Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Free Download: Spanish Back-to-School Scramble


It's time for another free mini-lesson from our sponsor Spanish for You! Your Spanish learner will love this Back-to-School Scramble activity. 

This mini-lesson can be done alone or in a group. It teaches key vocabulary associated with school items such as notebooks, markers, folders and more.  The 6-page lesson comes with worksheets, activities, and a blank box sheet, as well as the audio to help you with the pronunciation of each word. This is a fun mini-lesson!


If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy.


And to supplement this lesson, check out these books in Spanish that celebrate going back to school! 
The links below are affiliate links

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tweet Chat: Preparing Bilingual Kids for Going Back to School


I am so delighted to be participating in this evening/afternoon's Back-to-School Tweet Chat with my friends at Read Conmigo. If you have a bilingual child who is starting - or has already started - back to school, I hope you'll join us today for a Tweet Chat on Twitter.

We'll be sharing tips and ideas for how to prepare your bilingual child for going back to school. The chat goes live at 6 pm ET (3 pm PT). To join us, just follow the hashtag #ReadConmigoChat or send your tweets to @ReadConmigo or me, @LatinMami!  


Monday, August 24, 2015

App Review: Intro to United States [Bilingual]




I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for new materials and tools to help my kids learn geography. Unfortunately, many schools today have dropped this subject from their curricula. So I encourage parents to teach their children geography at home because kids need to know where they live and be able to find countries on a map. (They need to be able to USE a map. GPS applications have made us lazy and too many kids don't know how to use a map to get places. But more about that later.)

Anyway, there are tons of really awesome apps that are now available and I rely on them a lot to teach my kids. Like this one from Montessorium!



Name: Intro to United States
Subject(s): geography
Brief Description: An interactive, bilingual app that teaches children to identify the 50 states.
Price: $2.99
Language: English and Spanish
Ages: 6 - 8 years
Device: iOS

What my kids like:
My son loves learning which animals are associated with each state. The ability to progress from group to group through six short activities. He also likes the graphics and the interactive activities such as dragging the states to the place where they belong on the map.

What I like:
This app uses repetition to help kids memorize not only where each state is located on a map, but also the shape of each state. I like that I can increase the difficulty of the app by choosing the number of states they are learning about at one time. The options are 3 (shown), 6 or 9.

I also like that I can change the language in the settings to English or Spanish.

Unfortunately, it is only available for iOS and I know that most Spanish-speaking families own Androids. 



Disclaimer: I received this app for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 Qualities For Successfull Homeschooling

photo by laffy4k

Taking the plunge into homeschooling can be one of the scariest moments of your life. Homeschooling isn't for every family. But if you are even considering teaching your kids at home, then there must be a reason and you should at least give it a try to see if it is a good fit for your family.

I have, however, found that some of the most successful homeschoolers have certain qualities in common. I've listed them below. But keep in mind that to be successful, you don't have to have all of these. For example, I try really hard to be organized, but that doesn't always happen. I usually start off the school year super organized and then it progressively deteriorates over time. Ha! However, I try to keep these qualities in mind and I strive to develop them in our homeschool life.

Which qualities would you add to this list?

1. Love

Did I say you don't have to have all these qualities to be successful? Well, I lied. Because there is one quality you must have to thrive as a homeschooling family. The most important quality of them all is love for each other. You wouldn't homeschool if you didn't care about the type of education your child was getting. You wouldn't do it if you didn't like spending time together. We have to be passionate about teaching our children, knowing that in doing so we are raising them to be happy, healthy, functioning, and contributing members of our society. You just gotta love your kids enough to teach them daily...and to have the patience you'll need every now and then!


2. Organization

Creating learning opportunities and keeping track of lessons - not to mention all of the books, manipulatives, art and school supplies – does require some semblance of organization on your part. Fortunately, there are many homeschoolers in the blogosphere that are willing to help you out by sharing some of their best organization secrets!


3. Flexibility

Although your job is to guide and manage your child’s education, ultimately, your child will dictate the direction that your schooling will go. Learning styles, mood, sickness, interest level and much more will often throw a monkey wrench into your best laid plans, as will outside influences such as other family members, neighbors, friends, and business. In other words, LIFE. Your best bet is to roll with the punches and take advantage of unexpected opportunities to help your child learn some incredible life lessons along the way.


4. Creativity/Ingenuity

There is almost always more than one way to accomplish (or learn!) something. And when you hit a stumbling block, sometimes you have to let your imagination come to the rescue! Maybe your daughter is having trouble learning how to tell time. Maybe she is bored by the material. So you decide to have her make her own clock and you come up with a game to help her learn. Or maybe your son is having trouble with his sight words. So you create a board game to make learning them more fun. Or you start an incredible art project, only to discover you are missing one of the materials needed to finish it. No worries, a substitution will do! Bilingual homeschoolers will probably have to rely a great deal on their ability to translate so that they may tailor lessons in the majority language. Your creativity and ingenuity will be challenged frequently along the way. Homeschooling is a great way to develop these skills!


5. Patience

It’s not easy to maintain your patience when you have an idea in you head of all the things you’d like to accomplish on any given day and your child simply can’t – or won’t - cooperate. Or when your child is having a really hard time understanding a concept that seems so incredibly easy to you. But having patience will take you a LONG way towards not only helping your child learn, but also towards building your child’s confidence in himself.


6. Curiosity

If I am bored with what I am teaching, chances are my child will pick up on it and she will be bored, too. Try to keep in mind that the goal is not how much you teach your child, but rather to nurture their own curiosity and develop their love of learning. The best way to do this is to model these attributes yourself. Try to look at the world through your child’s eyes and find the mystery and beauty in everything around you. Homeschooling also provides us with a second chance to learn the things we missed (or dismissed) when we were younger. Yay!


7. Dedication

Homeschooling requires a firm commitment on our part as teachers. We must agree to learn about our children so that we understand the best way to teach them. We have to find the subjects/lessons/activities/projects that will capture our child’s attention and provide them with a firm foundation for success later in life. We must be willing and able to implement some sort of learning routine in their lives. For those of you who are bilingual homeschooling, this means dedicating the time to find lessons in your language of choice. In short, we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to our children’s education, which is something we should all do regardless of whether or not we are homeschooling.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Homeschool Spanish Program for 3rd - 5th grade {GIVEAWAY}



My favorite part of MommyMaestra's Back-to-School Fiesta! is the number of homeschool materials I get to give away. And today it's time for another Spanish curriculum giveaway!

Risas y Sonrisas is another fabulous MommyMaestra sponsor and they have graciously agreed to giveaway one of their comprehensive Homeschool Curriculum sets to TWO (2!)  MommyMaestra readers.


This is a fabulous program geared for kids in 3rd - 5th grade. It comes with tons of fun activities and a complete instruction guide for parents/teachers. You can read my complete review of their program here and learn about all the items with which it comes. But I want to add that my kids really love this program. It is fun, effective and very interactive. Leticia, the creator, has been teaching Spanish to children since 1993. Her experience is evident in the quality of this program.

Here's a brief description of the homeschool curriculum from the Risas y Sonrisas website:
"The Spanish Homeschool Program is a small version of the Classroom Program. It is ideal for small groups of 2-4 students. For instance, instead of large posters, students can sing and follow the illustrations or the lyrics. in the book The matching domino cards can also be used as mini-flashcard pictures to play a variety of games as well as to build picture sentences using the mini-verb conjugation cards. A Homeschool Instructor Manual with the method, fun game ideas and lesson plans is included. 
Knowing Spanish helps, but it’s not necessary with all the tools included in the Program. For best results, we suggest that parents get involved and learn along with their children. It will be easy and fun with Risas y Sonrisas!"
To enter to win this awesome package, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Free Download for Spanish Readers: Word Wall


MommyMaestra's Back-to-School Fiesta! continues with August's freebie from our wonderful sponsor, Lectura para niños. It can actually be used three different ways: as a word wall, vocabulary cards, or picture dictionary.

Leah says...

This freebie is part of a bigger Word Wall! Originally, I had used this just as a word wall and picture dictionary. I would put these words up under the alphabet letters we have from our curriculum. Recently, I decided to print additional sets for my classroom and put them on rings. The students can take the words for the letter of the week we are practicing and practice with their elbow partners during center time. They LOVE them! They take ownership of them being able to cover the picture on the cards and reading the words with their partners! So much fun! I hope your readers enjoy as much as my students have! 

There is another freebie for the letter M on my TPT page as well. 




For more awesome Spanish materials, especially those that teach children to read in Spanish, check out Lectura para niños on Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, Blog, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Read Around the World: Drum Dream Girl


I'm pretty delighted to participate this year in the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Read Around the World Summer Reading Series. Throughout the summer, MKB blog members have been sharing their favorite book recommendations to help our children travel across the globe through literature. And today, it's my turn!


There are so many wonderful books on Latino culture that I had a hard time choosing only one. In the end, I decided on a book that highlights the little-known story of a young girl who changed the world of music in Cuba with her determination and courage. 

Drum Dream Girl is written by the talented poet Margarita Engle who frequently focuses on stories about those men and women who don't show up in our history books despite the tremendous impact that they had on their communities. 

Drum Dream Girl tells the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban who had an amazing talent and love of drums. However at the time, girls were not allowed to play the drums in Cuba - especially not in public! But Millo summoned her courage and dared to play, paving the way for future generations of female drummers. Margarita's freestyle verse is so well written and has so much imagery that the illustrations are almost unnecessary. 

However, this book is a visual feast thanks to the magnificent illustrations by the talented Rafael Lopez. The vibrant and joyous images seem to leap from the pages, responding to the rhythm of the music Millo plays on her small bongo drums. The bold colors reflect the warmth of the Caribbean island and its inhabitants.

If you are looking for an inspirational book to share with and motivate your own child, dive into the beautiful message between the covers of Drum Dream Girl


Monday, August 10, 2015

Bilingual Preschool Prize Pack Giveaway

If you are the parent of a preschooler, then you are going to be pretty excited about today's Back-to-School Fiesta giveaway! Over the past year, I've acquired quite a few materials for preschoolers in both English and Spanish. Some I've been sent for review, others I've purchased with this in mind.

If you have a 3- or 4-year-old child and have been following MommyMaestra, then you know how I feel about preschool. It is critical for children to either attend a preschool or actively be worked with at home so that they can start school (kindergarten) on target and ready to learn. To help you, I've put together a great collection of books and games that help you teach important basic concepts to your child. I think that you'll like that they are in English and/or Spanish. This collection includes:

  • 2 sets of ChildUp Early Learning Game Cards
  • 1 set of Scholastic bilingual board books: Seasons/Las cuatro estaciones, Shapes/Figuras geométricas, Colors/Colores, and Numbers/Números
  • 1 set of Little Pim Spanish Word & Phrase Cards
  • 1 set of Little Pim board books: Feelings and Colors
  • 1 set of Maisy's bilingual board books: Toys, Food, Clothes, Animals
  • 2 issues of the now discontinued Baby Bug in Español
  • Eric Carle's bilingual board book: Colors/Colores
  • It's Our Garden by George Ancona
  • 1st bilingual picture dictionary: My Little Word Book/Mi libro pequeño de palabras
  • Caillou multilingual learning set for preschool (includes a workbook and CD-ROM, both in English, Spanish, and French)
  • 1 set of Stuart J. Murphy's I See I Learn books: Percy juega con cuidado, Freda organiza una merienda, Emma hace amigos, ¡Bien hecho, Ajay!
  • Spanish picture book: Benny by Sieb Posthuma

ONE MommyMaestra reader will win this comprehensive bilingual preschool prize pack!

To enter to win, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 7, 2015

Reading Rainbow Releases New DVD and eBook App

This post uses affiliate links.

Welcome back to MommyMaestra's Back-to-School Fiesta! Today I'm featuring my favorite show when I was a child. It was - hands down - Reading Rainbow. The show ran for 26 years on PBS, and while I stopped watching when I hit high school (mostly) it was still one of those treasured memories from my childhood. To this day, I can sing the theme song by heart. (Raise your hand if you can, too.)

For the past five years or more, I've been lamenting the fact that my own kids couldn't see the show and have the same experience. I've closely followed (and contributed to) the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign and danced a little happy dance as I watched all the support role in until the show had raised over $5 million dollars to bring LeVar and the show back.

This past June, Reading Rainbow released their first new DVD called "Animal Café" and it is awesome! I got my hands on one and it is going to stay in my family video library forever. The four episodes from the original show feature these books:
  • “Animal Cafe,” read by Martin Short, 
  • “The Tortoise and the Hare,” read by Gilda Radner, 
  • “Ludlow Laughs,” read by Phyllis Diller, 
  • and “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message,” read by Nicholson Earl Billey.
Did you see that? Gilda Radner!! I loved that woman.

Anyway, my kids loved this video almost as much as I did. And we're clamoring for more.

But the reading doesn't end there because Reading Rainbow has also released a new online service for kids called SKYBRARY. It is a virtual library for kids that is available for mobile devices AND computers with internet connection!

When I registered, I was prompted to set up my account and add my children. After that, when we login, my children just have to select the hot air balloon with their name and off they go!

This virtual library allows your children to pilot their own personal hot air balloons among SKYBRARY'S 7 uniquely-themed islands, each featuring a wide array of quality literature and video content. These engaging worlds of animals, music, adventure, science, heroes, friends and family feature more than 500 books from esteemed authors and acclaimed publishers.


Your kids can choose the option of  “read by myself” or “read to me,” and many of the books contain interactive elements that enhance enjoyment while preserving the reading experience. My kids just click on the island they want to visit and then they select a video or a book. They add the books to their virtual backpack before reading them, and when they are done, they put the books in the "book return" to free up space in their backpack and let them check out new books.

In addition to books, there are more than 150 newly produced and classic video field trips with host LeVar Burton that show children they can “Go Anywhere, Be Anything” as they are taken behind the scenes to places such as the White House, the Los Angeles Ballet, the Grand Canyon, and Cirque du Soleil.

SKYBRARY is available at www.readingrainbow.com and offers a 14-day free trial with unlimited access to the complete digital library of books and videos. After the trial period ends, subscription plans are available.

So if you'd like to offer your kids this wonderful book, join up! Remember, they just have to...

Take a look
It's in a book
The Reading Rainbow!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this DVD & website trial for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How to Put Together a Homeschool Curriculum



So often I get emails asking recommendations for a complete curricula that is in Spanish/Bilingual/literature heavy/STEM focused/or something else. Too often what we are looking for is not available, so it is up to us as homeschool parents to create our own curriculum to meet the needs of our children and family. I've been piecing together our curriculum for a while now, and felt it was a good time to share how I do it and give you some tips for putting together your own.

First, I want to emphasize that there are LOTS of great complete curricula available today. I love most of them. And if you are just starting out (this is your first year homeschooling), then I STRONGLY recommend getting a complete curriculum your first year. Especially if you have no teaching experience. That was the best advice I received when I was starting out. I began kindergarten with my oldest child using Calvert Homeschool curriculum. It taught me so much, such as how much time to spend on each subject, how to teach, what to say, how my child learned best...

After that first year, I was ready to branch out on my own and pull together a curriculum for my daughter. Although we loved the curriculum, I quickly discovered that she was at vastly different levels in each subject and the math just wasn't a good fit for her learning style. For instance, she was a fantastic reader and her literacy skills were equal to a much higher grade while in math (her least favorite subject) she was at or below grade average. For my own sanity (and hers), I decided to piece together our curriculum for the next year pulling from different sources for each subject so that we were at the right level for each one to challenge her without frustrating her.

Okay, so now that I've said all that, let's get to it.

To begin, I consider three things:
  1. What is my child's learning style?
  2. What do I want from a curriculum?
  3. What is my budget?
Each year when I begin putting together our curriculum, I start off writing a list of all the subjects I want my kids to study over the school year. If you're unclear which ones to include, I high recommend picking up a copy of the Core Knowledge series (aff link) for the grade your child will be starting. So for example, this year I have a fourth and a sixth grader. I'll pick up a copy of "What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know" and "What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know." 

(Before I go any further, I should clarify right now that I am NOT a fan of Common Core Standards (CCS). While I think that it is good in theory, I think it is an atrocious failure in practice. Why? Because although it is great to have a guideline for what children should be learning in school, I know that kids learn in different ways and in their own time. I object to teachers being forbidden to teach anything outside of the CCS, or to teaching to tests. Our goal is to teach children to be functioning and contributing members of our society. My goal as a parent and teacher is to raise happy, healthy, considerate, and hard-working kids. But this is a rant for another day.)

Okay, so now you have your list of subjects. Next to each one, write down how your child learns that subject best. For example, my daughter is a very hands-on learner in science, but in math, she is very visual and even prefers real life problems. Boring texts for history are definitely out; she prefers project-based learning.

Now I set my budget. Typically, I limit myself to around $300 each year, but that varies. I've spent way more and way less. And keep in mind two things: Think about what you'd spend if your kids were going to a traditional school (public or private), and if your budget is small to non-existent, you can use the resources available to you (your library, the internet) to find free materials.

Once you've done that, it is time to look at the curricula available keeping in mind what it is you want out of each one and your budget.

There are four main sites I use to buy my curriculum: Amazon, EbayHomeschool Buyers Co-Op, and Christian Book (and not necessarily in that order). Once I settle on the materials I want to use for each subject, I check all three sites to get the best price.  For example, my kids' math is always cheaper at Christian Book then it is on Amazon, but sometimes I find good deals on Ebay. (Psst! Amazon is best for Spanish materials!)

REMEMBER: If you choose to buy a used curriculum, there may be writing in the student pages. If you don't care, go for it. But I personally prefer a curriculum that has clean pages so my kids can write directly in them.

TIP: If you are careful, you can sell the materials when you are finished with them and put that money toward the next year's curriculum. You can do this by photocopying pages (pretty expensive) or by using transparencies to cover the pages and let your kids use dry-erase markers to fill in the work. You just check the work, then erase it and use the transparency over and over again.

But how do you FIND the curricula? Three ways:

  • I scour the internet for reviews, 
  • I attend homeschool conferences and carefully go through their expo hall to learn about new curricula, 
  • I receive homeschool catalogs. 

Of course, MommyMaestra has lots of great reviews, so use the buttons in my sidebar to find materials for the various subjects. But other great sites are: 

Before buying ALWAYS go to the company's website and download a sample of their materials to see if it is a good fit for your child.

Don't forget that apps and online game sites, such as those by PBS KIDS, are another fun way to teach important concepts in almost any subject!

ONE LAST TIP! Many homeschool curriculum companies have sales toward the end of the summer because by then, most people have already purchased their curriculum. If you are not picky about when you start, you can get some amazing deals at the end of July and beginning of August!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

10 Latino Books to Read to Your Preschooler



This post contains affiliate links. 

Whether you are a parent teaching your preschooler at home or a preschool educator preparing for the new school year, it's important to have a collection of books that you read aloud to your young students. Children should be read to daily for at least 15 minutes. It's important to remember that those 15 minutes can be spread throughout the day and not limited to one sitting. So you might begin your day with one book, read another before nap time, and a final book before bed.

And because I strongly believe that children should see themselves reflected in the literature they read (or that is read to them), I've put together a little list of 10 books that are by or about Latinos. These books were chosen for their content with preschoolers in mind. You'll find counting books, alphabet books, and even some on shapes and colors. Read them once, read them twice, or read them over and over again throughout the year and you'll be in great shape, helping your child to learn key concepts that are typically taught in preschool.


by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy



by Roseanne Thong and John Parra



by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra



by Tony Johnston and John Parra




by Jeanette Winter



by Sherry Shahan and Paula Barragan



by Maya Christina Gonzalez



by Carmen Tafolla and Amy Cordova



by Pat Mora and John Parra

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Learn Spanish this School Year with Spanish for You! {Giveaway}


Are you getting ready to start your homeschool year? Have you decided what language curriculum you are going to use? Well, hold on! Have we got a great one for you!

We have been so lucky to have Spanish for You! as a MommyMaestra sponsor for a few years now. This excellent Spanish-learning program for middle-school students has shared many free downloads with MM readers during this time. From lessons and worksheets to games and activities, you can find samples by clicking on the Spanish for You! label at the bottom of this blog post.

Lucky for us, SfY! is just as excited about the upcoming school year as I am. And to celebrate, they are offering a chance for FOUR (4!) MommyMaestra readers to win one of the following Spanish-learning products from their program:

3 Spanish for You! Themed Packages

Created for HOME USE, three readers will win one of the following packages in the theme of their choice:
  1. 3rd - 4th grade
  2. 5th - 6th grade
  3. 7th - 8th grade

Each package comes with:
  • A themed textbook
  • A lesson guide
  • Worksheets
  • Games & activities
  • Flash-card pictures
  • Audio of the textbook
  • Bonus audio of native speaker


10 Day Christmas Lesson

Kids learn how to use vocabulary, conjugated verbs, and grammar concepts together to skillfully speak, read, and write about Christmas. This download comes with:

  • a 29-page, easy-to-follow lesson
  • a variety of fun and easy activities
  • vocabulary and verb cards
  • AUDIO of entire lesson
  • self-checking worksheets
  • word search
  • game boards
  • and more!
To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter below. 

¡Buena suerte!


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