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June 29, 2005

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

I agreed to review a magazine for Mind&Media titled The Old Schoolhouse. I've seen various homeschooling magazines when I go to our local Christian book store, and notice, first off, the outrageous price they charge. So I've never actually gotten any. I've also notice a trend that companies that market to homeschoolers have of packing their stuff full of fliers and brochures. Another annoyance I can do without.

As you can see by the ad,  I agreed to display while I reviewed their magazine for a year, they offer “19 free gifts” with a subscription. I got my “19 free gifts” yesterday, so I figured I'd begin reviewing the magazine by telling about the gifts.

I actually got 1 free gift — what looks like a coloring book. I'll give it to my 7-year-old to color in, but since it's not very thick, it'll probably be finished in a day. The rest of the packaged contained ...

9 cards to be mailed in before you get your “gift” (a couple of them do seem interesting, but the rest, to me, don't seem worth having my address added to someone's mailing list.)

4 cards with internet addresses for either downloading the gift or entering in the information to have it sent to you.

4 cards with the kind of promotional offer businesses toss at potential customers everyday (this free if you buy that, 30-day free trial, free but we still want your credit card info, free but we'll charge shipping)

...and one that says “return this card...” but doesn't say what info they need.

Out of the “19 free gifts” there are really only 3 that I'll bother to send for, and another that's a download that I'm thinking I may check out. I kinda don't count the coloring book, because I could get something like that anywhere for almost nothing.

I suppose I'm being grouchy, but I'm the kind of person that thinks that when someone promises “19 free gifts” there should be 19 free gifts. Yeah, you're right, I didn't pay for the subscription, but then you might, and I kinda assume you'd want to know what to expect.

They've not started out on a good foot as far as I'm concerned. I have no idea what the magazine itself is like, but I really hope it's not as disappointing as their promised “gifts”.

UPDATE: After going over the few I decided I would get, I discovered one (a $10 gift certificate) was to a terribly overpriced Christian store in the busiest part of Tulsa and for less than what almost anything at the store goes for. It's simply not worth the trip, and the possible junk mail. Another offered a free product but I had to go to their web site. The instruction didn't match the page they sent me to, so there's no way to get it. The third is a language CD, but I realized I have tons of those anyway, as well as the stuff I've put online at http://LookListenLearn.org, as well as the new stuff I have at DannyCarlton.com/HomeSchool/. The fourth is a sampler CD that barely looked interesting to begin with. Gee, I'm just bubbling over with anticipation for the first edition of the magazine.

Posted by Danny Carlton at June 29, 2005 03:07 PM

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I actually subscribed to the magazine to get my 19 free gifts. It's a very shiny, heavy thick magazine, isn't it? I flip through it and enjoy reading a few things here and there although truth be told I don't have TIME to sit and read any magazine...

Out of my 19 free gifts I received (or didn't receive) the one I love the most is the 'Draw Write Now' book. The kids love it too. It's too fun and I hope that you can get that. The 8 y/old loves it and so does the 4 y/old. Even I love it as I have never been able to draw well and using this book I can atleast draw something that looks sort of the way it should.

Hope you can get it. It's wonderful.

Posted by: Monica-Philadelphia at June 30, 2005 12:44 AM

Thanks for your comment, Monica. I'm glad you got to enjoy at least some of the gifts. I've been told I was too negative with this initial review, but given the way they promote the gifts, I thought people would want to know what to expect. My wife is annoyed that I was so negative, saying the $10 gift certificate is certainly worth something. She's right, it is worth something to someone who already shops there, but we don't because it's so out of the way.

Are you satisfied with the magazine overall? I actually haven't received a copy yet. I just did the review yesterday because marketing gimmicks like that annoy me so much.

Posted by: Danny Carlton at June 30, 2005 04:33 AM


I am sorry to read your review, but all's fair in the world of reviews; our magazine does many of those and some happen to be negative as well. No hard feelings, to be sure.

All of our company advertisements which promote these 19 free gifts state very plainly that they are gift cards, and that you must fill them out (some ask for a grade level so they can customize your gift)and mail them in for fulfillment. The fun thing is that all summer long, the 19 gifts roll in, individually from the companies. The kids love seeing what UPS or USPS is bringing each day. And the co's pay the shipping. We've sold about 10,000 of these subscrip packages to date, and have had very few complaints. Rather, our best advertisement has been word of mouth from happy subscribers.

Anyway, I highly encourage you to "finish out" your end of the deal by at least sending in the cards and redeeming your gifts. That way, you can review the actual product and see for yourself that these gifts are pretty cool. And if some of them stink, blog it. :-)

Meanwhile, I'm having my production crew send you our last four back issues free of charge for your wife, who seems a little less grouchy than you . These will go out next week.

And hey, Lord bless you and your organization. No hard feelings here; we'll simply go out of our way to prove ya wrong on your assessment of us here at TOS.

In Christ,

Gena Suarez, Publisher
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Posted by: Gena Suarez at June 30, 2005 03:07 PM

Gena, You have a different definition of "very plainly" than I have. Small print at the bottom of the page is not what I'd call "very plainly". I'm sure most people are used to that kind of thing being used to market something, but since your magazine is promoted and marketed for Christians, there should be a higher standard than what the world usually does. I hadn't seen the page outlining the gifts before I wrote my initial review, so I can see that the subscriber is somewhat forewarned about what the gifts actually are, but in all honesty, the bit about the cards is in a part of the page few people would read. Nevertheless, while the gifts themselves didn't impress me, my wife liked them, as I'm sure many people will.

My point was that I dislike the method you are marketing your magazine. But I've seem some otherwise good product being hawked via even less scrupulous means. As for the magazine itself, I reserve judgment on that until I actually get to see it.

Oh, and my wife got a chuckle out of being referred to as "a little less grouchy" than me.

Oh, and there seems to be no way of actually following the instructions for Bob's Red Mill. It doesn't say where to enter the text provided. We do use their products and like them, and I'm sure others would too, were the web site a little easier to comprehend (I spend most of every day at my computer, on the internet, and if I couldn't figure it out, I doubt many others would). But even then, I think I'd rather pay the $3.99 for a 16oz bag of their 5 grain cereal at Wal-Mart than risk getting a couple of years worth of junk mail. I get way too much junk mail as it is.

Posted by: Danny Carlton at June 30, 2005 05:49 PM

I received the 19 free gift cards in the mail and got just what I paid for. I don't understand your seeming hostility towards free items! I had no trouble going to Bob's Red Mill - I just followed the instructions on the card to go here:
http://www.bobsredmill.com/talk.php and then filled it in. In the "Regarding" section I wrote what they told me to write. It was not difficult! I was aware of what was in the 19 gift package as it is right on the page where you order the subscription. In fact there are some very nice items if you take the time to order them. The puzzle is a fantastic one and challenging to our whole family, and as a previous comment mentioned the Draw Write Now book is great! As far as having to put your credit card information in, that is not true if you read any of the cards - I know because I looked really closely on one that I thought required it. It was for the puzzle. It says right at the top to choose a free one and that ordering others are optional. Only then would you add your credit card. I had no issue and we received the puzzle in good time. The “coloring book” that comes with the package is actually a unit study, and although that is not my style of learning, a lot of people love unit studies. There are certainly coloring places as it is for younger students!

I am saddened that you would so easily trash a magazine's ~promotion~ when you have not even seen the magazine itself. If I am reading this correctly you were supposed to review the ~magazine~ and the gifts were thrown in for good measure to you. Instead of being so nasty about it you might try to be thankful. They were, after all, ~given~ to you, right? I would be surprised if you (or at least your wife) are not impressed with the quality of the magazine – there is no equal to it out there.


Posted by: Elly at June 30, 2005 07:16 PM

C'mon now. He's honest and I for one appreciate that. I happen to like grumpy people, though.

I have nothing negative to say about the magazine at all. Just that I don't have enough time to read it. Sheesh - it takes me a week to get through my Weekly Standard. That's about all I can handle. As far as the free gifts go I guess I expected to be happy with a few of them and that's what I am.

Posted by: Monica-Philadelphia at July 1, 2005 12:17 AM

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