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The Link Reviews

by Mary Leppert

Meet The Masters

331 W. Cristobal
San Clemente, CA 92672

Beginning in the early 1970s when the institutional schooling world made budget cuts, the first programs to be phased out were art and music. It is possible that today’s pop art and pop music are not very sophisticated because by now, more than one generation of school children has never been exposed to the “finer” forms of art and music. The act of producing civilized children doesn’t just happen by accident; a sense of refinement and developed taste has to be nurtured and led by parents. Many homeschooling families are aware of the importance of teaching these two “higher” art forms and are always on the lookout for materials that will help them in this endeavor.

An excellent product to accomplish the instruction of art, art history and increase its appreciation is an art curriculum package called Meet the Masters.© (MTM) This beautifully-designed CD-ROM and hard-copy set provides instruction and information in three skill levels regarding six master painters at a time. In Level 1 they are: Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Winslow Homer, and the course is designed to cover an entire year’s worth of instruction. In all, MTM covers 27 master artists. The creators of Meet The Masters suggest that by the time a student reaches the upper level of the course, an entire afternoon be set aside to complete each lesson.

A different element of painting is taught with each of the artists mentioned and each of the three levels contains different activities. In Level 1, your student pretends to be Van Gogh by putting on a beard and have him/her hold a brush, while the narrator on the CD discusses some elements of Vincent’s painting life. In Level 3, the song by Don McLean “Vincent” (Starry, Starry Night) plays while the student reads the printed lyrics and the narrator discusses how the words relate to Vincent’s life and work. The painting element taught in the Van Gogh section is texture. Each artist’s section is divided into these three levels, and is presented as an interactive program of sound bytes, CD slides, games, etc., so that it flows well and maintains interest.

At the beginning of each unit, the student and parent view a virtual assembly on the CD for each artist that provides an introduction of the subject artist. Then the portion of the curriculum called “Learning from the Masters” is used to help your student complete two to five pages of exercises related to the art element being highlighted in that unit. The course instructions state that the program is designed to be directed by the parent/teacher, but that upper level students can work on their own just fine. After an artist’s unit has been completed, the parent/teacher allots a one-hour art activity period and guides the student through the projects which serve as a review of the concepts covered in the previous unit. MTM also includes a supply list and thorough Teacher Guides so that you can stay one step ahead of your student while going through the program.

Our family especially enjoyed doing the Van Gogh section and the Picasso section and look forward to thoroughly working on the entire program. We recommend it to you wholeheartedly.

by Mary Leppert

Boomerang! Children’s Audiomagazine

800/333-7858 e-mail:

(Designed for ages 6-12, but we know of one 52-year-old listener who loves it and learns from it too!)

If you and your kids don’t know about Boomerang! the children’s audiomagazine, a real treat awaits you! Listening to Boomerang! while playing with your toys on a quiet afternoon is what it means to be ten years old. Boomerang is a monthly, 70-minute audiocassette “magazine”, comprised of short subjects, most that are regular features and some that are particular to each volume. Boomerang presents science, current events, history, literature, nostalgia (if you are old enough), geography, a vocabulary game show, and more -- in a child’s view, in the voices of a cast of children known as the Boomerang! Kids. Columnist John McCarthy described it this way: Take the best of NPR's All Things Considered, convert it into something of interest and importance to kids, and you've got BOOMERANG!"

Actually, many of the topics covered on Boomerang! are also of interest to adults, such as a great feature on the dangers of smoking, which included an interview with a former tobacco lobbyist who had contracted lung cancer, subsequently reversed his loyalties, and describes in detail some inside information about his former work. Also of interest to adults as well as kids, each issue contains an interview with a famous person from history, usually at a time that was a Turning Point in his/her career or in world history. A few of the diverse subjects who have been interviewed are Amelia Earhart, Cesar Chavez, Pocahontas, Ben Franklin, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Among Boomerang!’s charms is the regular feature “Schmave’s Elevator” which consists of a dialogue between an adult character, “Dave Schmave, the Elevator Operator at the Boomerang Building” and one of the kids who comprises the cast of Boomerang. Schmave dispenses life wisdom and insight based upon anecdotes from his childhood, and in the process vividly relives what it was like growing up in a small town in northern Illinois in the ‘60s. Listening to one of Schmave’s stories can be dangerous to adult productivity . . . a few minutes hearing him describe an event involving his paper route or a Soap Box Derby race or an important human lesson learned on the Little League field can cast one into a powerful reverie that lasts the rest of the day! Schmave’s stories have the same delicious, spellbinding effect as Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” (also set in northern Illinois) . . . the magic of the first day of summer vacation, the mystery of the local abandoned house . . . getting around the town “bully” family . . . What more could you ask? An audiocassette that both parents and children can listen to with pleasure!!

We love Boomerang! in our household and at any given time, the sounds of 3 or 4 back issues played back-to-back can be heard wafting through our house for hours. If your child learns best by listening, Boomerang! is a great way to bring him/her important information about a huge variety of topics. Even if your child isn’t specifically an auditory learner, however, Boomerang! is a great addition to his/her life. A subscription makes a perfect gift, too. You can obtain a free sample for just $5 by calling the toll-free number. Also, please see the ad in this issue for more info.

Michael Leppert

The Renaissance Art Game

by Birdcage Books

80-page book and deck of 30 large playing cards in a colorful storage box - $25

Educational and informative games are very important to homeschooling families. Often, so much of the day is used in life pursuits that a relaxing, learning game is just perfect for late afternoon or evenings together.  The Renaissance Art Game is one of the best in this category. With it, you can learn about great art and relax at the same time.

The Art Game consists of a deck of 30 large, full-color, laminated playing cards with a work of art on the back of each one. The deck is arranged in five artist sets, (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Fra Angelico and Botticelli) six cards to a set, of works by each artist. Each card also lists all of the other five works in that set. Two traditional card games can be played using the Renaissance game: Go Fish (called “Go Fish for Art”) and Concentration (called “Masterpiece Memory”), each being suitable for 2-3 players. To play Go Fish, the first player asks the other player(s) for the card of a painting on the set list of one he already has in hand. Play continues until all five sets of cards have been completed. The player with the most sets wins. To play Masterpiece Memory, all cards are placed face down in several rows. The first player turns over 3 cards so that all can see the work of art and the artist. If all 3 are by the same artist, the player keeps them and takes another turn. If they are not by the same artist, the player replaces them and play moves to the next player. The player with the most cards at game’s end, wins. There are two variations of this game for younger players and for very young players, as well, making it a very versatile game, crossing many age and skill levels.

The 80-page glossy book is packed with vivid reproductions of the same 30 works of art featured on the cards along with descriptions of the artist, his life, times and work, presented in a short, concise, memorable manner. The Renaissance Art Game is a great supplement to a full art curriculum or just a fun way to learn about five great artists from this incredibly productive time in history.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media