"This book of wholesome fun is dedicated to helping children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideas, and worthy ways of living--for children are the world's most important people."--Highlights MagazineHighlights has been around since 1946. I remember it as being a staple of doctor and dentist's offices during the '70's, along with Bible storybook samples and Reader's Digests. But it can also be a helpful tool for homeschoolers.
I had a few issues that I used with our oldest when she was about five, and I picked up another pile this weekend at the thrift shop (mostly from 1999 and 2000). A sample issue I have here has the table of contents marked with symbols showing the reading level (pre-reading, easy, and advanced) and which stories/activities encourage creative thinking and moral values. I think the older copies used to have the same thing but in chart form.
We always liked the "Thinking" or "Headwork" pages and puzzles. I remember each of the old issues used to have a whole page of open-ended questions that got gradually harder, and it looks like they're still around, although some of the issues I found don't have as many questions. Samples: (a page showing kitchen utensils): "Which of these have straight sides and which ones are rounded--and why?" From another issue: "Wiggle your nose. Wiggle your toes." "Who wakes up first in your family? Who goes to bed first?" "Jim picked up the wrapped gift and said, 'I know what's in here.' How might he have known?" You can use these to start school some days.
Since marking up a magazine never seemed as heinous a crime as marking up a book, we often used to use Highlights for language scavenger hunts too. Children who can't read yet but know their letters can be asked to find all the P's or K's on a particular page; or those who know a few sight words can circle the words they know. (For a short time, The Apprentice's reading vocabulary consisted of her name, Mom, Dad, bed and no; so I used to let her mark every "no" on a page.)
Those with a bit more experience can be asked questions like these (I made these up while looking at a one-page story, "Molly Mim's Shop," in the November 2000 issue):
How many times do you see the word "cat?"
Find all the words with an "s" on the end, and circle each "s."
Find all the words that mean the same as "walked." (They are all in the same paragraph.)
Find all the words with double letters. Which one is spelled in a funny way just for this story?
Molly sold "cat hats." Can you think of something else for cats that would also rhyme?
The same issue, November 2000, has several things that could be used for copywork: a very short fable called "The Rooster and the Jewel"; a lovely short poem called "November Day" by Eleanor Averitt; a slightly shortened version of "The Whistle" by Benjamin Franklin (and my goodness, that one has some tough vocabulary in it); a Thanksgiving grace; and this one, for those who enjoy being grossed out:
"From the big red apple
I took a bite
But something wriggled
And didn't feel right
On my tongue.
I looked in the apple
But I didn't laugh
There it clung--
Only a half!"--Garry Cleveland Myers
And this fun-for-spelling joke (excuse the lack of quotation marks, I'm getting lazy):
Said a boy to his teacher one day,
"Wright has not written write right, I say."
And the teacher replied,
As the blunder she eyed,
"Right! Wright, write write right, right away!"
And of course there are easy and harder stories to practice reading with, and non-fiction articles, and hidden pictures and crafts and riddles and all the rest.
Highlights has never had the flashy appeal of some of the other childrens' magazines. I have to admit that my kids don't dance up and down much when I bring old issues home; they tend to treat Highlights with that slightly wary "stuck in a waiting room" attitude we used to bring to it. (Is this going to be good for me?) However...its lack of glitz is what makes it such a gold mine for homeschoolers, for parents of gifted children, and for those who are just tired of the new-and-trendy. I just about fell off my chair when I read an editor's response to a reader's question, saying that her parents' decision about whatever it was should be final. Maybe at Highlights it's still 1946...but that's okay with me. (And the Squirrelings do like Highlights, really. I caught one of them reading a copy before breakfast this morning.)