For review, each Crew member received two issues of Nature Friend, a Christian nature magazine geared toward the whole family, though six of the twelve issues per year are "gently nudged towards the older family members". Children from as young as 3 all the way up to grandparents will find something of interest in this magazine. Nature Friend does not focus on the how of creation, but rather the result of God's hand:
Since the doctrine of Divine Creation is the first and foundational one of Scripture, our children must be able to stand on it securely to withstand the undermining influences from our culture. Nature Friend has never chosen to be controversial or militantly confrontational about creation vs. evolution. Its policy has been to simply stand on the truth of God’s Word and to present it as enjoyable fact while learning about the creatures God has created. Nature Friend recognizes that God has planned for man to be wise stewards over His creation, and that He alone is to be worshipped, not His creation.The first thing I noticed about this magazine is that the photography is absolutely gorgeous. In addition to the great cover shots and article photographs, a regular feature called The Story Behind the Photo discusses the events that led up to a particular photograph.
The second thing that immediate stuck out is the absence of advertisements, always a plus. Each magazine has grown since it is beginning in 1983 and is now twenty-four 8 1/2 x 11 pages.
The motto listed on the cover of every magazine is “Helping Families Explore the Wonders of God's Creation”. True to this statement, Nature Friend encourages its reader to carefully observe his surroundings, ask questions, wonder and explore. Readers are encouraged to mail in questions to be featured in The Mailbox and answered by Nature Friend or other readers. The Pictures and Poems section showcases drawings and poems sent by readers. Readers are even encouraged to send photographs for the Creation Close-Ups feature, adding to the already wonderful photography. Lastly, pictures drawn using the previous month's You Can Draw tutorial are arranged on a full page. One issue we received published 26 reader drawings; the second issue was a two-page spread with a whopping 56 reader drawings. Once a year is a special "Readers' Issue" that is comprised almost entirely of reader submissions. The magazine's interaction and involvement with the readers really fosters a love of exploration and inquisitiveness about the world around them.
There are plenty of activities and articles to accompany the reader contributions. Crosswords, scavenger hunts, search words, hidden pictures and drawing tutorials are mixed in among meaty articles and stories about God's creation. Each issue's In the Beginning introduces a unique animal; the screech owl and the weaverbird were featured in the two issues I reviewed. The Wondernose section addresses curious questions, e.g. “What bird can take the temperature?” and “What animal has both a hard beak and fleshy lips that cover the beak?” Any and all of God's creation is explored, not just animals. Articles on other nature topics, e.g. plants or the galaxy, also appear.
Subscribers have an option to include a Study Guide with their subscription. The Study Guide is attached in the center of the magazine and is 8-12 pages of additional activities and articles. The activities include acrostics, fill-in-the-blank, crosswords and research questions that reinforce the material in each issue. Permission is given to photocopy Study Guide exercises for classroom use. Both study guides I reviewed included photography instruction and writing inspiration articles. The Study Guide seemed to be a balance of reinforcement of the material and taking it to the next level. You can view a sample Study Guide here.
My kids both enjoyed browsing through Nature Friend. Both of them mentioned that the articles had more substance than other nature magazines they've seen. I think I was much more impressed with this magazine than my children though. In the past, we've been subscribers to another popular nature magazine for kids. I wish I would have known about Nature Friend as an option.
If you are a nature loving family that loves to wonder and interact with God's creation, Nature Friend may be the perfect find. I see this magazine being a perfect compliment to the nature walks and journaling of many homeschooling families. A one-year subscription cost $36. The Study Guide can be added for an additional $24. Use coupon code BLOG93 for a $3 savings on new subscriptions (offer expires November 30, 2009). If you'd like to see a copy before subscribing, sample issues are available as a PDF for free, or you can order a printed issue for $5. With Christmas coming up, this might be an item to put on a wishlist shared with grandparents for easy shopping. To learn more or to subscribe, visit the Nature Friend website. Of special interest is the Homeschooler's Guide to Nature Friend Website where you can see samples of individual magazine features and how they may apply to your homeschool.
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.
Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.