Is your homeschool atmosphere getting a little stale? Maybe it’s that time of year where school can feel monotonous. Do you need something new to bring the excitement back? Letters from Afar is the perfect way to make learning interesting again!
What Are Letters from Afar?
Letters from Afar are handcrafted letters written by an adventurer named Isabelle Bird. She was a 19th-century explorer who traveled to some of the most amazing locations around the world. At every stop, Isabelle writes your child a letter about her experiences. You and your child will feel like you are right there with her!
The locations chosen for the letters are based on both well known and remote areas and include factual and historical information the author has spent many hours researching. Your children will explore the jungles and pyramids of the Yucatan Peninsula, experience the French culture that influences the streets of New Orleans, climb the dunes in the desert of Namibia, and much, much more! You won’t believe the amount of information that is packed into one letter. I was blown away with the first one we received.
Who Is the Creator?
Shawnee, the creator of this fantastic letter, lives in Wilmington, NC. Her love of travel and art were the inspiration for Letters from Afar. Every letter is an original piece of artwork drawn and/or painted in her studio. The letter your child receives is a copy that has been printed on recycled paper.
Towards to end of each month, your child will receive a hand-written letter with beautiful artwork. Each is addressed with a nostalgic font that looks like it’s from a vintage typewriter and sealed with a beautiful shimmering sticker that identifies it as Letters from Afar. In addition to the letter, there are always two vintage world stamps enclosed.
Within the letter, there is also something to search for or figure out. For example, in one of our letters, there were 12 hidden music notes my girls had to find. On another, there was a secret message they had to decipher by searching for Mayan symbols disguised throughout the artwork.
Old Fashioned Mail Still Has Meaning
Let’s face it, getting a handwritten letter in the mail doesn’t happen very often anymore. It’s a form of communication that is sadly dying and may not always be around. From 1995 to 2013, the amount of mail sent in the U.S. dropped 61 percent! Some countries have started delivering mail every other day, and the U.S. considered doing the same at one point, but luckily haven’t changed yet.
In a day of instant gratification, it’s nice for our kids to have to wait for something. They look forward to the letter arriving in the mail each month. It feels special when they receive something addressed to them. In our digital world, it’s become way too easy to zip off an email to someone, and we’ve lost the personal touch a letter brings. Letter from Afar is bringing back this tradition, and I think it’s wonderful our kids have a chance to experience it.
Why Use Letters from Afar
These letters have so many uses in your homeschool. You will be amazed at what all your students can gain from just one letter. Here are some of the reasons we like it:
Incorporate several subjects at once– Every letter gives you an opportunity to touch on a wide range of subjects.
Some subjects include:
- History/Social Studies
- Foreign languages
- Creative writing
It’s exciting– Isabelle always has exciting adventures where ever she goes that are sure to captivate your children while listening to or reading them.
Travel to different places– Your student will get to learn about places they may not have heard about before. Some may be very popular places, but others will not, and it’s an opportunity to experience them from the comfort of your living room.
Beautiful artwork– The artwork alone in each letter is enough to keep me subscribing. If you are a Charlotte Mason fan and make a point to expose your children to beautiful pictures, I really think you will be pleased with these.
Something students of all ages can do together– This is a great way to gather all your kids around to do an activity together. That is not always possible when you have a big age range. Everyone in the family will enjoy these stories and seeing the artwork.
Sparks interests to branch off and learn about– What I love most about Letter from Afar is how I can find a ton of different ideas to go off and explore with my children. I can go to the library or Amazon and find books on several of the topics that were mentioned and dig deeper if my children want to.
Snail mail– As I mentioned earlier, I think the whole idea of getting mail is exciting. It provides our children a break from digital devices and gives them the experience of receiving a letter instead of email or texts.
Great reference tool to go along with your main curriculum– I plan to laminate each of these letters because I want to keep them for many years. They will be really nice to refer to when we are studying similar topics over the years.
Ideas for Using Letters from Afar
Because each letter is packed full with so much information, you will probably come up with a lot more ideas than I have included. Here are just a few of the ways we will be using them:
Create Relaxed Unit Studies– There is bound to be something in these letters that sparks interest in your children. Find it and expand upon it by setting up a relaxed unit study. This can be for an hour, day, week, or even month. Take my 4-day challenge to learn how to make your own relaxed unit studies and put the spark back into learning! Fill out the form at the bottom of this article.
Letters from Afar are the perfect foundation for unit studies! Here is a video explaining why unit studies make homeschooling easier.
Use for Art Class– We have been inspired by the gorgeous drawings and used pastels, colored pencils, or watercolor crayons to draw or trace the pictures ourselves.
Artist Study– Find another artist who drew or painted similar scenes and do an artist study.
Use for Creative Writing– There is a lot of possibility with these stories. Your kids can change the ending, add to the story, or you can make up a journal prompt from one of the subjects covered for creative writing.
Make an Escape Room– Escape rooms are a big thing right now. We are taking our letter about the Yucatan Peninsula and reading some books and watching videos to learn more and then I am going to make an escape room to reinforce all the information they have learned. My kids are very excited about this!
Stamp Collecting– There are a lot of possibilities with the two stamps that are included each month. You can use these stamps for different activities.
- Start a collection
- Use the topic of the stamp for further learning
- Register for Stamps Teach to get instructional tools to use with stamps. It’s free, and homeschoolers can join.
Summer Learning– If you like to keep your kids engaged during the summer, these are a great way to do that. They are exciting enough that your kids won’t mind snuggling on the couch to read them and it won’t feel like school. You could also take some field trips that would go along with them. For example, in our letter about New Orleans, music was talked about. If there happened to be a jazz concert in your town, it would be a great first-hand experience. Or perhaps visit the zoo to learn about the animals from the jungle. Visit a museum to study ancient ruins.
Laminate As a Collectible– Laminate and keep these letters for future reference. They are sure to be a great supplement at some point down the road.
Use As a Bedtime Story– Letters from Afar are a great addition to your bedtime routine. It’s something special the kids can look forward to once a month when they arrive.
Get Your Kids Reading– As I have mentioned throughout this article, there is a wide variety of subjects covered in each letter. This is a great way to get your child reading. You can go to the library or search on Amazon to find some books on the ideas included. Here are a few of my suggestions that could go along with them:
Away with Words: The Daring Story Of Isabella Bird-This is one particular book I think each family should definitely consider if you subscribe to Letters from Afar because it is the story of Isabelle Bird.
Magic Treehouse books– The Magic Treehouse books are great for younger kids and they cover so many topics, you are sure to find something to go along with the letters.
Who Was? Series– Famous people in history
What Was? Series– Famous inventions, ideas, event, battles, etc. in history
Where Was? Series– Famous places in history
Pencils of Promise
The creators of Letters from Afar want to help children around the world who live in less privileged areas have a chance to learn as well. For every subscription they get, a portion of the proceeds goes to Pencils of Promise. Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization that gives 100% of its donations to build and maintain schools around the world. Pencils of Promise believes that every child deserves a quality education.
How to Join the Journey
Letters from Afar is only $6 a month (plus $.50/shipping in the U.S. and $1.15 for international). You are definitely getting a fantastic deal. Simply signup online and you will be on your way to your first adventure.
All letters are mailed between the 10th and 15th of the month. That means you should get your letter by the end of each month. International subscribers will take a little longer. You are able to cancel, skip a month at any time. Make sure you create an account at checkout in order to do that. Otherwise, you will need to call them to cancel or change your subscription.
Letters from Afar are a delightful and engaging way to breathe new life into your homeschool. When this letter arrives in our mailbox, my girls are very excited to read it. It has enabled us to create some really fun relaxed unit studies that both of them have been able to do together. The topics are fascinating and provide an opportunity for their imaginations to create, write, and explore.
I could not be happier with this subscription! We will continue to subscribe because they have captivated my children in a way traditional textbooks do not. That alone is priceless! Go get your subscription today! (I am not an affiliate of Letters from Afar.)
Learn how to make your own relaxed unit studies with Letters from Afar or any other topic by taking my 4-day challenge!
Hi I'm Heidi. I'm a former teacher turned homeschool mom of three. I've homeschooled from the beginning and my oldest is now graduated. I believe your home doesn't have to be chaotic just because you homeschool. When you join The Unexpected Homeschooler's community, you'll learn how to have a more organized, efficient, and productive homeschool, and I’ll send you this Daily Assignment Sheet tool as a gift to teach your students to work independently and free up your time.