Home educated children often develop very specialised knowledge. I am certain my 7 year old knows more about paleontology than many adults, and both of my sons know far more about aircraft, the military and DNA than the average child their age. My just turned four year old, recently looking for good insult told his father - "I'll smash you so hard they won't recognise your DNA". He knows perfectly well the value of DNA in identification, and is always trying to come up with some scenario under which Parasaurolophus DNA could be found and used to resurrect his favorite dinosaur.
I've met an other home educated child who could tell you everything about dogs, right down to veterinary care. In fact she impressed a local vet so much that he hired her at a very young age, having already memorised most of the veterinary manuals at 15. Yet another in his teens knew everything about mechanics, while others could answer any question on the history of Japan, The Middle Ages etc...
There is nothing wrong with a child pursuing their own interests and learning the things they want to learn. In fact I am quite certain they learn more, and more importantly retain more information when the facts interest them. I do not mind if my children spent a significant amount of their time in education learning about their favourite topics. But as great as specialised knowledge is - I don't want it to be at the expense of general knowledge. At age 7, my son is certain he wants to be a paleontologist, but 7 is far too young for career choices to be set in stone, even if he has stuck to ths one for 3 years. As my children are very young - I want them to branch out - explore everything.
This is where a really good magazine can be invaluable in home education. A monthly magazine provides a bit variety to a child's ordinary routine. The articles in each months magazine introduce to new topics we might never have considered before. It is like have an extra teacher in the home, someone to a offer new and different point of view.
Educators have recognised the importance of non-fiction in a child's education, and schools are including non-fiction from a very early age. Most home educators do too, but a magazine is the perfect way to keep this varied. We recognise now that children build vast stores of general knowledge in early childhood, organising this information and putting to better knowledge as they grow older. But far too many older children are growing up without the general knowledge one would expect. University instructors are repeatedly complaining that students lack the most basic general knowledge - scientific literacy, a knowledge of their own history and the history and culture of other nations. A good general interest educational magazine is an excellent means of building of base of general knowledge about the world around your child.
We have recently sampled and reviewed quite a large number of children's magazines. We found Aquila to be far and away the best choice for our family, but we will still be using a few extras as well. I chose Aquila for a few reasons. The first is that being an educational publication, it fits in quite well with a home school curriculum. I also loved the fact that this magazine is all content. There were no page fillers or fluff, nor were there any commercial ads. The very best thing about this magazine for us is the fact that in contains enough familiar and well loved topics to keep my son interested and wanting to read it combined with new topics we would never have dabbled in otherwise.
Each month presents a new list of topics for us to explore and there is quite a lot to discuss as well crafts to do and subjects for further research. We always choose at least one topic to find out more about. It might be volcanoes, or prehistoric mammals, or how hands shaped evolution. or the silk worm or Ancient Egypt. We even had one issue with an excellent article the concept of scientific determination. I think this was a wonderful way to encourage children to really think philosophically and scientifically. Most of these are topics we would not have explored otherwise, so this magazine helped to give him a broader and more balanced education.
I would recommend choosing at least one high quality, non fiction magazine. You will of course have to consider your own child's interests and reading level. Just reading the magazine will do a lot to encourage literacy as well as to help your child learn about new places, ideas, and concepts. But I certainly would not stop there. I would plan on devoting at least one full day to each magazine. Read it, do the crafts, look up topics online, and if need be, order a few books to match as well. By becoming actively involved in the subjects your child will learn more - and it is great way to spend time together as well. Most of all, I think my child learns just by discussing the topics with me. We always try to consider other points of view, play devil's advocate and argue another position on science related topics etc... The more you put into a resource like this - the more your child will get out of it.
My next post will be a round up of educational magazines for children featuring the best and worst of genre, after which I hope to include some photos of art projects from the magazine we are using. Please check back soon for a complete run down of children's magazines in the UK.