.  Again I suggest you check out this site. 

4.       Water versus Land---as part of the learning objective we ask students to color in the water, which has them more fully interacting with the map.

I don't have a problem with the learning objective.  I have a problem with the shoddy map that you provided.  

5.       Projection—(You told me the Caspian or Black Sea looks like a lake) How a location looks does change based upon a map’s projection, and this is a reflection of that. 
Are you kidding me?  That's your response to the fact that your map , that I paid for, is drawn incorrectly.   It's for a child's assignment.  A child who is supposed to be learning to sketch Europe from this map.  Your assignment asked them to color the water.  It's hard for a child to do that on this map.  The assignment wan't about map projection it was to color the seas.   I'm FURIOUS Don.  

 Instead of the Baltic Sea flowing into the North Sea, you have it landlocked.  That is a problem Don.  And it's not a problem with me or my child.  It's a problem with your product and your company's inability to admit they made an error and your  refusal to correct it.  

               You show me where in that book where you explain to them about map           projection.  And nowhere in the actual assignment do you tell them to be aware of map projection. 

 I, as an adult, can spot the error easily.  A child, however, probably needs the map to be drawn correctly.    

I can't even believe that is the best excuse you could come up with.  I don't even think it's the truth.  The truth is that you don't want to fix it until you use up the copies that you already have printed.  That is so shameful.

And for the record, go read you forums.  People have been complaining about the maps for upwards of 5 years.

We do plan to make a note that Iceland is not on the map.  We will also edit to see if there are some items listed that are not on the map sketch. 
        Gee thanks.  Don't forget  Greenland, the Caspian Sea, Barents SeaUral Mountains, Caucasus Mountains, Volga River, Don River, and the Ural River while you're at it. 
Geography Worksheets:
The purpose of the Geography worksheets is to give the student another opportunity to reinforce the “look” of a country as part of the learning process, and to learn how to interact with all types of maps, and find a given location or landmark.  These questions in these worksheets are another opportunity to see a country’s shape.
You asked why you would need to get additional maps after you purchased the program.  We make it clear that an atlas or globe are required to complete the program, but for unified results on something such as the geography worksheets, it simply works better to be working from one set of maps.  This map set is free to everyone on the internet, a price point our parents usually like!  In addition, an aspect of our educational approach is to engage a student by utilizing technology/the internet.  The student is learning key researching skills for the future, plus, the web is a treasure trove of information offered free of charge, and is a powerful educational tool.
The problem is, Don, that even after using the recommended online maps in your program, you still couldn't complete the assignment.
1.       Ireland-  I did not have any problems with this worksheet online.
2.       Switzerland – (yes the typo you mentioned)  I did have to go online to answer two of the questions.  I googled for a map of Switzerland and was able to find one that had the information I was looking for.  I also googled the “answer” at the back to test that as a method to finding the answers.  We could consider removing the questions you referenced-- the learning objective would still not be compromised.  I am not sure it is poor educationally to have a student utilize the internet though.  But I do understand that it is not always possible to do so.

I am sorry for your frustration with the Geo Worksheets, but we believe they accomplish the objective intended.  In looking through the rest of the year’s assignments, I cannot spot any difficulty with completing them as outlined.
Then be up front about the need for additional research.  You give an assignment, say to use this, that, and the other to complete it but it can't be completed with the resources that you've recommended.  How do you not see this as a problem for customers?  BE UP FRONT.  It's really not that difficult.  

Population Information: This information is in the book Material World.
Find Out About SpainFrance and China:  You shared with me that you were frustrated with the book because it had you reading Spanish.   Our approach to the material in these “cultural experience” books is to have fun.  Many families have gotten a good laugh at the reader’s expense, however, most families browse through the language section together, everyone looking on, while seeing the words and their meanings.  As they sit together on the couch, they experience the language and try it out for themselves.  (This is a part of the Charlotte Mason approach.)  Some students are fascinated with language and others are not.  This book is not intended to be a language lesson, but instead is intended to introduce the reader to the culture.  Language is part of culture.  Our expectation with all of the “language” content in this series is fun and exposure to the “sound” and “feel” of the language.  This is clearly the goal of these books, as well, rather than language instruction.  But we understand that not every book is a winner with all people.
I guess I think it's a little redundant to be reading page, after page, after page of Spanish phrases.  I'm all for reading aloud with the crazy voices and accents but reading page after page of this this while we're supposed be be studying Switzerland and Netherlands is what I would call dis-jointed. She could've been learning something about one of these countries.
I don't really want to dispute your book choices because different people  like different things.  Although I don't feel like it really represented Spanish culture.  At least not according to my husband, who's been there.
Stonehenge:  We spend a lot of time on Stonehenge in our Ancient Worlds Study.  The purpose of CAW allows us to give only snapshots of many interesting things.  We actually hope that this spurs students on to investigate some of these landmarks more fully for themselves.  This is another goal of the Charlotte Mason approach, and the fact that your student was inspired to seek for more information on this topic is a sign of success within this learning approach.  This particular “snapshot” can lead to a great educational experience on the web or in a library, and students can decide for themselves what interests them and what they’d like to pursue, which may be different from student to student (even within families).
Again, I say BE UP FRONT and say that.  Tell me that I'm going to need to look into a lot of extra resources.   And what was the point of my buying that cultural resources package if it wasn't going to cover any of the things in the notebooking pages?  
And let me be clear that the fact that she had  to research Stonehenge might be a success for Charlotte Mason, it is not a success for your program.  People purchase boxed curriculums because they don't want to have to spend the time researching for materials.  I paid you to provide the materials necessary to complete the program.  You failed.  
Day after day after day I had to look else where to complete the assignments that you provided.  It would've been nice to have been able to complete some of the assignments with the materials I paid for. 

At the very least, you should be honest and state that cultural gathering prep is just the tip of the iceberg in the amount of time that the parent has to spend prepping for this program.

Plight of the Children:  You mentioned that this section was too fact-based.  Although it is not all fact-based, we think that facts provide a great opportunity to discuss the information and its implications.  The Charlotte Mason approach advocates exploring facts, and discovering things through text and pictures, particularly art, and this is how the resource “Material World” is to be used.  Parents and children alike have been greatly moved by the relative excess of our country compared to less privileged countries around the world.  This book is a photojournalistic essay (an artform in and of itself) that seeks to show these differences, as well as allowing people to peek into the homes, workplaces, and schools of nations around the world.  The book, “Working Children” is designed to be used in much the same way as “Material World,” but portrays the problem of children who are forced to work.  Again, the idea is to discuss and evaluate the facts, and talk about their implications.  The “Prayer and Personal Involvement Journal” from this section is anything but fact-based, but instead seeks to have students evaluate their own life situation against the life situation of others around the globe.  Our reviews on the “Plight of the Children” section have been very good, but we do recognize that it may not be what you expected.  I would think this is another instance in which the Charlotte Mason approach really isn’t one with which you feel comfortable.  The learning goals/methods are likely just different than those you embrace.
I think Material World is a fabulous, although dated, book.  The intro to Working Children was also wonderful.  Then it turned into a great, big snooze fest.  We only got 6 weeks into the prayer journal.  Apparently it started off slow with us.  And none of it seems to gel together.  It's so random. 

Kevin asked if we would take the whole program back.  I looked up your order and saw that the last item was shipped on April 22nd.  At the time of your phone call, you had the curriculum for five months.  We are always willing to talk and work with people due to our inventory issues.  Usually we get a call from a family around six weeks after they order.   They do not know if they want to return it yet, so they are making sure that they still have time.  We always let them know that as long as they have called it is not a problem.
Actually,  the last time I received anything from you directly was in April.  I received random items from Amazon all summer.  Your shipping methods are appalling.  
I was only notified once that something was coming and the shipping info was incorrect at that.   I would receive random shipments of items, never with a packing slip.  I'm still not sure to this day if I actually received everything.  
Of course you know all of this because this is typical of your shipping methods.   You can just read on your forums to see a million discussions of the ridiculous shipping practices.  I have a local friend here using WP this year and her shipping experience was the same.  
We are willing to refund you for the Children of Many Lands book and the Geography Worksheets if you send them back.  This is not according to our policy, but it seems a reasonable thing to do.

Keep your money.  Clearly you need it more than we do.  Instead, I'll give you something.  My prayers.  I am going to be praying for your company without ceasing.  I am going to be praying that God will touch your hearts and that you will take the steps necessary to correct the many errors in the products that you put out.  

You are taking people's hard-earned money and giving them a error-riddled product.  I am not saying this to be mean or because I'm angry. I'm saying it because it's true.  I'd suggest that you send some time reading on the forums.  People are mentioning all the errors, they have been for more than 5 years.  There are too many errors in the books you publish, there are errors in the IG.  I had to spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out page #s because you had the same assignments repeated over and over.  
I've had many people comment on my blog and say how they've had to drop your programs because of the errors.  I asked one woman why she didn't report the errors; she said it was because it didn't seem like it would matter. You could barely handle the shipping problems.
I'm going to leave you with a little bit from a couple of posts that I found on your forums.  This was back in 2008.
A mom asked...
I know that there are typos and such in the TM's regarding wrong or duplicated pages and I'm wondering if there's a corrections "sticky" or yahoo area where previous persons or WP has corrected these errors? 
Another user responded with...
It's a fabulous idea!!! But doesn't exist.  Very sad.  I find them a lot too.  There doesn't seem to be much concern about it.
I think the part that I bolded and underlined says it all.
I think the idea of your program is a good one. That's why I decided to give it a try.   The execution is poor.  It could be great if you started corrected the errors.  Quite frankly, it's the right thing to do.
I'm praying for you Don.
Stefanie Smith

I'd like to encourage anyone who's had issues with errors within a Winter Promise program to write them and let them know.  Even if it was years ago.  They are sticking their heads in the sand and trying to pretend that there isn't a problem.  In the meantime, they continue to sell people a product that has errors and they think it's okay.

It really makes me sick to my stomach when I think of other families paying for this only to find the same frustrations.  I am blessed to be able to afford to just ditch it and buy something different but not everyone can.

In fact, I'm going to be more vigilant in notifying errors in any product that I use.  If we don't say anything how can we expect to see improvements?


Our Homeschool Reviews said...

Wow, I hope you can put all of this behind you soon. It's stressful just reading. I find errors occasionally in things we use but I don't ever say anything but maybe I should.

Mary said...

Well, you certainly didn't mince words. Hopefully, WP will make efforts to edit/correct things that have been repeatedly pointed out to them.

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

Wow! That is truly sad. Most companies that I've dealt with are happy to learn of problems with their curriculum as it allows them the opportunity to improve.

I do think it's important that we talk to companies about questions and concerns about products. How they handle these issues definitely plays a role in whether I will continue to use their products and/or recommend them to others. Good customer service goes a long way.

I'm sorry that you had to go through all of this.

Clara @A Slice of Homeschool Pie said...

I've heard a lot of negative things about Winter Promise. I remember researching their program several years ago and read too many negative reviews.

You may be interested in checking out We are using their suggested curriculum for the third year now (with my 5th grader). It's along the lines of Sonlight and Ambleside.

Just wanted to stop by and say hi from Because Mom Said's website.

Julie said...

I wanted to say that I had the same problems with WP last year. I switched back to SL with relish, and we are loving it. I used AW and AS1 and I tweaked them beyond recognition. Not only were we doing crafts on polar bears while reading about the desert and later on reading about polar bears and doing a craft of a rattler snake, we did notebooking pgs in AS1 of George Washington before reading about him, etc., etc., etc. (keep going here, as I was so tired of all the disjointedness and apparent laziness of scheduling the materials).

Another problem with WP is many of the books are either way below a child's level or extremely difficult. There seems to be no middle ground (at least in the 2 programs I did). The read alouds were snore-fests (I borrowed that from you!) and when I started subbing 40-45% (no kidding!) of the books with SL books, I figured why was I doing WP?

I add some hands-on and notebooking to a great base of books with SL now, and since I am adding in the activities, they are exactly where it makes sense. Do I love scheduling it all out? No, but SL is a better base to add upon instead of with WP, I kept having to subtract all the things I paid for. I use everything with SL, with WP I only used about 55% of the books. That was our "adventure."

Unknown said...

It's now 2016 and I am laughing at this post because I just spent the past 6 months having the same conversation with WP about Sea and Air and them saying no one had even complained before. I was finally able to get them to go read a copy of their product and see the huge amounts of obvious typos. They then sent me the new edited version and my kids said I was being too mean when I suggested they fire their editor because the revised versions were still terrible. It was then that they realized that the editing program they used wasn't spell checking and therefore thought teh was a word along with tons of other not words.

I love the idea and we are using CAW next year because they gave it to me because of the hassles from last year. it is a revised version so hopefully they addressed some of your concerns.

Unknown said...

It's now 2016 and I am laughing at this post because I just spent the past 6 months having the same conversation with WP about Sea and Air and them saying no one had even complained before. I was finally able to get them to go read a copy of their product and see the huge amounts of obvious typos. They then sent me the new edited version and my kids said I was being too mean when I suggested they fire their editor because the revised versions were still terrible. It was then that they realized that the editing program they used wasn't spell checking and therefore thought teh was a word along with tons of other not words.

I love the idea and we are using CAW next year because they gave it to me because of the hassles from last year. it is a revised version so hopefully they addressed some of your concerns.


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