Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: God's World News

"Current Events Meets Christian Worldview"
I am a big believer in being aware of what is going on in the world around us. For as long as I can remember, even as a child, I have been interested in reading the newspaper, following politics, and reading current events and editorials.  My children have naturally picked up on this trait, as my husband and I are constantly discussing politics and world events around them. I am a big fan of alternative media sites, and have several that I follow faithfully. I have two big problems with most of the current media that is available to us though: one is that there is so much filth and violence that must be filtered out in order to find appropriate material, and the second is that there is a very obvious liberal and godless slant to most available news reports. Was I ever glad to review God's World News and it's accompanying materials through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew!

We received a one year subscription to Top Story, the magazine for middle school age students. God's World News publishes age appropriate magazines and materials for all age groups, from Pre-K through high school. There is even a magazine for the parents, called World.

What is Top Story? Top Story is a magazine that is about 20-25 pages long, and has a wide variety of short articles that would appeal to the interests of middle schoolers. While it does include current events that children may be hearing about in mainstream media, there is also an interesting assortment of biographies, editorial cartoons, interesting and unique photos, informational pieces, and historical articles, explaining and expanding on some aspect of topics that the students may be learning about in school.  There is some type of activity page, a puzzle or problem, that relates to an article or theme. The magazine is FULL of high quality photographs that are very eye appealing.
What did we receive?  Our subscription began with the August 2013 edition of Top Story, so we have received three magazines so far. (And they just keep getting better and better!) We also received a beautiful, detailed 20"x30" full color map that shows all the countries of the world, as well as detailed 'hot spots'. This allows the students to plot the location of the events of the articles they read. As a bonus, we also received a copy of World Magazine, which has about 70-75 pages of material for the more mature readers in our family. (While World definitely still approaches its content with a distinctly Christian world view, some of the material is at a more mature level than what the younger family members are ready for....but it is GREAT for the college student in the family!)
Extra Benefits: With a paid subscription, our family also receives access to the God's World News Website, which has many different areas to explore. I have looked to the website for extra information on some of the news articles in the magazine, and I have also downloaded answer keys to the activities found in the magazines. Even though I have spent some time on the website, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what is available there! One thing that we found fascinating was an A-Z list of articles that was similar to a modern encyclopedia!
Unlimited Access: Because of having website access, we were also able to view the other age level magazines available. I enjoyed allowing my younger student to browse the magazine online for her grade level, and my 11th grader looked into the online version of the high school magazine! I found it really amazing that the company shares so much information on the website. They definitely have a focus on getting information into the hands of the families and students that use their program.
What else is available? There's more?? Yes! I signed up for a weekly email newsletter from God's World News. In it, there are extras for the teacher, including lesson plans and teaching tips to use the materials that are found in the magazine and on the website. There are links to biographies of those people who are written about in the current magazine. There are also easy links to quizzes and answer keys for the current edition, as well as links to the current digital versions. The newsletter made it so easy to access everything - I didn't have to spend time clicking around the website to find all these extras. I appreciated having them delivered right to my inbox.
It doesn't stop there: While I did not review this aspect of the program, I wanted to mention that on the website I found a middle school writing curriculum called "Write with World". As I looked over this program, it appears to be a very interesting way to engage middle school students in a holistic approach to Bible-based critical thinking and writing improvement. I found it intriguing for sure, and definitely am interested in exploring it further.
What does all this cost?  A one year home subscription currently costs $28, and will deliver ten monthly issues to your door. (Excluding December and May). A paid subscription allows you access to all the extra online goodies that I mentioned. (The "Write with World" curriculum is completely separate.)
What ages is this for? There is an age-appropriate magazine for all grade levels, from Pre-K through college and adult audiences. I would suggest visiting the website and looking over a sample issue to see if this middle school level works for your students. Other samples are available on the website.
How did we use this? I have always made current events an important part of our homeschool. The children are required to regularly select an article, either from our local newspaper or from a trusted online source, and 'report' on it, writing a short summary and presenting their opinion. Having Top Story delivered right to our door made this SO much easier for them! Even though we received the middle school magazine, my high schooler greatly enjoyed and used the articles for her own current events editorials. My third grader, not wanting to be left out of the action, asked if she could also do a current event from it. Her and I spent some quality time reading aloud some of the articles that she selected that interested her. I explained the words or ideas that she didn't understand, and she learned from it and loved it!
How can I tell that this magazine is a success in our home? For starters, I had a hard time finding it! It quickly disappeared off the mail pile as soon as it showed up. The kids pretty much read it from cover to cover within a few days of it's arrival. It kept getting passed around, and I was having difficulty getting it from them so I could look through it thoroughly! I finally told them that I needed to read it as well, since I was the one who had to write this review!
What do I like the best? I really appreciate knowing that this magazine is written from a Christian world view. There is great trust in knowing that the articles and opinions won't be slanted in a liberal way. I found the articles very objective. I really felt like they were very balanced. While it is decidedly Christian in the sense that Creation and Conservative values are promoted, I didn't think it was overly saturated with opinions at all. The articles very much "stuck to the facts" and helped the reader approach them with critical thinking processes. It also opened up a lot of discussion opportunities in our family! I also really enjoyed the editorial cartoons. Another plus is that there is not a bunch of advertising. The magazines really are full cover to cover with information. So far, over the three months that we have received the magazines, there has not been any articles which I would deem inappropriate for the children. I like being able to hand over reading material to them, feeling that I can trust the source.
What do the kids like best? Some things they have mentioned are: 1) the variety of articles that are included, meaning it's not just all newsy stuff without anything fun. There is also information on athletes, animals, and history. 2) The news articles have been happy and uplifting. So much of the news we receive in the paper or mainstream media is so depressing. The kids have enjoyed seeing positive articles as well. 3) The articles delve into the subject deep enough that the children can learn new things, but doesn't make it so detailed that it is over their heads and they can't understand what is being discussed. 4) The pictures!!!!!
Final thought: This magazine has been an overwhelming sensation in our home, and I am really looking forward to using it a lot over this coming year. I highly recommend it, especially to those who really want to stay current with the events in this world, but don't want to take the time to filter through all the bias and filth that is readily available in mainstream media.
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