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Nature Friend Magazine Review by Shauna Rumbaugh

Dogwood Ridge Outdoors
4253 Woodcock Lane
Dayton, VA 22821

Because my daughters (ages 8 and 4) are four years apart, finding educational materials that they can both learn from and enjoy can be a challenge. Nature Friend: Helping Families Explore the Wonders of God's Creation is a great educational resource that appeals to both of them, and our family enjoyed the opportunity to review two issues of this magazine together.

Nature Friend Magazine is a monthly magazine, and each full-color, 24-page issue features articles, photographs, games, and other content focused on developing an appreciation for nature and the outdoors in children. The target age range is 8 to 16, but younger children and even adults of all ages will likely find the magazine interesting and engaging. The magazine presents a Christian view of nature and science, and Bible verses and Biblical lessons are incorporated into the stories in a natural way. God's creation is emphasized, and I appreciate that the magazine doesn't just show pretty pictures of nature scenes but also ties them to God's handiwork. There is no Earth worship in Nature Friend Magazine, and the articles consistently point the reader back to the Creator.

I sat down with my younger daughter and a copy of Nature Friend, and we looked through and talked about it together. She loved the Invisibles page, in which small drawings of objects are hidden in an illustration and the reader has to find them. She found most of the items, and I pointed her in the right direction to locate the others. This is a great way to engage preschoolers in gentle learning. For example, in one drawing we looked at, the picture featured a bird holding a worm in its mouth and walking among some flowers. I asked my daughter what the bird was doing, and we talked about the various hidden objects (e.g., a raindrop, a watering can, seeds, a hoe, a bird egg) and how they related to the scene. One of the objects was a flower bud, which is a term she wasn't familiar with. So I took the opportunity to briefly explain the stages that a flower goes through as it grows and blooms. You will find a lot of similar conversation starters for little ones in the pages of this magazine, and although they're under the target age for the publication, I think preschoolers can certainly enjoy this magazine too.

My older daughter loves animals, so I knew before I even handed her the magazines that she would like them. She's a third grader and reads above grade level, so she had no trouble reading and understanding the articles on her own. Beginning readers might need help, though the reading level seems to depend on the article, and some are a little more complex than others. She also loves art and enjoyed the featured You Can Draw lessons, which teach readers how to draw birds and other nature dwellers.

Contributions from readers are encouraged by Nature Friend Magazine; poems, photos, and drawings from readers are included in every issue. There are also guessing games in which the reader tries to figure out the mystery animal based on factual clues. The Wondernose section is a question-and-answer feature that focuses on a particular scientific idea. The Mailbox highlights questions and comments from readers. The research-based articles cover topics about different aspects of nature and the outdoors. Six issues per year are geared toward older students in the target audience, so there's a good mix of articles and content for families with children of multiple ages and levels.

I appreciate that the magazine is interactive and draws children in to learn more about a given topic. An older sibling could read an article independently and then do a fill-in-the-blank puzzle that accompanies it. For younger kids, simply looking at the beautiful photos on a page together and reading the captions or giving a summary of that nature topic might be enough to engage their interest.

You can subscribe to the magazine for $36 per year (12 issues). If you are looking for more in-depth educational content to supplement the magazine, optional Study Guides are also available for each issue. For only $2 more per issue, these guides are worth the extra cost. I assigned the Study Guides to my older daughter as part of her science studies, and that would be one way that parents could incorporate the guides into their homeschooling program. Each Study Guide includes puzzles, discussion questions, suggestions for further research, and other supplementary content that ties back to the corresponding monthly issue, and the guides also feature bonus material not covered in the magazine. The Study Guide has a section where readers can submit nature photos and have them critiqued by a photographer, as well as a creative writing lesson. My daughter liked working on the crossword puzzle and other activities in the Study Guides, which provided a low-pressure means of testing her comprehension of what she read in the magazine. I think that the information included in the Study Guides will also help her retain some of the factual details that she might otherwise forget over time.

I recently saw some older Nature Friend magazines from a few years back, and it struck me that they didn't look out of date and would be just as relevant and interesting to my kids now as a current issue would be. Nature Friend Magazine also offers bound compilations of all the issues from a particular year. At $66, the hardbound annual volume exceeds the cost of a one-year subscription. But for some families, this option would be well worth considering, as you'll likely want to hang onto the issues and it would be a good way to keep them all together and protected.

I recommend Nature Friend Magazine as a family-friendly homeschool resource for art, science, or reading. A subscription would make an excellent gift for a child or family as well, whether they homeschool or not.

Product review by Shauna Rumbaugh, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010