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  1. Originally Printed in Fall 2017:
    In keeping with our unit study and project-based homeschooling theme this issue, we had the opportunity to review Magic Forest Academy Stage 2. It’s aimed at ages 7-12, and helps fill the void of nature-based learning programs for that age group. We have always been somewhat disappointed in the lack of nature-based curricula and supplements appropriate for that age group. This made us very interested in reviewing Magic Forest Academy.
    The author, Margaret Louise Howard, dedicated herself to creating a high quality educational product. As a result, the flow of Magic Forest feels natural and easy to follow. This is more than just a traditional school year’s worth of learning though – it will help foster a lifestyle of learning. Magic Forest is unique in that it follows a seasonal path throughout the year. Instead of 32 or so weekly lessons as in most curricula, there is a thematic unit booklet for each week of the calendar year for a total of 52. You can buy them one unit at a time, as a seasonal bundle or purchase the entire year’s worth of lessons.
    Each seasonal bundle contains 13 thematic unit booklets. Summer includes Dragonfly, Butterfly, Summer, Pond, Snake, Fossils, Rain, Rainbow, Ant, Ocean, Island, Berries, and Rocks, Gems & Minerals. Each booklet features math, science, reading, activities, and a recipe relating to the theme.
    As an example, the Ocean booklet includes detailed instructions with photos for a beach bag using re-purposed towels, an ocean-themed charades game and a colorful crab croissant recipe. For math in the Ocean unit, kids will learn to calculate speed, time, and distance.
    Every lesson connects multiple subjects, and gives a very holistic view of the world in which we live. There are excellent suggestions for keeping a nature journal, researching more sea-faring creatures and people, geography, history, and some mythology too.
    The Island booklet, which comes right after Ocean, teaches about islands and their formation, Pythagoras and the Pythagorean Theorem, Volcanoes, and Pointillism via the art of George Seurat.
    Philosophically, Magic Forest has much in common with Charlotte Mason and Waldorf styles, without a faith-based aspect. So yes it is secular, but without the anti-religious tone that sometimes accompanies secular products. It is also very flexible, giving you and your child the freedom to choose a learning path and activities that suit your lifestyle.
    Some crafts and recipes may require additional purchases if you don’t already have the ingredients on-hand, but most of the projects included in Magic Forest use re-purposed household items, to encourage recycling.
    To find even more resources, MagicForestAcademy.com offers a list for each unit booklet. It’s not complete yet, but as the author completes the resource list for each booklet, it will be available on the website.
    For children who want a little help and guidance you’ll feel well-prepared to help, but it’s written in a way that allows your kids to be in charge of their own learning. Magic Forest is well-written and easy to understand, and because each theme is its own booklet, the topics are introduced in bite-sized chunks that make learning easy as well as fun.
    Used as a supplement, Magic Forest is a wonderful jumping off point for each topic, but beware: You may find yourself turning to it on a daily basis. It is robust enough that you can use it as a full curriculum. We especially like that it’s affordable, and the full one-year course is only $100 for printable PDFs, seasonal bundles are $35.50 each and by the unit you’ll pay $3.50. The fee covers licensing for your family. If you plan to use it in a co-op, each participating family should purchase a license.
    To find more on Magic Forest Academy, visit the website at http://www.magicforestacademy.com

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