Friday, July 9, 2010

Favourite Magazines for Homeschoolers

Having a voracious, early reader in the house has had us scrambling for easy-to-access reading material for many years now. In fact, our first child-friendly magazine subscription provided something to trade for the well-thumbed playmobil catalogue in the bathroom.

We quickly became magazine connoisseurs, trying this one for a year, sampling a little of that one. It took some time, but we've come up with our list of keepers - the ones that suit us best in terms of style and content.

We love Ranger Rick. We always have. It's hard not to find plenty to like in this well-thought out, informative, and eco-advocating magazine. It has cultivated a love of nature in my son and has helped him develop an awareness of ecological issues that I certainly didn't have when I was his age.

Time and time again I have been astounded that my son knows something about which I know nothing... and when I asked him where he learned it, he tells me Ranger Rick.

YES Mag and KNOW are locally published, Canadian-content only (in terms of writers) science magazines for kids. The magazines came into being through a partnership with Actua, the organization behind Science Venture programs at UVic and similar programs at other Canadian universities. The goal of the organization and the magazines is to encourage and inspire children's interest in Science.

We have enjoyed both these magazines, although my son outgrew KNOW fairly quickly in terms of content and reading level. YES Mag continues to appeal and we're more than happy to support this Canadian magazine.

My son's interest in this magazine has surprised me. Don't get me wrong - I'm just as enthralled with Canadian history as the next guy. But when I let our subscription lapse a couple of months and my laxity was discovered, I was pressed to order back issues. I kid you not. He enjoys the content and the format. I have to admit I haven't spent a lot of time looking through these, but I trust his opinion.

Kayak magazine is published by Canada's History Society, which also publishes the magazine Canada's History (formerly known as The Beaver... tricky to find via a google search, however; thus, the name change). From the Kayak site: "Every issue will introduce children to the who, what, when, where, why and how of Canada’s fascinating stories, and show them our history in context with today’s world! Kayak will take your child to a past they will find engaging, relevant and fun..."

Okay, true confession. The Moo-Cow Fan Club magazine is no longer in production. However, you can get bundles of back issues and you really can't go wrong doing just that. My son adores these magazines and has read them over and over and over again. I'm not sure what the appeal is, but apparently there's lots of it. Their self-description is "Science, history and geography for children both funny and smart."

We love Carus Publishing and its gorgeous line of magazines. Over the years, we've enjoyed Ladybug, Spider, Cricket, Ask, Dig, Calliope and Muse. Although they are all appealing and well-done, the three my son has enjoyed the most are Spider (ages 6 to 9), Ask (ages 6 to 9) and Muse (ages 9 to 14). I don't know exactly what set those three apart from the rest for him, but I do know that Muse has endured the longest and is currently our only subscription with Carus. I suspect he most enjoys the cartoon antics of Kokopelli and the other muses and the smart pie escapades (brought to you by the amazing Larry Gonick). Who could resist such funny and wacky little characters, especially when they accompany some fantastic content?

I really like the history magazines, too -- Calliope and Cobblestone. I prefer them over other ones that are more "schooly" in format. These ones are like slick and savvy history magazines for older people (read: parents). The topics and photos draw the reader in (rather than bore them with squished details) and pique one's curiousity. I think that's a very good thing in a magazine.

I love this magazine. I love it so much I haven't shared it yet with my kid, although I suspect the time has come for me to be a bit more generous. BBC 's Knowledge Magazine. I love all things BBC, so I may be a bit biased about this magazine, but I think not. It's simply packed with information that is presented in an enjoyable and enticing format. Reading it is truly a pleasure. They have some digital versions of back issues that you can peruse through before you make a financial commitment. I have been reading (or had been reading) National Geographic magazines since my big sister bought me a subscription when I was 10. I much prefer *gasp* this magazine in both content and form (in case you felt you had to choose between the two). My favourite feature of this magazine is the resource section in the back, broken down into pages on history, science, and nature.

The other magazine that my son is too young for but I've decided to collect for him anyway is Make: Technology on your own time. I stumbled onto Make a couple of years ago when I purchased the book Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments (part of the DIY Science series). Several of us out in the blogosphere would like our children to experience "real" chemistry rather than pablum-ized, super-safe, arm-chair (textbook) chemistry. Someone had posted about this book, so I ran off to buy it. Then I started to read things about Make on the GeekDad blog. And then I decided we needed to subscribe to the magazine. So there you have it. Personally, I doubt I'll ever build anything from the magazine, but I love the idea of ingenuity and creativity and DIY. Plus, they have great articles about people who are "makers" that are very inspiring. It's certainly worth a look.

This list of magazines only scratches the surface of what's available - please please please add your favourites to the comments! It's sometimes so hard to sift through all that's "out there" and find the things that truly please. Your contributions are most welcome.