Monday, September 30, 2013

Dancing Home, Nacer bailando {GIVEAWAY}


I'm sneaking in one last giveaway for this month. And I must thank author Alma Flor Ada for donating these books that she co-wrote with her son, Gabriel Zubizarreta, to be given away to you, Dear Readers.

I read Dancing Home a couple of years ago not too long after it came out. It was such a great read. And then it was chosen by not just one, but two children this past summer as the subject of their video book reports for the L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program. They did such an amazing job giving their reports!! I was so impressed. And since they both seemed to enjoy the book, and both recommended it for others, I thought it would be great to giveaway a couple of copies.

Rather than give you my review of the book, I'm going to let 10-year-old Marianna tell you all about it and what she thinks of the book...



Isn't she great!?! 

I really love how the book does such a great job of destroying stereotypes and teaches children how wrong it is to judge people based on the way they look or the language they speak.

THE GIVEAWAY

I have two copies of Dancing Home (one in English, and the other in Spanish) to giveaway to two MommyMaestra readers. 

To enter the giveaway, just use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: The Gumazing Gum Girl!


The Gumazing Gum Girl!
Chews Your Destiny
by Rhode Montijo

If I had a penny for every request I received from someone asking me to review their book(s), I could put both my kids through college. In fact, I have shelves of books next to my desk awaiting reviews. Some don't ever make it to this blog (or L4LL), while others are waiting patiently for their time to arrive.

The books that are far more likely to make it on here in a timely manner are those that I either think my readers need to know about immediately, or those that capture my children's interest right away as with The Gumazing Gum Girl!

Rhode Montijo is one of the talented men behind the Super Grammar book I frequently rave about. He is an illustrating maniac. And when he sent me a copy of The Gumazing Gum Girl, my daughter spotted it and quickly confiscated it. An hour later she was done.

The book is a blend of chapter book and comic book rolled into one. And the best part (in my mind anyway) is that the lead character is Latina! Little Gabby Gomez takes chewing gum to a new level. She's never without it. You can find her blowing bubbles while hanging upside down from a tree, while swimming at the pool, and even while getting her hair cut at the barber shop (so gross!). Until finally one day her mami and papi (who also happens to be a dentist) say enough is enough. No. More. Gum.

Unfortunately, Gabby struggles a bit with self control and ends up breaking the rule which gets her into a very sticky situation.

My daughter's only complaint was that the book was too short. And she wants to know when the sequel is coming out.

The books is written in English, but there are a few Spanish words or phrases scattered in the book.

In the past, I've mentioned that there has to be a balance when it comes to what our kids read. Although classics are important and there are specific books that every child should be exposed to and know, having fun and making independent choices are critical. In order to raise children (and eventually adults) who love to read, we have to allow them the opportunity to choose fun books from time to time and let them be the masters of their reading lists. We have to let them pick titles, but we also have to provide them with some. A strategically placed book can inspire a reluctant reader.

The Gumazing Gum Girl! is one of those books. Both my daughter who loves Swiss Family Robinson and Adelita with equal passion, and my son who prefers to be read to, very much enjoyed reading about Gum Girl on their own. So if you are looking for a short, fun read for your kids, check out this little book.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Latism '13 Recap


Unlike many of my blogging amigas, I don't get to attend very many conferences each year. In fact, I don't get much time away by myself ever. I know. It's totally unhealthy and it is certainly not because I don't want time to myself on occasion! Homeschooling and a lack of babysitters makes traveling alone especially hard at this point. But I generally try to make it to at least one conference, sometimes two.

The main one that I always try to attend is the LATISM conference that takes place each fall. I've chosen LATISM because of their commitment to education and the education track that features many panels and guest speakers. I very much enjoy learning all the most recent statistics regarding Latinos and education, including higher education. But I especially love learning about new programs, resources, and opportunities for Latino students and their families.

Hearing about the amazing work that other institutions and individuals are doing is very inspirational for me personally, and helps to reignite my commitment to you, dear Readers, and our children.

In addition, this year it moved me so much to see my name listed not once but twice in the Best Latina Education Blog Award category for two of my sites: MommyMaestra.com and Latinas4LatinoLit.org, which I co-founded with my partner, Viviana Hurtado, of The Wise Latina Club.  To all of you who voted for L4LL, a sincere gracias. Winning the award for the third year in the row, even though this year it was for a different site, blew my mind. Next year, it is someone else's turn.

This year, I also had the opportunity to attend the Top Blogueras Retreat prior to the conference where we received additional support in developing our sites as actual businesses, because the reality is that you can help others and still get paid for it. And as a homeschooling mom, I need the extra income because though my husband is an expert in his field and is doing what he loves, his job, unfortunately, isn't exactly considered high-income. I love working from home and the opportunities it allows me when it comes to teaching my kids. And I love being able to share resources with parents and educators like you who are looking for these materials, sites and opportunities, even if I can't use them myself with my own children. It's really good to know that someone else benefits from MommyMaestra. And everyone should get paid for working hard and doing something they love, no?

I'm so thankful to the sponsors, Suave, Johnson & Johnson, Google, and Univision, who made this trip possible for all of us blogueras and supporting Latinos in social media. The retreat included a meeting with representatives from the United Nations, as well as a trip to the U.N. It was a wonderful opportunity to see social good in action and inspired me to continue writing and helping our kids learn the value of a great education.

Thank you, Latism, for all the great work you do for Latino families, especially in the area of education.

Un abrazo...


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The United Nations and a Birthday Party


Last week, Betty and I did a little celebrating of our own as we were both selected to participate in a Top Blogueras Retreat in New York City. It was the first time we'd met each other in person, and I can tell you that Betty is as lovely in person as she is online. As part of the retreat, we had the opportunity to visit with leaders from the United Nations to hear about the many initiatives they are currently working on, such as the Girl Up campaign whose goal is to empower teen girls around the world to enact social changes in their own communities. And The Coalition for Adolescent Girls that recognizes the role they play in global development and promotes investing in adolescent girls through education, health, and more.

This week, the UN Global Assembly (UNGA) is taking place, as is The Social Good Summit, a three-day conference where big ideas merge with new media to find innovative solutions to world issues. You can visit the website to watch the live stream in English or Spanish (or French, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or Hebrew!). Yesterday, Malala Yousafzai spoke on a panel about leading girls forward despite adversity.

To see today's agenda, click here.

During the UNGA, world leaders will be gathering to discuss big challenges our world is facing, including poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. There is sure to be a lot of tense moments this week, with so much controversy existing between the US and Russia, as well as the possibility of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir attendance.

In today's tension-filled political world, it is more important than ever that we strive to raise our children to be global citizens who reach for peace and the good of our world community. For me, the best way to achieve this is through education - of other nations, other cultures, and of ourselves.



Multicultural Kid Blogs Virtual Birthday Party!

Today, Multicultural Kid Blogs is celebrating it's first anniversary by hosting a virtual birthday party and everyone is invited! MKB is made up of a group of blogs dedicated to celebrating multiculturalism.

The Party
To join the party, all you have to do is visit the participating blogs listed below to see what they are bringing to the party. You can also link up your own posts on the MKB site if you have a party themed recipe, activity, craft, or other related post you'd like to share.


The Giveaway
Like any good host, we don't want you to go home empty handed, so we are offering some great prizes to three lucky winners. See the end of the post for details on the prizes. The giveaway will go through midnight PDT on Monday, Sept 30th.

 To enter, visit the MKB site to:
 1) Link up a birthday-related post or
 2) Comment on the MKB site to tell us your wish for the coming year!

Party Hosts

Party Favors

Prize #1
Mas Canciones en Espanol - Music with Sara - MKB Birthday Party Giveaway

Digital download of Más Canciones en Español from Music with Sara

Prize #2

Set of 2 books from National Geographic Kids - US Shipping Only

National Geographic Kids - Egyptian Mythology - MKB Birthday Party Giveaway


National Geographic Kids - How to Speak Dog - MKB Birthday Party Giveaway


Prize #3
DVD Fiesta Whistlefritz - MKB Birthday Party Giveaway
Lively Spanish immersion program DVD recommended for children ages 2-7 from Whistlefritz


Now it's your turn! Visit the MKB site for a chance to win one of these prizes by linking up your birthday posts or commenting to tell us your wish for the coming year!

Monday, September 23, 2013

We're Watching Latino Americans: A 3-Part Docu-Series


This is part of a compensated campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Ford. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

You all know that in my family, studying Hispanic heritage is not something we do one month out of the year. It's something we do year round. Living far removed from family and our Latino culture, it is a choice and a responsibility that falls on my shoulders. If I want my kids to grow up proud of their heritage, then I'm the one who has to teach it, share it, love it.

The great thing about homeschooling is that I can make these studies a part of our curricula. But you don't have to be a homeschooler to teach your kids about their ancestors, and the role that their heritage played in our nation's history. You can teach your kids about it on weekends, after school, during the summer, during holidays, at breakfast, at lunch, with dinner...you get it.

We use apps to study heritage and language...


We use crafts....


We use books...

And so much more.

Which is why I'm really excited about Latino Americans, the new 3-part docu-series on the history of Latinos that is airing this month on PBS. Did you already watch the premiere last week? If not, don't miss the next episode that will run tomorrow (Tuesday!) night on PBS at 8 pm ET. Or if you prefer to watch it in Spanish, you can do so every Friday night between now and October 25th on Vme TV.

The series tells our story. From immigration to renovation, anguish, celebration, and everything else that Hispanics have faced in order to find a better life for themselves and their families. It's time our stories are published in a high-quality format, with ALL the facts, and accessible to EVERYONE.

Recently, in an online conversation with my friend Angelica Perez, the creative genius behind the Ella Institute, she asked how Latinas could use their power to influence brands. Part of my response was that we can make it clear to them that supporting our community is critical. When possible, I am far more likely to purchase from a particular brand if I know that they are investing my Latino community because then I feel as though I am investing in my own community.

So when I see brands like Ford providing corporate funding for this amazing series, I make note of it. Latino Americans is the first series of its kind, the first to really focus on the influence of Latinos and Hispanics during the last 500 years. And a company that is willing to help us tell our story and document it publicly has my approval and support. You can support them back by finding them on Facebook and Twitter.

I hope you'll join me in watching this series! I'll be live tweeting during the show on Tuesday nights for the next two weeks, and would love to see you there, too!



Make Eating Healthy Fun with PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market {Giveaway}



On October 7th, PBS KIDS will air a new series that focuses on preschool math skills. Peg + Cat is such a sweet and fun show that breaks stereotypes with its main character, Peg, a young girl who loves math. So often we focus on literacy skills for preschool children, but frequently forget that pre-math skills are equally important. So this new series helps out parents who are not able or who choose not to enroll their children in preschool, as well as parents who are looking to help supplement their preschooler's education with activities at home. By the time children leave preschool and enter kindergarten, they should be able to identify numbers and do basic counting. Peg + Cat helps them to learn this and more.

One of the best ways to teach early math skills at home is in the kitchen using food and recipes. Whole Foods Market has partnered with PBS KIDS to support healthy eating habits and early math education. What a clever way to engage your kids and teach them essential lifelong skills! You can find a whole bunch of Peg + Cat activities, recipes, and more on the PBS KIDS website.


THE GIVEAWAY

One MommyMaestra reader will win a Peg + Cat prize pack that includes a Peg + Cat book, notepad, activity sheets, and $35 Whole Foods Market gift card.

To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Taking His Hispanic Heritage Around the World



My six year old has been very fortunate to travel to many places around the world. He takes great pride in being able to say that he has been to over 10 countries. This is something we don't take for granted though. We have made "travel" a learning experience and have made sure that it isn't a bragging right, but purely the discovery of new places, the education of history and language, and uniqueness of the people.

We wonder if his interest of the world has developed because of these great experiences. My husband and I like to play a guessing game of our son's future career. Will he become a diplomat one day? Or a pilot? Only time will tell. We do know that his passion for learning of other countries, different cultures and even geography has been the basis for the love of his own heritage.

Diego knows he is a boy of Mexican decent, born in Tokyo-Japan and living in his country, the United States. He knows his extended family lives in Chicago, that he has lived in Singapore, New York City and now loving New Jersey. He knows he is American but that his grandparents are from Mexico. His best friends don't look like him or even speak Spanish. One cousin is half Puerto-Rican. Three others are white American. His ears perk up when the announcer at the New York Red Bull stadium speaks Spanish. He listens for other languages. He is waiting for the moment to visit his buddy in London and can't wait to go back to Puerto Vallarta and Japan.

Through his knowledge of the world, our son keeps learning more and more about his Hispanic heritage. The questions are non-stop! "What do they do about that in Mexico? How many dialects does Mexico have? Do they celebrate this? That??" And on and on! We continue to answer his questions as best as we can. We bring out our books, teach him what we know, practice Spanish, prepare the meals, listen to the music and show him our love for Mexico. He's loving it all and sharing it right back.




Betty Galvan, is helping her readers "find the positive and seek the benefits" over at her blog, MyFriendBettySays.com.

She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.

Photo credits: mikifoto by mallika malhotra

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Immigration Story


Unless your ancestors were Native Americans, you have an immigrant in your family. We all do. Even our Founding Fathers were the progeny of immigrants. The United States was colonized by immigrants, and the country was built on the backs of immigrants.

In my own family, I personally knew three immigrants. I want to tell you about two of them today.

The first was my great-grandmother on my mother's side, whom everyone lovingly referred to as 'Buelita. Both my mother and I were very close to her as we moved in with her when I was still very young. By the time I was born, Casimira Luna Valdez, was already 70 years old and looked much like she does in the picture above. She was born in Monterrey, Mexico, to a very poor family. Poverty was hard on her family and she once confided to my mother that at one point they only had banana peels to eat, dug out of the garbage of the richer families in town.

But Casimira was a fighter and worked hard. She grew up in the plazas of Monterrey where she learned to cook amazing dishes by watching the other women and eventually became known as a fabulous cook. It is rumored in my family that she once fed Pancho Villa himself and a few of his men. True or false? No sé, but it would not surprise me in the least.

At any rate, Casimira finally had enough of the poverty and decided to leave and come to the United States to make a better living for herself and her family. Initially, she came with a woman who promised to help her enter the U.S. But it wasn't long before Casimira discovered that the woman was full of lies and though she had brought her here, the woman wanted her to things that were wrong. Things no woman should have to do. And so she left and went back to Mexico, determined to come back to the United States a different and more honest way. And she did, but this time, she brought her sister, Maria Luna, with her.

They settled in Dallas, where Maria went on to establish the city's first tortilla factory, Luna's. It is a historical landmark today. My 'Buelita, however, decided to do what she did best: cook. And so she founded El Originál, the best Mexican restaurant in Dallas for years. It was family run for a long time, my own mother and uncle working there up through their high school and college days.

Casimira was known for more than just her cooking. She never forgot her roots and the poor she left behind. Every year, she would drive down to Mexico with a car full of clothes to hand out to people on the sides of the road. The memory of her own childhood and her deeply religious beliefs made her a very compassionate woman who was ready to help those in need always, and sometimes she would feed the poor or homeless from the back door of the restaurant. She was, however, intolerant of liars and cheats and once ran a man out of her restaurant for not being there with his wife!

The day came, though, when family moved on and she no longer had help. Casimira finally closed down the restaurant.

Lucky for me I was able to reap the benefits because when my mother and I moved in with her, I became her best customer. She never stopped cooking and so I was blessed with my own personal chef!

My 'Buelita died when I was 12. I remember the day clearly. And I still miss her today.

The other immigrant in my life was my father.

After graduating from college, my mother went to Spain to get her Masters degree. There she met my father, the charming, tall, dark, and handsome man who bore a striking resemblance at the time to Al Poccino.

One thing led to another and after a few years they were wed. When it came time for me to be born, however, my father had enlisted (drafted?) into the military in Spain and so my mother came home to the U.S. to be with family while she was pregnant and waiting for me to be born.

My father arrived soon afterward, and gave living here a good try. But he was unhappy. He missed his family, his culture, and his language. He couldn't get a job here that he liked because he didn't speak English. This was so hard for him, having done well at whatever he chose to do back home. This was not the life he had imagined nor wanted. And so after two years, he painfully gave up and went back home.

Immigrants come to this country for many reasons, but mostly to find a better life for themselves and/or their families.

Today, in my own town, I watch the migrant workers and their families who labor in the fields planting and picking tobacco. My children and I stalk them in the parking lot of our local grocery store hoping for a chance to share a smile, or a few words of kindness. I know their stories, and I try to pass them on to my own children.

So for all these reasons, I am a strong supporter of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I believe in the words that the poet Emma Lazarus wrote in her poem, The New Colossus, and which are inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. I've shared them before here on MommyMaestra, but the words never fail to move me and inspire me to raise my own voice in love and honor for those courageous souls who are willing to leave their homes and everything that is familiar to them because of a dream, a hope, for a better life.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hispanic Heritage Month Festival of Books & Blog Hop


A lot has been going on over the last few weeks to prepare for Hispanic Heritage Month, and I'm excited to share these projects with you! First of all, I'm happy to be a co-host of the Multicultural Kids Blogs' Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop. More about that below.

Secondly, Latinas for Latino Lit launches our Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books today! This month-long event will celebrate through literature the contributions of Hispanic Americans to U.S. history via politics, public service, the arts, and sports. So much is planned for this month, including Google hangouts with Latino authors, two reading lists (one for children and the other for adults!), an online book club for adults and more.

For me, the most exciting part is the reading kits that we've designed for families with children in kindergarten through 4th grade. We've selected three children's biographies about four influential Hispanics who have contributed to our country: activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, singer Celia Cruz, and librarian Pura Belpré.

In addition to the books, each reading kit comes with an activity booklet centered around each book and the main character(s). They are full of literacy-based activities and worksheets that help children explore these four historical figures and learn a little bit about geography, music, science, vocabulary development and more. You'll also receive a folder, pencil, and art supplies.


You can learn more about the kits and all the many other elements of our Festival of Books by visiting Latinas4LatinoLit.org.

Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop - MulticulturalKidBlogs.com

Next, I want to start off by welcoming you to the Second Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop, hosted this year by Multicultural Kid Blogs and 15 of our member blogs! As a co-host of the blog hop, I want to encourage you all to visit each and every blog listed below for some fabulous reads and a chance to enter to win some amazing prizes!

I know that you're already aware that Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 every year, "celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America" (from HispanicHeritageMonth.gov).

Also, be sure to follow our related Pinterest boards:


The Giveaway

As part of the blog hop celebration we're giving away fabulous prizes!

You can enter two ways:
 1) If you are a blogger, link up a post in the linky at the bottom of this post (each post will count as an entry).
 2) Make a comment on the main Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop post on the Multicultural Kid Blogs page answering the question, "How do you celebrate your heritage with your children?"

Our Prizes Please note that there are shipping restrictions on some prizes. In the event that the winner lives outside of the shipping area, that portion of the prize will be added to the following prize package.

Grand Prize Package

Cricket Magazine - Spanish - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Annual subscription (print and digital) to one of the following children's magazines (winner's choice!): Babybug, Ladybug, or Ask en español (available at the end of September) or Iguana ($51.90 value). International winners will receive a digital subscription.

Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop

Two Spanish activity books with games and exercises to review basic concepts, a card game that teaches wild animals in Spanish and English, two ceramic Day of the Dead skulls, and several small wooden toys.

Daria - Cancioncitas Booklet Cover - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

A Child's Life in the Andes is a 35 page e-book that brings the culture of this historic region alive through rich photographs, kid-friendly information as well as 3 children’s activities, 8 coloring pages, 2 language pages and a word search that features new vocabulary.

DARIA_Cancioncitas CD Cover - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Cancioncitas De Los Andes/Little Songs Of The Andes from Daria is a digital CD sharing authentic music from the Andes performed on traditional instruments. The CD includes the most famous song from that region; El Condor Pasa, along with 5 other songs from this historic area of the world.

Sofia Spanish - Kids Yoga Stories - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Sofía en una Aventura por la Selva from Kids Yoga Stories: Fly like a toucan, slither like a snake, and flutter like a butterfly as you act out this journey through a Costa Rican jungle. What else might you see? The storybook includes a List of Kids Yoga Poses and a Parent-Teacher Guide.


First Prize Package

Annual subscription (print and digital) to a children's magazine from Cricket. See details above.
Smart Play - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop
Smart Play Pad(SRP $ 24.99): Interactive tablet like electronic toy makes early learning fun and exciting for little ones. More than 30 touch sensitive keys teach language and pronunciation skills to help prepare children for school. Bilingual feature helps kids learn in English & Spanish. Lightweight and truly portable for on-the-go learning. Ships to US and Canada only.


Off We Go - Barefoot Books - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Travel through Mexico with this beautiful picture book from Barefoot Books. Along the way, learn Spanish words and phrases and discover Mexican culture. Ships to the US, Canada, or Europe only.

Tico Tango - Barefoot Books - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Discover the animals of the rainforest with The Parrot Tico Tango from Barefoot Books. The rhyming text and brilliant illustrations teach animals and colors. Ships to the US, Canada, or Europe only.

Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

A Spanish-English picture dictionary, a simple workbook in Spanish geared towards 1st graders in Mexico, the classic "lotería" game, plus a couple of small wooden toys, courtesy of Kid World Citizen.


Second Prize Package

Annual subscription (print and digital) to a children's magazine from Cricket. See details above.

Mas Canciones en Espanol - Music with Sara - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop

Más Canciones en Españolfrom Music with Sara: A wonderful collection of traditional songs from Latin America. Perfect for children learning Spanish.

Belpre Reading Kit - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop - Multiculturalkidblogs.com

Reading kit for one children's biography highlighting Latina librarian, Pura Belpré, courtesy of Latinas for Latino Lit. Includes a copy of The Storyteller's Candle by Lucía González, a 16-page HHM Reading Kit full of book-based activities to promote literacy, with a folder, a pencil and set of colored pencils. Retail value: $15.95 Ships to the US only.

Unidad-Lupita - LA Libreria - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop and Giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Unidad Lupita, by Jaime Alfonso Sandoval, Illustration by Natalia Gurovich, from LA librería. Ships to the US only.

Que Animales! from La libreria - Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop and Giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs

¡Qué animales! by Eduardo Bustos, Illustrations Lucho Rodriguez, from LA librería. Ships to the US only.

Participating Blogs

Link Up Your Posts

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: The HP Chromebook Plus A Norton Anti-Virus Software Giveaway

HP Pavillion 14 Chromebook

If you are a regular reader of this blog, the chances are pretty good that you know your way around a computer. In fact, chances are that you are a teacher or parent who looks for educational resources online on a fairly frequent basis. Am I right? Actually, I just described myself. I spend a lot of time searching for printables, activities, and other resources online to supplement my children's education. And as you well know by now, I spend a lot of time writing. So I'm very dependent upon my computer and laptops.

Today's review is not of a kid's product, but for a teacher or parent who is looking to invest in a new laptop. Middle and high-school students who write a lot of essays can certainly benefit from this post also. I was asked by Staples to write an honest review the new HP Chromebook. So here ya go!

HP Pavillion 14 Chromebook

The HP Pavillion 14 Chromebook
Retails for $299.99

The new HP Pavillion 14 Chromebook is my first experience with any of the Chromebooks, but it took me all of two minutes to realize that this laptop was built for someone like me since I use a lot of Google products online (gmail, Google docs, Chrome browser, Google Hangouts). It is really designed for use with internet access because all of the software is stored online in the Google Drive. So if you are someone who doesn't have regular access, this might not be the best choice for you. However, you DO have the option of working with many of the offline-enabled web apps, like gmail offline, which I thought was a really neat feature. It stores your responses and automatically syncs/sends them whenever an internet connection is detected. The same is true for Google Docs, Calendar, Scratchpad, photo editing, and more.

HP Pavillion 14 Chromebook screenshot

This laptop has a very simplistic look and feel to it, and the clean desktop with only a few icons at the bottom really make me feel organized (even if it is only an illusion!). The 14-inch, diagonal HD screen is a really nice change from my little notebook, making it much easier for me to see photos and the images/graphics on downloads, lesson plans, and more. Furthermore, the images are sharp and clear. I can also personalize my desktop wallpaper with a breath-taking image. You can find a whole slew of them in your settings area, or upload your own. I'm changing mine on a regular basis just because the pictures are so beautiful and soothing.


When I first started up the laptop, I was presented with a welcome window that allowed me to select my language, keyboard, and internet connection. After that, I was directed to a menu that allowed me to explore and get comfortable with my new Chromebook. It even included a brief, interactive tutorial for using the touchpad.

With the new Chromebook you also get 100 GB of Google Drive free for two years. I really loved seeing that since I use the drive a lot after having lost files on my home PC. And since I haven't been able to afford to buy the new Microsoft Office software, and thus I have so much trouble opening .docx files, not to mention no access to Excel or PowerPoint, I can now use/open all of these with my Google Drive access.


I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out how to take a screen capture. The menu I mentioned above told me how to take one (what combination of keyboard shortcuts), but I couldn't find them at first until I went back and reread the Save and Access Files section in the menu I mentioned above. I was so relieved that this menu remains in your Apps icon under Getting Started for easy reference. I quickly figured out I needed to download (for free!) the Screen Capture (by Google) app. This allowed me to take a lot of the pictures you see in this post.

Now for the down side: For me, the not so good part is that this is really a full-size laptop, so I'm uncomfortable traveling with it. My smaller notebook is better for travel.  I also didn't like how the Getting Started menu isn't available unless you are connected to the internet.

The other thing is that I cannot download any of my old software that I use for creating printables on this laptop. But I do realize that is not the purpose behind this particular model. Do I wish I could sit and design while watching a movie with my family? Sort of. But on the other hand, work-free family time is so important, I guess I am not really complaining. Plus, I could simply use the Google Drive to create the documents instead. But I haven't ventured into that realm...yet! (Baby steps, People!)

Staples has kindly offered for one MommyMaestra reader to win a Norton Anti-Virus SoftwareTo see their full line of laptops and tablets, as well as anti-virus software, visit Staples.com.

To enter to win, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Staples provided me with this HP Chromebook and Norton Anti-virus software. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Big Wet Balloon, El globo grande y mojado


I love it when I find fun early readers. And when they are (also) available in Spanish, I think of you! So when I received a copy of The Big Wet Balloon, El globo grande y mojado from Toon Books and read it, I was thrilled.

In my opinion, the number one thing that inspires children to read is when they have access to fun, engaging stories to which they themselves can relate. This lovely little book does exactly that as it is the story of two young sisters teaching each other to enjoy a wet Saturday. It is a sweet and simple book that captures the innocence and love between two little girls. You will love it, I think. You can see the whole thing for yourself by watching the little video below of the book read aloud. But one more thing that I loved about this book is how in the back there are tips for parents and teachers on how to read comics with kids. And educators can also find downloadable guides on the Toon Books website.



The author/illustrator, Ricardo Liniers Siri, lives in Buenos Aires and says that his first book was inspired by his own two daughters. Liniers is the author of the hugely popular comic strip, Macanudo, which is published in the Argentine newspaper La Nación. His work has been published internationally, and he has appeared on the cover of Newsweek Argentina, among others. After watching the following video created by RioComiCon, it's easy to see why he has been so successful; he is engaging, amusing, and very creative. See for yourself...



This book is available in paperback or hardback in both English and Spanish, but it is the only book by Toon Books to be printed in Spanish so far. Probably because that is the language in which it was originally written. But if it is popular, then I like to think that they would consider offering additional books in Spanish - so don't hesitate to order it! Let's encourage publishers to print more bilingual versions of their titles.

¡A leer!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lunches Around the World with Little Passports!

Today's post is brought to you by Little Passports (affiliate link). As a LP Ambassador, I'm always happy to share fun articles with a global theme that help your child explore other countries and cultures. Since we are still in the back-to-school phase, today's post is about the types of lunches that other kids around the world enjoy.

¡Buen provecho!

Lunches From Around the World


Kids around the world are headed back to school and that means homework, new friends, and … lunch? Yes, that’s right! Let’s visit four different countries to see what yummy food the school kids eat every day!


A French lunch
France
French children enjoy a three- or four-course meal that is mostly made from scratch with high-quality ingredients. The children all sit together in a cafeteria, or large lunch room. Did you know that there are no vending machines in schools? They’re banned due to the high sugar and fat content of the treats they carry. Typical school lunches here can have a variety of dishes and ingredients, such as grilled fish, salad, red beans, seasonal vegetables, garlic sausage, fruit salads and chocolate flan. Another perk is that the food is served on plates and eaten with real silverware!

A Japanese lunch

Japan

In Japan, the school lunch ingredients are locally sourced and almost never frozen. Schools employ nutrition experts that work with kids to teach them the importance of good eating habits. Like the children in France, Japanese kids also eat in a community-like setting with their peers, and even their teachers! The children also wear white hats and robes to serve their classmates, which teaches them teamwork and respect. You can expect to find lots of rice, vegetables, fish, soup, and meat on the plate.


South Africa’s Potjiekos

South Africa
South African school meals have natural ingredients such as corn, squash, sweet potatoes, and yams. There’s also rice, soft porridge, and meat that is sprinkled in with the vegetables. A special stew, called potjiekos (named after a potjie, a three-legged pot), originated from Dutch settlers and is now a South African favorite. The cook puts vegetables, meat, potatoes, and spices into the pot, which is heated by small amounts of wood and twigs.

A Columbian lunch
Colombia
Colombian school lunch ingredients usually vary from region to region, but can contain rice, potatoes, fruit, beans, meatballs, and vegetables such as corn and avocados. There’s a special vegetarian menu also available, and children from 2 to 5 years old have their food cut and portioned into smaller sizes.

We hope you enjoyed our lunch trip around the world, and perhaps found inspiration to try new foods at your own dinner table!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Attendance Awareness Month



My latest article on NBC Latino talks about the importance of school attendance, which is a critical issue for children, especially those in early elementary like kindergarten. Chronic absences can dramatically affect a child's literacy levels Click on the image above to see a bigger version and learn some fascinating facts on why atteding school every day is so important and what you can do for your family.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lakeshore’s Learning at Home Products


Last week, one of my favorite education supply companies launched a fun new line of educational toys for the home. You may remember the two giveaways I had last month featuring Lakeshore products. Well now they have created a line of products specifically for home learning that are perfect for homeschoolers or parents who simply want to supplement their child's education. These products will surely make the learning process fun. They are engaging and a great way to nurture your child's curiosity and creativity!

I have several Lakeshore products that I've gotten over this past year and used with the kids. I'd like to share them with you, so today I'm going to start with a review of the Truth or Myth? Science Kit. It comes with the materials and instructions that your child need to conduct 11 science experiments that cover:

  • Solar Power
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Electricity

The only things you need to supply for some of the experiments are soda, a lemon, vegetable oil, and some pennies.


The kit includes a collection of experiment cards (top, middle) with anywhere from 1 to 4 experiments on each. The instructions are easy enough for a 3rd grader to read, though this kit is designed for kids as young as 6 years old. Parental guidance is necessary, but you will have just as much fun as your kid. I also like how the illustrations feature a multicultural cast of kids performing the experiments, boys and girls.


One experiment that caught my eye and cracked me up was this one: Is it true? You can use taco sauce to clean pennies! But my daughter's favorite one involved learning about the concepts of cohesion and adhesion by using a piece of yarn to transfer water from one cup to another.

My son's fave, of course, involved climbing to great heights and dropping something. So he loved the experiment that centered around dropping an egg without cracking it. Note: Use hard-boiled eggs, not fresh ones!! :/



Other super fun experiments included using a chemical reaction to create electricity with a simple lemon and the lemon clock kit included in the science kit, as well as creating their own s'mores in their itty bitty solar-powered oven!

Once your child has completed all of the experiments, the kit even comes with an award card that you can fill in with marker.

For families that are looking for way to make science fun for their kids, I highly recommend this kit. You already know that we are a science-loving family, but I think that any kid would enjoy these experiments and parents will love that their child is learning at the same time. Don't worry about making a mess, clean up is easy and the benefits for your child, far outweigh the effort it takes to clean. These experiments don't make a really big mess anyway.

You can purchase this kit, or any of the other fantastic products in Lakeshore's Learning at Home line at any Lakeshore store or on their website.

And just because you are wonderful readers, and because Lakeshore is a super company, here's a 20% off coupon you can use. It expires on October 31st.

Disclosure: I received a sample of this product to review. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

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