* Prices may differ from that shown
I first heard of Aquila Magazine when a member of my family mentioned it to me. She'd been talking to a friend who's son really enjoyed it. She heard about it and thought of my eldest boy, this is how my subscription came about.
**What is Aquila Magazine?**
It's a magazine designed for children from 8 - 12 years of age. Aquila has been around for 20 years at the time of writing this.
Aquila state that their magazine is different from other magazines currently on the market. They say 'want our readers to LOVE the magazine but we do not just seek to entertain and gratify them'.
From the Aquila website:
Investigates a fresh new topic each month
Encourages children to take time to focus and concentrate
Involves its readers and inspires achievement
Develops ethical awareness
Contains no adverts or media hype
It certainly doesn't contain any form of advertising, which is so refreshing, very unlike other children's magazines. The only slight hint of it is the odd competition, the products seem very well chosen however and in keeping with the educational ethos of the magazine.
Each magazine we've had focuses on a topic, examples include 'Big Cats', 'Sport' and 'Captain Cook'. The most recent magazine is themed around 'The Equator'.
**Content and Size**
The magazine doesn't look very substantial on first inspection, the most recent edition is 24 pages long including the back page. Flicking through it quickly reveals how full this magazine is with information - it's rammed from cover to cover, there's hardly any blank space to be seen. Of course no adverts means it's all pure content.
It's brightly coloured with a gloss finish, it certainly doesn't look like it's been produced in a low value manner.
The content itself is very varied, I like that it crosses so many types of learning. There's hands-on, an example from the most recent magazine includes making an Armillary Sphere. Templates, full instructions and background on the Armillary sphere also included. There are even links to find out more information if you or your child wanted to.
Puzzles, usually topic themed are included in each magazine, such as quizzes, anagrams, maths problems, picture related and word puzzles.
In the most recent magazine there's a double page spread on different types of Lemurs from Madagascar, this includes pictures, a nice balanced amount of information and 'did you know' style facts dotted about the page.
There's also a science related article on sustainable farming in Trindad. Another article about the equator, covering a large cross section of information including what it is, which countries and oceans the line runs through, people, plants and animals. I love how the information is broken down into bite sized sections so your child can dip into any part of it.
There's a double page story which runs on to the next episode, historical articles, a fun with maths section and readers letters. There's so much more and it can of course change from edition to edition. Truly jam packed.
**Keeping little minds busy**
My eldest boy is 8, he loves receiving this magazine through the post. Some parts of the magazine are perhaps a little challenging for him, he asks questions if he doesn't understand. It's not a magazine that he takes to bed with him to relax, he has other books that serve this purpose. It's something that he enjoys reading in the day.
The Big Cats edition was taken into School at one point as part of it correlated with the topic being studied in class. He stood in front of the class and proudly did a mini presentation holding up the magazine to show pictures.
He loves the puzzles and always turns straight to the jokes that readers have sent in on the back page, these are of course told over more than once to anyone who's available!
I've not seen Aquila available in any stores. You can purchase on-line from their website:
http://www.aquila.co.uk/ if you have any questions you can also contact them on 01323 431313.
In the UK a four month subscription is currently £20 or £45 for an annual subscription.
Aquila recommend trying the four month subscription first to see if your child enjoys it. This is what I did, I've since taken out the yearly subscription.
Back issues can also be ordered, really useful if you're researching and learning a particular topic.
I'm really pleased with the magazine, I love the lack of advertising and cheap tacky toys pinned to the front. My son has widened his knowledge in many areas, he doesn't read it cover to cover, but I'm sure there will be parts of the magazine that he'll enjoy reading when he's a little older. He's keeping the copies so he can dip back into them later on if he wants to.
Not bedtime reading - gets the mind too busy, but great for dipping into during the day. Highly recommended.
As many of you may know, I am passionate about children's literacy. This was one of the major reasons behind my decision to home educate. I want my children to read well - but also to love reading. After all as Mark Twain said "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can not". I have also felt it important that children have a wide variety of reading material and enjoy reading from many different sources, so in addition to my massive collection of children's books - I like to have at least one magazine subscription as well. The problem is - finding really good magazines to appeal to boys of my sons age and interests is difficult. We have subscribed to National Geographic Kids for some time, but the last issue was the final straw. My son read 9 pages of the magazine - but this amounted to very little text in bubbles alongside photos. The majority of the issue was advertising or writing about new products we could buy. It's gotten to the point that each issue is like browsing through the Argos catalogue as the children come up with which items they want on their Christmas list. So my quest for the perfect children's magazine began.
After a fair amount of time researching online - I came across mention of AQUILA billed as "the magazine for children who enjoy a challenge". A bit of research shows this magazine was originally developed for "gifted and talented children". In fact I have found one private school boasting that they use this magazine for their gifted and talented programme - and I could easily see designing a monthly curriculum around this. The company states that their current position is as follows : "we hope that AQUILA can inspire all children to reveal their brilliance". Personally, I believe all children are gifted and talented. It is simply a matter of helping them to discover their own unique gifts and talents. After reading this magazine myself and with my son - I do believe this magazine is an excellent resource to do just that.
My only problem with this magazine is that the price was £45 and I was concerned that if we didn't like it - I'd be out a fair amount of money. I had never senn an issue and didn't know anyone who had. They do offer a money back guarantee but I know it can take ages with some companies to get your money back. So cheeky git that I am - I emailed and asked them to send me a sample copy which I would review, and if I found the magazine appropriate to our needs I would subscribe.
When my sample copy arrived - my first thought was "This is a bit thin". It is fact only 24 pages. By comparison Nat Geo kids has 52 pages. Pulling a random copy off my shelf though I found 21 pages of advertising. then we have 4 pages of pull out posters - none of which would be of any interest to us, and overall far too much fluff. Once I started looking through the magazine - my initial appraisal was quickly cast aside. It may be only 24 pages, but there were no advertisements ( excpting a small offer in a box to refer a friend) - no page after page of pull out posters of fluffy animals - in fact there were no posters at all. Of the 24 pages, my son read and enjoyed every one except the letters to the editor, and a single page in this magazine had more text than the nine pages he read he Nat Geo Kids. There are illustrations - and some very nice ones at that - but there is a good balance between illustrations and text in this magazine. There are enough pictures to keep a younger child interested, but there is still plenty of in depth information in the text.
I recieved the Sept 2012 issue. The main articles in this issue were:
The disappearance of Large Animals: This article explored possible reasons for the extinction of most of the the very large mammals during the Pleistocene age. It does not give one single answer but explores many possibilities and encourages the reader to think for themselves.
It All Happened in the Trees: This article is about the evolution of mankind, pointing to how scientists believe many current features of humans stem from life in the trees. I don't agree with everything in this article, but I teach my children the prevailing scientific theories with the understanding that many people have different beliefs. But agree or disagree I really enjoyed this article in large part because it encourages children to think and question things. There is an interesting section on vision here, which led us off into many other subjects. We started by reading about how the position of an owls eyes give it the ability to judge distance better, but this led to a discussion of how different animals have different types of vision - which finally led to a a fairly large project we have started on dinosaurs, by examining different features such as placement of the eyes and using this feature to guess if the animal is a carnivore or herbivore. We also had a very long discussion on how the opposable thumb affected the development of humans - but why other animals with an opposable thumb have not developed in the same manner. This article was only two pages - but so far we spent hours reading discussing, and pursuing other activities.
Puzzles: This magazine has two pages of puzzles - all of which involve some sort of mental exercise. We enjoyed doing these together and I found them fun as well. My son liked the fossil match puzzle best while I felt a maths puzzle involving cubes was the best.
Things to make: This section has a lovely craft idea which we will be doing as soon as we gather the stones. Basically you heat small round stones in the oven and colour them with wax crayons for some really lovely results.
Stone Age People: This article describes several different types of humans. It mentions early settlements, use of tools, neolithic monuments and more. My son was especially interested in the cave art so we will be trying to reproduce some of the drawings on slabs of clay.
Word worm: This appears to be a monthly column The focus for this issue is an is article discussing the French language. My son especially enjoyed discovering which words were the same in French as in English so we are going to be working on a project of our own to find as many common words as possible between English and German.
Paws for Thought: Also appears to be a monthly column. This issue had an article on the Scottish Wild Cat.
Just Think: This article was my favourite. It asks if we have a choice and explores the concept of scientific determination. I think this was brilliantly written and encourages young children to think philosophically as well as scientifically. This led to another very long discussion. The result was that my son believes in a mild form of determination but is willing to convert and believe all behaviour is controlled by preset chemicals and electrical impulses if we are. Because according to this idea he should not get in trouble if he watches The Big Bang Theory or plays video games when he should be studying or does anything else he isn't meant to. After all it isn't his fault - it is scientific determination - whoa re we to argue with science?
Fun With Maths: Another monthly column this issue explains the history of counting, the base ten system and why we have the numbers eleven and twelve instead of one teen and two teen.
Fiction: I didn't expect much from this. My son is very picky with fiction, and for the most part finds short stories quite dull. I was pleasantly surprised though when he really enjoyed the two page story - Sharing the Good News of Mr Bones.
Overall - I really can't think of anything bad to say about this magazine. It is expensive - but I often complain about the lack of real quality in children's magazines. This is a small independent publication putting out a really first class product, and it does not have advertising to help defray expenses. Considering these facts, I find the price quite reasonable and hope that by subscribing I can help keep some a wonderful publication in print. Needless to say - I did subscribe. I can't wait for the next issue - the focus is one volcanoes and earthquakes.
In addition to the standard £45 for 12 issues - they also offer 4 issues at £20. There was an offer in the magazine to refer a friend a they could get 3 months for £10 - but I don't any other subscribers. They did allow me 3 months at £15 though which means I can but the full subscription after Christmas.
This magazine is recommended for ages 8 - 12. I would say the lower age limit is fair enough. My son is age 7 and quite enjoyed this, but the text is small and this is written on an adult reading level. He could read it, but it, we chose to read this together, and I feel he got more out of this magazine with all of our discussions as a shared activity. I would recommend this for children of his age, but not much younger. As to the upper limit though, I am in complete disagreement. I think this magazine would suit teenagers with an interest in science very well. I also could see subscribing to this magazine purely for my own reading pleasure if my children were grown. It has been a long time since I enjoyed a magazine so much. I'm afraid I can't stand the traditional women's magazines. There is more to life than makeup and romance stories. It's nice to find a magazine that encourages thought and leaves the reader feeling as if they have learned something - and I will never be too old to enjoy learning new things.