Letters From Afar Review: The Fun Way To Learn Geography!
Are you looking for a fun way to teach your children about geography, different cultures, and the world around them?
A few years ago, my oldest daughter went through a very robust geography curriculum and she learned the locations of 100 countries.
I was so proud!
About 6 months later she had lost most of the knowledge she had gained.
And I was so annoyed.
We had worked diligently together to learn the material, but without continued drilling, she forgot most of it.
I decided to let geography simmer on the back burner until I stumbled across Letters From Afar.
I could see right away that this company had a fresh, personal touch that just might be the thing we needed.
We have been using it in our homeschool and it is quickly becoming a huge favorite (for me too!).
This complete Letters From Afar review will tell you:
- All About Letters From Afar In A Nutshell
- How I Use Letters From Afar With My Kids
- 8 Things We Love About It
- What I Would Change About Letters From Afar
- FAQ (Coupon Codes!)
- How To Know If Letters From Afar Is Right For You
What Exactly Is Letters From Afar – In A Quick Minute?
Letters From Afar is a monthly subscription service that sends real mail to your house.
Like the kind that comes in your mailbox!
Every month you will get a beautiful letter from “Isabelle,” full of exciting and interesting information about her travels to exotic destinations.
Each monthly letter focuses on one country or city and it will include Isabelle’s personal accounts, drawings, notes and even a map. You will get a mix of information that may include details about geography, animals, plants, or historical information from the region.
“Isabelle” is actually inspired by the daring story of Isabella Bird. She was a 19th-century explorer who traveled the world solo and often wrote descriptive letters to her loved ones about what she saw and did.
The real-life author of Letters From Afar sources her information from her own travels abroad – and mixes in her own love of art!
Letters From Afar is designed for kids and travel lovers of all ages. You can cancel the subscription at any time. No weird loopholes!
There is also a free newsletter you can sign up for that offers lots of fun geography/cultural activities for your family.
How We Use Letter Afar In Our Homeschool
The first letter we received actually had two letters in it (a perk for first-time subscribers), so I let my kids pick which country they wanted to learn about first.
On the first day, I just read the letter. It was two pages (1 letter, but with text on the front and back), so I didn’t know if it would be too long for my youngest kid.
Um, they were begging me to keep reading to the end!
I then asked them what they learned about in the letter and we talked through it.
The next day, I had a youtube video ready to go to dive deeper into one of the topics.
For example, we found out that chocolate was invented in Ecuador, so we watched several videos about the chocolate-making process. From giant cacao pods, to seeds, to nibs, to ground cocoa mixed with sugar and milk!
I think it goes without saying that we ate chocolate after the lesson.
We also watched videos on the geographical phenomenon of a cloud forest, the insane water-walking Basilisk lizard, and life in Mindo.
Throughout the week, I will also pull out a map and review continents, have one of my kids point out where the country is, and I’ll ask what continent it is in.
I am keeping each of the letters in a plastic sleeve in a binder for future use, review, play, etc.
What We Are Loving About Letters From Afar
1. The Letters Are Just So Beautiful
Each hand-illustrated letter is like opening up a piece of true art!
The colors are so vibrant and the details are perfect. I wanted to hold up the letter so my kids could look at it as I read, but I realized that the appropriate picture for the text was on the back of the letter.
And when I read the back of the letter, the appropriate picture was on the front.
As an added bonus, some of the letters have hidden details in the artwork that kids need to hunt for. For example, Ecuador’s letter had hidden blue morpho butterflies, Tokyo’s letter had hidden lucky cats, and London’s letter had hidden bells (Big Ben!).
2. The Letters Are Like A Story And Letter Blended Together
Full disclosure, I was prepared for the letters to be mega boring.
For the price, I completely expected it to be a page from an atlas disguised as a letter.
“Today, I arrived in Ecuador. The capital is…The population is…The main language is…”
Um, no. Not even close.
You start reading the letter and you are dropped into this first-person narrative of a young explorer, canoeing down a wild, rushing river. Her bag falls in the water and she feels hopelessly lost.
She stumbles upon civilization in the nick of time and ends up staying in a treehouse hotel in the town of Mindo. Her journey continues with a hike into the cloud forest, fresh chocolate, a waterfall, and hundreds of butterflies!
Your kids may not even realize they’re learning about geography as they listen to these letters!
3. It Is The Perfect Amount of Geography/Culture Information
Even with these fun stories coming from the most exotic destinations…I could still see where Letters From Afar might be tempted to give you your money’s worth of information and facts about each new destination.
But they don’t!
Very wisely, they only weave about 5-10 details about the country.
That is just the perfect way to spark a child’s curiosity and desire to learn more. As opposed to being stuffed with information, I feel like my kids have their interest piqued and they want to know more!
They want to dig into Youtube videos, search in Google, and find out all the things!
“What do you mean there are floating villages in Cambodia? I want to see those!”
This is the holy grail in my opinion for parents who want their kids to love learning.
No death by memorization or facts drills.
4. I Am Even Learning New Things
I have been pleasantly surprised to be learning right alongside my kids.
I had no idea we had Ecuador to thank for the invention of chocolate.
I had also never heard of a cloud forest – what an amazing geographical feature!
When we started to dig into Japan, I will admit I had no idea that they serve ramen there that doesn’t come out of a plastic container.
I had never seen the bullet trains, and I definitely didn’t know the story of the lucky waving cat.
Who knew people in Cambodia ate deep-fried tarantulas and one of their temples is overrun with enormous 700-year-old tree root systems growing out of it!
Every letter brings so many interesting facts that we all want to know more about!
5. Field Notes Are Included!
I was reaching for a piece of paper after reading our first letter.
I wanted to jot down the highlights so we could review them later.
Then my eye fell across the field note that came in the envelope.
Letters From Afar had already done it! In a much prettier way than I would have!
These little notes are so perfect for quick review and reminders without having to reread the whole letter.
6. It Only Takes a Few Minutes A Day
My kids learn about different places or different cities all around the world in only a few minutes.
Every morning I focus on just one new thing we’ve learned and then it feels like we’re transported from our living room as we find out what it’s like to ride a bullet train in Japan or stay in a capsule hotel in Tokyo!
My kids are just amazed to see these cultural differences and they’re always asking for more when I say it’s time to move on.
7. No Major Guilt, Stress, Or Clutter
I have started to hate the subscription box model…a little.
They start out as fun, but they can quickly take up so much time (always on the days you don’t have the time) and they produce tons of clutter in your house.
I love that this subscription service does not come with a huge expensive box of things to do…that will be forgotten in the corner of a room in less than 24 hours.
8. The Cost Is Incredibly Reasonable
I am about to go on my 7th year of homeschooling and I can tell you that curriculum is expensive. Supplements are expensive.
It all adds up…and sometimes you don’t even like what you paid for!
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Letters From Afar offers such a high-quality product – for only $6 per month.
That is such a manageable amount of money for something that delivers so much!
And on top of that, Letters From Afar gives a portion of all proceeds to Pencils of Promise.
Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization that is committed to bringing quality education to less privileged communities.
What’s not to love about that?
What I Would Change About Letters From Afar
Okay, so this is just my homeschool mom brain getting in my own way.
I do sort of wish that there was an option to get more than one letter a month so that we would learn about more than 12-13 countries in a year, especially if I am using this as a curriculum supplement.
But then I wonder if we had more letters coming, the magic would be sucked out of it.
I’m not quite sure, but I would like to see if Letters From Afar would offer more plans for those of us that want them.
Maybe 2 letters a month?
I do see that you can order past letters, so I might do that to fill my own curiosity and see how it goes.
Letters From Afar FAQ
1. How much does it cost?
Letters From Afar is $6 per month.
They also offer non-renewing gift subscriptions, so you can easily give this experience to friends or family for a special occasion.
2. Is it a big commitment?
You can cancel anytime from their super easy-to-use contact page.
3. $6/month is great…but is there a promo code?
Use coupon code JOURNEY to get 10% off!
4. What if I live internationally?
Letters From Afar currently delivers to over 40 countries!
It does cost $1.40 extra for the international stamp.
5. Is this a full geography curriculum?
Maybe if you were an unschooler or a very relaxed homeschooler.
But it is a nice starting-off place for any elementary-aged student.
You can add to it as much as your child is interested to learn!
6. Do I have to do any crafts or make food?
This is all fun for EVERYBODY in the family.
You can absolutely add those things on if you wanted to though. But there is nothing within the letters that would have your kids begging you to make a complicated, exotic dish….that they probably won’t eat anyway.
Letters From Afar Is For Your Family If…
- Your kids love colorful, detailed pictures
- They like hunting for hidden details in pictures
- They love hearing exciting stories
- Getting letters in the mail would delight your children
- You want your kids to tap into their love of learning and exploring the most amazing locations – within a budget
- Speaking of budget, you have a tight one. But the cost of one Starbucks coffee per month works for you.
- Your kids can have a short attention span and don’t want to get bogged down with too much information at a time
- You really don’t have the time or space (physical or mental) to do a bunch of geography/cultural projects. But you still want your kids to learn about the world around them.
Letters From Afar Is Not For Your Family If…
- You want lots of hands-on crafts and activities already set up for you to do with your kids
- Your kids don’t like being read to – even exciting stories
- You’re looking for a full geography curriculum
- The lost art of snail mail is too archaic for your tech savvy kids
- You just want your child to memorize the location of dozens of countries – all the extra cultural, historical, and interesting facts aren’t really that interesting to you
- $6 per month is too much for you
If that last one is you, don’t forget to use Promo Code: JOURNEY for 10% off!
If you still have questions please drop a comment below and I would be happy to share what I’ve learned about Letters From Afar.
Have you used Letters From Afar yourself?
Please share your experience in the comments for my readers!
Signing up they ask for the name to be addressed to. I have multiple kids, plus may use the letters and add videos and such for a co-op class in the future, so would “Friends” work as the name to be addressed??
The name is only what is printed on the envelope in the mail. The letter itself will start with a “hello” in the langauge of the country that the letter is focused on. Hope that helps!