When it comes to Christmas, I always struggle with how to balance the "present getting" aspect of the holiday. One of the things that I like to do is find fun presents that we can use in our homeschooling. Takes some of the guilt out of the getting, if they are useful too. Magazines make wonderful presents that give all year long. A couple of our favorites include:

Science Illustrated

All I can say is wow! My Mother-in-law just got the boys a subscription to Science Illustrated and gave us the first two issues when we were down over Thanksgiving. What an incredible magazine. I love resources that expose us to new, interesting topics in enjoyable ways and this magazine fits the bill. Each issue has a smorgasbord of topics, all visually illustrated with beautiful photography and eye-catching graphics.

It’s the magazine for intellectually curious men and women with a passion for science and discovery and a desire to share that passion with their families. Every bimonthly issue is an upbeat, optimistic, visually spectacular gateway to the world of cutting-edge science and discovery, covering an astonishing range of subjects, from paleontology to space exploration, from medical breakthroughs to the latest environmental insights.

What I love about it is that it is in-depth enough to really interest and expose Jason to meaty scientific ideas while also having enough visual interest to engage Kyle (I tend to skim the articles to find the meat for him as he is not as interested in the specific details at this age).

I find that the topics covered are varied enough to find tons to interest both boys. We have already jumped off to looking up more information on a few topics (did you know that they discovered a frog without lungs? we even found a video). I have caught both boys browsing through the magazine on their own...which says something!

A year or so ago, Jeff started getting Scientific American. At that time, I searched to see if they had a kids version because I found that the format and variety of topics was great and thought that Jason especially would love it. The only problem was that it definitely was not written for kids. Science Illustrated reminds me a lot of Scientific American, only written to be accessible for kids.

Odyssey

My Dad gave Jason a subscription to this about a year ago and we have been enjoying it immensely. What is fun is that each issue takes a specific topic and explores it from many different angles, often throwing in a bit of history as well). It is a perfect level for Jason as he is now very interested in exploring things in more depth. It is a little more in-depth than Kyle would prefer, but he does usually listen while we read (he just tends to get bored quicker!)

The latest issue was about glass and glass making which was fascinating (I learned a lot as well!) We traveled to ancient Egypt and learned about a mystery surrounding a glass scarab found with King Tut as well as learning how scientists can solve crimes using their knowledge about glass. We also learned how to make sugar glass and sugar crystals (and how they differ).

There is so much great stuff in this magazine that we tend to come back to it many times.

Ask

We have been getting Ask since Jason was 6 or 7. He has since outgrown it, but still listens in when I read it to Kyle. Ask is similar to Odyssey in that it covers one topic each issue. It is a little less "hard core science" and more "how the world works, isn't it amazing?" in that it throws in history and ties in the arts as well. Previous topics have included patterns in nature, how your brain works and sea monsters.

ASK is a kids’ magazine about science, history, and more. Written with 6- to 9-year-olds in mind, ASK magazine is about everything from dinosaurs to cathedrals, from distant stars to microbes.

Sure to spark a child’s curiosity about the arts and sciences, ASK magazine explores fun and intriguing topics, such as why animals sleep, why people love music, and how the solar system was formed. ASK helps kids understand how the world works and how discoveries are made--it challenges kids to explore new ideas. It introduces them to the inventors, artists, and scientists of the past and present, and to their ideas.

Moo Cow Fan Club

I think that our subscription has expired on this one, but we had it for many years. It is an independant magazine which really is a labor of love (I met the creator at one of the VaHomeschoolers Conferences years ago so I like to get the word out when I can).

Hmmm...just checked out their website and I am not sure if they are still selling subscriptions or if you can just order their issues individually (which would allow you to pick the topics you are interested in). Each issue is also organized around a theme...they rotated between history, science and activities.  I also see that they have published a book as well based on the characters. I will have to check that out as both boys really loved the characters (especially Kiweenie the Kiwi bird) and the humor.

Unfortunately much of what passes for children's "entertainment" today are extended ads and pop culture references. Moo-Cow Fan Club is its own world with no connection to the pop media that children are bombarded with everywhere else. Moo-Cow and the gang show kids how much fun there is to be had, and how much can be learned, when you step away from the media circus to read and play.

Each edition of the Moo-Cow Fan Club print series is dedicated to one topic (such as ancient Egypt, weather, and dinosaurs to name a few). In addition to educational articles about the topic there are also regular columns which reveal the subject through the eyes of the MCFC characters. Each edition is also full of fun crafts, recipes, activities, and games that all relate to the theme.

We have had many different subscriptions to different magazines over the years, but these are the ones that seem to have staying power and actually got read. Hope that you enjoy!

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