View Full Version : Cover Story Update

09-16-2013, 11:34 AM
I've mentioned on this forum that I was trying Cover Story for writing this year with my 6th and 8th graders. I plan to do a review in the curriculum section when we've been through the whole course, but I wanted to give you all an update on what I think about it so far.

First of all, Cover Story is a writing curriculum for Middle Schoolers from the same author, Daniel Schwabauer, who wrote The One Year Adventure Novel. It just came out at the end of August. In this curriculum, students will go through exercises in writing throughout the year which will culminate in a magazine of articles, stories, interviews, poetry, etc. on a subject of their choosing.

The package comes with 7 DVDs, a workbook, a teacher's book and a journal. For each lesson, the student watches the video lesson and does the 2-4 pages in the workbooks for that lesson. Students also write in their journals daily. The materials are top quality, especially the journal.

I was very interested in the curriculum because my boys are both great at writing - IF it's a subject they are interested in. If not, they hate it. So the fact that they could write an entire magazine on a subject they are passionate about really appealed to me. I pre-ordered the materials in the summer and received them about three weeks ago.

I had a moment of panic when I received an email from the Cover Story email list that had a screen shot of the Adventure Novel website. On it, in a list of the advantages of the curriculum was a bullet point that said "Biblical Worldview". Ugh. I hadn't seen anything like that on any of the Cover Story materials. I asked about it on one of the secular Facebook pages and a member who had used the Adventure Novel posted a link to what she considered the worst example of his worldview. I thought it was pretty bad. However, she did say that it did not permeate the entire curriculum and that she was able to work around it and still liked the curriculum.

This all happened after I had pre-ordered and before I got the materials. I did go back and confirm that the words "Biblical Worldview" were not anywhere on the Cover Story website and they are not. When I got the materials, I skimmed through all of them and could not find anything objectionable. So I decided to give it a try.

So, we have done two weeks of the lessons and I must say that I am really impressed. The videos are entertaining enough to keep my kids' attention without sliding in to silliness. He does a very good job of using examples and visuals to make his points. He is also good at explaining grammar and making it useful. The workbooks is not busywork and also keeps my kids interested. The journal is very cleverly done to draw kids in - mine would usually hate a daily writing assignment.

The only religious reference I have found so far is when he gives "Jesus wept." as an example of a simple subject/predicate sentence. I can live with that.

Opinion thus far: I really like it, and more importantly, my kids really like it and are doing some good writing with no pulling of hair or gnashing of teeth.

I'll keep you updated if you're interested and do a review when we've been through the whole program.


09-16-2013, 11:43 AM
Thanks so much for the update! It sounds great so far. I love the idea of letting the kids explore a subject to their heart's content while working on writing skills. It sounds like it sort of combines the best parts of unit studies and lapbooks and project-based learning.

09-16-2013, 12:23 PM
We purchased the program too and although we are only four lessons in, it's a big hit so far. I wouldn't have heard of it had it not been for your earlier mention of it Lakersey so thanks!

09-17-2013, 12:43 PM
Thank you for the update!!! I just came across this writing program and am seriously contemplating it. It's fairly pricey and I have spent A LOT thusfar on writing programs and every single one a total bust for us. I am not jumping right into this quite yet due to the price, but if you could keep us updated as you progress further in this writing program maybe I can be convinced it's a way to go for us, too. Again, thank you! Looking forward to hearing more down the road :)

09-18-2013, 06:21 PM
OH thanks for this! I bought it through the co-op, although we haven't started it yet. We are going to do some remediation with Logic of English to help with spelling/decoding so my 12 year old can better understand the rest of L.A.

I was SUPER impressed with the journal! It's a crazy nice book! Fancy schmancy! hahaha

Can't wait to start!

09-18-2013, 07:09 PM
We are also using Cover Story. The only problem we have found with it is that it is a lot of work. He has the lessons spread over only 24 weeks and my son all ready has a lot of writing with his history course. We have decided to spread it out over a much longer time. I am impressed with the content and my son seems to be getting a lot from it.

09-19-2013, 09:50 AM
Good to know! Thanks!

11-02-2013, 11:32 AM
Thanks so much for the review. This writing program looks really good, but the the use of the example "Jesus wept." in the sample lesson gave me pause. It is good to hear that this program does not present a religious worldview. It so much harder to purchase materials, because so many publisher hide the religious bases of their courses. The instructor for this program is pretty funny and presents the material in a very interesting way. Now I have to see if my son likes as much as I do.

12-20-2013, 08:28 PM
This writing program looks really good, but the the use of the example "Jesus wept." in the sample lesson gave me pause.

You could pronounce it Hey-sus and say that he wept when he fell down ;)
I totally get the hesitation though. A secular curriculum is a must for me though I do think about how high some religious curriculums are rated and it makes me consider modifying one. We'll see, my son is only 1!

01-23-2014, 02:31 PM
Lakersey, would you be willing/able to update your review now that you've had the program awhile longer? Or anyone else whose used it, actually! I am heavily leaning toward purchasing it for next fall (hoping to find a deal before then...) and would love just a bit more feedback about the specifics, the downfalls, the highlights, etc. Thanks in advance!

01-23-2014, 07:06 PM
Hi guys. Let me gather my thoughts and I'll write an updated review this weekend. I need to go back and look over some of the lessons again and look ahead a little too. I'll get something up on Saturday.

01-24-2014, 09:46 AM
Thanks so much! You had no idea how much trouble it was going to be when you mentioned you were using this. lol

01-24-2014, 08:16 PM
OK - here's my mid-point review.

If you are looking for a secular writing curriculum, this is not it. If you don't have a problem adapting a Christian curriculum, then you can probably easily do it with Cover Story. Most of the lessons go by with no Christian references - and most of the references that do pop up are pretty easy to overlook. However, the interview lesson would have to be skipped completely. In this part of the curriculum, the students are supposed to interview someone and write an article about them. The lesson on the DVD contains a 30-minute interview that the author did with someone from his church about his mission work in Sudan. Needless to say - it is not something that you can just gloss over.

Other than the fact that it is not secular, here is what I am finding about Cover Story. First of all, it is a LOT of writing. I can see that if your child is a budding writer, this would be a very good program. My kids both hate writing, so it is really too much for them. That being said, it would be easy to use this program over two, or even three, years and spread it out. We are not doing the three lessons a week that he recommends. We do a lot of reading and other language arts and a little writing in other subjects, like history. So this program could easily last us two years.

The thing I loved about this the most - the fact that the boys could write about their favorite subject - has actually become a little limiting. My youngest picked Minecraft, which I thought would be a big enough subject to last the year. However, he is tired of trying to come up with more to write about on the subject. The author does say that the writing can be only tangentially about the subject, but it still feels limiting. I have started letting the kids veer from the subject if they can't come up with an idea that works.

I have also noticed that the first 8 or 10 lessons are done with much more energy and creativity than the rest. The first lessons are filled with little skits, old movie clips, jokes and gimmicks. Having tween/teen boys, this really held their interest. After about lesson 10, all the lessons are the same - the author, dressed in steampunk garb, lecturing to the camera. He is generally a good speaker and can sometimes be amusing, but it's just not the same as it was in the beginning. I'm very disappointed by this very noticeable decline in energy. The boys no longer look forward to seeing the lessons and I can see their eyes glazing over fairly often now.

After we finish the short story that we are working on now, I plan to take a break from the writing part of the curriculum and try some of the grammar lessons. I'm really hoping for some of that energy we saw in the first few lessons. Again, I will keep you all updated.

01-24-2014, 08:44 PM
Wow, thanks for all that! Definitely gives me a few things to think about. Especially for the price. I had kind of intended to make it last a couple of years, anyway, so I'm glad it can be spread out like that. But it's an expensive gamble to take if I'm not SURE. I'll have to think on your experience and figure out what it might look like for us.

Again, thanks for putting all that thought into it! It really helps a lot.

01-24-2014, 09:05 PM
Oh - one more thing. The Journal that comes with the set is beautifully made and a neat idea. It has a story woven through it which is pretty cool as well. But the assignments that go with it are way too repetitive. For the first ten week, the kids are supposed to write 5 questions a day, five days a week. That's 250 questions. My kids were sick of it after the first week. Then, they are supposed to spend the next ten weeks writing 5 observations a day. It's just all too repetitive. I've been letting my guys run with the story line in the journal (the story of an alien that is sent to earth to observe humans) and write what they want. They have come up with some pretty imaginative stuff and are enjoying it much more than the writing assignments.