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Hands-Off (for Mom) Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Essay Rock Star Online writing Course

Non-fiction writing. It is the thorn in my homeschool side. I had no problems writing papers in high school, so it came as a surprise that writing is such a difficult subject for me to teach. There is no black-or-white answer key when it comes to grading an essay. I also find it hard to deliver constructive criticism to my little writers without crushing their spirits.

*Disclosure: I received this Essay Rock Star class at no charge and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  I always share my honest opinion with you. This post contains my affiliate link.

When offered a chance to review one of the Essay Rock Star online courses from Fortuigence, my 9th grader volunteered for the chance to ditch the writing book for a few weeks. 

The Basics of the Essay Rock Star Online Writing Courses

Lily Iatridis, the founder of Fortuigence, has multiple degrees and more than a decade of classroom experience. She acts as a personal writing coach for these self-paced online courses. 

The Essay Rock Star Course is  a five step program that covers all the basics for high school requirements and college entrance exams. It covers the following essays, which can also be taken as individual classes if you just want to work on a specific style.

My daughter chose The Expository Essay as her course, which is broken down into seven lessons and assignments. She had to submit a sample of her writing as a pre-assessment.

How It Works

The student logs in and accesses the classroom. After choosing the current lesson, she watches a video, reads or listens to the lesson, and submits the assignment. Ms. Iatridis then emails corrections and suggestions. The student cannot move on to the next lesson until this assignment is fine-tuned. Extra help is available anytime throughout the course.

fortuigence classroom

What We Liked 

~ Writing Mentor ~

Lily Iatridis is very kind but also direct. Many of the video lessons that we’ve done in the past were so scripted that they became monotonous, but watching her videos is like sitting across the table from her and having a conversation. My daughter felt like she formed a relationship with Ms. I (how she signs her emails). Ms. I made sure to say something encouraging in every email that she sent.

~ Examples ~

There are plenty of pdfs provided to show examples of what is being expected. It is very helpful to be able to print out a sample outline when having to create one of your own. 

~ Multiple Ways to Learn ~

Each lesson has an instructional video and a written lesson. There is also an audio version of the lesson. Links are given for the course rubric, examples, and writing organizers. Need more help? Click the “Ask the Instructor” button.

~ Self-Paced ~

There is absolutely no insistence to speed through the course. No timer. No due dates. It took some of the pressure off of my reluctant writer. 

~ Mastery ~

There are no grades given for the assignments. Instead, the student must master each step before being allowed to advance to the next lesson. We use the mastery approach in our homeschool for most of our subjects, so this really appeals to me.

~ Hands Off ~

It was SO nice to be able to step away from the writing boxing ring. There were a couple of times when my daughter asked for my opinion on her assignments and I almost stepped in until I remembered … “Nope! Turn it in and see what Ms. I has to say.” . How wonderful to feel confident that she was receiving the instruction she needed.

The Downside

You knew there had to be one, right? We had a bit of a struggle keeping on track since there are no deadlines. Admittedly, this had to do with summer starting and our usual schedule being out of whack. It is NO fault of the curriculum. Just be aware, if you have a lollygagger or day dreamer, that you will need to stay on top of it with some sort of dedicated time for writing.

Thoughts from the Teenager

  • She enjoyed interracting with a real person that she could contact if she needed help.
  • She understood exactly what was expected from her.
  • “I still don’t love writing, but this is my favorite writing program so far!” (This is the first one she’s actually liked!)

Essay Rock Star


All of the Fortuigence Essay Rock Star Courses are 25% off if you purchase by August 18th using the code: 505-0-1520893

There is a 100% Money Back Guarantee, good for up to 14 days once the course is started.


Fortuigence is giving away an Essay Rock Star short course (winner’s choice). Contest ends 8/22/2014, 11 pm EST.

Click the image below to fill out the entry form. 

Essay Rock Star Giveaway


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Write from History: A Writing Curriculum for Kids Who Don’t Like to Write

write from history

My 5th grade son dislikes writing. He would say “hates” if I let him. He’d rather be whacking something, taking it apart, or building it in Minecraft (where he would then whack it and take it apart).

Finding Write from History was like a breath of fresh air. It is a Charlotte Mason writing curriculum that uses primary source documents to teach writing, grammar, and history.

There are four books from which to choose:

The two levels cover grades first through fifth, but can be used on into middle school due to the upper level writings included in the books. The difference in the two levels is the reading difficulty and copywork style. You can pick manuscript or cursive. The readings are in the form of historical narratives, primary source documents, poetry, and cultural tales. A grammar section is located in the back of the book with lessons for color-coding the copywork. We have a grammar curriculum that we love so this one was a bit too basic for my son, but it would be a great fit for a beginner grammar course. Update: Brookdale House now offers Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons if you want to add a more formal grammar curriculum.


Each lesson includes these activities:

  • Reading
  • Oral Narration
  • Copywork
  • Grammar
  • Dictation

As a member of the Write from History launch team, I chose to review Write from Medieval History Level 2 Manuscript Models. We will be moving into this time period after the first of the year, and though my son writes beautifully in cursive, I didn’t want him to have to concentrate on that aspect. In fact I didn’t address his handwriting at all. I figure it will improve as he gets used to the longer copywork passages.


A few of my favorite things:

Flexibility- This is a history supplement, so you just browse through the table of contents to find a passage that matches what you are studying. You can work your way from start to finish, but you don’t have to. The grammar is broken down into a new part of speech each month and works with any lesson in any order. I’ve always combined as many subjects and ages as possible in our homeschool (one of the reasons I love Charlotte Mason). These lessons are easily adapted for multiple ages because you have the freedom to structure them any way you want.

Scheduling- A detailed 5-day suggested schedule is included, as well as a couple of optional schedules.

Definitions- Many Charlotte mason newbies get hung up on the differences between narration, dictation, and copywork. There are a couple of pages of helpful definitions and examples to help you straighten it all out.

Interest Level- Because we aren’t starting medieval history for another month or so, I let my son browse through the table of contents and pick what he wanted to read. (He chose his first selection because it was one of the shortest copywork assignments. Ha!) I knew we had a winner a few minutes later when I heard the words that are music to this momma’s ears, “Hey Mommy! Did you know….?”. And while he still doesn’t like to write, he enjoys seeing exactly what is expected from him so that he knows when he is done.


A couple of my not so favorite things:

Lack of Answer Key for Grammar- Answer keys make my job so much easier, but a little birdie told me there could be one in the works. ;)

Too Much Flipping- It can get a little awkward switching from front to back to look at the grammar lessons or optional exercises, but there is an easy fix for that–> get the eBook! I will definitely go the eBook route for future courses. Super simple to pick the topic I want and print it out when I need it.

The Write from History books are priced at $22.99.

Your reluctant writer with thank you!!
(Or maybe not, but I bet they will no longer hate writing.)

I received a free book for the purpose of giving my honest review. No other compensation was given. My affiliate link is used in this post – thank you for supporting my site through any purchase you make!

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getting off at the next port

Whew!  I did it!!  All of my reviews are done and today is the end of my voyage with the  2009-2010 TOS Crew.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I was signing up for a 3-hour tour and it ended up being an extended stay on the island. I have loved (almost) every minute of it!

The free products have been such a blessing to our family – we received so many things that I didn’t even know we needed, but that is what happens when your Crew Leaders pray for God to direct the right items to the right families.

An even bigger blessing has been the TOS Crew Forum, a place where we could discuss ANYTHING and feel confident that no one thought we were TOO strange.

I would encourage you to check out the TOS Homeschool Crew if you are looking for curriculum for the Fall. That is how I found our beloved history curric, and also how I found out about The Crew. You can view reviews from this year and last year on the blog.

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review – LobsterNetwork

When I found out we were reviewing a stuff-sharing site, I couldn’t imagine why it would be called LobsterNetwork.

Then I saw this neat-o logo & it all made sense:

LobsterNetwork is a FREE online community that you create to keep track of your stuff. You can create a group of friends & family and then you can lend/borrow each other’s stuff. You can also sell your stuff in the marketplace.

There are so many great uses for this site:

  • Inventory your stuff for insurance purposes
  • Make your own card catalog for your home library
  • Create a group with your church or neighbors to share stuff like tools, videos & books
  • Create a group for homeschoolers to share curriculum
  • Crafters could make a group listing all of the supplies they are willing to share
  • Make a wanted or for sale list for others to browse

LobsterNetwork has tracking features that  include automated reminders for the owner & borrower. No more wondering who borrowed your favorite book or tool.

I am going to start using LobsterNetwork as an inventory for books & build it from there over the summer. We have a small church building with no room for a library, so I think this would work great to have a virtual lending library among the members.

Check out the videos and the Getting Started Guide for even more ideas.

The Nitty Gritty: FREE!

Value: FREE!

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about LobsterNetwork!

I received no compensation for writing my honest review.

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review – Cerebellum

I must confess that I have no idea what an AP History Exam is, so keep that in mind as you read this review, LOL. I don’t have a high schooler yet.

I received the History of the U.S. AP Exam Prep DVD, part of the Light Speed Learning series published by Cerebellum. You might be more familiar with their brilliant Standard Deviant DVDs, of which I am a big fan. That is the fast, fun style you will find in the AP EXAM Prep DVDs.

History of the U.S. AP Exam Prep has a DVD and a Digital Workbook. It reviews the 30 most tested topics and gives helpful strategies for taking the test. They go over each step of the test & what to expect, which makes this a perfect resource for those of us who stress about the unknown.

I will definitely be checking out the Cerebellum library before next year!

The Nitty Gritty:

  • $14.98, but they were on sale for $11.24 at the time of this post

Value: Great deal for tutoring & peace of mind.

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about Cerebellum!

I received a free DVD for the purpose of writing an honest review. No other compensation was given.