Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get Back-To-School With Foreign Language Friends {Giveaway}



Last year, I shared with you Foreign Language Friends a valuable online resource for Spanish-speaking familias and Spanish-learners. And since we've been talking about young children in preschool and kindergarten, I realized that this site would be another great tool for supplementing their education.

The site is theme-based, and covers topics such as colors, shapes, numbers, body parts, transportation, and many more. Each theme is then covered in greater detail with seven activities including a vocabulary builder, matching game, Spanish-only animation, sing-along, a unique game, spelling, and printable activities/worksheets.

Older children who are learning Spanish will delight in this interactive site as well. You can also use it to supplement your Spanish-speaking child's spelling lessons. Read more about the site in the review that I shared last December.

A subscription to the site is $9 a month, but MommyMaestra readers can enjoy an additional 25% discount if they use the promo code: LATINBABY. This plan allows up to three computers to be logged in at the same time, and allows your family access to the site 24/7.

All plans come with a seven-day, free trial.


THE GIVEAWAY

I'm excited to announce that our amigos at Foriegn Language Friends are generously offering one Mommy Maestra reader a free, one-year family/individual subscription to their site. (No schools, please. Homeschools okay!)

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Wednesday, August 31st, 2011. The winner will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address (or some other way to contact you) in your comment! Open to everyone, anywhere, with internet access.

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post

2.) Tweet the following: Celebrate Back-To-School w/a family subscription to ForeignLanguageFriends.com from @LatinMami  #Giveaway

3.) Follow Foreign Language Friends on Facebook

4.) Follow Mommy Maestra on Facebook


Buena suerte...

Disclosure: FLF was kind enough to offer this free subscription upon my request. I love the product because my kids loved it when FLF offered me a review subscription last year.


This giveaway is now closed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bilingual Preschool and Kindergarten Booklets


I'm super excited to share this latest discovery with you. I found it this past week. Do you already know about D J Inkers? They specialize in fun, teacher-friendly fonts and dowloads for the classroom and digital scrapbooking.

When exploring her printables, I found a whole series of downloadable booklets dedicated to the alphabet, numbers, shapes. And the best part? They are also available in Spanish! Yay! These are exactly the type of materials you can use to help your preschooler and/or kindergartner learn the basics. And I bet they will even inspire additional ideas for learning. They certainly have me!

They also offer an Alphabet Smiles Kit that includes an alphabet poster, book cover, an ideas & suggestions page, and one handwriting page for every letter of the alphabet. Available in Spanish or English.

I really like how fun the booklets and activity sheets are, and children can even color in the whimsical illustrations. DJ Inkers does charge a small fee per download, but I think it is reasonable and some are on sale.

Take a look at their freebies! page, too. I downloaded their handwriting templates.

Have fun exploring this awesome site!

Con mucho cariño...

Disclaimer: I found this site on my own and was not compensated for sharing it with you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Contributor: Lisa Quinones-Fontanez


According to an article last June in Fox News Latino, "The prevalence of autism among white children in the U.S. is 1 in 100, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But among Hispanics it is 1 in 170... According to the data from 2001, white children had the highest rates of autism, 90 percent higher than Hispanic children. By 2005, there was virtually no difference." 

My friend, Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, is the publisher of Autism Wonderland, a blog chronicling her experiences as a mother of a child with autism. She has graciously taken the time to share some of her thoughts and knowledge in this area...


My Experience:

I often wonder what kind of parent I would be if I had a different kind of child. By different, I mean a child without autism.

I remember when my son was first evaluated at 24 months. Doctors asked questions that I didn’t know how to answer. Did he babble? Did he play peek a boo? Did he look us in the eye? Did he wave hello?

I continued to think about those questions after coming home from that initial evaluation and looked at my son’s baby calendar. It was a baby shower gift, the kind that a new mom uses to record baby’s firsts. At the back of the calendar was a page of milestone stickers. The calendar, as I flipped through it, was mostly blank. It was then I realized that I hadn’t forgotten to update it; my son just hadn’t reached many of the milestones.

Those first two years of his life went by so quickly. As a new mom, I was blinded by my love. I missed all the things he could not do. Now I look back at his baby pictures and study them, wondering: was autism there? And I chastise myself for not knowing enough of the signs of autism to see it.

After we received the diagnosis, I felt like a failure. I spent a lot of time trying to get my son to “catch up” with his peers. He was enrolled in a center-based program and I started using a compensation notebook to communicate with the teachers. That first year, I wrote to the teacher often. I asked questions about behaviors, I shared recent accomplishments.

By the second year, when he entered Pre-K, I sent my son to school on his first day with a five-page entry in a new notebook. I wrote about all the things my son could do. What he like and disliked. What he would work for. What he did when frustrated. I listed his self-stimulatory behaviors. I wrote about how far he had come in a year and all the potential he had. I also included a word document list of all the words he could say. I had worked on it for weeks. Recalling words from memory, constantly listening for words I may have forgotten or overlooked.

When I think about the kind of mother I had been and the one I’ve become. I am strangely pleased.

If it wasn’t for autism I might not have remembered that my son’s first word was spoken on a Thursday in the last weeks of July, the summer of 2008. If it wasn’t for autism, I may not have remembered that my son gave his first real kiss on Christmas day of the same year. I would not know or appreciate all the work it took to get him to point his finger. I may not have been able to recall every single time he’s spontaneously said, “I love you Mami.” Because they are words I so rarely here.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of mother I would have been. It’s the mother I am now – the kind of mother my son taught me to be – that matters.

Early Signs:

I remember when I first had concerns about my son. They were so easily dismissed – by my family, friends and even my husband. At his 18-month check up, I expressed these concerns to our pediatrician. He repeated my mother’s words, “He’s a boy; they develop slower than girls.” I was told to wait until my son turned two years old.

But the more I researched developmental milestones, the more I realized something was wrong. By 12 months my son did not gesture (point or wave). At 16 months he did not have any words. By 24 months he did not have any words. He had no sense of “pretend play.” The more I learned about autism, the more I knew my son fit the criteria.

My only regret is not acting on my initial instincts; my son could have started Early Intervention so much sooner. Early Intervention is crucial in a special needs child development; the earlier one can receive a diagnosis, the earlier services can begin.

Learning:

Dr. Lovass, a world-renowned autism expert believes: If a child cannot learn in the way we teach ... we must teach in a way the child can learn. I cannot stress the importance of this philosophy in teaching children with autism. I am not an educator and I have no formal training. But I have embraced the methods of the numerous therapists and teachers that have come into our home to work with our son. I have learned to think outside the box. I have mentally removed the timetable of milestones, allowing my son to learn at his own pace. I have learned that all children think, learn and process differently. What works for one child on the spectrum, may not work for another. Teaching children with autism is about trial and error and trying again. Eventually, with time, persistence and a lot of patience, you get it.

Autism isn’t the disability people perceive it to. My son isn’t Rain Man and he isn’t trapped in a secluded imaginary world. And as a family, we don’t suffer from autism, we live with it. Children with autism have the capacity to learn and to love; they have just as much potential as any other child.
---------------

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez is a secretary by day and MFA Creative Writing CCNY student/blogger by night. Her writing has been featured in BronxMama, Being Latino and Tiki Tiki Blog.
 
More importantly, Lisa is a mother to a child with autism. Her blog AutismWonderland focuses on her family journey with autism and also provides local resources for children/families with special needs.
 
In between work, school, blog writing and advocating for her 5 year old son, Lisa is also working on a historical fiction novel (working title) A Thousand Branches. A chapter excerpt (The Last Time of Anything) from A Thousand Branches received Honorable Mention in Glimmertrain's Family Matters October 2010 competition.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back-To-School? Yes and No...

For many of you, today is officially Back-To-School Day!

Felicidades for surviving the summer! I hope you have all enjoyed the last few months with your children and that you spent a lot of time learning and playing together.

For those of you who are homeschooling, I wonder if you are starting the school year today, too? Or have you already started, like we have? Or are you waiting a few more weeks before your books hit the table? Maybe you are throwing a Not-Back-To-School Fiesta!

Isn't it amazing how wonderfully varied our lives are? And yet, if you are reading this, I know that we are the same in at least two ways: we love our children and value their education.

The fervor that surrounds this time of year, the excitement of beginning school again, never ceases to thrill me. Before us lies a year with infinite possibilities. It is ours to mold.

I have this picture hanging on my wall:


It is Rivera's mural at the Diego Rivera Theater in San Francisco. This beautiful piece reminds me of what I wrote last year; how I want our school year to be like a Diego Rivera mural: Bold, vibrant, eclectic, active, busy, and full of information about lots of different things. At the end of the year, I want us to look back and say, WOW! We covered so many topics, read so many books, and learned so many new and wonderful things!

I'm looking at ways to better document all of my children's work without keeping every bitty piece of paper. The yearbook is fabulous, but I want something from a more academic point of view. I'd love to hear some suggestions (hint, hint!).

I am super excited about the next few weeks, I have another great giveaway, a moving and informative guest post, and lots of books, products, companies, and websites to share with you!

Thank you, Dear Readers, for helping to keep me motivated and for your interest in our children's education. This blog is a labor of love for me. I enjoy sharing with and learning from each and every one of you.


Un abrazo fuerte,

~Monica

Friday, August 19, 2011

Resources for Creating A Healthy Diet for Your Familia


Creating a healthy diet plan for your family takes time and organization. As mamis, we are the ones who decide what our family is going to eat and we establish our children's eating routines. When we don't take the time to think about what we are buying at the grocery store and what our meal plan for the week is, it becomes SO easy for junk food sneak into our lives.

I don't use a meal planner. And I think this is my biggest mistake. I have never been a great cook like my 'Buelita, mainly because I don't make it a priority. I should. So I've been exploring my options, and here are a few of the resources I've been looking at or using:

This month I discovered Williams-Sonoma after a friend told me about this sale. Since then, I was pleasantly surprised to discover their bts 30-Minute Meal calendar. Two recipes that immediately caught my eye were the Cuban Beef Picadillo (yum!) and the Honey-Lime Sweet Potatoes. They also have a page dedicated to Back-to-School snacks.

Along the same lines, one of their blogs, The Blender, has recently posted an article on 4 Ways to Make Kids' Lunches More Fun. If nothing else, READ THIS ARTICLE!! I was sold with the very first picture. (Can you figure out why?) In fact, this awesome blog has a whole section dedicated to Back-to-School related subjects (their yogurt parfaits look so deliciosos!)

Nourish Interactive has got to be one of the best bilingual nutrition sites on the web. They have games, printables, recipes, a meal planner, and even a children's BMI calculator. I love their educational resources. Both parents and kids will enjoy this site!

Which types of resources do you use to help you with meal planning?

Con mucho cariño...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Healthy Snacks and Breakfasts for Los Niños...and You!

One of the best things about having this Nutrition Week on MommyMaestra is that I was able to pick your brains. I am always trying to think of healthy snacks for my kids. When we are hungry, we usually turn to: goldfish, grahm crackers, grapes, bananas, aguacates, apples, oranges, fiber bars, yogurt, apple sauce, and banana jars.

Maybe you are wondering what banana jars are? A long time ago, I discovered that my kids loved to eat pudding. (Who doesn't, right?) But I'm not keen on serving this as a snack. I try to keep all sugary foods to a minimum, and items like these are only allowed as a dessert - IF they finish their entire meal. I feel like the body handles the sugar better if it is eaten after a meal. Plus, their little bodies are close to full, so they are less likely to eat too much of it. Anyway, they also love yogurt and apple sauce. So I thought why not just create my own healthy, fruit "pudding?" And then I realized that, hey, Gerber already has!


You see where I'm going with this don't you? So because I'm all about saving time, I started buying Gerber baby food - just the fruits, like bananas, strawberry and banana, sometimes pear. And my kids have one jar instead of pudding or ice cream. *Win!*

And now, thanks to you, I have expanded my list! Here are some of your suggestions...


In addition, some of my blogging hermanas have shared their healthy recipes and snack choices with me. And so now, I share them with you...xo!


Blackberry Muffins from Sweet Life Bake
The Blackberry Muffins and Mango Agave Granola from Sweet Life Bake are making my mouth water! I want to try the muffins in the morning sometime and see how my kids do in school afterwards. I'm always looking for foods that will help them focus.
Bonnie also has a recipe for Overnight Oats on New Latina. I'm looking forward to trying this, too.

If you are looking for natural energy bars, check out Ericka's Honey Nutty Tree-Hugger Bars - they look deliciosos!! Her site, Nibbles and Feasts, is loaded with yummy recipes.

Mi amiga, Silvia, from Mama Latina Tips also has a great article on Soccer Snacks, but I think these would work well for children involved in any sport really. 

Con mucho cariño....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting Kids and Parents Ready for the Classroom {GIVEAWAY}


Erick Recinos’ Top Tips for Getting Kids and Parents Ready for the Classroom
Erick Recinos is a certified nutritionist and health expert.


Back to School for Kids

1. Omega Fatty Acids for Brain Power

• Fact: During the summer, many kids can lose as much as 2.6 months’ worth of learning.

Solution: The consumption of Omega fatty acids, particularly Omega-3, can improve learning and memory. Genesis Today’s Omega Orange juice delivers key plant-derived omega fatty acids to support brain health, plus 200% daily value of vitamin C, with less sugar than leading orange juice brands.

2. Immunity Boosting Gummy Vitamins

Fact: Going back into the classroom exposes kids to thousands of new germs from sharing supplies, toys and desks – and we all know that having a sick kid isn’t fun!

Solution: Build up your children’s immune systems by giving them vitamins specifically designed to boost immunity. Genesis Today’s Superfruit Immunity gummy vitamins are found at Walgreens and contain a unique blend of superfruits acerola and pomegranate, along with vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea to pack a powerful immunity punch.

3. B-vitamins for Natural Energy

Fact: Back to school means new teachers, more homework and new daily stresses for kids, which can lead to lack of energy.

Solution: The consumption of B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, will give them the natural energy they need to face the challenges of a new school year. Genesis Today’s Acai Berry Juice, found at Wal-Mart and major grocery stores, provides 1,000% daily value of vitamin B12, 200% daily value of vitamin C, plus Omegas 3, 6 and 9 – all with no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors or added sugar.


Back to School for Mom

1. Naturally-Derived Caffeine

• Fact: Back to school means back to carpooling, homework, school performances, projects, soccer games, dance classes and on and on. Many adults reach for caffeinated beverages that can contain harmful additives or artificial sweeteners.

Solution: Jumpstart your day with a natural low calorie citrus juice that not only gives you energy, but also provides 500% daily value of vitamin B12, 100% daily value of vitamin C, plus other natural ingredients such as guarana and theanine that provide energy, mental focus and alertness.

2. The Legendary Beauty Berry

• Fact: Those hurried mornings trying to get the gang out the door can mean skipping or shortening your beauty regimen, impacting your hair, skin and nails and ultimately, lessening that youthful glow we all desire.

• Solution: The acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry, also known as the “beauty berry,” is hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest and is crammed with B-vitamins that not only provide natural energy, but also support healthy skin, hair and nails. Genesis Today’s Acai Vitamin Super Chews are a quick grab-and-go snack with 2,000 mgs of the beauty boosting berry.

3. Mood Boosting Fruits

Fact: The stresses of getting kids out the door for a new school year can make even the most organized and patient people agitated from time to time.

Solution: Goji berries, grown deep in the Himalayias, have long been known as the “happy berry” due to its mood-boosting abilities. The goji berry can be difficult to find in your everyday grocery store, but Genesis Today’s Cranberry Goji juice is available at Wal-Mart and other major retailers and features 10,000 mgs of goji berry.


THE GIVEAWAY

Genesis Today has generously offered a sample package of some of their products to one MommyMaestra reader. I received the same package a few weeks ago and agreed to offer one to you because the kids and I loved it.

To enter, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Sunday, August 21st, 2011. The winner will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address (or some other way to contact you) in your comment! Open to United States residents only.

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post.

2.) Tweet the following: #Sorteo Win back-to-school nutritional goodies from @GenesisToday and @LatinMami http://bit.ly/oFVfmf

3.) Follow Genesis Today Latino on Facebook

4.) Follow @GenesisToday on Twitter

Buena suerte...

Disclosure: Upon my request, Genesis Today agreed to have one of their nutritionists write a few articles for MommyMaestra on the topic of nutrition for students. I did receive a sample pack of products, which we liked, so I asked them to offer the same pack as a giveaway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Avocados: The Super Snack!

© Courtesy of California Avocado Commission


In my book, there is nothing better than a fresh aguacate. They are my healthy snack of choice because they can be eaten sliced, or as an ingredient in any number of recipes.

They are also an incredible source of nutrition. Did you know that the humble avocado has...


• more than 25 essential nutrients that our bodies need, including folic acid, Vitamin E, Potassium, B vitamins and fiber, and protein not normally found in fruit.

• phytonutrients that are thought to prevent many chronic diseases

• phytochemicals such as lutein, glutathione and beta-sitosterol.

• "nutrient boosting" qualities because it allows the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.

• both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and (again) potassium which help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This week, I'm highlighting healthy diets for children. So below, I'm excited to share some of my favorite discoveries of snacks and meals (that feature avocados) for students. All of these particular recipes and more can be found on Avocado.org.

*Large avocados are recommended for these recipes. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.


Ingredients

1 ripe, Fresh California Avocado, seeded, peeled and mashed
¼ cup prepared salsa, or to taste
8 celery stalks, washed and trimmed
12 small grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

Instructions

1) Stir the salsa into the mashed avocado to combine.

2) Carefully fill the hollow in each celery stalk with the guacamole.

3) Nestle 3 grape tomato halves into the guacamole on each celery stalk.


(shown above)
Ingredients
12 long, thin pretzel sticks (about 4 inches long)
¼ ripe California avocado, seeded, peeled and cubed
2 slices nonfat American cheese, cut into 1 inch squares
½ red apple, cored and cubed
12 red grapes

Instructions

1) Using pretzel stick as skewer, thread on grape, cheese square, apple cube and California avocado cube.

2) Repeat process making twelve "Pick Up Sticks".

3) Serve to kids and let them pick up their snack enjoying fruit and sticks.

Hint: Use wooden skewer to poke holes in avocado, apple and grape.


Ingredients
 
4 fajita size fat free flour tortillas
2 slices ripe, Fresh California avocados, mashed
4 deli slices of sodium-free turkey breast
2 tsp.prepared barbecue sauce, divided
4 thin slices of low fat mozzarella or American cheese, divided
1 cup carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded (about 2 large carrots), divided

Instructions

1) Place two teaspoons mashed avocado on tortilla, spreading to within 1 inch of tortilla edge.

2) Place 1 slice of turkey breast over mashed avocado.

3) Top with cheese and spread on 1/2 teaspoon barbecue sauce.

4) Sprinkle one-quarter of the carrots over the sauce.

5) Roll up tightly.

6) Place seam side down on plate. Using serrated knife, slice in half.

Repeat procedure preparing four wraps. Serve.

Note: Can be prepared 1 hour ahead of serving, wrap in plastic wrap to insure freshness.



Ingredients

1 cup orange juice
1 ripe, Fresh California Avocado
1 ripe banana
1 Tbsp.honey
1 cup nonfat frozen yogurt - vanilla, orange, or peach

Instructions

1) Combine orange juice, avocado, banana and honey in blender. Cover and blend until smooth.

2) Just before serving, add frozen yogurt; blend until thick and smooth.

Yield: 3 cups

Monday, August 15, 2011

Top Tips for Better Health



We're starting off Nutrition Week with this guest post by Erick Recinos, a certified nutritionist and health expert at Genesis Today.

Top Tips for Better Health
By Erick Recinos – Certified Nutritionist and Health Expert

Believe it or not, even the healthiest among us are probably not getting the recommended daily dosage of vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids needed for the proper functioning of our bodies and our overall well-being.

Vitamins are organic substances made by plants or animals and minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth; soil and water and are absorbed by plants. Both vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our body needs to grow and develop normally; they also play a unique role in maintaining our health. In today’s modern life style, unless you’re completely sure you consume 10 fruits and vegetables a day, you best be taking a multivitamin. Genesis Today SuperFruit Immunity Gummy Vitamins can be found at Walgreens and perfectly enjoyed by the entire family. These gummies are not only delicious but also a convenient way to get your daily nutrition and health support.

Proper consumption of proteins is also important to increase energy and body muscle. They are also essential for growth and development. It provides the body energy, and is needed to manufacture hormones, antibodies, enzymes and tissues. Complete proteins are found in meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, and milk. However, since these foods should be eaten in moderation, you can also try a soy vegetarian protein or combine beans with brown rice, corn, nuts, seeds or wheat to substitute meat for a complete protein intake. To assist in the digestion of protein it is important to have lactobacillus acidophilus, a type of “friendly” bacteria. Acidophilus has antifungal properties which help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, aids digestion, and enhance the absorption of nutrients. “Green drinks” are a natural food formula made from plants that are good detoxifiers and blood cleansers, as well as sources of chlorophyll, minerals, enzymes and other important nutrients. Genesis Today GenEssentials Greens™ can be purchased at Whole Foods. It is a potent, premium blend of food-based nutrition made from a powerful combination of organic green superfoods. It’s the strongest green superfood supplement on the market and contains a full spectrum of probiotics, including L. acidophilus to assist in healthy digestion.


Another top item to keep in mind for a healthy diet are essential fatty acids, which consists of omega-3 and omega-6, key for cognitive functions (mood, mind, memory). They also improve the skin and hair, reduce blood pressure, aid in the prevention of arthritis, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reduce the risk of blood clot formation. Found in high concentration in the brain, EFAs aid in the transmission of the nerve impulses and are needed for the normal development and functioning of the brain. A deficiency of omega fatty acids can lead to an impaired ability to learn and recall information. Most people don’t get enough healthy omega fatty acids, so when you need a boost try Omega Orange Juice by Genesis Today which can be found in the refrigerated section at Wal-Mart. It is a great healthy way to add omega fatty acids into your morning routine.

Nutrition Week on Mommy Maestra


I am so excited to dedicate this week to the role that nutrition plays in the lives of students. I have some great products, recipes, and websites to share with you, as well as some guest contributors who talk about how diet can affect your child's academic success and what you can do about it.

This is a topic that I've been trying to put together for almost a year now, because I knew that it somehow affected my own daughter. I think that for many of us mamás, we want to help our children as best we can, but sometimes we just don't know how. So I look forward to sharing some tips and information with you this week. And I'm also excited about implementing some of these in my own familia's routine.



Con mucho cariño...  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Teacher Resource: Story Place


Do you know about Story Place? This bilingual site is a digital library of books for children. The short stories are animated, and perfect for little learners. The site is divided into sections for infants and preschoolers. You'll find interactive games, arts and crafts, and a short list of books, as well as stories that can be personalized with the names of the people in your familia.

It is not quite in the same style of the International Children's Library, which is a collection of multicultural children's literature from around the world, but some of you may enjoy the interactive site for your nenes. And it is has both a Spanish and an English version.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Does Your Family Celebrate the First Day of School?


Each year, I make it a point to celebrate the first day of school with my kids. Sometimes we have an extra-special breakfast like french toast, or blueberry muffins, etc. Or we buy a fancy new set of clothes. But we always, ALWAYS take pictures of the first day of school, and I always give a small gift to each child.

The gifts are usually school-related in some way. Last year I gave them new book bags that came with fancy gadgets, like a solar-powered flashlight, compass, thermos, etc. Year before, it was simply a new book. This year, my children received their first lunch boxes. What do they need lunch boxes for if they are homeschooled? my husband asked. Well, first of all, just because they are homeschooled doesn't mean they don't like to do things that kids in a traditional school setting do. Some of the shows they occasionally watch on PBS (Arthur) sometimes show kids headed off to public school. They also see products on sale at the store in the school supply section.

And because we actually do picnic at our local park quite frequently, this is a great opportunity for them to use their lunch boxes. The look on their faces when they opened their gifts was priceless: pure joy. It is a great way to kick off the school year. The useful little presents help to excite them about their school days. Each morning before we start, they scurry to the kitchen to pack themselves a snack for our mid-morning break. The last two days those snacks were packed in the new lunch boxes.

Life is all about perspective, isn't it? Some days I really long for the days when something as simple as a lunch box would send me over the moon. Don't you?

Does your familia celebrate the first day of school?  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Back to School!


It's done! Despite my original intentions of starting school on August 29th, I finally caved to my children's pleas and agreed to start this week. It's just too disgustingly hot here to do anything anyways. And it occurred to me that maybe if we go ahead and start now, that will give us some playtime when things start to cool down in the fall.

I had decided to start yesterday, but my kids came down with some strange, painful blisters between her toes over the weekend. My husband was convinced that it was the chickenpox (Noooo!), though I thought maybe they had been stung by some blister beetles. A trip to the doctor's office yesterday (and 25 bucks later), my husband's fears were relieved, and I was declared the winner expert on all things health related.

SO finally, today was our official first day of class. The first day of school is sort of special around here. We start by taking pictures (to go in our yearbook at the end of the school year!), and then I pass out un regalito to celebrate the beginning of a new grade and a new year of learning. More about this tomorrow.

To kick things off, we spent time putting together our first weather station. We used a Green Science kit from 4M, which I bought at Michaels on Friday (Yay, tax-free weekend!). I thought this would be a great complement to our lessons, as my kindergartner (son) will be learning about weather during the coming months. And it was the perfect group activity: My daughter read the directions, while I helped my son put it together. (Forgot to take a picture and now it's too dark! I'll put it up tomorrow.)

The rest of the day was spent learning the routine. I had a chance to see right away what was going to work and what wasn't now that I am teaching two children instead of just one. I was so relieved that it is not as difficult as I was worried it might be. In fact, I think once we get past this first week, it will go much more quickly and smoothly, since both children will know what is expected of them and will be able to work independently for small periods of time while I am working with one or the other. I found the small puzzles I bought in the dollar section at Target to be really helpful in keeping my son busy while I worked with my daughter.

What about you? Has your family started school yet? Are you looking forward to it?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mariachi Music: An Interspecies Phenomenon

Apparently, it's true: Everyone does love Mariachi music!

And now, I have seen everything...



Thanks to Barb at Handbook of Nature Study for sharing this video last week!

Con mucho cariño...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Using Photo Books to Supplement Your Child’s Education {Giveaway}


Do you remember how excited I was at the beginning of the summer when I told you about how I had learned how to create m'ija's first yearbook? It made me super happy because I had been looking for a way to document her progress, as well as something with which to reward her for all of her hard work.

In fact, I was so pleased with the end result, I wrote another article sharing additional tips for creating your own yearbook.

It has occurred to me that these photo books are not only a great way to preserve memories, but they can be a valuable educational tool, as well.

How often do we consider the power of personalization? When you read or watch something that is about you or your family, don’t you pay closer attention? I know I do. If I am watching a movie about someone, I can be sympathetic, but I am less likely to become emotionally involved than if I were watching a home movie about someone I know and love.

So wouldn’t it be great to harness the power of this personalization and apply it to our learning programs?

Imagine, if you will, the 8” x 8” photo book from Shutterfly. Wouldn’t this make a great personalized “text” book? Just imagine the possibilities!

Make an ABC book for your preschooler. Creating your own abecedario using your family photographs would not only become a treasured family heirloom, but it could really make learning the alphabet a much more meaningful experience for your child.

Make a book about colors. Wow. How much fun would this be? You could not only use photographs that you’ve already taken, but you could also involve your child by asking them to create a nice display of household items that are the same color. Then take a picture of it together!

• For older students, consider making a recipe book. Pick one day each week to create the recipe of your choice together. You know, paletas, natilla, alfajores, pan dulce…you get the picture! Be sure to document your progress.

Make a book of your family tree. Ask everyone in your family to send in photos of themselves and put them together in your photo book. Be sure to label your pictures with nicknames and terms of endearment, as well as their full names.

An 8 x 8 photo book is smaller than the one I made for the yearbook, but it also includes 20 pages. If you have never used Shutterfly before, this is a great opportunity to practice creating your own book. You can read my description of Shutterfly's two (free) built-in programs that help you to design your project.

I would encourage you to involve your child. Ask your son to help you choose the photos you'd like to include in the book. Have your daughter pick which layout she likes best for each page. Write the text together. Be creative - make it bilingual!

And don't forget los abuelos! This year, Grandparent's Day is September 11th. If you start right away, you will have plenty of time to create a meaningful album that will start 'Buelita to crying with happiness.

Take a look around Shutterfly's site for ideas. I’ve been prowling around there looking at things, which is dangerous, because now I'm thinking of letting the kids design their own birthday invitations for their birthdays next year. And instead of slaving over our holiday cards in a few months, I think I will simplify and save us the time and effort by having the kids select one of Shutterfly’s templates (Warning: they have 805!). It will be a good lesson in working together.

The Giveaway

I'm excited again, because this time, I have the opportunity to offer one of you, dear amigas, a free 8" x 8" photo book from Shutterfly!

To enter, simply leave a comment below. I would love to know what type of album you would create. Would it be a simple memory book? Or would you get creative and assign it a specific theme?

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Sunday, August 7th. The winner will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address (or some other way to contact you) in your comment! Open to United States residents only.

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post,

2.) Tweet the following: Free 8x8 photo book from Shutterfly giveaway on MommyMaestra.com http://bit.ly/raVUfS #giveaway

3.) Follow MommyMaestra on Facebook.

4.) Take the anonymous, one-question poll in the sidebar.

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!

¡Buena suerte!

Disclosure: Shutterfly has offered me a free 8 x8 photo book in compensation for writing this post. I have chosen to offer it as a giveaway because I really think my readers will enjoy it (even though I really want to use it myself!). All the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are my own original thoughts.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratualtions to #48 Susan, the winner of the Shutterfly photo book!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Latin Baby Book Club Is Celebrating Its THIRD Anniversary!


This week may be a little quiet around here on MommyMaestra. That is because I will be focusing my energy on my other site, the Latin Baby Book Club, as it celebrates its 3rd anniversary! (I can't believe it!!)

If you are not familiar with the site, you may want to explore it. It is full of information, including book reviews of Latino children's literature, author and illustrator interviews, articles by guest contributors, giveaways, ideas to promote literacy, downloads, and much, much more.

And on a related note, I am looking for regular and guest contributors to the LBBC. If you are interested in sharing a review(s) of your favorite bilingual or bicultural children's book, please contact me.

In the meantime, please consider taking the anonymous, one-question poll here on this page at the top of the sidebar. I'm trying to get a better understanding for the number of homeschooling vs. public/private schooling families reading MommyMaestra. Right now the public/private schoolers are ahead!

Con mucho cariño...

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