Monday, November 26, 2018

Meet Circle: Parental Controls for Home Internet


I have a little gift for you this holiday season. It's called "taking charge of the internet at home and protecting your children by controlling their access through filters and time limits."

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am sharing this device that I discovered and has been of great value to our family.

A year ago, when we moved back to Texas, we moved in with my father-in-law, who at the time had open internet at his house. There was no password and it was on 24/7. My kids were in hog heaven. And I was freaking out because my 11-year-old, especially, is a tech head and would happily play games all day long if he was allowed. Plus, I was worried about what they would stumble upon while watching YouTube videos and such.

But then, I heard about Circle (aff) from Disney. It sounded ideal. Just plug it in and pair it with your internet and you can help monitor the internet for your children. So I bought it. And I have been so happy with it ever since!!

Here's how it works:

Circle is actually a simple square device that is super easy to set up. You just plug it in and then download the app. After that, you just follow the steps to pair the device with your internet and then you set up your personalized dashboard on the app.



I have added a profile for each member of my family and each one is customized to their needs. Each profile can have the following settings manipulated:

DEVICES


First, it's important to assign each person their own device(s). This includes desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, Xbox, smart TVs, etc.

FILTERS


There are five filter levels:

  1. PreK
  2. Kid - filters out social media, explicit content, mature content, gambling, dating, and malicious content by default. 
  3. Teen
  4. Adult - filters out explicit content by default.
  5. None
(All of my profiles have one of the filter levels 1-4 assigned. More about adults in a minute.)

The filter levels are pre-set with certain allowances and restrictions but you can override them and adjust them as you see fit. 

You can adjust various platforms and categories by setting them to Allowed, Not Allowed, or Unmanaged.



Each level comes with default platforms accessible to the user. If you don't see a platform listed, then it is automatically filtered out unless you add a custom filter adding access to it for that profile.

The preset platforms for the "Kid" filter include:
  • Amazon
  • Cartoon Network
  • Club Penguin Island
  • Disney
  • FaceTime
  • Hulu
  • Minecraft
  • Netflix
  • Nickelodeon
  • PBS
  • TikTok
  • YouTube
The categories are:
  • App stores & Downloads
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Business
  • Education
  • Email
  • Home & Family
  • Issues & Lifestyles
  • Kids
  • Music
  • Online Games
  • Photo
  • Science & Technology
  • Search & Reference
  • Sports & Rec
  • Travel
  • Videos
And lastly there are three Privacy and Safety settings:
  • Ad Blocking
  • Safe Search
  • YouTube Restricted

Of course, you can custom filter any of these. So let's say that I block Online Games for my son, but I have a couple of exceptions. I can click on Custom Filter at the bottom of the page and add a website that he is allowed. Or, vice versa, I can allow Online Games, but block certain websites in the same way.



BEDTIME


This setting will allow me to establish a bedtime for each day of the week. So I can extend it on weekends or on Mondays or whatever. 

TIME LIMITS


This is my favorite part. I can set time limits for specific websites or an overall time limit for access to the internet forcing my son to think carefully about where he wants to spend his time.

OFF TIME


You can also schedule some good ol' tech-free time for your kids. So if you want your mornings to be free of the internet, you can schedule it here (you can also adjust your bedtime limits), or you can block off a set amount of time in the middle of the day. Whatever you want!


The final two sections on the profile are for parental monitoring. 

USAGE lets you see how much time your child has been on the internet. You can look at the usage by day (for up to 7 days), by week (for up to a month), or by month (for up to a year maybe? I'm not sure. Mine goes back to May when we bought the Circle.)

HISTORY is my favorite section because it lets me see, in detail, what my child is looking at online and when. 


Now, I should also note that there are two extra functions that you can find at the top of their profile: Reward and Pause.

So, let's say that you ask your kids to clean up their rooms once a week, but you notice one day, that it has been two weeks since your kid cleaned and their room looks like an abandoned house full of trash. Your kid is currently sitting in front of the computer playing Minecraft. You've already asked him or her to go clean their room, but they zone you out. So you pick up your phone, open your Circle app and your child's profile and you hit PAUSE. You don't have to take away their phone or laptop. You don't have to go turn off the internet or change the password to something you'll never remember. You just pause their access and when they finish cleaning their room, you RESUME their access. It's easy.


Of if your child has worked hard ALL DAY helping you rake the yard and cut the grass, or maybe they helped you clean out the garage, and they deserve a reward. Boom! You just click on REWARD button and you'll have the option to extend their time limit today, or give them a late bedtime tonight, or no offtimes today. It's awesome and easy. 

----

My kids hated Circle at first. Some would argue that I am invading their privacy or that I am a control freak. But I take my role as their mother very seriously and I believe it is my responsibility to keep them safe. Reigning them in and helping them develop self-control has been very important. And knowing that there are safety filters in place to protect them from things like porn or adult content is priceless.

The only downside is that you cannot pair the app to more than one internet at a time. We use two sources of internet at home (one is unreliable), so that's a bit frustrating. Plus, I bought another Circle for my parents' house for when they babysit and I couldn't use my app on my phone for it. I had to download the app again onto my mom's phone. I wish I could have just switched Circle devices. 

OTHER BENEFITS:


Anytime a new device pairs with your home network, you receive a notification. You can choose to add them to your dashboard with a group profile (i.e., Other Family or Visitors), or you can just erase them after they leave. I like that I am alerted when someone comes to my house even when no one is home. 

THE BEST PART!


Now here's the great part: I went to look and they are on sale right now (I guess for Cyber Monday?) and they are available for only $49.99!! (aff) I paid $99 for both devices, so I really recommend taking advantage of this sale!


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Tradition for Developing Gratitude and Giving



Meet Tom T. Gracias. He's a new addition to our home this year. I can't decide if he is cute or creepy (šŸ˜‚), but he's really growing on me so I'm guessing he's the former. I found him in Michaels last month, and although I didn't buy him right away, he kept popping into my head. I think it is because he is a creative take on a popular Thanksgiving activity: writing down what you're grateful for and then reading those things aloud on the actual holiday.

Tom (a name I totally made up) was actually created by the company Turkey on the Table (read more about them below). He's a hit with my family, and I don't just mean my kids. Even my nieces love him and write down what they are grateful for on a blank feather so they can add it to his tail. I mean, I don't even have to ask any of them to go write something down. They just see him and grab a feather and a pen.

I left him attached to the "board" he came with, but he'll easily stand alone on his big feet. He's a sturdy guy, which is good because he gets handled a lot as the kids try to attach his feathers. I chose to set him up way in advance of the holiday so that my kids would spend time thinking on a daily basis about those things for which they are grateful. I don't want them to just think about it once a year on Thanksgiving. So Tom may stay up for a while. 

He came with a small picture book that describes his purpose. You can read it to your young children - they'll love the illustrations and rhyming story. And he also came with a set of blank feathers and a permanent marker. But I'll be honest, I decided to use dry-erase pens so that the kids could correct any mistakes and so we could use the feathers again next year. But if you visit their website, Turkey on the Table offers a variety of feather styles and other accessories.

Oh! And one of the best parts of him is that he's multilingual. Ha! You can write on his feathers in whatever language you wish.

Part of why he caught my eye at the store is that the company has partnered with the nonprofit Feeding America. According to the company's website:
To date, over 1 million meals have been donated through the efforts of Turkey on the Table. For each Turkey on the Table® kit purchased, Turkey on the Table donates one dollar to Feeding America on your behalf, which in turn helps secure ten meals.

So in buying this turkey kit, I managed to double the difference I am making. And that means a lot to me. 

Although I bought Tom at my local Michaels, you can find out more about him on this website: turkeyonthetable.com.

Just so you know: This is not a sponsored post in any way. I stumbled upon this lovely product on my own and paid for him out of my pocket as a gift for my family. I love this activity so much, I wanted to share with you...

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Printable Bilingual Thanksgiving Acrostic Poems & Freebie


More bilingual Thanksgiving goodness! Do you remember doing acrostic poems when you were a kid? Usually, our teacher would whip them out around Mother's Day. They even made a song about it. You remember:
"M" is for the million things she gave me
"O" means only that she's growing old
"T" is for the tears she shed to save me
"H" is for her heart of purest gold
"E" is for her eyes with love-light shining
"R" means right and right she'll always be
Put them all together they spell MOTHER...

They were one of my favorite activities as a child (and I think they still are!). They are fantastic for beginning writers because they develop writing skills and critical thinking. They're also great for language learners because students have to think in terms of relationships: What words associated with Thanksgiving begin with....? And it boosts vocabulary.

So just for fun, I've put together this packet of bilingual Thanksgiving acrostic poem templates. It includes directions and examples in both English and Spanish, as well as five different acrostic pages with prompts of varying length and difficulty. There's also a blank page to allow children to use their own focus word.

You can find it here in my TpT store or the MommyMaestra shop.

BUT because it is Thanksgiving and because I am thankful for you, dear readers, I have created a sample freebie for you to use. I hope you enjoy it.





Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thanksgiving Activity Pack for Preschoolers in English & Spanish



I've been on a creative roll the last couple of weeks. Thanksgiving is possibly my favorite holiday, so I've been digging out all of my Thanksgiving decorations for the house. And although I can't stand to be cold (and, oh, has the wind been so bitterly cold!), I love autumn: the colors, the scents, the images!

My thoughts have been on that early Thanksgiving between the Native Americans and the English settlers. I think about how dreary life might have been for the English without reliable heat, with the loss of loved ones, with illness and starvation. I think about the wives and mothers who braved the long trip at sea to come to this unknown (to them) land and how much courage that must have taken...and how much fear probably accompanied it. Starting over is hard. I've done it several times now. Most recently a year ago when we moved, I hope for the final time, back to Texas.

I think about the generosity of Squanto and his tribe toward these new immigrants who were so very, very different. Even though the relationship between settlers and the indigenous people swiftly deteriorated and led to a complete conquering of several Indian nations, for this brief moment, things were peaceable and life was good between the two. This is the thought that I cling to these days: that people can be good if they choose to be. People can let go of fear and embrace love for themselves and others. Greed can be vanquished, because really, what good is it? We can't take anything with us when we die, except our soul. And, I sure hope that mine is good and reflects love.

Anyway, these thoughts and my creativity have spilled forth into new printables. The first is this Thanksgiving Activity Pack for Pre-K and Kindergarten. It focuses, of course, on those basic skills that our little ones must learn: counting, beginning sounds, letter recognition, new vocabulary, writing skills, and more. But it also quietly reflects friendship, working together, and generosity. I wish my baby boy was old enough to enjoy it now, but he still has a few years to go.

I know that there are quite a few of these available online, but how many are available in both English and Spanish?

I'll tell you about my other fun activity next time. For now, you can find this print-and-go download in my TpT store and MommyMaestra shop.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Free Download: Fall & Thanksgiving Word Search in Spanish


Seriously, is Thanksgiving just a few weeks away?! Super thankful for MommyMaestra sponsor Spanish for You! who has created this free Spanish download that celebrates the holiday and helps your young Spanish learner boost their vocabulary!

Today's download is a word find that focuses on those words most commonly associated with Thanksgiving. As always, there is also an audio file to help your young student learn the proper pronunciation.


Thanksgiving Books in Spanish!



by Luciana Reis


by Alma Flor Ada


by Joy Cowley



by Pat Mora


by Luciana Reis


Remember! Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Resources About Voting for Children




Tomorrow is a powerful day in our country. We hold in our hands the ability to change our country's history. So much is a terrible mess right now. And only we can make it better. How?

Vote.

The only thing you can do that would be more important is to take your children with you when you vote. I took my boys with me to vote on Friday (early voting). The baby was a disaster, but it was an important lesson for my older son anyway. :)


Can you believe that less than 100 years ago, women and blacks didn't have the right to vote? LESS THAN 100 YEARS. That's not a lot of time. And people worked and suffered to change that. People risked their lives to earn that right for themselves and others.

Here are some excellent history lessons on voting that I found online. Use them this week with your students:

Other awesome (and bilingual!) resources


If you are looking for bilingual materials, check out these MommyMaestra favorites:



• icivics.org - This is a really awesome site with interactive games that teach children valuable lessons. And several of them are available in Spanish, such as Do I have a Right?/¿Tengo un derecho? and Immigration Nation/NaciĆ³n de InmigraciĆ³n. To play the games in Spanish, start the game and then click on "jugar en espaƱol" in the upper right corner. 




• MomsRising.org has free coloring pages in English and Spanish for kids waiting in voting lines! Teach them while keeping them entertained at the same time.

• Here's an excellent article by the New York Times: How Do You Talk to Children About Politics These Days? Try These Books.

And finally, my favorite bilingual resource comes from the talented author, Mariana Llanos. A few years ago she wrote a book, A Superpower for Me. It is lovely. I wrote about it here. And the best part is that it is also available in Spanish: Un Superpoder para mi (aff link). Here's the book trailer:




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