Nature Friend: Helping Families Explore the Wonders

Nature Friend Magazine gets a ***** (5 Star) rating from the Khalid family.

I have never seen a more beautiful magazine than the one called “Nature Friend Magazine” that arrived in my mailbox this past August. As soon as we took it out of the mailbox the tug-of-war began. My little nature child, Alaya, wanted to look through the pictures and ask a billion questions as she’s still a beginning reader and the text was a bit much for her. My eldest child wanted to read it immediately (and aggravate her sister by not letting her look over her shoulder) and Michael just assumed that it must be for him so he was upset that the other two were touching his treasure. Needless to say the neighbors were getting quite a show by the mailbox that day.

What makes Nature Friend Magazine different from other nature/animal magazines are the photographs. Sure, other magazines have photos of the animals. But I’ve never seen any that really jump off the page the way that Nature Friend Magazine does.  They are stunningly beautiful. The August 2009 issues has a cover shot  of an owl as he’s about to catch a mouse for dinner. It is so detailed that you can count how many the long feathers on it’s outstretched wing (11 by my count).  I have never seen an owl in real life, but this picture conveys the beauty, grace and strength of this beautiful bird.

Besides educating children on the scientific facts and figures, it also highlights the beauty and wisdom of God’s design. It’s not done in a preachy, “let me hit you over the head” manner. Instead the publishers show the children (and parents) the beauty of the world that we live in in such a reverent way that to deny that this is the work of an Intelligent Creator is impossible (or at least a lot of work for the unbeliever.)

I am not a photographer. I have two left thumbs when it comes to taking pictures that I’m proud of showing to others. So, I really appreciated the tips that were included on how the cover photo and other photos contained within the magazine were taken. It has helped me to appreciate that photography is an art form that can be learned. Jade has a natural gift for taking good pictures and once I get my new digital camera (Michael decided my other camera  needed a bath …) we are definitely including nature photography.

Aside from beautiful pictures, there are informative articles on the animals that were captured on film (or memory card) as well as puzzles, picture submissions by their readers and drawings of plants and other natural scenery by the children who read the magazine. My kids and I had a lot of fun with the scavenger hunts that were in each magazine. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that there are art lessons in each magazine, so you can easily use the material as an art instructional. And given the beautiful hand-drawn pictures of animals, children are definitely benefiting from the information.

Nature Friend is definitely a value at $36/year. If you’re interested in using the magazine as a formal part of your curriculum you can also purchase the monthly study guides for an additional $2 per month. These study guides can be purchased for a year, or individually. They also have hardbound copies of their past issues if you’d like to have a permanent record of the beauty of our natural world. They cost $66 per volume.

Nature Friend Magazine provided me with a free copy of their magazine to read and use in order to write this review, but they have also gained a new loyal subscriber. I plan on gifting the magazine to my animal loving daughter, Alaya, for Christmas. (But don’t tell her — it’s a secret!)

This is a great tool for creating moments to sit back and observe nature. My little ones were so entranced by the photos that we ended up having long discussions about what they saw and looked up additional information on the animal that had captured their imagination. For example, in the August edition it was butterflies and our scavenger hunt led us to other resources to look up facts about butterflies and how they live. This magazine is a tangible expression of what homeschooling is all about — igniting the imagination and wonder of the world in the hearts and minds of our children.

And now until November 30, 2009 you can save money on an annual subscription.
Just add the Coupon Code BLOG93 before you checkout.

A Journey Through Learning

Lapbooking is a fun way to teach and teach and reinforce every subject. It’s also something that all members of the family can do regardless of age. Basically a lapbook is a collection of minibooks and/or facts about a subject. These minibooks are placed inside of ordinary file folders that refolded to create a master book that fits in your lap.

A Journey Through Learning makes lapbooking super easy for a beginner like me to get started. I have been familiar with lapbooks for awhile, but this is my first time actually assembling one. Doing the lapbook project on “Autumn” has been a real eye-opener for me in more ways than one:

  1. Lapbooking is not complicated. I think this was one of the biggest points for me. I shied away from the activity because I couldn’t imagine how to choose what to include in a lapbook or how to put it together.
  2. Children learn and remember facts easily. Since there is a three year gap between my ladies so I wasn’t sure if Alaya would get as much out of it as Jade does. The minibooks break each subject down so well that there are few questions from either child.
  3. The organizational benefits. Jade had to deal with an immature auditory system and went to speech for a number of years. I mistakenly thought that once speech was over that was the end of her difficulties. But doing lapbooking has shown me that another quirk of her speech issue has manifested in her organizational skills. While her little sister had no problem organizing her book, Jade was all over the place. So I’m now incorporating lapbooking in every subject possible because she needs to strengthen those skills.

A Journey Through Learning really makes it easy for parents to teach and reinforce lessons in one step. Most of their lapbooks come with unit study guides. This means that there is a lesson before each crafting activity. So, you read the facts and/or story about the subject and then do the crafts. I’ve found that this has helped the children to remember the facts a lot better than through the traditional “read and regurgitate” method.

In addition to the minibooks being created, the A Journey Through Learning has a variety of fun activities as well.  For example, one of the activities in the Autumn lapbook was to pretend that we were birds and using a scavenger list we had to find the materials for making a bird’s nest.  This led to many discussions, lots of memorable fun.

Their catalog contains lapbooks on all kinds of topics including science, history, biblical, literature and also preschool topics.  If you’re lucky enough to live in Louisiana you can even take a lapbooking class with the owners. Their lapbook prices are very reasonable, especially when you consider that you can reprint whatever you need for all of the children in your family. The ebooks are $13, the CD version is $14 and the printed version is $21 per book.

Each book is chock full of stories, templates, charts, minibooks and activities. Many of the books are over 50 pages of information. And the activities are appropriate for a range of ages starting at the preschool level to the seventh grade.  I’m finding this to be one of the greatest appeal of their products because I can work with everyone at the same time. Since I also do work at home, the more subjects that I can combine without compromising either child’s level is really important.

But don’t take my word for it.  You need to head on over to A Journey Through Learning and get your free lapbook to try out. Once you signup for their free newsletter you’ll receive “An Overview of the 17th Century.” I think that once you experience the ease and fun of working with their products you’ll be hooked too!


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