Are you looking for an engaging writing curriculum for your teen homeschoolers? Here’s our Cover Story Clear Water Press Review so you can get an inside peek into how this course works. Plus you can hear our chat with Daniel Schwabauer on episode 209 of the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast.
My 9th grader has been able to use Cover Story by Clear Water Press this year. It has been a great success and we’d love to tell you about our experience with the program. Here’s our review of Cover Story by Clear Water Press.
What is Clear Water Press?
Clear Water Press has a unique approach in the world of homeschool curriculum. Instead of being focused on the normally dry and boring instructional approach to language arts, instructor Daniel Schwabauer and the whole team at Clear Water Press has been able to craft an engaging and delightful approach.
So, what’s the basis of this approach? It’s story.
Instead of random writing assignments that are very difficult for reluctant writers to do well, Daniel Schwabauer has figured out a way to pull your students into their assignments by basing all of his courses around story.
Philosophy of teaching writing
Here’s a great overview of their philosophy of teaching writing:
Grammar isn’t the point. Story is.
Sentence types aren’t the point. Story is.
5-paragraph essays aren’t the point. Story is.
Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and
Resolutions aren’t the point. Story is.From their website at Clearwaterpress.com
To aid that story-centered approach, each course from Clear Water Press is designed around a creative project that students work on the whole year. Each assignment is a part of that larger project.
For example, in Cover Story, which my 9th grader completed this year, the creative project was writing a magazine around a theme. Teens are encouraged to choose a topic or theme for their magazine that they love, making the writing assignments fun and exciting and interesting! My teen chose the topic of Minecraft.
Meet Daniel Schwabauer
Daniel Schwabauer is the founder and program instructor at Clear Water Press. He appears in the video lessons that form the basis of the teaching in the courses. And these video lessons aren’t your typical video lessons – they’re in a fun skit style that teens love.
He’s an engaging teacher, the video lessons are very high quality and just the right length. That is, your student won’t be watching an hour long lecture about how to write an article. Most videos are between 7-12 minutes long.
Mr. Schwabauer has an interesting background, both in his academic degrees and in his publishing.
Daniel Schwabauer’s writing programs, The One Year Adventure Novel, Cover Story, and Byline, have transformed the writing of thousands of students.
His professional work includes stage plays, radio scripts, short stories, newspaper columns, comic books and teleplays. His young adult novels, Runt the Brave and Runt the Hunted, have received numerous awards, including the 2005 Ben Franklin Award and the 2008 Eric Hoffer Award.From Clearwaterpress.com
Interview with Clear Water Press Founder + Instructor
Learn how to encourage a life-long love of learning through story. We’ll chat with founder and instructor of Clear Water Press, Daniel Schwabauer, about how homeschool moms can use this unique approach with their kids.
Listen to episode 209 of the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast.
About Cover Story Writing Curriculum
The creative project that the whole course centers around is writing a magazine about the teen’s chosen theme. That means that each writing assignment is one small part of the whole creative process, and thereby it doesn’t feel random or unimportant. Plus, when your teen can write about a topic they’re interested in, it just takes the stress out of figuring out what to write!
What’s included in Cover Story
The Cover Story program has a few components. First, you’ll want either the Cover Story DVD Set or the cloud access for the video lessons. There are 72 video lessons for the course, then an additional 12 grammar lessons, which are optional. Since we handled grammar with a separate resource, we didn’t use these lessons. Video lessons are short, effective, and high quality.
In addition to the video lessons, you’ll need a Teacher’s Guide, Student Book, and The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther Von Steuben. The Student Book and Journal are consumable products.
What grade level should use Cover Story
Cover Story is a writing curriculum made for students in 6th-9th grade. While this is listed as a middle school curriculum on the website, students that are not confident or strong writers are encouraged to begin with this course before diving into the high school level writing courses from Clear Water Press.
This is what we did. After we talked to the customer service team at Clear Water Press, we decided that my son should start with Cover Story in 9th grade to shore up his writing.
The lesson topics are typical for a middle school writing course, but they’re a lot more fun because they are part of the student’s magazine creative project. Plus, this course is fun and engaging for teens because Mr. S teaches each lesson in a fun skit-like style rather than in a typical lecture format.
Here are just a few of the topics that your student will learn about and practice in this course.
- brainstorming a theme
- using specific nouns
- picking precise adjectives
- choosing active verbs
- creating emotion through images
- writing a review
- writing a haiku
- writing an article
- writing a short story
- writing how-to articles
- writing a humor piece
- writing ad copy
There are 12 optional grammar lessons in Cover Story.
Another great aspect of this course is that the longest they spend on one type of writing is three weeks (or nine lessons) so that students don’t get bored. They may spiral back to hit on that type of writing again after a change of pace. This works well because techniques learned for one writing focus will apply to another.
Since Cover Story is technically a middle school course, the lessons are designed for three days a week of video instruction and work in the Student Book. On the other two days each week, students should make an entry in The Remarkable Journal. The purpose of this journal is to give students a huge repository of ideas to use in their writing.
About once per month, students will be ready to take the Unit Test.
Here’s how Cover Story worked for us on a daily basis. My 9th grader spent one hour per day, four days per week on this course. Some days he would watch the video lesson and complete the assignments, while other days he might be continuing to work on his writing assignments. We just picked up each day where he left off and we were not highly scheduled.
Here’s an example of one assignment for lesson 33: Showing Change
The unique approach of this course is that your teen is not writing just for the sake of completing random and disconnected writing assignments. Rather, each assignment centers around the chosen topic of their final project – a magazine! Your kids don’t need to actually print a final magazine, although it’s fun to see the pieces of writing come together.
However, writing becomes less of a chore when your teens can write about a topic they love. So that’s why this approach is so effective – their writing becomes purposeful and fun.
Parent Involvement + Teacher’s Guide
In the Teacher’s Guide, you’ll find the rubrics for grading and answer keys, along with a one-page overview of each week’s topics, goals, and assignments. The Teacher’s Guide also includes the assigned readings of seven short stories and one humor column. These are also printed in the Student Book.
Parents can expect to spend up to an hour once a month with grading. There is an option to take the Unit Test online and have it graded automatically, or you can find the printed Unit Tests in the Teacher’s Guide.
You’ll find rubrics to help make the grading simpler for the homeschool parent.
Limited Time Coupon Code
The team at Clear Water Press was generous enough to provide my podcast listeners and blog readers an exclusive coupon code. But hurry! This is a limited time deal.
Coupon code: 15MOXIESP23 (valid through May 31, 2023)
Discount: 15% off any complete curriculum set
You can even watch sample lessons on their site to get a feel for how the courses are taught.
Cover Story Clear Water Press Review
My opinion is after having my son work through Cover Story this school year is that it is a great curriculum choice for homeschool families of teens. Here’s why I highly recommend it.
Ease of use
This is a huge factor for my recommendation of homeschool courses! Plus, I know ease of use is important for many of you.
If the curriculum is clunky to use, or you need to pull out a massive teacher’s manual each day just to navigate the daily work, then it’s usually not a good fit for homeschoolers. Or, if you have to personally do the teaching, it can be a burden. But this course is able to be used mostly independently by your teen.
You don’t have to do any direct teaching – Daniel Schwabauer does it all via the video lessons in a skit-like style. The order and assignments are clearly explained both in the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Book.
Some middle school writing courses can be rather wimpy when it comes to expectations or assignments. Others don’t challenge the students enough. We found this course to be just right as far as content covered and the actual creative writing assignments.
You know your child best, and with the grading rubrics, you’re given enough structure to help you objectively grade your child’s work. Additionally, there are objective unit tests, which is helpful.
One other aspect of the content piece is that your teens won’t mind taking this course because the teaching is engaging and fun. If you were to require your teens to sit down in front of a lecture-style video class, you may get pushback.
But Daniel Schwabauer knows how to succinctly and effectively communicate to your teens exactly what they need to know to be successful with each lesson. Lessons are on the short side and to the point without excess busywork.
If you purchase the DVD set of video lessons, you’ll be able to easily use this course again for siblings down the road. The Student Book and The Remarkable Journal are consumables, so you would need to purchase a new set for your other children. Or, you might decide to have them answer the questions from the Student Book in a separate notebook.
So, all in all, this is a reasonably priced course for the middle school or high school level, especially considering the fact that multiple kids in your homeschool could take this course.
Final Thoughts on Cover Story Clear Water Press Review
This would have been a great course to use with my older kids years ago, but sadly this was the first time using Cover Story in our homeschool. We have one more student in our home that will use this in a few years.
We do highly recommend it. My teenaged son, who is very much hard to please like most teen boys, said he enjoyed “Mr. S” his instructor and even had fun with the writing assignments. He would not have said he was a confident writer when he started this class, and I’m not sure he would say he is confident now, but as his mom, I can see his growth through the year.
Cover Story wasn’t a dry and boring course that I had to cajole my student through all year. I think he actually looked forward to the entertaining and helpful video lessons!
The quality of the curriculum is excellent. Some video-based curriculum is not produced with good quality and can feel rather cheesy. This was not the case with Cover Story. Not only are the video lessons produced well, but the printed books are great too.
So, all in all, the bottom line of this Cover Story review is that we give it five stars. Bravo!
Additional Clear Water Press High School Courses
What’s next? I’m excited that my son will be able dive in to Byline in the fall for his 10th grade year. This is the course I was originally eyeing for this year, but now that he’s done Cover Story, I think he’ll be even more successful with Byline. We’ll be sure to tell you how it goes!
Here are the Clear Water Press high school courses:
- Cover Story (magazine writing) for Grades 6-9
- Byline (journalism & essay writing) for Grades 9-12
- One Year Adventure Novel for Grades 9-12
- Other Worlds (Sci-fi & fantasy) for Grades 9-12 << NEW!