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Nature Friend, ca. 1991
In case you think that all my TOS reviews are going to be curmudgeonly...you're wrong.
I was sure I would have blogged at least once about Nature Friend, but I've searched the archives and somehow I never have.
About a decade ago, we came across a pile of Nature Friends from 1990 and 1991. They were 36-page magazines with colour covers, but just line drawings and black and white photos inside. (The line drawings made good colouring pages!) We made those issues a part of our homeschool, including the drawing lessons, the easy-to-read nature stories (Ponytails used a lot of those for reading practice and copywork), and articles for older children.
Nature Friend, 2009
Recently we received two current issues of Nature Friend to review. Some things have changed in twenty years, some haven't. The magazine is now full colour, slightly larger, and runs 24 to 28 pages. The old "James and Mary Explore God's World" stories are gone, but there are other easy-to-read stories like "Backyard Discovery" in the August issue.
"'Stop!' said Judy. 'Do you hear that? Is it a big bee?'"Judy sidled closer to Tim. She had not forgotten her bee sting from several days ago."'It doesn't sound like a bee, does it? It sounds like Mother's sewing machine when she's sewing fast,' said Tim."'Or Dad's power saw,' added Judy."'Let's see if we can find it.'"
The drawing lessons, the "Invisibles" hidden-picture puzzles, reader-contributed issues, and other favourite features are still there. The names of young readers still include a higher-than-average proportion of Stahls, Martins, Masts, and Stoltzfuses, reflecting the magazine's origins and its continuing popularity with conservative families (although it has maintained a good reputation with readers of other backgrounds, including homeschoolers). (Note to homeschoolers: you can now get bound-in, optional Study Guide sections for $2 extra per issue.)
I found a strong hint that the magazine isn't written to your typical post-millennium frantic-lifestyled young reader in the online writer's guidelines: "A good book for study might be Marguerite Henry’s Birds at Home, © 1972 by Rand McNally & Co. " I also appreciate this advice to would-be contributors: "The overall mood we desire for Nature Friend is one that is cheerful, sunny, almost merry, but not irresponsible or silly. We will hardly ever use something that is spooky or scary, except as a contrast to another dominant mood. Libraries abound with children’s magazines emphasizing (in subtlety, at least) venomous creatures, man-eating beasts, and other monster-type animals." (We found this to be an ongoing issue with a secular science-and-geography magazine that our children received.)
In other words, fall issues of Nature Friend are going to have harvest and getting-ready-for-winter themes--not Hallowe'en ones. (There are also no talking animals.)
I really do like Nature Friend Magazine, even though at $49 a year for Canadian subscriptions (plus another $24 for the additional Study Guides), it's not exactly cheap. (U.S. subscriptions are $36/year plus the same for the Study Guides.) But consider what you're getting: no advertisements, (and in a children's magazine that's unusual and very welcome); full-colour wildlife photographs; a Christian (but not heavy-handed) approach to God's creation; photography lessons and critiques (if you get the study guides, and in the issues I saw, this feature seemed to be extremely well done, if a tiny bit gory (i.e. how the editor got photos of an owl snatching a mouse)); extra word puzzles and quizzes (in the study guides); writing and nature journalling encouragement (in the study guides); and a place for children to have their own drawings, poems and questions published.For other reviews of this product, see the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew website.
"Children deserve to know the truth about our amazing world. As television, drugs, videos, and electronic games compete for children’s time and approval, it becomes all the more important to give them material that is true, exciting, and upbuilding to their character."--Writer's Guidelines, "Nature Friend"
Dewey's Disclaimer: These products were received free for review purposes. No other payment was made.