Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review of Angelicum Academy

We recently tried homeschooling our youngest child - the youngest of six. The first five had varying degrees of success, or lack thereof, in all sorts of educational venues. Since none of them had a very positive experience overall, we thought we couldn't do much worse by homeschooling. My wife and I both work from home, and our son was 12 at the time. A lot of the hard work (fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic) was already done. He is a sharp cookie as well, so we decided to take the plunge. Yet, we didn't want to reinvent the wheel.

Being practicing Catholics, we looked within that venue primarily. We researched dutifully the various Catholic Home Schooling programs - Seton, Maximilian Kolbe, etc. We found one that looked particularly good with a nice photo of a school set in the idyllic country side, a picture of school officials (with lots of Ph.D.'s no less!) posing with Pope John Paul II, solid information about their curriculum especially their "Great Books Program" and an explanation of what is "Classical Education". Hot dog! this sounded good. They called themselves "Angelicum Academy". They certainly looked and sounded heavenly!

We don't consider ourselves gullible. Honest, we don't!!!

We searched for comments and reviews by people who had 'attended' Angelicum Academy. I was surprised that I really couldn't find much in user groups, or anywhere on them - other than from themselves on their own website. We couldn't find an "Angelicum Sucks" website for example. So far so good!

We wrote them, we interviewed them over the phone, we painstakingly compared their posted curriculum with that of other Catholic Home School programs.

Finally, as we didn't want our experience to be a disaster, we enrolled and ordered the package which included test reviews and grading, report cards, etc. so as to emulate an actual school experience with the advantage of our son doing his school work in his pajamas. The package cost more to get the added hand holding, but being first timers to this home schooling experience, we wanted the best for our pre-teen. We were determined to be the people who others pointed to, and said, "they did it - ask them for pointers! They really know what they are doing!"


Once Angelicum had our fees safely in hand, the problems started. Their website for school books wouldn't accept orders from Canada; course materials were described somewhat cryptically so it was difficult to buy books elsewhere. When we could determine the exact name of the text book, it had a huge markup price compared to other sellers. Enrollment materials - including course outlines and weekly assignments took a month (less 1 day) to arrive. When I inquired about the delay in materials I was informed that they would arrive shortly. Every day we dutifully walked down to the mailbox and returned empty handed. When the materials finally arrived, their postmark was a full 15 days after the initial order! Why not just admit they haven't been shipped yet? We were off to a great start, beginning school 1 month late. . .

We tried emailing tests in but were told we couldn't do that. Asked if we could fax them in. Nope, no can do. In this wonderful era of technology, we were informed only snail mail would do. We already saw how efficient they were at mailing enrollment materials. How would they do with us 'snailing' them in for grading, grading them, and sending them back? That's a lot of extra paper and postage and time waste going on there! Strangely, they boast world-wide enrollment. Are people in Africa and Asia snail mailing their tests in?

How long indeed to turn around these tests? Turns out the correct response is. . . . 12 months. That is not a typo. 12 months from the time we submitted our tests until we finally got them returned.

After the school year was over and we had no tests returned, no report card, no feedback, my wife and I spent a couple of joy filled weekends grading tests and reports our son had completed. Angelicum was closed for the summer by now, if memory serves me correct.

We didn't renew the enrollment at Angelicum because you can see how wonderful they were! So we asked for a partial refund. At that time their level of responsiveness went from nil to negative nil. Is that a number? With Angelicum it is.

I think I counted 16 faxes and emails, almost all of which were ignored. That is about the time we got the tests back though. Some of them weren't even marked. I reported Angelicum to a couple of Internet agencies that are supposed to record and/or investigate Internet related fraud. Fraud? Isn't that harsh? Well, they took our money and didn't provide the service - sounds pretty straightforward to me. Maybe "theft" is a better term?

At one point, about a year after we began asking for a partial reund, we were asked:
  1. When did we enroll our son?
  2. What was our address?

Questions like that 1 + year after enrollment speaks volumes to the level of accountability Angelicum Academy has to their 'students'.

Eventually we were offered $50 back - after more than a year, and yep, we declined.

You see, it goes back to why we started home schooling our son in a "Catholic" program in the first place. Those are the values we believe in, and that we try to instill in our son. Accepting a $50 pay-off to keep quiet about Angelicum Academy would be irresponsible in our opinion. Had even 1 blogger out there taken the time to expose Angelicum, we might have avoided them, and avoided wasting so much time and money on them. For the second year, we started leaning on some Protestant home school programs. The materials we used were very good, but we didn't bother with an actual enrollment type of program, so negative was our first experience with AA.

In closing, the motto "Buyer Beware" still applies. We did what we thought was our 'due diligence' but still got caught. With home schoolers under attack in Brazil and Germany and even California, it is a shame when parents fall prey to scammers such as Angelicum Academy.

I did receive a nasty letter from a person affiliated with the school - a gentleman who claimed to be a lawyer. He cautioned me:

"If you have misreported any significant detail in any of the complaints you say you have made then you have committed an actionable tort against our business for which we can recover costs, attorney fees and damages - not to mention an injustice, perhaps a grave one."

Being a lawyer, he said a lot of other things too, and then informed me he was putting a block on my emails. He sounded like a lawyer, right away discussing fees and money he could collect from me and all that good stuff lawyers like to talk about.

But usually those guys like to document things though don't they?

Why, if you're a lawyer put a block on someones email if they are claiming you owe them money? Is that what they teach in law school now - automatically delete correspondence to said issue?

So should you Home School? Not with Angelicum Academy, in our opinion.

But hey, what do we know?