Monday, January 31, 2011

A New Site for Science Learners

For those of you who are studying the rain forest, be sure to check out the new site Canopy in the Clouds, Dosel en las nubes. It is a fabulous resource for students and allows them to explore a tropical montane cloud forest at their own pace. It is an enriching supplement to any science curriculum. The goals of the project are to:
  1. Promote conservation through educational media delivered in an innovative and engaging manner.
  2. Inspire young scientists by sharing our passion and excitement for carrying out science.
  3. Engage people in the beauty, biodiversity, and importance of tropical montane cloud forests from the perspective of the forest canopy. 
We have really enjoyed going through the site. There are several components to it. First, you can click on the "Explore" section and select the area of the forest that you'd like to explore on your own, such as "light gaps," "mid elevation forest," "high elevation forest," etc. It will take you to an interactive panoramic page that you can navigate with a simple movement of your mouse. Once there, you can also click on a numbered area and watch an informative video clip, or read a short article about a specific theme.

You can also select the "Learn" option and learn about the cloud forest or the canopy. Teachers and parents will really love the "Teach" section, where you can download free lesson plans on a variety of themes.

And last, there is the "Media" section that a large storehouse of additional panoramas, photos, and videos with accompanying text available for educational use.

The best part? This site is currently developing a Spanish version, with the help of Centro Científico Tropical. I hope you all enjoy this excellent site!

Con mucho cariño...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don't Miss the Sale at Scholastic Teacher Express!

In case you aren't following me on Facebook, Scholastic Teacher Express is having a fabulous sale on all of their ebooks through the end of the month. There are hundreds of downloadable eBooks available for only $1 each. This morning I bought $169 worth of books for only $14. And I am still tempted to buy more...

On sale are over 500 eBooks and ePages for use with students in K-12. You can narrow your search by grade, subject, teaching format, or theme. Each book may be downloaded up to 3 times after purchase. Here's a look at the ones I bought...



Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do You Teach Your Children to Listen?

Photo by vagawi

How many of you watched tonight's State of the Union Address?

I did. Unfortunately, it was a little too late for my young children to stay up for - especially after an exciting day that included a field trip. But had they been a little bit older, I would have encouraged them to stay up late and watch.

Why? Because I am a firm believer in listening. Doesn't matter if you agree with the person speaking or not. How will you know if you agree or disagree with someone if you don't stop to listen? They might surprise you. You might find you have more in common than you thought. Or they may simply strengthen your convictions. You might find that you misunderstood them the first time - or that they misunderstood you!

Either way, communication is an invaluable tool in our society. Without it, we are lost.

This is something I want to teach my children. It is great to talk and stand up for what you believe in. (My kids don't have any trouble in this area.) But it is even more important to listen. We can learn so much in doing so. Listening can help us avoid misunderstandings. It can teach us something we didn't know. And if you listen right, you'll hear what isn't said.

Do you spend time teaching your children or students to listen? 

How to Make Homework Time Zen-like

Today, I am so happy to be able to share with you this article written by my friend, Angelica Perez-Litwin, a bilingual Psychologist in New York. She's also the founding editor of New Latina, a website dedicated to the personal and career success of today's Latina women. Angelica's youngest child is being homeschooled, and she has three more children enrolled in local schools.

I know that many of your who read this blog have children in a traditional school setting. So here are some excellent tips to help you make the homework process go more smoothly...



Photo by ND Strupler
 I don’t know about you, but I seem to dread homework time as much as my children.

In my days, homework was merely two activity sheets. Today, my kids come home with hours of homework assignments, special projects, test review sheets, and instrument practice.

Unavoidably, they need guidance, support and encouragement to complete what appears to be the second part of the school day.

Managing homework, while cooking, attending to younger kids, and handling household chores can be quite challenging. You may feel scattered, trying to juggle it all. And when your child needs more attention than you can provide, frustration may set in — resulting in an unwanted tone for homework time.


Here are a few tips I have found useful to make homework time a peaceful one:

Review your after-school schedule. Make a list of everything that needs to get done. Next to it, write down how much time it really takes to get that task done. Then assess if you have enough time to do it? You may realize that you were packing too much between the after-school time and bed time. Assess which tasks can be done earlier in the day.

Create a comfortable, well-lit homework space or corner. A homework area is an excellent way to highlight the importance of homework. Bring in pillows, comfy seats and lots of pencils, sharpeners, and paper. The homework area should be a quiet zone, useful for reading, studying or instrument practice.

Each child should have his/her own homework area – this will avoid sibling talk, disruption or commentary between the siblings.

• If possible, cook or prepare meals before the kids come home. Some parents prefer to cook in the morning, before their kid wake up. Others enjoy cooking at night, after putting the kids to sleep.

Plan meals ahead of time. This will help save time by ensuring you have all the ingredients you need, and knowing exactly what you need to do.

• Carve out 20-30 minutes of your undivided attention to help your child with challenging homework area.

• Avoid pressuring your children to do homework as soon as they arrive from school. Give them “settling in” time. Allow them to stretch, relax for a few minutes and tell you about their school day. The transition to homework time should be a smooth one.

• Set rules around the use of television, radios, and computers during homework time. Reduce as many distractions as possible.

• If you notice your child takes hours to complete his homework, he/she may be struggling with a specific area. Set up a time with his teacher to explore why.

Take the “work” out of homework. Find ways to make homework time as fun and relaxing as possible. Have a stash of funny jokes around. Encourage the kids to take 1 minute breaks to stretch or do jumping jacks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mommy Maestra Challenge: Operation Organize It!



I mentioned in my resolution post for 2011 that one of the things I'd like to do is get rid of clutter and be more organized. The urge to clean has been roaring inside me since the beginning of the year, and sporadically, I have been giving in to it.

I come from a long line of clean, organized women. My great grandmother on my mother's side was an extraordinary chef and housekeeper. She was happiest taking care of her home and the people in it. The mere wiff of Pine Sol will instantly take me back 25 years or so (ahem) to her home. She was your typical abuelita, pleasantly plump with a giant smile on her face and her silver hair pulled back into a bun. She almost aways had an apron tied around her waist because if she wasn't cleaning, she was cooking mouth-watering dishes.

Almost all the women on my father's side of the family are cleaning divas. Their homes sparkle and shine. And often, when I fly to Spain for a visit, I leave in awe of what seems like their boundless energy and organizational ingenuity.

(How did that cleaning gene skip me?)

Anyway, I think that having a clean house is something with which many mothers struggle...especially those of us who homeschool. Why? Because quite simply we are spending a greater portion of our time in our homes. But I know that having a clean, organized home is not something that is unattainable. We can do it...it just takes us a little longer, and sometimes it requires a little more creativity or determination on our part.

So in keeping with my resolutions for this year, I am creating the Mommy Maestra Challenge: Operation Organize It! Each week or two, I will tackle a different area of my home, weed out the expendible items, and organize the rest.

While this is mainly a guideline for myself, I am sharing it with you so that if any of you want to follow along or share your own accomplishments, you can! I need a lot of motivation. And blogging about this goal will help hold me accountable. I would love for you to share any tips you may have for organizing your home - especially your homeschooling tools and lessons. If you follow me on Facebook, you will already see that I have jumped in to this challenge with both feet. I hope to meet you along the way!

Our challenge for this week is:

FOR ME

The cabinets under the kitchen sink. To quote my friend, Liz: What the maracas is under there anyway? Mostly a giant mess. My cookie sheets and baking pans are falling all over the place, my pots and pans are a disgrace, cookie cutters are doing the salsa, and my plastic recycling tub is overflowing, belching out yogurt tubs and who knows what else. Time to regain some order.


FOR THE KIDS (Oh-ho! You didn't think I'd leave them out of this, did you?):

Downstairs toy relocation. That's it. I've had enough of stepping on toys and breaking them (not to mention my foot!), so they are being delegated up to my children's rooms. You wanna keep it, chicos? Then move 'em up. Otherwise, Mami gets to keep them. And she likes to store them in her donation box for Goodwill. (Will they stay upstairs? Probably not. But at least this will encourage them to spend time in their room and reduce the amount of clutter downstairs.)

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Links: Teaching Latino History to Frustration

Short and sweet today!

How Can it be Illegal to Teach Our Children Latino History? :: Spanglish Baby

Family game night :: The HSBA Post

National Handwriting Day :: The Heart of the Matter

Homeschooling the First Year: Midpoint Reality Check :: The Homeschool Classroom


I Can't Do It! Frustration happens at every age of childhood. Here’s what typically causes it, and how you can help your child deal with it. :: Scholastic

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Books at Home Can Determine a Child's Ultimate Education Level

Photo by BdwayDiva1

Last May, Science Daily ran an article describing the research of Mariah Evans, which stated that "parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain." Evans, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, led a 20 year study, together with her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA, and Australian National University. Amazingly, having books in the home has a greater influence than other factors, like the level of education that the child's parents.

Evans states, "The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed." Homes with a 500-book library has the greatest effect, but even having 20 books still has a significant impact.

Wow.

Since both my children were infants, I have been collecting and reading stories. But books can be expensive! So that is why I began by becoming a regular at my local Half Price Books (which now sells books online, in case you didn't know!) and it was one of my greatest sorrows of moving away from Texas. Last year, however, I found a new fantastic resource for purchasing books: Ollie's. This store goes around buying closeouts (I think) and then offers the products at incredible prices. I do not think I have paid over $4 for a brand new children's book. Most paperbacks are only $.99, but they do have really nice hardbacks for a few dollars more. They also have multimedia kits (I bought this one on birds, and this one on dinosaurs) for about $8 (it retails for $32) as well as many other awesome educational materials at unbelieveable prices. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a small section of books in Spanish. Anyway, these are just a few of the fabulous finds with which I have walked away.

We also regularly rotate books out of our collection. I try to go through all the bookshelves in our house (there's a lot!) at least twice a year, and I pull out any books that perhaps my children have outgrown, or never really cared for. If they are in okay condition, off they go into our donation box. If they are in great condition, they get placed in a special box until I can list them on Amazon.com or PaperbackSwap.com

If you don't know about PaperbackSwap.com, you should!! I absolutely love, love, LOVE this site! It basically works like this:

• You begin by posting 10 books you want to trade. PBS gives you 2 free credits.
• You can then explore the site and "order" a book from someone. They ship it to you for free. Books cost 1 credit and audiobooks cost 2 credits.
• When someone orders a book from you, you ship it and pay the shipping (about $2 if you ship media mail).
• When they receive it, they mark it on the site and you get 1 free credit.

It's that simple!! It's like free books! The system only works if everyone works together and takes the time to follow up their end of the bargain. I've never had a problem, and have sold and received dozens of books.

So take a look around your house. Does your family need some books?

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet

Photo by Cia de Foto

As I sit down to write this, I am yawning.

Tomorrow we begin day three with the new puppy.  The first night, I was up at 2, 3, 4, and 6 am stumbling towards the pitiful, woeful cries coming from my kitchen. It is the only room in the house - other than the bathroom - that is not carpeted. (An important thing to consider when you are bringing home a puppy.) Last night, in exhaustion, I just gave up and picked him up and slept on the couch so he wouldn't keep everyone awake. I only had to get up once at 2:30 to take him outside to potty.

If I weren't a former zoo keeper, the caca would be driving me loca. (Okay, maybe it is anyway.) I take him out, he poops. I bring him in, he poops. Ay, mama. Put it all together and it is like being a new mom all over again.

The first night, we kept our other dog separate and in the laundry room for the night, since they had not really had time to be properly introduced. The next night he ditched us and decided to stay outside and get some sleep. Tonight, he has disappeared again. (My bet is that he is sleeping in the barn.) This is a big monkey wrench in our plans, as we are were hoping to put them together at night so we could all get some sleep.

Anyway, the point of all this is that before you get a pet, it is important to do your homework. Here are some things to consider:


Do your research.

What pet would work best for your family? Is your house a busy place? Or is it often empty? Do you have young children or older ones? Do you live in the country, or an apartment? Do you have time to train an animal? Does your family travel a lot? Is there someone reliable who can take care of your animal while you are gone?

Dogs are probably best suited for active homes with older children and big backyards. Independent, solitary animals (fish, reptiles, and some birds) would probably be best in a quieter home that does not have a lot of room.

Also, keep in mind the habits of the animal you are considering. Remember that rodents are nocturnal animals who like to sleep the day away and play at night. Unless you are a sound sleeper, you might want to consider a different type of animal.


Can you afford it?

A pet is not cheap. Between the food, the flea and heartworm meds, kitty litter, and the routing vet visits, these guys add up. Unless, of course you get something a little less demanding...like a fish, a hermit crab, or something equally small. But even then, chances are you'll still have to spend a little dinero up front to buy the proper set up.


Are your kids ready?

When kids are really young, bringing a new pet into the home can be really demanding and sometimes there may be some risks associated. Birds, like parrots, can have a nasty little bite, and so can cats and dogs. You can't really blame them, as small children sometimes don't know their own strength and can accidentally hurt an animal, whose instinctive response is to protect itself.

My recommendation? Smaller kids might enjoy fish or smaller birds like canaries or finches. Just remember to keep their cages/aquariums out of reach. And, please be sure to keep in mind that even a small 10 gallon aquarium poses serious drowning danger to young children.

Older children, who are ready for the responsibility of taking care of a pet, are better prepared and equipped to have a dog or cat. But be mindful of the breed, as some are more prone to biting or other aggressive behaviors. Do your research and choose one that will fit your family's needs.


Do you have the time?

Some young animals - like puppies - have a transition period. They've just been taken away from their mother (and possibly siblings) and are feeling very vulnerable and lonely. They are going to want reassurance and physical contact...especially at night when it is cold and dark!

In addition, you'll have to put in the hours to train them properly, or you'll wind up with an ill-mannered pet. Also, dogs that are left alone in a house or apartment for long periods often develop really bad behavioral problems.

Bottom line: DON'T get a dog if you are never around to spend time with it.

Cats, on the other hand, don't require quite as much attention. Neither do fish. (But together they might be a lethal combination!)


ABC News has a great article, that talks about many of these points and more, if you want to explore this further.



If you think you're ready to commit to this relationship, then BRAVO! Your choice to welcome an animal into your home is a wonderful learning opportunity for your children (and you, too!).

Con mucho sueño cariño...

Using Pets in Homeschool Education

This past weekend has been a very exciting one for all of us.

To begin with, my daughter participated in a bird sale on Saturday. We all got up early, bundled up, and trudged off to the sale, ready to help her sell 23 of the chickens that she and her father raised this year. We arrived around 8 am, and by 8:30 she had sold them all for a whopping $120!

I have mixed feelings about the experience. On one hand, I am so proud of her and grateful she had the opportunity to learn about the value of working hard to create (or in this case, raise) something, as well as the process of salesmanship. But it all happened so easily, estoy un poquito afraid she will expect such an easy outcome each time. I do think that having such a successful end to her morning, though, will certainly be incentive to continue to work hard in the future.

Especially given the fact that later that morning, she and her father decided to use some of their earnings to buy this...


...which will ultimately end up being the greatest lesson (maybe). This sweet pup has already been a lesson in patience, gentleness, and responsibility. Today, we will be incorporating him into our homeschool schedule by exploring the breed and talking about the biology of an animal. Some of the areas we'll cover are:

• What type (class) of animal is it?
• What are the distinguishing characteristics of this class?
• What family does it belong to?
• What are some other members of this family?
• Are all dogs the same? What types of breeds are there? Why are there so many different breeds?
• What does domestic mean? And what is the process?
• Name three things living things need to survive.
• What does owning a pet mean? What does it require?

I'll be sure to share more about the way we've incorporated this opportunity into our lessons.

Many of you may already have pets. Some of you may be considering if now is the right time. As a parent, only you will know when is the best time to take on the added responsibility of a pet. Since we are an animal-loving family by trade (I'm a former zookeeper and my husband runs a bird park), we have always had - and probably always will - have animals around. But the main thing to remember is that opening your home to a pet is serious business. You are responsibile for that animal's well-being and everything that entails: the cost of food, regular visits to the veterinary office, routine exercise, and training.

More about pets tomorrow!

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Links: Free Downloads to Felt Solar System

This week has been turned end over end here at my house. Being called for Jury Duty really threw our schedule out the window. But it is over now and I am happy to have had the chance to serve (even though we were dismissed because the defendant submitted a plea), and was almost sad that I didn't get the opportunity to see the whole thing through. It was a great learning experience and provided an awesome opportunity to talk to my daughter about the judicial system of our country.

But I'll be back on track next week! And here are this week's links...


• Evelyn from 2 Pequeños Traviesos has started a page with free downloads. Be sure to bookmark it!

Free Tickets to Six Flags Parks for Reading :: The Homeschool Parent (If you live near a Six Flags theme park, you have got to check out their Read to Succeed program!)

Brightening Winter with Poetry Collages :: The Homeschool Classroom

Spanish is a Muscle :: Spanglish Baby

Helpful Homeschool Hints: Using Real Art Supplies :: Many Little Blessings

Science Fishing – Catch an Ice Cube with a Piece of String :: Steve Spangler Science

Helping Young Children Learn Spanish and Math Concepts is FUN! :: Boca Beth


Crafts

• This beautiful mobile from Happy Find would be a great gift for un hermanito or hermanita, and I think it would be one that you could easily create together with your children.

Volcano Study :: Montessori Spanish (I was so excited to see this post, because I saw a volcano kit at my local Cracker Barrel and have been thinking about purchasing one to explore this topic with my daughter.)

Felt Solar System :: The Magnifying Glass (What a GREAT idea! So creative and simple, I wish I had thought of it myself!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inspiring Latinos You Should Know Series: Daniel Hernandez

Daniel Hernández, Jr. rejects the label of "hero" and says that is a title reserved for those who perform public service. Yet because of this young man's quick thinking and selfless action during a ghastly episode in our nation's history, at least one woman is still alive - and quite possibly several others.

I've talked about how important it is for our children to see role models from our cultura. How doing so helps to combat all the negative stereotypes of Latinos that are portrayed on TV and in the media. How our kids NEED to see people like themselves who are successful or who are worthy of admiration and respect.

I've already mentioned a few Latinos here, but the truth is that there are many Latino role models who are not celebrities. Regular people with courageous hearts are everywhere. These are indeed the stories that our children need to hear. And I would like to develop this series further on Mommy Maestra.

University of Arizona student, Daniel Hernández Jr., had only been an unpaid intern for Gifford five days when the shooting took place, and when shots rang out, he ran towards the congresswoman. When he saw she was injured, he immediately put into practice the limited nursing training he received in high school.

According to an MSNBC article, "Hernandez, who was trained in first aid and triage at a hospital as part of his nursing assistant class, said he checked the pulse and breathing of two or three victims before determining that the congresswoman was the most seriously wounded of the victims who were still alive."

For any of you who missed it, below is the video of the speech that Hernandez gave at the memorial event in Arizona. 

Bien hecho, Daniel.


Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Photo by woodleywonderworks
I am a strong supporter of encouraging our children to explore the fields of math and science. Latinos are terribly underrepresented in these fields, Latinas especially. Too many stereotypes are programmed into our children's heads, such as "Math is hard," or "Science is too complicated," or "Girls are not smart enough to be good at math and science." So needless to say, we do a lot of math and science around here and I am always delighted to pass on information about programs or events that encourage our youth in these fields.

For those of you in Texas...

On Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 2 to 5 p.m., the Women in Engineering Program will host another Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Girl Day) at the University of Texas at Austin. An international event celebrated during Engineers Week each year, the program is a way for girls in 1st through 8th grade to have fun doing grade-specific, hands-on engineering activities, meet students, professors and engineers from industry, and see what it's like to be an engineer.

Students are encouraged to build and experiment at their own pace with all of the age-appropriate activities in their specific building. There are no volunteers or guides to take students around to the activities, so parents, counselors, or teachers are expected to remain with students during the event.

You can find out more at their website, which also has a list of resources for students in K- 12.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Do Hearby Solemnly Swear...

Photo by zzpza
Pues, you know what they say about "the best laid schemes plans of mice and men," no? Today we didn't have school porque me toco Jury Duty. I wasn't chosen for the grand jury. (Phew! A 12 month service!) But before they could choose jurors for smaller trials, they decided to dismiss us until later in the week because of the bad weather headed our way.

I actually learned some interesting stuff about our judicial system. I was one of those annoying people who sit and listen carefully to the video they show everyone about how the system works and what is expected of a juror. Sigh. "You know you're a homeschooling mami when..." you can't just complain about Jury Duty like the rest of the country does.

Instead, you sit in the courtroom and think hard about the rights and privileges we have in this country and how important it is to talk about democracy and fairness, and being judged by a jury of our peers, to your children. You look around and think about how important it is to be present in your child's life, to take an active role, so that your niños don't end up on the wrong side of the aisle in the courtroom.

You think about how important a person's life is, and the pressure to make the right decision so that someone who is innocent is not wrongfully sentenced - and so that someone who is guilty is not set free to commit another wrongful act to other innocent people.

You think about lies and how easily they fall from people's lips. And wonder where hate begins and how it grows.

And you close your eyes and fervently pray that you know how to teach your children right from wrong. That you can teach them to love what is good and shun what is bad. Because you want so desperately for them to be strong and upright, caring and brave, compassionate and understanding. Maybe you want them to be better than you. Isn't that what all parents want?

Con mucho cariño...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homeschooling Resolutions for 2011

Last week I mentioned my desire to find some quiet time to myself to reflect on the past year. I wanted to be able to think clearly - and without interruption - about our lives, the challenges we had experienced, and those things I wished to keep or continue to develop.

Here then, is a list of my goals for the coming year. I am sharing with you mostly my homeschooling goals and those that I think closely relate.


For my daughter who is beginning the second half of her 1st grade year, I want to:

Find or put together a really good spelling curriculum. While the girl's ability to read astounds me, her ability to spell is not quite so astounding. It has, in fact, reduced her to tears a few times, and frustrated us both. I have been given some good recommendations by a few amigas, so I hope to buckle down and find us a program that will work well for her.

Register with the state. I only have until June or July to register us as a homeschooling family. But I have been dragging my feet. So for the next few months I will be working to figure out all the requirements to make us a legal homeschool.

Find a more rigorous math curriculum. The one I have seems to be going too slow for my daughter. I think that by now, she should be doing double digit math and more. A few months ago, I showed her how to do this while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. She was intrigued and had a great time doing it, but this is not something that has been covered yet in our math, so I am disappointed with the pace they are taking. She loves math and I don't want her to get bored with it.

Begin to explore more historical figures and world history. I have been, for the most part, following along with our 1st grade curriculum. But we are all getting bored. Ya no! I'm taking matters into my own hands and charging ahead. I have been reading about many great books and activities that I could be using with her to introduce her to people, places, and things. I'll be sure to share with you as we progress.

• I also want to get more aggressive in her Spanish learning. Actually, I want to do this for both of my kids. We have wandered from our curriculum, which by the way, they both really enjoy. So I want to get back on target.

• And, finally, I'd like to work harder to train my daughter to be happier. She is an emotional and strong-willed child, who is a little too moody, I think. I want to create more opportunities in which I can praise her for a joyful spirit, and say adiós to the bad-attitude monster who likes to raise his head a little too frequently.


For my son who is about to finish up his time at a local private preschool and begin Kindergarten at home:

Investigate reading programs. One thing I have learned is that my children are very different. They have different learning styles and different strengths. My daughter immediately mastered letter recognition and letter sounds in the same preschool and was ready to start reading when we began homeschooling. My son loves to write (probably more than she ever did), but seems to easily foget his letters and the sounds that go with them.

Review my Kindergarten curriculum to see if it needs modifying for his learning style. Obviously, I will be using a different reading curriculum. But now that I have more experience with teaching my children, I want to explore other programs and activities to use with my son, so that I can tailor our lessons with themes that capture his attention.


And for myself:

I want to get better organized. Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably figured out that I spent this past week and weekend cleaning and organizing. I think that this is probably one area that many homeschooling families face (and maybe even those of you who don't homeschool!) It seems like everywhere I look there is clutter. I don't want to be a slave to the Cleaning Monster. But I do want to create a more peaceful and productive environment for my children (okay, and myself). And I think that it is harder to focus on what one is studying if there are distractions nearby. And a cluttered  house (to me) is VERY distracting.

I also want to be less of a slave to our curriculum. I want to be able to branch out and explore. So I am determined to investigate our community, and those surrounding us, for the many learning opportunities that they offer. My goal is to take the children on two field trips a month. And maybe combine these with family time, so that my husband can get more involved, as well.

I also want to begin creating a solid set of family traditions. Those that I enjoyed as a child - making tamales, attending posadas, a weekend walk down to the local 7-Eleven for icees, boardgames played with my grandfather - are some of my favorite memories. I think it is time to create some for my own children.

What about you? Have you thought about your past year? Have you set some new goals for this one? Share with us!

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekend Links: Flamenco to Ketchup

Oh, it is so good to be back on a schedule! I've missed sharing these great links with all of you. Enjoy!

January's Libro del Mes: ¡Olé! flamenco :: Latin Baby Book Club

Día de Los Reyes (Kings’ Day) :: Muy Bueno Cookbook

Toddlers and Preschoolers Learn Shapes / Las formas :: Boca Beth

On the Shelf: A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky :: The Magnifying Glass

Play, Learn, and Discover with Discovery Familia :: Mami & the Multiples

The Bookshelf: Spanish Books from the Biblioteca! :: Dos Borreguitas

Wordsmyth: An Online Educational Dictionary for Kids :: Five J’s

The Gentle Ways of Reading :: Heart of the Matter




And check this out...

Heinz Ketchup Creativity Contest This is a super contest and is open to homeschoolers, as well. We will definitely be participating!



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Celebrate Día de los Reyes With a Video...

It is no secret that I am a fan of MisCositas.com. I really love all the work that Lori has done to create this informative site. Yesterday she shared this video on Facebook of Niko singing "Campana sobre campana" and I am happy to share it with you. I've also made some updates to this post on Día de los Reyes (lesson plans, activities, etc.) in case you are interested!!

May you all have a happy Three Kings Day!!!




Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Events Celebrating Día de los Reyes Magos

There are a number of events taking place this week and weekend in honor of Three Kings Day. Here are a few of the celebrations going on around the country that have caught my eye. Be sure to check with your local newspaper or community center to see if there are any events taking place near you!


HOUSTON
This Thursday, January 6th, the PlazAmericas will be celebrating Three Kings Day from 5:30 to 8 pm in the Food Court. Free king's cake and Mexican hot chocolate will be available, and a grand prize drawing for a $100 gift certificate will take place. For more information, click here.


PHILADELPHIA
Also this Thursday, the Mexican Cultural Center in Philadelphia will be hosting a "3 Kings Day" Piñata Workshop at Casa Monarca. This is a free event where kids between 5 and 11 years old will learn how to make piñatas and decorate them. Snacks and prizes will be provided. For more information, or to register your child, click here.

In addition, Taller Puertorriqueño will also be hosting a Three Kings Celebration at the Julia de Burgos Books & Crafts store. Music, presents for children, a theatrical presentation and a parade with the Three Wise Men.   Pre-registration required. 3 pm. For more information, click here.


WILLIAMSBURG (NEW YORK)
Thursday, January 6th, New York's only Latino children's theater, Teatro SEA, is having a Día de los Tres Reyes Magos celebration from 3 pm to 5pm. For more information, click here.

And this Sunday, January 9th, is the 14th annual Three Kings Day Parade in Williamsburg. Children may participate in the parade and dress up as shepherds, monks, kings, angels, animals and more. The Three Kings will distribute gifts to children under 12 years of age who have participated in the parade. To purchase your tickets, or for more information, visit www.tresreyesmagos.org

Con mucho cariño...

Mexican Nativity Scenes at the Field Museum


When I was a little girl, one of my favorite family gatherings took place at my grandmother's cousin's house every winter. Mi Tía Ale had an incredible collection of nacimientos, which she painstakingly set up every year. I can remember the elaborate details of some of the bigger ones with individual pieces, as well as the teensy, tiny ones. There was incredible diversity: some were made of ceramic, others of wood, and some would even light-up. At night she would dim the lights in the room and the staging area would softly glow.

If you live in the Chicago area, be sure to stop by the Field Museum and go through one of their temporary exhibits, Traditions Retold: Mexican Nativity Scenes. This bilingual exhibit explores the long-standing tradition of creating nacimientos in Mexico. From pre-Hispanic to Catholic influence, the nativity scenes are made from amazingly diverse materials and unique symbolism, which would be great for teachers and students who are studying micro-cultures and indigenous melding. In addition, the museum incorporates the stories of modern day Mexican Americans and their nacimientos into the exhibit. A fabuloso opportunity for developing your child/student's cultural pride.

The exhibit will be open through September 18, 2011, so you have plenty of time to visit, but the impact would probably be greatest this week before el día de los reyes. It's the perfect time, no? I wish we were in Chicago!

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Día de los Reyes Lesson Plans, Books, Activities

With Día de los Reyes Magos, or Day of the Magi, quickly approaching, here are some great resources for families and schools.



Lesson Plans

• Two of my favorite authors, Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, have a delightful book out on this holiday (more books are listed below) and they also have lesson plans available online for K-2nd and 3rd through 6th. You can download their lesson plans in either English or Spanish.

The Tucson Children's Museum has an excellent set of lesson plans that you can download for K- 6th, which includes activities and reading resources.


Books


Los Tres Reyes (a caballo) (Serie Raices) (Nueve Pececitos) (Spanish Edition) 
by Carmen Rivera Lassen, Victor Maldonado Davila

Una muneca para el dia de reyes by Esmeralda Santiago

Amahal y Los Tres Reyes: Amahl and the Three Kings (Troquelados Clasicos Series) (Spanish Edition) from Combel Ediciones Editorial Esin, S.A.

Los Reyes Magos (Spanish Edition) by Lourdes M. Alvarez

Los reyes magos de Oriente by Lluis Farre


Wise Men Coloring Pages, Arts & Crafts

Crayola has a craft in which children can create free standing Reyes Magos. (See picture at right.)

DLTK has some okay crafts for the holiday. I thought the wiseman and camel silhouette was actually pretty smart.

“The Gifts Of The Wise Men” Legend Craft Kit by Oriental Trading

Nick Jr. has some cute crafts for Three King's Day including this king's crown, goodie bag tags, party invitations, and this Dora coloring page.

Family Education has a simple crown pattern for your kids to cut out and decorate. But I also really like the ones from First Palette, and their post on creating more durable foam crowns.

Dibujos.org has a banderita template you can print and color. String several together and you have your own Día de los Reyes banner!

Buena Navidad has some adorable patterns you can download, print, cut out, and assemble to create your own Reyes 3-D paper dolls.

Family Fun has a slightly more challenging craft for older kids: Wee Three Kings beanbags!

Jinky's Crafts has the cutest three kings gift boxes

Las Manualidades also has an easy craft teaching you how to create Reyes from common art supplies.

• You can also find patterns for creating your own Reyes out of felt on Como hacerte.

• I really like this Paper Three Kings Chain from First Palette.

Activity Village has a really fun Cup and Ball Kings craft that is easy for little hands to make and use.

2 Pequeños Traviesos also has an easy Reyes craft.

• And check out the following websites for lots of coloring pages: Hello Kids, Kidopo.com, and DailyColoringPages.com

YoDibujo also has some great activities...en español, of course. (Thanks, Lori!)


Camel Crafts

Coming soon

Videos, Music & Apps

Los Reyes Magos App for iPad and iPhone.

Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! on DVD.

• Latin Cinema Classics produced this 1974 DVD, Los 3 Reyes Magos. (I have not previewed this movie.)

• Another DVD recently released is this one. However, I have not seen it, so read the reviews and choose for yourself.

• Here are three of MommyMaestra's favorite MP3 downloads available for Reyes.

• Also, take a look at these beautiful videos.

Foreign Language Fun shares songs in Spanish for Día de los Reyes

MisCositas has posted this adorable video of Niko singing "Campana sobre campana"


Websites

El Boricua has a good description of the day and its history in Puerto Rico.


Recipes

Nibbles & Feasts has this incredible Rosca de Reyes recipe.

• I LOVE this post and recipe by From Argentina With Love.

• The Muy Bueno Cookbook has shared a list of rosca recipes that they love (and you will, too!).

Con mucho cariño...

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