Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Forget...

Buenos dias, Everyone! 

Just wanted to let you know that I am tied up today, but don't forget that today is the last day to enter to win the Brain Quest Hispanic America deck. If you missed that post, head over here to answer a few questions and test your knowledge of Latino history!

We've had quite a few players and at least one Supreme Trivia Master! So get in on the fun and see how well you know your history.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Science Magazine for Kids

If you haven't guessed it by now, our family is pretty big on science. So I like to keep my eyes open for science products that I think will appeal to my kids without overwhelming them. Of course, there are a LOT of science-oriented products out there (most of which I would LOVE to get my hands on), and here is one that you might enjoy, as well.

KNOW Magazine is a special science magazine geared towards children ages 6 to 9. It is edited by science writer Adrienne Mason, author of over 20 books for children, and features Diane Swanson, one of Canada’s most accomplished children’s science writers. There are a lot of illustrations to accompany the text and most of the topics are covered on one page or less, which is perfect for young readers. Not too overwhelming, but enough to engage and excite them. 

I downloaded a free sample issue and was pleasantly surprised. There are numerous experiments, games, puzzles, and loads of trivia scattered throughout the magazine. I like how they have a section that reviews books for kids BY the kids themselves. And I also love how there is no outside advertising to be seen. (I only saw one advert in the magazine and it was for the KNOW store, which sells books, tees, and such.) The subject matter is age-appropriate, too - dinosaurs, planets, origami, shapes and patterns, frogs, etc.

So if you are looking for a fun magazine to supplement your child's science and math skills, be sure to check out KNOW. You can download a free sample issue by clicking here.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hispanic Heritage Month Student Writing Contest


To all our readers who are parents and/or teachers of older children: 

One of my favorite sites, Multilingual Mania, has recently announced that it is hosting its first student writing contest. Open to students in grades 3 – 12, the essay submissions should center around a Latina or Latino who has made a significant impact on a society or a student’s life. This could be a famous Latino or someone the student knows personally.

Submissions in English or Spanish will be accepted between September 20th and October 20th, 2010.

Essays must be submitted via email to multilingualmania(at)yahoo(dot)com and must include the student’s name, grade, and teacher contact information. 

Homeschoolers are welcome to participate.

The prizes are as follows:

1st place: $75 Visa gift card
2nd place: $50 Visa gift card
3rd place: $25 Visa gift card

The teacher of the first prize winner will also receive five biographies about famous Latinos for their classroom library.

For more information, visit Multilingual Mania.

I wish my child was old enough to participate. But for those of you with older children, this is a fantastic opportunity to encourage your children to write, communicate, and learn about the Latino culture. I hope some of you participate, and please let me know if you do! 

¡Buenas suerte a todos!

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, September 27, 2010

See You at the Fair...

This week I'll be spending time at the State Fair of Texas in the Museum of Nature and Science, where my boutique, Latin Baby™, has a booth. This year the museum is hosting the Mundo Latino exhibit, which is celebrating its 14th year at the fair. Each year Munco Latino features an exhibit highlighting the rich Latino culture. The theme changes from year to year, but it usually includes dance, music, food and educational programs from artists and groups representing the Latin world including Mexico, Spain, Central & South America, and the United States.
 
This year's theme is "Space and Beyond" and features Latinos in Science, Mathematics,  Engineering and other Technological fields. Special appearances will be made by Latino astronauts, scientists, engineers, architects, and many others. 
 
If you get a chance to stop by my booth in the Mercado area and say "hola!" I'd love to talk with you! And all MommyMaestra or Latin Baby Book Club readers will get an extra 10% off if you mention that you read this here! We have some wonderful products for sale, including some that were created specifically for the fair. So stop by and see us!

Con cariño...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: Brain Quest Hispanic America

The other day I was walking through the book section of my favorite store when I spotted the Brain Quest Hispanic America edition of their Question & Answer decks. Now, I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable when it comes to Latino history. And I also love a good game or puzzle. So naturally, I snatched it up casually reached over and placed it in my basket.

On the back of the packet, I noticed it said "It's O.K. to be Smart! Y Chévere También." Ah-ha! Maybe they get it, I thought. So as soon as I made it to the car, I opened it up and started flipping through the questions to see how smart I was. Oops! Okay. So I wasn't quite as chévere as I thought I was. I had just forgotten some stuff. 

Ahem.

Anyway, as I was going through this, I was struck by the diversity of the questions. I mean, there is something for everyone - from novice Spanish speaker to hard-core native, these cards are a delicious mix of easy and hard (or hard and impossible, for those of you who know zilch about Latino history, language, and pop culture!) But, really, it is not geared for young children, so much as it is for people ages 9 to adult. As one of those adults, I had a blast flipping through the decks, and I think most of my friends would, too. But it is a great teaching tool for children learning about the history of Latinos in the Americas.

I have long been a die-hard fan of Brain Quest products, but, once again, I really wish they offered more for Latino families, or for anyone looking to learn in Spanish.


THE GIVEAWAY

So, to celebrate this small discovery and National Hispanic Heritage Month, I am giving away one of these sets. To enter, all you have to do is correctly answer four of the following twelve Brain Quest questions. I tried to pick ones that were a mix of easy and hard...(Mwuah-ha-ha!)

• For an additional entry, follow MommyMaestra on Facebook. Be sure to leave a separate comment letting me know that you did!

• Anyone able to answer all 12 questions earns the title "Supreme Trivia Master" and will be entered to win a small surprise ;)

The deadline to enter is September 30th, at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and be notified via email. (Please be sure to provide a valid email address with your entry.) The winner must have a valid United States mailing address.


¡Buena suerte!


1.) Who created the series of pictures entitled Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War)?

2.) Who was called El Rey, the King of Salsa?

3.) What is the October holiday Día de la Raza called en inglés?

4.) In what country is Lake Titicaca, the world's highest inland sea that ships can cross?

5.) Is an empanada a pie or a dance?

6.) Whose language did La Malinche interpret for the Spanish during the years of conquest?

7.) What long, pointed object was thrown by the first Latina to win an Olympic gold medal?

8.) Does a person called a qisqueyano come from Chile or the Dominican Republic?

9.) Is the word cocopelao Puerto Rican slang for a bald person or a little baby?

10.) The Spanish word for "bear" is the same backward and forward. What is the word?

11.) What great humanitarian was also the first Hispanic to be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

12.) In which two months is Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated?


Answers next week!

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to latinaish.com, the winner of the Brain Quest deck!

And un bravo grande to our Supreme Trivia Masters: Monica Young, Lupe, and Anonymous! Lupe, you have won a copy of "Dichos de mi Madre" from Latin Baby. Please contact me within 72 hours to claim it. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Say Cicada, You Say Cigarra


We had the most wonderful - yet unexpected - learning opportunity the other day while we were at the park for a little break. Right as we were leaving, my daughter spotted this beautiful cicada on the ground. Her squeals of delight were joined by mine as I had never seen a cicada that had just emerged from its exoskeleton. Normally, they do this at night to avoid predation, as they are extremely vulnerable at this time.

As you can see from the picture, a newly emerged adult is so beautiful! I couldn't get over its bright, translucent green coloration, and its wings were still limp like a long flowing cape. Apparently, it takes a while for their wings to fill with blood and their new skin to harden. As it turns out, I really knew very little about these insects, so we did a little digging around our home library and on the internet...

Do they bite?

My daughter wanted to pick it up, but from what I had read, these little suckers (literally) can pierce you with their beak if they mistake you for a tree, which it sounds like they frequently do (there's not that much room in there for a brain). So we used a dead leaf to flip it over on the ground and it promptly made a bee-line for the nearest tree.

What's their diet?

Have you ever wondered what a cicada eats? I hadn't, at least not until my daughter asked me. And then I found out that the reason for said beak was to pierce and suck from the xylem of plants. The xylem is the tube that carries water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves.

Natural History...

Now there are over 100 different species of cicada found in North America alone, and more than 2000 around the world. They are, in fact, found on every continent except Antarctica.

Like many insects, their life cycle begins as an egg laid into the crevice of a tree. When they hatch, they enter their nymph stage, which is when they do most of their growing. During this time, they drop down to the ground and tunnel underground until they find a root to feast on for the next two to 17 years, depending on the species. Finally, they dig their way out and climb up the nearest tree where they shed their old skin and emerge as an adult, or imago. Most of us have only noticed them in their adult stage, after they have emerged from their exoskeleton.

There are two main types of cicada. The periodical, also known as the 17 year cicada, is the one that emerges by the millions every 17 years. But the more common one here in America is the annual, which emerges every year in small numbers.

I found out that there will be NO MAJOR PERIODICAL emergences this year. And if you'd like to find out when the next major emergence is coming to your state, check out this Cicada Mania page. This site is a wealth of information on cicadas.

Vocalization

Now I'm sure that everyone recognizes the song of the cicada. It is the intense buzzing sound outside that most of the world associates with the hot days of summer. In fact, it is the loudest of all insect calls, and one of the loudest noises found in the animal kingdom. Only the males create this racket with their "tymbals," which are structures found on either side of the base of their abdomen. But if you try to find a cicada by listening for its song, olvídatelo. They are deliberate ventriloquists whose sound cannot be pinpointed by the vertebrate ear. Only a receptive female cicada can locate her mate. Females also make noise using their wings, but the sound is completely different.

The Bilingual Edge

Growing up, I remember hearing the story of la cigarra y la hormiga. So, I dug around some, but sadly, could find very few on-line resources for this story. I hope you enjoy these.

la cigarra y la hormiga :: Cody's Cuentos (a podcast)

The story of la cigarra y la hormiga :: Guía Infantil

La cigarra y la hormiga :: Combel Editorial

Música amiga: corre al coro :: Latin Baby Book Club



Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homeschool Essentials: Letter Tiles


I've already mentioned that every family should have a few particular items that are essential tools for supporting their child's education. Last month, we mentioned how a good globe is surprisingly versatile and can be used in many ways.

Also near the top of my Homeschooling Essentials list is a good set of letter tiles. You can find many different sets (upper case, lower case, number, etc.)  in la Librería, but don't feel pressured to buy "official" tiles created just for the student. You can often find a used Scrabble game at a garage sale for pennies that will work just as well. Or you can do what I did and head to your local Target and buy a Bananagrams game on sale.

(If you want to get really fancy, you can even buy a Spanish Scrabble game. Or you can just take a sharpie to your English letter tiles and add accents here and there.)

Anyhow, I bought my bananagrams right before school started because I was determined to provide my daughter with more manipulatives this year. And I am so glad I did. She is predominantly a hands-on learner so any kind of games or manipulatives really grab and hold her attention. The best thing about these tiles is that I can dump them on the table in front of her and let her spell until her little corazoncito is content. It is win-win because I don't have to give her much direction, yet she is still learning... and happily.

Here are some ideas for ways you can use your alphabet tiles:

• Make a list of words and call them out for your child to spell. Remember to scatter more challenging words in the list so that your child can build up his confidence on the easy ones, yet still work hard to correctly spell the harder ones. If your child becomes frustrated, scale back immediately and concentrate on easier words until she is ready.

Play a game of scrabble or bananagrams. Believe it or not, playing a game with your parent is much more fun than playing alone.

• Have your child spell words in Spanish...or another foreign language!

Tumble the Tower. Have your child spell one word, then ask them to change it into another word simply by placing one tile on top of another. Keep this up until the pile tips and their "tower" falls to the ground.

• Ask your child to spell backwards! (As challenging as this seems for young kids, they love it! Just be sure to keep it simple.)

• Have your child write a sentence (either one you give her, or one she makes up on her own).

• With younger kids, play a game of "I spy" (or "Veo, veo") and have them find the letters.  For example, you might say, "I spy, with my little eye, the letter "L"" or you could say, "I spy a letter that makes the sound "buh". This is an excellent game for pre-readers to learn letter recognition.

• Ask your child to arrange the tiles alphabetically.

• Ask your child to spell his name.

Play memory match with a handful of pairs. Slowly add more pairs to make the game more challenging.


Con mucho cariño...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Power of Role Playing for Young Children




On our very first day of school, one of the books we read was about other children playing dress up and pretending to be veterinarians. As soon as break time arrived, my kids immediately raced upstairs for their doctor toys, stuffed animals, and a white sweater (to sub as a lab coat). For the rest of the break period and after school was over, this role play dominated their play time.

Fortunately for me, they let me take a few pictures to record one of their cases. (For insurance purposes, you know.)

La doctora is in...
 


Hmmm...Apparently the diagnosis has something to do with a bad heart.

 

Pobrecito! He does look a little FOWL!!
(Jajaja! Oh, come on. It was funny!)



A little surgery should fix him right up...




¡Pues, con razón! No wonder he was grumpy!
Wouldn't you be, if you had a block stuck in you?



Anyway, all this got me to thinking and paying attention and soon I realized that at least once a day or more during their play time together, my kids are actively role playing. Veterinarian, doctor, cowboys, knights, native Americans, super heroes, explorers, royalty, scientists, bird watchers...the list is endless. Sometimes they even pretend to be the characters in books we have read or movies we've watched, like Adelita (from Tomie dePaola's novel of the same name), Rosalinda (from Under the Lemon Moon), Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House series, or Violet and Dash from The Incredibles, to name a few.

So I started doing some reading and before you know it, I have a new found respect for this form of play. Not only is it helping them explore and develop their imaginations, but it also may also have a physical effect on my children's brains. It does, in fact, have many benefits, as I discovered after reading One Step Ahead's Pretend Play: The Magical Benefits of Role Play. And once I realized how role playing can take many forms, I discovered that the percentage of time my kids spend doing this increased exponentially.

So next time you see your kids acting out their favorite story, or making one up as they go along, don't hesitate to jump in and give them a helping hand if need be. Not only will they be delighted to have another participant, but you might just be surprised at how well they have learned their role.

You can read more about role play at one of these sites:

ROLE PLAYING IN EDUCATION :: Adam Blatner, M.D.

The Nature of Children's Play :: David Fernie

The Role of Pretend Play in Children's Cognitive Development :: Doris Bergen for Early Childhood Research and Practice


Con mucho cariño...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Links: Hispanic Heritage to Frogs

Hispanic Heritage Begins Tomorrow ~ Lessons for Kids :: Boca Beth

Resources to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Your Kids :: Modern Mami

School Week 4 :: Montessori Spanish

Back to School with a New Perspective :: Spanglish Baby

Using Cartoons to Teach Greetings :: Language Journeys

Multiplicación con regleta :: ORCA

Frog Unit :: My Bilingual Boys


Also, mi amiga, Carrie, over at the Tiki Tiki is running a series of essays this week on parenting. Marta Darby's (you remember her, don't you?) article ran on Monday, Tracy López from Latina-ish wrote a beautiful essay that ran on Wednesday, and I have a little something that runs today. I hope you will stop by and show us un poquito de cariño...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spanish Multimedia Offers Huge Selection of Videos, Music and More

Spanish Multimedia is an on-line store filled with a number of videos for Spanish learners. In business for over 17 years, it carries over 5,000 videos, cd's and other supplies for Spanish-speaking families or Spanish learners.

If you look through the Juvenile Teaching Aids, you'll find a number of workbooks and music sets, like the Aprendamos series (shown at right), which focuses on language arts and other basic skills.

Their Children's Book section has what looks to be like a fantastic series of early readers in Spanish. These Lightning Readers feature a controlled word count to give readers practice with essential sight words. There are over 30 titles in this series, so this may be a really great resource for those of you teaching your children to read in Spanish. I'm ordering a few, so I'll get back to you on this one. There's also many other titles and series in this section, so be sure to go through it carefully.


Now possibly the best part of this site is their video section, specifically their Children's videos. There are a number of English programs in Spanish, like Animalia and Los Osos Berenstain, but there's also some Spanish shows like the Cantinflas Show (Jajaja! Stop drooling, Mama!) and Cri-Cri (Okay, Mama, go ahead.)


I am mentioning the products for children available on the site, but there is plenty for adults as well. So sneak over there and take a peak at all of the fantastic riches this site offers and then stop back by and let me know what you think...

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lesson Plans and Activities for Hispanic Heritage Month


Today marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

What a wonderful opportunity for us as parents to discuss the contributions that Latinos have made in our history. It is also a great time to talk about the diversity of Latino cultures. My kids and I will be talking about the different Spanish speaking countries in the Americas over the next few weeks and looking for activities, books, and lessons that help them appreciate and learn about their heritage.

To help those of you who are interested in supplementing your children's or students' education and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, here are a few of my favorite sites and pages for parents and teachers:


Hispanic Heritage Teaching Resources :: Smithsonian Education

This might be my favorite site for information and activities. Specifically, you might take a look at their sections "From Vaquero to Cowboy" and "Latino Family Stories" and "Música del Pueblo".


A Kid's Guide to Latino History by Valerie Petrillo

The best book on the market covering the history of Latinos in the Americas. Filled with fun activities and recipes for all ages. Click here for a complete review.


Primary & Secondary Education :: Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC)

A VERY comprehensive list of resources for educators and parents. I especially love the sections on lesson plans and resources for children.


Hispanic History :: Teaching with Historic Places

This site has some really good lesson plans for older children in both English and Spanish.


Mini-Unit Topic: Hispanic Cultures :: Kim A. Loos

A really great lesson plan for 5th graders. This unit could be modified for older or younger students.


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage :: Scholastic

A good site for information and interactive learning. Lessons are divided according to grade level. Be sure to check out the Teacher's Guide for help preparing and teaching the lessons.




Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art Lessons


Allowing our children to explore and create is a valuable part of their education. There is a reason that we begin by giving our little toddlers paper and crayons. It helps to develop hand-to-eye coordination and prepares them for writing. But there is something deeply satisfying at seeing your own masterpiece take shape on a blank piece of paper. And if we stop and pay attention, it is fascinating to watch our child's ability to translate to paper what they imagine in their minds.

The benefits that I have discovered from my children's drawing time are many:


Expression of Self

Drawing provides them with an opportunity to reveal dreams, hopes, and secret desires. For whatever reason, sometimes it is difficult for them to put into words those things about which they are thinking. Most of the time, this is a self motivated activity, though I sometimes give them some paper and pencils with directions to "draw something you hope for/dream about".


Fine Motor Development

It is really exciting to watch as their fine motor abilities develop and mature over time. Drawing allows them to master their use of a pencil/crayon so that when it comes time to learn how to write, they are better prepared and therefore, less frustrated.


Comprehension Assessment

Having the children draw the sequence or an alternate ending to a story we've just read, allows me to gauge whether or not they have understood the story and/or the concepts conveyed within. This activity really makes them stop to think about the elements of a story (characters, setting, plot) so that they can accurately depict them in their artistic version.


Focusing the Mind

Occasionally, if my kids seem distracted during an activity, pulling out a journal or paper can help to settle them down and focus on the subject. Today, while doing a science project, my daughter was easily distracted and having trouble with patience. By handing her the science journal and asking her to chart and draw her experiment, I was able to help direct her attention and calm her down.


Point of View

Last week, for the first time, I asked my daughter to examine an object from the top, side, and bottom. Then she was asked to draw what she saw. It was a fabulous way to discuss how things can appear different depending on how you look at them. I feel this concept will serve us well in the future when discussing problem solving.


Having the right tools can also inspire your children to action. My local Michaels currently has several Artist's Tool Boxes on sale for $10. I had been keeping my eye on them for a while, so I snatched up the Drawing Tool Box as soon as I saw them at a more affordable price. It comes with a nice assortment of drawing pencils, erasers, stumps and tortillons, soft pastels, colored pencils, charcoal pencils, sharpener, sketch book, and manakin. And they are all packaged in a small carrying case to help keep things organized in one place.

In order to enjoy these last warm days of summer, we packed up our art equipment and headed to our local park, where we spent the next several hours observing our surroundings and then drawing it on paper. These excursions have actually become some of our favorite moments together. There's nothing like an afternoon spent outdoors, quietly soaking in nature and allowing your creativity to flow. I hope you consider taking some time in the next few weeks to do the same.

To learn more about drawing development in children, check out these sites...

Art Development in Young Children :: eHow

Drawing Development in Children  :: Viktor Lowenfeld

Developmental Art Stages - Art And Your Child :: Artists Helping Children

Art is Important in a Child’s Development :: The Parenting Magazine

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bilingual Astronomy Book Needs Our Votes


Finding bilingual resources for homeschooling families continues to be a challenge. So of course, I am just so happy when I stumble upon new products or sites that help us on our educational journey. Part of teaching our children is finding ways to make them enjoy the learning process or to spark their interest and imaginations so that they are eager to learn more.

Last week I happened upon this article announcing a new bilingual art book on astronomy for children. Snapshots of the Universe/Instantáneas del universo was created last year by Dark Skies, Bright Kids (DSBK), a program run by volunteer students at the University of Virginia. Their goal is to enhance science education for elementary kids, especially in rural southern Albemarle County elementary schools.

Many of the children attending these rural schools are of Latino heritage, so Kelsey Johnson, the astronomer in charge of the program, and her volunteers have been actively reaching out to these students whose first language is Spanish. In an effort to engage a particularly shy third-grader, Johnson asked one of her team members, Laura Jackson, for help.

Now it so happens that Laura just graduated from the university with a Spanish degree and a minor in astronomy. She also dabbles in art. Excited about the opportunity, Laura began creating paintings of objects found in the universe - el sol/the sun, la luna/the moon, el cohete/the rocket, la Tierra/the Earth - and she labeled them in both English and Spanish. 

The pictures were such a hit with the teachers and (more importantly) with the students, that DSBK decided to develop the idea even further and create a book using the many talents contributed by other university students.  The text was expanded to give more detail, and native speakers from Chile, Mexico, and Spain reviewed it for accuracy.

DSBK is now looking to upload the book to their website by the end of the year and make it available as a free digital download for bilingual families all over the world.

But their most pressing goal is to print up 8,000 copies of Snapshots of the Universe/Instantáneas del universo in order to place them in third grade classrooms throughout Virginia, as well as in every one of the state’s public elementary school libraries.

To do this, DSBK has applied for a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh educational grant program. Because Pepsi allows the public to vote for the applicants, DSBK really needs every vote it can get.

We can help! Everyday between now and the end of September, you can vote for DSBK’s bilingual book project. If you’d like to learn more about the Dark Skies, Bright Kids program, visit their website.

It is SO IMPORTANT for us to support projects like these which serve to further our children's education. Not only does it benefit us, since they are working to make the digital version available to us for free, but it also helps so many children, Latino and non-Latino, to get an opportunity to find the beauty and excitement in learning about science.

I hope you will join me in voting for this most deserving project.



Con mucho cariño...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend Links: Math to Chores

Cubico Math Game :: Homeschool Parent

Tridio :: ORCA

Bookmarks to Make :: The Crafty Crow

Hop Skip and Sing Spanish :: Teaching Español

The Power of Cereal Boxes :: Wanna Jugar with Migo?

Speaking in Tongues :: PBS Video Portal

Homeschool Encouragement: Reflections from a Homeschool Graduate :: Simple Homeschool

Responsibuilders (This sounds like a great tool for families to use to make chore assignments more fun. Too bad it is not available in Spanish. I am thinking about purchasing one for my family.) 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Children's Blog in Spanish: Los Bloguitos



Parents with children whose first language is Spanish will love Los Bloguitos.

Created exclusively for children, this blog is written completely in Spanish. Niños of all ages can benefit from the site as it boosts literacy skills and supports imaginative development through short stories, poems, word searches, comic strips, anecdotes, and fun activities . Small children will enjoy looking at the short videos and illustrations while having the poems and short stories read to them. Older kids can enjoy reading the excerpts for themselves or by contributing works of their own.

Los Bloguitos has an impressive list of contributors starting with its creators René Colato Laínez, Graciela Lecube-Chavez, Christianne Meneses Jacobs, Leticia Pontoni, and Mara Price.  In addition, the blog is enriched by the words and art of a talented group of authors - Isabel Arraiza-Arana, Amy Costales, Edwin Fontanez, Julia del Prado, Maria Gabetta, Maria Perez, Maria Rico, Zoraida Rivera, Sandra Torres - and illustrators - Joan Charles, Steven Corvelo, K. Michale Crawford, Suzy Engelman, Hernan Estrada, Carol Heyer, Sharon Kroner, Laura Lacamara, Yuyi Morales. (Can you say, "Increíble"?)

I asked one of the creators and mi amigo, René Colato Laínez (who is also a contributor to the LBBC), if there was anything special he wanted me to say about Los Bloguitos. He replied by saying that they are always looking for collaborations (poems, stories, cuentos, teaching ideas) from teachers, writers, and children. All the submissions need to be in Spanish.

So consider this a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your child's writing skills, or think about contributing a short story that you have created for your children or students.

But most of all, take the time to explore Los Bloguitos with your children. It is sure to become one of your favorite sites.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Teach Your Children the Complete Story: A Kid's Guide to Latino History


Last week, I posted the Libro del Mes over at the LBBC. This book is such a valuable resource, I felt I better share it here as well.

A Kid’s Guide to Latino History by Valerie Petrillo could almost be used as a lesson manual discussing the History of Latinos in the Americas, as well as for geography and cultural awareness. The book is fun and educational, but this one is better suited for older children ages 7 and up. However, many of the activities may be modified for younger children.

The work itself is broken down into 10 categories, beginning with Columbus’ discovery of the New World and working its way through the contributions and history of the various Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. Each chapter offers not only the history of a country or people, but also gives directions for creating a craft or recipe from that country. For example, in chapter four, Petrillo highlights Mexican Americans and offers instructions for playing various games such as Lotería, as well as how to make capirotada, cascarones, pan de muerto, and even farolitos. And this is just a sampling! Some of the other chapters focus on Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, and Central and South Americans.

This awesome book is more of a learning manual full of creative projects to capture your child’s interest and pride in their own heritage. One of the things seriously lacking in most (if not all) homeschooling curricula, is a good text describing our history and the important role that Latinos have played in the formation of the United States.

The back of the book is also full of resources for parents and teachers. Included is a bibliography for children AND adults, a list of Latino museums, a section on Latino movies and videos, websites for kids, and finally, an awesome teacher’s guide, which breaks down the activities by grade level, ways to modify the activities, and suggests extended learning opportunities.

This book is an excellent supplement to ANY child’s education, and includes a lot of information that your child more than likely would not learn in any school history class. It is a great addition to any bilingual family’s library, and certainly one that will be used often. If you would like to buy your own copy of A Kid’s Guide to Latino History, please click here.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Taking It Outside: Having Class Time Outdoors

One of the best things about homeschooling is that your child can learn any time, any where.

We've been fortunate the last few days to have the most beautiful weather imaginable. El otoño is right around the corner, so to celebrate, we cut short the amount of time we spent studying indoors, and took our classroom outside. In fact, moving school outside has some definite advantages.

Messy or big projects are nothing to worry about when you have a yard full of grass or a nice big patio to move around. It's so nice to break free from the confinement of a desk or table every once in a while. And little spills don't create major problems, like stains on the floor!

We generally take one or two breaks during the course of our morning. Sometimes I send the kids out to play and other times I keep toys around for imaginative play. But outside there's time for a quick game of tag, soccer, swinging, tree climbing, bike riding, exploring...the list is endless. And getting the kids back in focus is easier when they don't have to actually go back inside, thereby leaving the beauty of their natural setting.

In addition, I find the outdoor class time to be more inspiring for my daughter. Her observations of our natural world spark her curiosity. For example, when discussing the scientific method, she's much more likely to come up with questions about the world around her than she is when she is sitting at the dining room table or her desk. Story time is also more elaborate. I don't know if it is the fresh air, the sunlight, the movement of wildlife around her, or a combination of it all. But her eyes sparkle and she seems more focused when we spend time learning outdoors.

Changing the setting also helps to make class time a teensy bit more fun. And their involvement becomes more enthusiastic as a result of their happiness to break free from the "normal" routine.

So to liven up your classroom a bit, consider some of the following:

• Spend your reading time snuggled up in the rocker on your front porch.

• Spice up math time by allowing your child to solve addition problems under the big oak tree in your yard... using acorns as counters.

• Explore the concepts of standard and non-standard measurement by letting your son practice measuring steps, flowerbeds, plants, or patio furniture.

• Discuss the idea of an aerial, or "bird's eye," view by having your child draw a map of your yard that includes landscape features.

• Use a hopscotch grid to learn about even and odd numbers.

• Allow your child to lay on a blanket for however long it takes to write a story or poem about whatever comes to their mind.

¿Qué dices? You live in an apartment on the 47th floor? No worries. Get out the backpack and make a field trip to your local park. Your child will love the adventure of it all - especially if you include a picnic lunch!

Winter will be here in the blink of an eye. Take advantage of the time you have now to foster in your child a love of the outdoors. Not only does it awaken the scientist within, but it also paves the road for a healthy lifestyle that embraces physical activity.

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekend Links: Flags to Spelling

Making Spelling A Lot More Fun :: The Homeschool Classroom (These are GREAT ideas that I can't wait to try out!) :: Montessori Spanish

Flags of the World :: Montessori Spanish

La mejor escuela :: Orca

Montessori Monday :: Mi Escuelita Montessori

Symmetry Sketches :: Jimmie's Collage (This activity can be easily adapted for kids of any age.)

Repurposed Boxes: Notebook Fun :: Family Economics

8 Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas & Recipes :: Simple Bites (I really LOVE this post!)

Whenever I Can, I Use “Positive Parenting” :: Modern Familia

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On-line Educational Videos in English and Spanish



Do you already know about Brain POP? I just found out about this amazing site and was even happier to see that it is available in Spanish (for those of you who are teaching exclusively in Spanish). This website presents animated, curriculum-based videos, games, activities, and lesson plans for a wide range of subjects. Their collection of Spanish science movies alone is incredible.

You might also check out their newsletters, which are archived on the site (at least back through March of 2008).

Brain POP is not free, but they are so confident that you will love their content, that they offer a free 5 day trial period for you to explore the sites on your own. It is a little pricey ($80/yr) but they do offer a monthly payment plan ($7.95) if you choose the "Family" subscription plan instead of the "Homeschool" plan. (It is a $1 extra for BrainPop Español.) I think that if you would actually use it on a weekly, if not daily, basis, then the price may be worth it. If not, be sure to at least stop by and look at the free videos and stuff that they offer.

Here's a breakdown of the sites:

Brain Pop is for middle- to upper-school students.

Brain Pop Español is a Spanish-only learning site.

Brain POP Jr is geared for children in grades K- 3.

Brain POP ESL is good for those of you beginning to teach your students/kids English as a second langage. (Man, I wish they had a site for those learning Spanish as a second language!)


Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Teacher Resource: The International Children’s Digital Library


Since I discovered this site, I have been so excited to share it with everyone! The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL Foundation) is rich with a diverse collection of multicultural children’s literature. In this mobile society, ICDL believes that it is every child’s (and family’s) right to have access to books of their native culture “regardless of where they live.” They quote on their website, a 2005 paper published by UNESCO, which states that "Denial to access to information in one's mother tongue is equivalent to a denial of a human right." (YES!!)

Why is it that so many feel that to acknowledge one culture is to deny another? Why can we not embrace both the richness of our heritage AND the beauty of our present society? Why is it wrong to excel at more than one language? Surely this is something to be celebrated rather than punished. Well, apparently the wonderful staff at ICDL feel the same way.

So to provide children around the world with the opportunity to connect with their mother tongue, ICDL is working to create an extraordinary collection of literature from around the world. Currently, the collection has grown to include 4431 books in 54 languages.

They describe their mission as being “to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.”

Bravo!

So, let’s get you started! This website is a pleasure to explore, full of hidden treasures that will thrill any child or parent. You may begin using their Simple Search interface and simply click on a button to refine your search. You can search by age, language, country, fiction/non-fiction, length, characters, picture vs. chapter books, author, award winning, or collection. They also have special exhibitions that focus on themes and have accompanying activities. (Check out “Strong Women and Girls Make the World Go Round”.)

Now, like I said, the site has books available in almost ANY language, but for our purposes, here is the link to their books in Spanish for children ages three to five. There are 77 books currently available, like El caballito de palo. What a fantastic source of multicultural children’s literature this has turned out to be!

I would strongly recommend the International Children’s Digital Library for ALL families (obviously) for its diversity of children’s books from around the world. How fortunate for all of us to have such a dynamic tool at our fingertips!

And because I love this site so much, I will be incorporating reviews of their books into our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club, so I’ll let you know when the first one runs. I hope you all enjoy this resource as much as I do!

Con mucho cariño…

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