Wondertree Self Design is such a great concept for child led learning. We can school or not school as we please. We follow our own lead, and more importantly Lily’s with nary an interference from anyone. The best part (and reason we chose to use Self Design) is the funding. We get a large amount of money to spend on “learning” for Lily every year. This means books, craft supplies, museum memberships…. We enjoy talking to our wonderful learning consultant and telling her what we’ve been up to each week and she turns what we do into school speak the government likes to hear. We’re happy we get funding, the government’s happy having more confidence that my child is learning something despite being at home (ha) and Self Design employees are paid.
So many things work in concept and are a struggle in real life. I’d like to voice my issues with Self Design here, mainly because I don’t have any clue who to broach these many problems with at Self Design.
That’s one of the biggest problem for me- who to contact in case of problems and who to contact instead if you aren’t having your problems resolved. Oddly there isn’t anyone listed on the Who To Contact page under “complaints”. When you send someone a message, you can see that they’ve read it, passed it on, other people read it, there are replies- but not to you, and then if you hear back, it’s probably from someone different.
This online school is rife with technical problems. After 25 years of operation, you’d think that they’d have a better handle of all these problems that come up again and again. At the very least, they’d be attentive when adding new features to limit the issues that seem to inevitably come up as a result. I remember being on bulletin boards more than 15 years ago with Wondertree students and hearing about various problems with the school. Perhaps they’re constantly biting off more than they can chew. Maybe they don’t have the money to hire adequate technical expertise. These are only a few explanations I can see from this outside view.
It really is an outside view that I have. It’s incredibly hard to feel a part of what’s going on with Self Design. Last year I was using a new learning consultant and we had a number of problems. She was a wonderful person but it didn’t seem like either of us knew what we were doing or how to help the other. When the year was coming to a close, I knew I wanted a new learning consultant. Someone with more experience and yet someone we could meaningfully communicate with. Picking a new consultant was so hard. It was like you needed to know all the learning consultants beforehand. The list with bios might say a consultant is available but that wasn’t necessarily the case if they had made plans to keep students or had unofficial plans to take on specific new ones. I ended up frantically contacting my three choices when I realised that in waiting to find out, I could lose a chance to find a different good fit because I’d be the last to know that they were taken. Thankfully one of my choices was available and unofficially willing to take us on. I feel for the poor parent that waited (and waited) only to hear that their choices were actually taken and was left with little to no choice in learning consultants.
Waiting to hear has been my biggest mistake when dealing with Self Design. You wait to hear because as a client you think someone must be responsible for you but they aren’t. You have to ask and clarify and push for further help. Just because you contact someone about a problem doesn’t mean they’ll follow up with it. You have to get back to different people to find out if things are happening. You end up talking to multiple people when you wish you could just talk to one person who cares and is able and willing to help make something right.
All the technical problems aside, because really these things can happen (maybe all the errors just happen to me?), what about good service? There is little point in hiring anyone to work at an online school if they can’t effectively communicate or help a client over email. I moderated busy Freecycle groups for many years and as a volunteer, I offered more care and assistance than I’ve received from paid employees with Self Design. Okay, that’s not completely true. My learning consultant has been exceedingly considerate and someone called me on the phone to help last year when I was struggling working with the program. This year, however, I’ve heard from multiple people that the problem is “this” and “this” is different each time I hear it. I’ve heard more justifications than I’m interested in listening to. It’s easy to lose confidence that they aren’t just paying lip service.
At this point, I’ve reported 12 weeks of schooling and have not received any funding. My visa has been “lost in the mail” twice despite having changed my home address with Self Design (I tried before the end of last year and throughout the summer to be met with technical error after error) finally more than a week before my visa was ordered AND having a change of address in place at my old home. Why was it ordered to my old address in the first place? Further to my frustration, the visa company can not/will not change my address with them over the phone. The second try, sent a month ago, had to be sent to my old address in an effort to get here. I’ve now asked that Self Design reorder my visa to my correct address. I’m not sure what else I can do. It’s been such frustration dealing with the Self Design program.