Tuesday, August 31, 2010

El Mundo in Eight Seconds or Less

Because there are a few items that I find indispensable as a teacher and a parent, I’m starting a little series of articles highlighting some of the equipment homeschooling families (or any family with children) should consider investing in.

And somewhere around the top of my Homeschooling Essentials list is a globe or world map. I was surprised and disappointed to discover that geography is no longer a mandatory subject in many schools. Well, it is in ours.

In my effort to broaden my children’s horizons and develop their appreciation of other cultures, I purchased a globe this year. I don’t know how I made it through last year without one. I think it is really important to provide a tool where they can visually explore the world and it’s features.

Already we have used this globe so much! And so will you. You can use it when discussing a wide range of topics including:

• “Show me where we live!”
• The Continents
• Land Formations (try to get a globe with raised relief)
• Earth Science (incl. plate tectonics, volcanoes, fault lines, etc.)
• Astronomy
• Ecosystems
• Gravity
• Foreign Countries
• Directions (North, East, South, West)
• Climate
• Culture
• Ocean Life
• National Parks
• History (Native Americans, conquistadors, settlers, colonies, etc… this list is too big to list here)
• To supplement shows on PBS (i.e., Nature)
• And so on….

And the great thing is that you can spend as much (or as little!) as you like when purchasing one. I got mine for $14.99 at Target. My kids are still very little and I think it is foolish to spend a ton of money on an object that is going to be heavily used, possibly scratched, dented, written on or otherwise. We’ve already had little sticky fingers roaming over it, and I’m glad I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t want to inhibit them from exploring it out of fear that they will ruin it after I paid some ridiculous amount.

If, however, you have older children and would like to go ahead and invest in a good globe, please consider supporting MommyMaestra by purchasing one from our on-line shop (we also have inexpensive versions!)

You could also check out 1-World Globes, which has an incredible assortment (who knew there were so many ways to create a globe?!) Especially take a look at their Junior Geographer Adventure Pack. I think it looks like a lot of fun.

You might also consider checking on Ebay or Craigslist to see if you can find any super deals in your own area.

And for some reading material or activities to go along with it, visit La Libreria.

One note of caution: Be very careful that little fingers do not get pinched or smashed between the globe and the frame. I imagine that would really hurt!! I recommend an inflatable globe for children under 6 with adult supervision.

Con mucho cariño…

Monday, August 30, 2010

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Oftentimes, teaching your child simply means taking advantage of learning opportunities. For instance, this past week, during a writing lesson, my daughter suddenly asked me if I could teach her to write the way I do.

I was confused at first, but then she went on to explain how she wanted to write “with loops.” After a moment, I realized she was talking about writing in cursive.

Now, beginning cursive is actually scheduled into our curriculum, but it doesn’t start until halfway through the year. However, since her curiosity was piqued, I pulled out a handwriting practice book that I bought last month. I had no idea it would come in handy so soon! She immediately dove in and was over the moon that she was getting the chance to learn something that, in her mind, only adults knew. She has pursued this with wild delight. I have promised to incorporate it into our lessons, and in return, she has promised to continue working hard at the subjects that don’t quite excite her as much.

So the point is that sometimes it is important for us to let our children lead the way. Our role is to encourage and guide them, providing them with the materials and time to explore new horizons. So if this week your son or daughter suddenly proclaims an interest in multiplication or gravity, woodcarving or the island of Cuba – go for it! Even if they only learn just a little bit about the subject, it still paves the way for future lessons.

While using a curriculum can be incredibly helpful for families who homeschool, I think we need to remember not to let one rule over us. A curriculum is simply a tool for us to use, but one that is under our control and changing it around or incorporating other lessons should be encouraged if it benefits our child's learning. Let’s try and remember that the goal is not how much they remember, but rather developing their curiosity and their enjoyment of learning. Don't be afraid to venture "outside the lines."

Con mucho cariño…

Thursday, August 26, 2010

¡Marimba! Animales from A to Z

This post uses affiliate links.

I have a secret passion for abecedarios. (Okay. Maybe not so secret now.) I even love the word – ah-beh-seh-dah-ree-ohs and the way it falls around in my mouth. It sounds like a yummy cereal you eat that is made out of letters. So the point is that I love them, these ABC books. I like them in both English and Spanish and even best is when they come in both languages!

¡Marimba! Animales from A to Z (affiliate link) by Pat Mora is especially great for children like mine who are obsessed with animals and zoos. The story is about how once a year, a little monkey sings the zookeepers to sleep then proceeds to wake up all the animals in the zoo with his little marimba for an energetic fiesta. Before you know it, the iguanas are doing the cha-cha and the manatíes are dancing the mambo while quetzales sell lemonade and ocelotes make piñatas.

Mora comments in an "Author’s Note" at the back of the book how she used 26 cognates (words similar in both English and Spanish) to help English learners and Spanish learners both, discover the similarities in the languages. In addition, the book mentions a large number of Latin dances (such as those I mentioned above) and also foods with ties to the Latin culture.

The illustrations by Doug Cushman help convey the rhythm and movement of the story line. Animals dance and leap across the pages with expressive faces. Each opening engages children as it reflects different animals and habitats. But children will enjoy looking for the little monkey playing his marimba (though, personally, I would have preferred him without his stereotypical sombrero) as he appears throughout the book.

Overall, mis niños enjoyed the story, and I did, too. The book is a great way to discuss the similarities in languages. Parents can also easily convince children to get up and dance afterwards. Probably best suited for daytime reads, not so much bedtime.

If you would like to buy your own copy of ¡Marimba! Animales from A to Z, click here (affiliate link). New and gently used copies are available.

Portions of this post originally ran on the LBBC.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GIVEAWAY: BLINGuals Illustrated Flash Cards

I quickly discovered last year that my daughter was a hands-on learner. Sitting at a table doing worksheets was tolerable, but certainly did not elicit much enthusiasm on her part. But give esta niña some tangible items to manipulate and ta-da! Like magic, the lesson comes alive and captures her attention and imagination.

This year we have started off with a lot more manipulatives in our lesson plans and some of them are new to us. A couple days ago, I opened up a new set of bilingual flash cards from BLINGuals. The illustrated cards are English on one side and Spanish on the other. I have found these to be extremely versatile in that they are beneficial for second-language learning, but they are also great for teaching categorization, color learning, spelling practice and reading. 

In the picture above, my daughter was grouping the cards into various categories. And she was able to do so in more than one way. They could be grouped by color, location, function, and other relative categories. This was awesome for me, as one of the topics in both her math and science lessons right now is comparison and categorization. Doing this activity with the cards was a great way to reinforce these concepts.

I also used these during her Spanish lessons to see which words she knew and which ones needed work. I can see that they will be a definite tool for learning to read in Spanish, as well.

I'm also able to use these with my preschooler for color recognition. (The cards can easily be sorted into all your traditional colors: red, pink, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, gray, and black.) And I can see that they will be great to help with learning letter sounds.

You can tell a lot of thought has gone into the design of this product. There are quite a few sets of bilingual flash cards out there (I know because we have a few of them), but I think that one of the reasons that my kids and I are enjoying these so much is because of the illustrations. They are not independent of each other, but rather are tied together in a story book like fashion with a young boy and girl as the main characters. I found my daughter arranging the cards in a certain order to "tell a story." And the English side is surrounded by a blue border, whereas the Spanish side is yellow, which is helpful if you or your kids accidentally drop them all over the floor. They are very easy to sort without having to look at each word.

There are a couple of cards that use Spanish words that I don't (I say "pelota" not "bola" and I use "camión" instead of "carro") but with such a diverse language, I don't find it to be bothersome. I just acknowledged it and then used the word that I preferred.

BLINGuals also offers flash cards in other language combinations. Acutally, they have 15 available languages that you can choose from and you can get your cards in any combination (i.e., French/Spanish?)


BLINGuals has agreed to send one of these great flash card decks to a MommyMaestra reader.

So let's keep it simple. Just leave a comment letting me know how you would use this deck with your kids.

The deadline to enter is August 31st at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be notified via email. (Please be sure to provide a valid email address with your entry.) The winner must have a valid United States mailing address.

¡Buenas suerte!

Disclosure: A sample of this product was provided by BLINGuals, but the opinions expressed above are completamente my own.

This giveaway is now closed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What is Mis Cositas?

Occasionally, I stumble upon a wonderful site that is full, full, full of information and activities that I can use to supplement my curriculum or to create independent weekend/summer projects. If you have not already discovered Mis Cositas, you will be excited with this post.

To fully explain the entire site, I've asked Mis Cositas' creator, Lori Langer de Ramirez, to share the many resources that MC provides to teachers. (Gracias, Lori!) While most of the material within may be targeted towards foreign language (Spanish+) learners, much of it may also be used to support bilingual homeschoolers...

MisCositas.com is a free web resource that offers teachers a variety of materials for teaching languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and ESL. Available on the site are:

• Over 100 videos for teaching simple vocabulary, "in-flight movies" for fantasy trips, karaoke and cultural clips

• Downloadable thematic curriculum units, complete lesson plans, student worksheets and resources

• Downloadable materials collections with activities, manipulatives and mini-posters

• Over 40 virtual illustrated picturebooks organized thematically in Spanish, French and English

Annotated lists of vetted links for language teaching

• Authentic realia and games tied to the stories and thematic units

• Daily updates and suggestions on the MisCositas Facebook page or Twitter site

Who can use MisCositas.com?

This site was originally created by a teacher for other teachers to use in a classroom or computer lab. However, people from all over the world have written in about how they use the site in a variety of settings. Parents have used MisCositas.com for homeschooling and for enrichment. Administrators have used the site in after-school clubs and staff development sessions. And anyone interested in learning a language can use the site to enhance their studies.

Who created MisCositas.com... and why?

MisCositas.com is really a labor of love for me. I created MisCositas.com first as part of my doctoral dissertation work in 1996. The first incarnation of the site contained three stories with a few illustrations. Since then, the site has grown to house folktales, original stories, curriculum units, lesson plan ideas, and other materials that I created for use in my own teaching. Now – almost 15 years later – MisCositas.com has grown leaps and bounds! I enjoy hearing from teachers, parents, students, and fellow language learners from around the world – especially when I receive emails with suggestions, ideas for new materials, and just comments about how the site is being used in a variety of settings: homes, schools, libraries, etc. Feel free to contact me with your comments: lori@miscositas.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

-Lori Langer de Ramirez

Creator of MisCositas.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Los pollitos dicen…pío, pío, pío, pío!!!!

At the beginning of this month, we finished up our 4-H project for the summer.

The incubation project was a great success because mis niños were able to see the (living) fruits of their labor, and mami didn't have to spend any money on this very educational (but fun!) curriculum.

For 21 days we carefully monitored the eggs inside our little incubator, which was set up in a corner of our living room. (See this post for pictures!) Eggs were turned three times a day (more or less - thank goodness chicken eggs are virtually indestructible), water was added daily, and a record sheet was kept. This project really went a long way toward helping my daughter to learn how to tell time. Much better than the activities and worksheets in her lesson plans.

So each morning, she would get up, write down the date, check the temperature (read the thermometer), add water if necessary, and turn the eggs. She then recorded the time, temperature, and added any comments if necessary. She did this again after lunch and before bedtime. (What do you mean a few of the last entries of the day look like mami's handwriting? Of course I woke her up at 11 pm to turn the eggs and record the day on the days she forgot!)

We "candled" the eggs every few days with a flashlight to see which eggs were fertile and watch them develop. Did you know that one of the first things you can see inside the egg is the chick's eye?!? And it was SO amazing to see the veins spider-webbing inside the egg.

And on day 21...

A pipped egg (accompanied by lots of loud "Pío, píos!")

My kids quickly set up camp so as not to miss a minute of the action (well, okay, at least one of them did)...

And before we knew it, we had them popping out all over the place...


¡¡Que pollitos tan preciosos!! Pobrecitos, they were so TIRED after hatching!
So if any of you are interested in trying this fantastic project this coming year (or next summer), talk to your local 4-H club, or start your own club. All you need is 5 kids to do so. 
Or just try it on your own. Here is a fantastic website with lesson plans and activities related to hatching chicken eggs. And you can purchase your own incubator at Home Science Tools (which is now my favorite on-line store in the world!) and you can even buy fertile eggs there :) They are quail eggs. I can't even imagine how much cuter a tiny, little quail chick would be, can you?!
Con mucho cariño!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Links: Family Happiness to a Free Map

There's a lot going on out there this week! If you follow MommyMaestra on Facebook, you will have seen a couple of these links and several others. 

19 Everyday Helps for a Smoother Homeschool Year :: The Homeschool Classroom

Why Does a 30 Something Feminist Care about Dora the Explorer :: Ms. Magazine (This was a very good article)

Video of the Week: At the Zoo :: Spanglish Baby

Using Sandpaper Letters :: Homeschool Parent (excellent post!)

Should You Give Your Child an Allowance? :: Money Saving Mom

The September Issue of Scholastic's Bilingual Newsletter

Opportunities & Freebies:

Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Reading Incentive Programs

Free World Map from World Vision Summer Fest

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bilingual Books to Explore Other Cultures

Some amigas and I have been discussing recently how important it is to explore different cultures with our children. One of the aspects that I want to emphasize is that not all Latinos share the same traditions, food, or lifestyles, even if they do share the language. (And even the language is diverse!)

So I've been keeping an eye out for books that represent our diversity as I get new ones to review for the LBBC. One of those has been Carmen T. Bernier-Grand's Shake It, Morena! and Other Folklore from Puerto Rico. This book really has been a delight to discover as it shies away from the ubiquitous rhymes found throughout Central and South America. Instead, Bernier-Grand really makes an effort to present the unique folklore found in Puerto Rico. 

There are two dozen songs, riddles, games and more within the pages of this book, including:

• Jeringonza Secret Language
• La Calle Ancha Game
• The Legend of the Hummingbird
• Esconde la Prenda
• The Song of El Coquí

Lulu Delacre goes beyond the text to develop a visual story line that complements and unifies the passages. Her illustrations are beautiful with a softness that is soothing to children and filled with details. And as an added bonus, children will enjoy searching for the 27 lizards hidden in the illustrations.

I especially love how Bernier-Grand made an effort to make this collection of rhymes a resource for educators. Her note at the beginning of the book states,

"Everybody has a culture, and we learn the most about that culture as a child. We don’t have culture lessons. It’s just that from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we experience bits and pieces of our culture – while we’re eating, while at school, and especially while we’re having fun. For what is culture if it isn’t stories, games, holidays, food, music, crafts, traditions, religion, language?

Shake It, Morena! is a potpourri of songs, riddles, and stories I heard and games I played as a child in Puerto Rico. It covers activities from awakening in the morning, to learning at school, to coming home, to being with the family and then going to bed.

This book is an opportunity to play alongside the children of Puerto Rico, and learn about their culture.

It is my hope that educators can use this book to teach Spanish, math (Dos y Dos Son Cuatro), natural science (Puedo o No Puedo), social studies (Playground Passport), reading (The Legend of the Hummingbird), writing (Spelling Game), and physical education (Shake It, Morena!).

¡Diviértansen! (That’s how we say “Have fun!” in Puerto Rico!)"

New and gently used copies of this book are available in the LBBC bookshop.

Con mucho cariño...

(portions of this post originally ran on the LBBC)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Marta Darby: Homeschooling is Not for Everyone

The following post is a contribution by Marta Darby, who blogs at My Big Fat Cuban Family and Babalú blog on everything related to her Latina life...

Homeschooling is a loaded topic!

My husband and I did not reach the decision quickly or easily. To decide to homeschool your kids is to make a lifestyle decision. Both parents need to be on board if you're going to be successful. I had homeschooled my two older kids for a few years in the early 90's. I had been a single parent for a few years and when I got remarried and had my third child, I was anxious to reconnect with my kids. Working and sending them off to school had made us a busy, but disjointed little family unit. So I brought them home to commence their education. While Spanish is my first language, my husband and I both speak English primarily at home, so their education has been completely in English.

There are as many ways to homeschool as there are families, but I can share a bit of our homeschool journey. I began by reading, reading, reading. I knew I did NOT want to just replicate school at home. And I knew I wanted to focus on educating, not "schooling." One of the books/methods that impacted me the most was The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. It gave me the map I needed to follow to provide my kids with the best education possible. It's a language intensive program of classical education that helped me train them to read, think (!), to understand things and to be curious. The biggest thing is that I taught them to "learn how to learn," which is the greatest skill they'll need to succeed in life.

When we first began homeschooling, we were looked on as radicals.

The first reaction I usually got when someone found out that we were homeschooling was "I could never do that." I couldn't help but wonder, "why not?" I can't remember one positive comment about our decision. In fact, we faced quite a bit of hostility. We felt we were constantly being judged and my kids were scrutinized. Were they learning what their peers are learning? The simple answer was no, they weren't. We were learning history in chronological order. We were reading real books: biographies, historical accounts. When possible, we used Jackdaws (http://www.jackdaw.com), or primary source materials. We didn't use any textbooks. I took complete responsibility for their education and developed my own curriculum. I know. Radical, right?

We also chose not to have television. That is, while we own a tv, we don't get any outside programming. The kids do watch movies, in fact, we have a weekly movie night where we play classic movies on a giant screen in our back yard for friends and neighbors, which is great fun. Early on, my husband and I determined that we, not the dominant kid-culture-as-seen-on-tv would be the primary influences in our children's lives. Another radical decision. We do have season tickets to the local performing arts center and regularly attend live shows and concerts. We have passes to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park and the Science Discovery Center. There's so much to see and do and learn in the world. We taught our kids that there's no reason for them to ever be bored.

In South Orange County, California, where we live the Department of Education has what they call the Community Home Education Program (CHEP - http://chep.ocde.us). In other words, it was like the public school for homeschoolers. We decided early on not to file our own school affidavit as long as we could homeschool in the manner that best suited us. By going through CHEP we got the benefit of outside classes, Art, French, Spanish, Algebra, Science, English Composition - quite a broad spectrum. We could choose whether or not to to participate depending on our personal interests and schedule. Each month I turned in work samples and lesson plans to a Master Teacher who kept our cumulative files and had someone with whom I could discuss any challenges we were having. She was a wonderful resource through all these years and is now a trusted friend.

Our favorite class was Drama. The kids met once a week to learn stage directions, blocking, songs and choreography. The parent volunteers filled in as Costume and Set Designers (me!), Prop Masters and Backstage Hands. As a natural offshoot of drama, I began hosting a group of 12 kids in our home once a week and had my older son (24) teach them improvisation games. We have been meeting weekly now for the past 3 years. We always feed them and many times their parents and younger siblings join us. Between CHEP classes, drama and improv, I never give "socialization" a second thought.

One of the biggest challenges I had when we began was that my son, Jonathan, was having trouble decoding words. He was a squirmy first grader and even though he loved to be read to, he didn't show much interest in learning to read himself. After doing some research, we invested in a trampoline and signed him up for gymnastics classes. That sounds crazy, no? We learned that the hemispheres in his brain were not making the cross-over needed for decoding to happen. We stopped doing any formal schooling for a while and just read aloud to him regularly and had him "bounce" every day. Within weeks of making this adjustment our bouncy boy was reading on his own. I don't think he would have fared very well if he was struggling in a regular school setting during this adjustment. The trampoline also served the purpose of helping us get our physical education in each day and ours soon became the most popular house in the neighborhood. Win!

I mentioned earlier that we didn't have much positive reinforcement when we began this homeschooling adventure, but now it's been eight years and our kids have grown. The people who know us and know our children are impressed by how charming and articulate they are. As teenagers now (17 and 14) they can look you in the eye and are comfortable discussing just about any subject. They are relaxed and fun to be with. Lucy and Jonathan are both self-taught musicians. Lucy wants to be a writer and Jonathan wants to be a film-maker. These past eight years of homeschool training, has made them confident and comfortable in their own skin and they've learned how to move towards their goals.

I know that homeschooling is not for everyone. 

But if you're a mom who is thinking about homeschooling your children, and your husband is in agreement, then I strongly encourage you to give it a try. The sacrifices and the time invested in those young lives are worth it. In fact, we are convinced that our homeschooling experiment has been a great success! We have raised four wonderful independent thinkers. They are comfortable in just about every situation. And we, as their parents, really KNOW them. They are not dependent on their peers and we have never, ever heard them utter the words, "I'm bored."


Marta Darby is an avid blogger, business owner, Cuban cook, graphic designer, scrapbooker, photographer and homemaker. She was born in Havana and left Cuba with her family when she was 5 years old. She likes to tell anecdotes and stories about her family (all 40 of them!), her passions (dulce de leche and red lipstick), and especially being Cuban. She is happily married to her fabulous gringo husband, Eric, and lives with him and their four children in a tiny house with a white picket fence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Will Your School Year Be Like a Diego Rivera Mural?

Diego Rivera's mural at the Diego Rivera Theater in San Francisco.
Yesterday was our official first day of school.

In preparation, I spent the weekend pouring over lesson manuals and teacher guides, jotting down notes, reorganizing the school cabinet, sharpening pencils, stacking paper, and making a list of supplies that I still needed.

But I also spent some time in the last few weeks pondering how we were going to make this day special. I think it is really important for us as families to make our own traditions and celebrate milestones – even if they are just mini-celebrations.

So yesterday morning, after I was awakened by an excited pair of eyes and some (not so) smothered giggles, I got up and made one of her favorites: homemade French toast. Then she ran upstairs to pick out a nice outfit so that we could take her picture for her school album.

And just before we officially started school, I presented her with a little gift for her first day. Just a new backpack and a few school supplies that included a color-it-yourself pencil bag.

Nothing exceptionally fancy, but enough of a celebration for us to kick off the school year on a good note. A small fiesta for her to remember once she is grown.

I want the idea of starting school to be exciting, not burdensome. The coming year for us is like an enormous chalkboard that is sitting quietly just waiting for someone to walk by and pick up one of the colorful pieces of chalk sitting in a nearby bucket. We are embarking on a fantastic journey of discovery and growth. And just like one of Diego Rivera’s incredible murals, I want our chalkboard to be filled from top to bottom and side to side with bold, beautiful strokes depicting all the things we have seen and learned.

There will be times when Frustration and Impatience rear their ugly little heads, but I hope that for the most part our year will be exciting, fun, and productive. I’m going to work harder to incorporate more activities to engage my little learner and am working out our schedule to include three new extra-curricular activities: music class, sports, and 4-H. Hopefully we won’t over do things, but my main goal is to remain flexible, so if we do, we’ll just re-evaluate and change whatever needs changing.

¿Y tú? How are you celebrating the beginning of a school year? Whether you homeschool or not, how do you get your kids to look forward to school?

Did you enjoy this article? Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Let me help! My book - The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling - covers everything you see here and more. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inspiring Latinos Your Children Should Know

As a Latina mom, it upsets me that history books rarely discuss Latinos who have had an impact on our society. In fact, when I set out to research this for my own children, I was surprised at how many I knew nothing about. I have talked a number of times on Mi Cielito Lindo about the crisis that young Latinos and Latinas are experiencing in this country. They are in desperate need of inspiration and guidance. They are bombarded daily by media images that insist that Latinas must be sexy and wanton, which conflicts with their family’s more conservative values. One of the major factors identified in the success of young Latinas is their relationship with their mother: Latinitas with mamís that listen – even if they don’t agree – are far more likely to succeed and grow up to be healthy and happy adults.

A recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill has shown that "Latino adolescents in the U.S. who maintain ties to their culture of origin are more likely to develop healthy behaviors than their peers who do not. Latino adolescents with a strong awareness of their family’s culture reported higher self-esteem, fewer social problems and less hopelessness, aggression and substance abuse."

So the question is: How do we engender in our children a respect and pride for our culture? Wow. This could take a LONG time to discuss. I think that it is never too early to show our children the beauty of our Latino culture. Exposing them to the elements of our heritage includes the language, food, dance, music, and HISTORY. Which brings me to the point of this particular post: It is so important to give our children role models with whom they can relate. There are so many inspirational Latinos out there that I could start an entire blog simply featuring them. (Hmmmm….) But for now, I thought I would share with you some of the stories and on-line resources for learning more about significant figures in our cultures. Here are a few that I thought would be great to get you started on the track of exposing your children to positive Latino role models. Some are well known, while others are not. But either way, their stories are moving and inspiring.

Gabriela Mistral - The Chilean-born poet who began teaching at the young age of 15 and subsequently traveled all over the world in an effort to improve schools. She was inspired by her travels and wrote many stories during this time. Gabriela Mistral is her nom de plume. She was actually born Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga – Whew! Mistral is a wonderful role model for young children because she was so passionate about learning and writing. She is noted for the many contributions she made to the education system of Latin America. Mistral finally received the recognition she so richly deserved in 1945 when she became the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. A prolific writer, she published more than 30 collections of poetry during her lifetime.

My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/la vida de Gabriela Mistral (aff) by Monica Brown

Nobel Prize Biographies

Poet Seers: Gabriela Mistral

Ninth Grade Language Arts Lesson Plan

César Chávez –Mexican American farm worker and founder of the United Farm Workers. This civil rights activist fought for the rights of migrant workers, including better pay and safer working conditions. He is noted for his nonviolent outlook and protests including strikes, pickets, fasting and a 300+ mile march. Though he never earned more than 5,000 a year in his life, he is remembered by millions for his determination to bring recognition and dignity to farm workers.

For more information about César Chávez, check out these books & websites:

The Cesar E Chavez Foundation

Las Culturas: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day Lesson Plans on Reach Every Child

Cesar Chavez Lesson Plan and Worksheet on Scholastic

Celia Cruz – Cuban "Queen of Salsa." Originally studied to become a literature teacher, only to interrupt her studies to pursue singing opportunities that eventually led to stardom. She has become beloved by generations all over the world for her operatic voice, flamboyant costumes and intimate relation to the music of Salsa.

For more information about Celia Cruz, check out these books & websites:

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/la vida de Celia Cruz by Monica Brown

Celia: Mi Vida (Spanish Edition) by Celia Cruz and Ana Cristina Reymundo

Biggest Stars: Celia Cruz

Lots of resources (lesson plans and more) related to Celia on Monica Brown's website.

Roberto Clemente – Puerto Rican baseball legend who transcended his reputation as a professional athlete to humanitarian and philanthropist. He is remembered for his efforts towards the recognition of his fellow Latino baseball players and for helping people in need across the United States and Central America. Clemente also held free baseball clinics for children in his homeland and created programs to help disadvantaged youth develop athletic skills and prevent illegal drug use. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

For more information about Roberto Clemente, check out these books & websites:

Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente

American Experience: Roberto Clemente

Lesson Plans from the Smithsonian

Teacher's Guide from Parade Classroom

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend Links: From School Starts to Dora the Explorer

School Starts Tomorrow!! :: Montessori Spanish

Famous Homeschoolers :: The Pioneer Woman

Homeschool Traditions :: The Happy Housewife

Homeschool Organization: GIVEAWAY :: Waddlee-ah-chaa (The giveaway is over, but this post has some great ideas for organizing in a small space!)

'Dora the Explorer' turns 10 as model for pre-K girls :: USA Today (Wow! I learned a some surprising stuff about the educational aspect of Dora's episodes...)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blending Families and Cultures Through Latino Children's Literature

If you aren't already a fan of our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club, then head on over there para hecharle un ojo at what they've got going on. The LBBC was created for bilingual familias that are looking for bilingual and bicultural books for their children. In addition to reviewing Latino children's literature, the LBBC also features guest posts by distinguished authors and illustrators, along with the occasional giveaway.

In fact, today is the last day for your chance to win a signed copy of author René Colato Laínez's book, The Tooth Fairy Meets el Ratón Pérez. My daughter recently lost her first tooth, and as soon as we realized it was loose, we read this beautifully written and illustrated book. It gave us the opportunity to once again compare the traditions of other cultures with the one here in America. We were able to discuss both the differences and similarities in children and families. And I was able to emphasize one more time how incredibly special she was to be able to enjoy both her Latin heritage as well as her American one.

I also loved this book because it teaches a great lesson on cooperation and team work. I think a lot of our world leaders could benefit from reading about la hada and el ratoncito!

For many of us in America, it is sometimes easier to simply shrug off the beliefs and traditions of our abuelitos. But how sad that would be to deny our children the chance to better understand their own family history. How much richer will their lives be if we give them the opportunity to celebrate the vibrant spirit of their ancestors and to understand that there are many ways to achieve a single goal? For us to raise globally aware children who care about their communities and strive to improve this world that we live in, it is up to us as parents to nurture their imaginations and adventurous spirits.

And don't forget that today is your last day to sign up to win an adventure prize pack that is just perfect for your estudiante especial! 

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Complete Montessori Homeschool Curriculum Now Available

Many Latinas who homeschool have chosen to use the Montessori method. You can find some of their blogs in the sidebar. So for those of you who are starting to homeschool and are seriously considering using this method, here is an awesome resource that I have stumbled across.

The North American Montessori Center (NAMC) has just created and released a program specifically for homeschoolers. This THREE YEAR  program is designed for children ages 3 - 6, and provides you with everything you need to set up and put into practice a three-year homeschool educational program for your child. It is designed to meet the cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development needs of your child. The program includes:

• A How-To Teach Montessori at Home Guide
• Montessori Materials
• Curriculum
• Blackline Masters CD
• On-line Access to the Member's Area, which provides support and additional activities among other things.

Between now and Sept 30th, the program is available for $999.00. After Sept 30th, it goes up to $1,249.00. This may seem like a lot, but considering that you are getting THREE years of curriculum, it sounds like a great deal. I paid almost $700 just for my Kindergarten curriculum (and sí it was worth it) from an accredited company.

Keep in mind that this is a new program. I have not used it myself and do not know what kind of quality we are talking about. They sound like a respected company, but I could not find any testimonials, which is to be expected since they have just launched. You can, however, view samples of the curriculum, materials and ways to set up your Montessori classroom at home. The course is divided into two curricula. The first curriculum manual focuses on three key Montessori curriculums: Practical Life, Sensorial, and Culture and Science and the second focuses on the academic curriculum areas of Language Arts and Mathematics.

The website is VERY thorough and if you have any questions, you can call the phone number to reach their customer service, which is prominently displayed on each page. To learn more about this program, check out their website.

I think if I were to do things over again, I would certainly give Montessori a second look and some serious thought. If any of you choose to purchase this program, I would love to hear your thoughts about it. For those of you who are already homeschooling using the Montessori method, what do you think of it? Is it too expensive or do you wish something like this had been available when you started?

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, August 9, 2010


Within the next few weeks most children will be starting back to school – be it at home or in a classroom. So along with the rest of the world, we tried to squeeze in one last mini-vacation while los abuelitos were here visiting.

We spent this weekend en la playa, dodging waves, finding seashells, and trying to empty the sand from our pockets - and shoes, and underwear, and hair!

Our summer lessons on la playa worked their way into our conversations, but the most popular one proved to be el cangrejo!

If you, like me, have never been crabbing along the beach at night, you have no idea what you’re missing. My husband decided to sneak in a little educational activity while we were cavorting at the seashore. Armed with flashlights, buckets and a pair of leather gloves, we paraded onto the beach and proceeded to have one of the most fun evenings of our lives. Dodging las medusas (jellyfish) that had washed ashore, we eagerly searched for crabs with the beams of our flashlights. And amid shouts of “CANGREJO!!” we stumbled and pounced around in the sand chasing crabs of varying sizes before they zipped back into their holes or out to sea.

The highlight of our night was when we caught this beautiful blue crab (un cangrejo azul) …

It was so much fun to examine these fantastic little creatures and snap a few pictures before letting them go! We took advantage of the opportunity to count the number of legs they had, examine their odd little eyes, and to talk about their exoskeleton.

Here are a few on-line lessons on crabs in English and in Spanish for younger children.

I wonder, dear readers, how are you spending these last days of summer?

Con mucho cariño…


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