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This overview of how to use Cover Story builds on the information on the About page.


The suggested pace for Cover Story is to complete 3 lessons per week, for 24 weeks (or 28 weeks, if you include the optional grammar lessons). But Cover Story is flexible! You can work in extra days where you need them and still fit the course into one school year.


Families usually schedule 3 separate days a week (M-W-F) and focus on one lesson at a time.

Including the unit tests, journaling, and time spent on written projects, Cover Story takes about 4.5 hours per week to complete. Schedule about 45 minutes to 1 hour for individual lessons, including watching the video, and another 20 to 30 minutes daily for journaling and completion of the written projects. This will vary week to week, but averages out during the course of the school year.

If your student needs extra time for some assignments, it’s totally fine to stretch the lessons out a bit. We intentionally build in some “wiggle room” in planning the number of lessons for a school year!

Co-ops, Study Groups, and Schools

To read about using Cover Story in a group setting, check out the “Using Our Programs in a Co-op or Group” page.

Getting Started

Making Sure You Have What You Need

If you ordered a Cloud video streaming set:

Your Cloud video streaming account is manually created for you by our staff when we process your order for shipment. In other words, it isn’t instantly available when you submit your order. You will receive an email from Clear Water Press via Niche Video, the video streaming platform we use. It will ask you to set up a password to log into your new account.

You do need the physical materials before you can properly begin. The physical materials—the Student Book, The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben, and the Teacher’s Guide—will ship to you by USPS Priority Mail. A tracking number will be sent by email.

If you ordered a DVD set:

All materials—the DVDs, the Student Book, The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben, and Teacher’s Guide—will ship to you by USPS Priority Mail. A tracking number will be sent by email.

What to Do First

  1. Watch the Parents & Teachers video.
  2. Read through the introductory pages in the Teacher’s Guide.
  3. Watch the How to Use Cover Story video with your student.

That’s it! Your student is ready for the lessons.

How to Complete a Lesson

1. Watch the Video. Every single lesson in Cover Story begins with a video (15–20 minutes). Daniel Schwabauer provides direction from within the video lesson. You will not need to tell your student what to do when the video lesson ends—the student will receive instructions from the video.

If your student is confused, we recommend re-watching the lesson in question, but you may find it just as helpful to take a look at the weekly summary in the Teacher’s Guide.

2. Proceed to the Student Book, as directed by the instructor, in the video.

How to Use Cover Story | Middle School Language Arts for Homeschool

Insight into The Remarkable Journal

The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther von Steuben is not a blank journal! Neither is it a chapter book! It’s the journal entries of a fictional professor who has disappeared, leaving his unfinished investigation behind… and it’s up to your student to finish his task by making entries of his or her own.

The type of entry is directed by Mr. S. in the video lessons and changes from unit to unit.

How It’s Structured

The journal is intended to be used 5 days per week. It is divided into sections corresponding to the units in the course. Each section is further divided into weeks. Each week begins with entries by the fictional professor, accompanied by illustrations.

Why We Created It

Every writer needs an “idea book”—a journal of some kind that they keep within reach to jot down observations and questions that come up throughout the day. Writing in The Remarkable Journal is not meant to be the kind of assignment where the student sits at a desk for 10 minutes each day to make an entry. Ideally, the student can just jot things down as they occur.

It’s also not a diary, but a way for kids to get in the habit of noticing when they are curious or when they witness something interesting that could have a story behind it. Most kids are naturally curious, but won’t think to record their thoughts. Learning to do this really helps combat writer’s block. So many people—of all ages—expect a good story to come from a lightning bolt of inspiration, when truthfully, stories can be dug up by anyone who makes the effort of noticing their surroundings.

Perspective of the Journal Entries

Some students are interested to try writing their entries from the perspective of the fictional Professor Gunther von Steuben. This is fine, but not necessary. The entries made by the professor are intended as inspirational and to provide an example of the type of entry the student could make, but they are often longer and a bit more polished than is required for a student.

Grammar: Your Choice

The 12 grammar lessons are optional. We realize some of you already have a grammar curriculum and may just be looking for the Language Arts instruction.

If you decide to use them, here’s what you need to know:

  • Your student should complete Lessons 1–8 of the program before beginning on any of the grammar lessons.
  • The grammar lessons need to be done sequentially. Some families do them as a complete unit; others intersperse them with the rest of the course. Either way is fine!
  • There are answer keys in the Teacher’s Guide.

Please see the UPDATES section at the bottom of this page for some corrections to Grammar Lesson 2 (“G2”).

Unit Tests

There is a test at the end of each of the six units. These tests are not cumulative. They are formatted as multiple-choice questions.

There are several ways your student can take the tests:

  1. The student can take the tests online, under “Resources.” Online tests are auto-graded. Your student can type your email address into the field at the top of the test so that a copy of the results is sent to your inbox.
  2. You can have the student take the tests on paper, whether directly in the Teacher’s Guide or by photocopying the tests in the Teacher’s Guide. (This is the only duplication permitted under the copyright.) Use the Answer Key in the Teacher’s Guide to grade.
  3. You can administer the tests orally, by reading out of the Teacher’s Guide. Use the Answer Key in the Teacher’s Guide to grade.

Please see the UPDATES section at the bottom of this page for corrections made to the 2013 printing.

How to Grade Cover Story

Our Grading Philosophy

At Clear Water Press, we focus on teaching students how to get thoughts and ideas onto paper—or screen!—in a way that will compel a response from their intended audience. This means we are passionate about helping young writers separate the creative stage from the analysis stage. Why? Writers will not be as creative in their drafts if they are already worrying about analysis—about how the piece will be assessed and what they should do to polish their work. Writers also tend to respond poorly to correction and feedback in the excitement of creation. They are much more receptive to comments after a period of “cooling” the fire of their imagination, to get some emotional distance from what they wrote.

What this means for Cover Story is that we suggest that you wait until the end of each unit to grade the student’s work.

Here’s how it works:

Read the one-page summary for the week in the Teacher’s Guide. This will help you track with your student, so that when the end of the unit rolls around, you’ll already know what to focus on.

Keep an eye on your student. Glance over the Student Book and the Remarkable Journal about once a week, just to make sure your student is completing the work. No need to read at any depth.

Grade at the end of the unit—once per month! It will take one to two hours, but is easy to do. The Teacher’s Guide tells you how many points each assignment is worth and what to focus on.

Record the points in the tally sheets in the Teacher’s Guide. You will find simple instructions for calculating the percentage and grade value of the total points.

What real homeschooling parents have to say about Clear Water Press Teacher’s Guides:

“This is one of my favorite teacher’s guides ever! The explanations on how to use the curriculum are simple and straightforward. There is no guess work as to what you and your student need to do for each lesson and there are even weekly lesson guides inside if you like to follow a pre-set plan.”

– Misty Leask of Year Round Homeschooling. Read more »

Updates to the Curriculum

Applies to 2013 Printing Only:

  • Answer Key to Unit Test 2, Question #7 should be D, not A.
  • Answer Key to Unit Test 2, Question #9 should be C, not D.

Applies to Both 2013 and 2015 Printing:

  • Answer Key to G2 in the exercise about identifying complete predicates: Question #5 should be “gave her nothing but further pain” (not “wishes gave her nothing but further pain”)
  • There is also a new version of G2 as of September 2017, to correct some problems with the exercises on dependent clauses.

G2 in the Student Book »
G2 in the Teacher’s Guide »

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