New from Bridgeway Academy: Author in Your House & Coupon

#sponsored #partner


Are you considering which writing curriculum you’d like to use in your homeschool this year?  Well, if you are, consider Bridgeway Academy!  They have some fascinating new online classes taught by best-selling author Renae Green called Author in Your House which might be just what you’re looking for.

Bridgeway Academy provides excellent online classes taught by accredited, skilled teachers in all subjects.  My son Jackson has taken two online courses from Bridgeway Academy and we couldn’t have been happier with his weekly class time, his assignments and studies, and his overall experience both with his teacher and his classmates.  He has learned so much.

Author in Your House is a new course which is available for middle school students (grades 5-8) using the book Chasing Dreams, which details the life of 12-year-old Rebecca’s life in the early 20th century.  High school students can take Author in Your HouseWrite Your First Novel with Renae Green guiding them through the writing of their first novels.  Either way, students will receive a first-class education in writing from a skilled and gifted author.  Visit this link to view the Course Catalog which details the information on these and other classes for elementary, middle school, and high school students.


Plus, you can purchase these at a discounted price through July 20!

Families can get 15% off Bridgeway Live Online Classes (course materials and additional kits excluded) by using the code SUMMER2018 at checkout.

We have loved our Bridgeway Academy experiences.  If you’re looking for some amazing class opportunities for your students, please visit the Bridgeway Academy website and learn more!


Enjoy!  –Wren


Meet Varina Denman! Author of JILTED & the MENDED HEARTS SERIES

I have the enormous pleasure of introducing you all to Varina Denman this week!  She’s the author of the wonderful MENDED HEARTS series, the stories of three women living in small town West Texas and dealing with life, joy, pain and love.  Varina’s newest book (and third in this series), JILTED, has just been published.  On Friday, I’ll be sharing both my thoughts about this book…as well as the opportunity for you to win a copy of JILTED, courtesy of Varina!

Today, Varina has been kind enough to answer some fun questions about herself and her writing career.  You’ll love getting to know her better, just as I have.  Enjoy!

V. Denman Author Int. Banner

So, Varina…your third book, JILTED, has just been published! What’s it like to be
a published author?

It seems like a dream, and I keep waiting to wake up. Or maybe someone will suddenly say, “Oh! You’re Varina Denman? This is a mistake.” But other than that …it feels GREAT.

How did you embark on this writing life?

It’s funny, but I never intended to become a writer. I studied computer science and mathematics in college, but then I took a break to stay home with my kids. During all the late night feedings, I had plenty of time for reading, and I consumed novel after novel. It was then that I began to wonder if I might be able to write, but it was still years before I tried it.

Jilted Windmill QuoteHow did you get “discovered” as an author?

In 2012, I attended a writer’s conference that was hosted by the American Christian Fiction Writers. Since it was my first conference, I was nervous, and much of the weekend was spent seeking out other clueless newbies so we could
boost each other’s spirits. The registration packet included two 15 minute meetings with literary agents. I was TERRIFIED of these appointments, but I made it through them without embarrassing myself too much. Neither of the
agents offered to represent my work, but they gave me pointers and encouragement. After that, I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the events.

At lunch the next day, I noticed a girl sitting alone at a table, and I sat down next to her and struck up a conversation. We talked about our children, our hometowns, the conference in general, and then I asked, “What do you write?”
You can imagine my shock when she said she was an agent. I stumbled over the rest of our conversation, but at the end of the meal, she asked to see my proposal, and a week later, she called and offered me representation.

I am SO THANKFUL I didn’t know who she was, or I might never have sat down next to her. We’ve had a marvelous relationship since then. During the year following that conference, she encouraged me as I worked on my manuscript, and the next year, my debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Award. My career was off the ground … all because I struck-up a conversation with a girl I didn’t know.

What does a “day in the life” of Varina Denman look like?

Typically, my alarm goes off at 5:00. I start my day with a fruit smoothie and Bible reading, then I jump into my writing. If all goes well, I’ll draft a chapter in the morning, then take a break to exercise. Next I’ll work on blog posts or marketing until lunch. In the afternoons, I help my teenagers with their homeschool assignments (during the school year), and try to do a little housework. After dinner, I read a book or watch a movie. I love a routine, so I’m happiest when I barely deviate from this schedule.

Varina Denman Mended Hearts coversA key element I’ve noticed in your books is that what others see (and conclude) about us is not always true about the persons we really are. I love this, it’s so true! Did this just “happen” as you wrote, or is this a theme you’ve thought on for awhile?

I was such a newbie when I started writing the Mended Hearts series, that it definitely just “happened” as I wrote. But by the time I got to Jilted, I was more aware of the recurring theme, and I began to work with it. Now it’s almost a given
that this theme will at least be brushed on in all my books. In my current work-in-progress it’s a major key point once again.

I like the way that you shift POV from first person, with Lynda, to third person, in Clyde. How did you decide to tell JILTED in this way?

So much of Jilted evolved through the writing of the series. Decisions I made way back with Jaded and Justified trickled down into the pages of Jilted, and that is true about the POV as well. When I first started writing, I didn’t know much about point of view, and I didn’t know I was sort of breaking the rules. I wrote and re-wrote, trying the perspectives differently, but it always sounded better with the heroine in 1st person and the hero in 3rd . I’m continuing that trend with at least one more book.

Varina Denman Jilted Cover 3DJILTED concludes the story arc for three women in the West Texas town of Trapp, in
your Mended Hearts series. What’s next for you as an author?

Right now I’m working on a stand alone novel,also set in Texas. Unlike the Mended Hearts series, which is set in the Lubbock area, the new story will happen a farther north, just on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo.

And last but not least…how does it feel to walk into a bookstore and see your books on the shelf?

Amazing! I actually hadn’t done that until last week, and I found all three books side-by- side on the shelf. I wanted to squeal, but I was too embarrassed. 

Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series, which revolves around church hurt, is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. A native Texan, Varina lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five
mostly grown children. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts below.

A little about Jilted:

A heartbroken woman desires to move beyond old memories, but will her past give way to hope?

Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life in which the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, of a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and of a town that must—once and for all-leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.

Be sure to join us again on Friday for more about JILTED, and for your chance to win a copy for your very own in our book giveaway!  And be sure to visit Varina Denman at her social media sites!

Enjoy –Wren

TOS Review: Essay Rock Star by Fortuigence

Fortuigence ReviewOur latest TOS Review is for a fantastic online writing course by Fortuigence, called Essay Rock Star. (Doesn’t the title alone make you want to check it out?)  We received Fortuigence’s Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement Course to use and review.

Fortuigence is a program of highly effective online writing courses, founded by Lily Iatridis.  Its aim is to build writing mastery in middle school and high school students.  Fortuigence offers the Essay Rock Star writing courses for four different types of writing:  The Personal Statement; The Persuasive Essay; The Expository Essay; and The Textual Analysis.

Fortuigence ReviewHow simple do you find teaching writing to your homeschool students who are ages 12-18?  We have always enjoyed our writing assignments and have used a variety of curricula for writing.  And we are definitely a word- and story-loving family.  However, I was quite thrilled for Jackson to have someone else teach him writing in an enjoyable yet precisely taught course.  I was hoping for: a teacher who could clearly teach different components of writing; someone who could plainly but gently correct and encourage; and for a course that would be both appealing and interesting.  Essay Rock Star provides all of these, and more!

We were offered our choice of one of the four courses listed above, and Jackson selected Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement Writing Course.  A personal statement essay is one that you’ll often find requested on college applications, or perhaps on applications for volunteer positions or jobs.  The college, or the volunteer coordinator or employer, wants to know why your child is so amazing and why he should be accepted or hired.  The personal statement essay gives the opportunity for the student to compose an inviting account of the qualities or experiences that make him special and unusual; or that would make him the ideal prospective student.  How does a young person tell his story in ways that are both fascinating and compelling?

Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement Course instructs the student in accomplishing this goal throughout a 5-step process (brainstorming, organizing, free writing, revising, and editing), which is covered in 7 online lessons.  Upon purchasing the course, the student is granted access to the online classroom where both video lessons and assignments are located.  Founder Lily Iatridis teaches each lesson, then gives the student an assignment to complete.  The student completes the assignment and uploads it to the online classroom.  Then, Ms. Iatridis reviews the assignment and returns it to the student, along with any remarks or corrections she recommends.  The process is interesting and enjoyable, as well as challenging in a very positive way.

Lily Iatridis is quite adept at teaching different components of the essay.  In each video, she breaks down the essay components into bite-sized segments, then carefully instructs the student on the work he’ll be doing.  In addition, each video lesson also has the entire script printed below the video box, so that the student can follow along as Ms. Iatridis teaches or can refer back to it as needed.

Jackson took about a month to complete all 7 lessons in the course.  First, we watched the video for each lesson.  (I watched it with him, so that I had a sense of what he’d be working on.)  Next, he would complete the assignment for that lesson.  Since we would be uploading each completed assignment to the online classroom, Jackson wrote his assignments in Word then entered them into the Fortuigence website.  Ms. Iatridis reviewed his work, on the average, in about a day or so.  She included remarks about his assignment then instructed him to move on to the next lesson.  At the end of the course, we received a certificate of completion.  We appreciated that for many reasons, not the least of which is that by completing Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement Writing Course Jackson actually received  .125 credits of high school coursework!

In addition to the online class work that Jackson did, we also received an excellent online reference: Essay Rock Star Writing Tips.  This included such helps as words and cliches to avoid; correct comma usage; proofreading and editing guidelines; and other useful writing tips.  During The Personal Statement Writing Course, Lily Iatridis provides examples of both mastery- and competent-level writing, which are downloadable for reference.  The Fortuigence website also includes a wealth of free resources for the homeschooling parent or child.  On its Blog tab, you’ll find videos and ideas for all kinds of educational games, designed to increase students’ knowledge and abilities in fun ways.  When you click on the Free Resources tab, you’ll find an excellent (and again, free) interactive course for parents called Top Teach, in addition to two free writing e-books (Grammar Baseball and End Blank Page Terror).  I encourage you to follow those links and utilize these quality resources.  If you do, I believe you’ll get a taste of some of the qualities that make the Fortuigence courses so exceptional!

Fortuigence ReviewJackson’s experience with Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement Writing Course proved to be quite profitable.  The lessons led him through each portion of the 5-step process carefully, and he was able to accomplish each section well.  I’d say that he did find this the most challenging writing program he’s ever done, although it was definitely not beyond his reach or ability; it just caused him in many ways to step up to the next level.  His teacher had great comments for him on his work.  He really loved the interaction and feedback from her.  And, he crafted a remarkable personal statement–even though he’s had only 12 years of life experience!

I am so impressed with both Fortuigence and Lily Iatridis.  The online writing courses enable students to learn to write crisp, interesting work.  The instructions are complete and clear, yet easy to follow.  In addition to these essentials which you’d want in a stellar writing program, Ms. Iatridis’ personal style with the students is truly wonderful.  She gave good instructions while encouraging Jackson and helping him discern the experiences and interests which would make for fascinating personal statement reading.  I couldn’t have been happier with this course, and I hope we’ll be able to take more Essay Rock Star courses in the future.  (There are, after all, three others that Jackson hasn’t experienced!)

Essay Rock Star:  The Personal Statement is available at Fortuigence.  and costs $57.  It is worth every penny, and I encourage you to consider it for your teenager’s writing instruction!

Click to read Crew Reviews 

Crew Disclaimer 

Enjoy!  –Wren




TOS Review: WriteShop

WriteShop ReviewAre you a parent who struggles with teaching writing to your elementary-aged children?  Do your children need specific writing skills you don’t know how to teach?  Or are you simply someone who’d like to add interest and excitement to writing exercises?

If so, the folks at WriteShop may have the perfect tools for you!  They actually produce writing curricula for students in kindergarten all the way up to twelfth grade.  Recently, TOS Crew members received curricula from WriteShop’s Primary and Junior collections.  Jackson and I received hard and digital copies of one of their newest products, WriteShop Junior Book E set.

WriteShop Junior Book E is a thorough, creative and exciting writing curriculum for students in grades 4 and 5; it is also quite appropriate for students in grades 6-7 who need more formal writing instruction, or to brush up on the mechanics of good writing.  Even though Jackson completed 6th grade this year, I was still enthused to have the chance to use this curriculum to spend time and focus on strengthening his writing skills.  He truly loves writing, but with WriteShop Junior Book E he’s been exposed not only to writing genres he’s never attempted before before (like fables or a shape poem), but to important writing skills like editing and revising that any educated person needs.  I have been so happy with this curriculum….and I look forward to seeing what else WriteShop has to offer in the future!

WriteShop Review With this fabulous curriculum, we received everything you see above; three print books/booklets, plus digital copies of all four, to use and review.  I’m going to share our experiences with each one, below!

WriteShop Junior Book E Teacher's Guide

WriteShop Junior Book E Teacher’s Guide

WriteShop Junior Book E Teacher’s Guide

This Teacher’s Guide thoroughly prepares you to teach writing using WriteShop Junior Book E.  The goal of WriteShop Junior (for grades 3-6) is to enable parents to teach excellent writing skills to their children so that they can creatively, and successfully, write on their own.  WriteShop Junior Book E accomplishes this goal by taking students step-by-step through the writing process in 10 different writing genres.  The Teacher’s Guide includes:

  • A recommended teaching schedule
  • Helpful hints for collecting and organizing writing supplies, worksheets and games
  • Ideas for creating writing centers for your students
  • Handy lists of supplies needed for each chapter
  • Teaching tips
  • And of course, and most importantly, full scripts for every lesson in every chapter!

    Planning the year's schedule

    Planning the year’s schedule

That last item is quite important.  There is an 8-step process that is repeated in each of the 10 chapters of WriteShop Junior Book E, and while it might seem a bit overwhelming at first, the Teacher’s Guide clearly leads the parent through each step and each activity, until it becomes second nature to both the parent and the child.  Here are the 8 steps you’ll find in each chapter, which will be tweaked to fit each genre the chapter is covering:

  1. Fold-N-Go Grammar; Reading Log
  2. Pre-Writing; Model and Teach
  3. Skill Builders; Journal Writing Practice
  4. Brainstorming; Junior Writer’s Notebook
  5. The Writing Project; Smaller Steps (for younger or less experienced writers) or Flying Higher (for more experienced ones)
  6. Editing and Revising
  7. Publishing the Project
  8. Evaluating Your Child’s Work; Want to Do More?

As you work your way through the curriculum, you’ll follow these steps in each chapter with different assignments, and in teaching your child to write in each genre.  The Teacher’s Guide is encouraging, instructive and easy to follow.  With it, you’ll be fully equipped to prepare for the year and teach every lesson!

WriteShop Junior Book E Activity Pack

WriteShop Junior Book E Activity Pack

The WriteShop Junior Book E Activity Pack includes two items:  the Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack Level 2 and the Student Worksheet Pack.  It is mostly consumable (although you’ll laminate some pages for some activities) and will provide you with everything you’ll need to teach this writing course to your child.

What is the Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack Level 2?  This is a wonderful series of grammar lessons which are partly consumable, but upon completion will serve as a fantastic grammar resource for the student.  There is one Fold-N-Go Grammar Guide for each lesson.  You will separate them and assemble them into 10 folders corresponding to each of the 10 chapters of WriteShop Junior Book E.  Here’s our collection of Fold-N-Go folders:

Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides

Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides

….and here’s the Fold-N-Go Grammar Guide for the first chapter:

Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack:  Lesson 1-Sentences

Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack: Lesson 1-Sentences

Each of the Fold-N-Go pages contains information about parts of speech, writing techniques, dialogue, paragraphs, etc.  The Fold-N-Gos are the first lesson of each chapter and introduce key skills the student will focus on.  They include both information and instruction, and opportunities for the students to apply what they’re learning on the same pages.

The Student Worksheet Pack has a page for each lesson in each chapter; or, for each activity assigned in the 8-step process.  These range from games,

June2014 122to writing exercises, to fill-in-the-blanks, June2014 124to brainstorming activities

June2014 190and more!  Each one of these activities is designed, even for the unwilling writer, to teach key skills and competencies in various forms of writing.  Because they’re so creative, the activities painlessly enable the student to progress and proceed in his abilities.  We enjoyed all of these activities, but I think I am most impressed with the lessons on self-editing.  They are taught in such an encouraging and uplifting manner.  The student first finds many things that he’s done right in his writing.  Then, and only then, he reviews his writing for necessary corrections or improvements, and is gently encouraged to make the necessary changes.  Painless!

I mentioned earlier that WriteShop Junior Book E trains the student to write in 10 different genres.  Aren’t you curious as to what they are?

  • Fables
  • Humorous writing
  • Adventure stories
  • Science Fiction
  • Mysteries
  • Concrete Poetry
  • Personal Narratives
  • Descriptive Narratives
  • Book Reports
  • Nonfiction Reports

I’d say that is pretty complete and impressive for a year’s work!

Some of the props from the Junior Time-Saver Pack (after lamination)

Some of the props from the Junior Time-Saver Pack (after lamination)

The Junior Time-Saver Pack is the pale purple booklet in the WriteShop Junior Book E collection pictured above.  It contains activities, bookmarks and props for many of the games that are used to teach principles and skills in WriteShop Junior Book E.  I followed the book’s directions and laminated these for ease and durability.  They add fun and excitement to each chapter’s lessons!

WriteShopJWNotebookThe fourth product in the photo collection above is the Junior Writer’s Notebook.  It’s only available in digital format, which you can save to your computer and then print for your child.  The Junior Writer’s Notebook includes details to help your child create and decorate his own writer’s notebook; 12 worksheets to help students learn to plan and write; and ideas for many different writing activities.  The worksheets are truly wonderful.  They lead the student in:

  • Interviewing characters
  • Creating a setting
  • Planning the plot
  • Developing a title
  • Selecting words
  • Designing narratives
  • Expressing an opinion
  • and more!

a June2014 034The WriteShop Junior Book E is available from WriteShop in both print and digital forms.  The Value Pack Print Set sells for $106.95 (retail $110.35), and the Value Pack Digital Set is priced at $78.50 (retail $81.00).  Both of these contain all four products discussed in this review.

I truly appreciated all the time, thought and creativity that the writers of WriteShop Junior Book E have put into this curriculum.  They have taken the time to make each lesson fun while teaching important skills.  I love all the genres that the curriculum includes.  Our children probably have a lot of experiences with certain types of writing, but WriteShop Junior Book E exposes them to new types that may challenge and surprise them.  We personally have great favorites from the list and others that we didn’t enjoy as much, but I am so glad that Jackson’s writing horizons have been expanded by both.

I am happy to recommend WriteShop Junior Book E to you.  It clearly and happily teaches fantastic writing skills that every student needs.  It’s fun for both the student and the teacher, and everything you need is included in the curriculum.  And you’ll be amazed at how much your student will learn, and how dramatically his writing skills can progress!

Click to read Crew Reviews 

Crew DisclaimerEnjoy! –Wren