Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Plaza Familia: A Free Magazine for Latino Families


Today, I am so pleased to announce the launch of a wonderful resource for Latino families. Plaza Familia is a bilingual magazine and education platform designed to provide information on a variety of subjects related to raising a healthy family. From tips to having a healthy pregnancy to dealing with toddler tantrums (without throwing one of your own!) to helping your tween dream big, Plaza Familia helps parents find solutions and support.


The magazine will be distributed in some Walmarts and other supermarkets throughout the country - for FREE! But if you can't find one near you, don't worry. The beautiful issues are available online. You can find the inaugural February issue and even read ahead in the March issue online at issue.com. I am honored to be a contributor to this great project, and you can find my first article on How to Maximize Your Children's Learning by Reading to Them inside the March issue.


In addition to the magazine, Plaza Familia is also creating multiple platforms online. First up, check out their new blog for some excellent articles in Spanish. You might especially enjoy the printables, like this letter "A" worksheet for preschoolers and kindergartners.

Don't be afraid to show some love and leave a comment or two!

Together, we are all working toward the education of our children and the future success of our country.

Con mucho cariño...

Bella's Mystery Deck: Mini-Mysteries with Latino Flavor


I'm excited to share with you a review of this fantastic product. If you haven't heard of Bella's Mystery Deck before, then let me introduce you...

Last Christmas, while trying to find educational games that my daughter would enjoy, I was looking for materials with a strong female character to inspire her and hold her attention. At some point I had already seen this deck advertised and had bookmarked it for future examination. But I hadn't really read what it was about.

Imagine my delight to discover that this set of mini-mystery cards features 13-year-old, Isabella Tia Marie Martinez...otherwise known as "Bella." Together with her faithful black Labrador retriever, Noche, she unravels mysteries around her town. This deck has 50 cards, each one with a short story. Embedded within the stories are clues, that your child must uncover to solve each mystery. And if you get stuck? No problem. The answer is written in mirror image on the back of each card. A mirror card is included to help you read the answer.

We love this product so much! Spanish words and culture are scattered throughout the stories, which have a Latino theme and reflect the lifestyle of Hispanics in the United States. For instance, there are two cards that tell the background of Bella and Noche. On Bella's card, we learned that she lives in South Tucson with her family. Our bilingual heroine is a chicana - her dad was born in Minnesota where his family harvested sugar beets, and her mother was born in Nogales, Mexico. And Bella has a younger brother, Antonio, and sister, Alejandra. Her dad now works for a landscape contractor, and her mother is an artist who makes masks. My favorite line? "You could say that we're a normal family and I'm an ordinary girl - except that I solve mysteries."

So far, we have been going through the initial deck, but we're happy to know that there is a Bella's Mystery Deck 2 with a whole new set of stories. These cards are perfect for children ages 8 to 12. My daughter, who is just shy of 8 finds the mysteries a wee bit too hard, but she loves them anyway. I usually help guide her to the solution with specific questions.

Teachers could use these decks as a reward at the end of class/week. Parents can use these cards to help their children practice their reading and critical thinking skills.

You can find both new and used decks available for purchase in La Librería.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: I purchased this set online for my daughter. I was not contacted in any way by the company, Mindware, to review this product. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, February 27, 2012

THE CAT IN THE HAT-A-THON {GIVEAWAY}





I've already mentioned that this coming week is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, best known as the beloved Dr. Seuss. This amazing author and poet has published more than 45 children's books including the bestsellers The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

According to Wikipedia, Life magazine published a report back in 1954 that claimed illiteracy among children was due to the fact that they were too bored by the children's books on the market. At the time, the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin, William Spaulding, who had read the report, challenged Dr. Seuss to create a book that children couldn't put down using a list of 250 words that they felt every 1st grader should know. The result was The Cat in the Hat.

Today, The Cat in the Hat is one of the most recognizable children's book characters. He is made even more popular by the PBS Kids' show of the same name. And to celebrate Dr. Seuss' 108th birthday, this Friday, March 2nd, PBS stations will be hosting THE CAT-IN-THE-HAT-A-THON, a two-hour marathon of THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT! The show is designed to help build STEM skills. And this Friday's CAT-IN-THE-HAT-A-THON features two new episodes, "Seasons - Spring and Summer/Fall and Winter" and "When I Grow Up/Doing It Differently."

As a new PBS Ambassador, I received a screener of the new episodes and a Cat in the Hat gift bundle that included the 3-D book, Chasing Rainbows, a DVD from the series, and a $25 gift card to the PBS KIDS Shop.

The book, which was provided by Random House, comes with 3-D glasses. My kids LOVED it! Which is funny, because they don't like 3-D movies. I guess it is different with a book. My son is not old enough to read all the words, yet, but my daughter is, so I let her read to him.

In our house, Saturday is the day that I allow them to watch movies or get up and watch the morning cartoons. My son immediately puts on The Cat in the Hat, which airs first thing in the morning. So this weekend, they had a special treat when I pulled out the DVD that NCircle Entertainment provided for the gift bundle, and let them watch an episode they hadn't seen before - "Wings and Things."

When I visited the PBS KIDS Shop, I had a hard time figuring out what to buy with my gift card, but eventually went with the What's in the Cat's Hat? game because I like the idea of them using their senses to figure out what's inside the hat.

THE GIVEAWAY

Now I think the best part is that I have two extra gift bundles to giveaway. They include a copy of the book, DVD, and a $25 gift card to the PBS KIDS Shop.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Friday, March 2nd. The winners will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment!

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1) Visit the PBS KIDS Shop and tell me what you would buy with your $25 gift card.

2) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a Cat in the Hat gift bundle from @LatinMami & @PBSKIDS for Dr. Seuss' 108th bday! http://bit.ly/ypz6m7 #cithathon #giveaway

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

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

Disclosure: I am a PBS KIDS Ambassador. I received a screener and gift bundle for review purposes. All opinions are sincere and are my own.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Inspiring Latinos Series: The Amador Family



The Libro del Mes, or Book of the Month, for February on our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club, is the audiobook, Lola's Fandango/El fandango de Lola. It was through this book, that I learned about the wonderful Amador family.

Brian and Rosi are the co-founders of the band Sol y Canto, a Pan-Latin ensemble that has played across the country in places such as the Kennedy Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and even the White House.

But they are also professional voice-over actors. And together with their twin daughters, Alisa and Sonia, they are the narrators of Lola's Fandango and many other audiobooks.

I found their story to be inspirational and one that I really wanted to share with you. The Amadors generously agreed to a short interview, which I'm happy to include below...


How did your family become involved in recording audiobooks?

Rosi: Since the late 1980’s Brian and I were approached by an artist educator colleague who knew us as Latin musicians, to do Spanish and English narrations for Scholastic online. After that, a number of children’s online eLearning publishers (whose products are used nationally in school and educational settings,) including National Geographic School Publishing, Houghton Mifflin, Hampton Brown, among others, also came through a local audio recording studio specializing in eLearning who had heard of us.

When we had our twins, Alisa and Sonia, in 1996, we of course started reading to them in Spanish at a very early age. We even translated books that were in English into Spanish as we read back in those early days. When the Harry Potter series was published, Brian read every single one of them in bed each night, using different accents for all of the characters. They loved it! I continued reading too, but mostly in Spanish.

Our love of narrating stories for children grew and we decided to approach audiobook publishers in 2010. The first was with Live Oak Media, an award-winning producer of distinctive read-along recordings of children’s literature for the school and library market for over 30 years. The husband and wife business owners (just like us!) "carefully select books and produce exceptional recordings that provide children with a meaningful reading and listening experience," says their website, and we agree!

Our very first bilingual audiobook under their umbrella was Mañana Iguana, which won a 2010 Notable Children's Recordings from the American Library Association. After a few more audiobooks with Live Oak Media, we found it easier to approach other audiobook publishers, including, most recently, Barefoot Books, based in the Boston area, where we live. They are an award-winning children’s book publisher with the mission of using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth. Barefoot Books has only recently gotten started publishing audiobooks, and we were thrilled to narrate two books in both English and Spanish for them, Lola’s Fandango/El Fandango de Lola and Delicious Hullaballoo/ Pachanga Deliciosa.


What is your family’s heritage and (how) does it influence your work?

Rosi: I am from Puerto Rico. My father was from Buenos Aires, Argentina and my mother was Nuyorican. Both of my parents were performers on stage and screen, in theater, movies, and live music. Brian is a Chicano/Gringo mongrel from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He grew up listening to rock, but realized later on that he had always loved Latin Music and the Mexican music he heard in his Grandma’s house as a child.

Our heritage affects our work in that from the outset Brian and I were drawn together by our bicultural/bilingual backgrounds. Initially we chose music as our vehicle for sharing our Latin heritage. Together we led two Latin bands that toured nationally and internationally, the second of which, Sol y Canto, is still active, though not touring as much as in the past. For both of us, singing Latin music reconnects us to our roots, since we have been living in the Boston area for several decades, far from where we were born and raised.

Also because of our bilingualism, and the fact that we are unusual in that we speak both English and Spanish without an accent, we have attracted audiobook publishers seeking to reach the bilingual market, particularly around educational themes.




Your family doesn’t just do the voiceovers for these audiobooks, but you also record and integrate your own original music, and even sound effects. Can you tell us what the process is like? How does an audiobook come to life through your efforts?

Brian: I usually start by going through the book with the audiobook producer to map out musical cues and the atmosphere they’re looking to create in different sections of the book. By musical cues I mean short compositions written to support the text. Then we usually record the narration before I begin working on the music, so that I can write the music to fit with the narration. Once this is done I set to work composing, sometimes sketching out several possible cues for a given section, which I send to the producer for review and feedback. Once we’ve decided which cues we want to use I flesh them out, record them and finally, mix the narration and the music together.

As for the sound effects, I prefer to use home made effects whenever possible. For example, the falling fruit sounds in The Parrot Tico Tango/El Loro Tico Tango were created by dropping objects of different sizes and shapes into the empty case of our bombo, a large Andean drum and adding some reverberation effects! In Lola’s Fandango/El Fandango de Lola in a scene where the downstairs neighbor was annoyed by the ruckus of a party he bangs on the ceiling with a broomstick. To simulate this I pounded on a closet door with my hand. In a different scene where the rain is dripping on the window in a flamenco rhythm, I experimented with dripping water on different surfaces until I found the one I liked (a cookie sheet), then I edited the recording digitally to make the drops fall in rhythm!

[In terms of] the voiceover narration itself, the characters sometimes call for a variety of voices, which we come up with depending on each personality. We often have to voice more than one character and we draw on our acting skills, as well as our much practice producing different sounding voices. This goes for our daughters as well, because, for example, one of our twins, Sonia, who is 15, had to portray a 9 year old girl, so she purposely chose a younger voice when narrating her part. I played two roles: one as narrator, and one as Lola’s mama, for which I used two different sounding voices, one with a touch of Hispanic accent (for the mami) and one in straight English for the narrator. In Spanish this was of course not necessary, so I simply made sure to make the voices sound distinct.



You now have several children’s "talking" books on the market. What other titles can MommyMaestra readers enjoy?

We have the following audiobooks now available for kids from pre-school to 6th grade (see our website for age recommendations) at www.solycanto.com/shop.html

On Barefoot Books:
The Parrot Tico Tango/El Loro Tico Tango (published in English and Spanish, separately).

The following titles on Live Oak Media:
Mañana Iguana – English with splashes of Spanish
Delicious Hullaballoo (Completely bilingual)
César Chávez: The Struggle for Justice (completely bilingual)
Hill of Fire – English with splashes of Spanish

On Lorito Books:
The Case of the Pen Gone Missing/El Caso de la Pluma Perdida


Do you have any more titles coming out soon?

Yes, we do! Live Oak Media has just sent us two new books! Hola Mar/Hello Ocean, which will be narrated by our daughter Sonia, and Fiesta Fiasco – the sequel to Mañana Iguana.


Lastly, Rosi, you mentioned in an email that your family is committed to Latino education. Why is this important to you, and how do you see your role in it?

We feel that it’s very important for children of a Hispanic background understand and appreciate their culture as it’s important for all kids in this country to learn about the contributions of different cultures. By raising our daughters bilingually we know that we have given them a treasure: another way to look at the world and understand it. They often express their gratitude to us for having insisted that we speak only Spanish at home, even though when they were younger they did sometimes complain. By narrating educational audiobooks we hope to contribute to the cause of providing high quality educational resources to kids far and wide.
 


We have also done this through our music, since in 2003 we recorded a bilingual children’s CD called El Doble de Amigos/Twice as Many Friends, which is available on our website, www.solycanto.com. This CD was released nationally by Rounder Records and is still a popular item in our catalog. It won a Parents’ Choice Award and received critical acclaim. Our twins, 7 at the time, also sang on several of the songs! It features a combination of original and traditional Latin children’s songs in the toe-tapping, danceable styles of plena, son, calypso, reggae and more. Our intent is to immerse children in the joys of a bilingual musical fiesta and introduces them to rhythms from Puerto Rico, Cuba and much more in a completely interactive musical and joyful experience. Songs address topics including numbers, days of the week, parts of the body, self- esteem, the environment, peace, flying kites, celebrating bilingualism and Puerto Rican circle game songs. We also continue to perform in school settings where we offer highly interactive educational programs on Latin music and culture with lyrics expressing our belief in peace, hope, cross-cultural understanding and environmental stewardship as well as programs that highlight the roots of our Latin music.


To learn more about the Amadors and the making of their book, Lola's Fandango, check out this video that they made for Barefoot Books.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nothing But Lorax


This year, the National Education Association (NEA) has partnered with Universal Studios and their latest film, The Lorax, which premieres on March 2nd.  Created by the same people who did Despicable Me, this is one movie that the kids and I are really excited about seeing. We're headed to the library in the morning to see if we can find the book.  My kids do love Dr. Seuss, and we have several of his books, but not this one.

Anyway, if your family happens to be Seuss lovers, too, then be sure to check out the Lorax movie's website. There you'll find not only additional footage, but also a whole ton of activities including a daily activity, printables, lesson plans, a story contest, and online games.

And if you follow The Lorax Movie on Facebook, you'll find more great activities. You can even show your support by adding a Lorax (or his moustache!) to your photos. You can also sign up for 60 days of Seuss-isms (except that they're down to the last 11 days!).

And if you just can't get enough of Dr. Seuss, take a moment to check out Seussville.com. This incredibly fun site was created just for children and features many educational games with Dr. Seuss characters.

I haven't found a whole lot of Dr. Seuss in Spanish, yet, but I did find the Spanish version, El Lórax! I'm always careful picky about translations, and I haven't read this one, but I'm encouraged because it is on DelSolBooks.com.

One final thing to share, if you haven't heard of The Lorax Project, and you have a budding scientist at home or in the classroom, you're missing out! I love this site and it's challenge to young people to take action by learning about and helping to save the endangered species and ecosystems on our planet today.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Read Across America



Every year on March 2nd (the birthday of Dr. Seuss), the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America, an annual reading and motivation program. On this day, the NEA shares the activities they've developed to encourage families and children to read 365 days a year. On their website you can find free, printable calendars, activity books, sticker sheets, certificates of achievement and appreciation, posters, and even a variety of booklists.

Their Spanish/English Bilingual Booklist has an excellent list of bilingual books grouped according to grade: K-4, 5-8, and 9 and up. (It even includes some of the banned titles in Arizona - gasp!).


The NEA has partnered with many organizations across the country. One of those is Target, who will be hosting a Dr. Seuss Storytime: Reading of THE LORAX this coming Saturday, February 25th. From 9 to 11 a.m., Target stores will be having live readings of The Lorax, and children attending will receive goody bags, fun activities, and more. If you visit their website, you can download a Lorax Reading Guide, free Dr. Seuss inspired activities, and even take their online quiz to find out which Dr. Seuss character your are.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Celebrate America! with Little Hands®


In the spirit of yesterday's holiday, I wanted to share with you one of the books I am using to teach American history to my kindergartner and 2nd grader. Little Hands® Celebrate America! is such a fun book for introducing young children to our nation's history.

Inside these pages, parents and teachers will find a short - but informative! - story (description) of the symbols, history, geography, and heritage of our country. For each topic, there is also an accompanying craft or game. For instance, at the beginning, Hauser talks about the U. S. flag and the symbolism behind each element. Children can create their own personal flags with a picture of themselves in the blue square, and/or design their own American flag using stars, stripes, and the colors red, white, and blue.

Hauser also introduces important works such as our national anthem, and describes in simple terms the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance. My children loved creating their own miniature Liberty Bell, as well as the simple science experiment that explains why the Liberty Bell broke to begin with...

As you go through this book with your students they will learn to identify famous American landmarks, memorize patriotic songs and poems (America the Beautiful, etc.), discover famous Americans (Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, Martin Luther King, Jr., Tecumseh, etc.), and learn about our national holidays.
Along the way they'll make a freedom drum, a cornucopia, a Navajo bracelet, a suspension bridge, and many, many other fun crafts.

This is simply the best book for young, children. I have been using it as the core, and supplementing it with books I purchased on Etsy and Amazon, as well as some from our local library. I've also been using printables that I've found online (check out my Pinterest page).

This book is available in English only.

So if you are looking for a great little book to teach your K-5th grade child about American history, this one's for you! You can find new and gently used copies in my online store.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: I purchased this book for my kids' lessons. I was not contact in any way by the publisher. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day Activities, Coloring Pages, Books and More


Happy Presidents' Day!! The more that I learn about our U.S. presidents, the more I appreciate this day. Although Presidents' Day typically focuses on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, we have had a number of fascinating men running the United States: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Kennedy, the list goes on and on. I am grateful to them, and their willingness to take on the incredibly difficult job of running this country. Have you noticed that every single president has left office with a head full of gray hair? I don't think that a single person entering into this position has a clue about what they are getting into and how hard it will be to try and hold the country together.

With this being an election year, I think now is an especially good time to discuss the office of the presidency, how a president is elected, and what they must do once they are in office. 

Tonight, as I type this, my husband and children are sitting in the next room watching Abraham and Mary Lincoln, A House Divided: American Experience on PBS and learning about Lincoln's life. Though it is way past their bedtime, we're letting them enjoy the moment, knowing that tomorrow we will be remembering him and other US presidents. 

Anyway, in honor of all the men who have so bravely led this country, here are some excellent resources for learning more about them and the office that they've held.

LESSON PLANS

Scholastic has a good lesson plan titled, If I Were President, that covers a wide range of activities.

Teaching Resource Cneter has a some great activities and lesson plans on George Washington. They also have an article dedicated to a Code to Teach the Oath of Office.

lovetoknow home school also has some good lesson plans.

• I really love this math/social studies activity where students graph/map which state has produced the most presidents.

• I think older children will really enjoy these lesson plans from Lesson Planet.

Mr Donn's American History page on American Presidents has lots of great lesson plans, games and activities, too.

Mr G's World of Social Studies has a page dedicated to the presidents of the US with some fun trivia, and other data.

• ClassroomHelp also has information on topics like who died in office, who had a nickname, presidential salaries, and vice presidents who became presidents. 

• Here is a printable story in Spanish on Presidents' Day from edhelper.com.


ACTIVITY SHEETS & COLORING PAGES

Enchanted Learning has some great printables for Presidents' Day. These include worksheets and short books for beginning readers.

FreeKidsColoring.com has a nice sized coloring page of the President's Seal and several for both Lincoln and Washington.

• Crayola.com has a great coloring page for George Washington and others for Presidents' Day.


CRAFTS

• First, I have added so many cute Presidents' Day crafts to the MommyMaestra Pinterest board, Presidents' Day, so be sure to check that out.

Kaboose has some super cute crafts, such as this Craft Stick White House and this Powdered Wig.


VIDEOS & PHOTOS

• National Geographic Kids has a great collection of U.S. Monument photos including Mount Rushmore, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and more.

If I Were the First Latina/o President - super cute video of Latino children's description of what they would do if they were the first Latino president.

• Love this video on how a president is elected.

Schoolhouse Rock/America Rock - Presidential Minute video.


BOOKS

Who Was George Washington? by True Kelley and Roberta Edwards

Who Was Abraham Lincoln? by Janet B. Pascal

Presidents' Day by Anne Rockwell

If I Were President by Catherine Stier

If I Ran For President by Catherine Stier

Little Hands Celebrate America!: Learning about the U.S.A. Through Crafts & Activities by Jill Frankel Hauser


BILINUGAL BOOKS

Yo también puedo ser presidente (Spanish Edition) by Yanitzia Canetti

El Día de los presidentes by Mir Tamim Ansary

Otto se presenta para presidente: (Spanish language edition of Otto Runs for President) (Spanish Edition) by Rosemary Wells

Dí­a del presidente (Presidents Day) by Rebecca Rissman

Friday, February 17, 2012

Music with Sara: más canciones en español {Giveaway}


Last year, musician Sara Horlick Quintanar asked me if I'd share her adorable music video with you. This month she has released her new album, Music with Sara: más canciones en español, with 18 songs in Spanish. I do love her music! Her versions of the selected Latin American children's songs are original and creative without sounding hokey (as sometimes kids' albums in Spanish can be), and I especially appreciate the cultural rhythms I hear. But you don't have to take my word for it! Listen to these samples from her new album...








THE GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the release of her new album, Sara is offering one of her CDs to a MommyMaestra reader.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Thursday, February 23rd. The winners will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment!
And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a copy of the new album, Music with Sara: Más canciones en español, from @LatinMami http://bit.ly/zJBsar #Spanish #music #giveaway
2.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post in the comments below.

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!
Disclaimer: I have not been compensated for this post.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Collaboration: One of the Keys to Education Reform


Tonight on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams there was a fascinating piece by Chelsea Clinton on how one charter school (The Learning Community) in Rhode Island is sharing their reading strategies with local public schools to help their students improve their reading performance to grade level. When this collaboration began three years ago, only 37% of K-2nd graders were reading at or above grade level. Within 8 months, that number was up to 66%.

As Clinton talked with the teachers and the students I was amazed to discover that these new and innovative strategies were things like "sketch it" (kids listen to the story and the draw pictures related to it), "connection" (kids think about the story then relate it to a similar experience they've had), and "retelling" (kids tell the teacher what the story was about). The teachers also make it a point to have one-on-one time with each student every week to help them with their reading.

These are all practices that I use with my kids, and I bet so have most homeschooling moms. I'm not a trained teacher. My major in college was English with a creative writing emphasis and a minor in Social Work. But I learned most of these techniques with the curriculum I was using to teach my kids how to read, and from reading articles about developing your child's literacy skills. And I don't think these ideas are new to teachers, either. Maybe for some. But I know that there are many teachers who are either teaching their students this way, or would like to but can't.

Although I was really sad to see that these strategies are not commonplace techniques in ALL school districts across our country, I was so very glad to see this type of collaboration between the charter and public school system. I have had a very high opinion of charter schools for a while now, and even considered enrolling my own daughter in one when she was ready to start Kindergarten. (More on that another day.)

Anyway, in the interview, one of the questions Clinton asked was why we weren't seeing more collaborations like this across the country. The teachers readily admitted that "sometimes public school teachers can perceive charter schools as a threat" when it comes to resources and personnel. How sad is this? I wonder if this perception isn't promoted by "upper management" within the school districts.

But you quickly learn that this group of teachers have a different outlook. I was so happy to hear one of the other public school teachers say "We all share the same goal. It's student achievement."

And isn't that just what it all boils down to in a nutshell?

When asked why the program is successful, a charter school teacher responds that "We just keep it dynamic. We make decisions right there on the spot about how to meet the needs of every single student in the class." What a profound statement. This is something I do every day at home with my kids. Isn't it a shame that teachers across America aren't allowed the freedom to make these decisions with their own classrooms? 

There are so many lessons to be learned from this segment. I think it is an inspiring story during this time when there are so many negative feelings associated with our current education crisis. So I want to share it with you here...


I really wish that instead of so much fighting and distrust, our education systems would find a way to work together for the sake of our children. Enough with the jealousy, the bickering, and the OVERLY competitive outlooks.

I would love to hear from some of the teachers reading this blog. What are your thoughts about this issue?

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Librotraficante Caravan



A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on the Arizona book ban. Perhaps you, too, were outraged by the assault on our culture and on our children. Perhaps, you were already outraged by that and many of the other issues occuring in the state...and around our country.

Well, we're not the only ones. A revolution has begun. And one of the forms it has taken is the Librotraficante Caravan. (Librotraficante means "book trafficker" in Spanish.) Next month, on March 12th, 2012, a group of librotraficantes from across the country will be smuggling contraband books back into Arizona. Spearheaded by author Tony Diaz, this movement is supported by many Latino authors, many of whose works have now been banned in Arizona, such as the esteemed Rudolfo Anaya whose book, Bless Me, Ultima, is now forbidden to be taught in classrooms. (Seriously?!? Bless Me, Ultima? This may be one of my favorite books ever. I read it in a high school lit class.) Other supporters include Sandra Cisneros (her book, House on Mango Street? BANNED!), Dagoberto Gilb (Wood Cuts of Women), Luis Urea (has FIVE books banned), Carmen Tafolla (Curandera), Sergio Troncoso (The Last Tortilla & Other Stories), to name just a few.

The caravan is intended to:

1. Raise awareness of the prohibition of the Mexican-American Studies Program and the removal of books from classrooms.
2. Promote banned authors and their contributions to American Literature.
3. Celebrate diversity: Children of the American Dream must unite to preserve the civil rights of all Americans.
4. Create a network of resources for art, literature, and activism.
One of the goals of the Caravan is to create "Underground Libraries," or sites to which the banned books will be donated. And it will be making stops along the way in places like San Antonio, El Paso, Mesilla, and Albuquerque. You can see their current schedule here.

To learn more about the Librotraficante Caravan, and to show your support, visit their site: Librotraficante.com.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cristina y la rana {Giveaway}


Happy Valentine's Day (a few hours early)!! Does your family celebrate this holiday? My children have already enjoyed their Valentine's party with all of their homeschooled friends, but tomorrow we will splurging with heart-shaped pancakes and some of the crafts I have in my Pinterest board for this holiday.

And to express my gratitude for all of you dear readers, I'm delighted to introduce you to another giveaway.

This one bring you this sweet story of Cristina y la rana. It is about young, lonely Crisitina, who one day finds una rana in her garden. She gives it a little kiss, hoping for it to turn into a playmate. But when she lets it go, the little frog disappears. And to her surprise, it is not a little girl who suddenly appears, but a baby...

Based on the popular folktale, The Frog Prince, this book is a sweet, simple story perfect for bedtime reading. It is written completely in Spanish.

THE GIVEAWAY

Author Alma Flor Ada has generously donated several of these books for a giveaway. I am so pleased to announce that THREE MommyMaestra readers will receive a copy of this beautiful little book.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Sunday, February 19th. The winners will be chosen using Random.org. and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment!
And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Leave a comment sharing with us the title of your favorite folktale.
2.) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Be one of THREE winners of the Spanish children's book, Cristina y la rana from @LatinMami #Spanish #reading #giveaway
3.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post in the comments below.

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

Valentine's Around the Web



This year I have seen an explosion of great ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day with your niños. There are so many clever and creative crafts, that I wanted to share some of my favorites.  So stop by and take a look at the MommyMaestra Pinterest board on Valentine's. Enjoy!

(Note: Since I am not big on candy, you will mostly see other types of treats and ideas for giving as Valentines.)

Con mucho cariño...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bilingual Valentine's Day Cards for Children {Printable}

This weekend, if you are looking for an activity to keep the kids busy, why not have them fill out some Valentine's cards? I have now listed a set of bilingual Valentine's Day cards in my etsy shop. There are two versions of six designs (one with "te amo," the other with "te quiero," etc.), so that you can print the one that best suits your familia. I've also included an optional "back" to the cards in case you'd like a decorative space for writing names.

My daughter used these at our Valentine's party on Wednesday. She used a hole punch on either end of the cards and pushed some Valentine-themed pencils through as her gift, (see the picture on the MommyMaestra FB page) but you could also use lollipops, erasers, or other treats.

Have a great weekend!

Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie {RECIPE}



A Valentine's Day treat from 12-year-old homeschooler, Angelica!

Strawberries + Chocolate = Valentine Smoothies!

These smoothies are easy, sweet and colorful! Adding small chocolate hearts only make them cuter, don’t ya think? 


Use frozen fruit instead of ice to boost the nutritional value, thicken the smoothie naturally and avoid using sugar.

Strawberry Smoothie
By Angelica Rodriguez 
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp agave or honey
  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Place all ingredients in blender (except chocolate). Blend until smooth.
Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave in 30-second intervals until chocolate is melted.
Use spoon to make hearts on parchment paper.
Refrigerate until ready to garnish your smoothie.
Makes 2


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Angelica is a 12-year-old homeschooler with dreams of becoming a pastry chef.

Addicted to comics, food network, and carnival rides, Angelica loves taking over her mom's kitchen. She is currently working on perfecting her piecrust while her family reaps the benefits. You can find her sharing her baking skills over at Sweet Life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How To Praise Your Bilingual Child



Wow! It's February already?

My family and I just returned home from a two-week vacation in Texas. And we got back just in time for our 4-H club's annual Valentine's Day party! I have several Valentine's posts scheduled for the next few days, including adorable bilingual Valentine cards that I created for my daughter.

But first, I wanted to be sure and share with you all this lovely printable that mi amiga, Unknown Mami, has created and is now offering as a free download on her site. It is a small poster with "101 Ways to Praise a Bilingual Child." I thought it especially appropriate to share this week with Valentine's Day coming up. What better way to show your child how much you love him or her than by building them up and helping them to find the confidence that comes with a parent's love?

How often do we remember to praise our children for their hard work and good deeds? I am guilty of not doing it enough. And I am thankful for Unknown Mami for creating this beautiful piece and offering it to all of us. It now sits in a frame on my mantel in our school room, a lovely reminder to tell my children how much I appreciate them.

If you go over and download it, please leave her a comment and tell her MommyMaestra sent you. ;)

Con mucho cariño...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Los Tweens: A Site for Latino Kids


Have you heard about Los Tweens, yet? It is a website for children ages 7 to 12 and their parents.  The site covers a diverse set of topics related or of interest to tweens and their parents. The creators of the site publish multicultural content so that through learning, kids can develop a global perspective and appreciation for world cultures and their people.

On its pages, parents can find everything from "Tween Cuisine" to a parent's struggle with violet video games.  Although the site is still in a Beta version, families can register and navigate all the areas of the website.

LosTweens.com is new, but worth keeping an eye on. If you are a parent of a tween, you might like the articles included so far. And as usual, I encourage parents to explore it first before signing their kids up.

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The 2012 Pura Belpré Award Winners Announced!

A few weeks ago, the winners of the 2012 Pura Belpré Award were announced. I was so excited that three of them were chosen as the Book of the Month on our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club, last year. You can find a list of this year's winners here.

One of the Illustrator Honor Book Winners was Rafael López, whom I greatly admire. Written by Samantha Vamos, The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred, is a beautiful book. Samantha sent me a video that Rafael created upon learning about the award. I'm happy to share it with you here...

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